Friday, 29 April 2011

A total of 84 species today - LGRE Diary Notes


Two heavy showers crossed the Chilterns just as the day was dawning being blown in by the continuing NE wind. It then remained very grey throughout much of the morning before the wind veered round. The afternoon was much brighter, with intermittent sunshine, but at around 1600 hours, an almighty thunder and lightning storm passed through eventually giving way to much warmer conditions and clearer blue skies.

Spurned on by Tina and Sue, I decided to try my luck at a local daylist, but drove around the sites rather than walked as those two intrepidly did. I was somewhat disappointed by my tally - just 84 species.....

Far more disappointing though was missing all of the Bar-tailed Godwits and Whimbrels (80 and 4 respectively) that passed through Wilstone Reservoir prior to 0845 hours (see Dave Bilcock's list of sightings elsewhere on this blog)

(0800-0848 hours)

Following up on Dave's earlier text messages, by the time I got to College, just 1 of the 7 BAR-TAILED GODWITS was still present - a cracking full summer-plumaged male feeding on the main marsh just in front of the new hide (see Dave Hutchinson's superb image). And despite the fact that over 80 individuals had passed over between 0530 and 0845 hours, this was the only bird that I was to see all day.....incidentally, it represented my 139th species in Buckinghamshire this year

In addition to the godwit, I notched up the following 19 species -:

Great Crested Grebe (pair still on the deep lake)
Mute Swan (pair on the marsh)
Atlantic Canada Geese (several including one pair now with 7 goslings)
Mallard, Gadwall (pair), Shoveler (3 drakes), Tufted Duck (19), Moorhen and Coot
Lapwing (15+ including young)
OYSTERCATCHER (pair still present, the female sat on a nest)
Common Redshank (4)
Lesser Black-backed Gull (3 adults over)

Woodpigeon (5)
COMMON CUCKOO (again calling from fen area)
Wren, Common Whitethroat and Blackcap


A Song Thrush carrying food flew across in front of me by the sewage farm as I drove with great expectations to Wilstone, particularly as DB had seen several flocks of Bar-tailed Godwits and up to 3 Whimbrels a little earlier. I met Francis Buckle at the top of the steps and he informed me of an interesting flava wagtail he had just seen and that Ian Williams had first seen on Monday. I stood for a while checking the reservoir, adding Carrion Crow, Jackdaw, Linnet, Goldfinch and House Sparrow to my day list, as well as the two continuing drake Eurasian Wigeon, several Greylag Geese, Grey Heron, Cormorant, 80+ Common Tern, the single adult BLACK TERN (perhaps new), 6 COMMON SWIFTS and all three hirundines - Barn Swallow, Sand Martin and House Martin.

Walking then on to the overflow corner added Long-tailed Tit (3), Blue Tit, Chaffinch, Dunnock, with a singing male Common Chiffchaff in trees behind the Drayton Bank hide.

I then met up with Dave Bilcock at the bend just beyond the old cressbeds at the back of Wilstone where he quickly showed me the wagtail. It was a very nice male BLUE-HEADED-TYPE WAGTAIL and was paired up with a female YELLOW WAGTAIL (Dave managed a nice shot of it); the bird was favouring the line of fenceposts that lead away from the bend towards the Dry Canal. A single Eurasian Skylark also perched on one of the posts too. No sooner had I joined Dave then I missed a flyover Whimbrel - Francis watched one from the car park steps.

Between the car park and the Hide Meadow, 4 singing male Common Whitethroats were noted, with Jackdaw, CETTI'S WARBLER (singing bird), Mistle Thrush (singing male), Red Kite and a single drake Northern Pochard noted as we both walked back to the car park.

Once again I stood in hope for some more waders but it just didn't happen - a HOBBY was seen, a male YELLOW WAGTAIL flew NE and wildfowl included 6 drake Gadwall and a single drake Shoveler.


Whilst scanning the skies for waders, Ben Miller texted to say that he and his daughter were watching the Clinksmere Pond TREE PIPIT - and that it was showing very well. Less than ten minutes later, I was with them both, but despite spending yet another two hours searching for this highly elusive and skulking tree and ground dweller, I failed in my quest to relocate it.

The Monument Drive did however provide me with Robin, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Goldcrest, Nuthatch, Common Treecreeper, Common Blackbird, Stock Dove and Common Chiffchaff for the day and a very showy female Muntjac. Much more distressing though was the sight of a female Fallow Deer run over and killed just east of the access road.


Moving around to Top Scrub, several more species were added, including an excellent array of warblers. As others have commented, GARDEN WARBLERS abound there this spring with at least 7 males in full song, also several Willow Warblers and Common Whitethroats and a rattling male Lesser Whitethroat. A few Common Chiffchaffs were also singing from the scrub, with a Long-tailed Tit with food, the usual pair of BULLFINCHES, Jay and Common Magpie. A pair of Common Pheasants frit the life out of me as they exploded from the ground cover. Displaying Meadow Pipits were near the S-bend.


