Friday, 29 July 2011


Sally Douglas also managed to obtain shots of the Spotted Flycatchers in Rushy Meadow and one of the Green Sandpipers by the hide

Today's Images - SALLY DOUGLAS

Today's adult RUFF and Greenshank

LITTLE EGRETS break new record and RUFF arrives to join the increasing throng of passage waders


Mainly grey and overcast all day with a fresh northeasterly wind blowing. Consequently, a few passage waders arrived.......

(0900-1230 hours; with Steve Rodwell & Sally Douglas)

Roy Hargreaves had seen a juvenile MEDITERRANEAN GULL on his early morning walk round but despite searching, neither Steve nor I could relocate it

Steve did find a nice adult RUFF though - this bird arriving at 1145 hours and dropping down on to the mud to the right of the Drayton Hide. This bird had a fair amount of black in the scapulars and mantle as well as extensive blotching on the sides and was the first at the reservoirs this year - and my first in the county this year. It was typically mobile, flying up each time the Sparrowhawks came in to feed the young, but did afford some great views at times before flying off to the mud on the far side.

Other waders present included 5 COMMON GREENSHANKS (an adult and 4 juveniles - SR had seen 6 yesterday), a single remaining Common Redshank, 3 GREEN SANDPIPERS (including two which flew around briefly at 1205), 1 Common Sandpiper and 152 Lapwings.

Mid-morning, an eclipse drake GARGANEY arrived on Wilstone with 2 Common Teal, this bird quickly relocating from by the new overflow to by the hide and eventually joined up with all 12 Common Teal present. Again, some superb views were afforded, and whether this is the same drake we had here on the 8 July is unknown.

The other big news story was the continual increase in numbers of LITTLE EGRET - up to 21 today (same number as SR counted at the roost last night) - another new record. One of the fledged young spent much of the morning sat down on the spit and was not seen to be fed by the adults - I hope it is alright.

Otherwise, the following were recorded -:

Great Crested Grebe (31 including this year's 3 young birds)
Mute Swan (29)
Gadwall (10)
Eurasian Wigeon (1 drake)
Shoveler (7 still)
Tufted Duck (23)
Pochard (9)
Coot (553 counted, including a vast raft dredging weed in shallow water to the left of the hide)
Moorhen (57 counted - Steve had 70 last night)
WATER RAIL (3 juveniles along the SE shoreline)
Black-headed Gull (large increase - 106 birds roosting)
Lesser Black-backed Gull (4)
Common Tern (53)

Red Kites (8 or more birds were attracted in to the muck-spreading going on in the fields adjacent to Cemetery Corner)
Eurasian Sparrowhawk (for at least the 6th year in succession, a pair has nested successfully in Black Poplars near to the Drayton Bank hide)
COMMON KINGFISHER (fishing in the shallows from the central bund)
Great Spotted Woodpecker (1)
Barn Swallow (8 through)
Mistle Thrush (2)
Blackcap (1 female in Rushy Meadow)
Common Chiffchaff (3)
*SPOTTED FLYCATCHER (at least 2 adults in Rushy Meadow)
Common Starling (11)

CHINESE WATER DEER (female with fawn showing well by the reed edge)

LITTLE EGRETS reach new high

This morning there was a light north-easterly and it was grey and overcast – often good for waders, alas not much new on that front. However, I managed to count 19 Little Egrets (just had a text from Steve Rodwell to say he had 21 yesterday). When I got to the hide four juv Greenshanks and a juv Redshank were close on the mud on the right. Also from there I was able to see a juv Mediterranean Gull over with the Black-headed Gulls and Little Egrets in front of the reeds to the left of the stream.

Also a party of Spotted Flycatchers in the trees bordering Rushy Meadow – passerines are definitely on the move (Roy Hargreaves)

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

MARSH HARRIER through early afternoon and an arrival of COMMON GREENSHANKS


There were a few light rain showers this morning but generally it was dry and warm. The heavy cloud cover eventually dissipated later in the afternoon. Wind was mainly light.

There was some minor wader passage during the morning, with a Eurasian Curlew and 2 Icelandic Black-tailed Godwits briefly at Tyttenhanger GP and an arrival of 3 Common Greenshanks at Wilstone. Steve Rodwell also had a very early migrant juvenile MARSH HARRIER fly south through Wilstone early afternoon


Further evidence of some raptor migration today was that during the late morning/midday period, I recorded both Red Kite and a Common Buzzard flying south over the town centre; also 44 Common Swifts south and the pair of Mute Swans still with 6 growing cygnets

(1645 hours onwards; with Steve Rodwell and Dave Bilcock)

The highlight was the arrival of 3 migrant COMMON GREENSHANKS - my first at the reservoirs this year. All 3 - an adult and two juveniles - were feeding on the mud to the right of the hide, Francis Buckle managing to photograph one of the birds (see above).

WATER RAILS have bred this year at Wilstone too, with what appears to be two families. Three juveniles were feeding along the muddy SE shore whilst Steve, Mike C and Jeff Bailey had seen the single very showy juvenile by the hide.

Otherwise, the only other 'new' bird other than the flyover Marsh Harrier was a juvenile COMMON REDSHANK.

