Thursday, 27 September 2012


The GREAT WHITE EGRET was still present today whilst there was also a report of a SHAG early morning and mid afternoon. A Common Tern was also seen (Dave Bilcock).

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Almost flogging a dead horse but a few nice surprises - WOODLARKS, OSPREY, GROPPER - and GREAT WHITE EGRET still present of course


A band of heavy rain passed through from the southwest early to mid morning before clearing away. It was replaced by very still conditions - and quite mild. Having aborted a trip down west for Ortolan/Buff-breasted Sandpiper, I was soon then hit by all manner of messages from the Northeast - with rare warbler after rare warbler found as the skies cleared. In fact by 1400 hours, no less than 3 different Pallas's Grasshopper Warblers had been found - I was well depressed....

Anyhow, I made the best of a bad situation and decided to flog around the local areas in search of that rare and although not in the same league as your Arctic/Greenish, did turn up a few surprises.....but it was hard work

(mainly private)

I decided to start at Springfield Farm where GS had 'gripped' me off the previous evening with his phone call. After liaising with him again this morning, I soon located the COMMON STONECHATS - in fact 3 of them - an adult male, an adult female and a first-year. There was also at least 1 WHINCHAT still present, as well as a single adult COMMON WHITETHROAT. The chats were concentrated well down the cinder track - much further down than usual - and were the first that I had seen in the Recording Area for a couple of years. But better was yet to come......

As I got to the point where the cinder track veered sharply to the left, I became aware of a very large flock of Meadow Pipits (100+) in the patch that had been cleared by the archaeologists' earlier in the summer. As I wandered out into the sparsely vegetated ground to check through them, I heard a liquidy alarm note and there just a few yards in front of me were 2 WOODLARKS - an adult and a first-year. I enjoyed excellent views of them for a few minutes before they flushed and flew calling across to the well vegetated pit top at the end of the track. I immediately called Rob Hill as I knew this was a species he wanted to see in the county, and then RBA, Graham Smith and Dave Cleal. As I was on the phone, both birds seemed to drop back down on the cleared area and I left them (Adam Bassett phoned me later to say that he was getting great views of one of them).

I did a thorough search of surrounding areas but only came across 8 Linnets, more Meadow Pipits, 2 COMMON RAVENS and lots of Red Kites. A group of 6 adult male Greenfinches were nearby bathing.


I then joined up with Steve Blake at Tyttenhanger where we enjoyed excellent views of a male COMMON STONECHAT and a WHINCHAT on the fenceline on the east side of the main birding pit; also a Bar-headed Goose amongst 59 Atlantic Canada Geese and two Common Chiffchaffs.


For around half an hour, it poured with rain and I sat in the car talking with the various observers that seemed to be stumbling into PG Tips on the North East Coast. With clearing skies and slack winds, I decided to take my chance on the hills and do a full circuit. Approaching the trig point, a large raptor appeared overhead and rather than the expected Red Kite, it was a juvenile OSPREY purposefully on its way SSW. It was flapping strongly rather than gliding and was following the contour of the hills and had a typically well streaked breast band, distinctive pale tips to the terminal tail band and gleaming white unmarked underwing coverts. This was at 1425 hours and by three minutes later it was gone - perhaps heading towards the Gade Valley.

As I continued up towards the Beacon trig point, I flushed a strange looking bird from the edge of the chalk track. It had a longish tail and was very dark. I thought pipit at first but when I tracked it down in the grass, I was surprised to see that it was a locustella - and quite a greyish one at that. I looked at it for ages and next to point blank range but could not make it any more than just a GRASSHOPPER WARBLER - perhaps a young one or an individual from further east.

A wave of 22 House Martins and 7 Barn Swallows passed away to the SSW (following the same line as the Osprey), whilst 50 or so Goldfinches were still resident along the top escarpment.

Dropping down into the weedy field at the base of Gallows Hill, the fenceline held 3 WHINCHATS and 2 Northern Wheatears, whilst the only other migrant I noted in the area was a single Common Chiffchaff by the car park. An awful amount of flogging around with few birds to show for it.


And so on to the reservoirs and Startop's was pretty birdless - fishermen were wading out into the water. WILSTONE on the other hand still harboured our celebrity GREAT WHITE EGRET - fishing in the shallows but in the boatyard corner and rather distant (see Alan Reynold's superb montage of images above).

All 6 Little Egrets were still present too, 16 Great Crested Grebes, 42 Mute Swans, 4 Greylag Geese, 12 Gadwall, the 3 PINTAIL, 113 Shoveler, 114 Wigeon, 313 Teal, 138 Tufted Duck, 106 Pochard and a whopping 802 Coot - RINGED PLOVER still present, 39 :Lapwing, active Kingfishers and a single remaining HOBBY - oh, and a bright and chirpy Lucy Flower !

And that was it......

