Saturday, 31 December 2011

Weston Turville Reservoir Access

Weston Turville Reservoir is situated just north of Wendover and can be accessed either from the south end (Halton Lane - parking area A) or from by the dam on Worlds End Lane (marked B on map). There is a public hide in the Se corner from where it is best to watch the BITTERNS at dusk (from 3.30pm onwards) but the footpath continues the circumference of the site (marked in red)



2011 went out on a very mild note - in fact, temperatures were as high as 13 degrees C - so like Christmas 2011, one of the mildest festive periods in history. It was very windy too, with a little light rain in the wind. Predominantly overcast, apart from a few bright periods.


The cone crop at Wendover is fabulous at the moment and consequently, a large flock of COMMON CROSSBILLS has moved in to take advantage. This afternoon, no less than 26 birds were present in the vicinity of the turning area (the former butterfly Buddleigh bush site), including at least 12 resplendent adult males (see map above for access instructions). Although silent for long periods of time, every now and again the entire flock would take flight and wheel around loudly 'jipping'..

Nothing much else to see in the woods, particularly busy with walkers - just 3 Goldcrests and a few Coal Tits

Happy New Year

Lee Evans

Friday, 30 December 2011

Wintering BITTERNS are back at Weston Turville

There were two EURASIAN BITTERNS at Weston Turville Res' this evening, best viewed from the Susan Cowdy hide. One was already being watched by Richard Billyard when I arrived, then at c3.50 another one flew across the water from near the sailing club and landed on the far side opposite the hide, only about 6 metres from the other one. After a while both birds climbed about 5 feet up and were showing quite well in the gloom. Always magic birds to see (Rob Andrews).

CROSSBILLS in Wendover Forest

I saw COMMON CROSSBILLS this morning at about 10.30-11.00 am in Wendover woods. At least 12 birds.

Enter woods at SP890075 or 51°45.517'N 0°42.758'W on Hale Lane next to Forestry Cottages and follow main track north to approx SP891081 or 51°45.873'N 0°42.627'W at the lorry turning circle. The Crossbills are in the trees to the immediate North of the turning circle (Simon Gardner).

Thursday, 29 December 2011



A touch or so colder today with the temperature reaching just 9 degrees C. Very overcast but dry and with an increasing westerly wind

With a visit to Tring in the offing, I took the opportunity to survey the waterbodies of the Aylesbury Area..........


Three LITTLE EGRETS today just east of Bois Mill - and 1 Cormorant on the fishing lake there.


There was no sign of Roy's colour-ringed BLACK-TAILED GODWIT when I arrived at the Drayton Hide late morning - it had presumably moved on

The water level was increasing further with the inlet pipe by the car park in full pump mode. As a consequence, wildfowl numbers were much recovered, although Great Crested Grebe and Mute Swan numbers were very low

The sole remaining Little Grebe was noted, 8 Great Crested Grebes, just 5 Mute Swans, 256 Wigeon, 8 Gadwall, 375 Teal, 44 Shoveler, 107 Pochard, 73 Tufted Duck, 7 COMMON GOLDENEYES (including 2 adult drakes), 760 Coot, 45 EUROPEAN GOLDEN PLOVER and 32 Lapwings.

The Linnet flock by the hide now numbers 52 birds and Pied Wagtails remain at a high 17.

The Cemetery Corner geese flock has increased to 83 birds, including 71 Greylag, 10 Atlantic Canada and the ever-present first-winter DARK-BELLIED BRENT GOOSE


The first-winter male SNOW BUNTING was still performing well along the north shore, Chris Holtby obtaining a large number of images.

Otherwise, 12 Mute Swans (including 3 unringed first-years), 7 Atlantic Canada Geese, 46 Gadwall, 4 Great Crested Grebes and a single Little Grebe were present.

Very little on TRINGFORD RESERVOIR other than 2 Mute Swans, 5 Grey Heron, 22 Teal and 2 drake Shoveler and even less on MARSWORTH with 4 Great Crested Grebes, 6 Teal and 21 Shovelers.


Popped in at 1300 hours and was very surprised to find the Wilstone family party of 4 BEWICK'S SWANS being chased around by the resident pair of Mute Swans along the reedbed western side of the reservoir. The cob Mute repeatedly harried the two juvenile Bewick's, causing them to fly and circle.

Very quiet otherwise with just 2 Great Crested Grebes, 2 Moorhens, 2 drake Tufted Ducks and 1 drake Shoveler (up to 32 of the latter species had been present recently). Not one Coot.


A single Little Grebe, 20 Mallard, 10 Coot and 11 Moorhens for my troubles - and a male Siskin.


On the West Pool, a pair of Mute Swans, pair of Teal, 4 Moorhen and 1 Grey Heron, whilst on the Trout Pools, 14 Mallard, 5 Shoveler (2 drakes), 70 Canada Geese, 2 Moorhens and another Grey Heron. The neighbouring field held 14 Common Magpies.


A full inventory recorded 10 Great Crested Grebes, 3 Mute Swans (including 1 first-year), 1 Canada Goose, 124 Mallard, 3 Tufted Duck, just 6 Coot and 4 Moorhens.


A small party of 13 EUROPEAN GOLDEN PLOVERS was in the field opposite Green Park in Copperkins Lane.

Sunday, 25 December 2011

Merry Christmas To All My Browsers

Yep he's still there - our beautiful SNOW BUNTING seems set for the New Year and is already the longest staying individual at the reservoirs ever - Chris Hinton's shots are simply sumptuous. Happy Yuletide (LGRE)

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Christmas Eve at the Reservoirs

A superb hour and a half out and about this morning.