The two juvenile LITTLE EGRETS were still being fed by the parents on the central bund (of 13 birds present) whilst 34 Cormorants, 26 Mute Swans, the MANDARIN, 4 Shoveler, 3 Eurasian Wigeon, 4 Teal, 7 Pochard, 78 Lapwing, 2 Common Sandpipers, the 2nd-summer Lesser Black-backed Gull, 85 Black-headed Gulls, 52 Common Terns, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Stock Dove and Western Reed Warbler making up the rest.

Closeby, House Sparrows were feeding young in a roof nest at the Farm Shop.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

LITTLE EGRETS keep on breaking records.......

Yesterday was not spectacular but did have some interesting events. I managed to see four juvenile Water Rail along the edge of the reeds between Cemetery Corner and the Boathouse. Also managed to see one of the home-grown juv Little Egrets – at last! Also two Little Ringed Plover, a Common Sandpiper and a Green Sandpiper.

In the evening I could see 17 Little Egrets – most roosting in a tree by the trees that the Cormorants use. Also the field south of Cemetery Corner has been harvested and there were five Foxes and two Muntjac running around on it. Also an adult Common Gull flew off.

Also saw a Little Owl at Miswell Farm in the usual tree.

This morning there was not much – heard Green Sandpiper and saw Common Sandpiper and 15 Little Egrets were visible (Roy Hargreaves)

Monday, 25 July 2011

A calling QUAIL in the vicinity and a bumper crop of 'summering' COMMON REDSTARTS


A warm day but with increasing cloud cover gathering throughout the afternoon; a light NW breeze blowing.....

I had no luck again with a local Quail but did enjoy a feats of COMMON REDSTART sightings........


On three separate attempts, I failed to hear the male Common Quail that Steve Rodwell had heard at 0630 hours calling from the harvested cornfields between Steps Hill and the Ivinghoe road. In fact, few birds were noted, apart from several Yellowhammer family parties and those of Common Whitethroat and Common Chiffchaff. The two COMMON REDSTARTS were both present in Incombe Hole, skulking in deep cover between the orange-rolling hill and the bottom end of the gully.

A lot of butterflies were on the wing, including excellent numbers of CHALK HILL BLUES (over 100 being noted - see Francis Buckle's images above) as well as both Common and Small Blue, Peacock, Large White, Green-veined White, Gatekeeper, Meadow Brown, Ringlet, both Small and Large Skippers, a Small Copper and several rather worn Dark Green Fritillaries.


Very little of interest, despite continuing dropping water levels - the 2 Little Ringed Plovers still (presumably local Pitstone Quarry birds), 87 Lapwings and 11 Little Egrets. The latter have bred for the first time at the reservoirs, with the two youngsters still being fed in the Willows along the Drayton Bank bund by their parents.

A lot of Red Kite were in the vicinity, their arrival coinciding with the harvesting of the local crop fields.

A dead Badger was beside the B489 north of Wilstone Reservoir at SP 901 133.


No fewer than 4 COMMON REDSTARTS were seen in the vicinity of Ridgway, east of Rowsham village late morning - a moulting male in the main hedgerow that runs east and an adult male still in good plumage and two female/immatures in the hedgerow that leads south from the derelict building remains. A somewhat remarkable flurry of records, considering one of the adult males has been present in this area for the best part of a month. The birds were typically elusive but particularly vocal, especially the male with the other two birds.

In the vicinity of Manor Farm at the end of Bennetts Lane, large numbers of Barn Swallows were present (25 birds, including a large proportion of juveniles). A single Eurasian Sparrowhawk and 3 Willow Warblers were also seen in the area


Park courteously on Bennetts Lane in Rowsham village (SP 851 179) and then take the public footpath east from Manor Farm. Walk through the kissing gate and then follow the rough track for some 500 yards to the ruined farm building, passing through two sheepfields on route. One adult male Common Redstart was frequenting the main hedgerow to your right 30-50 yards before you reach the ruins whilst the other three birds can be 'scoped from the track by the ruins - the hedgerow that leads away to the south. They were keeping mainly to the hedge in the vicinity of the chalk mounds, about 100 yards down

LITTLE EGRETS fledge two young

Right under our noses, a pair of LITTLE EGRETS has successfully nested on the Drayton Bank and managed to procure two young to almost flying stage without being seen. Since at least Thursday, two spiky-headed juveniles have sat begging in the Willows and have been fed intermittently with food by the adults.

Only last week, Barry Reed released information revealing that LITTLE EGRETS had bred at Amwell NR this summer - these two occurrences representing the first known breeding of the species within the county

SHAG found dead on Sunday

This morning the juvenile Shag was picked up dead near the ringing jetty, gruesome picture above.

Also it appears that a pair of Little Egrets may have bred in the central bushes along Drayton Bank. Speaking to Graham this morning he mentioned that he had watched an adult feeding 3 young birds last week. Only when the adult arrived with food did they appear and once feed they would disappear down into the bush. Steve, Ian and me watched this morning from the jetty and 2 very young juveniles were in the bushes, both these did appear to have some down on their head. One bird soon disappeared low down into the bush, whilst the other could be seen clambering around the top branches (Dave Bilcock).

Sunday, 24 July 2011

SHAG still present


Anyway at about 5:30 I counted 18 Little Egrets all visible at the same time – I couldn’t prove that there were more but I couldn’t account for one I had seen a few minutes earlier. Also at that time the juvenile SHAG was on the bank between the Drayton Sluice and the central bushes (see Dave Bilcock's new shots above). Also two redshank, 4+ Common Sandpipers, Mandarin and Ian Williams found 2 LRPs – presumably local birds.

