Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Nothing new

This morning nothing new noted. The pair of Red-crested Pochards were still on Startops. The Brent Goose was in its normal field and the Water Pipit was by the jetty. The Smew was by the new overflow and 3+ Little Egrets were present (Roy Hargreaves)

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

MANDARIN on Marsworth

An early start at Marsworth meant that tawny Owl was still singing and I watched 10 Corn Buntings leaving the roost. Also a male Mandarin flew round before flying between the trees and above the path towards Tring.

At Wilstone the Brent Goose was in the goose field. The Water Pipit was by the jetty and flew along the bank towards the north corner. The Smew was still present near the west corner. Also 3 Little Egrets were mobile

Roy Hargreaves

Young Lucy finally connects with the Water End Meadows WATER PIPIT

At long last the Water Pipit and I were in the same place at the same time today. An enjoyable hour or so at Water End. I stopped off at the road bridge just before Nettledon Road to check that area first. 1 Kingfisher (and possibly a second bird); 1 Common Snipe; 3 Red-legged Partridge; 1 Little Egret, a handful of Teal and a pair of Canada Geese. Also, at least 6 Brown Hares in the fields beyond the river (see attached for interest). I then made my way round to the Wyevale garden centre and walked back towards Nettleden Road. I enjoyed watching a little Treecreeper sing and feed, and noted 15 Fieldfare flyover. Making my way further down river, I could hear Fieldfare/Redwing and came to the large arable field which runs parallel with the river. It was heaving with Thrushes. A rough estimate would be around 150-200 Fieldfare and Redwing. A larger percen tage being Fieldfare.

I finally made it to the little foot-bridge and there it was....stood feeding the shallows....the WATER PIPIT. Unfortunately, my approach must have alerted it and it flew back up river, which was my way home anyway. I caught up with it again in the shallows by the bridge near the Wyevale garden centre. No chance of any decent photos unfortunately but I was very happy to have had a good look at it (Lucy Flower Birding)

Monday, 27 February 2012

Spring waders


Perhaps not as warm as during the weekend but still mild for the time of year, with temperatures reaching 11 degrees C. Very grey and overcast throughout and as dusk approached, some light rain fell.

Most of today was spent birding the Three Counties, concentrating mainly on those waders that have returned in recent days. I added four species to my Bucks Year List and just two to my Beds. Also spent time surveying Rookeries......


A male Song Thrush was in full song whilst 16 LESSER REDPOLL were still in the vicinity. The Rookery at LOWER PYEBUSHES WOOD held 47 active nests (at SU 963 896)

The gull flock was not able to settle in the hour that I was there but included just 400 Black-headed, 170 predominantly juvenile Herring, just 5 Lesser Black-back and 1 adult Great Black-back. There was no sign of the two Iceland Gulls from yesterday.

Red Kites were conspicuous by their absence, just 5 lingering around.


A bumper showing of waterfowl, suggesting that many had moved in from surrounding waters.

Most notable were GREAT CRESTED GREBE and GADWALL. Two pairs of grebe had arrived and no less than 62 Gadwall - one of the highest counts I have ever had there. There were also 4 COMMON TEAL (2 pairs).

Other species noted included 4 Little Grebes, 5 Mute Swans (the resident pair now nest-building and three of last year's young), 24 Tufted Duck and 58 Coot, whilst large numbers of roosting/washing gulls included an adult GREAT BLACK-BACKED (first record this year in my Recording Area), a local record 22 HERRING (90% juvenile), 12 Common and 96+ Black-headed.

Three Red Kites were lingering, Grey Wagtail, a singing male Song Thrush, Long-tailed & Blue Tit, 3 Goldfinch, Common Kestrel, a male SISKIN, Mistle Thrush and 3 singing male COMMON TREECREEPERS.


The Shardeloes Rookery numbered 13 active nests whilst that by the railway in Holloway Lane, Chesham (at SU 973 998) held 17; the Chessbury colony (at SP 957 013) held 16 and that in Chesham Vale at SP 962 023 numbered 33.


The pair of GREAT CRESTED GREBES present since January had relocated to the east end of the larger lake, with 2 first-year Mute Swans, 7 Northern Pochard, 9 Tufted Duck and 8 Coots also present.

Chris Pontin had seen up to 6 Reed Buntings here in recent days but there was no sign today.

On neighbouring POW WOW LAKE, the adult pair of Mute Swans was present and a male BLACKCAP was in quiet subsong in some dense ivy.


A large flock of winter thrushes feeding east of Hastoe Lane, including 240 Redwings and 40 Fieldfares.


College Lake yielded both OYSTERCATCHER and COMMON REDSHANK, single pairs of both having just arrived after wintering on the coast. The 'Oycs' were piping and displaying on the main island of the deep lake whilst the Redshanks were on the main marsh. Up to 8 COMMON SNIPES were on the marsh, as well as 18 Mute Swans, 9 Teal, 2 drake Shoveler, 57 Tufted Duck, 25 Pochard, 13 Wigeon, 48 Lapwing and a pair of Stock Doves.


At MARSWORTH, a single BITTERN was in the reedbed, along with a COMMON SNIPE, with 6 Great Crested Grebes, 1 first-year Mute Swan, 19 Shoveler, Green Woodpecker, 2 Grey Wagtails and a singing male Common Treecreeper also being recorded.

College's pair of Red-crested Pochard had relocated to STARTOP'S END, where 3 Great Crested Grebes, 5 Mute Swans, 31 Tufted Duck and 17 Pochard remained.

The extensive vegetated fringe held 6 Linnets and 8 Pied Wagtails, the latter perhaps migrants.