SNOW BUNTING still on Startops Reservoir in its usual area ( Herts ).

The JACK SNIPE was showing fantastically well on Marsworth reservoir ( Herts ), at the Southern end along the edge of the reeds (If you're stood on the causeway its along the edge of the reeds on your right as you look out across the water, it was about two-thirds of the way across). Alongside it was a Common Snipe. Also there were 3 Water Rails, Grey Wag and 19 Shoveler.

The first-winter DARK-BELLIED BRENT GOOSE was in the field with Greylags to the rear of the jetty at Wilstone (Ted & Mike Wallen).

Friday, 23 December 2011


Chris Hinton obtained this wonderful selection of detailed shots for me today of the Startop's End male SNOW BUNTING - the patterning and shape of the tail feathers, especially on T5 and 6 suggesting a first winter.

Thursday, 22 December 2011


The adult MEDITERRANEAN GULL has been present in the gull roost at Wilstone the last two evenings. A picture of it taken this evening is filed above (David Bilcock).

Ageing our Snow Bunting

I sent images of the Startop's End Snow Bunting to Norbert Roothaert, Head of the Ringing Group in Belgium, who consequently passed them round to those that trap and ring the species frequently. In general, the discussion agreed with that of mine - that the bird is a FIRST-WINTER MALE......

The comment concluded ''Very nice pictures but Snow Buntings are not so easy to age, even in the hand. Also there are two subspecies "nivalis" and "insulae" (I ring them both here). I think the bird of the picture is certainly a male bird, and most likely a 1st calender year, the inner tail feathers are very pointed, (V-shaped), although in the hand you have to consider the 1st and the 4th tail feather. The longest primary covert shows quite some black at the tip, in adult birds this is almost or entirely white. I would go for a 1st calender male, possibly ssp "nivalis", but therefore you need the colour of the rump, in "nivalis" more rufous, in "insulae" more blackish"

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

........and a JACK SNIPE image taken from John Foster's camera

JACK SNIPE videograbs from today - John Foster

JACK SNIPE still present - and SNOW BUNTING

Snow Bunting, Jack Snipe and Water Rail all still present/showing when I left Startop's and Marsworth at 11am (thanks Roy for hanging around to pin-point the Jack Snipe - it's very well camouflaged). Grey Wagtail and plenty of Fieldfare around too (Lucy Flower)

Aston Clinton RAVEN

A COMMON RAVEN was around the Bell pub in Aston Clinton a couple of times this morning, calling loudly. Not sure if it was eyeing up the Scots Pines opposite or hoping the builders in the new development would throw away a few scraps in the carpark. They really ruin their image of a wild and wary bird these days (Rob Andrews)

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

JACK SNIPE on the list


A return to milder conditions with SW winds bringing in cloudy skies and warmer temperatures........


Young Ted Wallen did exceptionally well in locating and identifying a JACK SNIPE on Marsworth, the first twitchable individual for a while and the first record this year that I know of. Many of us consequently twitched it and following up behind Roy and Dave B, Ian Williams and I connected mid afternoon with several others. Although the single COMMON SNIPE was relatively easy to find on the muddy margin at the eastern end, the JACK SNIPE proved far more difficult. It was hugging the edge of the reeds and although ''bouncing'' frequently when feeding, virtually disappeared from view when stationary. It had moved 50 or so yards from where Ted had first discovered it and was further east, favouring the back of the area that has more exposed mud on the south shore. A superb find.

There were also two WATER RAILS running around out in the open and now that the ice has melted, 2 Great Crested Grebes were back, and 8 Shovelers

On neighbouring STARTOP'S END RESERVOIR, the first-winter male SNOW BUNTING was still doing his thing, showing well enough for Richard Woodhead to obtain these two great images

Good Birding Always and Festive Greetings to all at Tring

Lee Evans

JACK SNIPE on Marsworth

This morning the Dark-bellied Brent Goose and Bewick’s Swans were still on Wilstone.

Whilst there news of a JACK SNIPE at Marsworth came in from Mike Wallen and relayed by David Bilcock. I headed over there and it was still showing at 10:30 when I left. The Jack Snipe was in the south-east corner of Marsworth as was a roosting Common Snipe. Credit goes to Ted Wallen for finding the Jack Snipe. This being my 159th bird at the ressies this year 160 must be a possibility before the year is out!

Also the Snow Bunting was still present on Startop's End

Roy Hargreaves.

Monday, 19 December 2011

No sign of reported Twite


Another sharp frost overnight but as the morning progressed, a front edged in from the west bringing heavier and heavier rain from early afternoon and recovering temperatures to 6 degrees C by nightfall.

At around 1300 hours, Alan Gardiner and Steve Blake alerted me to the report of a Twite at Startop's End Reservoir by an unknown observer. I immediately spoke to Dave B but he was in Sandy, so despite the rain, made my way over to check the report out........


Jason Chapman was lunchtime twitching the SNOW BUNTING shortly after I arrived and together we obtained yet more outstanding views of this first-winter male, both in the Herts section and Bucks section of the north bank.

I then did the full circumference of the reservoir - at the water's edge - but nothing more than the Snow Bunting and 3 Pied Wagtails. Like Roy, I believe the report almost certainly related to the bunting, as surprisingly enough, many features overlap if you are working from a field guide and are a relative novice.

In terms of waterbirds, little of change, with the reservoir holding 5 Great Crested Grebes, 6 Mute Swans, 65 Gadwall (highest count in a long while), 31 Wigeon, 22 Shoveler, 37 Tufted Duck, 8 Pochard, 287 Coot and 10 Moorhens.


