Wednesday, 14 July 2010

More local survey work and my first CHALKHILL BLUES of the year

CHALKHILL BLUE and DARK GREEN FRITILLARY butterflies on Ivinghoe Beacon, captured wonderfully on film by Francis Buckle


A lot more rain fell today, with showers continuing on and off until late afternoon. Temperatures remained quite high and the wind was in the southwest. I carried out more breeding season survey work today, highlights being nesting House Martins, Marsh Tits and a wandering Common Raven....


On the River Chess by Water Lane bridge (SP 958 013), a pair of Moorhens was feeding 3 young. Close by, at the junction of Fullers Hill and Wey Lane (SP 958 012), I was delighted to discover two active nests of HOUSE MARTINS on the eaves of the corner house, the owner informing me that a colony had existed there for at least 44 years ! This same area also held breeding Collared Dove and HOUSE SPARROW (1 pair), whilst 8 Common Swifts were overhead.

Chesham has a thriving breeding population of Western Jackdaws utilising the chimney pots - totalling at least 30 pairs (including 3 pairs opposite the Queen's Head and numerous pairs in Bellingdon Road).

A total of 43 pairs of HOUSE SPARROW was located in Chesham, with the core populations on Lansdowne Road, Mount Nugent, Berkhampstead Road and on Vale Road; a further 6 Common Swifts were in the Evangelical Church area on the main road.


The most unexpected sighting here was of a loud cronking COMMON RAVEN that flew NE over the Rose & Crown public house and main road, constituting my first this month. It was missing a few flight feathers.

The woodland strip here held 11 singing male Wrens, Chaffinch with young, Greenfinch, Common Blackbird, Blackcap (feeding fledged young), a singing male Common Chiffchaff and families of both Great and Blue Tits.

I found an excellent new plantation area of young conifers (at SP 944 069) and this harboured Green Woodpecker and young, a family party of 6 Linnets (plus another pair), 5 Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Chaffinches and a singing male YELLOWHAMMER. There were two Red Kites overflying the area too.

On the northern outskirts of the Common, a pair of European Barn Swallows were nesting in a horse barn and both family parties of Blackcap and Common Chiffchaff were noted. A Eurasian Skylark was singing nearby.


Buckland Wood was a mixed deciduous woodland bordering Bottom Road but was dense and dark. Birds noted included Jay, Wren, Common Chiffchaff and Coal Tit, with another singing male YELLOWHAMMER on the opposite side of the road on St Leonard's Common.


At the edge of Northill Wood, just behind the buildings, a family party of MARSH TITS was encountered.


Very, very quiet, with little of note - 2 Mute Swans, 1 Common Redshank, 8 Common Terns, 15 House Martins and 8 Sand Martins.


Water level dropped dramatically with the central ridge of mud apparent. A large number of roosting small gulls including 83 Black-headed (including 1 juvenile) and a 2nd-year COMMON GULL (my first this month), along with 20 Lapwings and 8 Tufted Duck.


In the small meadow right of the chalk track, 80 yards beyond the first new gate, I quickly saw 28 CHALKHILL BLUE BUTTERFLIES, despite the poor weather (see Francis Buckle's excellent photographs above). There were also many Marbled Whites, Small Heath, Meadow Brown and Ringlets.


This extensive tract of woodland is best known for its bumper Edible Dormouse population, bolstered by the provision of several hundred nestboxes (for full details, read the following I decided to visit today to carry out an extensive bird survey, the woodland consisting of a wide variety of native and ornamental trees including Douglas Fir, Coast Redwood, Dam Redwood, Norway Spruce, Sessile Oak, Common Oak and Cherry. Most species have now ceased singing but I did manage to prove nesting for Dunnock, Jay, Common Chiffchaff, Nuthatch, Long-tailed Tit, Wren and Coal Tit (3 family parties). Two different Goldcrests were found but remarkably no Firecrests. There were numerous Badger setts in the wood.