Monday, 28 November 2011

Reservoirs still exceptionally low - a full species inventory


The day dawned with a ground frost, only the second so far this autumn. This was followed by a beautiful day, although the wind soon freshened up from the west and cloud rolled in. By dusk, temperatures had recovered to an unseasonal 13 degrees C.......


The reservoirs are at the lowest end of November levels that I can ever remember, with even all three smaller reservoirs incredibly low (Startop's End in particular). I took the opportunity of undertaking a full wildfowl census with the calm conditions, with most noticeable the massive increase in Northern Pochard numbers. The full inventory is listed below - 55 species -:

Great Crested Grebe (31 including 11 on Wilstone, 5 on Tringford, 12 on Startop's and 3 on Marsworth)
Little Grebe (3 still on Wilstone and 1 on Startop's)
Cormorant (20 roosting on Wilstone, with 8 on Tringford and 11 on Startop's; ringed 'CAU' Carbo was roosting on Tringford)
Grey Heron (just 2 on Wilstone, 2 on Tringford and 2 on Marsworth)
Mute Swan (just 38 birds - all adult type - including 34 on Wilstone, 2 on Tringford and 2 on Startop's; additionally, an adult was freshly dead on the spit, perhaps killed by Fox)
Whooper Swan (both adults present but one bird appeared to be in distress and reluctant to move - both sitting on the mud by the jetty)
**BEWICK'S SWAN (the Wilstone family party of 4 birds still present but particularly mobile today - flying east from the Drayton Lagoon at 1003 only to return shortly later and then landed near to the hide)
Greylag Goose (67 in the fields to the east of Wilstone Reservoir)
Atlantic Canada Goose (7)
**DARK-BELLIED BRENT GOOSE (the long-staying juvenile was on the bund mid-morning and drinking from the edge of Wilstone Reservoir)
*COMMON SHELDUCK (a drake was by the hide on Wilstone) *Interestingly, David Kramer had one at Priory Country Park, Bedford, this morning.
Mallard (162 including 57 on Wilstone, 93 on Startop's and 12 on Marsworth)
GADWALL (major increase with 66 birds counted, including 24 on Wilstone, 6 on Tringford and 36 on Startop's)
*NORTHERN PINTAIL (just 1 drake on Wilstone)
Northern Shoveler (total of 118 counted, including 86 on Wilstone, 10 on Startop's and 22 on Wilstone)
Eurasian Wigeon (nothing like the numbers that once wintered at the reservoirs but 233 on Wilstone and 22 on Startop's)
Common Teal (327 counted: 216 on Wilstone, with 34 on Tringford, 73 on Startop's and 4 on Marsworth)
Northern Pochard (249 birds, mostly drakes: major increase with 137 on Wilstone and 112 on Startop's)
RED-CRESTED POCHARD (the female remains on Wilstone and 4 birds - a female, a first-winter and 2 adult drakes - on Startop's)
Tufted Duck (very poor numbers noted at 104 comprising just 36 on Wilstone, with 16 on Tringford and 52 on Startop's)
COMMON GOLDENEYE (two female-types on Wilstone)
Smew (no sign of yesterday's redhead on Wilstone)
Red Kite (1 west of Wilstone)
Common Kestrel (1 by Tringford Reservoir)
Common Pheasant (6 males walking out on the vegetation at Wilstone)
Moorhen (full census undertaken with 66 birds recorded: 32 on Wilstone, 14 on Tringford, 14 on Startop's and 6 on Tringford)
Common Coot (all click-counted revealing a total of 950 including a decrease to 622 on Wilstone, 52 on Tringford and 276 on Startop's)
EUROPEAN GOLDEN PLOVER (just 6 present on Wilstone)
Lapwing (17 on Wilstone and 3 on Startop's)
*DUNLIN (a full winter-plumaged bird on the mud at Startop's)
*GREEN SANDPIPER (the wintering singleton still present on the mud at Tringford)
Black-headed Gull (114 on Wilstone, 76 on Startop's and 51 on Marsworth)
Common Gull (7 on Wilstone)
Lesser Black-backed Gull (adult on Tringford)