Later while doing my last TTV near Ringshall I found 2 adult and 1 juv Spotted Flycatcher – although far enough apart to indicate two pairs. Also saw Marsh Tit (Roy Hargreaves).

Nearby, the two COMMON REDSTARTS were still present in Incombe Hole, Sally Douglas obtaining an image of one of them above.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Another French saddle-billed TUFTED DUCK

David Bilcock belatedly got the data back from a nasal saddled female Tufted duck that was present at Wilstone on 4th and 5th May of this year. As usual this bird originally came from NE France, full details are below.

18/11/2010 ISSE, FRANCE -
21/11/2010 ISSE, FRANCE
10/12/2010 ISSE, FRANCE
16/12/2010 ISSE, FRANCE
23/12/2010 ISSE, FRANCE
20/01/2011 ISSE, FRANCE

The SHAG - latest images

Dave Bilcock's latest images of the Shag at Wilstone. Sadly, the bird has picked up a number of parasites and is likely to die

GODWITS new in


Feeling a lot warmer than of late and with no rain. Still very light winds.......

(Afternoon visit)

Joined an assortment of local observers at Wilstone, most there to see the continuing juvenile EUROPEAN SHAG. The bird had moved from just in front of the Drayton Bank Hide back to the central ridge but was in a very sorry state - seems to have quite a serious eye infection and perhaps why it has been unable to feed since it arrived yesterday afternoon.

Apart from the Shag, the only 'new' birds to arrive today were two further ICELANDIC BLACK-TAILED GODWITS - again both summer plumaged birds and probably post-breeding males. They were roosting on the central bund in front of the hide.

Still 3 juvenile COMMON REDSHANKS on site, at least 3 COMMON SANDPIPERS (including the two juveniles), 11 Little Egrets, 4 Shoveler and 2 Common Teal

Male REDSTART still present

Steve Rodwell has seen the moulting male COMMON REDSTART that I first found on 15 July again this morning, still skulking elusively in scrub by the orange-rolling hill in Incombe Hole. Steve also had a single COMMON CROSSBILL fly over calling, as well as a noticeable increase in commoner warblers such as Gardens......

SHAG still there

The juvenile SHAG is still present this morning, showing well to the right of the Drayton Bank Hide (Roy Hargreaves)

COMMON TERNS at Wilstone

It has been another good breeding season at Wilstone for Common Terns, with at least 19 juveniles now on the wing. Francis Buckle took these images above

Thursday, 21 July 2011

The Occurrence of SHAG in Hertfordshire


Although temperatures recovered today, the general theme of sharp, short showers continued.....

Surprise of the day was a juvenile EUROPEAN SHAG found by Steve Rodwell this afternoon.....


Dave Bilcock and I followed SR, RH, Mike Campbell, Jeff Bailey and others and were able to see the juvenile EUROPEAN SHAG this evening - still roosting in exactly the same place it had first been found - on the shingle edge of the central Drayton Bank almost under the Sinensis nesting trees. In over an hour of observation, the bird barely moved, and sat hunched up with its head tucked in. Its health may not be in the best condition. It was a fresh juvenile, with white throat and vent/undertail coverts heavily contrasting with the soft, smoky-brown underparts. The upperparts were a darker brown, with some patterning on the wing-coverts, the structural differences between it and the roosting cormorants being the much smaller size, sleeker bofy, much slender bill (yellowish in colour) and shorter, slimmer neck. The legs and feet were quite pale and appeared to be unringed. The crown was markedly peaked at the front of the head. Dave managed to get a record shot of it roosting (see above) and it was still present when I departed at 1910 hours......


The European Shag is an occasional winter visitor and rare passage migrant to Hertfordshire with perhaps one record per annum. Sage (1959) listed 18 records (see below)

Bryan Sage in his ''History of the Birds of Hertfordshire'', published in 1959, listed the following -:

At Tring Reservoirs, immature birds were shot and killed on 14 October 1903, 22 October 1908 and 16 January 1917, with a further juvenile present on Marsworth Reservoir from 30 August to 7 September 1913. Two immatures were present on Wilstone on 26 December 1926, with further birds noted there in winter 1937, with up to three immatures present from 21 February to 21 March, one of which stayed/survived until 17 June.

Elsewhere in the county, one was found alive in Hitchin in January 1911 (kept alive for a week before dying), with another held in similar circumstances after being picked up exhausted at Hitchin Railway Station on 26 November 1912. A further exhausted bird was found in Knebworth on 7 February 1954, followed by three more in the Lee Valley in a nursery garden at Hoddesdon on 7 February 1935. The latter were all transferred to London Zoo. At Cheshunt GP, an adult was seen on 15 February 1954, with a released juvenile there from 16 February to 7 March. Additional records involved a juvenile shot near Aldenham Vicarage on 21 December 1909 and a bird at Hamper Mill near Watford on 7-9 September 1939 but most intriguing and perhaps pertinent to today's bird was a ringed juvenile from Bass Rock, East Lothian, on 4 July 1936 picked up exhausted in Rickmansworth on 12 December 1936.

