Sunday, 30 October 2011

WATER PIPIT still present

This morning the WATER PIPIT was pretty faithful to the jetty area and was both with Meadow Pipits or by itself. The Dunlin came in with a Golden Plover flock and was flying round with them. Again there was no sign of any Rock Pipits. Lesser Redpolls, Siskin and Linnets were flying over and a Little Egret or two popped in from Tringford before flying back in that direction (Roy Hargreaves)

A phenomenal morning on the hills - WOODPIGEON migration in full swing


When Carmel and I walked home last night after a night out, the seeping sound of REDWINGS flying overhead clearly indicated that migration was in full swing. As such, I was out early on the Hills in anticipation..........

There was a bank of very clear weather to the north of the Chiltern Hills but south of there, it was thick cloud with a fairly strong SW wind. It had been very calm but cloudy overnight - following on from a gloriously fine day - ideal conditions for grounding migrants.


I positioned myself on the lower knoll shortly after 0745 hours and remained on the escarpment until 1045 hours. Passage was occurring from the outset. WOODPIGEONS were the order of the day and they were absolutely pouring through. Initially, flocks were coming in low over Gallows Hill but after a while, the main migration concentrated further to the east, with the passage continuing into the Gade Valley. A grand total of 2,747 birds was counted, with the biggest single flock of 490 birds (18 + 174 + 3 + 115 + 41 + 8 + 19 + 41 + 95 + 159 + 130 + 255 + 8 + 28 + 75 + 7 + 67 + 490 + 35 + 302 + 117 + 33 + 215 + 168 + 144). The passage continued throughout. A total of 42 STOCK DOVES was identified amongst the flocks.

Two SHORT-EARED OWLS passed over high to the west at 0815, both being mobbed by Jackdaws for a while, whilst two different WOODLARKS flew south calling - low to the contour. At 0937 hours, an immature/female MERLIN appeared over Gallows Hill and followed the line of the hills, departing west from the higher knoll just SE of the Beacon trig point.

At 0935 hours, a massive flock of 440 FIELDFARES made landfall in the Beeches from the east; they paused very briefly before continuing on, disappearing to the west over Top Scrub and Steps Hill - a further 23 (in two flocks of 5 and 18) were later seen

REDWINGS were far scarcer with just 13 noted, with just 1 dark-billed Continental Blackbird and three separate first-year RING OUZELS - all continuing westward (the latter located by their characteristic chacking call-note).

Weirdly, 2 Cormorants (an adult and juvenile) flew south over the trig, whilst the remaining species identified included -:

Great Spotted Woodpecker (1)
Jay (1)
Skylark (57)
Dunnock, presumably continental (arrived from the east)
Chaffinch (strong southerly passage - 159 birds in total)
Bullfinch (6)
REDPOLL species, indeterminate (7)
Yellowhammer (24 west)
CORN BUNTING (3) - presumably local birds
Common Starling (224 in total, the largest flock being of 45 birds - all migrating directly west)

Friday, 28 October 2011

Rock Pipits all gone but HEN HARRIER lingers on Hills


What a fabulous day. From start to finish, winds were light and variable, with clear blue skies and bright, warm sunshine. Difficult to believe it was the end of October

I put in a full day today trying to catch up with some Buckinghamshire Yearticks. Frustratingly, didn't bother with Calvert, where the Red-necked Grebe remains present......


Despite an exhaustive search, no sign of yesterday's Scandinavian Rock Pipit between the 500 and 750 metre markers, just 18 Meadow Pipits, 15 Skylarks and a first-winter COMMON KINGFISHER. Dave Cleal had also photographed a littoralis at the same site on 11 October.


I met up with Dave Cleal in Branch Lane, at the north end of Woolman's Wood. We then spent the next 40 minutes in the wood, made up of deciduous and coniferous trees, as well as much Holly and other shrub understorey. This was the first time I had ever birded this wood and I was very impressed with the results.

The highlight was COMMON CROSSBILL - four birds, two males and two females, showing well at the top of the Douglas Firs, extracting pine seeds from the cones. Two birds also flew overhead but may have been the same birds.

BULLFINCHES were also very much in evidence in the wood with at least 6 seen/heard and as expected FIRECREST - at least two birds being heard. A SISKIN flew over.

Other species noted included Red Kite, Jay, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Green Woodpecker, Song Thrush (1), Coal Tit (4), Nuthatch (3) and Goldcrest (12+). A Red Admiral and a late Speckled Wood were also noted.


