Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Swarming with RUFFS and a new LITTLE STINT


The last day of August brought dry and fine weather to the Chilterns with light, variable winds and long spells of bright sunshine - temperatures recovered too from those over the Bank Holiday Weekend....

It was my first chance in a few days to get down to the ressies and an excellent few hours birding resulted. The highlight was seeing one of the largest flocks of RUFF in the county in over 25 years, as well as a superb migrant flock of WAGTAILS. A second juvenile LITTLE STINT also arrived today...

(1700-1930 hours; in the company of Steve Rodwell, Mike Hurst, JT, Sally, Dave Bilcock & Kevin Holt)

Just as SR and I arrived at the car park steps at 1700 hours, a large flock of flava wagtails flew in calling from the Northwest. I followed them in flight to see them all land on the East Bank and on the jetty. Kevin Holt and I followed them round towards the jetty and 'scoped them and were delighted to find a flock of 25 YELLOW WAGTAILS and 2 striking migrant WHITE WAGTAILS with them - an adult male and a first-winter. The Yellows consisted of both adults and juveniles/first-winters and all clambered down to the water's edge and drank together - a superb sight. They then flitted back and forwards to the grassy bank before flying off towards the fields behind the jetty.

Shortly later we were viewing the spit and thankfully (after an East European had just flushed everything in sight by illegally walking round the centre of the reservoir and fishing without a license or permit), the wader flock had returned. Two very fresh juvenile LITTLE STINTS were feeding together, along with a juvenile DUNLIN and a party of 6 RINGED PLOVERS (including four juveniles), just 25 yards away along the spit, affording exceptional views (see the many photographs of the first individual on my blog as well as a brand new selection taken by Ian Williams above). A quick pan round also revealed the presence of 2 GREEN SANDPIPERS, a Common Sandpiper and just 2 remaining COMMON GREENSHANKS.

A survey of the remaining birds present on the reservoir resulted in the following -:

26 Mute Swans, 175 Common Teal, 18 Gadwall, an increase to 38 Shoveler, an increase to 58 Northern Pochard, 11 Great Crested Grebe, 477 Coot, 5 Grey Herons, 18 LITTLE EGRETS, juvenile Herring Gull, just 5 Common Terns and 330 Lapwings.

Steve and I then spent a long vigil searching the ''Hide Meadow'' for Roy's COMMON REDSTART - seen early this morning. No joy I am afraid but migrants did include an enjoyable party of 6 SPOTTED FLYCATCHERS, a juvenile WILLOW WARBLER, a juvenile COMMON WHITETHROAT and a male Blackcap, whilst other species noted included a juvenile Sparrowhawk, all 3 HOBBIES, Great Spotted Woodpecker, 2+ Stock Doves, 11 Goldfinch, 2 Goldcrest, 8 Blue Tits, 1 juvenile Great Tit, Robin, Wren and Song Thrush.

Whilst scanning from the Drayton Bank Hide, after counting the 4 resident Chinese Water Deer, 2 Red Foxes and the 3 continuing RUFFS (male and 2 females), I came across a flock of waders flighting in from the Ivinghoe Beacon. I followed them in the 'scope for about 5 minutes before which time they dropped rapidly in flight and flew right down in front of JT and Kevin still viewing from the jetty. Incredibly, they were a flock of 9 juvenile RUFFS. They continued westwards, skirted over the middle causeway and then landed briefly with the 3 'resident' birds. Within a few minutes, they took flight again and then continued circling the reservoir in a tight-knit flock for some time before eventually settling in the feeder stream in the SW corner and drinking voraciously. They then remained in this area, mingling with the large Teal and Lapwing flock. Twelve individuals at once is quite exceptional for Hertfordshire and in addition to the 5 of last week, the largest number recorded for over 20 years.....

Now we just want that migrant Pectoral or Curlew Sandpiper to make landfall.......

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Sunday, 28 August 2011

LITTLE STINT still present, and large early morning passage of YELLOW WAGTAILS

This morning the wind was definitely stronger than yesterday and from the hide five juvenile RUFF were visible and four Ringed Plover by the stream, which looked to be a new family party. From the jetty the juvenile LITTLE STINT was joined by a juvenile Dunlin (see Dave Hutchinson's excellent new shots above), six Ringed Plover and LRP and a Ruff was also on this quadrant making a total of six. No sign of the Black-tailed Godwits and Greenshank numbers looked about the same as yesterday.

It was also interesting to see a flock of 21 Yellow Wagtails fly low over the reservoir and Ian had a flock of seven earlier this morning (Roy Hargreaves)

Ian Williams also located a WHINCHAT in the back fields later.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

More of a summary to follow later.......