Gladwin & Sage (1986) cited 66 records for the period 1958-82, including an unprecedented 51 individuals during a 'wreck' in March 1962. Prior to that year, a further ringing discovery had been noted: a juvenile ringed on the Farne Islands, Northumberland, on 11 June 1957 recovered in Bishop's Stortford on 21 December 1957. The March 1962 wreck included a flock of 28 birds on Wilstone on 11 March and birds were present in the county up until 5 May that year.

The status since 1970 is extracted from my Hertfordshire database and includes 158 individuals since 1970, including some exceptional influxes in some winters -:

1) One on the canal in Cassiobury Park, Watford, on 10 January 1971;
2) A juvenile at Wilstone Reservoir on 23 October 1971;
3) A juvenile at Wilstone Reservoir on 21 November 1971;
4) One at Cheshunt GP on 18 February 1973;
5) One at Hilfield Park Reservoir on 26 January 1974;
6-20) Up to 15 immatures were present at Wilstone for at least a month from 15 January to 15 February 1974;
21-22) Two juveniles remained at Rye Meads from 19-20 February 1974;
23-37) Up to 15 were present at Hilfield Park Reservoir from 29 November to 7 December 1974;
38-39) Two were present at Rickmansworth GP on 17 February 1975, with possibly a further bird on 16 March 1975;
40) A juvenile visited Wilstone on 22 November 1975;
41) An exhausted juvenile was trapped and ringed at Hemel Hempstead Water Gardens on 29 November 1975 and then released at Wilstone Reservoir, where it stayed until 4 December. Miraculously, it returned to the water gardens on 8 December;
42-43) Two juveniles were present at Cheshunt GP on 11 September 1976;
44-46) Singles were noted at Wilstone on 10 September, 22-23 November and 28 December 1978;
47) One at Cheshunt GP on 24 February 1979;
48) One at Troy Mill Lake on 28 February and 2 March visited Stocker's Lake on 1 March;
49) A juvenile at Stanstead Abbots on 28 December 1979;
50) A juvenile was picked up in an emaciated state at Hartham, Hertford, on 15 February 1980; it had swallowed a fish hook but was rehabilitated and later released in Lowestoft Harbour, Suffolk;
51-54) Four juveniles arrived at Hilfield Park Reservoir on 31 August 1980;
55) A juvenile visited Wilstone on 10 September 1980;
56) One flew over Amwell GP on 23 November 1980;
57) One was at Stanstead Abbots GP on 8 November 1981;
58) One flew over Rye House Power Station on 12 August 1982;
59) One was seen in Stevenage on 7 November 1982;
60-61) Two adults were at Hampermill Lake from 22 January until 5 February 1983;
62) A juvenile was at Rye Meads on 28-29 October 1983;
63-74) A flock of 12 arrived at Tring Reservoirs on 9 February 1984. The flock remained, dwindling to 10 on 11 February and two until 20 February. Two of the flock found dead had been ringed on the Isle of May and on the Farne Islands;
75) One was at Stanstead Abbots on 4-5 February 1984;
76) A juvenile bearing a green ring on its left leg appeared at King's Meads, Hertford, on 9 February 1984 and was then seen in Ware town centre next day and perhaps Amwell GP on 11 February;
77-78) Two were at Cheshunt GP on 10 February 1984, one remaining until next day;
79) An immature was seen at Rye Meads on 15 February 1985;
80) A juvenile was at Stocker's Lake on 5-8 September 1985;
81-94) A flock of 14 adults was present at Hilfield Park Reservoir on 14 November 1985, with 3 still present the following day;
95) One was at Cheshunt GP on 16 November 1985;
96) One visited Amwell GP on 15 December 1985;
97-98) Singles were at Tring Reservoirs on 6 August and 7 September 1987;
99) One remained at Amwell GP from 20-23 October 1987;
100-106) A party of 7 were seen at Stanstead Abbots GP from 25-27 February 1988; 4 were still there the following day with 2 on 29 and 1 remaining until 3 March 1988;
107) A juvenile was at Amwell GP on 26 February 1988;
108) A juvenile was in Ware town centre from 26 February until 7 March 1988;
109) One visited Broxbourne GP on 3 March 1988;
110) One was at Cheshunt GP on 5 March 1988;
111) One visited Wilstone on 10 March 1988;
112-115) An adult and three juveniles were at Hilfield Park Reservoir from 13-16 March 1988;
116-119) Three birds visited Tyttenhanger GP on 18 March, with 4 there on 23-27 March, 3 to 2 April, 2 to 25 April and a surviving juvenile until 18 June 1988;
120) One at Rickmansworth on 18 March 1988;
121) An adult in full breeding plumage was at Wilstone Reservoir from 17 December 1988 until 20 January 1989;
122) One was at Rye Meads on 8 January 1989;
123) A juvenile was at Wilstone Reservoir from 23-26 December 1989;


