Tuesday, 30 November 2010

WATER PIPIT stays on, despite the snow and ice

This morning in the light snowfall the WATER PIPIT was again by the jetty. Also a Marsh Tit was again by the “Waddesdon Estate” gate and a siskin flew over.

In my garden I had two Brambling – a male and a female. I have had three different birds so far (Roy Hargreaves).

Two BITTERNS at Weston Turville

There were 2 EURASIAN BITTERNS at Weston Turville this evening, seen from the Susan Cowdy hide. Both birds flew up from towards the far side, straight out from the hide and made short flights presumably to roost. It was getting prettydark when they appeared. Also 2 Sparrowhawks spooking the Wood Pigeons as they hunted together (Rob Andrews)

Monday, 29 November 2010

Freezing conditions and a distinct lack of Bittern; Marsworth CORN BUNTING roost again on the slide


With the weather currently breaking all manner of records (coldest November night on record at -17.3 degrees at Altnaharra in NW Scotland and the deepest earliest snowfall of 37 inches at Braemar and elsewhere), it is hardly surprising that the 6,000 or so BOHEMIAN WAXWINGS that entered Scotland in late October are moving southbound. More and more are now entering the Three Counties Region, with over 100 recorded today......


I joined Matt Andrews, Allan Miller and others this afternoon in Leighton Street enjoying the WAXWING flock now semi-resident there. Once again, they were favouring the Pink Rowans either side of the road in the vicinity of No.10. Numbers present varied during the afternoon but peaked at 42, with just 3 first-years with them. Some 33 were still present mid afternoon but just after a noisy crescendo of trilling, they all flew off together and headed south.


All of the reservoirs are now virtually frozen over, with just three small patches on Wilstone and one small area on Startop's End. There was little of note other than two adult drake Common Goldeneyes on the latter.

I waited until dusk at a bitterly cold Marsworth but failed to see the Bittern again. The reedbed roost attracted just 64 CORN BUNTINGS - another serious decline in numbers.


The Corn Bunting has undergone a dramatic decline in Hertfordshire with an estimated population of 1,000 jangling males in 1985 (J H Terry, Birds in Hertfordshire 1985, 303-312) to just 40 singing males in June 2010 (LGRE et al). The Marsworth Reservoir reedbed has been a traditional roost-site since at least 1970 and a site where I have monitored numbers intermittently since 1973. Many of those figures quoted as maximums below were carried out using my Lynx click-counting machines and should be very accurate whilst others are perhaps best estimates of birds present. The largest count ever made was of 610 birds on 10 December 1983, whilst there have been a few winter counts exceeding 500 birds.

1970: 30 on 31 January: 1971: 22 on 11 February; 1972: 18 on 1 January; 1973: 30+ on 6 January and 100+ on 4 October; 1974: 80 on 4 October; 1975: 55+ on 23 October; 1976: 84 on 1 January; 1977: 62 on 5 February;

1978 - the first year of qualititive counts with up to 450 in the first winter period and 210 in November-December;

1979: just 130 or thereabouts in the first winter period but increasing dramatically to 500 in December;

1980: numbers peaked at around 300 between January and March, with 175 counted on 3 October;

1981: the roost peaked at 320 birds during January to March;

1982: peak counts included 248 on 5 March and 340 on 17 December;

1983: at least 250 roosting in January to March with an incredible 610 reported on 10 December;

1984: In the region of 340 counted in the first winter period and 310 in the second;

1985: Just 200 birds counted in both winter periods;

1986: Again 200 was the mean figure throughout both periods;

1987: the only count recorded was of 60 birds on 22 February;

1988: Again, 60 birds was about the norm during both winter periods;

1989: 165 counted during December;

1990: up to 70 in the first period, with 230 in December;

1991: peak counts included 343 on 26 January and 300 in December;

1992: remaining stable with 300 on 24 January and 324 on 31 October;

1993: respective counts of 230 in January and 220 on 27 December;

1994: numbers fluctuated between 230 and 250 in January-March but declined to just 70 in December;

1995: 150 on 13 January was followed by a peak autumn count of 195 on 8 December;

1996: a marked decline in numbers with no roost count exceeding 90 birds;

1997: an improvement in fortunes with 120 in November to December;

1998: the peak count was of 160 on 30 January;

1999: an improving picture with 210 on 11 February and 200 on 5 December;

2000: numbers peaked at 167 on 2 February and 80 on 31 December;

2001: 125 roosted during February, with 88 in December;

2002: a peak of 97 on 2 January and 80 on 16 December;

2003: 135 were counted on 7 January with 100 on 31 December;

2004: 133 on 25 February was the peak annual count;

2005: 156 on 4 February and 140 on 14 December;

2006: a peak of 196 on 25 January

2007: peak counts included 148 on 20 January and 178 on 16 December;

2008: 159 on 25 January was my peak count, with 164 on 14 December;

2009: 127 on 8 January and just 86 on 20 December.