I then did my regular circuit between Pitstone Hill car park and the Down Farm entrance track, taking in the perimeter fence around the fields. There was no shortage of Skylarks (25+) nor of Rooks to-ing and fro-ing from the Aldbury Rookery, whilst several pairs of Linnets were encountered, more Meadow Pipits, the local pair of Common Kestrels and a pair of Yellowhammers in the roadside hedge. There were five singing male Common Whitethroats (two within a few yards of each other by Down Farm entrance track and a further three males in the roadside hedge back to the car park) whilst two migrant House Martins went north over Pitstone Hill.

Most disconcerting though was the total lack of Corn Buntings - not a jangler to be heard anywhere - the first time I have failed to find this species here in spring.

In Aldbury village, the House Sparrow colony was still intact at Hill View.


I returned once more to College Lake, where at 1300 hours the BAR-TAILED GODWIT was still present. This time I saw both male and female COMMON SHELDUCK, a single drake Eurasian Wigeon (on the deep lake), 4 Shoveler (1 female) and a COMMON SANDPIPER

Nearby at Pitstone Industrial Estate, 18 Common Starlings were feeding on the grass verges.


Several Eurasian Collared Doves were seen in Marsworth village, whilst the reedbed and small wood adjacent to the reservoir yielded Song Thrush (singing male), both Sedge and Western Reed Warblers, a male Willow Warbler, a male Reed Bunting and on the reservoir, 5 Great Crested Grebes, a female RED-CRESTED POCHARD with one survivng chick (see Francis Buckle's images) and the male Grey Wagtail carrying food back to the nest.


My only Black-headed Gull of the day - an adult in breeding plumage - was here, with 4 Great Crested Grebes, 2 Mute Swans, 4 Greylag Geese, 55 Tufted Duck, 2 Pied Wagtails and 14 Sand Martin the only other birds of note.


Very, very quiet with just 1 Great Crested Grebe, a pair of Mute Swans nesting and a female Mallard with five chicks.


Walked from Drayton Beauchamp canal bridge east to the first wooden bridge across the canal where I located a pair of nesting Long-tailed Tits, two singing male Yellowhammers, several Goldfinch and Linnet, a further 3 singing male Common Whitethroats and a Mistle Thrush. A pair of Mallards accompanied two chicks, with a second female with 6 chicks.

In the field immediately south of the Dry Canal, a single male NORTHERN WHEATEAR was still to be seen, along with 3 Stock Doves - whilst a male LESSER WHITETHROAT was rattling from the hedgerow.

I finally located a male Greenfinch - singing from the tall Ash tree at the junction of Little Tring Road and the main road.


During the afternoon, the sun finally came out for a short while and I took this opportunity to catch up with some local butterflies I had not had the chance to see yet this year. Walking the ''Duke Gully'' was very productive, yielding 7 very fresh DUKE OF BURGUNDY FRITILLARIES, an early Small Heath, an early SMALL BLUE, 6 DINGY SKIPPERS and a single GRIZZLED SKIPPER. Another LESSER WHITETHROAT was heard and more Common Whitethroats and Linnets.


The nesting pair of COMMON RAVENS were very busy feeding young, the female now being very heavily worn in the wing. The only Common Buzzard of the day was near Well Farm.

After that it all fizzled out really with a very sudden lightning storm not producing any new migrants but a lot of rain and flash-flooding. The smell of the Bluebells in the now famous wood along the Beacon Road after the rain was incredible.

Late Additions: Common Kingfisher was added from yet another return visit to College and a visit to the Wendover Arm of the Grand Union Canal produced the only Little Grebe of the day and Great Spotted Woodpecker.

So, a total of just 84 species - I missed Whimbrel, Green Woodpecker, Common Teal, Tawny & Little Owl, Sparrowhawk, Marsh Tit, Corn Bunting, Mandarin Duck and Red-legged Partridge - Firecrest too


A fantastic morning's passage of BAR-TAILED GODWITS through the reservoirs; these are all the birds that I have seen (+1 by Ian W), a total of 80 birds.

2 Wilstone 05:30 (found by Ian and Roy, one bird sitting on the bales)
5 W 05:50 (above birds joined this flock and circled reservoir several time before heading off)
7 College Lake 06:55 (flock landed on the marsh)
17 CL 07:20 (6 of the above birds joined this flock as they flew over)
22 CL 07:26 (initially seen at Wilstone by Stuart)
19 CL 07:26 (again came from Startops direction)
3 CL 07:40 (initially seen by Stuart at Wilstone)
1 CL 07:45 (accompanied by a whimbrel)
1 W 08:30
1 W 09:25 (seen by Ian Williams only)

A couple of pictures of the barwits on the marsh at College Lake are published above, of which 5 of the 7 were breeding plumaged males. Dave Hutchinson's shot at the top was of the male that lingered all day

David Bilcock

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Today's TREE PIPIT in Ashridge

Steve Blake very kindly sent me this image of today's very elusive TREE PIPIT in Ashridge Forest

No sign of Ashridge Tree Pipit this afternoon


Another very cold day with the wind remaining ENE and quite strong at times. Very cloudy and grey early on but then much brighter this afternoon. Everywhere still very dry, with the ground baked hard. BAR-TAILED GODWITS were the order of the day with 9 birds locally, four of which lingered to allow many birders to connect.......


Dave Bilcock phoned me to say that he had seen Ian Bennell's Tree Pipit up by Clinkmere Pond but that it was extremely elusive. Apparently Ian had relocated it, allowing DB, Francis, Mike Campbell and Graham Knight to get on to it. Not once did it call or sing - just skulk in the vegetation or perch low down in the Birch scrub. With Tree Pipit being the local mega that it has now become, I made my way over and spent at least two hours this afternoon searching in vain for it. I could not relocate it, despite it being fairly quiet and undisturbed.


A single BLACK TERN and 4 ARCTIC TERNS were all of note on a very cold and windswept North Bank

Lee G R Evans

BAR-WITS through Tring too......

At 5:50 a BLACK TERN appeared in front of David and I this morning. This was closely followed at about 5:55 by two BAR-TAILED GODWITS (male and female), they circled for about 15 minutes and departed NE and were lost to sight at about 6:10. This brings my reservoir year list to 130 – my best ever for the January to April period.

The harrowed field still had two Wheatears in it and a Lesser Whitethroat was singing in the hedge by the kissing gate on the footpath at the top of that field (Roy Hargreaves)

Wednesday, 27 April 2011


ARCTIC TERNS still present at Wisltone this evening, frequently perching on the bales (Dave Bilcock).

ARCTIC TERNS arrive on the NE winds


The wind veered more Northeasterly this morning and as a result, ARCTIC TERN passage began across the Midlands and East Anglia. It was very cold this morning but warmed up slightly this afternoon when the skies cleared and the sun shone brightly.


Two 'new' singing COMMON WHITETHROATS found this afternoon, both within 100 yards of each other close to the sharp bend at the north end of Flaunden Bottom (at TL 007 007). It has been an exceptional year for this species so far and looks set to be a record year in my Recording Area.

(evening visit, with Geoff Young & brother, Ian Williams, Chaz Jackson, Jenny Wallington, Sue Rowe, Dave Bilcock, Paul Eels, Kevin Holt and others)

With a switch to moderate Northeasterlies, ARCTIC TERNS were the order of the day with 9 present this evening (DB et al); also a pair of breeding-plumaged BLACK TERNS and 52 Common Terns. In fact it was a bit of an 'Arctic Tern Workshop' as I tried my best to explain the subtle differences between the two species. Although many of the Arctic Terns were far from fully developed into breeding plumage, with split or uneven tail streamers, separation was best explained by the grey underparts (particularly the breast), very short and darker red legs when perched on the algae bunds), strong contrast between the white trailing edge and darker grey upperwings in flight, much narrower wings and more agile and graceful flight pattern and mostly all red bill (although some Arctics did have black towards the tip). Intriguingly, the two BLACK TERNS were a pair and displaying at times.

Apart from the terns, very little of note: 40+ COMMON SWIFTS high in the sky and a male YELLOW WAGTAIL that flew NE across the reservoir

The Ashridge Forest WOOD WARBLER - some tremendous shots from Ian Williams

Ian Williams did impressively well in photographing this gem of a bird - the singing male WOOD WARBLER that graced the Monument Drive for three days over the Bank Holiday Weekend (and incidentally reported again this morning)

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

GROPPER still present at Weston Turville Reservoir

After a very brief and cold look at Wilstone with nothing of note seen I decided to head for Weston Turville and a nice warm hide!

The magic of reedbeds at this time of the year was in full flow with warblers in full song all over the place. The Gropper was still present but the cold weather was probably keeping the reeling to short bursts. In contrast Sedge Warblers were going mad trying to out-sing eachother and plenty of Reed Warblers were further into the main reedbed.

A Common Sandpiper flew across the water and landed on one of the fishing platforms and c70 Swallows were over the water (Rob Andrews)



A major change in weather conditions. After record-breaking temperatures in the past two weeks and an extensive ridge of high pressure centred over the UK, a NNE wind changed all that today pegging the temperatures back by at least 15 degrees C and bringing grey skies and considerably colder weather.

Such weather is always productive for hirundines (and normally Arctic Terns) and today was no exception, with the first arrival of COMMON SWIFTS to our area and an upsurge in HOUSE MARTINS......

(1200-1318 hours)

New for me were both HOBBY and COMMON SWIFT, with three of the former chasing the few flying insects back and forth over the Drayton Hide, Drayton Bank and main reedbed and at least 18 of the latter high over the reservoir with the martins and swallows.

The reservoir itself typically held few birds for late April: 14 Great Crested Grebes, 2 Mute Swans, 3 remaining Eurasian Wigeon (2 drakes), 42 Tufted Duck and 8 Northern Pochards. Meanwhile, Common Terns numbered at least 130 with 25 or more eeking out space on the main raft.