Woodpigeon (massive decrease in numbers with a flock of 200 in cereal crops near Marsworth village)
Collared Dove (2 in Wilstone village and 16 in Marsworth)
**WATER PIPIT (the wintering bird on Wilstone showing very well today in the small bay north of the jetty)
Meadow Pipit (8 on the vegetated fringes of Wilstone)
Pied Wagtail (good numbers around including 21 on Wilstone, 2 on Tringford and 4 on Startop's)
Grey Wagtail (singles on Wilstone and Marsworth)
Wren (Marsworth Wood and Wilstone)
Dunnock (3 birds noted along Watery Lane)
Robin (5 noted - on Wilstone and Marsworth)
Song Thrush (a number of singing males including singles by the hide and in the East Poplars on Wilstone and 2 at Startop's/Marsworth)
Fieldfare (about 40 on the eastern flank of Wilstone)
Common Blackbird (5 present in the former orchard adjacent to the Black Poplars on Wilstone's East Bank)
Blue Tit (3 in Marsworth Reedbed)
Long-tailed Tit (party of 11 birds on Wilstone)
Common Magpie, Carrion Crow, Rook and Jackdaw all noted
Common Starling (34 in fields around Wilstone)
House Sparrow (as usual, only birds a flock of 16 by Startop Farm)
Chaffinch (1 in Marsworth Wood)
LINNET (a flock of 17 feeding on the Wilstone mud with the Meadow Pipits and Pied Wagtails by the jetty)
BULLFINCH (1 in Watery Lane, Marsworth)
Reed Bunting (1 in Marsworth Reedbed)


The female PEREGRINE was sat on the platform at midday


Present from 1230-1300 hours, joined Ken & Sally Earnshaw, Mike Habberfield and his wife and Dave Parmenter in the main car park at Gallows Bridge and enjoyed some real quality birding.....

The two regular HEN HARRIERS - the initial adult female and the small bright juvenile - were both present and showing well - the juvenile on view virtually all of the time. The latter was patrolling the rough field to the west of the main reserve field, as well as the right hand hedgerow, and approached to within 75 yards at one stage whilst the adult kept to the cereal field on the north side of the hedgerow. The second-winter male showed up briefly just after I left (per KE)

Other raptors present included Red Kite, Common Buzzard, Sparrowhawk and 5 Common Kestrels whilst up to 12 COMMON RAVEN present in the main field was bizarre. They all eventually flew off towards Waddesdon. The increase in this species in our region is nothing short of remarkable.

A flock of 35 Linnets and 7 Skylarks was also to be seen and a male Bullfinch on teasels by the entrance track

Nearby, 2 SHORT-EARED OWLS were showing well near Westcott

Talking of the latter, I returned early afternoon to a site in central Bedfordshire where I and another local observer were treated once more to an incredible display by up to 10 hunting SHORT-EARED OWLS. These birds have been present for just over a week now but are wintering on land earmarked for an astonishing 5,000 new homes ! A further 4 individuals are also present in the Brogborough area - by far the most I have ever seen in the county at one time and testament to the numbers currently wintering in Britain following the exceptional breeding season. The two female-type MERLINS were also still around.

A single Little Egret was south of the Kempston Bypass on the larger pit.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

More shots from today

Good views of Smew, Goldeneye and Dark-bellied Brent Goose this morning with Mic & Jan Wells and Tony Hukin.

Brent in field near dry canal but flushed by noisy joggers. Managed a shot on ground before it took off and a grabbed flight shot attached (Francis Buckle).