Tuesday, 25 September 2012



Another day of strong WSW winds but dry and bright and much cooler than of late


After discussing the bird with the finder Kevin Duncan, I felt I must go down and have a look at the bird just on the outside chance it was a SemiP - after all, no less than 12 of them have appeared in the UK this September. Although just over the border in Bucks, once again I was stood in the county when studying this small wader. Although somewhat flighty, it was showing well and was indeed a LITTLE STINT, although it had largely moulted into first-winter plumage. A nice record and proof of what a bit of floodwater can do (a Dunlin also arrived there later).

DORNEY COMMON held at least 100 Meadow Pipits, with 8 migrant SISKINS overhead and the boundary ditch harbouring 3 CETTI'S WARBLERS and a Grey Wagtail


Joan and I then returned north back to Bedfordshire where over the lunchtime period, we met up with Johnny Lynch, Ted & Evelyn Reed, Stuart Warren, Steve Blain, Graham White, Richard Bashford, Mark Ward and others. This time we were quids in - the juvenile PECTORAL SANDPIPER was on view and giving fairly good, albeit distant views. It was favouring the pit on the right (the furthest one visible from the watchpoint) moving between the left hand and right hand gravel edges. It was often with a single Ringed Plover, whilst on the lefthand pit were a juvenile Dunlin and Green Sandpiper. Quite a few Teal and Shoveler, and 25 or so Meadow Pipits on site.


The drake RED-CRESTED POCHARD was still present, along with 63 Northern Pochard and 11 Great Crested Grebes.


Spent several hours in the hide. The GREAT WHITE EGRET was performing well, fishing in the shallows to the right of the hide. A very popular bird with countless photographs being taken, a large selection of which are now published on my Tring Reservoirs blog site.

Also LITTLE EGRETS now up to 6 (just how does the message get round so quickly that feeding conditions are optimum), with large numbers of returning waterbirds including 8 Great Crested Grebe, 42 Mute Swans, 72 Pochard, the 3 PINTAILS, 200+ Teal, 75 Shoveler and 566 Coot.

The single RINGED PLOVER was still in the NW corner, with a male Sparrowhawk over and no less than 66 House Martins feeding.

Got home and almost immediately received a call from Graham Smith - two COMMON STONECHATS were present for their third day at Springfield Farm Quarry - an excellent record and a species that really needs to be flagged up on Marek Walford's site

GREAT WHITE EGRET gallery - pix galore

Lots of great shots taken of our celebrity GREAT WHITE EGRET at Wilstone - 7 from IAN WILLIAMS, 4 from FRANCIS BUCKLE and 2 from LUCY FLOWER

GREAT WHITE EGRET still - superb shot from Peter Brazier

A blustery but sunny morning at WIlstone and the Great White Egret’s continued presence meant at times there was standing room only in the hide. The bird was being hassled by the Grey Herons and Cormorants. I’m sure you are going to get many photos sent to you today. Here’s my best offering of something different. Here this Cormorant had just surfaced rather aggressively, right under the Egret causing it to take flight (Peter Brazier)

Monday, 24 September 2012

GREAT WHITE EGRET present all day

Dave Bilcock's shot at the top of the page followed by a selection from Sally Douglas. Bird was present all day at Wilstone


I received information back on the nasal-saddled female NORTHERN POCHARD 'FV6' of last week. It was originally captured on 1st May 2012 at Saint-Philbert-de-Grand Lieu in France and this was the first reported sighting since then. The bird was still present this evening amongst the ducks on the bar in front of the hide (David Bilcock)

Sunday, 23 September 2012

GREAT WHITE EGRET: more shots from the hide

Simon West managed to get these ahots too from the hide. It's a fair distance away

GREAT WHITE EGRET as it rounded by the hide

Dave Hutchinson did remarkably well in getting this flight shot of the Wilstone GREAT WHITE EGRET as it    circled around in front of the hide for seconds as it arrived. Dave Bilcock has now seen 4 Great Whites at the reservoirs in recent years - amazing. What a change in status


Taken distantly from the hide - not bad though (John Foster)



It was obvious today was going to be a good day. The wind was in the east and heavy rain was forecast to come in - ideal conditions for birds to be moving in front of the weather.....

As such, I headed down to the reservoirs to see what was happening

First bird I set eyes upon was a juvenile NORTHERN GANNET in the extreme NE corner of STARTOP'S END RESERVOIR - straddling the shoreline. I telephoned RBA immediately of my find, then Dave Bilcock and then JT. Dave arrived within 15 minutes but it appeared the bird was dead. I picked it up.

I then went to check the wildfowl numbers on WILSTONE RESERVOIR...

Scanning from the bank by the car park steps, I picked up an egret flying in high over DRAYTON BEAUCHAMP (BUCKS) at 0945 hours that had an all-orange bill - it was a GREAT WHITE EGRET ! It kept on flying towards the reservoir and flew along the line of the Black Poplars before checking out the ditch behind the Drayton Bank Hide. It then circled round over the hide and flew along to the right and landed on a muddy fringe at the edge of the reedbed about 150 yards right of the hide. Frustratingly, I didn't have Steve Rodwell's phone number (who I knew was sitting in the hide) so I phoned Dave Bilcock so that he could get in touch with him. Minutes later, Dave Hutchinson phoned (who was also sat in the hide) to say that they had just seen it and he had managed to photograph it !

