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.

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