Friday, 31 August 2012

Steps Hill this morning

A good morning in Incombe Hole - a nice adult male COMMON REDSTART, several Lesser Whitethroats and Common Whitethroats, Willow Warblers, Blackcaps and Barn Swallows - Sally Douglas doing the business with piccies (see selection above)

Nothing to report from the reservoirs in recent days

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Steve Rodwell scores heavily over Bank Holiday Weekend - and deservedly so !


Having been away seawatching in Cornwall when all of the local action was going on, I was keen to get back in the swing of things today. It was still very warm for the time of year (75 degrees F), dry, mostly sunny but with a fresh SW wind. The Bank Holiday Weekend had seen a juvenile Montagu's Harrier at Deadman's Hill, along with 4 juvenile Marsh Harriers and 2 Common Quail, with a juvenile Common Redstart at Amwell and lots of passage Whinchats. The Tring Reservoirs had yielded Black-tailed Godwit, a juvenile Little Gull and 2 Ospreys and it was the latter that I was concentrating on today - but without success......

Following a report of 2 Ospreys at PANSHANGER PARK yesterday, Alan Reynold's very kindly advised on my plan of attack and for several hours during the morning, I overlooked the lake from the new public footpath running alongside it. Needless to day there was no sign of any Ospreys but a migrant YELLOW WAGTAIL flew over and the lake itself held a female Tufted Duck with 3 small young and 8 Little Grebes; 4 Blackcaps, 3 Nuthatches and 2 Common Treecreepers were also seen.

Having not seen (only heard) the juvenile Redstart at Hollycross Lake, Amwell, yesterday afternoon, I gave the site a wide berth today - other species of note there yesterday being 6 Common Sandpipers and a family party of at least 6 SPOTTED FLYCATCHERS. Alan did not seem to be faring well at Deadman's Hill either so I gave that site a miss too.


Making a speedy rendezvous with Steve Blake at Tyttenhanger (where, incidentally, Steve Murray had seen an adult and two juvenile Mediterranean Gulls yesterday afternoon), we both enjoyed some splendid views of a WHINCHAT on the fenceline of Willows Farm car park - the first I have ever seen at this specific location. The fencing also held 21 tired Barn Swallows, with 4 YELLOW WAGTAILS (2 adult males and 2 juveniles) on the field edge.


I then decided to put in an hour or more at Wilstone Reservoir, skygazing with Steve Rodwell from the East Bank from 1530-1700 hours. I was hoping for another migrant Osprey, following Steve's two on Saturday but it was not to be. SR really is amazing and deserves every bird he gets - spending eight hours on that bank most days truly deserves a medal. We did see a nice adult HOBBY, plenty of Red Kites and Common Buzzards and 43 Mute Swans, whilst the ploughed field in Cemetery Corner yielded 98 Lapwings and 122 Black-headed Gulls. SR had earlier seen 4 Yellow Wagtails fly west.


Still 'needing' Marsh Harrier for the Bucks Year, I headed west through a 'police-ful' Aylesbury (the Queen and other Royals were in town apparently for the launch of the Paralympics) and up the A41 to Gallows Bridge. The reserve was looking fabulous with two 'new' marshy pools in the left hand field as you walk down to the hides. A juvenile WOOD SANDPIPER was a real surprise and bonus, bobbing its head nervously as I tried to walk past it as it fed on the second marshy section. It called loudly and then flew overhead and landed in front of the second hide, favouring an obvious spit on one of the overgrown islands. It was a very fresh juvenile and was alert and mobile. It repeatedly flew back and forth between the two sites but clearly favoured the sedge-filled pool behind the hide and fence. Warren Claydon and others saw it too.

Three Little Egrets were also present on the main scrape, as well as YELLOW WAGTAIL and 5 SEDGE WARBLERS, but there was no sign of the recent Whinchats nor any passage Marsh Harriers. Maybe tomorrow !

Friday, 24 August 2012


Sally Douglas discovered more migrant chats this evening with 3 additional WHINCHATS at Pitstone Hill and 2 'new' NORTHERN WHEATEARS on the fenceline between Pitstone Hill car park and Incombe Hole crossroads - some nice pictures taken by Sal published above

Incombe Hole was very quiet with just 2 Common Whitethroats present.