The first-year DARK-BELLIED BRENT GOOSE was still feeding away on the grass field towards Cemetery Corner on WILSTONE, with 77 Greylag Geese in tow and 2 adult Mute Swans.

Duck numbers were well down on my last visit with just 22 Wigeon remaining, 3 Mute Swans, 220 Teal, 10 Gadwall, 26 Shoveler, 38 Tufted Duck and 42 Pochard. The redhead SMEW was on here, as well as adult drake and female Common Goldeneye; 16 Great Crested Grebes were counted and active Grey Heron nests on the Drayton Bank now numbered 9.


I stopped off in Aylesbury and was delighted to find the female PEREGRINE sitting right inside the chamber, perhaps indicating that she is about to breed for the first time; the male was perched nearby.


Three noted, with two close together in Woodham and another just east of Kingswood Lane (all in SP 69 18).


A flock of 25 EUROPEAN GOLDEN PLOVERS flew over heading NW whilst after a lot of effort, I finally tracked down a recently-arrived male EURASIAN CURLEW (in the horse field opposite the entrance to the reserve). Three Brown Hares were in the vicinity.


The Rookery alongside the A418 south of Rowsham held a total of 12 active nests.


I decided to spend the rest of the afternoon in Bedfordshire, again searching for waders. First off, I checked 100 Acre Meadow, where 400 yards east of the bridge were 105 BARNACLE GEESE, the single long-staying PINK-FOOTED GOOSE and 5 EGYPTIAN GEESE.

A Sparrowhawk and Grey Wagtail were also seen.


No less than 307 BARNACLE GEESE were on the meadow and with them showing well, I decided to take the opportunity and read the red plastic rings. Over half of the flock seem to be ringed and I can confirm the continued survival of UB and BA (a pair), JA, CV, UN, UV, DF, DE, PH, PZ, CC, CJ, PB, NK, NS, FT, NV, AL, KZ, KH, KP, CB, CE and JP (incidentally in the order of each ring I read).

Dovecote Lake held 4 Great Crested Grebes, 4 Mute Swans, 86 Wigeon, 8 Shoveler, 56 Tufted Duck and 3 COMMON SHELDUCKS, whilst waders included an OYSTERCATCHER (my first of the year) and 4 Common Redshanks. A group of 7 Pied Wagtails was feeding on one of the islands.

The Riverside Walk produced both Green & Great Spotted Woodpeckers, 4 singing male Song Thrushes, a charm of 27 Goldfinch and a very nasal and wheezing male Greenfinch.

At DEREK WHITE'S PIT, Steve Blain's Black-tailed Godwit was long gone - just 7 Little Grebes worthy of note from there. Nearby GYPSY LANE PITS at BROOM produced my first local pair of RINGED PLOVERS of the year.

The last hour of daylight was spent searching for Golden Plover and Barn Owl but as usual, I failed to find either

Water End Meadows WATER PIPIT

Finally caught up with the WATER PIPIT this afternoon after searching for well over an hour. It eventually turned in the stream near the road bridge. It was feeding along with a small group of Teal until they got
spooked and the Pipit disappeared at the same time. Couldn't get that close to it but record shot attached.

Dave Hutchinson

Saturday, 25 February 2012

RUFF today at College

Paul Reed recorded a RUFF on the bund at College Lake BBOWT today

Meanwhile, nothing new at the reservoirs, but everything still about - the redhead SMEW, BRENT, SNOW BUNTING, 2 BITTERNS and WATER PIPIT

The WATER PIPIT is still at Water End too

Lucy Flower took these nice shots of the Wilstone Water Pipit today as it associated with Meadow Pipits in the East Fields

Friday, 24 February 2012

Status Quo

This morning Wilstone was hosting the Brent Goose and Water Pipit and two Little Egrets. Startops held the Smew and Marsworth had two Bitterns walking the edges of the reeds and also in flight.

This evening the Wilstone gull roost was more noteworthy for its wildfowl than the gulls. It seems that most if not all of the diving duck that spend the day on Startops fly to Wilstone to roost. Surprisingly the Smew flew into Wilstone with them. Also at dusk a drake Goosander flew in from the north.

Roy Hargreaves

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

BITTERNS showing

This morning at Wilstone the Brent Goose was in the usual field and the Water Pipit as by the jetty. Also two Little Egrets were about and two female Pintail were new in.

Startops had the redhead Smew still and the Snow bunting was being elusive or was just not there while I was.

Reassuringly Marsworth had three Bitterns today so presumably they all survived the very cold period. Since the water has only crept into the edges of the reeds they can be almost as easy to see as when it was icy – although like then they don’t show all the time. They definitely seemed to be favouring the edges of the reeds and so were visible most of the time I was there and in both the Bucks and Herts reed beds. Also it was nice to get prolonged flight views in broad daylight (Roy Hargreaves)

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

A day of death and destruction


A touch milder today, with temperatures climbing to 8 degrees C. Dry throughout, although a little light drizzle in the WSW wind as nightfall approached

Another local day birding today, concentrating on repeat visits after the ice has melted. Sadly, death was the general theme of the day, with a number of dead creatures recorded. I finally added Lesser Redpoll too to my 2012 Hertfordshire List......

In LITTLE CHALFONT (BUCKS), a Sparrowhawk flew parallel with Stanley Hill first thing

Then, driving between Amersham and Beaconsfield on the A 355, firstly I saw a dead BADGER near Brentford Grange at SU 956 949 and then a dead COMMON BUZZARD by Birchen Spring Wood at SU 953 924 - both road casualties.