Sunday at dusk

The Bittern showed well this evening on Marsworth Reservoir, even walking out on to the ice at one stage. Just as it was getting dark if flew to the South West part of the reed bed to roost (Dave Bilcock).

Sunday, 28 November 2010

WAXWINGS still present this morning in Tring

More of Wilstone reservoir had frozen overnight and now there are only two small areas of open water.

The Waxwings remain from yesterday, this morning they were feeding on Rowan berries along Grove Park, close to the t-junction with Mortimer Hill. The above picture was taken by holding my phone camera to my binoculars (Dave Bilcock)

Saturday, 27 November 2010


Despite large portions of Wilstone being frozen it was surprising to see the WATER PIPIT on the banks. There were also seven Dunlin and a Common Redshank on the mud and three Pintail (2 males) on a patch of open water and three Goldeneye (Roy Hargreaves). A JACK SNIPE was by the hide (Dave Bilcock)

Reservoirs partly freeze over and WAXWINGS arrive


It was a particularly heavy frost overnight, freezing over parts of Wilstone, Tringford and Marsworth Reservoirs. This gave me an ideal opportunity to get some very accurate counts of the wildfowl and Coot present as they were all forced in to smaller areas of open water. The main highlight was a flock of Waxwings in Tring town..........



The only reservoir free of ice and consequently attracting 5 Great Crested Grebes, 9 Mute Swans, 3 RED-CRESTED POCHARDS (1 drake), 17 Teal, 3 Shoveler, 66 Tufted Duck, 9 Pochard, 192 Coot, 14 Moorhen and 2 male Pied Wagtails.


Largely frozen over but the open patches held 3 Great Crested Grebes, 8 Grey Heron, 2 adult Mute Swans, 9 Shoveler and 16 Coot whilst the woodland walk yielded Long-tailed Tit, 4 Common Blackbirds, 2 Redwing, 39 Jackdaws and a pair of Carrion Crows.


Again, a surprising amount frozen, possibly because it so shallow now, but still harbouring the highest number of wildfowl, with 20 Great Crested Grebes present, 2 Little Grebe, 42 Cormorants, 35 Mute Swans (including 11 first-years), the two Whooper Swans, 83 Mallard, 15 Gadwall, 426 Common Teal, 404 Eurasian Wigeon, a pair of PINTAIL, 82 Shoveler, 79 Tufted Duck, 122 Pochard, 1 female Common Goldeneye, 576 Coot, a single DUNLIN and a single COMMON REDSHANK.


David Bilcock discovered at least 8 BOHEMIAN WAXWINGS mid-afternoon in gardens along Cow Lane not far from Tring Squash Rackets Club and Rugby Club. Roy Hargreaves managed to join him in time before they flew. I arrived shortly later and widening the search as far east to Aldbury (where incidentally up to 11 Waxwings had been recorded yesterday), I eventually relocated a flock feeding on berries by Clarkes Spring, opposite the Royal Hotel by Tring Station. All of the birds - either 7 or 8 - were adults but within minutes flew back towards Pendley Manor and the outskirts of Tring town. A single Red Kite was also in the same vicinity.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

First Tring BRAMBLING of autumn

This morning there was little of note to report from Wilstone – five Dunlin and a Common Redshank being the highlights.

On the mammal front there was a Chinese Water on the mud and I watched a Weasel take a mouse of some sort by the Dry Canal.

The morning though I also saw my first BRAMBLING, looked like 1st winter female, in the garden. Given the number seen locally this autumn it is not entirely unexpected, but it was still enjoyable nonetheless (Roy Hargreaves)

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

No sign of yesterday's Ruff


Another degree or so colder today with the wind coming from the NNW. Dry throughout with some long sunny periods.


The adult female PEREGRINE was sat on her normal perch in the town centre this morning, whilst 2 Grey Wagtails, 2 Blue Tits and 42 Feral Pigeons were also logged.


Frustratingly, no sign of yesterday's juvenile Ruff, which would have constituted my first of the year at the reservoirs had I seen it and heard about it in time. In fact, despite looking incredibly attractive to waders, nothing of note was seen..........