A single YELLOW WAGTAIL was on the North Bank, with hirundines represented by 250+ Sand Martin, 44 Barn Swallows and 26 House Martin, with a singing male Common Chiffchaff in the hedgerow by the new outfall and 3 male Common Whitethroats between the car park and the Drayton corner.

Several Red Kite were overflying the area


The big change here was the number of hirundines flying about - and more exceptionally the 40 COMMON SWIFTS. There was a major influx of HOUSE MARTINS (50+) whilst Sand Martins numbered at least 250 and Barn Swallows 35 or more.

The cold wind deterred the Gropper from reeling in the reedbed but 8= Western Reed Warblers were singing, as well as a male Reed Bunting.


This reserve goes from strength to strength and really has benefited from BBOWT's investment and plans to hallmark it as their premier location. Despite the cold wind, there was plenty to see, especially on the main marsh.

A pair of Great Crested Grebe is now present on the deep pit, with a pair of Mute Swans on the marsh, a pair of Gadwall, 4 Shoveler (3 drakes), 19 Tufted Duck and the continuing pair of COMMON SHELDUCK.

Three families of Lapwing were apparent (adults with 3, 2 & 2 young), the babies being sheltered from the blasting wind, with 6 Common Redshank and a pair of LITTLE RINGED PLOVERS. Two COMMON SANDPIPERS were migrants.

Two Common Terns were investigating the raft, whilst a COMMON CUCKOO was calling from the adjacent Fen, a Common Chiffchaff singing and hirundines again well represented, with 46+ House Martins, 70+ Sand Martins and 15 Barn Swallows.

Pitstone Quarry harboured just 1 lonely Mute Swan.

Belated News - PURPLE HERON at Wilstone

Stuart Wilson stumbled on a PURPLE HERON yesterday morning - in a ditch at the back of Wilstone Reservoir. The bird unfortunately flushed and flew towards the reedbed but was never relocated.

However, what was presumably the same bird was relocated by MJP in Rookery Pit in Bedfordshire this afternoon and remained in the area until dusk....

Monday, 25 April 2011

Bank Holiday Weekend very quiet apart from Ashridge WOOD WARBLER

Undoubted highlight of the weekend was a singing male WOOD WARBLER in Ashridge Forest, favouring the Oaks and Silver Birches on both the Bucks and Herts side of the border just east of Clinksmere Pond at the far end of Monument Drive; also a male LESSER SPOTTED WOODPECKER in this area

Otherwise, the reservoirs were very quiet, reeling GRASSHOPPER WARBLERS on both Wilstone and Marsworth and the odd BLACK TERN and LITTLE GULL passing through quickly - certainly nothing rare to be seen

More early morning WHIMBRELS and nesting RAVENS

GOOD FRIDAY (22 APRIL) At just after 6:05am two WHIMBRELS flew in and circled round, thinking about landing but never managing it. After about 15 minutes they eventually disappeared off in a southerly direction. The ploughed field had two Wheatear present and one or two COMMON RAVENS were flying in from west of Drayton Beauchamp and back out that way with full crops – suggesting there is a nest out that way. Two male Wigeon are also still lingering (Roy Hargreaves)

Good Friday

Good to be on the Hills before the hordes descended!

Had cracking views of a 'showy' Lssr Whitethroat singing about 200yds up from the S bend with Sue and Chris and a little later similar views of a garden Warbler near the car park.

Butterflies were on the wing early and soon saw Dukes, Grizzled Skippers and Green H/streaks in the gully area alongside the road below the S bend which also had a singing Lssr W/throat

Later watched the single BLACK TERN at Startops and listened to Reed and Sedge Warblers in the reedbed at Marsworth and 'scoped' a singing Cuckoo in a tall tree there.

Francis Buckle

PASQUE FLOWERS in Incombe Hole

At least 23 PASQUE FLOWERS are now in petal on the slope of Incombe Hole - Anne-Sophie and Mick photographing them this weekend (see above)

Thursday, 21 April 2011

First WHIMBREL of the year

This morning David Bilcock and I both saw our first WHIMBREL of the year. It flew over us, heading north-east, while we were by the bench near the Mead’s footpath – not once did we hear it call. Also we watched two Dunlin fly around trying in vain to find somewhere to land. I also heard a GRASSHOPPER WARBLER in Rushy Meadow but couldn’t see it. The ploughed field held four Wheatear this morning – this really is a remarkable series of records for this location. Several Yellow Wagtails also flew over as I was walking back from the res to home (Roy Hargreaves).

First DUKE's emerging in the continuing fabulous weather

Ivinghoe Beacon area:

Garden Warblers singing and showing well in the thicker scrub of Steps Hill, also 3 (or more) Lssr Whitethroats singing all morning to 12.30 at least, but showing only sporadically. Supporting cast of Blackcaps, Cmmn Whitethoats, Willows and Chiffs in full song. A gorgeous morning.

Many butterflies including, my first for the year, Duke of Burgundies (at least 5) and many Green Hairsteaks and Grizzled Skippers and one Blue that was possibly an early Common as it was out on the downland.