Around 2,000 gulls were present from 0900 hours involving mostly Black-headed Gulls. A single adult CASPIAN GULL alighted briefly but nothing else of interest was seen - the flock including 11 Common Gulls, still 300 or more Herring Gulls, just 15 Lesser Black-backed Gulls and 7 Great Black-backed Gulls.

I did a Carrion Crow count (261) just before the regular guy in his red Toyota Hi Lux released his Gyrfalcon x Saker on proceedings. The bird incredibly quickly singled a first-year Argenteus Herring Gull out from the flock and continuously harassed it. The young bird flew lower and lower into the empty pan adjacent and was completely isolated from the rest of the flock (which scattered in all directions incidentally). It made a number of desperate cries and repeatedly tried to outwit the falcon but by twisting and turning, the Gyr cross gradually forced the gull deeper and deeper into the pit and into trouble. Next minute the falcon had made contact, smashing the head of the gull and seemingly blinding it. The Herring then lost all sense of balance and was struck again several times before falling quickly to the ground. The powerful falcon followed and tussled on the ground, the two birds rolling over and over in contact. There was repeated blows to the head and neck but the gull just kept on struggling and attempting to escape. The attempt to relinquish its prey of life went on for nearly 10 minutes, eventually the bird of prey's owner racing down to retrieve it. I watched him humanely destroy the gull before rewarding the bird for its work. The Gyr then stood tall on its kill and plucked it, tearing away at the lifeless body.

I am not sure of the legality of this, considering Herring Gull is a protected species in Britain, but I guess as European Legislation demands such safeguards of vermin control at landfill sites, this will come under the Operations remit.


Needing to charge my battery up on a rarely used Vauxhall Corsa, I decided to drive the 22 miles to St Albans, where once again I visited this delightful reserve, close to the town centre. I met up with one local volunteer and she informed me of the tremendous cost feeding the birds on the reserve entailed. No less than £1,000 per year - a staggering cost - and no wonder the Nyger feeders were in need of a refill.

Anyway, after a little time, I eventually sighted a LESSER REDPOLL loosely associating with the 8 or so visiting SISKINS.

A COMMON KINGFISHER was an excellent record, whilst 2 Grey Wagtails, 2 Coots, Great Spotted Woodpecker, male Greenfinch. 6 Goldfinch, 8 Chaffinch, Dunnock, Robin, Woodpigeon, Grey Heron and Blue, Great, Coal and 6 Long-tailed Tits were seen.


The resident pair were settled in to nesting with the female busy sitting and the male occasionally making the odd foray to the hill slope.


All back to normal after the snow and ice with the main marsh in great demand. Large numbers of Lapwings were on site, with 91 on the bund and a further 43 all having a communal bathing session. A single Common Snipe was probing, with the COMMON SHELDUCK on one of the islands.

Gadwalls numbered an impressive 64, with 24 Wigeon, 6 Teal, 43 Tufted Duck, 16 Pochard, 14 Mute Swans and 78 Coot being click-counted. The usual RED-CRESTED POCHARD pair were on the deep lake, as well as a single Little Grebe. A Stock Dove was feeding on top of one of the islands.


No sign of any spring migrants as yet, although geese numbers have burgeoned in recent days

On MARSWORTH RESERVOIR, 22 Shoveler had returned following the ice, along with 3 Great Crested Grebes and 32 Pochards

The redhead SMEW was still present on STARTOP'S END RESERVOIR, with 7 Great Crested Grebes, 11 Mute Swans (a huge decrease), 82 Pochard and 174 Coot. The ever-present SNOW BUNTING was in the NW corner.

TRINGFORD RESERVOIR now had wildfowl after nearly two weeks without any, with 2 Mute Swans, 22 Coot, 26 Tufted Duck, 2 Pochard and 4 Gadwall.

As I approached WILSTONE RESERVOIR, the goose flock in the Cemetery Corner Fields had risen dramatically - the first-winter DARK-BELLIED BRENT GOOSE was now associating with 111 Greylags and 124 Atlantic Canadas - some 226 geese in all.

Not much happening on the main reservoir with 13 Great Crested Grebes, 8 Mute Swans, 22 roosting Cormorants, 298 Wigeon, just 350 Teal (massive decrease), 2 Goldeneye (pair) and 44 Lapwing.

Breeding was now on the minds of some resident birds with 6 Grey Herons now active on the lower bushes of the Drayton Bank and still the 5 active Sinensis nests in the sole remaining tree.

The field next to the car park held 4 Fieldfares and a Mistle Thrush, whilst a young male Sparrowhawk that zipped past JT, Anna and I was my first local bird of the year.


Thanks to a tip-off from Anna Marrett, I decided to walk the 400 yards downstream of Wharf Lane in Wendover. A cracking and very approachable (and therefore photogenic) drake MANDARIN DUCK was consorting with the 76 Mallard in the vicinity, with a single Little Grebe, surviving family party of 7 Mute Swans, 6 Coot, 8 Moorhen, male Greenfinch, 8 Redwing and a singing male Goldcrest also seen.

More carnage was then to follow, with a dead BADGER along the B485 at HYDE END (at SP 919 012) and then a dead BARN OWL near LOWER HUNDRIDGE FARM at SP 941 014. I have not seen a live Barn Owl in my Recording Area for three years so this finding was particularly gruelling.


No less than 22 LITTLE EGRETS flew to roost towards Stocker's Lake after 1700 hours, the same number Chris Pontin had witnessed in the valley on Sunday.

