Monday, 30 August 2010

The Beacon this morning

Visit to the Beacon this morning about 07.30 and a 30min walk round the sheep pens and back produced very little, 3 YELLOW WAGTAILS amongst the sheep, a flyover European Golden Plover and a Common Raven. Back in the car park a low flying cm Buzzard and a Blackcap calling near the top of Incombe Hole was just about it! (Francis Buckle)


Wilstone had the two adult Whooper Swans by the hide. There was also a LITTLE RINGED PLOVER on the bank in front of the hide – along with two DUNLIN that showed sign of being different races, but difficult to be precise as viewing conditions were difficult. Common Sandpiper was by the Cemetery Corner. Two Little Egrets were also about first thing, but then seemed to fly off. Two Marsh Tits were my first this year and goes to show how even resident birds can elude you at times (Roy Hargreaves)

Nasal-banded NORTHERN POCHARD history

Just got the information back on the nasal-saddled Pochard currently at Wilstone (David Bilcock); it was originally caught at Saint-Philbert-de-Grand Lieu, south of Nantes, France on 18th November 2009.

Full history below:

18 Nov 2009 Saint-Philbert-de-Grand Lieu France
20 Dec 2009 Seiches-sur-Loir France
10 Jan 2010 Angers France
21 Aug 2010 Wilstone

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Juvenile MEDITERRANEAN GULL roosting again

This evening the DUNLIN remains at Wilstone but no sign of the earlier Greenshank.

The juvenile MEDITERRANEAN GULL appeared at 7pm with a large flock of Black-headed Gulls and settled briefly in front of the hide before heading off presumably to Grovebury to roost (see image above).

Also present were 2 NORTHERN PINTAILS and a juvenile HOBBY hawking insects very close to the hide (David Bilcock)


Wilstone 09.00-11.00 Sun 29/8/10 9.00 Five Common Snipe flew over my head, at the old overflow corner, from the reservoir heading west over the road 9.15 Everything spooked when a PEREGRINE arrived and patrolled the area for a while, large so probably female. The Green Sandpiper pictured above continued feeding to the left of the hide at very close range. The Spotted Flycatchers were still around but not showing very well for me (Sally Douglas Birding).

Hide Meadow SPOTTED FLYCATCHERS still present

This morning not much excitement. Two Little Egrets were about, four Yellow Wagtails flew north (probably heading for Wilstone paddocks rather than lost), and a Common Greenshank dropped in by the hide having flown over David Bilcock at Startops earlier. Also two Spotted Flycatchers in the central line of trees in the Hide Meadow (Roy Hargreaves).

Swift passage

Fairly quiet on the migration front this morning. 3 Yellow Wagtails flew SW over Pitstone Hill. A Hobby was over the visitor centre at College Lake and good numbers of warblers were at the north end. A couple of groups of Common Swifts passed throughand a flock of House Martins was over the marsh. Paul had a Green Sandpiper briefly on the marsh (Rob Andrews)

Additional news - Steve Rodwell

Steps Hill/Ivinghoe Beacon: Last 3 days single SPOTTED FLYCATCHER below main car park. Yesterday 3 COMMON REDSTARTS (the 2 below the main beacon car park must have departed last night, 1 Incombe Hole) and 2 the previous day. Also 4 Wheatears Yesterday, 15+ Yellow Wagtails in Sheep field. Yesterday in the field below the Beacon there were 533 L.B.B. Gulls, 6 Herring Gulls and several hundred B.h. Gulls.

Pitstone Quarry: Yesterday adult YELLOW-LEGGED GULL and juvenile GREAT BLACK-BACKED GULL. Mandarin Today.

Wilstone Reservoir: 21 Yellow Wagtails over into Bucks this evening.

Another saddle-ringed NORTHERN POCHARD on Wilstone

I eventually managed to catch up with the nasal-saddled Pochard at Wilstone this afternoon, the coding on this is 'X2' with a large 'C' on the bridge (photo above). The similarly marked bird earlier in the year came from near Mezangers in NW France, I've forwarded the details of today's bird to Alain Caizergues who is running the study and I'll forward more details once I get them (per David Bilcock).

WHINCHATS at Wilstone

Saturday morning: David Bilcock and I had three Yellow Wagtails fly through and Ian Williams found three WHINCHATS on the hedge and concrete posts in the back fields, which may have been disturbed by a tractor running along the edge of the field next to the concrete posts. Also a few Spotted Flycatchers about and plenty of warblers with the tit flocks (Roy Hargreaves)

........and just slightly later at Ivinghoe Saturday morning

Despite just following Lee to the hills I could only manage one COMMON REDSTART, a first-winter male in Incombe Hole (picture above). The highlight however was a TREE PIPIT which flew over while I was sat in the sheep field scanning the fence line for the earlier Redstarts. Good numbers of YELLOW WAGTAILS flying over including several flocks of 8+.
Elsewhere a WHINCHAT was west of Pitstone Hill and a COMMON GREENSHANK in Pitstone Quarry (Dave Bilcock).

