Tuesday, 31 May 2011



After what seemed like an age, a band of heavy rain moved across the region yesterday afternoon and evening on the fringe of an Atlantic Front that moved northeastwards. This managed to 'down' numerous passage waders, including impressive numbers of SANDERLING, a PURPLE SANDPIPER in Oxfordshire and a number of RED-NECKED PHALAROPES. Incredibly, one of the latter was forced down into Rookery Pit - the first ever to be twitchable in Bedfordshire and sparking off a major local twitch..........


Keith Owen stumbled upon the male RED-NECKED PHALAROPE in Rookery at 1145 hours, about half an hour before the belt of rain moved in. It was joined by a single SANDERLING. Keith immediately contacted Steve Blain and others of his momentous find and within minutes Andy Plumb had broadcast it to the county's keenest.....

I happened to be in West Wycombe at the time so it was a very hasty retreat but in just under the hour, I had made it to the damp pitside, joining MJP, Dave Odell, Pip Housden, SB, LC, BC, Mike Ilett, Cliff Tack, Richard Woodhead and others by the second railway bridge. The phalarope was still present and feeding along the east shore, swimming in and out of the shallow muddy bays. By now, it was drizzling and in the poor weather conditions, a further 5 migrant SANDERLINGS had dropped in, as well as 2 summer-plumaged Dublin and 2 apparent Tundra Ringed Plovers. There were also a few Common Redshank to be seen.

As with most waders in the pit, the phalarope could only be viewed at great range and it was not possible to make out finite feather detail. LC had been closer and had managed a few shots and from what I could ascertain, the lack of contrast and intensity in the plumage and the presence of a pale supercilium suggested that the bird was a male. It constantly fed in the shallows and took short flights on occasion but was still present until 1500 hours when I departed (and much later when Darin Stanley visited at 1945 hours).

Red-necked Phalarope is a surprisingly massively rare bird in Bedfordshire with just ONE record mentioned in Steele-Elliott (1904) - a female shot on the glebe pond at Houghton Conquest on about 1 June 1890. (note the close proximity of date with our bird). Since then, only TWO have been discovered -:

2) A female in breeding plumage present at Priory Country Park during the morning of 30 May 1991 and observed from a distance of just 10 feet ! (observer unknown - photographed)

3) A juvenile seen very briefly by Jack O'Neill at Dunstable Sewage Works on 31 August 1995.

In addition, two phalaropes watched very distantly at Stewartby Lake on 12-13 September 1969 were considered to be most likely this species by observers.

So, as you can see, a very rare bird in the county indeed and a new species for virtually everyone, and representing my 259th species in the county and my 170th species of the year.

In addition to the waders, the 3 RED-CRESTED POCHARDS were still present (two drakes).


The two transitional plumaged SANDERLINGS that Don Otter had found a short while earlier were both still present when I visited in heavy rain late afternoon, wading between the far Bucks section of the drained lagoon and the closer Hertfordshire section. There were also two Common Redshank present and a pair of displaying Little Ringed Plovers, as well as the territorial pair of Common Shelduck and the female Mandarin Duck with 6 (out of an original 9) surviving young.


Despite the continuing rain, I tried to locate the Spotted Flycatcher in the Black Poplars in Cemetery Corner but failed in my quest. This section of dense vegetation between the Poplars and the old boathouse did yield an impressive number of breeding species though with Great Spotted Woodpecker (adults feeding two young), Song Thrush, Blackcap (family parties plus 6 singing males), Common Chiffchaff (singing male), both Great and Blue Tit (family parties), Chaffinch (one brood being fed) and Goldcrest (singing male).

Over 1,000 Common Swifts were still hawking for insects over the surface.

Monday, 30 May 2011

SANDERLINGS in Pitstone Quarry

Don Otter discovered these two SANDERLINGS in Pitstone Quarry today, both birds favouring the drained lagoon to the right and spending time in both the Bucks and Herts section of the pit. They were still present mid-afternoon (LGRE), Dave Bilcock obtaining the excellent images above.

