Saturday, 4 February 2012

BITTERNS in profusion


Another very hard frost with temperatures overnight dropping to -7 degrees. Consequently, many water bodies are now totally frozen over. It was another freezing but bright day but cloud encroached from the west and as darkness fell, snow began to fall (the first real snow of this winter). By 1900 hours, two inches was laying in my garden.


Ice was the name of the day and very little of all four Tring reservoirs was unfrozen. Both Tringford and Marsworth were completely frozen over and consequently, most wildfowl and water birds were concentrated in small patches of open water on both Wilstone and Startop's End............

At STARTOP'S END RESERVOIR, 35 Mute Swans were amongst the birds crammed into the small ice-free area, along with 9 Shovelers, 25 Tufted Ducks, 5 Great Crested Grebes and 272 Coots

At least 15 House Sparrows were by Startop's Farm and 8 Goldfinches, whilst in the NE corner in the Bucks section, the first-winter male SNOW BUNTING was keeping close company with 2 Pied Wagtails

The first-winter DARK-BELLIED BRENT GOOSE was also in Bucks, the first time this winter it has been so. It was with 71 Greylag Geese and 83 Canada Geese 400 yards SSE of College Farm at SP 927 143 (in the second field along the lane).


Due to the Tring Reservoirs being largely frozen over and the fact that the deep BBOWT pit rarely freezes, exceptional numbers of wildfowl were present.

Although the highlight for me was the single COMMON SHELDUCK, numbers included 6 Great Crested Grebes, 2 Mute Swans, 43 Mallard, 53 Gadwall, 122 Common Teal, 223 Eurasian Wigeon, 173 Tufted Duck, 213 Northern Pochard and 5 female Common Goldeneyes.


The corvids present here were having a field day with a freshly dead sheep laying in the field. The two resident COMMON RAVENS were in attendance and giving orders but also busy rebuilding/repairing their nest or simply making a new nest, frequently gathering material and taking it back to a pine.

Stock Dove, Great Spotted Woodpecker and 40 Fieldfares were also noted.


It seemed like all of Bedfordshire's finest were at Stewartby and the Millenium Park today and for good reason - a plethora of birds were on offer, due to the Arctic conditions

The main attraction had been an adult winter LITTLE GULL that Paul Wright had found and had later been seen by Neil, Peter Smith and others. It quickly moved from the main lake to the sewage works compound but whilst I was on site, had somehow managed to give us all the slip by disappearing westwards with a group of Black-headed Gulls.

Next up was Paul's BITTERN, showing regally in the sunshine at the fore of the reedbed in the NW corner. Looking across from the west shore, it was just left of the two light green buoys when I espied it, but as the morning drew on, it disappeared back into the reed fringe.

Over in the Millenium Park on MILLBROOK PILLINGE PIT, Lol, Bob, Roy Nye, Tony Hukin and I observed an adult MEDITERRANEAN GULL in the throng of small gulls present on the pit. It was just starting to get a blackish ear-covert patch and an orange tip to the bill. There was an incredible number of Common Gulls roosting on the pit - I click-counted 342 - along with 3 Herring Gulls and 11 Lesser Black-backed Gulls

The female COMMON SCOTER was still present in the SW corner of the pit, along with the 3 redhead SMEW, 162 Common Teal, 54 Wigeon, 6 Mute Swans (family party, 3 first-years) and 3 Little Grebes.

Returning back to the main lake at Stewartby, following another sighting of the Little Gull, scanning across produced 23 Little Grebes, 32 Great Crested Grebes and 22 Tufted Ducks, whilst the inlet in the NW corner yielded Common Snipe, WATER RAIL and a nice COMMON KINGFISHER.

Shortly after chatting to Steve Blain on the phone, mostly about Pintails and some exceptional flocks of them, no less than 44 NORTHERN PINTAILS and 4 EGYPTIAN GEESE flew overhead, the latter coming down on the Sailing Club green and remaining long enough for Bob, Lol and others to connect.

Forty of the PINTAIL flock made landfall on the Pillinge Pit, with 15 dapper drakes amongst them (Mark Thomas had seen 56 over Willington and 8 remained at Radwell).

Peter Smith also saw Common Redshank and the overwintering COMMON SANDPIPER at Stewartby but frustratingly I didn't hear about them until later.


The 'Corn Bunting fields' held 11 Common Magpies, a Common Buzzard and 170 Fieldfares but no Corn Buntings !

Nearby, a pair of GREY PARTRIDGES were half a mile west of the village and another 6 were seen beside the B658 south of BROOK END NE of Greensands Fishery.


Steve Blain had seen 2 Shelduck and 3 Dunlin at Derek White's earlier but nothing of note was there when I visited in the afternoon but GYPSY LANE WEST LAKE retained the redhead SMEW and PEACOCK'S LAKE the single COMMON SHELDUCK, as well as 21 Mute Swans in one small area of open water


Still 3 SHORT-EARED OWLS and 2 COMMON STONECHATS present but no Barn Owl or Merlin


Returned to Marsworth late afternoon and enjoyed captivating views of up to 3 different EURASIAN BITTERNS, including 2 'scrapping' on the SW corner and one showing very well just standing forlorn and cold on the solid ice. The birds were very popular throughout the day with many observers obtaining photographs (see a nice selection above by Peter Brazier)

Two WATER RAILS were surviving the weather and were risking being caught by the no less than 7 Grey Herons standing on the ice, whilst the CORN BUNTING roost numbered 89 birds; a group of 18 Moorhens were together on Startop's

Alarmingly, many youngsters were risking life and limb by walking out on to the ice - some walking out over 40 yards. Total madness

No comments: