Sunday, 30 January 2011

GREY PARTRIDGE delight; CORN BUNTING wintering flock


A much better day with the wind dropping and temperatures improving. Still cold though but much more bearable. Local birding was again the order of the day.


GREY PARTRIDGE are exceptionally rare in the Tring Area these days so when Ian Williams sent me a text message to say that he had found three, I raced straight over. It had been over two years since I had last seen this species in the Reservoir Recording Area, so the sight of these three late morning was especially significant. Grey Partridges are now in steep decline in Britain, with declines of over 77%, due to a combination of agricultural practises and loss of habitat - a key ingredient is the lack of insect matter when the young birds are very small.

Anyway, these three were most welcome and were on the upward slope of the short grassy field at cSP 915 131 and easily viewed from the gate at SP 918 132 - 40 yards in from the road.


Rob Andrews had discovered a wintering flock of buntings in stubble just north of the B489 yesterday afternoon including an impressive number of CORN BUNTINGS. The field is situated at SP 963 174, with the birds commuting back and forth between the field and a line of Hawthorns on the opposite side of the Ivinghoe Aston road SE of 'The Briars'. The maximum number of CORN BUNTINGS I counted today was 83, with 42 Yellowhammers and 1 Reed Bunting.


This was all new territory to me so I took the opportunity of exploring the area and carefully logging the bird species recorded. I was delighted to find a very healthy population of HOUSE SPARROWS in the vicinity - with 8 in gardens in the area of 'The Village Swan' public house and another 4 in the Hartop Close new development. The village also yielded a pair of Collared Doves and 4 Common Starlings, with a female Common Kestrel by Ivinghoe Aston Farm and Long-tailed Tits on the suet feeders at Oak Cottage.

At SP 935 196, a mile NW of the village, Corvids were very much in evidence in the fields, with 22 Carrion Crows, several Rooks and 2 Common Magpies noted.

SLAPTON (BUCKS) (SP 935 205)

Lying just south of its border with Bedfordshire, this small hamlet yielded even more HOUSE SPARROWS - a population of at least 60 birds including one flock of 45 on the Horton Road.

The fields at Hill Farm (SP 933 202) held 22 Rooks, 40 Fieldfares and 25 Redwings, whilst the Equestrian Centre paddocks (SP 934 214) produced a further 90 Redwings.

(overviewing the gull roost with Dave Bilcock, Steve Rodwell, Mike Campbell & Jack O'Neill)

It was an impressive gull roost this evening with over 4,016 Black-headed Gulls roosting (probably close to 5,000 birds eventually including 16 approaching breeding plumage), an outstanding 346 Common Gulls (including an adult in full breeding plumage), a single juvenile HERRING GULL and 9 Lesser Black-backed Gulls. Despite all five of us vigilantly scanning, we could not locate the first-winter Mediterranean Gull of recent evenings.

Three LITTLE EGRETS roosted, 29 Cormorants, whilst other species noted included just 59 Wigeon, 44 Shoveler, NO Pintail, 3 Common Goldeneye (1 drake) and 11 Great Crested Grebes; a Grey Wagtail flew over.


The three RED-CRESTED POCHARDS remained (see Tara Hinton's excellent images above) and Great Crested Grebes increased to 6.


The two wintering EURASIAN BITTERNS put on another blistering performance tonight, with the paler bird wandering about in the open in its favoured reedbed 'channel' and the darker climbing up the stems to roost. Just 1 WATER RAIL squealed and CORN BUNTINGS weighed in at 80 birds.

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