The Hills early Saturday morning

There are now 6 COMMON REDSTARTS in the Ivinghoe Hills - 3 still in Incombe Hole, and 3 along the fence line between the S-bend and the Beacon. Also 6 juvenile Yellow Wagtails in the sheep field, plus across the hills Marsh Tit and a good range of common warblers (Lee Evans)

Startop's End early Saturday morning

1 White Wagtail, 2 Yellow Wagtails, 2 Grey Wagtails, 9 Common Swift, 9 Red-crested Pochard and 2 Whooper Swans, the latter no doubt the usual feral birds (Mike Wallen)

Friday, 27 August 2010


A juvenile MEDITERRANEAN GULL was present at Wilstone this afternoon on the spit in front of the hide, presumably the same bird Mike and Roy found yesterday (picture above).

Below the Beacon car park, the 2 COMMON REDSTARTS Steve Rodwell found earlier were still present as well as a Whinchat (Dave Bilcock).

At least 5 COMMON REDSTARTS at Ivinghoe

Enjoyable morning spent birding with Jack O'Neill and Chris watching the juvenile male and female COMMON REDSTARTS in scrub below the main car park (see images above and that of a preening Common Whitethroat near the gate at Inkombe Hole.
At 3.30pm, I returned to the Redstarts with Richard Woodhead, and we both watched a buzzard species travelling quite high from the right to left (east to west) in a steady flight, no soaring but looking as if it was on migration. We were 99% certain it was a Honey Buzzard - a couple had been seen in the London area earlier but cannot be 100% sure. We hoped other birders may have also seen it (Sally Douglas Birding).

SANDERLING pauses briefly

This morning’s highlights were a Ringed Plover that circled Wilstone once and then disappeared, followed by a SANDERLING that departed over the jetty at about 6:25 after several minutes of circling. The other reservoirs had the nine Red-crested Pochards and seven Common Sandpipers flying round about 15 metres up making a right old noise (Roy Hargreaves).

Thursday, 26 August 2010


All 9 RED-CRESTED POCHARDS are now present on Startop's End Reservoir but the only other item of note for today is that Roy H and Mike W observed a juvenile MEDITERRANEAN GULL on the spit at Wilstone this morning.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Before the rain.......


A dry morning surprisingly with calm conditions but mainly overcast skies. A band of heavy, persistent rain moved in from early afternoon.

(0900-1230 hours)

Following Mike Wallen's observations early morning, I followed him up there, mainly in the hope of connecting with Tree Pipit but as usual, it was not to be. I did manage just one passage flyover YELLOW WAGTAIL at 1140 but other than that, the Beacon Slopes were devoid of any migrants other than EUROPEAN BARN SWALLOWS - 100 or more congregating in the Beacon area and resting on the wires and on the Hawthorns.

The car park Beeches and scrub held 5 Common Chiffchaffs, Green Woodpecker and Blackcap whilst the Beacon slopes harboured the continuing flock of 120 Goldfinches and a few Meadow Pipits.

Two separate flocks of Long-tailed Tits were encountered, along with 4 Bullfinch and 5 Yellowhammers but it was Inkombe Hole that where the majority of migrants were with 3 COMMON REDSTARTS on the South Slope, a juvenile Willow Warbler, 9 Blackcaps and a single WHINCHAT on the Steps Hill slope.

Two juvenile Common Buzzards drifted south, with 8 Common Magpies in the stubble, whilst in the recently cut fields below the main car park, 297 graellsii Lesser Black-backed Gulls were feeding and 13 argenteus Herring Gulls (LGRE)

Small fall on the Hills

Startop's Reservoir produced 3 Yellow Wagtails on the Bucks bank and 6 Red-crested Pochard on the reservoir

I then moved onto the hills where a Little Owl roosting on Steps Hill was being mobbed by many tits and warblers, including a Garden Warbler.

Things really hotted up on Ivinghoe Beacon with 2 Northern Wheatear in the rough ( harvested ) field near the sheep pens, then I heard not one but two COMMON REDSTARTS calling to each other on the slope way to the East of the Trig. One of these showed quite well, a first winter male. I sat down with the bird nearby hoping for a pic or two, it then flew towards me and alighted in the dead bush next to me, only 6 ft away, I could hardly breathe let alone turn to look at it. Unfiortunately my camera was attached to my scope so I just enjoyed the magical moment. I didn't see the other bird well enough to age/ sex it, but I think it might have been another 1st wint male.

Next up was a juvenile WHINCHAT and 2 Northerns Wheatears on the Southern slope of the beacon, then another Whinchat ( fem ). One of the Redstarts was now on the fence line and slope nearer the top.

As well as those birds on the ground, diurnal passage migrants were moving overhead with good numbers of hirundines, an amazing 4 TREE PIPITS and 14 Yellow Wagtials (including flock of 7 ) (Mike Wallen)

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Near gale force SSW winds calm things down from yesterday but more RED-CRESTED POCHARDS arrive


It was a very windy day, with warm SSW winds increasing in gusts to force 6 at times. It did remain dry though, with some long bright periods. Following yesterday's bonanza of sightings, today was rather lean in comparison, with little of new arrivals in the strong winds.

(1500-1600 hours)

Little evidence of yesterday's excitement although wildfowl are increasing daily. The first EURASIAN WIGEON of the autumn arrived today, with Common Teal up to 39, Shoveler up to 16 and yet two more RED-CRESTED POCHARDS - two juveniles this time. The eclipse drake GARGANEY remained present but there was no sign of the juvenile Black-necked Grebe.

Lapwing had decreased to 97 but Tufted Duck were well up at 84, with 44 Mute Swans, 5 Grey Herons, a female Common Kestrel and up to 4 HOBBIES making up the numbers. A single DUNLIN remained on the bund from yesterday.