Great Crested Grebe (15)
Mute Swans (just 13)
Whooper Swans (the two resident adults)
Gadwall (7)
Shoveler (42)
Wigeon (175)
Common Teal (399)
Northern Pochard (67)
Tufted Duck (117)
Common Kestrel (male near the Cemetery)
EUROPEAN GOLDEN PLOVER (172 on central bund)
Lapwing (massive increase - 432+)
DUNLIN (3 on bund)
COMMON SNIPE (8 feeding together on the mud to the right of the hide)
Black-headed Gulls (1,300+)
Common Gulls (57, mostly adults)
FIELDFARE (3 in tree near car park)

(1530-1630 hours)

No sign of the Bittern seen recently but 5 Great Crested Grebes, 2 Grey Herons, 1 adult Mute Swan, a drake Shoveler, a female Teal, 6 Tufted Duck, 4 squealing WATER RAILS, 2 Green Woodpeckers, 1 Song Thrush, 15 Redwings, 3 Goldcrests (in the wood), 2 vocal CETTI'S WARBLERS, 403 Common Starlings in the reedbed roost and just 3 CORN BUNTINGS in.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

RUFF at Wilstone

There was a juvenile RUFF at Wilstone Reservoir today, showing well on the mud not far from the Drayton Hide (see Graeme Leckie's excellent photograph above and on the Herts Bird Club site)

Monday, 22 November 2010

BEWICK'S set new Year record for Roy

This morning was dull and overcast when I arrived at Wilstone Res at 7:20. I had already heard a Marsh Tit in the trees by Cemetery Corner and several Common Treecreepers. There was a Common Redshank and two or three Dunlin on the mud in front of the reeds and a pair of Pintail on the water. From the jetty there was no sign of the Water Pipit and I looked across for the Little Egret – also with no joy. Scanning that area I noticed a straight-necked adult swan – checking the other adult and two 1st winters with it they were also the same size and straight-necked! When I set my scope up they were obviously wild swans and looked small and the adults seemed to have black bills. BEWICK'S SWANS! I rang a few people and hurried round to get a better look from the hide. I was in so much of a hurry that the unusually co-operative WATER PIPIT by the car park steps barely got a second glance. I was optimistic that I might video them from the hide, but between the old and new overflows I decided to look again – just in case they flew while I was unsighted on the footpath round to the hide. No sooner had I set my scope on them when one of the adults lifted its head and called, then the other adult did and they all started running across the water and took off. They then arced round and flew within 50 metres of me as they headed round the poplars and off in a westerly direction into Bucks.

Then came the disappointment of having to ring David and tell him they that had gone and ask him to kindly text others to let them know. It would have been really nice if they could have at least managed to stay the day.

This is my 155th species at the reservoirs this year, beating my previous best of 154 in 2008 – I have also found 150 species there this y ear. So if anyone asks if I have had a good year at the reservoirs the answer so far is certainly yes, and we haven’t got to December yet and we still have more easterlies this week!

Roy Hargreaves

Family heard of BEWICK'S SWANS drops in

A family of 4 BEWICK'S SWANS droppied in to Wilstone Reservoir briefly this morning, presumably on route to Slimbridge WWT. They flew off west at 0755 hours (Roy Hargreaves)

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Marsworth BITTERN present for its second day

The EURASIAN BITTERN was seen twice in flight this afternoon and a LITTLE GULL flew over and lingered until dusk in the mist. About 250 Starlings flew into the reedbed to roost and also 8 Corn Buntings (Mike Campbell)

Friday, 19 November 2010

Belated news from Thursday

“Nothing like as exciting as Mike’s time on the hills (two WAXWINGS briefly early morning). At Wilstone the Black-necked Grebe was still by the jetty – might have heard the Water Pipit, but couldn’t see it. Seven Dunlin were on the mud by the boathouse and while I was by the jetty an adult winter LITTLE GULL drifted through with Black-headed Gulls. Two Goosander also flew over and headed to the west and three Dunlin on the mud by the hide may well have been different birds from the seven.” (Roy Hargreaves)

Today's MERGANSER - images by MARTIN PARR

EURASIAN BITTERN over Marsworth Reedbed this evening

There was also a BITTERN at Marsworth Reservoir this evening - the first returning bird of the winter (Steve Rodwell)

First Tring Merganser in 6 years


A much brighter and warmer day than of late with predominantly clear skies and light SE winds. Although I was glued to the computer all morning, the afternoon was brightened up when I took a call from local birder Jeff Bailey - he had just found a RED-BREASTED MERGANSER at Tring - the first at the reservoirs since 26 November 2004..........


At around 1230 hours, Jeff Bailey located an odd sawbill roosting close to the main spit and as it woke up after 15 minutes or so, he realised it was a RED-BREASTED MERGANSER. Jeff immediately phoned me up and went through its salient features with me and I agreed to come straight out to join him. Before I left the house, I contacted David Bilcock, so that he could inform the local grapevyne, and about 40 minutes later, I arrived on site.

Jeff was still standing on the jetty watching the bird, whilst Roy Hargreaves had snatched views and was already leaving. Mike Campbell was attempting some video and Martin Parr some distant record shots. Ian Williams and Mick Frosdick were to join us later.