First-year MUTE SWANS all alive and well

Good News ! After my concerning email during the hard spell of finding just one of last year's 3 cygnets on Marsworth, I was relieved today to hear that both of the others are doing fine

031 is now in Berkhamstead on the canal (thanks to JT and Anna Marrett for their report) and 032 is now in Bletchley on the Grand Union by Willowbridge Marina (per Christian Spoerer)

Monday, 20 February 2012

Migrant GOLDENEYES drop in at Wilstone

Photos attached (Long range, High ISO, short lens) of this group of five COMMON GOLDENEYE (adult and first-year drake and three female-types) which came in together for a few minutes at about midday in front of the new outflow before dispersing around the northern part of Wilstone Reservoir. Thanks to Paul Nye for confirmation (Michael Nott)

This morning at Tring Reservoirs

Paul Nye stopped off at Tring Reservoirs this morning and saw the continuing Smew, Snow Bunting and Water Pipit on Startop's and the Bittern on Marsworth

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Today's GOLDENEYES on Wilstone - John Foster

Nothing New

Smew still present on Startop's. Pretty quiet at Wilstone - Water Pipit seen briefly before it flew off in direction of Startops, Male & female Goldeneye
and Water Rail at back of reservoir frequenting old metal shed in stream (well spotted by Iain). Shot attached.

Dave Hutchinson

PS Green Sand at College

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Mike Nott's Pix from yesterday

The Startop's SNOW BUNTING and the GREEN SANDPIPER, Greylag Goose and Chinese Water Deer from the Drayton Hide on Wilstone

WATER PIPIT still on the Gade

A Bittern flew the length of the Reed beds landing in the reeds near the canal at Marsworth. A Kingfisher there as well perched on the bank next to the path. The Smew as usually at Startops. I wandered over to Water End and had an excellent view of the Water Pipit, wandering around on floating water plants in the Gade. A pair of Pintail, 1 Little Egret and a Common Snipe there (Chaz Jackson)

PINTAILS on the up

Wilstone: Water Pipit and Brent Goose by jetty. 2+ Little Egrets and three Pintail (two males).
Startop's: Snow Bunting and Smew still.

Roy Hargreaves

Friday, 17 February 2012

Sally's sightings and RUFF pix from today

Marsworth/Startops 12-1300 The fox was still at the edge of Marsworth Reedbed; no Bittern but Water Rail and Kingfisher there and flock of approx 60 Corn Buntings over at midday surprisingly. Common Buzzard perched in tree behind reedbed.

Redhead Smew showing well but people/children walking on shingle in Snow Bunting area.

Wilstone Close views of Ruff, Green Sandpiper and Pintail.

Green Sandpiper, Pintail, RUFF, BRENT, SMEW & WATER PIPIT


With temperatures reaching 14 degrees C today, it was hardly surprising that many bird species felt that spring had arrived. It was very cloudy generally but brightened up this afternoon, with light SW winds.

The first part of the day was spent twitching the 8th ever COMMON YELLOWTHROAT in Britain in Gwent in South Wales, whilst the afternoon was spent locally.....


Literally just yards west of the Bucks border, Bray Gravel Pits is situated north of the A 308 along Monkey Island Lane. The majority of the wildfowl (mostly diving ducks) was on the easternmost pit, on the opposite side of the river and conveyor belt, at SU 915 785

The drake FERRUGINOUS DUCK was showing very well for a second day, favouring the left hand of the pit. It was consorting with a remarkable number of Aythya ducks, including no less than 337 Tufted Ducks and 92 Pochards. Over 40 Gadwalls were also present, as well as a displaying pair of Sparrowhawks.


A visit mid-afternoon resulted in me adding two patch ticks for the year - the dapper drake NORTHERN PINTAIL showing well from the hide and a GREEN SANDPIPER on the right hand side of the bund

The heavily ringed Dutch male RUFF was still present, parading up and down the emergent vegetation close to the hide. On his left leg, he is wearing a yellow plastic ring over white and on the right leg, a yellow over blue over a red flag (with a darvic ring above the tibia).

Other notables included a single Little Grebe back, 8 Great Crested Grebes, 723 Teals, a drake Shoveler and 12 Gadwall; still 5 active Sinensis Cormorant nests, whilst 2 immature Argenteus HERRING GULLS dropped in for a while.

The DARK-BELLIED BRENT was in the East Fields

On STARTOP'S END RESERVOIR, all 3 show-stoppers were on view - the WATER PIPIT and SNOW BUNTING both vying for attention in the NE (Bucks) corner and the redhead SMEW on the water.


Chris Pontin and I enjoyed excellent views of 2 WATER RAILS and a GREY WAGTAIL this evening on the allotment cressbeds.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

RUFF still and PINTAIL again

Wilstone – Ruff and drake Pintail in front of hide. Brent Goose on water with Greylags.

Startops – Snow Bunting and Smew both still present.

Roy Hargreaves

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Snow's all gone but white-headed male RUFF moves in on Wilstone


The warmest day in a long time with afternoon temperatures reaching a sultry 10 degrees C. There was quite a strong NW wind blowing but it remained dry and quite sunny at times

Apart from a brief sojourn in the Tring Area, I spent most of the day in North Bucklinghamshire, adding a total of three new species to my local Year List - WATER PIPIT, TREE SPARROW and MERLIN. I also checked out the GOOSANDERS in the county, recording a total of 61 birds including a single flock of 32....