Still at least 5 COMMON REDSTARTS in the area including the male below the Ivinghoe Beacon car park

Today's shots from the Hills - MICHAEL NOTT

All 3 WHINCHATS were still present today on the fenceline leading up to the sheep pens, as well as at least 2 NORTHERN WHEATEARS (both species photographed above). There was also a build up to at least 80 migrant Barn Swallows on the wires (pictured) and a nice male Linnet shared the fence with one of the Whinchats. A Brown Hare was photographed too

A mass of HOUSE MARTINS and more migrant SWIFTS


Another run of dips including an AGP and another Spotted Crake - when am I ever going to get another Year Tick?

Anyhow, the forecasted rain never materialised in daylight and in fact it was another very pleasant day, with temperatures still exceeding 70 degrees F. Lots of bright sunshine but an increasing SW wind as the day wore on.

At BATFORD, a nice adult WHINCHAT remained on the fenceline of the large field immediately east of Common Lane

WILSTONE RESERVOIR did not give up either the Garganey reported earlier nor the adult male Common Redstart in the Hide Meadow. No sign of either.

Wildfowl were up though with now 27 Shoveler on site, as well as 8 Common Teal and 9 Northern Pochard. Steve Rodwell and I also saw a single COMMON SANDPIPER, 1-2 Common Kingfishers, Grey Wagtail and an exceptional 270+ House Martins. A surge of COMMON SWIFTS numbering 11 also moved south whilst other migrants included 2 LESSER WHITETHROATS in the hedgerow by the overflow and a juvenile SPOTTED FLYCATCHER in Hide Meadow. A male Sparrowhawk was also seen

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Sally's nesting success in Halton

Hi Lee

I was interested to read your comment about your poor breeding record this year, and I thought I would send you some good news!

My resident pair of Blackbirds have done exceptionally well this year but it is all due to a plentiful supply of live meal worms. I felt humbled and honoured when they brought their 4 young to the backdoor for the worms - this was about their third brood (see pic).

However, House Sparrows have been my success story. A terrace nest box especially for sparrows hadn't been used in five years except by roosting tits, but this year not one but two of the segments have been used, raising two broods of 4 (see pic). Here again, it was during the dreadful wet weather and they only survived because of the meal worms I provided.

I was amazed, however, at the number of Sparrows coming into the worm feeder and I could see from my landing window that they were travelling quite a long way to other gardens. When they fledged they all seemed to end up in my garden but, inevitably, this brought in the local Sparrowhawk who took a few (see pic). I still have a largish flock of resident sparrows who roost in a special bush in the front garden and the noise they make just prior to roosting has to be heard!

Another bird to have done well is the resident pair of Great Tits. I'm pretty sure they are the same pair which used the box last year when they raised 10 young and this year they have again raised 10 young (see pic). I didn't clear out the box (as you should) because they had lined it with beautiful, warm cladding which would have provided warmth during the winter roosting. Here again, it was only the meal worms which kept them alive during the wet weather. They would come into the kitchen for them and if the feeder was empty they would flutter at the kitchen window to draw my attention! The Blackbirds also did this

Last, but not least, the resident pair of Robins. Last year they nested in a coconut shell and raised 12 young from three nestings. This year when I checked the shell a wood mouse had taken up residence so they nested elsewhere. Again, they were desperate for live meal worms and would also come into the kitchen. A young robin would take them from my hand (see pic).

The meal worms have cost me a lot this season but when they bring their young to see you, it is very humbling and I feel very privileged.

Sally Douglas

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Today's WHINCHAT image - Dave Hutchinson

Make the most of them - WHINCHATS will be passing through our area only for the next month and at the moment, we are bang in the middle of their peak passage. The fencelines at Ivinghoe Hills are one of the best places to see these elegant chats locally - and they are such a charming bird.

Overcast conditions deposit more migrants on Hills


The wind had freshened quite substantially from the SW this morning, with somewhat overcast conditions continuing on from yesterday evening's rain. I expected a few birds in such conditions


Along with FB, Chris and SR, I did a mid-morning check-round of the Hill circuit with reasonable results. Commuting between the stubble field and the sheep pen fenceline were 3 WHINCHATS (an adult and 2 juveniles) and 4 NORTHERN WHEATEARS (an adult and 3 juveniles) whilst a contingent of 17 Eurasian Barn Swallows were lingering over the stubble and slope clearly waiting for better visibility. Two TREE PIPITS flew over calling in quick succession whilst in the scrubby area below the car park, a number of COMMON REDSTARTS was still present, including a vocal male in the last isolated hawthorn before the two gates at the bottom of the slope. There were also 3 Yellowhammers in this area, whilst Chris had a single SPOTTED FLYCATCHER. I also came across a SMALL COPPER butterfly.