The pair of Common Shelduck were still present, female Mandarin Duck with just 6 (of 9) surviving young, two Common Redshank and a displaying pair of Little Ringed Plovers.

Wilstone Reservoir was relatively quiet - the drake Wigeon still, female Teal, 2 Little Egrets, over 1,000 Common Swifts and Spotted Flycatcher (RH, DB, LGRE)

The GARGANEYS - Dave Bilcock's shots

Friday, 27 May 2011

GARGANEYS washed out; an invasion of COMMON SWIFTS; a bumper crop of FIRECRESTS and ADONIS BLUES on the wing


Thursday evening saw a heavy deluge of rain in the Chilterns, with localised flooding in some areas. As such, it seems like one local nesting pair of Garganey have been washed out and forced to move on. I spent the afternoon birding, seeing the two GARGANEY, large numbers of FIRECRESTS, an incredible number of COMMON SWIFTS and a bumper crop of ADONIS BLUES..........


Joined JT, Chris, Francis Buckle, Jeff Bailey and others on the bank at Wilstone Reservoir and to 1500 hours at least, the pair of GARGANEY were still present. Jeff had initially noticed them to the right of the Drayton Bank Hide early afternoon whilst Joan had watched them disappear into the Willow scrub to the left. Studying where JT had last seen them, I eventually relocated them, the two birds being harassed by Grey Herons, Coots and Mallards. They remained on view for a few minutes before disappearing back into the scrub. They are most likely the pair which set up territory at another site in the county but were most likely flooded out by last night's weather.

A single adult OYSTERCATCHER was a new arrival, whilst two of this week's four Little Egrets were on view on the west shore.

COMMON SWIFTS were the other exceptional phenomenon - they were everywhere - the largest number recorded this year - at least 5,600 birds being counted at one stage (the plume stretching from Tringford to the west side of Wilstone). There were also large numbers of hirundines present, particularly HOUSE MARTINS, but also 50 or so SAND MARTINS.

Of breeding birds, both families of Great Crested Grebe were still surviving (two stripy young and one), Coots with 6 and 4 chicks respectively (368 adults in total), 5 Mute Swans, 2 Greylag Geese, 8 Gadwall, 33 Tufted Duck, 16 Northern Pochards, 57 Common Terns and 1 Grey Wagtail.


Still managed to dip Hobby here despite both Francis and Chris connecting earlier; HOUSE MARTINS were in abundance with over 85 present, COMMON SWIFTS also (100+) and a handful of Sand Martins.

The OYSTERCATCHER pair were still tenderly caring for the two surviving chicks (both now growing well), whilst Lapwing young numbered at least 8. The LITTLE RINGED PLOVERS now had a single chick but there was no sign of any fledgling Common Redshanks (just four adults). A single Mute Swan was present.


I did a comprehensive survey of Wendover's FIRECREST population from the Hale end and was very pleased to find bumper numbers present this season. A total of 22 birds was recorded, including 14 singing males. Two family parties were recorded - one pair feeding young just yards inside the first gate by the Forestry Cottages (in the ivy-covered trees to the right of the entrance track) and another pair on the fringe of the main wood. A cluster of singing males was present to the left of the main track just with its junction with the ''Short Cut'' whilst several more were singing from Douglas Firs along the cut.

A male Yellowhammer was singing by the road, whilst other species noted in the forestry included Coal Tit (2 males), Common Treecreeper (pair feeding young), Robin (two pairs feeding young), Goldcrest (3 singing males), GARDEN WARBLER (singing male), WILLOW WARBLER (singing male) and Common Chiffchaff (just 1 male).

RADNAGE (BUCKS) (SU 789 979)

The extensive meadow to the east of St Mary's Church in Radnage has now become the premier site for ADONIS BLUE butterfly in our region and this evening in clearing sunny skies, I counted 33 specimens in the transect (many of which were quite worn and abraded). They were feeding on the yellow flowers at the upper part of the slope closest to the wood and were highly mobile. There were also a number of Common Blue and Small Blue on the wing as well as Small Heath and Dingy Skipper (7 of the latter).