Wilstone Reservoir did not yield either Water Pipit or the 3 Scandinavian Rock Pipits - just 4 Meadow Pipits. New in was a single DUNLIN on the main bund, whilst EUROPEAN GOLDEN PLOVERS numbered 206, a COMMON SNIPE was roosting, NORTHERN PINTAIL had increased to 9 (5 drakes) and both Jay and BLACKCAP were noted in the East Hedgerow. Counts included 4 Little Grebe, 9 Great Crested Grebe and 39 Mute Swans (including the colour-ringed family from the Grand Union Canal).

At Startop's End Reservoir, just 3 RED-CRESTED POCHARDS remained (2 drakes), with 16 Great Crested Grebes, 56 Eurasian Wigeon and 2 Common Gulls (adult and first-winter) also sighted.

Tringford Reservoir was the lowest I had seen it since the early 1980's and consequently it harboured 4 Little Egrets, a GREEN SANDPIPER, 2 Mute Swans, 62 Common Teal and 25 Shoveler.


No sign of the Ring Ouzel seen earlier by the Beacon summit and no sign of a juvenile Hen Harrier seen quartering the fields below Gallows Hill for 45 minutes before I arrived; it had drifted off east


Late afternoon saw me observing what must be a new county record of roosting LITTLE EGRETS - no less than 29 of them crammed into the Willows of the two islands at the north end. Certainly well exceeds my previous highest total of 17. The adult GREAT WHITE EGRET was also with them and showing very well - initially on the main bund before moving to a Willow housing two Little Egrets. The three birds had an altercation, with the Great White stabbing out at the two Little Egrets.

There were also 95 Cormorants roosting on the bund, with 6 Little Grebes, 21 Mute Swans, 252 Wigeon, 18 Gadwall, 27 Teal and 42 Shoveler being counted.

At 1616 hours, a cracking SHORT-EARED OWL rose up from the rough fields adjacent to Swans Way and affording outstanding views for over 20 minutes as it hunted back and forth - my first of the year.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011


Nice walk round the Beacon area with Chris King produced a fair size flock of Fieldfares, c60, together with Redwings, Song Thrushes and Blackbirds. Seemed to be a good number of Bullfinches (mostly heard)in the scrub area around Steps Hill. In the sheep field area 1 male Stonechat and 2 Wheatears and Raven 'enjoying' the strong breeze on the top together with 1 kestrel. No luck with any ouzels

Parked at the Cemetery at Wilstone and in the field with the crap apple tree flock of at least 12 Mistle Thrushes and 40+ Fieldfares. 160 Golden Plover on the spit out from the jetty + 1 possibly 2 Rock Pipits and 1 WATER PIPIT and a feeding Pintail (Francis Buckle).

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Another dire day on the Hills


The wind switched from SSE to SSW overnight and was accompanied by heavy rain. Such conditions are normally excellent for depositing birds on the hills so I made my way up Ivinghoe Beacon but was very disappointed.....


Walked the entire circuit with poor results - starting at 0930 hours and finishing at 1400 hours. In fact dire - apart from thrushes, nothing moving. Frustratingly, no luck with the 3= Ring Ouzels seen on North Slope early morning (Warren Claydon had another at Lodge Hill)......

The undoubted highlight was a pair of COMMON RAVENS - remaining present for over an hour. They initially appeared over Incombe Hole, before playing in the air and tumbling over Steps Hill, then moving to the Beacon and later favouring the eastern slopes. Both birds were adult and one of our local breeding pairs.

Second to that, a single BRAMBLING flew over calling, just 8 Chaffinches in total, 25 Redwings and 44 Fieldfare (Lucy Flower obtaining a nice photograph of the latter - see above) - mostly in Top Scrub

Most interesting was the RED ADMIRAL migration - 7 noted in obvious migration over the Beacon

A pair of Rooks had an interesting altercation with a hunting juvenile Common Kestrel - observing from a distance and then homing in whenever anything was captured and making it drop the catch.

At Wilstone Reservoir, the winter-plumaged WATER PIPIT was still present on the left side of the bund - and the two Whoopers

Monday, 24 October 2011



Strong Southeasterly winds blew all day, associated with clear skies before late afternoon....


Dave Odell, Roy Nye and I put in three hours (1100-1400 hours) overlooking the rough field on the slope above the landfill, but failed in our quest to locate the ringtail Hen Harrier that had been present here on Saturday and Sunday. There were a host of raptors present though, with at least 5 Common Buzzards, 5 Common Kestrels and a Sparrowhawk. Both Great Spotted and Green Woodpeckers were also recorded, 15 Stock Doves, 3 Skylark, 4 Fieldfare and 3 Redwings, whilst a Red Fox was seen several times hunting.