Incombe Hole and Steps Hill were difficult to work in the freshening wind and yielded nothing of note

WHINCHATS were also seen widely elsewhere in the county today with the two juveniles still at Springfield Farm Quarry, two at Ravenstone Sewage Works and 5 at Gallows Bridge NR, along with two still at Batford (Herts) and a further 7 in Bedfordshire.

Lee G R Evans

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

WHINCHAT passage continues in earnest


Several degrees cooler than of late but still very pleasant. A light SW breeze but as evening approached, a belt of heavy rain arrived. WHINCHATS were the name of the day with numerous birds discovered in the Home Counties, with Darin finding a second bird at Batford and Simon West seeing one at Amwell...


The highlight this morning was the arrival of 3 juvenile Common Blackbirds and a Song Thrush on the lawn - my resident pair of Blackbirds failing to raise any surviving young this year from their three broods. Also a Coal Tit repeatedly visiting


With so many WHINCHATS about, I simply knew that Springfield would reap rewards and after walking 150 yards down the perimeter footpath, two fresh juveniles were located and seen well. Both birds were favouring weeds by the cinder track.


Stopped off briefly at 1400 hours but little going on: Egyptian Geese numbered 29 (including young), the Bar-headed Goose, 427 Black-headed Gulls and the continuing juvenile Common Sandpiper. There was no sign of the juvenile Turnstone.

Then scoured Pump Lane North for Adam's Whinchats but could not locate them


A single juvenile WHINCHAT was showing well on the fenceline just before the sheep pen (earlier SR and FB had seen 2), along with a single CORN BUNTING and 8 Linnets, whilst in the section of scrub just below the main car park, 3 COMMON REDSTARTS were flicking to and fro, including an adult male still in nice condition.

There was nothing of note at TRING RESERVOIRS or COLLEGE LAKE BBOWT


Juvenile BLACK TERNS - more images - and more

Sally Douglas has been out and about with her camera on Startop's End - capturing the juvenile BLACK TERN (top), two juvenile Great Crested Grebes, adult Lesser Black-back, adult & juvenile Common Terns, juvenile BLACK & juvenile Common Tern and juvenile Black with Commons and baby Great Crested Grebe

Monday, 20 August 2012

WHIMBREL return passage and lots and lots of COMMON REDSTARTS

Having been away at the Rutland Bird Fair since Thursday, I finally managed to get in some quality birding today, many birds seemingly on the move just now

Yesterday evening (Sunday 19 August), I joined Ashley Stowe, Alan Stevens and other local birders at SPADE OAK GRAVEL PIT, LITTLE MARLOW and was rewarded with excellent views of the juvenile TURNSTONE present throughout the day - only the second in the county this year and my first. It was very mobile, flying around frequently and calling regularly - and commuting between the end of the spit and bay nearer to the island. There was also a single Common Sandpiper present, whilst a GREEN SANDPIPER flew over.

The temperature at 1800 hours was an incredible 77 degrees F with a single EURASIAN WIGEON and 19 Argenteus HERRING GULLS somewhat out of sync with the conditions. The Bar-headed Goose was still present, 5 Common Teal, a male Sparrowhawk and much Common Kingfisher activity.

In the TRING AREA, Steve Rodwell had 8 WHIMBREL fly over last night whilst COMMON REDSTARTS were being seen all over the place, with up to 12 on Quainton Hills, 5 at Rowsham and 7 in the Ivinghoe Hills area.


Thankfully, temperatures cooled somewhat today - down to 70 degrees - with a little light rain this morning as well as a lot of cloud. Although the wind was light southwesterly, I was expecting a bit of a fall on the hills but it never quite materialised.

The IVINGHOE HILLS was therefore my first port of call - SR, Francis B and Chris also having the same idea. Walking the hedge-lines between Town Farm and the bottom of Incombe Hole produced no less than 7 COMMON REDSTARTS - including 4 adult males. Only one could be located in the Hole proper, with 3 migrant WILLOW WARBLERS also present and 3 Mistle Thrushes. Sparrowhawk, Bullfinch, 6 Robin, 5 Common Whitethroat and 3 Common Chiffchaff were also noted but most interesting were the 5 COMMON RAVENS - presumably one of the local family parties. The juveniles were in immaculate flight condition whilst the adults were quite worn with the odd wing and tail feather missing.


Very quiet ! The female Tufted Duck was still with her 6 ducklings whilst the gull roost held 2 adult YELLOW-LEGGEDS and a single adult COMMON.