Francis Buckle

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

This evening's rush-round - LGRE DIARY NOTES


Another day of high pressure and exceptional temperatures - almost 20 degrees higher than average for this time of year at an incredible 79 degrees fahrenheit. The wind remained in the Southeast too - still bringing in large numbers of common migrants and the odd rare.........


This evening (1818 hours at least), the adult summer BLACK TERN was still traversing both the Bucks and Herts sections of Startop's End Reservoir, often resting on the algae bunds for long periods. A procession of birders came and went including John Gooders and his partner, Chaz Jackson, DB, JON and SR. The gleaming white undertail-coverts heavily contrasted with the black plumage - the bird constituting a year tick for me on both counts.

The drake RED-CRESTED POCHARD was out feeding, the pair of Great Crested Grebes was still there, 32 Tufted Ducks and 3 Coots attempting to build nests on the bunds.; also 20 Common Terns


Very quiet when I popped in - just 28 Common Terns. Steve had located 1 of Roy's 6 Northern Wheatears in the Dry Canal field.


I failed to hear the reeling GRASSHOPPER WARBLER during my visit but Dave B did hear it much later in the evening at the back of the reedbed. The CETTI'S WARBLER sang frequently and there were at least 8 singing WESTERN REED WARBLERS and 4 SEDGE WARBLERS.

Both GREY WAGTAIL and Mistle Thrush were nesting in the vicinity (carrying food back to nests), a male Goldcrest was in song in the 'wood' and Charlie and I counted 1 male YELLOW WAGTAIL in with 12 Pied Wagtails in the horse fields across the canal.

Most pleasing was the presence of a displaying pair of LAPWING south of Marsworth Reservoir.


There was no sign of any Ring Ouzels in the Sheep Field this evening (Ben and Steve had seen two males early this morning) but there were a pair of GREENLAND WHEATEARS - my earliest ever at this location.

Top Scrub and environs held 9 singing WILLOW WARBLERS, 15+ Blackcaps and 2 male Common Whitethroats, as well as 4 singing male Song Thrushes but neither of today's Lesser Whitethroats were rattling this evening.

(Dusk visit from 2000-2030 hours)

Both COMMON CUCKOO and GRASSHOPPER WARBLER added to my Herts Year List - both present at the far west end of the common and the latter showing very well and reeling continuously just 35 yards in from the river and 100 yards beyond the bench by the bend, some 450 yards west of the entrance. Very easy to hear once within 100 yards of earshot.

Also 3 singing WESTERN REED WARBLERS by the river and at least 6 singing COMMON WHITETHROATS

Highlights today

Startop's: The BLACK TERN was still present

College Lake BBOWT: No sign of the earlier Common Greenshank, which apparently departed mid morning.

Marsworth: Grasshopper Warbler still reeling in the reed bed at 8:15pm

David Bilcock

Two male RING OUZELS still

The two male RING OUZELS at least remain on the SE slope of the Beacon today, towards Gallow Hill and showing very well at times. Also 15+ Northern Wheatears and 2 Yellow Wagtails.

On Steps Hill unsurprisingly no sign of the female Pied Fly from yesterday, but 2 Lesser Whitethroats I didn't see yesterday, plus 2-3 singing Garden Warblers.

A Corn Bunting on the wires by Downs Farm when I drove past.

Ben Miller

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Delightful number of butterflies on the wing

Saw my first Grizzled Skipper of the year this morning on Steps between the Top Scrub and the S-bend.

(see photo above)

Also Speckled Wood, plus a lot of Orange-tip, Brimstone, Large White and Holly Blue around this morning (Ben Miller)


Richard Woodhead discovered a female PIED FLYCATCHER at the edge of Top Scrub at around 0900 hours this morning as it flitted along the hedgerow leading away from the gate at the top of Incombe Hole. Almost as soon as he found it, he lost it, and despite being joined by Steve Rodwell, Ben Miller and others within a short period, nobody could relocate it.

Many many hours later this evening, Chaz Jackson relocated it in the very same area and managed to get Jack O'Neill on to it. Once again, it instantly disappeared, and despite subsequent searching by 20 or more observers, it could not be relocated before dusk. At least two GARDEN WARBLERS were new in on Top Scrub.

Three RING OUZELS (an adult male and two female-types) were present in the sheep field, feeding along the fenceline just SE of the Beacon (the usual hedgerow and corner). The male is present for its fourth day (SR, LGRE).

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Today's Highlights

This morning was quite eventful. Common Sandpiper was on the barley bales. A Lesser Whitethroat was working its way along the hedges by the jetty. A Waxwing called and flew over heading south-west into Bucks – obviously it didn’t know that it should be heading the other way by now. Plenty of other warbler about as well. There was also a Brambling by the hide and we could hear a Reed Warbler from the hide. Two Wigeon and five Teal were lingering by the hide as well. The ploughed field had four Wheatears in that then moved over onto the Dry Canal.