I joined Mike Campbell on the jetty at 1530 and over the next half hour, we enjoyed superb views of a winter-plumaged WATER PIPIT on the left side of the main spit, ranging between 40 and 75 yards from us. A flock of 10 Meadow Pipits were also on the spit, as well as 3 Pied Wagtails, and also a single male Linnet.

Wildfowl present included the pair of Whooper Swans and 7 PINTAILS (4 drakes), whilst the 34 Mute Swans present included the family party of 5 birds (3 of which are marked with orange plastic rings - '033' - adult - and '031' and '032' the two first-years).


All 6 young Mute Swans still survive, with 6 Gadwall present, a female Tufted Duck and 64 Coots. An adult Common Gull was with the Black-headed Gull flock, as well as a juvenile Argenteus Herring Gull, whilst migrants included 25 Redwing, 1 Fieldfare, 1 Lesser Redpoll, 1 Goldcrest and 1 Pied Wagtail

Sunday, 23 October 2011

PEREGRINE at College Lake

Ace local photographer Dave Hutchinson captured this PEREGRINE on film today, as it scattered birds in all directions at College Lake. The drake COMMON SCOTER was also still present

Friday, 21 October 2011



It was very cold overnight, with temperatures dropping down to almost freezing. The light Northwesterly wind continued today, with bright conditions and predominantly clear skies......


Noticeable vizmig first thing, with 4 Skylarks and a Siskin flying west over my garden, as well as one flock of 55 Woodpigeons


Thanks to an early morning call via Pip H, I made my way up to Stewartby Lake, where Keith Owen's find of last night was still present. The juvenile COMMON SCOTER was straight out from the gull watchpoint, roughly in the middle of the lake, diving infrequently and in brief flight on one occasion. It constituted my 184th species of the year and thus taking me to my highest annual score ever in the county (a long way off Andy Plumb's record count of 200 though). MJP, Lol and Bob C were also present.


A dead Badger was at the side of the road by the main car park.

I walked the entire circuit but in the slack NW conditions, virtually nothing was on the move. The highlight was 2 NORTHERN WHEATEARS on the fenceline by the sheep pens, whilst 27 Skylarks and 80 Linnets were in the rough field adjacent.


The highlight was two COMMON RAVENS that were actually lingering in the area. Both very vocal, they were first seen over the Cemetery Corner Poplars before flying east towards Startop's. They then remained in the air for over half an hour, mainly flying over the NW corner of Startop's and over the adjacent horse fields.

Wilstone held 3 Little Grebes, 34 Mute Swans (including the family party, the cygnets being banded with orange rings), the 2 adult Whooper Swans, 134 Wigeon, Teal, 52 Shoveler, 92 Pochard, a pair of RED-CRESTED POCHARD and 147 European Golden Plovers on the bund.


This reservoir is now very low and suitable for waders, etc. There were 3 Great Crested Grebes, 1 Little Egret, 2 Mute Swans and 28 Common Teal.......


Very, very low water level with two emerging gravel islands. No less than 5 RED-CRESTED POCHARDS were present (4 adult drakes), along with 15 Great Crested Grebes, 4 Mute Swans, 55 Wigeon, 16 Teal, 5 Shoveler and 29 Pochard

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Belated SHORT-EARED OWL report

Early morning I had a rock pipit by the jetty which flew to the fields behind the jetty.

A bit later (about 8.45) I was just below the dry canal heading towards Rushy Meadow when I heard a crow. Turning I noticed it was chasing what I initially expected to be a buzzard, however on raising my "bins" I realised it was a short-eared owl coming from the direction of Miswell Farm. It drifted towards "the boathouse" area still with the crow in attendance. I phoned Dave B and Warren (ringing)hoping to get one of them on to the owl however Dave was on the Beacon and Warren had no view due to the trees. The owl started to drift towards Cemetery Corner, however was again pushed by corvids, gained height and drifted towards Wilstone village (Ian Williams)

SCOTER still present

Lucy Flower connected with the College Lake drake COMMON SCOTER this afternoon and obtained the images above

Tuesday, 18 October 2011


The adult drake COMMON SCOTER was still present on College Lake BBOWT today, with a male RING OUZEL near the S-bend at Ivinghoe Beacon

Sunday, 16 October 2011

COMMON SCOTER moves from Wilstone to College Lake

Warren Claydon, Steve Rodwell and Dave Bilcock enjoyed excellent views of this adult drake COMMON SCOTER at Wilstone Reservoir late morning, swimming not far out from the car park steps.....