The WATER PIPIT was still showing well in the far NE (Bucks) corner of the reservoir this morning, whilst the redhead SMEW was standing on the ice with 12 Shoveler. A mammoth 182 Pochards were present, along with 40 Mute Swans, 8 Great Crested Grebes, 12 Gadwall, 25 Wigeon, 106 Tufted Duck, 237 Coot and 3 Grey Herons. A much larger section of the reservoir was now ice-free

MARSWORTH RESERVOIR was still completely icebound but male Reed Buntings were singing from the reedbed


Met up with Mike Campbell on the bank, with whom I saw the cracking adult male white-headed RUFF, the continuing BLACK-TAILED GODWIT and the DUNLIN - all feeding along the emergent vegetation on the NW shore. A flock of 16 Lapwings flew over

The DARK-BELLIED BRENT GOOSE was alternating between the Cemetery Corner Fields and the NW corner of the reservoir, with 6 Great Crested Grebes, 25 Pochards and Grey Wagtail also noted


The adult male PEREGRINE was sunning itself on the SE corner of the Council Offices mid morning, with a Sparrowhawk shooting across the A41 by the Cotton Wheel public house.


A total of 8 GOOSANDERS present


Birdless, with no sign of the recent Tree Sparrows


Huge numbers of large gulls were loafing about the sheepfields just north of Edgecott at SP 681 230, including 1,235 Lesser Black-backed Gulls (mostly adults), 97 Herring Gulls and 1,500 Black-headed Gulls.


No sign of the 8 Red-crested Pochards present earlier in the week but 11 Great Crested Grebes, 2 Atlantic Canada Geese, 14 Wigeon, 18 Tufted Duck and 23 Pochard


A new site for me - and a site full of potential. The main reason for the visit was to see the GOOSANDER flock and lo and behold 7 birds (4 adult drakes) were showing exceptionally well on the main lake.

Otherwise, an inventory count of the lakes totalled 2 Mute Swans, 8 Canada Geese, 1 Chinese Goose, 26 Mallard and 38 Coot, with small birds represented by Jackdaw, Robin, Blue Tit and 2 Common Treecreepers.


Not a great deal at Foxcote apart from 3 Great Crested Grebes, 2 Mute Swans, 131 Common Teal, 13 Pochard, 38 Tufted Duck, 2 drake Goldeneyes, 112 Coot and 15 Lapwings.


13 GOOSANDERS present, some of which were roosting on the wooded islands


A single drake GOOSANDER was the highlight


Very quiet with just 6 Grey Herons nesting being of note

LITTLE LINFORD WOOD was equally birdless with a bonfire blowing across the maize strip; a male BULLFINCH was the best I could muster

However, STOKE GOLDINGTON VILLAGE changed fortunes, with the garden at the top of Dag Lane finally reaping rewards. I was beckoned over by the house owner and at the feeders enjoyed fabulous views of a pair of TREE SPARROWS and most astonishingly, a pristine WILLOW TIT. The latter has apparently been visiting the feeders since December 2011. Five Greenfinches were present, as well as a Great Spotted Woodpecker, whilst I was shown a nestbox already housing a pair of Common Kestrels. Last year, three pairs of Tree Sparrows fledged young from the nestboxes.


As I drove towards Weston Underwood, I noticed a small falcon sitting on the short roadside hedgerow bordering the road. I screeched to a halt and was thrilled to find that the bird was a female MERLIN. It was 30 yards beyond the entrance of Field Barns (SP 856 493) and sat there glaring at me for several minutes. Then, as a car approached from the Olney direction, it shot off the perch and darted over the hedge, before persuing and startling a large flock of Fieldfares. Still parked off the verge, I walked over to the other side of the road and relocated the bird sat on a fencepost, one of a row leading out across the water meadows. I 'scoped it for several minutes before it raced off again. A special treat!


No sign yet again of any of the Barnacle Geese but a huge flock of 340 Fieldfares in the fields


On the main part of the lake were 24 GOOSANDERS (14 adult drakes, 9 redheads, 1 immature drake), with another 8 (5 adult drakes) on the smaller lake with the hide overlooking it - 32 in all and making a grand total of 61 birds......


There was no sign of the 3 wintering Short-eared Owls at dusk but I did find a nice male GREY PARTRIDGE.

The owls are wintering in an area of rough grass to the south of West Wood, accessed from Sandridge Lane at TL 165 108. Walk west along the main track for just under half a mile to view,

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Continuing thaw

A bit more open water on Wilstone and Startops today – the thaw is slow but sure. The Black-tailed Godwit was very close today feeding up on the bank between the old and new overflow. Definitely the best views I have had of one at the reservoirs.

The Brent Goose was alternating between the usual field and the open water in the middle and a Little Egret was back today. Theoretically it could have moved to Water End, but I couldn’t find the Water Pipit today.

The female Peregrine was sat on a rock on the middle bank overlooking the open water for at least ten minutes and I saw it again later carrying something back to Wilstone as I headed over to Startops. On Startops the Snow Bunting was still present and the redhead Smew was also still there with a pair of Red-crested Pochard back from College Lake no doubt.

Roy Hargreaves

College RED-CRESTED POCHARDS relocate to Startop's

College Lake c 09.30 -10.15 No sign of Little Gull or the pair of RCP's and it took some time to find a single male Mandarin Duck lurking in the bushes alongside the large lake, mostly unfrozen now.A Kingfisher flew across the frozen marsh.

Marsworth & Startop's c 10.30 No sign of a Bittern on a stll frozen Marsworth but the area of open water on Startops had increased from yesterday and the redhead SMEW was still showing together with, presumably, the pair of RED-CRESTED POCHARDS from College.

Wilstone c11.00 The DARK-BELLIED BRENT still in the usual field near Cemetery Corner with the large flock of Canadian and Greylag Geese plus one white goose. Flock of around 25 linnets near jetty but no sign of Water Pipit. 1 drake Common Goldeneye on the open water but no sign of any Smew

Francis Buckle

Monday, 13 February 2012

The thaw is on


The northerly wind increased today with afternoon temperatures reaching 7 degrees. The wind also bought some rain, much of the lying snow being washed away.