Ian Williams heard a Grasshopper Warbler from the Cemetery track and some visitors reported one from Marsworth Res as well (per Roy Hargreaves)

Meanwhile, Steve Rodwell had 24 Northern Wheatears and a male RING OUZEL at Ivinghoe Beacon

Plenty of WHEATEARS but not much else on Ivinghoe Hills this morning

A lovely early morning to be out on the hills

Soon bumped into Dave, Steve, Mike Wallen and Mike Hurst to pass the time of day and to see the 20+ Wheatears in the sheep field and the male, confiding Ring Ouzel on the slope. Also a 'lazy' pale Buzzard on a post adjacent to the sheep pens. Many Linnets feeding in the rough area plus Corn Bunting and many Skylarks. Blackcaps and Willow Warblers singing everywhere on the Steps Hill area with a single Whitethroat.

Later at Bison Hill I saw my first Grizzled Skipper of the year + Green Hair-streak (Francis Buckle)


Friday 15 April: There were 4 Wheatears at Pitstone Hill mid afternoon, all of which appeared to be Greenland/'North-western' birds.

In the horse pastiche behind Marsworth were 2 Yellow Wagtails. Little else of note on the smaller ressies, but good to see numbers of returning migrants like Sedge Warbler and Common Tern building (Ben Miller)


Friday 15 April: Highlight this morning was six Northern Wheatears in the ploughed field south of the Dry Canal – close to Wilstone Res. Lee and Steve had two there earlier this week, but six is quite a surprise. That field is worth checking at the moment – it is the same field that I saw Ring Ouzel and Wheatear in earlier this month.

Otherwise Common Sandpiper and four Oystercatchers at Wilstone this morning and plenty of Sand Martins.

Roy Hargreaves

Thursday, 14 April 2011


This morning Tina and I watched a male COMMON REDSTART in Incombe hole - in scrub at the top end, flying down to the grass every so often. Several Wheatears - maybe 6 - in the rough grass at the top (Sue Rowe).

Tuesday, 12 April 2011


Called into College Lake and Pitstone Hill before work this morning where the cold NW wind wasn’t encouraging for migrants. Nothing of note at College Lake, just the usual waders so moved onto Pitstone Hill. Walking up the first hill Wheatears started popping up out of the long grass onto ant hills until 7 were in view. I carried on up to view the main hill and soon counted another 10 on the south slope. None of them looked like Greenlanders unfortunately. Still, a good count and up from 7 present yesterday morning.

Had a look round a couple of woods around Dancersend this evening but apart from good numbers of Blackcaps singing, not much else seen.

Yesterday, a quick lunch stop near Broughton produced a Lesser Whitethroat rattling in a roadside hedge. The earliest one I’ve ever seen I think.

Rob Andrews

Massive flock of SAND MARTIN, first COMMON SANDPIPER and surge in COMMON TERN numbers


Well, following a number of April days breaking all previous records to 1892, cooler NW winds set in overnight bringing a much fresher feel to the weather. In fact, temperatures returned to near normal at this time of year, ranging between 8 and 11 degrees C. It did remain fine and dry however.

After an abortive attempt at the Arundel WWT Little Crake all day yesterday, I decided to concentrate closer to home today and birded the Three Counties. It was a very productive day.......


Joined Steve Rodwell on the North Bank this evening. Highlight was a COMMON SANDPIPER on the algae bunds, apparently present for its second day (my first), with 58 Common Terns, at least 600 Sand Martins and 1 House Martin as back up. The ploughed field immediately south of the Dry Canal yielded 2 Stock Doves, 2 male Pied Wagtails and 2 NORTHERN WHEATEARS.


Three Coot nests are now being utilised with 4 pairs of Great Crested Grebes present (1 pair nest-building). A Common Kingfisher was seen, with a male COMMON TREECREEPER in full song in the Reedbed Wood and singing SEDGE WARBLER (four males), WESTERN REED WARBLER (single) and CETTI'S WARBLER (single).

Monday, 11 April 2011

Roy's early morning round - Sunday

Finally checking the dung heaps yielded results. A fine male Wheatear was sat on the dung heap by the jetty just before sunrise. An Oystercatcher, presumably a local bird, was by the jetty and then by the car park on the bank. Only Common Terns on the bales at that time. Carrying on round the bank I then watched a Dunlin fly in from the west and fly round over the reservoir a few times before seeming to disappear in an easterly direction (Roy Hargreaves)

Male RING OUZEL on Bison Hill - Sunday

A male RING OUZEL was in the hedgerow bordering the horse paddocks at Bison Hill this morning (Sunday) (Robin & Yvonne Halsey)

Sunday Morning: another batch of brief-staying SANDWICH TERNS

College Lake: 2 COMMON SHELDUCK still present. In addition to the usual waders Paul found a LRP in front of the octagon hide.

Incombe Hole: Male RING OUZEL remains from yesterday

Wilstone Reservoir: 4 SANDWICH TERNS were perched on the bales when I arrived at 8:35am (pictures above) and still present when I left before 9 but had flown off less than 10 minutes later when LGRE arrived on site. Also an adult YELLOW-LEGGED GULL flew over with a flock of 6 LBB Gulls (David Bilcock).