No Twite but 2 Great Crested Grebes, 2 Mute Swans, 6 Teal, 8 Shoveler, 26 Tufted Duck, 6 Pochard and 62 Coots. Marsworth Reservoir was still covered in a thin layer of ice. All of the reservoirs bar Wilstone had an ice covering of some sort.


Walked right round checking the edges and no Twite amongst the 31 wintering Linnets on the margins. No sign of the male Common Shelduck either, nor of the 5 Goldeneyes.....

The first-winter DARK-BELLIED BRENT GOOSE was still frequenting the Cemetery Corner fields with the 7 Atlantic Canada Geese and the 67 Greylags, whilst all 4 BEWICK'S SWANS were on the Drayton Lagoon from the hide.

On the water were counted 11 Great Crested Grebes, just 9 Mute Swans (most are now on College), 311 Wigeon (an increase again), 18 Shoveler, 230 Common Teal, 42 Tufted Duck, 106 Pochard and 752 Coot.

In the hedgerows, large numbers of winter thrushes feeding on the hawthorn berries including 66 Fieldfare, 22 Redwing and 12 Common Blackbirds.


In the town centre, the adult female PEREGRINE was roosting and in the main shopping precinct, 38 Pied Wagtails were roosting in the small bush in front of the British Heart Foundation charity shop

Sunday, 18 December 2011



Snow Buntings exhibit a great deal of variation in the characters used for sexing. Intermediates occur, making it necessary to take all characters into consideration. Males are generally whiter and blacker than females of corresponding age. A bird with ALL WHITE primary coverts is a MALE. The lesser coverts are uniformly white in males but in a few cases, there are some small scattered spots. The secondaries are mainly white in males, occasionally with small black marks near the tip of the outer web. The dark tip of the primaries on the underwing is blackish and sharly set off in males. The dark centres of the scapulars are jet black, and the tips rounded or bluntly pointed in males, best visible on the middle feathers. The dark centres to the upper tail coverts are similar in this respect. They tend to end bluntly in adult males, and come to a point in first-year males, but intermediates do occur. Males have less dark in the third outermost pair of tail feathers than females, very little in adults and usually restricted to the tip of the inner web in first-year males. Males are on average larger than females, and many can be sexed on measurements.

In females, the primary coverts are mainly BLACKISH, with WHITE ONLY ON THE EDGES. The lesser coverts are greyish-brown to blackish, with some off-white tips, never appearing as white as in males. The secondaries are white, with the dark pattern on the tips ranging from small dark subterminal markings on the outer web in adults to about distal half of feathers. The dark tip of the primaries on the underwing is diffusely demarcated and browner. The tip of the dark centres of the middle scapulars is sharply pointed in females, and the base colour is browner or greyer than in males. The dark centres of the uppertail-coverts come to a point in females, often more so than in first-year males, but many are intermediates and the character is most useful in adults. In females, the dark pattern of the third outermost pair of tail feathers usually covers the centre inner web, the dark pattern normally dominating over white areas. Individuals showing intermediate characters frequently occur. These are either first-winter males or adult females, so correct ageing should solve the most difficult caes.


Juvenile Snow Buntings have a partial moult about three weeks after fledging, late July or August to September, involving head, body, lesser and median coverts and sometimes inner greater coverts and tertials. Adults moult completely after breeding, between the first half of July and September, taking between 28 and 37 days.

Some Snow Bunting plumages are ambiguous, but most can be aged based on a combination of criteria. However, with progress of wear and bleaching, ageing becomes progressively more difficult. MostBritish birds involve the form insulae, averaging more extensive dark patterning than other forms. Particularly, first-year males may show characters fairly typical of females, such as all-dark primary coverts, dark bases to the greater coverts and dark tips to the outer secondaries. Adult males frequently show dark tips to the primary coverts.

Juvenile tail feathers, which are retained throughout the first year, are more tapered than those of adults of both sexes. The tip of the dark centre of the innermost pair of tail feathers is more pointed in first-year birds. Between males of different ages there is usually a marked difference in the amount of dark on the third outermost pair of tail feathers. In adults, the dark pattern is usually restricted to a relatively short dark patch along the shaft. There is often a limited amount of dark on the inner web, usually a narrow patch, isolated from the shaft patch. In first-year males, the pattern along the shaft is longer than in adults and the dark pattern on the inner web is more extensive and usually connected to the shaft streak. This difference is also useful in most females.


Adult males often have the longest primary covert ALL WHITE, sometimes with a small dark spot at the tip. Adult females often show a similar pattern, with a spot near the tip, but with a varying amount of dark on the outer web. Quite frequently, the primary coverts of adult females are all dark, except for white bases on the inner web. In first-year birds of both sexes, the outer web is often all dark


In males and adult females, there is no black on the inner webs of the secondaries, except for a small dark spot near the tip of the outer web in some females. First-year females usually show dark patches on the outer three ones.


In adult males, the alula is BLACK, whereas it is DARK GREY in first-year males.


The dark centres of the longest uppertail coverts tend to end more bluntly in adult males, and come to a point in first-year males. Intermediates occur.


In adult males, the dark parts of the primaries are almost glossy black with sharply defined white fringes. Immature males have dark grey primaries, and the white fringes are often less well defined.

Text adapted from Urban Olsson

Local Alert - Roy's back from New Zealand and Oz !

Having spent the past three weeks in New Zealand and Australia I had been able to keep track of local events while in NZ on a daily basis, but in Australia I only found out about the Snow Bunting on Friday as I checked in for the return flights. David Bilcock kindly updated me to let me know that the Snow Bunting was still there on Saturday. So a visit first thing Sunday Morning was on the cards

Having landed at Heathrow early this morning I was home before it was light and as soon as it was light I headed for Startops to see if the Bunting was still there. David turned up and immediately was able to show me just how close to the reservoir wall the Snow Bunting could get. An excellent bird to see on my return and a contrast from watching Bowerbirds and other rainforest birds in Queensland less than 48 hours previously.