The churchyard held a pair of Bullfinch, with Red Kite and Common Buzzard overhead and a singing Common Chiffchaff.

ACCESS: Park sensibly by the church at SU 785 977 before walking through the churchyard and along the trail to the third meadow on the slope before the woodland belt.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011


Late this afternoon 2 ARCTIC TERNS were present amongst the Common terns at Wilstone. One of these although superficially looking like an adult had traces of dark feathering of its lesser coverts aging it as a 2nd summer bird, the other was an adult (David Bilcock).

Monday, 23 May 2011

21 May

College Lake: The Oystercatcher pair appear to have lost one of their chicks as only 2 seen.

Pitstone Quarry: 1 Ringed plover and 5 LRPs present

Wilstone: The female hepatic cuckoo was sat in the trees in the centre on the reservoir. Also present were 2 Spotted Flycatchers in cemetery corner.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011


Three "atmospheric" pictures digiscoped from the hide this evening The bird came very close to the hide at dusk and was continuously active. In addition to the photos, I also took a bit of video footage in which any hint of the evening light was of course radically removed. The bird was still present when I (and Roy Hargreaves) left at 21:15 or so. (Jan Hein Steenis)

Today's RING-NECKED DUCK and an additional previous Wilstone record

Today's female RING-NECKED DUCK on Wilstone (David Bilcock)

An additional Ring-necked Duck record at Wilstone Reservoir that I overlooked previously was a drake David Bilcock discovered late afternoon on 26th March 2002, that was present all evening but moved on overnight.

Another great Roy/Dave find - female RING-NECKED DUCK on Wilstone


It's a long drive between Cley NWT Reserve and Wilstone Reservoir but when David Bilcock texted me at 0645 hours to say that he and Roy Hargreaves had just discovered a female RING-NECKED DUCK in front of the Drayton Hide at Tring, that's just what I had to do. Anyway, the male Great Snipe was not performing anyway......


I eventually made it to Wilstone Reservoir at 1057 hours and was very pleased to find the female RING-NECKED DUCK still showing - only the third-ever record at the reservoirs following a drake in the area from 2-30 April 1977 and a female at Wilstone from 8-13 November 1998. It was consorting with 3 of 58 Tufted Ducks present on Wilstone and was showing well moving back and forth along the central Drayton Bank (where it was visible from both the North Bank and the Drayton Hide).

Ironically, just two days previous, I had been asked to check out a drake Ring-necked Duck at Dunstable Sewage Farm. As it turned out, this bird was a hybrid Ring-necked Duck x Tufted Duck (see Lol Carman's photographs above). This Wilstone individual was the 'real deal' - with a high and rounded crown, typical long tail, long pointed bill and a spectacled face pattern. The bird overall was rather greyish-brown, with a predominantly grey bill and an extensive black nail. There was a hint of a pale subterminal band but it was not obvious. Furthermore, the grey flanks were clear but not the vertical whitish fore-flank line that you often get with adult female Ring-necked Ducks. Customary was the brown breast and neck collar, the striking white eye-ring forming a spectacled effect with the rear extension of the curving white eye-stripe. At the bill-base was a very prominent pale facial patch, with a white throat and a relatively dark iris. In all respects, it appeared to be a first-winter female. Size-wise, it was perhaps just a tad slimmer than the accompanying Tufted Ducks but was very similar overall.

Although I could not find the drake Eurasian Wigeon today, in addition to the 58 Tufted Ducks were 11 Northern Pochards (1 drake) and 12 Gadwalls.

Great Crested Grebes had their first young, with one pair nursing a single youngster and another mother carrying two stripy young on her back.

Otherwise, 1 HOBBY was hawking insects over the hide and Common Swifts numbered in excess of 540.