No sign of any Water Rails but a single Little Egret, 3 Moorhens, 60 Redwings and a superb perched COMMON KINGFISHER by the stream


Still massively covered by a layer of ice but melting at the edges and affording wildfowl with some good welcome feeding opportunities. The big story was the Common Teal numbers - no less than 657 dabbling around the edges, one of my largest counts of this species at Wilstone ever. Also 273 Eurasian Wigeon.

The BLACK-TAILED GODWIT was showing very well once again - this time in the NW corner, Dave Hutchinson obtaining some exceptional images of it (see above). Closeby, the single DUNLIN was feeding along the vegetated edge.

The ice-free patch held a single female Common Goldeneye, whilst other species noted included 3 argenteus HERRING GULLS (a 3rd-winter and two juveniles), 25 Fieldfares and 24 Linnets.

An adult female PEREGRINE was showing very well from the Drayton Hide, flying occasional sorties from the tall Poplar trees. I did not see her catching anything but it was the Teal she had her eyes on.

In the Cemetery Corner Fields, the DARK-BELLIED BRENT was with the 70 Greylags but the Atlantic Canada Geese flock had multiplied to 166 birds. A single white goose was also with them.


Both the redhead SMEW and SNOW BUNTING were still present, with Northern Pochard numbering 196.

A BITTERN was still apparently alive on MARSWORTH but I missed it as it flew the length of the reedbed.


A quick jaunt through the forest searching for Woodcock yielded 2 Nuthatch, 4 Coal Tit, 4 Great Spotted Woodpecker and a Jay.


Thanks to Kathy Sharman and Darrel Bryant, I took a trip over to Benington to see the BARN OWLS. They were late appearing this evening (1650 hours) but once out put on a fantastic display, hunting for Field Voles in the grass. The site is adjacent to Watton Place Clinic and is situated to the north of the village - at TL 306 238. The birds remained in view for half an hour.

I also saw Common Buzzard, Common Kestrel and Great Spotted Woodpecker on the common


The pipit that Dan Forder had photographed just prior to me meeting him at the WATER END tributary bridge on Sunday afternoon was incredibly a WATER PIPIT - a very rare bird in the area these days.

College Lake today - big rise in MANDARIN numbers

I dropped in to College Lake late this afternoon (Monday) for half an hour.No sign of the Little Gull there but 3 Goosander, (2 males & 1 female), the pair of Red-crested Pochard and 8 MANDARIN DUCKS (5 males & 3 females) (Chaz Jackson)

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Startop's SMEW

More shots from John Foster of the Startop's redhead SMEW.......


John Foster photographed this PEREGRINE on the ice at Wilstone today, as well as this superb COMMON SNIPE at College

Another red letter day in the ice


After yesterday's record breaking overnight temperature of -18 degrees in Chesham, last night was far milder at just -10 degrees. Lots of lying snow still and most waterbodies completely covered in ice. With the wind in the north, temperatures did surprisingly recover to 2 degrees, and the snow started to melt.

After recovering from yet more depressing news (Whitney Houston being found dead in her Hollywood flat at just 48 years old - Carmel and I first met dancing to one of her greatest hits in 1987), I eventually ventured out at 1100 hours. It proved to be another exciting day locally.........


Highlights this morning in the garden included 2 Common Buzzards, 1 Red Kite, a Eurasian Sparrowhawk and 3 Goldfinches......


Marsworth and Tringford Reservoirs still completely iced over with restricted ice-free areas on Wilstone and Startop's End

WILSTONE RESERVOIR was my first port of call, the grassy fields in Cemetery Corner harbouring 70 Greylags and the continuing DARK-BELLIED BRENT as well as 91 Atlantic Canadas

Checking the open water yielded 17 Great Crested Grebes, 3 Mute Swans, 42 Mallard, 258 Eurasian Wigeon, 14 Gadwall, 337 Common Teal, a single drake Shoveler, 5 SMEWS (1 drake and 4 redheads) and 2 adult Lesser Black-backed Gulls.

But it was the waders that stole the show with a RED KNOT on the ice until 1314 hours (it eventually flew and circled round several times calling loudly before being watched as a speck over Drayton Beauchamp and into Bucks airspace), a single DUNLIN slipping and sliding about on the ice close to the Drayton Bank and hide and an incredibly confiding BLACK-TAILED GODWIT feeding with grazing ducks in the Cemetery Corner.

The WATER PIPIT was also showing well in Cemetery Corner, along with 2 Pied Wagtails and a Grey Wagtail, and a Common Buzzard flew over.

A Chinese Water Deer was feeding by the reedbed whilst a Red Fox ran right across the ice to the centre bund.

At STARTOP'S END, the male SNOW BUNTING was showing very well in the far NE corner of the reservoir and well into Bucks, and the single redhead SMEW I found earlier this week was still present (see Dave Hutchinson's excellent shots above).

I did a thorough check of the 47 Mute Swans present (11 first-years) for rings. Sadly orange 032 was on his own and without his progeny, whilst metal ringed adults included W29266 and M12946 (another I could only read part of the ring).. Otherwise, 5 Great Crested Grebes, 10 Wigeon, 31 Tufted Duck, 103 Pochard and an adult drake COMMON GOLDENEYE.