Here is David Bilcock's best image of today's LITTLE STINT - Jenny Wallington, John Edwards and I enjoying great views of it this evening - still wandering up and down the spit at 1800 hours........great addition to the Year List

There were also 6 juvenile RUFF then present, 10 adult RINGED PLOVERS, 2 juvenile LITTLE RINGED PLOVERS, the 2 juvenile BLACK-TAILED GODWITS, 10 COMMON GREENSHANKS, 3 Common Sandpipers and the Green Sandpiper; just 8 Common Terns remain (Lee Evans)

On the Hills today, just 2 brief TREE PIPITS (Steve Rodwell) and a single NORTHERN WHEATEAR (DB)

.........and Chris Hinton's shots

Chris Hinton managed an excellent shot of the juvenile LITTLE STINT as well as two of the 4 SPOTTED FLYCATCHERS in the meadow behind the hide (adult and juvenile depicted),,,,,,,,,,,

Sally's first images of LITTLE STINT.....

Sally Douglas was with Roy and Ian when they found the LITTLE STINT and photographed the bird on the spit when they got much closer to it........

Interim Report - Ian and Roy find LITTLE STINT

This morning again had potential as although the wind had swung to the west showers were still forecast. Anyway walking down through Miswell Farm rewarded me with yet another sighting of one of the Little Owls in the willows close to the Miswell Pond. From the jetty several Greenshank and a Ruff were on the mud and Ringed Plover were also visible in the half-light. I met up with Ian and we carried on round to the hide and were surprised to see a Chinese Water Deer on the reservoir embankment. It was either pregnant and/or in poor health as it was far more confiding than normal as can be seen in the attached videograb. Anyway we got to the hide and checked to see if anything new had arrived. Nothing was apparent – 2 Black-tailed Godwits, 3 or 4 Ruff (5 in total), Greenshank and the other usual suspects were present. At about 8:30 we noticed a small wader flying round by the tern rafts – almost directly in line with the Sun. It landed on the mud and we tried to scope it, but it took off after a few second and flew across in front of the hide – it looked like a Stint. Having lost sight of it by while it was by the north-west bank Ian and I headed for the old overflow. After searching that area thoroughly we couldn’t find it there and headed back to the hide – soon to be joined by others. While scanning the spit from the hide I noticed a Stint on the spit with the Ringed Plover. So we headed for the spit and confirmed what we already suspected – that it was a LITTLE STINT. A lovely fresh juvenile. Calls were made and others arrived to enjoy this bird, which might linger like last year’s birds. Having seen David excellent photo I won’t bother attaching another rubbish videograb – that are never as good as stills.

I have had a good week s o far this week but it isn’t over yet so how knows what tomorrow will bring! (Roy Hargreaves)

Friday, 26 August 2011

A multitude of RUFF arrivals and two juvenile ARCTIC TERNS


From early on this morning, the entire Chilterns region was embraced by heavy cloud, bringing rain (often heavy) throughout the day until mid afternoon. The wind was very light and variable, although underlying was a south-eastern element to it. I was expecting quite a lot to turn up today but in the end, it was mainly RUFF and scarcer terns that were located. My best find of the day was a SANDERLING.....


Despite the heavy rain, I joined the Amersham Ornithological Society and both Francis Buckle and Mic Wells at Wilstone mid morning. At first glance, it appeared that nothing new had arrived with the weather - and in fact, yesterday's star bird, the Black-necked Grebe, had disappeared after just one day (see Dave Bilcock's belated images above).

All 4 juvenile RUFFS were still present, the 9 COMMON GREENSHANK, 9 RINGED PLOVERS, the 2 LITTLE RINGED PLOVERS, the 2 juvenile BLACK-TAILED GODWITS, 4 Common Sandpipers and the GREEN SANDPIPER. Just 8 Common Terns remained, and wildfowl numbers remained constant. The only noticeable increase was in the hirundine numbers (with Sand Martins at 85, House Martin at 130 and Barn Swallow at 65), whilst Steve Rodwell located 4 SPOTTED FLYCATCHERS in the meadow behind the hide.


The first hint of passage came when I located 3 freshly-arrived juvenile RUFFS at 1140 hours on the increasing patch of mud in the SW corner of Startop's - they involved two smaller female Reeves and a larger male (see Dave Bilcock's superb images above). Most surprisingly, and probably as a result of the inclement weather, they remained all afternoon and evening. A Common Sandpiper there was also new in, whilst both juvenile BLACK-TAILED GODWITS dropped in for a while, as well as 8 of the Wilstone Little Egrets. Both adult pair of WHOOPER SWANS were still present too.