After the excitement of the weekend with 6 species of wader present back to normality. The 7 Mute Swans remained but virtually nothing else - and still no sign of a Little Grebe (the site hosted four breeding pairs in 2010). Nearby, 18 Barn Swallows were flying up and down the lane.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Late ARCTIC TERNS - Sunday

Early this morning there was an Arctic Tern present with the Common Terns that departed at about 5:45. David Bilcock also saw an Arctic Tern at 9:30 and this afternoon at 4:20 there was also an Arctic Tern present (Roy Hargreaves)

Friday, 13 May 2011

12 May - another WOOD SANDPIPER in College Lake


My first day birding in the UK for a while (following a brief incursion into Bedfordshire with MJP and KO last night) and what a day. Despite dipping out on last week's Glossy Ibis, I was more than made up today when connecting with the first SPOTTED SANDPIPER to ever grace Buckinghamshire county....The westerly wind that blew all day yesterday veered to a much warmer SW today, with brighter periods and some warm sunshine


During 1600-1630 hours, the WOOD SANDPIPER seen earlier at both Wilstone and Pitstone Quarry was showing very well on the mud in front of the new hide overlooking the marsh. It was occasionally spooked by the local Common Redshanks but mainly fed unperturbed and was my first of the year in the county, missing the influx of the last week.

The Oystercatchers were still sitting, whilst other species noted included 2 lingering drake Shovelers, the pair of Great Crested Grebes and 6 Common Swifts.

05 May

A brief stop on my way back from meetings this afternoon revealed 4 BLACK TERNS on Marsworth, plus Cuckoo calling and a Yellow Wagtail behind. Startops held Red-crested Pochard and a Little Egret. Just the usual residents at College Lake, including the pair of Shelducks and Shoveler (Ben Miller)

04 May

Wilstone Reservoir: A single Black Tern remains (5 present yesterday evening)

Startops: 3 Whimbrel landed in the horse paddocks at ca.06:50 (seen initially by Roy over Wilstone), still present when I left at 07:10am (phone'scoped pictures above).

Marsworth: A further Black tern hawking insects over the water.

David Bilcock


3 WHIMBREL in the paddocks behind Startops this morning (Ben Miller)

03 May

Back to the usual die hards this morning after the bank holidays. A Whimbrel went through silently this morning and the two Black Terns were joined by two more and appeared to fly off just before 7:00. There were at least three Common Sandpipers (possibly six), but alas Spotted Sandpiper appears to have eluded us again as one turned up in the midlands. There was also a Dunlin on the edge by the car park (Roy Hargreaves)

02 MAY - further update

The female RING OUZEL still at Ivinghoe Beacon and showing well at 4.30 this afternoon. At least 8 Wheatear there including 1 female. Found the male WHINCHAT eventually and also the TREE PIPIT on the lone Holly Bush. It soon dropped to the ground and I lost track of it when a noisy family came down the hill. It must be spending most of it's time on the ground out of the fierce wind. It was clinging on for dear life on the Holly bush!

The 2 Black Terns at Wilstone with about 80 Common Terns in the evening. I made a rough count of 140 Swifts there. 2 Common Gulls, 3 Lesser Black-backed Gulls and at least 6 Black-headed Gulls (Charlie Jackson)

Today's WHINCHAT - David Bilcock (02 May)

02 MAY - WHINCHAT on the Beacon

I spent half an hour on the North bank of Startops hoping for some wader passage but there wasn't any, just a Common Sandpiper in the Bucks section and a female Red-crested Pochard.
I moved onto the hills where the easterly wind was extremely strong, having seen a few Wheatear on Ivinghoe Beacon I was then delighted to find a stunning male WHINCHAT, feeding on the ground. I moved to try and get a piccy but the bird was flushed by a corvid, so I sat waiting for it to come out of the bush it had gone in ( Well I thought it had ). After 10 minutes I decided it wasn't there and moved 3 metres to my left where a RING OUZEL ( female ) came out of the bush right next to me !! Both birds were in the same area when I left over an hour later. They are favouring the area of bushes well East of the trig point on the Beacon, in the open sheep field and just East of the vehicular track that runs up the ridge. The Whinchat can be very elusive at times, but it is the most stunning bird I've found this spring !! (Mike Wallen)

