Wednesday, 30 June 2010


I spent a couple of hours at Ivinghoe Beacon on the flowery slope above the Duke of Burgundy site which was alive with Dark Green Fritillaries. I don't ever remember seeing so many before. Also good numbers of Ringlet, Marbled White and Small Heath butterflies.

Here are a few photos I managed to grab in the rare moments when they settled on Knapweeds. One shows a very strongly marked female (Charlie Jackson)

Wednesday, 23 June 2010


The DUKE OF BURGUNDY FRITILLARIES are now over sadly, as well as the Totternhoe MAN ORCHIDS. At Steps Hill though, FRAGRANT ORCHIDS are in full flower (Francis Buckle)

Friday, 18 June 2010


Chaz Jackson discovered three BLACK-TAILED GODWITS mid-morning on the main marsh at College Lake BBOWT and these were still present at midday (Mick A' Court). Being the first twitchable in the county this year, I raced straight over and enjoyed excellent views of them feeding and resting at the north end of the main island from the new hide from 1300-1445 hours.

As it was an early date for three returning adult birds from Icelandic breeding grounds, I had a close look at them and noted that all three had striking orange (not pink) long bills and were very orange (rather than reddish-purple) on the underparts. The orange underparts also abruptly ceased and were replaced by white, with black barring on the belly and flanks. There was some light orange on the flanks and one individual was slightly better marked than the other two birds. Frustratingly, the exact patterning on the tertials could not be noted and no photographs were taken before they flew off at 1600 hours. Everything pointed towards the three being adult male EUROPEAN BLACK-TAILED GODWITS (limosa), perhaps displaced by the NE winds England has been experiencing over the past three or four days.

There was no sign of the Wood Sandpiper today but the LITTLE RINGED PLOVER family, several juvenile Common Redshanks, the OYSTERCATCHERS and numerous Lapwings were on show, and a male GARDEN WARBLER was in song (Lee Evans)

Thursday, 17 June 2010

WOOD SAND present for a third day

The adult WOOD SANDPIPER was present at College Lake BBOWT marsh for its third day

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Two non-naturalised BARNACLE GEESE, the continuing WOOD SANDPIPER and a plethora of flowering orchids



Despite temperatures reaching as high as 21 degrees C, the brisk Northeasterly wind made it feel much cooler. It remained dry and bright throughout with long sunny spells.


David Bilcock discovered two BARNACLE GEESE on the main marsh at College Lake shortly after 1700 hours. They remained briefly with Atlantic Canadas before flying to join the main thrust of the summer flock at the north end of the main lake. Dave was able to get good views of the two birds and could see that they were unringed and with so many birds now breeding in SE England and the Midlands, I am assuming they are part of the non-naturalised population and now considered Category C species. Dave was able to get a couple of record shots of the two birds (see above) and upon receiving his call, I made my way straight over and connected with them at 1800 hours.

By this time, all 104 Atlantic Canada Geese were at the far end of the main lake and the two BARNACLE GEESE were resting on the grass bank immediately north of the pit.

The adult WOOD SANDPIPER was still present and showing well from the new hide, whilst 3 immature Lesser Black-backed Gulls were resting by the island. There was no sign of any Common Terns, neither on the island nor on the raft. They have completely deserted after the destruction and interference of last week, presumably caused by American Mink.


Up to 9 species of orchid have been recorded at Aston Clinton Ragpits Reserve in the past and this afternoon I recorded five. By far and away, FRAGRANT ORCHID was the most numerous, with literally spikes all over the relatively small reserve. A full census recorded -:

A minimum of 1,844 FRAGRANT ORCHID spikes, including both white and pink variations, along with 324+ COMMON SPOTTED ORCHIDS, numerous COMMON TWAYBLADE, 28 WHITE HELLEBORINES (largely gone over) and 5 fabulous GREATER BUTTERFLY ORCHIDS.

Butterflies on the wing included 15 COMMON BLUE and 3 SMALL SKIPPERS.


Birdwise, 4 singing male GARDEN WARBLER, a pair of BULLFINCH and a family party of MARSH TITS was noteworthy, whilst a singing male Common Chiffchaff, a family group of Common Treecreepers, two family parties of Long-tailed Tit and 3 parties of Blue Tits were also recorded.