More of today's images

John Foster captured these images today of the 59 European Golden Plover and the exceptionally long-staying juvenile PALE-BELLIED BRENT GOOSE

Sunday birding - SMEW still

It was a beautifully still, crisp late afternoon at the reservoir. I was greeted by a flock of c50 Fieldfare at cemetery corner. The redhead SMEW was still showing well, favouring the west corner, by the overflow. She was being harassed occasionally by Blackheaded Gulls and more so as the gulls came in to roost. A small flock of Linnets (c8-12) landed on the mud (west corner), joining the dozen or more Pied Wagtails in the area. The BEWICK'S SWAN family were still on the pool to the right of the hide. I wasn't able to check on the other significant species but I did have a close encounter with a Sparrowhawk in the wooded area (east corner of the reservoir) as I headed home at dusk (4:15pm). It flew within about 5 metres of me and off South across the fields. Attached is this evening's record shot of the Smew and, for a splash of colour, a Shoveler! - LUCY FLOWER

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Dave finds a redhead SMEW

In addition to the long-staying BEWICK'S SWAN herd and the juvenile DARK-BELLIED BRENT GOOSE, Wilstone Reservoir this late afternoon has a redhead SMEW on view (per Dave Bilcock)

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Today's News - little change

This morning the Brent Goose was still in the Dry Canal filed and the four Bewick’s Swans were still on the lagoon to the right of the hide. Also a male Goldeneye was on the lagoon closest to the east corner (Roy Hargreaves)

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Longest-staying BRENT GOOSE ever !

This morning the Brent Goose was being very co-operative – see attached pic. Also the Bewick’s Swans were still on the lagoon to the right of the hide. Also male and two female RCPs on Startops.

I should have mentioned that the Water Pipit was on the Bucks section of Startops yesterday. Today a less complete walk round didn’t allow me time to find it today – assuming it was where I could see it anyway of course (Roy Hargreaves)

Monday, 21 November 2011

Today's News

This morning I had a quick look at all four reservoirs. Brent Goose was still in field by Dry Canal, Bewick’s Swan family were on lagoon to the right of the hide. Water Pipit was on Startopsend Res as were a male and two female Red-crested Pochard. Marsworth and Tringford held little of note (Roy Hargreaves)

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Blanket of FOG

After a hectic week it was good to get out this morning. Not being put off by the fog covering the vale and reservoirs I decided to head up the Beacon where it was one of those fabulous morning when you look out over a sea of mist. Watching the sun rise, casting the mist a warm orange colour makes it well worth the effort of getting up early! Dave Bilcock

No change

This morning the juvenile DARK-BELLIED BRENT GOOSE was still in the field between the two paths down from the Dry Canal. The four BEWICK'S SWANS were still on the isolated lagoon by the hide. The WATER PIPIT was also in the jetty area and 5+ Dunlin were about and a Little Egret flew over and seemed to head towards Tringford (Roy Hargreaves)

Friday, 18 November 2011

Much the same

Roy Hargreaves obtained this excellent shot of the long-staying juvenile DARK-BELLIED BRENT GOOSE this morning. The family party of 4 BEWICK'S SWANS were also still present, 2 drake PINTAILS but no sign of the White-front

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Nothing new today

This morning I was able to walk round properly to find that little had changed. Water Pipit still by jetty, White-fronted Goose still in field by jetty (see Francis Buckle's image above) and on reservoir, 4 Bewick’s Swans still on isolated lagoon by hide and Brent Goose still, but in field between the two paths down from the dry canal – by the old orchard.

Also 14 Red-legged Partridge in field below Dry Canal and 8 in field above Dry Canal. Presumably they had a good breeding season near Wilstone at least (Roy Hargreaves)

Wednesday, 16 November 2011


Dave Hutchinson got some nice images of the adult EURASIAN WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE today at Wilstone; interestingly, what may have been a different adult was seen at Tyttenhanger GP today