Despite being pestered by a Grey Heron a few times, it eventually settled into feeding and could be easily viewed from near the car park steps or from the overflow. Once again, I phoned RBA, DB and JT within a MINUTE of me first seeing it arrive. It remained on view until at least early afternoon. Within a very short while, twitchers began arriving, with DB, Chaz Jackson and Mike Campbell soon to be followed by John Foster, Brendan Glynn, Chris White, Bill Pegram, Ian Williams, Lucy Flower, Paul Reed and the majority of the Tring regulars.

It was an unringed individual and most likely the same bird that has returned for three consecutive winters, being seen in the Chess Valley in its first year and in the Linford area last winter.

Wilstone also harboured 5 LITTLE EGRETS this morning, with wildfowl including at least 28 Mute Swans, 135 Common Teal, 59 Wigeon, 61 Shoveler, the 3 NORTHERN PINTAIL (2 drakes and a female - present for two weeks now), 32 Pochard and 73 Tufted Duck. A single RINGED PLOVER was feeding on the mud in the NW corner (for its second day), with 29 Lapwing, an adult Common Gull with the Black-heads and a Common Kingfisher flashing by. A tremendous number of HOUSE MARTINS was present - at least 230.

Just as the rain started at 1050 hours, Steve, I and others watched a juvenile ARCTIC TERN arrive......perhaps a precursor of what to come. An enjoyable morning

Friday, 14 September 2012


Still lingering. At least 2 NORTHERN WHEATEARS present today (pictured by Sally Douglas)

All quiet on the local front

Nothing in Incombe Hole.

The farmer was using cutting wheels on the recently harvested cereal field by the main footpath (he said it is not going to be ploughed but sewn directly onto the surface). However it was attracting quite a lot of birds - Pipits, Skylarks, Finches, Swallows and 2 Wheatears.

From the slope overlooking Pitstone Clay Pit I could see 6 Little Grebe and 33 Canada Geese but I was joined by a Red Kite hunting overhead for about an hour. Hanging in the strong wind and then, in a whiffling action, grabbing something from the ground nearby and eating it in flight above me like a Hobby, all in quite close proximity. That'll go down as a special birding experience!

Sally Douglas

Wednesday, 12 September 2012


A MARSH HARRIER was seen over Steps Hill this morning but nothing in the way of small birds

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

One word describes today's local birding exploits - simply dire


Yes, one word to describe my day out - pretty dire

The wind had switched to the Northwest, pegging temperatures back to about 61 degrees. It remained dry and was part cloudy.


Arrived on site to hear about a MARSH HARRIER over the reedbed last Friday (7 September), present from 1705-1715 before flying off south......

Walked around to the hide where I was intrigued to find that all of my information and bird sighting book had been removed from the hide - by whom I do not know. Furthermore, vegetation was so thick and dense in front of the hide that it was not possible to see the emerging bund......

Anyhow, it was Little Egrets and wildfowl that had arrived since my last visit - just 2 of the former and a single NORTHERN PINTAIL for its second day highlighting the latter.....

The rollcall included 32 Mute Swans, 217 Mallard, 8 Eurasian Wigeon, 56 Common Teal, 7 Gadwall, 33 Shoveler, 27 Tufted Duck and 17 Northern Pochard, with 8 Great Crested Grebes and 406 Coot completing the counts.

There was little sign of summer, with 7 Sand Martins through, along with 35 House Martins, and a Common Chiffchaff in the overflow hedgerow. A single scolding Sedge Warbler was in the vegetation in front of the hide.


A complete waste of time. Walked the circuit and saw next to zilch - 7 Meadow Pipits and 3 Yellowhammers - devoid of migrants


A pocket of sunlit hedgerows and fields had attracted 30 European Barn Swallows close to the village

Tomorrow's Just Another Day.......

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Things looking up for Wilstone

The water level at Wilstone is dropping quite fast and there is now a resurgence of the bund by the hide. This has almost instantly attracted 6 LITTLE EGRETS - the first in over two months. Also, large numbers of duck, particularly Common Teal, but no waders yet other than Lapwings (Dave Bilcock/Steve Rodwell).

On the Hills this weekend, not much change, with up to 3 WHINCHATS (Steps Hill slope), several NORTHERN WHEATEARS and at least 2 COMMON REDSTARTS; 2 flyover YELLOW WAGTAILS too.

Friday, 7 September 2012

Steps Hill this afternoon

At least 3 WHINCHATS in Incombe Hole this afternoon (see pix above), as well as good numbers of warblers (including Lesser Whitethroats) and a SPOTTED FLYCATCHER (Sally Douglas)

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Charlie's twitched the HELLEBORINES

Chaz Jackson's close-up shots of the VIOLET HELLEBORINE VAR ROSEA (Epipactis purpurata) (the form lacking chlorophyl) at Wndover Forest. Although the ordinary version occurs close to Bluebell Wood at Ringshall, this double spiked plant is somewhat unique and truly spectacular.