I was too late for butterflies but within the wood and clearing, a total of 12 FLY ORCHID spikes were counted (some still in good flower) and 27 GREATER BUTTERFLY ORCHIDS. There were also several Common Spotted Orchids to be seen.

WOOD SAND still present

The WOOD SANDPIPER is still present at College Lake BBOWT reserve this morning, showing well from the new hide and feeding on the same expanse of mud as last night (per Francis Buckle)



Mick A'Court discovered an adult WOOD SANDPIPER on the main marsh at College Lake BBOWT today and the bird was still present and showing well this evening when Dave Bilcock, JT and myself visited. Dave obtained these images above. The bird was feeding on the mud very close to the new hide and was typically worn for a mid-summer individual. It remained until dusk.

LITTLE RINGED PLOVERS now have three small young, at least one well-grown juvenile OYSTERCATCHER was still being fed and several juvenile Common Redshanks were on view, as well as Lapwing.

At least 1 singing male WESTERN REED WARBLER was in reeds alongside the footpath, and a male WILLOW WARBLER was also still in song

Monday, 14 June 2010


An excellent selection of orchids photographed at Aston Clinton Ragpits by Chris Pontin.

Friday, 11 June 2010

Another major milestone - BLACK-HEADED GULLS breed successfully at Stockers Lake

Andrew Moon has very kindly provided images documenting the successful breeding of BLACK-HEADED GULLS at Stockers Lake this summer. A total of 5 pairs is currently utilising the tern rafts

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Hampden Pond MANDARINS

I happened to be in the general area this afternoon so dropped by at Halton where I caught up with your SPOTTED FLYCATCHERS briefly. I also popped in at Hampden Pond where I found not only the female MANDARIN DUCK with her six ducklings but also two other birds which proved to be two eclipse drakes - see images above (Adam Hartley)

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Another day of comprehensive site surveying yielding more MANDARIN DUCK successes and more notably SPOTTED FLYCATCHER and FIRECREST pairs


A reasonably warm day with occasional showers with virtually no wind. I concentrated again on survey work, covering the Wendover Arm of the Grand Union Canal and Weston Turville Reservoir. Highlights were the finding of a pair of SPOTTED FLYCATCHERS and another two broods of MANDARIN DUCK.........


A pair of Goldfinch was present on the Nyger feeders for a second day, whilst families of Blue Tits are now visiting the garden on a frequent basis.


Today, I undertook my annual survey of the breeding birds of the Wendover Arm of the Grand Union Canal, walking from Bridge 7 (Wellonhead Bridge) at Green Park (SP 888 115) SW to Halton village (SP 873 101) and then into central Wendover. A total of 37 species was recorded, with two dramatic changes from last year - Little Grebe numbers were decimated to just one nesting pair and there were no Common Kingfishers - confirming the detrimental affect last winter's severe freeze had on these two water dependent species. Lengthy sections of the canal were quite overgrown with reeds.


1) LITTLE GREBE (one sat on a nest west of The Wides, with presumably the other adult of the pair further north and another adult NE of Harelane Bridge)
2) Mute Swan (pair with 3 cygnets around Halton village bridge)
3) MANDARIN DUCK (1 female accompanying 12 ducklings just NE of Harelane Bridge)
4) Mallard (two drakes and a female by blue bridge 8, with a female with 8 well grown chicks nearby; further females with 5 ducklings and 5 again east to Wellonhead Bridge, along with an adult pair and 4 separate drakes; west from Chestnut Avenue bridge noted female with 6 young, an adult pair, a female with an astonishing 14 young and a female with 4 young beyond The Wides)
5) Tufted Duck (1 pair acting sheepishly up against the bank 200 yards east of The Wides)
6) Red Kite (1 heavily worn individual drifted overhead)
7) Common Pheasant (two males heard from adjoining fields)
8) Moorhen (not one nest nor young seen - 6 individuals between Halton and Green Park and another 6 west to Wendover - perhaps nests flooded out)
9) Eurasian Coot (excellent numbers and good breeding success: between Halton and Green Park, just 2 pairs and no breeding but to the west, pair feeding three young just west of Halton bridge, a pair incubating on a nest, another active nest containing 3 small young, a pair constructing a new nest and in the vicinity of The Wides, pairs with 4 young apiece and another feeding a single small chick; lastly, a pair feeding 2 chicks by Bridge 11 - 17 young in all)