Not a bad day at College Lake today - the drake COMMON SCOTER from Wilstone ended up spending most of the day on the main lake, obviously feeding well, and was still there at 6pm. Also, 7 NORTHERN PINTAILS (4 drakes), 14 Gadwall, 39 Shoveler, 19 Wigeon, 19 Teal, 54 Pochard and 116 Tufted Duck. Highlight of the day though was a SHORT-EARED OWL which was actually spotted thermaling at around 250 ft with five buzzards. Personally I have never seen anything like this and for a time doubted my ID skills! Good numbers of Fieldfare going through all day, and Redwings around the hedgerows around the reserve (Paul Reed)


Good numbers of Redwing, a Wheatear and 3 Common Stonechat just SE of the Beacon trig point at Ivinghoe this morning (Dave Hutchinson)

14 October - A big Vizmig day

After the huge movement of thrushes and other assorted goodies from Scandinavia into the UK yesterday, I was hoping that today would prove exciting, indeed it was !

Birds were moving in good numbers as soon as I arrived at just gone 7am, I was then joined by Rob Andrews for a good hour and a half. Redwings were pouring in, smaller numbers of Fieldfare, finches, Crossbills etc.

We then picked up a female MERLIN which arrived over Gallows Hill, was harrassed by corvids on the Beacon and then left to the West off of the top of the Beacon. We were probably watching it for about a minute and a half - really good for a Merlin. Next up we watched a RING OUZEL fly across in front of us, out over the valley, strangely it went North-West and went well out beyond the Beacon.

After a brilliant early morning Rob had to go to work ( I picked a good day to take off ) so after another period of watching the migration I bashed around Steps Hill for a bit. A large female Sparrowhawk was seen to take a Redwing, which despite being carried around, on accidentally disturbing it a minute later, the Redwing popped up into a bush.

As I got back to the 'S' bend I heard the flutey call of a WOODLARK - fantastic, it went South-west. A few minutes later I was just going onto the Beacon when I heard a raucous call, it took me a few seconds to translate this into SANDWICH TERN!! Initially I couldn't see it, but then picked it up heading due south, it then joined up with some thermalling BHGulls and went South with them.

About 15 minutes later I was out on Gallows Hill when I heard WOODLARK again, this one I saw quite well, arriving from the East, it left to the South-West. 2 in a morning !!

A brilliant morning (Mike Wallen)

Wednesday, 12 October 2011



A warm day but dominated by spells of light drizzle moving through.......


After failing to locate the Amwell RED KNOT during my visit yesterday afternoon, I returned today after receiving confirmation from Barry Reed and Alan Reynolds that it was still present.....

Although nowhere to be found again on my arrival, it flew in from the south at 1620 hours and landed on the small stony island north of the main wooded island and afforded excellent views from the Tom Gladwin Hide. It quickly began feeding and appeared to be a juvenile and remained in view for at least 20 minutes. After missing the 20-strong flock at Wilstone this autumn, this was awelcome addition to the county year list........

The late COMMON SANDPIPER was still present at the north end, as well as a GREEN SANDPIPER


The two SCANDINAVIAN ROCK PIPITS found by Chaz Jackson and Steve Rodwell at the weekend were both still showing well this evening - on the edge of the spit about 75 yards out from the jetty (see Dave Bilcock's image above).

This SE lagoon was also littered with birdlife feasting on the emergent vegetation, including 696 Coot, 328 Wigeon, 230 Teal, 24 Gadwall, 118 Shoveler and 4 NORTHERN PINTAILS (2 adult drakes), whilst elsewhere on the reservoir were 37 Mute Swans (a pair with 4 first-years being new), 311 Lapwings and 116 EUROPEAN GOLDEN PLOVERS.


There was no sign of the first-winter LITTLE GULL of the past four days (see Dave Hutchinson's excellent shots) but 9 Great Crested Grebes and 22 raft-roosting Pied Wagtails were of note


Whist away on Scilly, local highlights included juvenile ARCTIC TERNS at Little Marlow GP (7-11) and at Wilstone briefly (8th), a COMMON GREENSHANK briefly at Little Marlow, both the RED KNOT and a RUFF at Amwell NR, at least 4 different local Peregrines and the first real influx of autumn Redwings on the Hills.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Feeling very wintery......


Strong Northwesterly winds dominated the weather today, bringing occasional sharp showers interspersed with bright periods. Temperatures have plummeted from recent days.....


Very, very quiet - almost birdless - with just 3 Gadwalls (2 drakes) and 2 KINGFISHERS of note


A waste of time vizmigging - virtually nothing on the move. Highlights were 2 REDWINGS (one in Top Scrub and another in isolated hawthorns just SE of the Beacon trig point) - my first of the autumn and 2 migrating Blue Tits across the peak.......