30 APRIL - BLACK TERN at Wilstone (Sally Douglas)

In addition to the BLACK TERN photographed above, Sally also recorded 2 male RING OUZELS in Inkombe Hole


I visited College Lake with my 3 kids on both 30th April and 1st May, and recorded the following. On 30th, there was a Ringed Plover on view from the Octangonal hide as well as the LRP on its nest. Nearby, a Small Heath was on the gravel track approaching the hide and a 4-spotted Chaser on the lake margin.

On 1st May, I found the WOOD SANDPIPER in company with a Common Sandpiper and a Redshank feeding along the shore of the closest island, while looking from the visitor centre hide. I stepped out to inform some birders viewing from outside to tell them about the Wood Sandpiper, which we found immediately but could not see the Common Sand again. The Wood Sand showed well for the next 10 minutes by which point I had to move on with the children. By the picnic spot, there was a single Grizzled Skipper and another Small Heath (Jason Chapman)

WOOD SANDPIPER in College - David Hutchinson

01 MAY: WOOD SANDPIPER in College Lake

Jack O'Neill discovered a WOOD SANDPIPER on the main marsh at College Lake early afternoon

01 MAY - an impressive early morning

Having overslept this morning I arrived at Wilstone at 6am, put the scope down and picked up a male BAR-TAILED GODWIT on the barley bales. Starting the stroll to the jetty to photograph the godwit I had a bird fly over my head calling. I looked up to see an AVOCET dropping down over the water. I called out to someone who had just pulled in to the carpark in case if flew through then received a call from Dave Bilcock saying it had landed by the tern rafts. A minute or so later it relocated about 70 yards of the jetty so I joined DB to photograph it,

In addition to the above we had 5 more bar-tailed godwit, a redshank and 3 whimbrel through before 9am (Ian Williams)

01 MAY: Spectacular BAR-WIT passage continues for third day

01 MAY

Wilstone Reservoir: 6 BAR-TAILED GODWITS (1 on the bales from 1st light, 2 though at 08:02 and another 3 at 08:40), 3 WHIMBRELS (2 at 07:12 plus another at 08:15) and a single Redshank through this morning as well as the Avocet. A flock of 8 Waxwings flew over the jetty calling before 6am, heading towards Tring.

College Lake: Paul saw a flock of 20 Barwits over at ca.06:05 and the 2 seen early at Wisltone at 8am landed on the marsh briefly.

Another dodgy early morning picture of todays Barwit on the bales at Wilstone taken again at 05:30 (David Bilcock).


This PIED AVOCET arrived at Wilstone at ca.06:10, flying over Ian Williams as he just got to the top of the steps from the car park and was consequently picked up by myself, Steve, Roy and Mike as it circled low over the reservoir. It remained until 07:35 sat on the water in the middle before if flew off east, being seen over College Lake by Paul Reed. A couple of pictures of the bird above (David Bilcock).

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

TREE PIPIT at the Dukes Gully

The TREE PIPIT was found whilst I was hunting for butterflies in the "Duke" gully. On the wing were Dukes, green hairstreak, common blue, dingy and grizzled skipper, small heat and brown argus (lifer for me). Whilst searching the gully I saw a pipit in song flight from the lone holly "tree" just east of the gully, about halfway up the western slope of the beacon. Having only bins with me I put a call out to Dave Bilcock asking him to come and check whilst I ran back to the car to get my scope. The pipit was frequently perching and singing from the holly and also a bare branched hawthorn about 30 yards south of the holly (Ian Williams).