The bird was sleeping when I arrived, floating just a few yards out from the spit, between the jetty and the Drayton Bank, perhaps just 40 yards from the latter. It was a fine and dapper drake almost moulted out of eclipse and was typified by its bright rosy-pink slim bill (slightly broader at the base), its gloss green head, its abrupt steep forehead, reddish-pink eye, shaggy nape, white neck collar, black-streaked pale brown breast, gleaming white undercarriage, black mantle and back, grey uppertail and lightly vermiculated grey sides. The undertail-coverts were pure white but with marbling at the tips.

The upperwing pattern was marked with dark outer primaries and extensive white bars on the lesser and greater coverts, the secondaries and even the tertials. The underwing was also gleaming white with contrasting dark flight feathers.

As we watched it at rest, it was eventually jostled by a Coot and forced to wake up. It then became quite active and spent several minutes bathing, washing and preening, occasionally flapping its wings. At 1415 hours, it climbed out of the water and on to the stony spit, sat down briefly and then jumped up again and resumed preening. It was then the target of an annoyed Lapwing, who pecked at it and forced it back in the water, and then once back in the water, another Coot and a Mute Swan had a go at it - they simply did not like his punk-inspired hair cut! Fortunately, he did find another resting spot and floated asleep for a further 20 minutes. He then awoke again and started swimming, flew a short way and swam close to the spit and onward towards the jetty. At 1456 hours, he took flight and gained height and went off strongly into Buckinghamshire airspace towards Wendover.

It represented my 169th species in Hertfordshire this year and was the first to be seen at Tring since November 2004. The 29 recorded since 1970 are as follows -:

2) 1970: two females at Tring Reservoirs on 5 December;
4) 1973: a pair at Tring Reservoirs on 9 December;
5) 1975: a drake at Wilstone on 23 April (incidentally my first Tring sighting of this species)
10) 1979: an unprecedented influx when 15 or more occurred in Herts involving 3 female-types at Wilstone on 20 February and a pair there on 4 March;
12) 1983: a pair visited Wilstone on 3 April;
14) 1986: a female was at Wilstone on 12 October and another from 9-12 November;
16) 1987: two remained at Wilstone from 5-16 February;
17) 1988: a female visited Wilstone on 18 October;
18) 1991: a female visited Wilstone Reservoir on 18 November;
19) 1993: a drake at Wilstone on 19 November;
23) 1995: a female was at Wilstone on 15 January followed by a redhead on 6 December and three birds, including a drake, on 15 December;
24) 1996: a drake visited Wilstone on 24 March;
25) 1997: a female remained on Startop's End Reservoir from 22-26 December;
27) 2000: a pair was seen by Dave Bilcock on Wilstone on 12 April;
28) 2001: a redhead visited Startop's End Reservoir on 13 December;

29) 2004: a redhead visited Wilstone late afternoon on 26 November

In addition to the celebrated merganser, Wilstone this afternoon yielded the continuing BLACK-NECKED GREBE, 5 Little Grebes, the two adult Whooper Swans, a drake PINTAIL, 83 Wigeon, 206 European Golden Plover and a very confiding first-year COMMON KINGFISHER by the jetty. Two Great Spotted Woodpeckers also flew over the jetty.

Monday, 15 November 2010

BRENT GOOSE departs overnight


The coldest night of the autumn thus far with several degrees of frost, Consequently, a calm clear start to the day, but in many areas, dense fog formed.

Initially, Allan Stewart, JT and I had planned to drive overnight for the South Devon Long-billed Dowitcher but when Dave Bilcock discovered a Dark-bellied Brent Goose in the Wilstone roost Sunday night, the plan was quickly reshuffled...

As it was, the DBBG had departed, as well as the dowitcher..........

(0700-0800 hours)

Shortly after dawn, the three of us were joined by Roy Hargreaves and Mike Campbell, but despite the gull roost still being active, the Dark-bellied Brent Goose had taken advantage of the clear starry night and had moved on - the second I have missed this year.

Continuing highlights included the first-year BLACK-NECKED GREBE (showing very well close inshore of the jetty on the East Shore), the 7 DUNLIN and the WATER PIPIT (still frequenting the bay by the jetty).

Otherwise, the following were logged...........

Little Grebe (3 still present)
Little Egret (1 by the hide)
Cormorant (38)
Whooper Swan (the two adults)
Greylag Goose (73)
Eurasian Wigeon (207)
Common Teal (450+)
Gadwall (2 drakes)
Shoveler (56)
Pochard (94)
Lapwing (211)
Lesser Black-backed Gull (1 immature)
Redwing (6)
Goldfinch (11)

Red Fox (2 by hide with one catching and killing a first-year Moorhen)

Sunday, 14 November 2010

DARK-BELLIED BRENT GOOSE in roost this evening

This evening a single DARK-BELLIED BRENT GOOSE was present on the shore between the hide and the new overflow. Unfortunately myself and Steve Rodwell were concentrating on the gulls and didn't notice it until the light was rapidly failing, which explains the blurry picture above !
It was still present close to the hide when we left (David Bilcock)