(Mike Wallen had earlier had a flock of Goosander and Smew fly over)

(WeBS count)

Never before had I seen most of the deep pit frozen and no wonder wildfowl are really starting to suffer. I did a full inventory of birds present with the following results -:

No Great Crested Grebes but 1 Little Grebe present
6 Mute Swans including 3 youngsters
87 Mallard
78 Wigeon
3 Common Teal
48 Gadwall
92 Tufted Duck
86 Pochard
The 3 female Common Goldeneyes
92 Coot
303 Black-headed Gulls
18 Common Gulls
3 Lesser Black-backed Gulls
(an adult LITTLE GULL had been present earlier)


Met up with Dan Forder and eventually enjoyed views of 2 WATER RAILS, a fabulous JACK SNIPE and a drake NORTHERN PINTAIL with 6 Common Teal, the latter first found by Lucy Flower yesterday.

Also 2 Little Grebes, 4 Mute Swans, a pair of Wigeon, 10 Gadwall and 2 Grey Wagtails


12 February: Another iconic but rare garden visitor is the Mistle Thrush which I spotted this morning in Tring. For record purposes the last one I saw here was exactly a year minus a day ago - 11 Feb 11! Plus a better view of the female Blackcap (Sally Douglas)

Saturday, 11 February 2012

At College Lake this afternoon with Steve Rodwell, there was a single Dunlinstill present from last week. It spent most of the time on the east shore ofthe lake and difficult to see as it fed under bramble and in amongst flooded saplings. We couldn't see the Little Gull but as we were leaving we noticed 5 drake Goosanders had appeared on the lake.

I then went to Startops Res where the female Smew was still present in the ice free patch.

Finished off back at College to see if there would be a decent gull roost. The adult Little Gull roosted, along with c1000 B H Gulls and 112 Common Gulls (Rob Andrews).


The adult winter LITTLE GULL was also at College with Black Headed Gulls on the ice in front of the small Tern islands. The lake is now 2/3's frozen, only the 3rd time in 15 years this has happened as far as i can remember. The Tring DARK-BELLIED BRENT was also there (Rob Andrews)

WATER RAILS are starving..........

After an hour searching for one at Marsworth I decided to see what wildfowl were on the unfrozen parts of College Lake. On the way to the Octagon Hide I saw this WATER RAIL near the reeds, very confiding, probably very hungry - Peter Brazier.

Bitterly cold

This morning when I got out of the car at Wilstone it registered -12C!! Anyway the gains in open water made recently were lost in one night as one small patch in the centre and one by the stream were all the open water surfaces left after a bitter night. Initially the Brent was hidden among the Greylags in the centre and then they flew into the usual field. Nothing else out of the ordinary at Wilstone.

At Startops the Smew was again initially difficult to locate as it spent about 90% of the time under water. Eventually it showed well on one edge of the ice-free area – again much reduced from yesterday. Marsworth was completely frozen and none of us could find a Bittern this morning. The Snow Bunting was again on the north-west shore and the brilliant sunshine made a change from the dull light I have had to view it in during the week. Also while I was there the Greylags and Brent flew east over Startops into Bucks – presumably to College Farm again.

Roy Hargreaves

Friday night at Marsworth and more BLACKCAPS

About 17.00 hours, 1 BITTERN flew up into hedge behind reed bed and perched/roosted as it was getting dark. Was able to point it out to John Foster who had just arrived. About 16.00 hours a small wader flew in and went across into reed bed. Couldn't identify it, but it gave two call notes. Maybe a Dunlin?

CORN BUNTING flock perched in large tree before roosting in reeds, approx 65. (see image above).

Male BLACKCAP has been singing in my garden since its arrival and today I spotted a female (see pics). They were both feeding on privet hedge berries (Sally Douglas)

Startop's in the snow

I visited Startop' Wnd today and took the attached photos; the SNOW BUNTING was still there in its usual corner by the steps in the snow, the Robins by the hide were extremely tame, there were at least three Meadow Pipits on the wall in the NW corner. The Bittern was still in the reeds on Marsworth (which was totally frozen) but too far away for any pictures.

I managed a shot of the redhead Smew and also took a picture from the hide to show how much of the reservoir was frozen as well as a picture of two Mute Swans that took off and did a circuit over the canal and car park only to land again a short while later (Chris Hinton)


Friday 10 February

A nice array of species along the watercress beds and pools this afternoon. Walked between Nettleden Rd and Piper's Hill. Species as follows:

Apart from Teal, Gadwall, Wigeon, Mallard, Coot, Moorhen;

1 Kestrel (male)
2 Grey Wagtail
1 Meadow Pipit
1 Pintail, drake
1 Little Grebe
7+ Common Snipe
1 Common Buzzard
1 Little Egret (flyover)
At least 6 Lapwing
4 Pied Wagtail

Lucy Flower Birding & Photography

Friday 10 February - LITTLE GULL

The overnight snow seems to have caused further movement.

I have just watched three Goosander fly over the house!

Startops had redhead Smew still and Snow bunting flew in from Marsworth Res direction and landed briefly, but I couldn’t find it when walking back to the car and it is fairly easy to spot on the snow. An adult LITTLE GULL took off and flew east from Startops over Marsworth and along the canal – possibly to College Lake. A Bittern was stood in the stream on Marsworth Res.

On Wilstone the Water Pipit was about and the Brent Goose was also still in the usual field.

Roy Hargreaves

Thursday, 9 February 2012

SNOW BUNTING still there

The SNOW BUNTING was still around this afternoon. When I arrived it was opposite the steps still seeming to find plenty of food. It's got plenty now as I chucked a bag of millet at it which should keep it happy for a day or two. The clear water area has enlarged since yesterday afternoon when I went up to look at the female Smew with Warren, despite the cold night, although I think the temperature crept up above freezing today. No sign of the Smew there this evening though. I have been putting apples out in the garden and today counted 15 Blackbirds, mostly rufugees from the continent I guess. Quite a sight in such a tiny garden. Also a male Blackcap has been around on and off (Charlie Jackson)

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Freezing conditions continue to produce birds


With a northeasterly wind increasing, the weather got even colder today. It was absolutely freezing out in the field, and encrusted ice suggests that bird populations are really struggling to survive the harsh conditions.