At about 8.30 tonight Steve Rodwell and I had a EURASIAN SPOONBILL fly through Wilstone. It circled low over the reservoir looking for somewhere to land before flying off over towards Wilstone village at about 8.37. We tried to get several locals on to it but to no avail. Steve managed to get the scope on it and aged it as an adult as there was no black on the wing tips. I tried to get record shots but due to the fast failing light failed.We lost the bird to view heading out in a northerly direction. (Ian Williams)

30 APRIL - Sparrowhawk repeatedly taking College Lapwing chicks

A beautiful sunny day with a stiff chilly NE wind.

I just saw the 2 BAR-TAILED GODWITS flying off as I got to the top of the steps at Wilstone at about 6.30am. Also had excellent views of the Blue-headed (type) Wagtail perched on the closest post singing away. A Common Sandpiper there as well and 2 Black Terns. Met up with Francis Buckle and Chris King at College Lake and had 3 Greenshank showing well before they were spooked by a Sparrowhawk which swooped in and took a Lapwing chick despite being attacked by all the furious Lapwings. We had earlier seen the Sparrowhawk make an aborted attempt at a chick but that time it was chased off. Apparently this bird has made several attempts in previous days and will no doubt take several more chicks, as they have nowhere to hide until the grass grows up a bit more - 2 Little-ringed Plover there and 3 Common Buzzard.

We found 2 Small Blues and a Small Heath and wandered up to look at the White Helleborines that are just coming into flower.We went back to look at the Wagtail at midday and it was still showing well. Also a Swift and a Hobby there. 2 Ringed Plover flew over Wilstone heading towards College.

Finished the day watching the Tree Pipit for an hour with Ian Williams and Mike and Rose in the evening sunshine. The bird was showing really well, singing and song flighting (Charlie Jackson)

TREE PIPIT still present

The singing male TREE PIPIT that I had briefly glimpsed on 29 April at the S Bend at Ivinghoe Hills was located in the same area by Ian Williams on 30 April (LGRE)

30 APRIL - male COMMON REDSTART along the Dry Canal

The male GRASSHOPPER WARBLER still singing at Rushey Meadow Saturday morning plus a male COMMON REDSTART on the Wendover Arm close to the Yellowhammer colony (Johne Taylor)

30 APRIL - RING OUZELS in Inkombe Hole

After getting the Greenshank, Common Sand and 2 LRPs at College Lake early morning I then headed up the hills hoping for some migrants.

Walking all the way round the Beacon the best I could find was 2 male Northern Wheatears and a flyover Yellow Wag. The wind was too strong for any butterflies to be on the wing so I moved across to Steps Hill where it was a bit more sheltered and soon got 3 Duke of Burgundy, a Grizzled Skipper and 3 Dingy Skippers. Reaching the top end of Incombe Hole a stunning male Greenland Wheatear was halfway up the slope and I was surprised to see a male RING OUZEL out in the open at the bottom of the slope. I quickly got a record shot before two people who were walking along the bottom flushed it into the bushes. It eventually came out in the open again just before Don Otter arrived and we had good views for a while before it was joined by a second browner bird as they worked their way slightly up the righthand slope. Just before we left Don spotted a stunning Green Hairstreak in the grass (Rob Andrews)

30 April - more BAR-WITS

Wilstone: Single female BAR-TAILED GODWIT (pictured above) on bales 5:30am. Another 13 flew through at 05:45 seen by Roy and finally Roy and Ian watched a male fly in 06:25 which the resting female joined and both birds headed off NE. 2 BLACK TERNS also present and male BLUE-HEADED WAGTAIL remains near cress beds.

College Lake BBOWT: Paul saw the flock of 13 BAR-TAILED GODWITS from Wilstone, heading east over the main lake. A Greenshank initially seen over Wilstone by Ian and Roy arrived on the marsh at 06:30 and was still present at 8am (also photographed above). Paul also saw another 3 Greenshank fly over the main lake heading east at 06:55 (David Bilcock)