Friday, 12 November 2010

DUNLIN up to 8

This morning the Black-necked Grebe was still by the jetty. The Water Pipit flew in and landed by the jetty before flying out towards the centre of the reservoir – it was by itself. Also the Little Egret was still by the creek near the hide and there were eight Dunlin on the mud between the hide and the overflows – a long way off my best count of fifty on 20th Dec 2000 (Roy Hargreaves)

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Goldeneye increase to 5

This morning the BLACK-NECKED GREBE was still near the jetty, but couldn’t find either the Water or Rock Pipit anywhere. However, there is plenty of Mud and other places for them to disappear to. Saw five Goldeneye today and also seven Dunlin and the Little Egret. Water Rail was also in the open to the right of the hide with a Chinese Water Deer behind it and a Fox that went from the reed bed round along the bank from the boathouse to the middle and then along the bank towards the hide (Roy Hargreaves).

Others including Francis Buckle saw the WATER PIPIT today but there was no confirmed sightings of the Rock Pipit (LGRE)

Bird of the day was undoubtedly the flyover RED-THROATED DIVER that Mike Wallen watched flying high east over the Beacon early morning. Mike's stamina for flogging the hills has been well and truly rewarded this autumn - he has done very well indeed. Just wish I could spend more time up there (LGRE)

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Both ROCK and WATER PIPIT at Wilstone - and now 7 DUNLIN


A pretty dismal day weatherwise with strong NE winds and intermittent showers. Much colder than of late.

After arriving very late for my date with One Show chat host David Lindo, I eventually got myself out of Central London early afternoon. I then got delayed further after there was a very serious accident on the A41 near Watford but eventually got to Tring just before 1300 hours. I undertook a full inventory of wildfowl etc but the poor weather was useless for passerines.....


A first-year Mute Swan, 6 Great Crested Grebes, 6 Coot and 38 Shoveler were all of note.


A further 17 Great Crested Grebes noted, along with 4 adult Mute Swans, 14 Common Teal, 28 Tufted Duck, 4 Northern Pochard, an adult drake RED-CRESTED POCHARD, 5 Moorhen and 158 Coots.


Very quiet and barren with just 2 Great Crested Grebes, 4 Tufted Duck and 23 Coot present.

(1400-1445 hours)

Not that much different to the weekend with 5 Little Grebes, the continuing BLACK-NECKED GREBE, a LITTLE EGRET, 25 roosting Cormorants, 24 Mute Swans, the two adult Whooper Swans, 79 Greylag Geese, much less wildfowl but 5 NORTHERN PINTAIL and 2 female COMMON GOLDENEYE and 312 Lapwing.

However, as I set up my 'scope and worked my way across the expanse of mud between the new overflow and the hide, I located SEVEN DUNLIN in amongst the 204 roosting EUROPEAN GOLDEN PLOVER and then two pipits working their way along the edge.

One was the clean-looking WATER PIPIT of the last few days whilst the other was a dingy and heavily streaked SCANDINAVIAN ROCK PIPIT - a belated first in the county this year for me. Both birds worked their way around to the white 'froth' built up by the strong wind and afforded excellent views down to just 40 yards.

The ROCK PIPIT was typically very Meadow Pipit-like but was very heavily streaked and saturated on the underparts on a warm background. The streaks were long and extended right down the flanks. The upperparts were dark with little evidence of bracing with a pale whitish eye-ring on one side of the head and an eye-ring and a weak pale line behind the eye on the left side. The loral line was clearly dark and the stout bill quite pale orangey at the base of the mandibles. The upperwings were generally uniform olive-grey or olive-brown but had obvious pale whitish fringes to the greater and median coverts forming obvious bars. The chin and throat were unmarked and quite buffish or pale cream in colour and on the tail, the outer feathers were off-white or greyish-buff. The legs were predominantly dark but with an obvious hint of dark orange-brown. For about five minutes, it bathed in shallow water and preened, and on one occasion when it had an altercation with one of two Pied Wagtails, it uttered a sharp, explosive, metallic ''peeest' note as it flew.

Side-by-side, the WATER PIPIT was much cleaner-looking, with much whiter underparts/basal colour and much more strident, shorter and less extensive streaking. It was also a much paler brown bird on the upperparts, with more striking white-fringed wing-bars, white tail-sides and a white throat. The lower mandible was more yellow-toned in colour and the head pattern was typified by an obvious white eye-stripe. Once again, the lores were dark, the bill very slightly longer and the legs and feet very dark almost black. It was by far the more elegant pipit of the two.

Monday, 8 November 2010

DUNLIN flock at Wilstone

Rather foolishly braved the elements at c09.30 this morning to stagger out to the hide to try and see the Greater Scaup or any other windblown interesting birds! Couldn't see the scaup in the waves but 3 Common Goldeneye including an adult male by the Tern rafts and 5 Dunlin on the mud to the left of the hide with a large flock of European Golden Plovers which suddenly flew were new in. The Dunlin returned but not the Golden Plover! (Francis Buckle)

Weekend Highlights - LGRE Diary Notes

Today's weather has given me an ideal opportunity to try and catch up reading and writing emails......