BEWICK'S SWAN family group continue to grace cut-off pool in NW corner

Just to follow up on Ian's post, the EURASIAN WHITE-FRONT was still present between about 9:30 and 10am, although it seemed rather restless. Francis Buckle and I watched it make a couple of sorties over towards Marsworth/Tringford Reservoirs, before circling back to the water in cemetery corner. The BEWICK'S SWAN family were settled in the lagoon in the West corner (a few record shots attached). From the hide, looking right, the 5 Dunlin were still out on the mud, mixed in with 100+ Golden Plover. Francis and I didn't check on the Brent Goose (Lucy Flower)

This morning at Wilstone

A flying visit first thing before work provided the adult EURASIAN WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE in the field behind the jetty with the greylag flock, 5 Dunlin on the spit and the family party of 4 BEWICK'S SWANS (Ian Williams)

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

BAR-WIT does an overnight bunk whilst a single WHITE-FRONT arrives this afternoon


Up and out at dawn in the hope of connecting with Chaz Jackson's Bar-Wit of last night (I had missed every one in April and May). As it was, it had departed overnight.......

It was a beautiful day, unbelievable for mid November, with SE winds bringing a ridge of high pressure accompanied by both clear blue skies and wall-to-wall sunshine; temperatures reached a balmy 16 degrees C.....


I made two visits today - one from 0715-0815 and another from 1445-1700 hours. These were my observations.........

Great Crested Grebe (11)
Little Grebe (a first-winter under the bridge on the canal at Drayton Beauchamp)
Atlantic Great Cormorant (adult ringed 'CAU' roosting on bund - see Dave Bilcock's image above)
Cormorants, presumably Sinensis (22 on bund)
Mute Swan (37 present, including 1 first-winter)
Whooper Swan (usual two adults)
*BEWICK'S SWAN (the family party of 4 still present and this afternoon favouring the cut-off pool in the NW corner)
*EURASIAN WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE (flew in from the east mid-afternoon and joined the 65 Greylag Geese on the bund; it was a full adult with strong underpart blotching, an extensive white forehead blaze, deep orange legs and a pale pink bill)
Greylag Geese (flock of 65)
*DARK-BELLIED BRENT GOOSE (the juvenile that first arrived on Sunday was still present in exactly the same place in the grass field adjacent to Rushy Meadow, best viewed from the Dry Canal)
Gadwall (3)
Northern Shoveler (127)
Eurasian Wigeon (282)
Common Teal (151)
NORTHERN PINTAIL (just 1 drake again)
Northern Pochard (106)
Tufted Duck (38)
Common Goldeneye (4 female-types still present)
*PEREGRINE (at first light, a male made several stoops at the wader flock before being chased off by the resident sub-adult Lesser Black-backed Gull)
Red-legged Partridge (Roy had a covey of 14 in fields by the Dry Canal)
Coot (614 on Wilstone)
European Golden Plover (same flock - 411 click-counted still)
Lapwing (389)
DUNLIN (4 this morning and 5 this evening on the bund)
Black-headed Gull (post-roost flock of 311)
Common Gull (single adult with the Black-heads)
Pied Wagtail (12)
Meadow Pipit (26)


A Green Woodpecker was yaffling from the Black Poplars whilst 74 CORN BUNTINGS roosted


Very quiet and no sign of any Bewick's Swans - the main marsh held 10 Mute Swans, 105 Wigeon and 14 Gadwall


Two LITTLE EGRETS present this morning, in trees just east of Bois Mill

Monday, 14 November 2011

BAR-TAILED GODWIT at Wilstone this evening

Had time to visit Wilstone late afternoon as it was getting very gloomy. There was a Bar-tailed Godwit asleep amongst the Golden Plover Flock on the spit. Also 2 Dunlin present. 4 Bewick Swans still present (2 ads, 2 juvs) and the 2 Whoopers. The Water Pipit was about and 150 plus flock of Fieldfare went over. The Dark-bellied Brent was present in the fields behind the Reservoir. A flock of 12 Redpolls in the garden I was working in near Berkhamsted nr Shooters Way (Charlie Jackson)