10) Woodpigeon (breeding, perhaps 7 pairs)
11) Green Woodpecker (yaffling male in the vicinity of the rugby fields)
12) Great Spotted Woodpecker (1 in Halton village)
13) Eurasian Skylark (a single singing male in cereal crops NW of The Wides)
14) European Barn Swallow (1 hawking over the canal near Green Park)
15) House Martin (16 over Halton village and bridge)
16) Wren (at least 9 territories with a family party of 6 juveniles by Green Park)
17) Dunnock (just 1 singing male noted)
18) European Robin (7 pairs noted, two of which were feeding young)
19) Song Thrush (just 1 bird noted - presumably feeding young)
20) Mistle Thrush (1 worn individual on the rugby field)
21) Common Blackbird (at least 12 pairs along the survey section)
22) Blackcap (6 males still in song, with one family party)
23) Common Chiffchaff (a total of 5 singing males along the section of canal with one family party noted)
24) Great Tit (2 noted)
25) Blue Tit (5 family parties noted)
26) Long-tailed Tit (3 family groups encountered, with 10, 6 and 5 young respectively)
27) Eurasian Nuthatch (1 in tall trees near Green Park)
28) Common Treecreeper (family party in Green Park)
29) Common Magpie (single pair in the rugby field area)
30) Jay (single bird noted near The Wides)
31) Western Jackdaw (pair feeding young in natural nest-hole by Green Park and large numbers of feeding birds in sheepfields near The Wides)
32) Carrion Crow (5+)
33) Common Starling (pair breeding in chimney of house near Halton Bridge)
34) Chaffinch (5 territories)
35) Goldfinch (pair nesting in garden by Halton Bridge)
36) Greenfinch (pair in Halton village)

SPOTTED FLYCATCHERS: I was absolutely delighted to discover a pair in Halton village, just north of the Halton bridge in the garden of no. 19 Chestnut Avenue (Talisman Cottage). The male was repeatedly flying between the two arched roof tops and the wires and tree at 21 Lower Farm and was showing extremely well.


A remarkable paucity of bird species encountered with a complete circuit of the site yielding just 3 Mute Swans, 15 Mallard, 3 pairs of Coot (accompanied by 4, 4 and a single chick), a Great Spotted Woodpecker active nest, 3 European Barn Swallows, 6 House Martins, just 5 pairs of Western Reed Warbler, 7 Blackcap territories and a single singing male Common Chiffchaff of note. Very disappointing.


I have had an excellent season for breeding MANDARIN DUCK, with several broods at Littleworth Common, a female with 4 chicks at Shardeloes and the female above with 12 ducklings on the Grand Union Canal. Hampden Pond provided further proof of breeding with a female accompanying 6 small chicks on the lake. Coots had also bred, with two independent juveniles and a pair feeding three smaller young, with a pair of Moorhen also present.

There was no sign of any Spotted Flycatchers.


Dunsmore village is another traditional site for Spotted Flycatcher but none could be found today. What was interesting though was a pair of FIRECRESTS breeding in one of the gardens close to the church. On the outskirts of the village, a singing Common Whitethroat and 3 Linnets were noted.

The juvenile RED-CRESTED POCHARD at Marsworth Reservoir

Charlie Jackson very kindly obtained these excellent images today of the female RED-CRESTED POCHARD and her sole surviving youngster (of an original family of 9). This is the first confirmed breeding of a pure pair of Red-crested Pochards at the site.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

A comprehensive breeding bird survey of Tring Reservoirs and some delightful TURTLE DOVES just outside the Recording Area

European Turtle Dove at Totternhoe Knolls, Bedfordshire (David Bilcock)

All morning long, heavy rain fell, leaving little opportunity for birding. It eventually cleared away to the east, giving rise to the occasional heavy shower, but remained fairly warm with light winds. I utilised the afternoon and evening by surveying........