I then put in a quick visit to Wilstone before the lengthy journey took its toll. The four Bewick’s Swans were roosting and the Brent Goose was with the Greylags and Canadas in the field by Cemetery Corner. Also the Water Pipit was with Meadow Pipits and the Shelduck was also still present (Roy Hargreaves)

Sunday roundup - 18 December

Not much change I am afraid but Francis Buckle obtained some nice new images above. The first-winter male SNOW BUNTING still resides on the north shore of Startop's End Reservoir, whilst both the 4 BEWICK'S SWANS and juvenile/first-winter DARK-BELLIED BRENT GOOSE continue on Wilstone. No sign of the Water Pipit though this morning. It was another hard frost.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

MED GULL in this afternoon's roost on Wilstone

An adult MEDITERRANEAN GULL (pictured above) was present in the roost this evening, initially roosting with the large number of Black-headed Gulls on the mud close to the new overflow (David Bilcock).

Saturday 17 December - SNOW BUNT still

At Tring Reservoirs today, a steady stream of admirers are enjoying the first-winter male SNOW BUNTING showing well just in line of the steps in the Hertfordshire NW section of Startop's End (another shot from Lucy Flower above).

On Wilstone Reservoir, the juvenile DARK-BELLIED BRENT is still with the 67 Greylags in the grass field immediately east of the reservoir (Cemetery Corner) and the 4 BEWICK'S SWANS and the male COMMON SHELDUCK remains (per David Bilcock)

Friday, 16 December 2011

Today's News

The WATER PIPIT showed well but briefly around the jetty this afternoon. The juvenile DARK-BELLIED BRENT GOOSE was in the field behind the jetty and the 4 BEWICK'S SWANS were in the south west lagoon. The male SNOW BUNTING was back in the Hertfordshire section of Startops Reservoir showing just as well and the pair of Red-crested Pochards was still present (per Mike Campbell and Dave Bilcock).

Dave obtained the images above of the DBBG and Bewick's.

And the boundary line around Wilstone and Drayton Beauchamp...

The County Boundary Lines - for Recording Bird Purposes

I have marked in red on the map above the latest version, as understood by the County Council, of the Bucks/Herts border in the vicinity of Startop's End and Marsworth Reservoir. This should be used in future reference for recording birds. Our current vagrant Snow Bunting is walking between both sides of the border

Thursday, 15 December 2011

SNOW BUNTING present for a fourth day

The male SNOW BUNTING on Startop's End Reservoir spent a lot of time in the Buckinghamshire section today, feeding on the 'beach' literally in front of the main car park. John Foster was able to obtain these crippling images and the bird continued to attract a constant stream of admirers throughout the day.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

First SNOW BUNTING since January 1981


The unsettled theme continued today with strong NW winds bringing a period of wet snow during the afternoon. It was very cold - the strong wind making it feel much much colder.

After missing out yesterday, and still reeling after the Ivinghoe dip, I finally caught up with our star performing SNOW BUNTING today........


Still 8 LITTLE EGRETS in the valley, most frequenting the ditches just east of Bois Mill


Joined Mike Collard, Mike Campbell and others at Startop's mid morning to find the SNOW BUNTING still showing fabulously on the foreshore at the north end of the reservoir. It was remarkably confiding and over the hour of observation, walked to within just 28 yards of the Buckinghamshire border. It thus became the second species this year (with DBBG) that I have seen from Buckinghamshire but not within it !


At very close range it was seen to have spiky (pointed) rather than rounded tail feathers and with its bright yellow bill and extensive white in the upper wings, presumably a FIRST-WINTER MALE.

A typical bunting in shape and structure with predominantly white underparts, extending to the undertail coverts. Crown tinged rufous, with a dark ear covert and a mixture of dark and pale fringed feathers on the mantle. Some warmth extending out on to the sides of the breast forming an incomplete breast-band, with paler buff streaking in the hindneck and eye-stripe. Dark-centred scapulars and extensive white in the wings, especially in flight. Primaries very dark with white tips and tertials edged with warm rufous. A dark beady eye, striking yellow bill and short black legs and feet. Typical, rippling ''prrrrii'' call when I approached it.


SNOW BUNTING is a rare visitor to Hertfordshire with just 34 previous records involving over 50 birds, at least 10 of these being at Tring Reservoirs (the most recent in January 1981)

1) The first county record related to one shot near Hitchin in January 1881, with two captured near Royston at about the same time;

2) One was shot on Harpenden Common on 24 January 1883;

3) One was shot at Royston on 16 September 1893;

4) One was shot on Royston Heath on 6 December 1893 (Foster 1914);

5) One was shot near Sandon in January 1894 (Hartert & Jourdain 1920);

6) A male was captured near Tring on 22 February 1894 (Hartert & Jourdain 1920);

7) A flock is said to have been seen at Tring Reservoirs in 1895; there are two males in the Hitchin Museum from this period, one of which was obtained at Offley about 1890 and the other at Hitchin about 1900, whilst two were said to have been obtained at Aldenham Reservoir in January 1895;;

8) One was watched at close range in a ploughed field at Letchworth in January 1913 (Foster 1914);

9) A single was between Harfield and Welwyn on 30 January 1926 (The Field 147: 283);

10) A male remained at Wilstone Reservoir from 13-20 October 1935 (Dr J.S. Carter);

11) Two birds were present at Wilstone Reservoir on 6-7 November 1944;