BEWICK'S SWANS still present early morning, and DBBG

Everything from yesterday was still there – at first. The Brent Goose was in the same field as on Saturday. I actually saw it fly a bit this morning and there appears to be nothing wrong with it. The 10 Bewick’s were also still present when I first arrived and were flying around at 7:45, but settled again. However at 8:15 six of them flew off towards Tringford/College Lake – it was grey and overcast this morning and visibility wasn’t too good. The four other Bewick’s remained until about 8:50 and then flew off in a south-easterly direction (seen from by Rushy so may also have stayed local). Also saw an adult Peregrine on the mud and Water Pipit by jetty. Also five Dunlin together from the jetty with the Golden Plover (Roy Hargreaves)

Sunday, 13 November 2011

More images from today - John Foster

BEWICK'S SWANS (Ian Bennell)

More BEWICK'S SWAN images from today (Sally Douglas)

Another arrival - BEWICK'S SWANS


Continuing very unseasonally mild (17 degrees C) with long bright periods and light SE winds......


Undoubted highlight today were a herd of 10 BEWICK'S SWANS (7 adults, 3 juveniles) which arrived from the east over College Lake (Paul Reed) before eventually settling close to the Drayton Bank on Wilstone at 0945 hours (Steve Rodwell et al). Dave Bilcock and I managed to see them shortly later, all 10 still present at 1015 hours. In fact, Ian Bennell and Dave Hutchinson saw them much later, DH obtaining the nice images above....

Otherwise, it was the same as yesterday, with the juvenile DARK-BELLIED BRENT GOOSE still feeding in the grass field just west of Rushy Meadow

Saturday, 12 November 2011

And finally a DARK-BELLIED BRENT GOOSE......


At first thing this morning, the Chiltern area was bathed in a blanket of dense fog. This has followed some intense rain overnight. Winds were once again in the SE, fairly light and warm. At around 0930 hours, the fog started to lift and giving way to bright periods.

It was another eventful day on the local birding front with some excellent birds being found. Before I had even left the house, Steve Heath had watched 4 Common Cranes fly NE over Southill, and whilst mapping out my route for the day, Roy Hargreaves did it for me by finding a DARK-BELLIED BRENT GOOSE.......


A single LITTLE EGRET was present as I drove past

(0945-1300 hours)

I parked up at Drayton Beauchamp bridge at 0945 hours and walked eastwards along the canal towpath. I could see the Brent almost immediately but obtained the best views after walking 250 yards along. The bird, a rather tired-looking juvenile DARK-BELLIED BRENT GOOSE, was feeding on the grass in the large field adjacent to Rushy Meadow, two fields north of the Dry Canal. It was less than 40 yards from Buckinghamshire! For some of the time, it stood up and fed, but in the main, sat down and munched voraciously on the blades of grass. It was very alert though, always keeping an eye on people, dogwalkers and the odd Common Buzzard flying over. It also got quite spooked when a Black-headed Gull landed next to it and snatched some grubs from the ground. With its indistinct off-white neckring, pale mantle and clear-cut wing-bars, it could easily be aged as a juvenile.

In the 90 minutes that I stood there watching it from the canal (and beckoning it over the border), just 6 birders came and went - RH, Chaz Jackson, Mike Campbell, Francis Buckle, Ian Williams and David Bilcock - Dave of course obtaining the two images published above. A welcome Herts Yeartick considering how many have passed through the London Area this past week.

The fields either side of the Dry Canal were surprisingly plentiful in farmland species, with a flock of 60 Fieldfare noted, 3 Mistle Thrush, 4 Bullfinch, 8 Yellowhammer, 25 Meadow Pipit, 9 Linnet, 30 Goldfinch and 27 Skylark. A Sparrowhawk also whizzed through.