Most significant was a massive rise in passage HOUSE MARTIN numbers - at least 175 wheeling around.


All 7 RED-CRESTED POCHARDS remained in situ, the juvenile, resident female and the immigrant drakes; 14 Mute Swans were also present along with a single lingering COMMON SWIFT and 60+ SAND MARTINS.

Lee G R Evans

A remarkable morning in the rain - Monday 23 August

This morning the weather really was miserable but this was more than made up for by the wader passage. I arrived a little later to allow the rain time to ease off and as I got out of the car David shouted “Whimbrel”, so I legged it up the steps to hear the two of them. After that events are a bit blurred. Snipe were flying around occasionally, 150+ Common Terns (with a few Arctic Terns), cams in and flew around. Four Black-tailed Godwits flew east to land at Startops, three more Whimbrel went east. A grey Red Knot flew around before heading east. Soon after David left a Bar-tailed Godwit circled calling and from the Wilstone Cemetery David managed to see it fly east. Soon after I could hear Greenshank calling and Mike Campbell saw at least three, but it was difficult to be exact because of the terns flying around high up.

Eventually I made it to the hide and was joined by Mike C and Lee. Garganey, Black-necked Grebe, the four returning Black-tailed Godwits and a Dunlin were the highlights from there. Mike Wallen also did well from Startops and no doubt will report on that later.

Adding in Lapwing and Common Sandpiper I saw nine species of wader this morning! I could have managed ten if I had gone to Startops (Roy Hargreaves)

In addition to all of this, the Common Redstart was still present in Hide Meadow (Jack O'Neill) and 3 LITTLE RINGED PLOVERS and 7 RED-CRESTED POCHARDS and 1 COMMON SWIFT were on Startop's End (Lee Evans)

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Bits and Pieces - Steve Rodwell

Ivinghoe Beacon am: Female/juv COMMON REDSTART seen with Dave and Mike in scrub below the car park. 5 Wheatears sheep pens. Later with Ed and Rob 3 or 4 Yellow Wagtails over the beacon (been seeing small number most days over the last week in the region). There must be c.150 Goldfinches around the beacon.

There have been 2 juvenile Little Ringed Plovers commuting between Pitstone Quarry and Startops the last few days. Up to 15 Common Swifts over Tring this afternoon.

In the evening at Wilstone one Pintail and one Dunlin. The COMMON REDSTART was still present behind the hide last thing.

BARN OWL last night

A BARN OWL was hunting the rough meadow behind the allotments at Little Tring at 8.15pm this evening (Saturday), sometimes coming very close to the road.

A quick look at Pitstone Quarry only produced a single Common Sandpiper (Rob Andrews)


Popped down to the hide at Wilstone to look for the male COMMON REDSTART in the Hide Meadow. Mike and Rose were there already and although it was quite elusive at times Mike and I managed to see it well. While walking round I heard a commotion from over the reservoir and was surprised to see an OSPREY being mobbed by common Terns and BHGs etc. It flew south over the reservoir but eventually turned south-west and head over the field and into Bucks on a course parallel with the escarpment.

A quick visit to the hide yielded views of the Black-necked Grebe and Garganey and also the newly exposed bank in front of the hide – just in time for a WWBT to stand on should one turn up in late August. Although September would be preferred by me as I have never seen one there in that month (Roy Hargreaves).

Friday, 20 August 2010

Dulling down !!


A very warm and muggy southerly wind followed the overnight band of rain and in turn moved on many of the passerine migrants of yesterday as well as an adult male Lesser Grey Shrike in North Norfolk I was all set to go for......

Dave's early morning check of Wilstone revealed nothing more than the continuing BLACK-NECKED GREBE, GARGANEY and two ICELANDIC BLACK-TAILED GODWITS so I thought I would try Steps Hill again. However, that was dire and there was little else of note at other sites either........


Spent several hours mid morning in Inkombe Hole, in the great company of local birder Sally and an ex University lecturer and professional astronomer from North London. It was incredibly quiet, with little sign of yesterday's hive of activity - an adult HOBBY passed through, a juvenile RED KITE lingered and migrants included 1 LESSER WHITETHROAT and 4 Blackcaps. Great Spotted Woodpecker, Jay, Bullfinch and 3 Common Kestrels were also noted.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

PIED FLY found on the early shift - details

Having missed the Redstart last night my intention was to give the Hide Meadow a thorough going over this morning just in case it had overnighted.

Anyway the morning started with the Reed Warbler in the Cemetery Corner reed bed doing its fair impression of a Cetti’s Warbler and continued mundanely enough with four Common Sandpipers. On my way round I met the “lucky” man who found the Great Reed Warbler at Willen Lake a couple of years ago. I only found this out when I described the Reed Warbler’s mimicry of Cetti’s and pointed out that fortunately Reed Warbler aren’t as loud as Cetti’s otherwise Great Reed Warbler would be much harder to find. That was when he mentioned the GRW at Willen and that he hadn’t known what it was or who to contact until that evening. He also had found it amusing after he joined the Bucks Bird Club to read the emails about him suppressing the bird etc. Anyway we parted as he went to see the Reed Warbler s in the corner and I walked round to meet David.

David and I walked down to the old overflow and saw the Garganey and one Black-tailed Godwit in that corner. When we were walking back we heard the distinctive call of a Tree Pipit and looked up to see it flying over – on the same course as the two I had seen almost exactly two years ago. We both thought this reasonable consolation for missing the Redstart and when we got back to the pipe by the car park also noted that the Black-necked Grebe had appeared by the hide.