I then decided to check the hills for migrants but was very disappointed with my results - virtually nothing. I failed to find any Whinchats, even at Blows Downs or Luton Airport. BLOWS DOWNS PADDOCKS supported just single NORTHERN WHEATEAR, LESSER WHITETHROAT, juvenile Willow Warbler and male Blackcap as migrants and a roving party of 18 Blue Tits.


By 1430 hours, the rain was still falling, with Stewartby Lake yielding 48 Mute Swans and an arrival of 6 BLACK TERNS (a moulting adult and 5 juveniles).


Again, fairly lacklustre, with no new waders (the 3 RUFF and a single Common Greenshank) and the lingering juvenile MARSH HARRIER. A Chinese Water Deer was seen but more interesting was a Weasel encounter on the main track not far from Jackdaw Bridge. I had been looking at a Dunnock feeding beneath a bush when it was suddenly 'grabbed' by a Weasel around the neck. The Weasel quickly suffocated it and it fell silent and still. It was then dropped on to the ground before a very peculiar ritual took place. The Weasel repeatedly bounded backwards and forwards seemingly 'dancing' around the corpse before eventually, after about 5 minutes, picking it up and carrying it off into the undergrowth.


At around 1530 hours, I picked up a winter-plumaged SANDERLING feeding on the Washout Pit with a Green Sandpiper. which was still present when I departed the site at 1610 hours (and later when SCB and others arrived on site). Although gleaming white on the underparts and peppered dark grey/black above, it was surprisingly difficult to locate in its 'orange' surroundings and kept 'hiding/crouching' when other birds flew over the site.

Thanks to Jim Gurney and Steve Blain, I was eventually able to locate the juvenile WOOD SANDPIPER that was present for its third day in the vicinity viewing from the western track. The bird was feeding on flotsam along the NE shoreline, immediately north of Peacock's Island on the main Peacock's Lake. It had however been commuting between here and the Washout Pit today.

Other species of note included a Common Sandpiper and 16 Yellow Wagtails.


With reports of both White-winged Black and Whiskered Terns entering the Thames at Rainham Marshes RSPB and realising that this week's Little Terns eventually made it to Marlow, I decided to take a chance and see if either turned up there. After about an hour of negotiating the Friday afternoon traffic, I eventually arrived late afternoon, coinciding with that of other Little Marlow regulars and Dave Cleal. Neither vagrant marsh tern was there but there was a flock of 13 BLACK TERNS, including 3 moulting adults and 10 juveniles.

Northern Pochards had increased to 7, 3 Argenteus Herring Gulls were in the Lesser Black-back roost and Common Kingfisher was seen.


By evening, the rain had moved through, giving rise to clear blue skies and bright sunshine. Joining Ian Williams by the car parks steps, I was very pleased to see 3 very freshly-plumaged juvenile ARCTIC TERNS that DB and SR had discovered at 1600 hours. All 3 birds were showing very well and were patrolling the east shore back and forth.

There was also an additional REEVE feeding on the main spit - a fifth juvenile present on the reservoir - and making 8 in total with the 3 Startop's birds.

Little Egrets again numbered 18, whilst 15 Pied Wagtails were noted and a Common Kingfisher.



A few heavy showers swept through during the morning leaving cooler but much brighter conditions behind. The wind switched back to a fresh Southwesterly.......

(Evening visit; with Mike Hirst and Steve Rodwell)

The main highlight of the day was the arrival overnight of an adult transitionally-plumaged BLACK-NECKED GREBE (Roy Hargreaves), which spent its time feeding between the algae bunds and the car park steps. It was the first to be seen at the reservoirs this year.....

Next off, it was a fall of warblers in the East Hedgerow that incited most interest, with a LESSER WHITETHROAT, 3 juvenile WILLOW WARBLERS and 5 Common Chiffchaffs working their way along the hedge south of the tall Poplars

Waders were consistent with all four juvenile RUFFS still present (see Lucy Flower's shots above), the 2 juvenile BLACK-TAILED GODWITS, 9 COMMON GREENSHANKS, 1 GREEN SANDPIPER, 4 Common Sandpipers, the 8 RINGED PLOVERS and the 2 LITTLE RINGED PLOVERS..

Of the rest, still 15 Little Egrets and 8 Wigeon, now 127 Common Teal, 34 Cormorants, juvenile Sparrowhawk and 43 House Martins.

The Chinese Water Deer family has now increased to four with the arrival of another fawn