A comprehensive check of WILSTONE RESERVOIR failed once again to yield any sign of Steve Blake's Thursday Twite. The rollcall included 30 Mute Swans, the 2 adult Whooper Swans, 65 Greylag Geese, 4 Gadwall, 238 Eurasian Wigeon, 90 Common Teal, 65 Shoveler and 92 Northern Pochard and highlighted in 5 NORTHERN PINTAILS (2 adult drakes, a first-winter drake and 2 females), a RED-CRESTED POCHARD, 5 female COMMON GOLDENEYE, 411 European Golden Plovers, a single DUNLIN, 2 Common Snipe and the wintering WATER PIPIT.

The neighbouring reservoirs were at the lowest water levels in decades, with Marsworth even now falling dramatically. TRINGFORD RESERVOIR held 2 Great Crested Grebes, 2 Mute Swans, several Teal and Shoveler and 28 Tufted Duck, whilst STARTOP'S END RESERVOIR produced 14 Great Crested Grebes, 4 Mute Swans, 14 Canada Geese, 5 Gadwall, 65 Teal, 15 Pochard, 11 Shoveler and 3 RED-CRESTED POCHARDS (1 adult drake, 1 adult female and a first-winter female).

MARSWORTH RESERVOIR added 4 Great Crested Grebes, a single Mute Swan, 27 Shoveler and 4 WATER RAILS feeding in the open on the mud; a Wren was in full song.


Although frustratingly unbeknown to me I drove past a flock of 15 Pintail at Grovebury Pit (perhaps the largest county flock in over two decades), Brogborough Lake did not disappoint. Joining Bob Chalkley on the bank in front of the windsurfing centre at the east end, the two of us very quickly latched on to the 3 BLACK-NECKED GREBES found earlier by Neil Wright. They were in amongst a large raft of Coot. Somewhat surprisingly, they constituted the first in the county this year and represented my 188th county species of 2011. Initially, they were visible about half way down the lake but as a shooting party arrived on the north shore and started blasting Mallards on the water to death, virtually every bird on the lake became unsettled.

Minutes earlier, as I started to count the Coot flock, I was somewhat surprised to see a juvenile GREAT NORTHERN DIVER surface in my 'scope view - another first for the year. This bird proceeded to swim towards the east end of the pit, affording both Bob and I some excellent views. Unlike some individuals, it dived and surfaced after a relatively short space of time and was initially easy to keep on. Literally seconds before the shooting began, Lol Carman waltzed up and managed a couple of views in my 'scope but then we lost it for some time, BC eventually relocating it down the southern flank of the lake. It was then seen on and off throughout the afternoon and was still there when I left the site at 1445 hours.

After eventually finishing the Coot count (256 birds incidentally), I concentrated on counting the other wildfowl present on the lake, including 13 Great Crested Grebes, 117 Tufted Duck, 198 Northern Pochard, a pair of RED-CRESTED POCHARD and 9 COMMON GOLDENEYE (including 3 drakes).


Gypsy Lane Pits yielded 230 Greylag Geese and a single Barnacle Goose but it wasn't until I spoke with SCB that I realised that the geese I had driven over to see were not with them. In fact, the party of 10 EUROPEAN WHITE-FRONTED GEESE were sitting in the large grassy field immediately east of the G & M Growers site to the north of the main road. They comprised a family party of 2 adults and 8 juveniles - the largest single brood of White-fronts I have ever seen in the UK. The same field also harboured a covey of 10 GREY PARTRIDGES

Thursday, 10 November 2011

MEGA - TWITE makes brief visit to Wilstone


It was another mild day today with the wind still blowing from the south. It was also fairly misty first thing before the sun shone through, giving way to clearer skies


With CDRH phoning me on a daily basis with 'another' batch of Dark-bellied Brent Geese at Queen Mother Reservoir, I visited Wilstone in the hope that one may have made landfall there, particularly as Herts has been largely devoid of this species in 2011. As suspected, there were none, and in fact virtually nothing different from what has been there on recent days.....