Early morning LITTLE GULL

Saturday 09 April: This morning seemed likely to be quiet given the sunny, calm conditions. It was therefore a slight surprise to see an adult LITTLE GULL associating with the Common Terns. This bird had small white flecks in the black hood, but was otherwise almost completely summer-plumaged. Also managed to catch up properly with Common Whitethroat by the Dry Canal by the bridge for the Miswell Farm footpath – thought I heard it yesterday there. Also heard Brambling by the hide but otherwise fairly static so far (Roy Hargreaves).

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Negative on Incombe Hole Redstart

Well British Summertime really did arrive today with temperatures in the Chilterns and elsewhere in Southeast England reaching a somewhat balmy 22 degrees C (72 degrees fahrenheit). In fact, after the remnants of yesterday's cold front finally gave way to high pressure this morning, the day was glorious.

Sadly, I was unable to take advantage of the conditions until after 1500 hours, but then made the most of it.....


There was no sign of the male Common Redstart in Incombe Hole this afternoon nor later this morning but noticeable was the widespread arrival of WILLOW WARBLERS - with 5 singing in Top Scrub and another in Incombe. There were also 5 Common Chiffchaffs in Top Scrub and at least two male Blackcaps, whilst later in the evening, Sally noted 7 Northern Wheatears on the adjacent meadow.


At 1800 hours, the superb male COMMON REDSTART was still showing very well at the eastern end of the Paddocks, flitting from the ground to the wire fence with the sun full on it. It could easily be seen from the new fencing bordering where the work on the new tramway is being undertaken


Wednesday, 6 April 2011

WAXWINGS at Wilstone

After watching a Yellow Wagtail fly over by the jetty I was heading round to the hide via the car park and heard a Waxwing. I managed to watch this lone bird as it appeared to drop towards Wilstone village. When I reached the north-west bank I scanned the trees by the village and noticed several starling-sized grey birds in one tree by the barn conversions. A closer look with my telescope showed 17 Waxwings in the tree. I left messages on a few voicemails and managed to get some video of about ten of the flock.

Little else other than more hirundines and a few lingering male Wigeon in the creek by the hide. In contrast with later in the day, early on it was overcast and grey (Roy Hargreaves).

Another wave of WHEATEARS

I saw 6 NORTHERN WHEATEARS on the corner of the arable field below Pitstone HIll (by the 4-armed Ridgeway/footpath sign and metal gate) where the barley is a bit thin. Also a pair in Incombe Hole flying onto the rough grass at the top. A bit late this morning (9am) so that's as far as I got.....Sue Rowe


Mike Wallen has had a new male RING OUZEL on the beacon this morning and good numbers of Northern Wheatears , but no sign of the long staying male in the Sheep field. He also saw a male COMMON REDSTART in Incombe Hole briefly

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

SHELDUCK at College Lake

A pair of COMMON SHELDUCK were present at College Lake BBOWT as the reserve opened this morning and were reportedly still present this afternoon. Also, the adult EURASIAN WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE remained for a second day.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Wild goose surprise at College


Although the day started off bright and sunny, strong and blustery winds soon set in from the west bringing in heavy cloud, pegging temperatures back and affecting searching of small passerines.

Being heavily curtailed in my birding activities all weekend (bar a twitch for my 4th Pied Fly at Blows Downs but my first for 22 years), I concentrated once again on the Three Counties, making every effort to catch up with the many migrants that arrived over the weekend.......


On my arrival at around 0900 hours, Paul's EURASIAN WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE (incidentally an adult) was showing very well feeding up along the bund, occasionally interacting with a single Greylag Goose that it had arrived with at 0810 hours. The bird was unringed and was very vocal, repeatedly calling during the half-hour or so of my visit. (It remained until later in the evening, Dave Bilcock obtaining the photograph above)

Several pairs of Atlantic Canada Geese are now nesting on the islands at the reserve, as well as 8 pairs of Lapwing, whilst other species noted included a pair of Mute Swans, a single Great Crested Grebe (on the deep lake), a pair of Wigeon, 2 drake Shoveler, 36 Tufted Duck, the pair of OYSTERCATCHERS (not showing any signs of nesting yet) and 6 Common Redshanks; a Mistle Thrush was in full song.


A film set was once more being constructed in the pit so disturbance was a problem - all that was in there was 1 adult Mute Swan, a drake Shoveler and 12 Coot, with the surrounding trees harbouring 4 singing male Common Chiffchaffs and 2 Blackcaps.


I walked from the car park along the Ridgeway to Aldbury Nowers. NORTHERN WHEATEARS were very much in evidence today, with as many as 10 in the area, mainly on the eastern slope.

There were 3 jangling male CORN BUNTINGS in the small pieces of vegetation adjoining the fenceline, a pair of Yellowhammer, 6 Linnets, at least 8 Meadow Pipits and a minimum of 15 singing male Eurasian Skylarks.


The long-staying adult male RING OUZEL was still showing very well at midday, still pulling earthworms from the chalky soil just out from the wire fence in the sheepfield immediately SE of the Beacon and trig point. Thanks to Francis Buckle, I was also able to locate an additional female in the same area, the male frequently 'chacking' to her, whilst a male NORTHERN WHEATEAR was nearby in the rabbit warren area of the slope.