124-130) A party of 7 was at Wilstone Reservoir on 26 January 1991 with at least 2 remaining the following day;
131) One was found dead at Amwell GP on 7 April 1991;
132) One was in Stevenage on 25 January 1993;
133-135) Up to three individuals were present at Hilfield Park Reservoir from 27 January to 6 February 1993, again on 6 March 1993, with 1 to 17 March;
136) One was at Stocker's Lake on 30 January 1993;
137) A juvenile was on the River Lea in Ware from 10-26 March 1993;
138) One was at Cheshunt GP on 20 March 1993;
139) One was at Cheshunt GP on 17 October 1993; but died overnight;
140) One visited Wilstone on 19 October 1993;
141) Another visited Wilstone on 14 November 1993;
142) One was at Amwell GP on Christmas Day 1993;
143) One appeared at Watkins Hall Farm at Watton-on-Stone on 20 February 1994;
144) An adult was present at Hollingson's Mead on 17-19 March 1996;
145) One visited Wilstone on 9-10 March 1997;
146) One was on the River Rib at Standon on 29-31 March 1997;
147) One was at Amwell on 7 September 1997;
148-149) Two were present at Sleapshyde GP from 21-26 April 1998 with one remaining until 30 April;
150) One was ringed at Rye Meads on 7 November 1998;
151) One was seen at Rye Meads on 23 January 1999;


152) A juvenile ringed on the Isle of May in June 2000 was present on the River Lea in Ware on the extraodinary date of 1 June 2001;
153) One was at Tyttenhanger GP on 5 July 2002;
153) A juvenile was at Hilfield Park Reservoir from 9 September until 24 December 2002;
154) Another juvenile ringed on the Isle of May as a nestling on 2 July 2004 was present at Wilstone from 24 November until 2 December 2004;
155) A juvenile was present on the Grand Union Canal in central Berkhamstead on 25 March 2005;
156) A juvenile was at Wilstone Reservoir from 18-27 November 2007;
157) A juvenile was at Hilfield Park Reservoir from 15-17 August 2008;

In addition to today's SHAG, Wilstone also produced 33 Great Crested Grebes (including 3 youngsters, 1 still begging for food), 12 Little Egrets, the Mandarin Duck, 39 Mute Swans, 7 Wigeon, 4 Common Redshank, 4 Common Sandpipers, a Yellow Wagtail, 2 Green Woodpeckers, 30 Western Reed Warblers and a pair of House Sparrows commuting between the Willows on the North Bank and Wilstone Great Farm

SHAG on Wilstone

This morning there were 3 Redshank, 4 Common Sandpipers and 3 Green Sandpipers as well as seven Wigeon. The 3 Green Sandpipers appeared to fly off towards Broughton at about 6:50.

This afternoon Steve Rodwell found a juvenile Shag sat under the Cormorant Trees. Interestingly when it did bring its head out from roosting it spent a lot of time with its bill pointing upwards much like a Bittern does (Roy Hargreaves)

Wednesday, 20 July 2011



Another day mixed with dry spells and showers. The wind was light westerly and the temperature a little below average.

The water level at both Wilstone and Startop's End reservoirs continue to drop, leaving an excellent muddy margin attractive to returning passage waders......

(Late afternoon visit)

Great Crested Grebe (surprise dip in numbers, just 33 counted today)
LITTLE EGRET (although only 12 were on view for most of the time, a record number of 16 birds is now present)
Grey Heron (11)
Continental (Sinensis) Cormorant (32)
Mute Swan (33)
Greylag Goose (26)
MANDARIN DUCK (one present on the central bund, visible from the car park, constituting belatedly my first at the reservoirs this year)
Mallard (77)
Gadwall (10)
Shoveler (4)
Eurasian Wigeon (4 still)
Tufted Duck (61; marked increase)
Northern Pochard (7)
Moorhen (adults with 3 young)
Coot (major increase - 597 click-counted)
Lapwing (167 on bund)
COMMON REDSHANK (5 juveniles on mud by hide)
Common Sandpiper (at least 4 present, probably 5)
Common Tern (74 present, including at least 19 juveniles)
Pied Wagtail (2 males)
Mistle Thrush (4)
Blue Tit (6 in Willows on central bund)
Long-tailed Tit (7 with the above)
Jackdaw (17 in tree behind car park)

Tuesday, 19 July 2011


Steve Rodwell has seen both COMMON REDSTARTS today in Inkombe Hole, Steps Hill, the moulting male and the female-type - but both extremely elusive..

Nothing new at the reservoirs - the adult OYSTERCATCHER again, 2 Common Sandpipers and at least 1 Common Redshank

Monday, 18 July 2011

LITTLE EGRETS breaking new records

Steve Rodwell has just counted a total of 16 LITTLE EGRETS on Wilstone - as far as I know a new record for the site. There are also 4 COMMON REDSHANKS now present on the mud by the hide (the long-staying juvenile and three adults)

Sunday, 17 July 2011

This evening at Wilstone


Well, what a glorious summer's day. Virtually rain all day, with little let up and strong, blustery SW winds. Expected some new waders in but nothing other than 5 more ICELANDIC BLACK-TAILED GODWITS (see Francis Buckle's images above).............


I managed to get over to Wilstone this evening but too late to see the 5 godwits - they had all departed....

In fact, very little to see in the blustery and wet conditions; the 14 LITTLE EGRETS were still present, as well as the juvenile COMMON REDSHANK......


In addition to a small group at Tyttenhanger GP this morning, a further 5 adult ICELANDIC BLACK-TAILED GODWITS arrived at Wilstone at 0730 hours and proceeded to feed on the mud by the hide until at least 0900 hours (see Dave Bilcock's image of four of them above)

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Just where are all these post-breeding LITTLE EGRETS coming from?