12) Two were again at Wilstone Reservoir on 10 November 1945 (W. E. Glegg);

13) An immature visited Wilstone on 25 October 1952;

14) One visited Wilstone Reservoir on 9 October 1953;

15) A male was at Hilfield Park Reservoir on 3 February 1957 (London Bird Report 1957: 34);

16) A flock of at least 6 birds was noted at North Mymms on 13 December 1959;

17) A female was at Rye Meads Sewage Farm on 23 January 1960;

18) A male was at Highley Hill, Ashwell, on 1 October 1960;

19) One remained at Wilstone Reservoir from 1-5 November 1961;

20) Another was seen at Rye Meads on 5 November 1961;

21) Three flew south over Welwyn Garden City on 6 March 1972;

22) Two pairs were reported from Maple Cross on 26 November 1972;

23) A male was seen at Wilstone Reservoir on 28 October 1974;

24) One remained at Hilfield Park Reservoir from 15-18 November 1978;

25) A female was apparently seen with Corn Buntings and Yellowhammers NE of Weston Hills, Baldock, on 1 January 1979 (Brian Sawford);

26) One was seen near Wilstone Reservoir on 8 January 1981 (N. Woods);

27) One was seen in flight with Meadow Pipits at Tyttenhanger on 20 November 1988 (Steve Pearce);

28) A first-winter male remained at Tyttenhanger GP from 29 November to 1 December 1996 (Lee Marshall et al) giving many local observers their first opportunity to see this species in the county;

29) A pair was located at Kelshall on 9 November 1997 (Martin Craig), one of which was last seen on 14 December;

30) One was found in Hemel Hempstead on 5 December 1997 (M. Pearson);

31) One was found at Amwell GP on 21 November 1999 (Graham White);

32) A first-winter male was seen and photographed at Barley on 3 March 2000 (Charles Doggett & Doug Radford) (photograph in Hertfordshire Bird Report 2000, page 273);

33) A bird was watched for about 15 minutes foraging in a field at Temple End on 23 March 2007 (John Camp);

34) Most recently, an immature was just 40 yards over the county boundary in Essex at Wickam Hall near Bishop's Stortford in 5-7 November 2011. Alan Reynolds briefly saw it flight into Hertfordshire on 6 November.

Additional Birds

The pair of Red-crested Pochards and 42 Gadwall were on Startop's End whilst on neighbouring Marsworth Reservoir, Don Stone located an adult female GOOSANDER which showed well close to the causeway all afternoon.

Wilstone Reservoir continued to produce the family party of 4 BEWICK'S SWANS and the juvenile DARK-BELLIED BRENT GOOSE with the 67 Greylags in Cemetery Corner Fields, as well as 11 Mute Swans, 250 Eurasian Wigeon and an increase to 883 Coots. There was also a report of a GREAT GREY SHRIKE from the meadow behind the hide


In addition to a pair of Mute Swans on the Grand Union Canal at Bulbourne, a further 21 (including 3 first-years) were present on the main marsh at College. Other wildfowl counted included 28 Mallard, 74 Wigeon, 18 Gadwall, 1 female Shoveler, 40 Tufted Duck and 12 Northern Pochard, as well as 1 Little Grebe, 44 Coot, 8 Moorhen and a Green Woodpecker

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

SNOW BUNTING at the reservoirs - a real mega

Remarkably, it is only the second Snow Bunting recorded at the reservoirs since 1970

Prior to that, a flock was said to have been recorded there in 1895, a male remained on Wilstone from 13-20 October 1935, two were there on 6-7 November 1944, two again on 10 November 1945 and further singles on 25 October 1952 and 9 October 1953

Today's Rarities

In addition to the SNOW BUNTING at Startop's End, the juvenile DARK-BELLIED BRENT GOOSE and 4 BEWICK'S SWANS remain at Wilstone. The goose has joined up with the Grey-lag flock and was in the field behind the jetty and the swans best viewed from the hide (David Bilcock).

SNOW BUNTING thrills the crowds all day

This male SNOW BUNTING exquisitively photographed by both Lucy Flower and dave Bilcock above, showed well all day on Startop's End Reservoir - on the beach adjacent to the top of the steps in the NW corner

Monday, 12 December 2011

SNOW BUNTING on Startop's End Reservoir - not Marsworth

It all makes sense now..........

Today's SNOW BUNTING was on Startop's End Reservoir and not Marsworth. The finder has been in contact this evening and he states that the bird was on the shingle edge of the reservoir and bank virtually in line with the steps in the NW corner - where there is room for one or two cars to park

This is a mega-record for the reservoirs, with the only record since 1980 being at Wilstone on 8 January 1981

Apparent SNOW BUNTING at Marsworth !!

Today at Marsworth Reservoir (12/12/2011 approx 3 pm) I spotted a lone SNOW BUNTING at the water margin foraging and hopping about the stones. It remained in situ for approx half an hour while I watched it (and double and triple checked for a positive ID lest my eyes decieve me!) before flitting off across the water towards the reed beds. Hopefully it's lurking about there for an extended stay so other people can have the pleasure of seeing it.

Also of interest on the Marsworth water today was a pair of red crested pochard which was intriguing to see (Ashley).

Sunday, 11 December 2011


The drake COMMON SHELDUCK that I first discovered on Monday 28 November 2011 was still present yesterday (per David Bilcock)

Nothing new in today but both the juvenile DBBG, the four BEWICK'S SWANS and our two wintering North Atlantic Great Cormorants (Carbo) all still present

Saturday, 10 December 2011

CORN BUNTING numbers remain stable


Winter has now arrived in the Chilterns region with yet another hard frost overnight, freezing up some of the smaller lakes in the area for the first time this December. The day was cold, clear but bright.