Firstly, SUNDAY 7 NOVEMBER Diary Notes

A fairly pleasant day in terms of weather, with fairly fresh easterly winds, some light showers but mainly bright conditions.


In the Chess Valley, 3 LITTLE EGRETS had returned by late afternoon, feeding together in the usual stream east of Bois Mill. There has been one bird present in the valley for nearly two months now.


Roy Hargreaves and David Bilcock had discovered a GREATER SCAUP from the Drayton Hide early morning. I got down there at about 1600 hours and after scanning the 90 or so Aythyas swimming and diving for food between the central bank and the tern rafts, soon located the bird. As usual, it was a first-winter female-type, with warm to dark brown brown overall body colouration, a darker head with a pale crescent below the lower ear covert and some restricted white at the base of the bill. There was a hint of some subtle grey tones coming through on the upperparts and alongside Tufted Ducks, the bird could be seen to be larger, with a much flatter head and thicker neck and a larger bill. The bill was grey with a slight black nail at the tip. When diving, it characteristically lifted its whole body out of the water and dived in, noticeably different to the diving action of the Tufted Ducks. David, as always, obtained images of the bird, two of which are displayed above. It represents the first in the county this year.

I then left the hide after carrying out an inventory of the birds in that quarter and walked back towards the car park, where I scrutinised the gull roost as well as counted the rest of the birds present.

Great Crested Grebe (18)
Little Grebe (3 tightly-knit together)
*BLACK-NECKED GREBE (the long-staying bird still present, favouring the section visible from the jetty)
Cormorant (35)
Mute Swan (25 including the 5 first-winters)
Whooper Swan (the two tame adults, now resorting to being fed on bread)
Greylag Goose (67)
Gadwall (21)
NORTHERN PINTAIL (only 3 drakes this evening)
Shoveler (114)
Eurasian Wigeon (103 - very small number for this time of year)
Common Teal (347+)
Northern Pochard (189)
Tufted Duck (263)
COMMON GOLDENEYE (1 female in front of the hide - DB had seen two)
Coot (433)
Lapwing (130)
European Golden Plover (228)
Black-headed Gull (1,672 roosted - perhaps the first time they have actually done so this autumn)
Common Gull (just 13 with the above)
Lesser Black-backed Gull (14 adults)
Common Kingfisher


A beautiful day and surprisingly warm at times, despite the wind coming from the NW in the morning. Dry and sunny.

(1030-1130 hours)

Joined Charlie, Francis and Ian on the jetty from where I eventually tracked down the WATER PIPIT present for its second day. I heard it uttering its metallic, sharp, short 'vieeet' flight note as it circled around the jetty but despite attempting to, it refused to land and disappeared strongly away towards Startop's End.

Also noted were the BLACK-NECKED GREBE (showing very well, close inshore to the bank), 1 LITTLE EGRET, 14 NORTHERN PINTAILS (mainly drakes), a female GOOSANDER (my first at the reservoirs this year), a single DUNLIN on the spit, 2 Common Snipe, 3 adult Common Gulls and a flyover LESSER REDPOLL.


My first visit to this small reedbed reserve - super site. Paul Moon had discovered four BEARDED TITS at this site yesterday whilst I was away in the Republic of Ireland and this was my first opportunity to visit. Mike Wallen had glimpsed a female in the last hour or so and after walking the boardwalk and perimeter path and hearing just 3 WATER RAILS, I concentrated my efforts in the area around the bench on the south side which soon reaped rewards. The BEARDED TITS were calling but not showing so I cheated. The distinctive contact calls were played from the mobile and out they all come - a single male particularly showing well as he sat aloft one of the swaying reeds. All four birds were very close - perhaps 25 yards away - but despite that, once down in the reeds, very hard to locate. The flock comprised of two adult males and two female-types - and in the warm sunshine, looked exquisite. A charming species indeed.

The Bearded Tit was not admitted to the County List until 1959, when one was seen at Claydon Brook, near Winslow. This was followed by a party of 4 which wintered at Marsworth Reservoir, Tring, from 2 November 1959, occasionally straying into the Bucks section of reedbed by the Grand Union Canal.

There then followed another migrating party of 4 at Old Slade Gravel Pits on 1 January 1966 and it was this very same site that hosted a wintering bird in February and March 1967. Again, this was the favoured haunt of a wintering flock of up to 8 birds from 17 November 1971 to 14 March 1972, a male of which had been colour-ringed at Minsmere RSPB reserve on the Suffolk coast.