The WATER PIPIT was still present in the bay just to the north of the jetty, as well as the party of 10 Meadow Pipits - and with them was what I assumed to be the single Linnet noted on previous occasions and first recorded on 24 October. I had heard it fly around with the pipits and casually glanced at it with the naked eye but had not actually looked at it in the bins' or 'scope. I was therefore mightily annoyed when Steve Blake rang not long after I had departed to say that he was watching a single TWITE ! If only I had not assumed that it was the long-staying Linnet and actually followed it up.

Frustratingly, the most frequently uttered call-notes of Twite are those most readily confused with Linnet and those sweet sounds uttered which actually gave this species its name are in the minority, especially outside of summer and the breeding grounds - and hence why I never picked up on its significance. A lesson truly learned

Steve kept on the Twite for several minutes, as it loosely associated with the Meadow Pipit flock close to the jetty on the east bank. On the deck, it kept largely to itself - preferring to feed on the emergent weedy vegetation higher up the 'beach' whilst the pipits mainly kept to the mud. As I was talking Steve through various pointers, the bird suddenly took flight. It called several times again and was then lost from view - the entire flock disappearing out into the fields of Cemetery Corner. Despite a long vigil, it was not seen again, nor the Meadow Pipit flock.

An excellent record Steve but I am hugely frustrated at overlooking it. Just goes to show that single birds can be replaced in exactly the same location and in exactly the same circumstances.....

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

First WAXWINGS of the autumn

I was very pleasantly surprised by the arrival of 4 BOHEMIAN WAXWINGS whilst out birding this morning. They arrived from the East and alighted on the tall trees fairly close to the main car park. They moved from tree to tree for about 5 minutes before flying off West. However, as I walked down towards the S-bend, I saw them circle back round and onto Steps Hill. I managed the two records shots above. They were in the area for at least 20 minutes. It was also nice to see a couple of Nuthatches in the area (Lucy Flower)

Monday, 7 November 2011


Just so that people are aware. The Water Pipit was still present by the jetty yesterday morning and three Dunlin were with the Golden Plover as well.

Saturday Ian W and I saw a flock of 13 Bullfinch over the hide meadow. This may be normal on the beacon area, but I don’t recall seeing a flock this big by the reservoirs. No doubt someone will have seen a larger flock at some time, but I haven’t!

Roy Hargreaves

RING OUZELS in the gloom

No sign of the Snow Bunting this morning but it could still be there. Conditions on top are really awful with low drizzly cloud, visibility down to 10 metres at times, along with a raging North-Easterly. On top of all that there were about 100 sheep around the trig which probably wouldn't help.

There were 2 RING OUZELS grounded in the conditions, 1 in bushes on the South-East slope ( not seen ), only chacking. The other I accidentally flushed near the trig, it then went to bushes near to the top of the South-West slope up to the trig, but then flew down the west side towards the road.

Little else of note other than a single Brambling arriving before dawn, mainly because I couldn't see anything up there !

Mike Wallen

No Snow Bunting in dense fog


Well I felt pretty depressed last night. After showing well for about four hours yesterday, the Ivinghoe Beacon Snow Bunting decided to go awol just as I rolled up on site yesterday afternoon, and despite searching for the next 90 minutes with the two young Perfect brothers, the bird was nowhere to be found - it had presumably moved on due to the pressure of dogwalkers and Sunday strollers. Two drab first-winter RING OUZELS in neighbouring scrub were scant compensation.......

Well today dawned grey and drizzly and with the wind still in the east (it had veered from NE to SSE) I returned first thing to the Hills.....


I was faced with thick fog early morning but despite that, there was enough visibility at the Beacon trig point to see that the Snow Bunting was not there. In fact it was dead, just 1 Song Thrush and 3 Goldcrests


Very little change since my last visit of about a week ago, although the water level had risen slightly...

The EUROPEAN GOLDEN PLOVER flock had risen dramatically - from around 180 to 411 - but otherwise it was standard fare.......