A BULLFINCH here was a rare sight Also unusual were 3 Common Buzzards in the village, later being seen on Stanley Hill.


With a hard frost overnight coupled with a full bright moon, Shardeloes Lake was virtually completely frozen over. Very few waterbirds present - just 12 Coot, 3 female Tufted Ducks and 15 Common Gulls amongst the Black-headeds.

A party of 8 Goldfinches was in the Alders by the river, 7 Long-tailed Tits, a wintering Pied Wagtail, 3 Fieldfares, 9 Woodpigeons over and 3 Red Kites circling the lake.


At Granary Pool, Chenies Bottom, the 2 resident Mute Swans and single Little Grebe were present, with 2 LITTLE EGRETS at nearby Church Covert, another in the large tree below Chenies Place and an additional two just east of Bois Mill.

At Neptune Falls, the Atlantic Canada Goose flock there numbered 74 with a further 62 nearby on Great Water. The latter site also yielded Little Grebe, 36 Coot, 25 Tufted Duck, a single Pochard and 16 Mute Swans (including a single first-winter). The grounds of Latimer Place added Yellowhammer, a pair of Mistle Thrushes and 4 Greenfinches whilst 230 Jackdaws were feeding to the west in a ploughed field.

Frith Wood (at SU 993 000) held 20 Fieldfares, 4 Redwings and a female Bullfinch, whilst Chesham Fishing Lakes harboured 3 first-year Mute Swans, 1 Atlantic Canada Goose, 33 Mallard, 20 Tufted Duck, 2 drake Northern Pochard, 8 Coot but no Great Crested Grebe. Walking the River Chess as far as The Pheasant public house added another adult Mute Swan, 15 Mallard and 2 singing Goldcrests.

On the stretch of water at Chesham Moor (SP 964 007), a WATER RAIL continues to show very well for at least a second day.


The full inventory included 4 Muscovy, 22 Atlantic Canada Geese and 75 Mallard-types, as well as 2 Moorhens and a Common Kestrel flying over.

I then moved on to TRING RESERVOIRS to undertake my first DECEMBER COUNT of the year......


A full waterbird inventory was carried out on all four reservoirs before I did the Marsworth bunting roost. Although the water level on all four reservoirs is still very low, that on Startop's End is unprecedented in my birding career. No Water Rails were recorded on Marsworth which was unusual and equally concerning was the demise of the Starling roost.

Great Crested Grebe (32 counted with 11 on Wilstone, 3 on Tringford, 9 on Startop's and 9 on Marsworth)
Little Grebe (just 1 noted - on Startop's)
Cormorant (32 roosting on Wilstone, with an adult fishing on Marsworth)
Grey Heron (just 1 on Tringford and 2 adults fishing on Marsworth)
No sign of any Bitterns yet
Mute Swan (24 on Wilstone, including the two orange-ringed first-years from the Canal - numbers 32 and 33 - plus 2 adults on Tringford and 7 on Startop's)
No sign of the two Whooper Swans
**BEWICK'S SWAN (the family party still present in the cut-off lagoon, the first example of wintering in over a decade)
Greylag Geese (all 67 still present on Wilstone)
Atlantic Canada Goose (all 7 still present on Wilstone)
**DARK-BELLIED BRENT GOOSE (the juvenile continues its unprecedented stay and still favouring the grassy field by Rushy Meadow. Longest-staying county bird ever)
Mallard (jusr 16 on Wilstone, 96 on Startop's and 17 on Marsworth)
Gadwall (44 counted, with 40 on Startop's and just 4 on Wilstone)
No Pintail seen
Northern Shoveler (massive decrease with just 24 on Wilstone, 2 drakes on Startop's and 27 on Marsworth)
Eurasian Wigeon (marked decline in numbers with just 85 on Wilstone and 36 on Startop's)
Common Teal (295 with 230 on Wilstone, 24 on Startop's, 30 on Tringford and 11 on Marsworth)
Northern Pochard (134 on Wilstone and just 1 drake on Startop's)
RED-CRESTED POCHARD (two females on Wilstone and a pair on Startop's)
Tufted Duck (a very poor 83 in total with 54 on Wilstone, 6 on Tringford and 23 on Startop's)
COMMON GOLDENEYE (all 5 female-types still present on Wilstone)
Common Pheasant (23 around the margins of Wilstone)
No Water Rails noted, nor Lapwing
Coot and Moorhen counted
Grey Wagtail (2 on Marsworth)
Redwing (2 on Marsworth)
Fieldfare (7 on Masrworth)
Mistle Thrush (1 on Marsworth)
Common Magpie (1 on Marworth)
Common Starling (just 3 came in to roost at Marsworth reedbed - pathetic!)
Chaffinch (7 singletons flighting to roost over Marworth)
Linnet (flock of 21 still around margins of Wilstone)
Goldfinch (8 on Marsworth)
REED BUNTING (just 5 came in to roost at Marsworth)
**CORN BUNTING (147 roosted in total in Marworth Reedbed with the first 54 arriving at 1530 hours followed by 14, 2, 15, 1, 8, 1, 50 and 2 in the next half hour; I am pleased to say that numbers have remained stable since last winter)

Saturday, 3 December 2011

BRENT GOOSE still present

After several weeks now, the juvenile DARK-BELLIED BRENT GOOSE is still present in Rushy Meadow - bizarre !

Monday, 28 November 2011

Reservoirs still exceptionally low - a full species inventory


The day dawned with a ground frost, only the second so far this autumn. This was followed by a beautiful day, although the wind soon freshened up from the west and cloud rolled in. By dusk, temperatures had recovered to an unseasonal 13 degrees C.......