The water level is starting to rise again and I see from the signs, a breakout of green algae has been registered by the Environment Agency.

For the first time in two months, not a LIttle Egret in sight...

A flock of 11 BARN SWALLOWS and a single HOUSE MARTIN came through, as well as 3 SKYLARKS

Otherwise, 4 Little Grebes, 9 Great Crested Grebes, 33 Mute Swans, the 2 Whooper Swans, 233 Common Teal, 8 Gadwall, 68 Eurasian Wigeon, 9 NORTHERN PINTAIL (1 adult drake), 109 Shoveler and 19 Pied Wagtails

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

GOSHAWK surprise

Very windy up at the beacon this afternoon. Good flocks of titsand Goldfinches, Common Stonechat and Whinchat (see photo above) just SE of the trig point along the fenceline. Pair of Ravens also seen but highlight was a spectacular looking GOSHAWK which took off from the ground in the scrub area near where the Stonechats have been seen. Unfortunately it was the other side of the fence from where I was in the sheep field so I wasn't able to follow it when it flew over the ridge. Didn't see it for long but was very close to it so could appreciate the huge size of it (Dave Hutchinson).

Passage at a crawl


The Chilterns Region was bathed in warm and fairly blustery Southwesterly winds this morning, with a mixture of sunshine and cloud cover......


A hint of some early morning passage came in the form of a Song Thrush and 5 Chaffinches moving over


A Viz-mig watch from 0800-1100 hours proved very poor with just 1 Song Thrush, 6 Common Blackbirds, 75 Meadow Pipits, 55 Chaffinch and 4 Greenfinch being noted. Most bizarre was an adult Mute Swan that flew east across the Beacon Slopes at 0833 - the first I have ever recorded there.

There was a single Common Chiffchaff in scrub just up from the S-bend, 185 Linnets and 35 Skylarks on the tilled field, 30 Goldfinch below the car park and Jay and a pair of Bullfinches in Top Scrub.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Vigil on the Hills.........


The record-breaking weather continued today but according to forecasters, will dramatically change from tonight. Once the sun shone, temperatures climbed to 82 degrees F this afternoon, with blue skies dominating. As the day wore on, the wind increased from the Southwest..........

My attention was drawn to a certain Nearctic crane today in Suffolk but whilst I was making my way up the A12 towards Ipswich, Mark Ward and his partner intercepted the juvenile PALLID HARRIER that Stuart Elsom had seen earlier in Cambridgeshire. They both had great views of it as it followed the line of the Little Barford road southwards..........the first record of this species in the Home Counties


As I left my home in the hours of darkness, two TAWNY OWLS were loudly calling to each other - presumably staking out territories for the coming winter

After enjoying great views of the adult SANDHILL CRANE at Boyton Marshes RSPB early-mid morning and an adult DOTTEREL still retaining breeding plumage, I made my way back to the area to search for the harrier........


Spent many hours just drifting about the hill escarpment just in case the harrier chose to follow the line of the Chiltern Hills.........

There was no sign of Mike's weekend female Ring Ouzel just up from the S-bend, although I did see a male Common Blackbird in that area - perhaps a migrant, Nor was there any sign of the flock of 6 Redwings that MW had seen early morning but the little flock of chats were still present and showing well on the fenceline just SE of the Beacon and trig point - two male and a female COMMON STONECHAT (one of the males photographed by Dave Hutchinson above) and a nice first-year WHINCHAT. Stomping around the area also yielded 85 Meadow Pipits and a single Common Whitethroat but passage was virtually nil, with not a raptor in sight and just 2 Barn Swallows flying south......


Very quiet still, although the water level has stabilised: 8 Great Crested Grebe, 3 Little Grebe, 8 Greylag Geese, 79 Atlantic Canada Geese, 6 Gadwall, 58 Wigeon, 175 Teal, 6 PINTAILS (1 drake), 1 Common Buzzaes, 211 Black-headed Gulls and 5 Lesser Black-backed Gulls.


On Startop's, 6 Great Crested Grebes and the 3 Red-crested Pochards were noted, whilst with Tringford water levels dropping fast, activity there has increased with 6 Little Egrets,1 Great Crested Grebe, 16 Real, 10 Gadwall and 1 Little Grebe present

Brief GREAT WHITE EGRET is weekend highlight

Dave Bilcock and Ian Williams both watched a GREAT WHITE EGRET fly out from its roost at Wilstone Reservoir at 0655 hours on Saturday morning