In the scrub between the car park and the S-bend were singing male Blackcap and Common Chiffchaff, along with my first WILLOW WARBLER of the year. The Top Scrub yielded a further male Blackcap and 5 more Common Chiffchaffs.

Incredibly early GROPPER

This morning was cold and breezy so new migrants seemed likely to be thin on the ground. When I heard a brief burst of what sounded like a GRASSHOPPER WARBLER coming from the hedge between the jetty and Cemetery Corner I really doubted my ears given the date. Carrying on along the bank I heard another brief burst, followed by several more bursts then followed several minutes of reeling – which stopped just after 6:30am and I didn’t hear it again before I left that area after 7am.

A quick check suggests this might be the earliest in Herts for a long time - if it isn’t the earliest ever.
Not much else of note: 1 Little Egret, 2 Swallows and c.50 Sand Martins and Willow Warblers in different locations than before. Also c. 20 Siskins in the trees along the no rth-west bank (Roy Hargreaves)

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Ben Miller's afternoon's birding......

Late afternoon/evening was most productive as the weather system moved through and brought a few migrants with it, mainly hirundines;

Pitstone Quarry - More people than birds, but a single LRP and a male Mandarin, and a pos White Wag but far too distant to confirm

College Lake - 2 Oystercatchers, 6+, perhaps 8, Redshanks
Marsworth - 1 female Yellow Wagtail in the paddock behind (second day, present there yesterday evening - LGRE, SR), drake Red-crested Pochard on the bales

Startops - 5 Sand Martin, 4 Swallow, 1 House Martin

Wilstone - 200+ Sand Martin, 1 Little Egret

Weston Turville - 10+ Swallow

Blackcaps and Chiffchaff singing everywhere today!

WILLOW WARBLERS arrive in force with RING OUZEL still in residency

One heard (and seen - what a beauty!) in the Top Scrub, then others heard on the Beacon and on Steps Hill. Also male RING OUZEL and Wheatear on the lower slopes of the Beacon (Sue Rowe)

Dave Bilcock's images of the 6 SANDWICH TERNS

Two pictures of the 6 Sandwich Terns that Steve watched arrive at 1:30. They were present for ca.20 mins before heading off high towards Startop's (Dave Bilcock).

Saturday early afternoon: SANDWICH TERNS drop in

Steve Rodwell located a flock of 6 SANDWICH TERNS flighting in to Wilstone Reservoir early afternoon, the birds quickly alighting on the green algae bunds to rest. They remained 45 minutes before flying off east

Friday, 1 April 2011

Miswell RING OUZEL - Roy's fourth since 1996

This morning the reservoirs held little but a lingering Goldeneye and a few Wigeon. On reaching the Dry Canal I checked the field next to the Miswell Farm footpath and spotted a Wheatear flying away from me, while looking for it I found a Ring Ouzel – only just in Herts as it was at the far end of the field from the footpath. This is the fourth Ring Ouzel I have seen in this field since 1996 – not bad for a site away from the hills (Roy Hargreaves).

Male RING OUZEL and WHEATEAR at Miswell Farm early morning


Although the forecasted temperatures of 20 degrees C did not materialise, the winds did veer more to the Southwest and were unusually strong for this time of year. It was fairly mild - and dry - but the blustery conditions that prevailed over much of the day did somewhat restrict searching for small passerines.
I had originally planned to have a comprehensive search for migrants, especially in Bedfordshire, where I was hoping to connect with Swallow, White Wagtail, Yellow Wagtail, Common Tern and other early arrivals but that all went pear-shaped when I received a call to say that a medium-sized petrel was on view in Berkshire and its identification was not certain.....

The day began early, searching for a male RING OUZEL that Roy Hargreaves had seen in the field immediately south of the Dry Canal, west of the footpath to Miswell Farm.
Despite a lapse of just half an hour, I failed in my quest to relocate either the male Ring Ouzel or a Northern Wheatear that Roy had seen whilst walking back towards his home
The new section of canal either side of the Drayton Bridge held a pair of Mute Swans and 5 Coots, whilst the farmland either side yielded Red-legged Partridge, Eurasian Skylark (singing male), Yellowhammer (4 birds), Greenfinch (male), Goldfinch (6 birds), Dunnock, Wren, Common Blackbird (4), Common Magpie (4), Carrion Crow, Pied Wagtail and a singing male Common Chiffchaff.

Beacon RING OUZEL still - 7th day

Watched the RING OUZEL on the sheep field below the Beacon at 8am with Mike Wallen - it comes out of the scrub between the Ridegway path and the sheep field and feeds out in the open so is pretty easy to see. We also saw at least a pair of Wheatear in the same area. The Linnets were very much in evidence today. Just Blackcap and Chiffchaff in the Top Scrub. No winter Thrushes anywhere. Only 3 Corn Buntings heard, all on the fencelines of arable fields. Bloomin' cold wind........Sue Rowe