As I walked along the causeway between STARTOP'S and MARSWORTH at 1230, I heard the familiar call of a WHIMBREL and looked up to see it flying from the canal direction, up and over the causeway trees and out westwards over Startop's. Two COMMON SWIFTS were also seen.

Marsworth also held two successful nesting pairs of Great Crested Grebe, with one pair attending two small young and another one older young. This is in addition to the pair on Startop's with 3 young. There were also 48 Black-headed Gulls present whilst Startop's yielded the two juvenile BLACK TERNS and a pair of eclipse-plumaged Red-crested Pochards.

WILSTONE RESERVOIR was remarkably quiet with a mobile flock of 226 dredging Coot, 86 post-breeding Lapwings and 14 House Martins. Although I spent some time scanning the skies, just Sparrowhawk and 8+ Red Kites were noted.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Some BLACK TERNS still present

Dave Bilcock had 2 remaining juvenile BLACK TERNS this morning (one photographed) whilst 2 NORTHERN WHEATEARS were at the sheep pens at Ivinghoe. Steve Rodwell saw a juvenile MEDITERRANEAN GULL with a metal ring on yesterday at College Lake and a juvenile MARSH HARRIER last Friday briefly over Wilstone.

The white morph male HONEY BUZZARD that was lingering and displaying in the area for much of July appears to have left and has not been reported in the past two weeks.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

One good 'tern' deserves another


An unseasonal fast-moving depression tracked east across the country today bringing quite strong S/SE winds. It was also accompanied by a few short sharp showers. Clearly associated with this front were large numbers of terns, including Sandwich, Arctic, Black and Little - the latter appearing in an unprecedented number in Buckinghamshire..........


Not long after 1315 hours, Adam Bassett phoned me to say that a 'flock' of LITTLE TERNS had flown in, numbering at least 15 birds. Within minutes I was in the car and on the way. By the time I arrived some 17 minutes later, the figure had been revised to 19 (nineteen) - the largest single flock ever recorded in the county and certainly the largest inland flock that I have ever witnessed. The flock were showing very well and roosting on the spit - David Ferguson managing to photograph the entire group. It consisted of two very fresh juveniles, 13 yellow-billed adults and 4 wholly black-billed individuals which I couldn't decide whether they were adult winters or first-summers). They afforded superb views from the vegetated spit on the west bank and remained present until at least 1400 hours, often hunting in a pack at the east end.

I also discovered two very fresh juvenile LITTLE GULLS surface-feeding at the east end, whilst 17 Common Terns were present and a juvenile MEDITERRANEAN GULL amongst the spit-roosting Black-headed Gulls. Although the number of larger gulls on site was small, the roost did include 5 YELLOW-LEGGED GULLS.

A COMMON GREENSHANK was also present, along with the female Egyptian Goose and surviving young and 5 Shoveler. Grey Wagtail, Common Kingfisher and 3 Nuthatches were also encountered.


Acting upon a call from Jeff Bailey, I headed north to Tring Reservoirs to check a windswept Startop's End Reservoir. Along with David Bilcock, we all logged 5 BLACK TERNS and a juvenile ARCTIC TERN. One of the adult BLACKS was still in very good 'nick' whilst two were fresh juveniles. No less than 15 Common Terns were present too - along with 8 COMMON SWIFTS. All 3 juvenile Great Crested Grebes were still surviving and being fed.

On neighbouring MARSWORTH RESERVOIR, another pair of Great Crested Grebes were attending a single youngster, with a juvenile Sparrowhawk seen and Mute Swan orange 681 remaining present with his partner.


All 4 juvenile Great Crested Grebes were alive, well and growing although there was no sign of either father. A single Little Grebe was also noted, whilst baby/juvenile Coots numbered 17. Green Woodpecker and juvenile Common Buzzard were also noted whilst migrants included 21 COMMON SWIFTS, 1 House Martin, 8 Common Chiffchaffs and the 9 SPOTTED FLYCATCHERS.

Elsewhere in the county, Rob Norris had a single juvenile BLACK TERN at Willen Lake South Basin

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

MED GULL again

Dave Bilcock photographed this juvenile MEDITERRANEAN GULL sitting on top of the bank at Startop's End Reservoir this morning before it flew and relocated on the bales at Marsworth.

Monday, 13 August 2012

Despite some eastern promise, today produced zilch

Nothing on the hills today despite trampsing round........and College Lake's Little Stint had also done an overnight bunk. I took these images of the Beacon and the favoured 'chat' fence looking across from Pitstone Hill car park.......