The reservoirs are at the lowest end of November levels that I can ever remember, with even all three smaller reservoirs incredibly low (Startop's End in particular). I took the opportunity of undertaking a full wildfowl census with the calm conditions, with most noticeable the massive increase in Northern Pochard numbers. The full inventory is listed below - 55 species -:

Great Crested Grebe (31 including 11 on Wilstone, 5 on Tringford, 12 on Startop's and 3 on Marsworth)
Little Grebe (3 still on Wilstone and 1 on Startop's)
Cormorant (20 roosting on Wilstone, with 8 on Tringford and 11 on Startop's; ringed 'CAU' Carbo was roosting on Tringford)
Grey Heron (just 2 on Wilstone, 2 on Tringford and 2 on Marsworth)
Mute Swan (just 38 birds - all adult type - including 34 on Wilstone, 2 on Tringford and 2 on Startop's; additionally, an adult was freshly dead on the spit, perhaps killed by Fox)
Whooper Swan (both adults present but one bird appeared to be in distress and reluctant to move - both sitting on the mud by the jetty)
**BEWICK'S SWAN (the Wilstone family party of 4 birds still present but particularly mobile today - flying east from the Drayton Lagoon at 1003 only to return shortly later and then landed near to the hide)
Greylag Goose (67 in the fields to the east of Wilstone Reservoir)
Atlantic Canada Goose (7)
**DARK-BELLIED BRENT GOOSE (the long-staying juvenile was on the bund mid-morning and drinking from the edge of Wilstone Reservoir)
*COMMON SHELDUCK (a drake was by the hide on Wilstone) *Interestingly, David Kramer had one at Priory Country Park, Bedford, this morning.
Mallard (162 including 57 on Wilstone, 93 on Startop's and 12 on Marsworth)
GADWALL (major increase with 66 birds counted, including 24 on Wilstone, 6 on Tringford and 36 on Startop's)
*NORTHERN PINTAIL (just 1 drake on Wilstone)
Northern Shoveler (total of 118 counted, including 86 on Wilstone, 10 on Startop's and 22 on Wilstone)
Eurasian Wigeon (nothing like the numbers that once wintered at the reservoirs but 233 on Wilstone and 22 on Startop's)
Common Teal (327 counted: 216 on Wilstone, with 34 on Tringford, 73 on Startop's and 4 on Marsworth)
Northern Pochard (249 birds, mostly drakes: major increase with 137 on Wilstone and 112 on Startop's)
RED-CRESTED POCHARD (the female remains on Wilstone and 4 birds - a female, a first-winter and 2 adult drakes - on Startop's)
Tufted Duck (very poor numbers noted at 104 comprising just 36 on Wilstone, with 16 on Tringford and 52 on Startop's)
COMMON GOLDENEYE (two female-types on Wilstone)
Smew (no sign of yesterday's redhead on Wilstone)
Red Kite (1 west of Wilstone)
Common Kestrel (1 by Tringford Reservoir)
Common Pheasant (6 males walking out on the vegetation at Wilstone)
Moorhen (full census undertaken with 66 birds recorded: 32 on Wilstone, 14 on Tringford, 14 on Startop's and 6 on Tringford)
Common Coot (all click-counted revealing a total of 950 including a decrease to 622 on Wilstone, 52 on Tringford and 276 on Startop's)
EUROPEAN GOLDEN PLOVER (just 6 present on Wilstone)
Lapwing (17 on Wilstone and 3 on Startop's)
*DUNLIN (a full winter-plumaged bird on the mud at Startop's)
*GREEN SANDPIPER (the wintering singleton still present on the mud at Tringford)
Black-headed Gull (114 on Wilstone, 76 on Startop's and 51 on Marsworth)
Common Gull (7 on Wilstone)
Lesser Black-backed Gull (adult on Tringford)

Woodpigeon (massive decrease in numbers with a flock of 200 in cereal crops near Marsworth village)
Collared Dove (2 in Wilstone village and 16 in Marsworth)
**WATER PIPIT (the wintering bird on Wilstone showing very well today in the small bay north of the jetty)
Meadow Pipit (8 on the vegetated fringes of Wilstone)
Pied Wagtail (good numbers around including 21 on Wilstone, 2 on Tringford and 4 on Startop's)
Grey Wagtail (singles on Wilstone and Marsworth)
Wren (Marsworth Wood and Wilstone)
Dunnock (3 birds noted along Watery Lane)
Robin (5 noted - on Wilstone and Marsworth)
Song Thrush (a number of singing males including singles by the hide and in the East Poplars on Wilstone and 2 at Startop's/Marsworth)
Fieldfare (about 40 on the eastern flank of Wilstone)
Common Blackbird (5 present in the former orchard adjacent to the Black Poplars on Wilstone's East Bank)
Blue Tit (3 in Marsworth Reedbed)
Long-tailed Tit (party of 11 birds on Wilstone)
Common Magpie, Carrion Crow, Rook and Jackdaw all noted
Common Starling (34 in fields around Wilstone)
House Sparrow (as usual, only birds a flock of 16 by Startop Farm)
Chaffinch (1 in Marsworth Wood)
LINNET (a flock of 17 feeding on the Wilstone mud with the Meadow Pipits and Pied Wagtails by the jetty)
BULLFINCH (1 in Watery Lane, Marsworth)
Reed Bunting (1 in Marsworth Reedbed)


The female PEREGRINE was sat on the platform at midday


Present from 1230-1300 hours, joined Ken & Sally Earnshaw, Mike Habberfield and his wife and Dave Parmenter in the main car park at Gallows Bridge and enjoyed some real quality birding.....