The GRW man (never did get his name), joined us and when David left we went to the hide, found Mike Campbell there and enjoyed good views of the second Black-tailed Godwit, the Black-necked Grebe, a Green Sandpiper and brief views of a Water Rail. Mike and I then walked all around the Hide Meadow – could we find the Redstart or any Spotted Flycatchers, no we could not! However, we did have three more Tree Pipits fly over – this time in Bucks. We carried on up past Rushy Meadow and then we heard a Raven and watched first one and then a second fly west from Herts into Bucks. Soon after Mike turned back and I caught up with GRW man who was pleased to also have seen a Raven after hearing it call. We then continued along the path up to the Dry Canal. Part way up the path I looked back down the sunny side of the trees and bushes and spotted what I thought was a flycatcher. Hoping it was a Spotted Flycatcher and not something else fly catching, I was amazed to note flashes of white on the wings and tail and rapidly concluded that it was a PIED FLYCATCHER. From that point on a number of phone calls were made and messages left etc. I waited until Mike had got back to me and seen the bird and, with him promising to wait until other people turned up, I walked home to commence work (Roy Hargreaves)

Today's Images - MIKE KNOTT

Some impressive photography from Mike - the two BLACK-TAILED GODWITS, the GREEN SANDPIPER and the BLACK-NECKED GREBE

Today's Images - FRANCIS BUCKLE


REDSTARTS, WHINCHATS and other migrants on Steps Hill

A stiffening SSW wind eventually brought rain this evening but fortunately it was not too heavy....

I did a complete sweep of Inkombe Hole over two and three quarter hours - 1600-1845 hours

There were a few migrants present - two COMMON REDSTARTS (a juvenile and an autumn male), two SPOTTED FLYCATCHERS, two juvenile WHINCHATS (a belated first for the year for me in Bucks and my first ever actually in scrub in the Hole), 1-2 LESSER WHITETHROATS, 1 Common Whitethroat, 2 juvenile Blackcaps and 3 WILLOW WARBLERS, along with Common Blackbird, Linnet and Robin.

The two REDSTARTS were incredibly difficult, remaining super-skulking in dense scrub at the extreme far end of the hollow - up by the wire sheepfield fence


The PIED FLYCATCHER discovered by Roy Hargreaves early on was intercepted by Mike Campbell about 20 minutes later and then by Stuart Wilson, Ian Williams and Steve Rodwell just prior to when I arrived. It moved from the tall flowering Ash tree to the heighbouring apple orchard and I had one further view as it flew along the Elder hedgerow and back into the Ash tree at 0957 hours (the orchard being at the back of Rushy Meadow and alongside the Ringing Area). JT and I searched for another half hour or more and visited later, but the westerly wind increased and there was no further sign of the flycatcher nor the warbler flock that was in the vicinity.

The orchard also yielded a juvenile MARSH TIT, a family party of 6 BULLFINCHES and a nice selection of Blackcap, Willow Warbler, Common Chiffchaff and Common Whitethroat; also 2 Green Woodpeckers.

Joining Francis Buckle and Martin in the Drayton Bank Hide, we all enjoyed great views of the continuing juvenile BLACK-NECKED GREBE, the drake GARGANEY and an adult and juvenile HOBBY, whilst from the outflow corner, the two juvenile ICELANDIC BLACK-TAILED GODWITS were feeding and a freshly-arrived juvenile RINGED PLOVER.

Also noted were 7 COMMON SWIFTS, 220 Sand Martins, 3 Common Terns, GREEN SANDPIPER and a single YELLOW WAGTAIL, whilst 5 of the SPOTTED FLYCATCHERS were still on view in the meadow behind the hide.

On STARTOP'S END RESERVOIR, 6 RED-CRESTED POCHARDS were present (the locally fledged juvenile and a party of 5 eclipse drakes, with 2 COMMON SWIFTS and 68 Sand Martins through

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Today's Highlights

Ian Williams has located a COMMON REDSTART at Rushy Meadow, Wilstone, this evening, feeding in the same hedgerows that the Spotted Flycatcher families have been frequenting.

Meanwhile, a COMMON REDSTART was found by Darrel Bryant in a Stevenage garden and WHINCHAT and Northern Wheatear at Tyttenhanger GP.

The eclipse drake GARGANEY remains on Wilstone, along with the two juvenile ICELANDIC BLACK-TAILED GODWITS, whilst a juvenile LITTLE RINGED PLOVER was reported on Startop's End Reservoir this afternoon. The juvenile BLACK-NECKED GREBE was also still showing very well from the hide and photographed today by Francis Buckle (see above)

Tyttenhanger also yielded a Common Greenshank today (per Steve Blake)

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

The two juvenile ICELANDIC BLACK-TAILED GODWITS - photographed by Francis Buckle

BLACK-NECKED GREBE shows well all day


Well, after a couple of days of north-easterlies, the wind returned to westerly today and with it, torrential rain late on.

Something of a surprise was an overnight arrival of post-breeding BLACK-NECKED GREBES - two of which were the first this year in Buckinghamshire. I also ventured into Essex today........