A band of heavy rain swept through the Chilterns Region this morning, accompanied by fresh SW winds. It cleared away to the east at about 1400 hours, leaving blustery but often bright conditions. It was much cooler than of late.

I was rather hoping that the rain had grounded some migrating waders at Wilstone but it hadn't - in fact, there was nothing new.............


Great Crested Grebe (numbers now increased to 42 - out of 50 overall)
LITTLE EGRET (14 birds now present)
Mute Swan (38)
Common Teal (3)
Eurasian Wigeon (4 birds now present)
Gadwall (10)
Red Kite (1)
Lapwing (184 on causeway)
Common Redshank (adult still present by hide)
Common Sandpiper (2)
Black-headed Gull (25)
Common Tern (78 including 16 juveniles)
Common Swift (82 - most likely return migrants)
Sand Martin (15)
House Martin (11)


1 Great Crested Grebe, 9 Grey Heron, 2 Mute Swans, 8 Tufted Duck, 32 Coot (including 4 young), 8 Sand Martin and 3 Barn Swallows.


2 Great Crested Grebes, 2 Mute Swans, 58 Mallard, 23 Tufted Duck, 62 Black-headed Gulls and 22 Sand Martins


The adult drake Red-crested Pochard was now in full eclipse, with 5 Great Crested Grebes present, another 2 Mute Swans (making it 44 birds in total), 42 Greylag Geese (in the horse fields), 61 Mallard and 8 House Martins. Marsworth Wood yielded a family of Robins and a male Greenfinch

LITTLE EGRET numbers continue to rise

This morning’s weather was not as bad as forecast first thing. We managed to definitely count 14 Little Egrets with 15 being a possibility – 20 is surely round the corner soon. Also two Common Sandpipers and Redshank were still about and a Common Snipe flew in and landed in front of the reedbed (Roy Hargreaves)

Friday, 15 July 2011



In the sunshine, temperatures were high and as the day wore on, fresher conditions and increasing winds spread from the southwest. It became increasingly overcast during the day.......


With six COMMON REDSTARTS already recorded in the county this autumn, I finally struck lucky today and found a moulting, rather scruffy male in Inkombe Hole this morning. The bird was frequenting the scrub either side of the 'orange-rolling' slope and was initially located on call; it barely moved more than 20 yards and kept commuting between two patches of vegetation. It was typically elusive.

There was also a migrant adult WILLOW WARBLER in the Hole, a Lesser Whitethroat and a family party of 5 Common Whitethroats, as well as a flyover HOBBY, 2 Common Kestrels, 18 Linnets, Red Admiral, 3 Commas and on wires by the Pitstone Hill car park, a 'jangling' male CORN BUNTING.

At nearby Gallows Hill, good numbers of CHALKHILL BLUE butterflies were on the wing (35+), along with several Small Heath, Ringlet and a Red Admiral.


A 1230 hours visit produced a Gatekeeper butterfly in the car park, an astounding 13 LITTLE EGRETS, 38 Mute Swans, 28 Great Crested Grebes, 3 Eurasian Wigeon and 169 Lapwings


There was no sight nor sound of the Quail along the lane, just 3 singing CORN BUNTINGS, but in Church Green cul-de-sac, a House Martin colony held 6 active nests.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

More Godwits and first autumn COMMON REDSTART

Steve Rodwell discovered an adult female COMMON REDSTART in Incombe Hole, Steps Hill, this morning, whilst Dave and Roy found more migrant ICELANDIC BLACK-TAILED GODWITS at Wilstone. Two COMMON CROSSBILLS flew over Steps Hill too.

11 July - DUNLIN new in

All 6 BLACK-TAILED GODWITS were still present this evening, until 7:15pm when they flew off east. Also present was a single DUNLIN (Dave Bilcock/LGRE)


This morning was another better than average showing for waders. The highlight was six more adult ICELANDIC BLACK-TAILED GODWITS very close to the hide – allowing for some acceptable video to be taken. Also a lone Oystercatcher was still in place on the mud and two Common Sandpipers, a Green Sandpiper and a Common Redshank made for a reasonable haul. I counted just seven Little Egrets.

I was surprised to see four Red Kites together round the back until I realised that Rushy Meadow had been cut over the weekend. I just hope that the breeding warblers weren’t impacted too heavily (Roy Hargreaves)

Saturday, 9 July 2011


At about 7:30 the two Common Redshank and the adult summer Icelandic Black-tailed Godwit all took off and headed south together. Also a Little Ringed Plover appeared on the bar in front of the hide and there was an Oystercatcher on a barley bale and one or two Common Sandpipers flying about (Roy Hargreaves/Dave Bilcock)

Friday, 8 July 2011

This evening's BLACK-TAILED GODWITS and GARGANEY - Dave Bilcock

Increasing mud attracts migrating ICELANDIC BLACK-TAILED GODWITS


The strong Southwesterly winds continued throughout the day bringing some blustery rain showers....


The water level continues to drop on Wilstone, with more and more mud being exposed daily. As such, the conditions attracted 10 migrant ICELANDIC BLACK-TAILED GODWITS this afternoon, the flock commuting between the mud and the Drayton Bank to roost. The entire flock seemed to consist of summer-plumaged males.

