MONDAY 7 NOVEMBER - LGRE DIARY NOTES
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.....
IVINGHOE HILLS NR (BUCKS)
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
WILSTONE RESERVOIR, TRING (HERTS)
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
UPPER RAY MEADOWS, GALLOWS BRIDGE (WEST BUCKS)
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
CALVERT SAILING LAKE (BUCKS)
The long-staying juvenile COMMON SCOTER was still present, closely hugging the NW bank of reeds
KNOTTING GREEN (NORTH BEDFORDSHIRE)
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