The Autumn of 1972 really did see an invasion of this species and was the first time that I had seen Bearded Tits in the area, with a huge flock of up to 33 birds in the Newport Pagnell Gravel Pits locale from 29 October onwards and a party of 4 at Weston Turville Reservoir reedbed from 15 November until at least 8 December. Four remained at Newport Pagnell until 4 February 1973.

Later in 1973, one was seen at Padbury on 28 October and a pair were again at Weston Turville on 31 October, and in 1974, one was at Thornborough throughout January and a pair were at a suitable breeding locality throughout April but were never proved breeding. That autumn saw more again at Weston Turville reedbed, with 2 on 19 October, increasing to 6 by 30 and to as many as 10 from 2 November when I visited. They remained until the year end, with 6 more (including 4 males) at Little Marlow Gravel Pits on 9-10 November.

Over that 1974/75 winter, a total of 12 Bearded Tits was ringed at Weston Turville reedbed, with 5 birds still being seen as late as 4 March and in 1976, birds returned again, with at least 5 present on 18 October, remaining until 6 November.

Henry Mayer-Gross heard one flying over near his home in Worlds End, Wendover, on 18 October 1977 and again, a female inhabited the Turville reedbed on 25-26 November. A party of 4 arrived at Old Slade NR on 29 November 1977, all staying until 1 December and then a lone female until Boxing Day. She was seen again on 1 & 10 January 1978. On 14 October 1978, Bob Tunnicliffe observed a pair near Bletchley.

The next party involved 5 at Weston Turville Reservoir on 15 October 1980 followed by another invasion of up to 24 at Old Slade from 16-22 February 1981. A pair was seen at Spade Oak Pit, Little Marlow, on 30 October and 13 November 1983 and a female on 8 January and 11 February 1984., with a further cluster of sightings in 1986 - when four females were at Willen Lake on 19 October (with subsequent sightings of a male there on 3 November and a female next day) and two pairs were at Weston Turville from 30 October until at least Christmas Eve.

Bearded Tit occurrences then started to wane in the county and it was a species difficult-to-catch-up-with. 1988 saw 3 males at Willen lake on 23 October and a male at Calvert on 6 November, with two pairs at Weston Turville on 31 October to 1 November. This same site also hosted an adult male from 22 January to 20 February 1989 and a further 3 from 10-31 December 1992. On 30 October 1992, three flew high west over Linford NR.

The Turville three remained in the reedbed on and off until 6 March 1993, with a further pair being discovered by Rob Andrews at Hedgerley Tip on 4 December 1993. There then followed a male at Turville reedbed on 1 & 15 January 1994 and a very confiding male at Walton Balancing Lakes from 19-26 February 1994.

From then on, the status of this species in the county went pear-shaped, and in the New Millenium, the only sighting was of a female photographed at Wotton on 18 October 2002.


The three adult WHOOPER SWANS were asleep on the bund mid-afternoon, whilst otherwise just 28 Mute Swans, 11 Pochard, 16 Gadwall and a few Eurasian Wigeon were noted; plus a juvenile Great Crested Grebe still beinga ttended by the parent.


Andy Harding and I coincided our visit with an unfortunate afternoon shoot and consequently wildfowl were scattered everywhere. In a rush to beat them, I lost my beloved 30x wide angle lens, but miraculously relocated it after a lengthy search. The reason for my visit - Adam Bassett's SCAUP - did not realise, and after an exhaustive search of all wildfowl present, noted were 45 Mute Swans, 2 Common Teal, 228+ Eurasian Wigeon (nearer 300 in reality), 24 Gadwall, 8 Shoveler, 33 Tufted Duck, 13 Pochard, 3 COMMON GOLDENEYE (1 adult drake), 1 Dabchick, 6 Great Crested Grebes and 4 GREEN SANDPIPERS.


One of the adult PEREGRINES chased and killed a Feral Pigeon and proceeded to pluck and eat it on one of the window ledges.

Sunday, 7 November 2010


Following a bird that flew over Tring early morning (Ian Williams).........

A scruffy Waxwing perched on a tree in my back garden for about 20 seconds just before dusk but flew north and there was no further sign by dark. I saw a probable over the tiger enclosure of Whipsnade Zoo flying south west earlier this afternoon (Mike Campbell)

Saturday, 6 November 2010


The WATER PIPIT was back around the jetty this afternoon, although it did fly out to the middle for a while when disturbed by a dog walker. It does seem very flighty and was not easy to see well (David Bilcock).

BULLFINCH passage on the hills

A disappointing day for passage on Steps Hill this morning, at least in quantity due to low cloud/ mist for the crucial time around sunrise and just after. However this was compensated by a large influx of BULLFINCHES, at least 3 of which showed characteristics of Northern Birds.