The Fieldfare flock increased to 14 this morning, feasting on the fallen apples.


No sign of the 3 Water Rails but a COMMON SNIPE was unexpected, with 3 Moorhens also seen. A Blue Tit was visiting the unfrozen greenery by the river, as were 4 Long-tailed Tits.


Marsworth and Tringford Reservoirs are completely frozen over, with an increasing section of Startop's End now open and three separate ice-free patches on Wilstone. Numbers of birds in general were well down because of the ice but a redhead SMEW was a nice bonus and the first of the year.......

A COMMON TREECREEPER was in full song as I entered the MARSWORTH WOOD but there was no sign of the Bittern others had seen earlier. All 5 Grey Herons were absent also

The increasingly open patch on STARTOP'S END RESERVOIR was heaving with activity and at the extreme east end of the water, I was pleased to find a redhead SMEW.

No less than 41 Mute Swans were counted, the most this winter, with 10 first-years among them - 5 Great Crested Grebes, 134 Mallard, 1 drake Gadwall, 18 Teal, 10 Wigeon, 25 Tufted Duck, 103 Pochard, 233 Coot and 14 Moorhens.

Three Robins allowed themselves to be handfed on seeds by the hide and in a sheltered area of weeds on the south bank, 9 Common Blackbirds and 8 Fieldfares were feeding.

For the first time in weeks, I was unable to locate the Snow Bunting on the north shore

The first-winter DARK-BELLIED BRENT GOOSE was with 70 Greylags in the Cemetery Corner field on WILSTONE, whilst the three ice-free patches on the reservoir harboured 13 Great Crested Grebes, 2 Mute Swans, 18 Mallard, 149 Wigeon, 135 Teal, 22 Tufted Duck, 47 Pochard and 322 Coot. No Shoveler were seen today.


Not an ounce of ice on the main lake and consequently lots of waterbirds - 7 Mute Swans (including 3 first-years), 194 Wigeon, 64 Teal, 46 Gadwall, the usual pair of RED-CRESTED POCHARDS, 54 Tufted Duck, 62 Pochard, 2 female Common Goldeneye and 92 Coot. 13 Lapwing were also present.


A covey of 6 GREY PARTRIDGE (3 pairs) was in a crop field half a mile NE of Stockwell Lane along Kimblewick Road at SP 797 071.


A site literally on the county boundary with Berkshire and accessed from the B 3026 at the east end of Dorney Common at SU 943 786. A stream runs north to the Jubilee River and is a known haunt of wintering chiffchaffs. In fact on Sunday, Dave Carter located a Siberian Chiffchaff at the site, with Chris Heard locating a second individual yesterday

It was probably too late in the day by the time I arrived at 1600 hours. Although I easily located 6 COMMON CHIFFCHAFFS in the Phragmites 110 yards north along the stream, I could not find the two Siberians. I was amazed at the hive of activity in the short reeds, with 2 CETTI'S WARBLERS putting on a good show, 8 Reed Buntings, 3 Wrens, 3 Grey Wagtails, 3 Pied Wagtails and 6 Long-tailed Tits all taking advantage of the conditions created by the warmer water. A Grey Heron was also fishing and 5 Common Teal were particularly approachable.

As dusk approached, it was clear I was beneath the flight line of RING-NECKED PARAKEETS - no less than 165 flying east towards Staines to roost.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

BITTERN and Fox !

I was able to spend an hour at Marsworth this afternoon. A Bittern was sitting in the sunshine on the edge of the reedbed along the South East shore. A Kingfisher flew the length of the North East reedbed, bathed in sunshine. Three Red Kites circled directly over the water, each giving great views. I also watched a Red Fox enter the reedbed opposite the Bucks border and make its way stealthily along the South-east shore. It eventually came to the Bittern. Initially, the Bittern noticed the fox and started to walk ahead of it a few feet. Eventually, it stopped, looked at the Fox. The Fox looked back. And then they passed one another like ships in the night. No fuss or confrontation. Attached are a few record shots from today (quality isn't great due to distances involved, unfortunately) (Lucy Flower)

Snow and ice starting to thaw

This morning the thaw is definitely under way and both Wilstone and Startops have larger areas of open water and Marsworth has a small patch by the stream. The roads are also fairly clear and weren’t icy this morning.

Wilstone had the DARK-BELLIED BRENT back in the usual field and I couldn’t find the Water Pipit but it is no doubt there somewhere as there is a narrow strip of water round most of the reservoir’s edge – not that it requires that of course.

Startops has a narrow strip of exposed ground at the base of the banks and another strip further out near the water’s edge. The SNOW BUNTING was favouring the strip close to the concrete bank and while I was there two male GOOSANDER flew in and settled on the water.

On Marsworth a brief visit yielded a Bittern walking from the southern end of the reservoir, past the stream, to the reeds on the east side where is disappeared into them.

Roy Hargreaves

Garden visitors in the snow

The The male BLACKCAP remains in Sally Douglas' garden, as do large numbers of Fieldfares and Redwings

Saturday, 4 February 2012

mid-morning BITTERN

Having failed to see any early this morning, one was showing very well in the Bucks section near the canal. It then walked over the frozen reservoir to the Herts section, skiding all the way (David Bilcock)

...........and more of today's BITTERNS (John Foster)