Also present were 124 Lapwings and a Common Sandpiper, along with 9 Little Egrets, 36 Mute Swans, 42 Atlantic Canada Geese, the eclipse drake GARGANEY found earlier by Roy, 6 Common Teal, the 4 oversummering Northern Shoveler, the oversummering drake Eurasian Wigeon, 9 Northern Pochard, 10 Gadwall, 22 adult Black-headed Gulls, 31 Common Terns (including 7 fledged juveniles), 16 Moorhen (4 juveniles), 46 Common Swifts, 1 House Martin and 11 migrant Sand Martins.


The 6 MANDARIN DUCKS survive, with 3 Ringed Plovers, 2 Little Ringed Plovers and 11 adult Black-headed Gulls present.


A pair of Moorhens feeding two tiny babies on the duckpond in the centre of the village and 1 pair of House Martins nesting

LITTLE EGRETS now up to 9 and drake GARGANEY

This morning the highlight was an eclipse drake GARGANEY about 40 metres left of the hide. It should hopefully prove less elusive than the spring birds. Now that the water level is lower the young trees to the left of the hide are not in water and so not as attractive to Garganey.

Also one or two Common Sandpiper, nine Little Egrets (although two flew off), and a Mandarin (Roy Hargreaves)

Tuesday, 5 July 2011




Another glorious day weatherwise, with long sunny periods, warm temperatures and no wind. Having been busy all weekend, I took advantage of the sunshine to do some butterflying - and in particular, for searching for PURPLE EMPERORS, my favourite British butterfly. I was not disappointed...........Avian highlights included a few returning waders, including a WOOD SANDPIPER....


In Wingrave Road, I came across a breeding colony of Common Swifts - some 8 adults entering a hole in the guttering at number 8, alomost opposite The Pheasant public house.


There was no sign of yesterday's adult Wood Sandpiper, seen by both Paul Reed and David Bilcock. In fact, there were much fewer waders present than of late, with no sign of the family party of 4 Oystercatchers.

A quick inventory check revealed the presence of 3 Mute Swans (the pair with just one surviving cygnet still), 1 Greylag Goose, 113 Atlantic Canada Geese, 1 female Common Teal, 11 Tufted Duck, two family groups of Moorhen (1 with 5 chicks and another with 3 chicks), 4 Common Redshank, 15 Lapwing (including 9 young of varying ages), 4 Little Ringed Plovers (2 pairs), 1 Black-headed Gull, 14 Common Terns and several Western Reed Warblers.


Once again, absolutely no sign of either adult Peregrine in the nest chamber or anywhere else on the building.


In an extensive search of the area and nearby sites, no sign of Richard Birch's pair of European Turtle Doves from last Friday. Warren Claydon also failed during a search over the weekend. If my bad luck continues throughout July, 2011 could go down as my first year with a complete blank on this species within the county - a sad show indeed and representative of the stark decline and situation this once common farmland species is really in.


By mid morning, the sun was radiating heat and the temperature had risen to nearly 70 degrees F - it was time to visit Finemere. I met up with local butterfly expert Steve Croxford and nature photographer Martin Parr and enjoyed an excellent hour or so of butterfly entertainment along the main drove up to 140 yards beyond the private parking area. The stars of course were the PURPLE EMPERORS - up to 7 on the wing today. Martin cheated a little bit - by relocating a major food source on to the track inside the wood - and within a short time indeed attracting two somewhat worn-winged males down (perhaps individuals attacked by birds). The views were spectacular - down to a few feet - allowing Martin to take over 250 photographs. They remained at the food source for at least an hour, with different more mobile individuals (including a single female) being seen flitting high in the Oak canopies and along the ride.

A WHITE ADMIRAL was also seen, as well as 5 SILVER-WASHED FRITILLARIES, along with 2 PURPLE HAIRSTREAKS, 7 MARBLED WHITES, large numbers of Ringlets, Large White, Green-veined White, Small White, Meadow Brown, Large Skipper (40+), Small Skipper, Comma (3), Speckled Wood and Small Tortoiseshell.

Avian highlights included no less than 8 BULLFINCHES (two single pairs and then two pairs together - all 'budding'), 2+ MARSH TITS, Common Buzzard carrying prey, Common Chiffchaffs, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Chaffinch, male Yellowhammer, Blackcap, Nuthatch and a large mixed flock of Long-tailed, Coal, Blue and Great Tit.

(Note: Finemere Wood is a premier site for Purple Emperor in Buckinghamshire but this year has been eclipsed by Rushbeds Wood BBOWT, Brill, where up to 15 have been showing daily)


Sadly, another dead Badger - this time on the A418 north of Wingrave Cross Roads at cSP 860 203.


Another prime butterfly wood and again very productive today. Along one of the side rides was one mobile male pristine-conditioned and presumably newly-emerged PURPLE EMPEROR, no less than 9 SILVER-WASHED FRITILLARIES and 3 WHITE ADMIRALS, along with good numbers of many of the commoner butterflies.


I arrived at Chicksands Wood shortly after 1400 hours, at the same time as Letchworth butterfly fan Dave Blofield. It was more Crossbills than butterflies that I had driven all the way over for, but despite walking all round, drew yet another blank on the former - my 8th dip now. Dave and I walked the main drove SW from the parking space (at TL 106 411) and soon came upon a stunningly confiding female PURPLE EMPEROR on the main track, just 30 yards along from the Obelisk (at TL 104 406). She was in immaculate condition and sat on the track just yards from us for 12 minutes before flying off and into the wood. Dave got some nice photographs. A second individual, this time a male, was seen 400 yards further on, along a track off to the left after a further 75 yards. This was in flight and highly mobile.