A full and comprehensive survey of the breeding birds as in June 2010, encompassing Wilstone, Marsworth, Tringford and Startop's End Reservoirs. A total of 60 species.

1) GREAT CRESTED GREBE (Successful breeding: 6 pairs present on Wilstone, with 1 pair attending two small young; another pair on Startop's and 6 adults on Marsworth, one pair again attending two quite well-grown stripy young)
2) Continental Cormorant (sinensis) (10 active nests in largest trees on Wilstone's Drayton Bank, all containing young)
3) Grey Heron (25 active nests on Wilstone, with many young birds now fledged)
4) Mute Swan (no sign of the family party of recent times, but 15 present on Wilstone, 1 on Marswotrth and 16 on Tringford)
5) Greylag Goose (23 birds present on Wilstone with a further 82 - separate flocks of 37 and 45 - on Startop's)
6) Atlantic Canada Goose (present on both Wilstone and Startop's)
7) Mallard (9 well-grown young on Marsworth, whilst two females both with 7 young on Tringford)
8) GADWALL (6+ on Wilstone)
9) NORTHERN SHOVELER (breeding certainly a possibility this year with three drakes summering and roosting today on the Drayton Bank)
10) NORTHERN POCHARD (10 drakes and at least four females present on Wilstone with an additional two drakes on Startop's)
11) RED-CRESTED POCHARD (the adult female was today on Startop's whilst her only surviving offspring of 9 young was showing very well close to the causeway on Marsworth)
12) Tufted Duck (52 present on Wilstone and congregating in two main flocks, with just 4 on Tringford and 16 on Startop's)
13) Red Kite (1-2 overhead)
14) Common Buzzard (a pair present on Wilstone)
15) Eurasian Sparrowhawk (1 active nest as usual close to the Drayton Bank Hide on Wilstone)
16) Red-legged Partridge (two pairs by the Dry Canal on Wilstone)
17) Common Pheasant (fairly common in fields surrounding Wilstone)
18) Moorhen (present and presumed breeding)
19) Eurasian Coot (breeding on Wilstone confirmed by pairs respectively attending 4, 5, 2, 2 and 2 chicks, with 351 adults click-counted - in feeding gatherings of 286 and 65 - with 12 birds on Tringford and 23 on Startop's; 2 pairs on Marsworth with one female attending 6 young)
20) Lesser Black-backed Gull (first-year flew over Marsworth)
21) Common Tern (at least 25 active nests on the Wilstone rafts with a minimum of 6 young counted)