(birding in part with Graham Smith, Stuart Wilson & Steve Rodwell)

Following an early morning call from Dave Bilcock, I quickly ventured out to catch up with his BLACK-NECKED GREBE find - the first at the reservoirs this year. The bird was a juvenile and was showing exceptionally well - diving for food in the shallow channel to the right of the Drayton Bank Hide and present all day. David, Graham Smith and Charlie Jackson all obtained an excellent selection of images of the bird and a portfolio of these are demonstrated above.

In terms of scarcity, other quality birds included the continuing eclipse drake GARGANEY, the two juvenile ICELANDIC BLACK-TAILED GODWITS, two HOBBIES and two family groups of SPOTTED FLYCATCHERS. A Common Greenshank was also present later.


Great Crested Grebe (27 birds present including 5 juveniles)
Continental Cormorant (15)
LITTLE EGRET (adult roosting in Willows)
Grey Heron (3)
Mute Swan (61 including the independent cygnet)
Greylag Geese (33)
Shoveler (12)
Common Teal (large increase - now 23 birds)
GARGANEY (still present between the hide and the overflow)
Pochard (18)
Tufted Duck (44)
Red Kite (1)
Common Kestrel (1)
HOBBY (2 noted)
Coot (711)
Lapwing (238)
Common Sandpiper (1 on the algae bunds)
ICELANDIC BLACK-TAILED GODWIT (the two juveniles showing very well on the muddy margin to the right of the hide)
Black-headed Gull (86)
Common Tern (3 remaining)

COMMON SWIFT (single noted, found by Steve Rodwell)
Great Spotted Woodpecker (2)
House Martin (51)
Grey Wagtail (2)
Dunnock (1 in the Overflow Hedge)
Blackcap (3+ in hedgerow at back of Rushy Meadow)
WILLOW WARBLER (3 juveniles with the above)
Common Chiffchaff (5)
SPOTTED FLYCATCHER (Ian Williams discovered this flock last afternoon; today, 10 birds - 2 family parties - were showing very well feeding from the hedgerow at the Drayton side of the Rushy Meadow Field. There were 6 spotty juveniles in total and all were still very young and being fed by the parents. Stuart informed me that both pairs had bred in the village, one in his own garden)
Long-tailed Tit (6)
Chaffinch (2)
Goldfinch (8)

Up against the reedbed was a crashed red and white model plane - registration number D-EATO


The juvenile Red-crested Pochard was still present, along with 13 Mute Swans, 5 Tufted Duck, the Northern Pochard, 88 Coot, 5 Pied Wagtails (including 4 in a paddock by Startop Farm) and 3 Swallows.

Just as I joined the Tring bypass and headed towards London, I saw a dead juvenile Common Kestrel in the central reservation


A juvenile BLACK-NECKED GREBE is showing very well from the Drayton Bank Hide (per Dave Bilcock) whilst the eclipse drake GARGANEY is still present but no sign of any waders thus far.

Additionally, Steve Rodwell located the first juvenile COMMON REDSTART of the autumn yesterday morning - at the usual haunt of Inkombe Hole on Steps Hill


Last night (8pm) I discovered a group of at least 8 SPOTTED FLYCATCHERS with at least 4 juvenilles flycatching from the hedge that forms the Herts/Bucks county boundary in the hay field behind the hide. Also present on the reservoir were the two juvenille black-tailed godwits and eclipse drake garganey. No sign of any of the earlier 4 COMMON GREENSHANKS though (Ian Williams).

Monday, 16 August 2010

Sunday Sightings

This morning started grey and foggy with wind seemingly from the north-east – wader passage weather! Anyway while it wasn’t spectacular we did have waders on passage. Ian had a Ringed Plover fly over calling and heading north-west. When we were sat in the hide we had a flock of five COMMON GREENSHANK and a Redshank fly around, settle in front of the hide (out of sight), at about 7:30 and then fly off into Bucks a few minutes later. Little else of note was seen but a Yellow Wagtail flew over calling.

Ian also reported that the two BLACK-TAILED GODWITS were still on Startops (Roy Hargreaves)

Saturday, 14 August 2010


This evening at Wilstone, 2 Green Sandpipers dropped in for about 30 mins before heading off in a southerly direction. Also 1 Common Sandpiper, 1 Common Tern, 1 Little Egret, 400+ Sand Martin, and 16 Swift flew over late on (Jonathan Nasir)

Another deluge of rain

A walk around Wilstone and the other reservoirs with Ian made a change from the relatively dash round Wilstone during the week.

The GARGANEY now seems to favour the area between the hide and the old overflow as I have seen it more there than anywhere else this week. There seem to be a good number of warblers moving through at the moment with Garden Warbler and Lesser Whitethroat being the highlights. While returning from an uneventful foray around the smaller reservoirs it started raining so it was probably no surprise that there was a juvenile ICELANDIC BLACK-TAILED GODWIT on the mud near the Garganey, along with a Snipe. I doubt whether the lone Snipe was one of the flock of five we saw earlier, but who can say. Also only one Little Egret on the mud between the reed beds in Cemetery Corner (Roy Hargreaves)

Friday, 13 August 2010

A deluge of MARTINS and rain and GODWITS stay put


A day of fairly frequent heavy downpours, sadly pushing up the water levels at Wilstone........


Hirundines were the order of the day with the stormy conditions grounding over 500 at the reservoirs today. Tringford attracted the European Barn Swallow element, with 28 (mostly juveniles) counted.