The two regular HEN HARRIERS - the initial adult female and the small bright juvenile - were both present and showing well - the juvenile on view virtually all of the time. The latter was patrolling the rough field to the west of the main reserve field, as well as the right hand hedgerow, and approached to within 75 yards at one stage whilst the adult kept to the cereal field on the north side of the hedgerow. The second-winter male showed up briefly just after I left (per KE)

Other raptors present included Red Kite, Common Buzzard, Sparrowhawk and 5 Common Kestrels whilst up to 12 COMMON RAVEN present in the main field was bizarre. They all eventually flew off towards Waddesdon. The increase in this species in our region is nothing short of remarkable.

A flock of 35 Linnets and 7 Skylarks was also to be seen and a male Bullfinch on teasels by the entrance track

Nearby, 2 SHORT-EARED OWLS were showing well near Westcott

Talking of the latter, I returned early afternoon to a site in central Bedfordshire where I and another local observer were treated once more to an incredible display by up to 10 hunting SHORT-EARED OWLS. These birds have been present for just over a week now but are wintering on land earmarked for an astonishing 5,000 new homes ! A further 4 individuals are also present in the Brogborough area - by far the most I have ever seen in the county at one time and testament to the numbers currently wintering in Britain following the exceptional breeding season. The two female-type MERLINS were also still around.

A single Little Egret was south of the Kempston Bypass on the larger pit.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

More shots from today

Good views of Smew, Goldeneye and Dark-bellied Brent Goose this morning with Mic & Jan Wells and Tony Hukin.

Brent in field near dry canal but flushed by noisy joggers. Managed a shot on ground before it took off and a grabbed flight shot attached (Francis Buckle).

More of today's images

John Foster captured these images today of the 59 European Golden Plover and the exceptionally long-staying juvenile PALE-BELLIED BRENT GOOSE

Sunday birding - SMEW still

It was a beautifully still, crisp late afternoon at the reservoir. I was greeted by a flock of c50 Fieldfare at cemetery corner. The redhead SMEW was still showing well, favouring the west corner, by the overflow. She was being harassed occasionally by Blackheaded Gulls and more so as the gulls came in to roost. A small flock of Linnets (c8-12) landed on the mud (west corner), joining the dozen or more Pied Wagtails in the area. The BEWICK'S SWAN family were still on the pool to the right of the hide. I wasn't able to check on the other significant species but I did have a close encounter with a Sparrowhawk in the wooded area (east corner of the reservoir) as I headed home at dusk (4:15pm). It flew within about 5 metres of me and off South across the fields. Attached is this evening's record shot of the Smew and, for a splash of colour, a Shoveler! - LUCY FLOWER

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Dave finds a redhead SMEW

In addition to the long-staying BEWICK'S SWAN herd and the juvenile DARK-BELLIED BRENT GOOSE, Wilstone Reservoir this late afternoon has a redhead SMEW on view (per Dave Bilcock)

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Today's News - little change

This morning the Brent Goose was still in the Dry Canal filed and the four Bewick’s Swans were still on the lagoon to the right of the hide. Also a male Goldeneye was on the lagoon closest to the east corner (Roy Hargreaves)

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Longest-staying BRENT GOOSE ever !

This morning the Brent Goose was being very co-operative – see attached pic. Also the Bewick’s Swans were still on the lagoon to the right of the hide. Also male and two female RCPs on Startops.

I should have mentioned that the Water Pipit was on the Bucks section of Startops yesterday. Today a less complete walk round didn’t allow me time to find it today – assuming it was where I could see it anyway of course (Roy Hargreaves)

Monday, 21 November 2011

Today's News

This morning I had a quick look at all four reservoirs. Brent Goose was still in field by Dry Canal, Bewick’s Swan family were on lagoon to the right of the hide. Water Pipit was on Startopsend Res as were a male and two female Red-crested Pochard. Marsworth and Tringford held little of note (Roy Hargreaves)

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Blanket of FOG

After a hectic week it was good to get out this morning. Not being put off by the fog covering the vale and reservoirs I decided to head up the Beacon where it was one of those fabulous morning when you look out over a sea of mist. Watching the sun rise, casting the mist a warm orange colour makes it well worth the effort of getting up early! Dave Bilcock

No change

This morning the juvenile DARK-BELLIED BRENT GOOSE was still in the field between the two paths down from the Dry Canal. The four BEWICK'S SWANS were still on the isolated lagoon by the hide. The WATER PIPIT was also in the jetty area and 5+ Dunlin were about and a Little Egret flew over and seemed to head towards Tringford (Roy Hargreaves)

Friday, 18 November 2011

Much the same

Roy Hargreaves obtained this excellent shot of the long-staying juvenile DARK-BELLIED BRENT GOOSE this morning. The family party of 4 BEWICK'S SWANS were also still present, 2 drake PINTAILS but no sign of the White-front

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Nothing new today

This morning I was able to walk round properly to find that little had changed. Water Pipit still by jetty, White-fronted Goose still in field by jetty (see Francis Buckle's image above) and on reservoir, 4 Bewick’s Swans still on isolated lagoon by hide and Brent Goose still, but in field between the two paths down from the dry canal – by the old orchard.

Also 14 Red-legged Partridge in field below Dry Canal and 8 in field above Dry Canal. Presumably they had a good breeding season near Wilstone at least (Roy Hargreaves)

Wednesday, 16 November 2011


Dave Hutchinson got some nice images of the adult EURASIAN WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE today at Wilstone; interestingly, what may have been a different adult was seen at Tyttenhanger GP today