Initially before dawn, one was calling ( a distinctively different call ) on the East of Steps, where presumably it had just arrived. A large number of Bullfinch passed over during the morning, then I spent some quality time in the top scrub. Two stunning males and a simply massive female all showed the requisite characters, there may have been more. At one point this female was a few feet away from another female, the size difference was obvious. They all displayed very large bills and the males in particular a noticeably broad wingbar.The other suprise was a Shoveler flying around in the pre-dawn mist (Mike Wallen).

Both WHOOPER still present....and RED KITES daily

The RED KITE photographed above regularly roosts in a tree near the old canal in Drayton Beauchamp, and often another perches at the same time. This one was sat there for at least ten minutes today
The Whooper Swan was out of the water on the Drayton Bank preening. The other was in the water nearby feeding.
Both shots taken Saturday about 1pm. (Michael Nott)

KITTIWAKE in the roost

A first-winter KITTIWAKE was present in the gull roost briefly this evening. Myself and Roy watched it fly in and settle on the water close to the hide at ca.16:05, after a short while it joined the resting BHGs on the exposed shore between the new overflow and the hide. Shortly after Steve had joined us from watching the Water Pipit all the gulls suddenly took flight and a large number flew off towards Grovebury. As we couldn't relocate the Kittiwake it presumably left with these (Dave Bilcock).

WATER PIPIT still present

This morning I hoped to improve on the brief (2 to 3 seconds), view I had of the WATER PIPIT yesterday. As I approached the Jetty Mike Campbell was approaching from the car park direction with Ian Williams behind him – David joined us a bit later. Fortunately we were not disappointed, and although it was flighty we did see it well and I got some video footage that should show the bird adequately. Also the Black-necked Grebe was showing well and there was a Dunlin on the spit in front of the jetty and Pintail were scattered around the area as well.

Mike, Ian and I walked round to the hide and the Little Egret as sporadically visible on the creek and a Water Rail was out in the open. On leaving the hide Ian continued round the fields and heard a Brambling flying over as well as Siskin and Lesser Redpoll. We also had a couple of parties of Bullfinch, but didn’t see them well enough to say they were Northern Bullfinch. We also heard a Marsh Tit in the area that the Pied Flycatcher was in earlier this year (Roy Hargreaves)

5 November - Roy finds a WATER PIPIT on Wilstone

This morning while looking at the Black-necked Grebe by the jetty I noted a mid-sized Pipit on the mud next to the jetty. I fully expected it to be a Rock Pipit and so was most surprised to see a WATER PIPIT. Although I didn’t move after seeing it I guess I was inside its comfort zone - as it took off and flew across the reservoir. While I did eventually lose sight of it against the trees I didn’t see it leave and so it may have landed in the reeds or on the mud on the south-west side of the reservoir. I couldn’t find it from the hide, but then the last one took me two or three weeks to confirm properly so this one was most co-operative by comparison. Hopefully it will stick around as the habitat is certainly right for it to do so.

Also saw Little Egret in the creek by the hide, but not much else of note (Roy Hargreaves).

4 November

Today, with it being windy, the Black-necked Grebe was not obvious, unlike yesterday when it was easy to see by the jetty. The Little Egret was seen yet again in the creek to the right of the hide – seems to enjoy the easy fishing there. Yesterday I had three more Brambling fly over and a few Siskins as well.

Today’s highlights were two Dunlin that flew in from the east and landed on the mud near the Golden Plover. I also saw a Raven flying across by the Dry Canal – dwarfing the two accompanying Carrion Crows. Raven really is becoming easier to see near Wilstone now that they are breeding nearby.

Recently I have also been seeing coveys of Red-legged Partridge in the fields to the west and south-west of the reservoir. My highest count so far is fourteen – I think this is my best count ever (Roy Hargreaves).

Monday, 1 November 2010


Clearly the 1st is the month is the only day I can find Rock Pipits. Having found one on 1st October it was nice to find one by the jetty this morning – also a nice morning to be out. The Black-necked Grebe was parading up and down sometimes less than 10 metres from the bank – hopefully some nice video of that. Also the Little Egret was still in the creek and at least 14 Pintail were scattered about.

The water level is still dropping as well and the spit from the centre is creeping closer to the jetty (Roy Hargreaves)

Weekend Highlights - BLACK-NECKED GREBE

The long-staying first-year BLACK-NECKED GREBE remained at Wilstone Reservoir all weekend, showing very well from Wilson's Jetty. Also seen were the two adult Whooper Swans, up to 14 Northern Pintails, 225 European Golden Plover, Water Rail and Little Egret from the Drayton Bank hide. There was also a Common Treecreeper behind the hide (Dave Hutchinson)

WAXWINGS at Pitstone Fen - 30 October

30 October - I had two BOHEMIAN WAZWINGS feeding on hawthorn berries in Pitstone Fen this morning (Pitstone Fen is the little BBOWT reserve the other side of the railway line from College Lake). They flew off, heading towards College Lake (Nancy Reed)