Otherwise, just 1 Great Crested Grebe, 7 Grey Herons and 2 Mute Swans.


Throughout the afternoon, the two 'ruddy' juvenile ICELANDIC BLACK-TAILED GODWITS fed in the SW corner of the reservoir, commuting between the shoreline and the food-rich river inflow. They afforded some outstanding views and remained present despite being flushed on several occasions.

The mud also held 64 Black-headed Gulls and the reservoir single Gadwall and Northern Pochard but most impressive were the hirundine numbers - 233 in total - involving 176 SAND MARTINS and 57 House Martins. Above them, 8 COMMON SWIFTS were feeding.


There were just 2 Great Crested Grebes to be found, whilst in the overflow vicinity were COMMON KINGFISHER, Green Woodpecker and 4 Western Reed Warblers.


With the deluge of rain, water levels had risen substantially again, forcing the Coot flocks and dabbling ducks back out into the centre of the reservoir. This too could explain the disappearance of the drake Garganey, as there was no sign of it in an exhaustive search.

Once again, it was the number of hirundines that was impressive, with SAND MARTIN predominating (255 in total) and 95 House Martins.

The Systematic List - 14+ Great Crested Grebes (including a single begging youngster being fed), 54 Mute Swans, 8 Gadwall, 15 Common Teal, 13 Northern Pochard, 12 Shoveler, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, 102 Lapwing, adult Lesser Black-backed Gull, 7 Common Tern and 2 Grey Wagtails.

Newly noted was a family of Moorhens (3 recently fledged babies) by the old overflow, excellent views of a juvenile COMMON KINGFISHER contact-calling, 5 Long-tailed Tits in the Overflow Hedge and a juvenile WILLOW WARBLER at the same site.


The undoubted highlight here was two bikini-clad models being photographed just prior to a lashing rainstorm. For some reason, the magazine editors wanted a backdrop of chalk and blue water and instructed the two girls to walk out on to the spit and vogue in jungle-like garb painted across their faces.

The juvenile COMMON GREENSHANK looked on whilst the first real build-up of graellsii saw 33 present - 29 full adults, 1 near-adult and 2 juveniles.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Despite disturbance, GODWITS stay all day !

Both juvenile ICELANDIC BLACK-TAILED GODWITS were still present at Startop's End Reservoir on my way home early evening and had been joined by a Common Greenshank. The above picture was taken of them, on my phone camera, this morning.

Pictures from last week - Chaz Jackson

We have 3 VIOLET HELLEBORINES in Ringshall whilst Johnne Taylor found some more in Wendover

Somewhat past their best, the two FROG ORCHIDS.....

Chalkhill Blues were particularly numerous on the SW slope of the Beacon, below the road


There are two ICELANDIC BLACK-TAILED GODWITS on the mud in the SW corner of Startop's End Reservoir this morning (per Dave Bilcock). One was there yesterday afternoon.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

All three 'star' birds still present

The drake GARGANEY remains at Wilstone whilst the juvenile COMMON GREENSHANK and the juvenile ICELANDIC BLACK-TAILED GODWIT have relocated to the mud in the SW corner of Startop's End Reservoir

Tuesday, 10 August 2010


Dave Bilcock phone-scoped this morning's juvenile BLACK-TAILED GODWIT as it fed on the mud. With heavy rain all day, the water level has now risen again.

Juvenile BLACK-TAILED GODWIT at Wilstone for second day


A very damp morning with intermittent rain, completely overcast and grey but still quite warm. Light SW winds.

With Wilstone Reservoir dropping in level on a daily basis now, it is increasingly becoming more and more suitable to passage waders and other migrating species. Last night, a juvenile BLACK-TAILED GODWIT dropped in and at long last, stayed longer than just ten minutes, allowing me finally able to catch up with this species in Hertfordshire this year. It was a great morning's birding - here are the highlights..........

(0830-0950 hours)

Great Crested Grebe (21 birds still present)
Little Grebe (adult and juvenile still near hide)
Continental Cormorant (15)
Grey Heron (3)
LITTLE EGRET (adult feeding to right of hide)
Mute Swan (at least 39 still present including the single independent cygnet)
Greylag Goose (1)
Mallard (157)
Gadwall (just 1)
Common Teal (marked increase in number - at least 11)
*GARGANEY (the eclipse drake still showing very well feeding on the emergent vegetation just to the right of the Drayton Hide)
Shoveler (marked increase - 12 now present)
Tufted Duck (53)
Northern Pochard (13)
Coot (711)
Lapwing (132)
EUROPEAN GOLDEN PLOVER (1 circled the Drayton Bank but thought better of landing and continued west)
BLACK-TAILED GODWIT (juvenile still present from late yesterday evening, showing well on the Drayton Bank with Lapwings. Once it had finished resting and preening, it flew up, circled high and then flew off strongly west at 0843 hours into Buckinghamshire; it represented my 161st species in the county this year)
COMMON GREENSHANK (juvenile present along west shore beneath Poplars, first seen on Sunday)
Common Sandpiper (1)
Black-headed Gull (72)
Lesser Black-backed Gull (5 flew west)
Common Tern (13)

Common Buzzard and Red Kite
Stock Dove (1)
Green Woodpecker (1)
House Martin (25)
Dunnock (family party of 5 feeding along the sheltered east flank of the Overflow Hedgerow)
WILLOW WARBLER (1 in the Overflow Hedgerow)
LESSER WHITETHROAT (3 in the Overflow Hedgerow, showing well)
Great Tit (2 juveniles in the Overflow Hedgerow)
Blue Tit (5 in the Overflow Hedgerow)
Chaffinch (adult male and juvenile in Overflow Hedgerow)
YELLOWHAMMER (singing male and female in the Overflow Hedgerow)


A flock of 17 COMMON SWIFTS and 28 SAND MARTINS was feeding over the reservoir and adjacent Grand Union Canal, whilst the reservoir itself held 16 Mute Swans, 52 Greylag Geese, 1 Gadwall, the juvenile Red-crested Pochard, 3 juvenile Tufted Ducks and 78 Coots.