22) Woodpigeon (present)
23) Stock Dove (2 pairs breeding in trees by the former boatyard on Wilstone)
24) Eurasian Collared Dove (nesting birds at Wilstone Great farm and in Marsworth village)
25) COMMON CUCKOO (calling male at back of Marsworth reedbed presumably looking to parasitise Western Reed Warblers)
26) Common Swift (still large numbers overhead, including 330 on Wilstone)
27) Eurasian Skylark (3 pairs in cereal crops at back of Wilstone)
28) SAND MARTIN (16 birds present on Wilstone, either late spring migrants or failed breeders)
29) European Barn Swallow (breeding pairs in farms at Drayton Beauchamp and at Startop Farm)
30) House Martin (6 present on Marsworth)
31) Pied Wagtail (present)
32) Wren (at least 9 territories on Wilstone and a further 3 around Marsworth)
33) Dunnock (present but in small numbers)
34) European Robin (6 territories on Tringford, with at least 5 on Wilstone)
35) Song Thrush (singing male in Marsworth Wood)
36) Mistle Thrush (pair successfully fledged young from Marsworth Wood)
37) Common Blackbird (at least 17 pairs around reservoirs)
38) Blackcap (2 territories in Marsworth Wood, 4 around Tringford and perhaps 7 on Wilstone)
39) COMMON WHITETHROAT (3 singing males around Dry Canal on Wilstone)
40) Sedge Warbler (very poor numbers, with perhaps 5 nesting pairs on Marsworth and 3-8 on Wilstone)
41) CETTI'S WARBLER (two vocal birds on Marsworth)
42) Western Reed Warbler (up to 12 breeding pairs on Marsworth and actively gathering food, with perhaps similar numbers in Wilstone reedbed)
43) Common Chiffchaff (just 1 singing male today - in the tall Poplars behind Marsworth reedbed; breeding confirmed)
44) Goldcrest (the only singing bird noted was on Wilstone)
45) Great Tit (several family parties on Wilstone)
46) Blue Tit (successful breeding on Marsworth and Wilstone)
47) Long-tailed Tit (present on Wilstone)
48) Common Magpie (small numbers present)
49) Jay (pair breeding behind Tringford and another pair on Wilstone)
50) Western Jackdaw (breeding in natural holes on Tringford)
51) Rook (rookery containing 23 active nests on Tringford)
52) Carrion Crow (several nesting pairs)
53) Common Starling (present, with confirmed breeding by Wilstone Great Farm and in Marsworth village)
54) House Sparrow (13+ around feeders by Angler's Retreat)
55) Chaffinch (breeding on both Wilstone and in Marsworth Wood - 8 pairs at least)
56) Linnet (2-3 pairs in the Dry canal area)
57) Goldfinch (present and breeding)
58) Greenfinch (small numbers noted, mainly at back of Tringford)
59) REED BUNTING (at least 4 singing males in Marsworth Reedbed and much display activity taking place)
60) YELLOWHAMMER (2 singing males in fields between Rushy Meadow and Dry Canal)

(Evening visit)

A REAL TREAT. Despite the heavy rain showers, walking along the muddy footpath adjacent to the Lime and Stone Company in Limekiln Lane and beyond the numerous MAN ORCHIDS to the overgrown lime pits, I was absolutely delighted to find 4 different 'purring' and displaying male EUROPEAN TURTLE DOVES in the scrub thereabouts. Francis Buckle, Roy Nye and Dave Bilcock had visited previously and very kindly tipped me off of their presence - such gorgeous birds and fabulous to see so many locally.

The scrub also held several pairs of Stock Dove whilst singing male CORN BUNTINGS were seen here and in neighbouring Wellhead Lane in Toddington village (5 janglers in total).

Monday, 7 June 2010


Carmel and I enjoyed excellent views of the roding WOODCOCK at Ringshall Coppice on Sunday evening. It first appeared over the car park clearing at 9.30pm and then reappeared on its circuit at eight minute intervals. It constituted my first in the immediate area this year.

Otherwise, largely quiet with little activity now at the reservoirs - the odd Little Egret still roosting.

Saturday, 5 June 2010


3 Hairy Hawkers were seen from the footpath to the new hide at College Lake: two patrolling the SE corner of the marsh and another in over the ditch on your right hand side of the track. Along with loads of 4-spot chasers, a single Emperor dragonfly was also on the wing.
Earlier this morning a Broad-bodied chaser was just east of the cannel bridge at Drayton (see image above)

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

RED-FOOT still showing

Having seen the adult male RF Falcon extremely well last week, I decided to have a look at the 1st summer bird today. Arriving at 3:45pm, the bird was found to be ranging very widely and often very high up, due I suppose to the higher temperatures pushing insects higher up. It was never particularly close, but did occasionally appear low over the centre of the reservoir. At 4:10pm and again at about 4:30pm, the bird was high up and appeared a long way to the west - certainly beyond the line of poplars on the west bank, which takes it into Bucks. I would suggest if anyone has not seen it in Bucks yet, then tomorrow pm might be a good time to try as the hot temperatures might make it perform in a similar manner. When I left at 5:15pm, it was performing in more regular fashion fairly low over the southern bank.

Some interesting interactions with other birds: a Hobby dive bombed it at c:4:45pm, when it was fairly high up to the SW and was the first of 2 Hobbies seen to arrive, as the RFF had been a solitary falcon to this stage. A BH Gull pursued it over the southern reed bed at c5:00pm for a short while and the RFF seemed quite perturbed, taking evasive action with very swift flight.

Adam Bassett