Just 1 WHITE ADMIRAL was seen along the main drove, and 3 different SILVER-WASHED FRITILLARIES, along with 9 Commas, 2 Red Admiral, Large White, Small White, Green-veined White, 15 Marbled Whites, large numbers of Ringlets, Meadow Brown, 40+ Speckled Wood, Large Skipper, Small Skipper and in the usual bramble scrub adjacent to the Henry John Robert Osborn monument at TL 097 395, 4 well-showing WHITE-LETTER HAIRSTREAKS - my first of the year.

In the heat of the mid-afternoon, birdlife was scant, frustratingly Common Crossbills. No sign of any Spotted Flycatchers either, but Common Buzzard with food and Jay - as well as Southern Hawker and Ruddy Darter.

As MJP proclaimed only yesterday, the two vast Poppy fields at TL 104 441 are resplendent and well worth photographinge (just west of the parking spot on the Haynes Church End road).

(1600-1645 hours)

Two WOOD SANDPIPERS in our region in the first few days of July is very unusual and early so despite missing yesterday's College Lake bird, I was more than pleased to make up for it by seeing the Rookery adult, now present for its third day. It was feeding along the edge of the closest island on the right hand side of the complex viewing from the Jackdaw Bridge side. Newly arrived were two spanking adult summer-plumaged ICELANDIC BLACK-TAILED GODWITS.

Otherwise 52 Lapwings (flock of post-breeding adults and at least 9 juveniles wandering about), an adult Oystercatcher, several Ringed and Little Ringed Plovers, 4 Common Redshank and a Little Egret. Also female Northern Pochard with single young, female Red-crested Pochard with single young and both Little Grebe and Great Crested Grebe with young; one pair of Mute Swans with 5 cygnets and at least 17 juvenile Black-headed Gulls within the colony. Grisly was watching an adult Lesser Black-backed Gull (one of the nesting pair) attack and kill a baby Moorhen and later devour it.

Both Western Reed Warblers and Common Whitethroats were feeding fledged young.


Although late in the day and fairly overcast, it was still very warm and in the wild flower-rich meadow immediately north and adjacent to the car park was highly productive for butterflies. No less than 10 DARK GREEN FRITILLARIES were seen (mainly nectaring on the purple flowering heads), 20 or more Marbled Whites, several Commas, both Small and Large Skippers and my first PAINTED LADY of the year. One further DARK GREEN FRITILLARY was seen in the usual meadow with the wooden bench 250 yards down along the footpath.


Thanks to Peter Stevens, I was able to locate the rest of the COMMON SHELDUCK family this evening - all 13 birds (including 11 surviving juveniles) on the largest of the three pools to the NE of the quarry buildings and offices just beyond the tall pines (see map). This is a record family gathering in my Recording Area and replicates an identikit family group that Chris Heard observed at Queen Mother Reservoir in Berkshire this evening. Interestingly, both family parties were accompanied by the fathers - at one time all of the males flying off to moult in Holland post-breeding.

Also tonight, the wader pools held 3 adult GREEN SANDPIPERS and an adult LITTLE RINGED PLOVER, whilst the female Lapwing with her two chicks was joined by 32 post-breeding adults of the species.

Further breeding success came from the isolated Oak-nesting Common Kestrel family - 3 juveniles fledging today - with Pied Wagtails feeding young at the cement complex and 11 Skylarks being seen on the meadow. The 63 Common Starlings roosted again in the row of tall pines.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Weekend Snippets

Just a roundup for the weekend. The Beacon Sunday 3 July Several Dark Green Fritillaries found with the help of Francis Buckle and Ian M (see top picture). Also Lesser Whitethroat, Common Whitethroat, Meadow Pipits and female Yellowhammer carrying food.

Wilstone Reservoir on Friday 1 July Some images from around the hide area. A pair of Coot feeding one sole juvenile; one of the 6 Little Egrets showing good head plumes and a Mallard brood of ducklings getting a bit too near a feeding Grey Heron (Sally Douglas Birding)

WOOD SANDPIPER at College Lake today

Image taken of today's adult WOOD SANDPIPER, found by Paul Reed early afternoon. The 4th Wood Sand at College Lake this year! (David Bilcock)

Friday, 1 July 2011


Some pictures from an early morning trip to Wilstone today.

Highlight for me was a Little Ringed Plover on the bar in front of the hide (see picture). It flew in about 7am and landed in between two large groups of Coots in a space apparently "owned" by the Terns and the Lapwing chicks. The LRP was continually harassed by the Terns and Lapwings both on the ground and in the air. Despite this, the LRP just kept on coming back and was there at 8:15 when I left.

The eight Common Terns were very loud and often flew in with fish in their mouths (see picture), There were also two Shoveler to the left of the hide for a while. There are two pictures - one of a Shoveler and one of close up of its beak showing its filter mechanism (see picture).

Finally, there were 6 Little Egrets moving about quite a lot (see picture of one), feeding in shallow water, but quite skittish.

Michael Nott