At the Angler's Retreat, Marsworth, Moorhens were in the ditch opposite, with 6 in total (adult pair, three well-grown young and a tiny baby), with 8 House Sparrows and a Common Starling noted and 3 GOLDCRESTS in the line of Fir trees bordering the road.

The Mute Swan family were still surviving on the Grand Union Canal (by the bridge) and a flock of 75 Common Starlings was wandering Marsworth Village.


The juvenile COMMON GREENSHANK was still present for its 5th day but apart from that little of note - the 7 Little Grebes, 49 Mallard, the 3 continuing Common Teal, 4 Coot and both Blackcap and Common Chiffchaff.

Monday morning - OYSTERCATCHERS

A flock of 6 OYSTERCATCHERS were on the Wilstone mud this morning, roosting along with the eclipse drake GARGANEY and the COMMON GREENSHANK.

A few minutes earlier I had been at Pitstone quarry where there was a different COMMON GREENSHANK. A Green Sandpiper and 2 Common Sandpipers, and a Redshank was also present (Mike Campbell)

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Late Afternoon Update

A juvenile COMMON GREENSHANK was feeding to the right of the hide, presumably the bird from the Quarry as there were several cars parked there this afternoon. The ecipse drake GARGANEY was initially roosting under the bushes on the Drayton bank before moving to its usual spot, where it was the closest duck to the hide when I left (pictures above) (David Bilcock).

Early Roundup - Sunday morning

The eclipse drake GARGANEY was still present at Wilstone, along with the 3 Little egrets. A juvenile MARSH HARRIER was seen hunting over the reed-bed up until 8:15 when it drifted off over Rushey Meadow, unfortunately this was before I arrived (per Johnne Taylor).

At the Pitstone Quarry, yesterday's Greenshank remains, today in the Bucks section (Dave Bilcock).

Saturday Evening

This evening with Steve Rodwell at 820pm, we observed 8 Black-Tailed Godwits appear from behind the hide flying low over the reedbed in the direction of College Lake. The group then gained height and made a right turn towards Tring where they were lost from view. Also five Common Sandpipers on the algae bales, 3 Little Egret, a pair of Little Grebe, and the Garganey continued to show well from the right of the hide - Jonathan Nasir


Jon Nasir and Steve Rodwell saw 9 BLACK-TAILED GODWITS fly SW over Wilstone Reservoir late evening.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Eclipse drake GARGANEY on Friday and today



A much cooler day than of late with frequent heavy rain showers. Disappointed at missing the Wilstone Wood Sandpiper, returned there again but no joy, although a drake GARGANEY was a pleasant surprise....

CHORLEYWOOD (HERTS) - 4 Mistle Thrushes on the cricket ground


Following a call from Steve Blake, I drove over to Tyttenhanger where the largest site record of LITTLE EGRETS had gathered. Feeding on the spit and in the vegetation behind were 9 birds in total - 4 adults and 5 juveniles - presumably post-breeding birds from one of the colonies in NE London.

Other species noted included Great Crested Grebe (6 adults in total, with one pair attending three noisy young and another adult feeding the single young), Mute Swan (family party of 7 birds on the cut-off lake), Gadwall (5), Black-headed Gull (245 on the spit), Common Gull (3 adults), Argenteus Herring Gull (1 adult), Lesser Black-backed Gull (2 adult graellsii), Common Tern (7 on spit), Blackcap, Willow Warbler (bright juvenile with tit flock in trees behind the hide) and Coal Tit (3); also Peacock butterfly.


The Common Greenshank that Francis Buckle had found in the morning and had still remained early afternoon (Jeff Bailey) was nowhere to be seen on my visit. In fact, it was deathly quiet - just 34 Atlantic Canada Geese on the marsh and 2 COMMON SWIFTS and 9 House Martins overhead.


Well, no sign of the Greenshank here either, but there was a single juvenile RINGED PLOVER roosting at the end of the spit. The water level here is now dropping dramatically and looks brilliant.

A total of 73 Black-headed Gulls was roosting, including 16 juveniles; also 2 adult Lesser Black-backed Gulls.

(afternoon visit)

Sadly, there was no sign of yesterday's Wood Sandpiper - it had moved on. Ian Williams 'phoned to say that he and Jeff Bailey were watching an odd eclipse duck which they were both certain was a GARGANEY. I walked around to the hide to join them and there sat sleeping to the right of the hide was an excellent eclipse drake GARGANEY - the first of the year at the reservoirs. After a while it woke up and began feeding and after being hassled by a Shoveler, flapped its wings revealing a clear pale bluish-grey forewing, characteristic of drakes. It was also very dark on the underparts, heavily scalloped on the flanks and dark legged but was very fresh and pristine. Both Dave Bilcock and Francis Buckle obtained excellent images of the bird and these are depicted above.