The 4 Little Grebes, 7 Great Crested Grebes, 36 Mute Swans, the 2 adult Whooper Swans, 62 Greylag Geese, just 78 Wigeon, 113 Common Teal, 42 Shoveler, 10 Gadwall, 1 drake PINTAIL, 44 Pochard, just 27 Tufted Duck and 10 Meadow Pipits


Following up on Warren's message, I arrived at Gallows Bridge reserve at 1000 hours and departed at just after 1100 hours. In that hour, Warren's HEN HARRIER was intermittently in view, occasionally sitting on top of the hedgerow but generally hunting up and down over the large weedy fields that border the northern perimeter of the reserve. It was constantly harassed by Carrion Crows and to escape their attacks, repeatedly had to resort to sitting on the ground or hedgerow. In flight, it showed five splayed primary 'fingers' and not four and hence quickly eliminated Pallid Harrier, of which there is an unprecedented influx at present. It was also very pale on the underparts, with the saturated breast streaking on a whitish background, and exhibited clear pale covert patches on each upperwing. It appeared to be an adult female. The broad white rump was clearly seen and the strongly barred uppertail. It was also a heavy bird in flight, with broad-based wings.

A single COMMON RAVEN was also in the vicinity, as well as Common Kestrel, Sparrowhawk and Common Buzzard, whilst a flock of 125 European Golden Plover wheeled overhead and spooked farmland birds included 36 Skylarks and 260 Common Starlings.

The Hen Harrier could be seen from either the first hide or the main car park


The long-staying juvenile COMMON SCOTER was still present, closely hugging the NW bank of reeds


Thanks to Steve Blain, I drove as far north as I could go in Bedfordshire and spent the entire afternoon in a damp and bleak landscape of Knotting Green. Light conditions were very poor as mizzle drifted in and out of the valley, whilst underfoot was wet and muddy. I stood at the derelict barn about half a mile south of the road from 1300 hours but it was not until three hours later that I succeeded in my goal - the ringtail HEN HARRIER finally appearing at 1605 hours. The bird appeared high from the south and dropped down into the valley and began hunting over the densely scattered small bushes behind the line of taller trees. At one point, it flushed a female Common Pheasant, and chased it briefly, before dropping down presumably to roost after about ten minutes of flight. It was a very dark chocolate-brown individual on the upperparts and was boldly and very heavily streaked on the underparts. There was little contrast in the wing coverts, with the white rump patch broad and conspicuous and the ringtail characteristically rimmed buff. These features all suggested a juvenile.........I was delighted, after dipping Neil Wright's bird on three occasions, I had at last connected and the long trip and stakeout had been well worthwhile

In all of the time that I was present at the site, there was little else to keep one occupied - no Great Grey Shrike, Short-eared or Barn Owls just 4 Bullfinch, 18 Greenfinch, 3 Reed Buntings, male Common Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, 5 Song Thrush, 30 Redwing and about 100 Fieldfare

ATLANTIC GREAT CORMORANT back for its 7th winter

On Sunday morning, the regular wintering ATLANTIC GREAT CORMORANT (CUA) from NE Scotland was back on Tringford Reservoir. It was present amongst the roosting cormorants on the exposed shore (middle bird in the below above). This is now the 7th winter this bird has returned to Tring (David Bilcock).


Ian Malin and Dave Hutchinson stumbled upon this extremely confiding SNOW BUNTING at the trig point on Ivinghoe Beacon on Sunday morning and despite a constant flurry of dogwalkers and joggers, continued to show well until early afternoon. Dave Bilcock managed these two excellent shots but frustratingly the bird got pushed about in the afternoon and disappeared at about 1430 hours. LGRE arrived at around 1500 hours, and along with Daniel Perfect and his brother searched extensively until dusk without success. Two RING OUZELS were scant compensation.....

Saturday, 5 November 2011


Wilstone: A GREY PLOVER flew over ca.08:40 which unfortunately did not join the large number of Ruropean Golden Plovers resting on the mud from the hide.

College Lake: an adult MEDITERRANEAN GULL was present in the roost as well as single GBB and YELLOW-LEGGED GULL (Dave Bilcock)