An adult LITTLE EGRET was feeding to the right of the hide, with 65 Mute Swans counted (including the single grey cygnet), 52 Tufted Ducks (including 50 in one mass), 7 Shoveler, 13 Pochard, 714 Coot (favouring the emergent vegetation and feeding in massive close-knit flocks), 18 Common Terns (massive increase on yesterday) and 25 passage House Martins.

An adult argenteus HERRING GULL flew west whilst two HOBBIES (an adult and a juvenile) were showing very well to the north of the main car park, the adult appearing to be training the juvenile to hunt.


Another day of showery rain, particularly in the early morning. Quite windy too, and switching from SE to due south. Temperatures remained quite warm but there was little sign of sunshine until late afternoon.

Much of today was spent either botanising or butterflying but I was delighted at finally adding COMMON GREENSHANK to my 2010 Herts List and GREY PARTRIDGE to my 2010 Bucks List..........


Acting upon DB's posting, I caught up with the Pitstone COMMON GREENSHANK mid-morning (presumably yesterday's College bird). It was feeding in the shallows where the pool was rapidly drying out and appeared to be a fresh juvenile and represented my first in Herts this year. A GREEN SANDPIPER was also feeding in the quarry.

Joining the 7 resident Little Grebes and up to 30 Mallard were now 3 COMMON TEAL whilst the gull flock numbered 68 Black-headed and 3 Lesser Black-backed. Green Woodpecker and Linnet were also noted.


Meeting up with Francis and CJ, we viewed the 3 spike VIOLET HELLEBORINES at the roadside and the 2 FROG ORCHIDS (see images), along with over 140 CHALKHILL BLUE butterflies on the SW slope.

Both BULLFINCH and Meadow Pipit were noted close to the car park whilst a walk across the SE slope between the Beacon summit and the Sheep Fields revealed the presence of 2 NORTHERN WHEATEARS and a flock of 106 post-breeding LINNETS.


A flock of 5 House Sparrows noted.


Acting upon some information Paul Moon kindly relayed from John Gearing, I visited Dinton village in the hope of finding 1 of the 56 Grey Partridges sighted recently. Lying less than a mile from Reed village, where once huge numbers of this species were artificially released, presumably accounted for this surprise occurrence.

Anyhow, I pitched up in the village and checked out a couple of ponds first. At the Victorian Angling Club Pond, Moorhens had bred (2 young) (with another two on the pond by Pasture Farm), with 22 Mallard present. In trees surrounding, a large tit flock contained 3 Coal, a Common Treecreeper and 3 Goldcrests.

I then explored the newly harvested fields to the SE of the village and after a fair bit of hiking, eventually flushed an invisible family covey of 8 GREY PARTRIDGES up from the edge of one of the cut fields at SP 775 105. At long, long last - never before have I had so much difficulty in finding this species in Bucks in a calendar year.

BULLFINCHES were also a highlight, with 2 birds in an overgrown orchard area and another by the lane, whilst Linnet (3), Rook (150), Jackdaw (120), Goldfinch (7), Stock Dove (2), Common Whitethroat (3), Yellowhammer, Song Thrush, Common Blackbird, Red Kite and European Barn Swallow were noted. The field edges also harboured 20+ Common Blue butterflies and a lovely Small Copper.


I then moved on to another nearby site where 3 NARROW-LIPPED HELLEBORINE spikes were seen (two of which had been munched by a Muntjac) and a MARSH TIT.

CHINNOR (BUCKS) - 8 Red Kites overhead


This National Nature Reserve lies on the NW scarp of the Chiltern Hills, within the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) overlooking the Vale of Oxford. It is characteristic of the Chilterns landscape and is essentially chalk grassland, with areas of mixed scrub, Juniper and ancient Beech woodland interspersed. I make an annual August visit to this site as it is reknown as one of the premier sites for the rare SILVER-SPOTTED SKIPPER butterfly and CHILTERN GENTIAN.

Despite the overcast conditions, there was no shortage of the skippers, and I saw at least 18 of them as I criss-crossed the steep slope. There were also 86+ Chalkhill Blues, 5 Small Heath and 3 Ringlet butterflies.

Birdlife was typically scarce but did include 2 MARSH TITS, numerous Red Kites and yet another BULLFINCH.

BEACONSFIELD (BUCKS) - A HOBBY flew across the M40 roundabout.

(1700-1800 hours)

Large numbers of gulls were loafing and feeding on the exposed rubbish in the quarry totalling nearly 200 in number. Most interesting were the 23 YELLOW-LEGGED GULLS (with 16 adults, 5 fourth-years and two juveniles) feeding, along with 125 argenteus Herring and 32 Lesser Black-backed.

I could only find 1 juvenile LITTLE RINGED PLOVER with the adult today on the pool, along with a single GREEN SANDPIPER, whilst 2 COMMON RAVENS (an adult and juvenile) were feeding and a juvenile HOBBY was seen extremely well.

Also encountered were Common Starling (46), Red Kite (28+), Common Chiffchaff, Linnet, Sand martin (just 1), Stock Dove (7), Grey Heron (2 scavenging with the gulls on the rubbish - certainly an odd sight), Pied Wagtail (7), Dunnock, Song Thrush and Great Spotted Woodpecker.


At dusk, a party of 24 HOUSE MARTINS migrated west overhead.