Wednesday, 27 February 2013

LITTLE OWLS in Berkhamstead

Dave Hutchinson and I decided to see if we could find the Little Owl in Berkhampstead today. We found the dead tree – but no Little Owl. After waiting a few minutes, a small bird flew in and a minute later a Little Owl popped up on the top of the highest point of the dead tree (near the roots) – see attached image. After walking more towards the club house and round the corner searching for a closer view, we saw that it had disappeared. However, we heard a bird call that Dave thought was an owl/raptor which appeared to be from the tree line running down the right of the clubhouse. After scouring the trees, I was lucky enough to spot a Little Owl perching two thirds of the way up a tree near to the white “goal posts” near the tree line. We were able to get quite close – in fact I was chastising Dave for tryin g to get too close when a guy on a bicycle rode underneath the tree with the owl in it (on the public footpath that is there) without spooking it. Whist watching it, we heard another Little Owl call from somewhere near the large tree in the field near the fallen tree – so clearly there are at least two there (Mike Nott and Dave Hutchinson)

Monday, 25 February 2013

First SHELDUCK of year

Had a quick look round some of the Ressies this afternoon. WATER PIPIT on Startops flew off in direction of Wilstone, redhead SMEW still on Tringford along with single COMMON SHELDUCK and three

Monday, 18 February 2013

Northbound WHOOPER or naturalised bird returning from elsewhere

Swans at Marsworth Reservoir (Michael Casey) - The adult WHOOPER as it flew over after departing College Lake.


Another nice day, with lots of blue sky, little cloud and not too much of a wind. The latter, however, was still in a Southeasterly direction, making it feel pretty cold.

Mostly Buckinghamshire Target Birding today and at very long last, finally connected with an ICELAND GULL today..........

I spent much of the morning at HEDGERLEY LANDFILL (BUCKS), where I had to do my best up against the Gyrfalcon hybrid and its owner. The two earned their money this morning, barely letting the gulls settle for long. There were probably in excess of 3,000 birds loitering, mostly Black-headed and immature Herring, with just 5 Great Black-backed now visiting the scrum. Eventually I located the ICELAND GULL, an immature bird bleaching heavily with spring approaching. I am assuming it is a juvenile moulting into first-summer plumage, as the eye was wholly dark, the bill extensively pale-based and the upper wings mainly just bleached out juvenile feathers. There were quite a few pale grey feathers starting to come through on the mantle but this is to be expected in the second half of February. Chris Heard had also seen this same individual in Berkshire in recent days.

Iceland Gulls have been surprisingly rare this winter, being equal in number to Glaucous (it is generally a 5:1 ration in favour of glaucoides). This is the first one I have managed to see anywhere in the UK this year, despite having visited the Shetland Islands and north of Scotland.

I then did an hour at CHURCH WOOD RSPB, HEDGERLEY (BUCKS), but no sign of any Lesser Spots, before moving on to STOKE COMMON (BUCKS) where once again I failed to locate Peter Stevens' male Common Stonechat. The Common was pretty birdless - just 3 Goldcrests and 9 Carrion Crows seen.

Late afternoon found me at COLLEGE LAKE BBOWT (BUCKS) and just as I arrived at the Bat barn on the east shore, an adult WHOOPER SWAN flew in loudly announcing its arrival. It was covered in iron ore deposits, with a rusty-orange glint to its crown, face and neck, and was instantly disliked by two cob Mute Swans on the main marsh. They followed it around for some time before it was left be, in the far NW corner, up against the bund. It looked very unsettled and nervous and probably touched-down for less than half an hour in total, allowing a few BBOWT staff, Mike Campbell and Graham Smith to connect. I phoned Johnny Lynch to see what was happening in Bedfordshire as regards our Wardown Park Whooper Swans and he confirmed that the resident pair were both at Dunstable Sewage Farm and acting territorial on the island of one of the pans. This winter, there have only been these two birds around, although 3 Whooper Swans were seen together at Wilstone last autumn.

Graham and others watched the adult Whooper Swan fly west over Marsworth Reservoir at around 1710 hours but it must have circled back as at 1745 hours, Johnny phoned to say that it had flown into Dunstable Sewage Works, joining the local pair (but choosing a different pan to settle). Whilst in flight, it was calling loudly.

Other species seen at College Lake included the 3 RED-CRESTED POCHARDS (drake and two females), the drake COMMON SHELDUCK present for its third day, 5 Shoveler, 44 Gadwall, 232 Wigeon, 17 Mute Swans and 32 Coot.

Over at WILSTONE RESERVOIR (HERTS), the elusive redhead GOOSANDER was sticking close to the Drayton Bank, with 5 female Common Goldeneye scattered widely and 53 Shoveler. Mike Campbell and I could not locate the pair of Pintail seen earlier by Ian Williams, whilst after we both departed, Steve Rodwell and Dave Bilcock located a 'new' adult MEDITERRANEAN GULL near enough in full breeding plumage bar a white forehead.

We all then ended up on MARSWORTH RESERVOIR (HERTS) where it was very cold. The COMMON KINGFISHER was by the sluice, whilst a total of 118 CORN BUNTINGS came into roost. The water held 8 Great Crested Grebes, 1 Little Grebe and 22 Northern Pochard, with up to 5 WATER RAILS squealing and the BARN OWL hunting over the back field east of the sewage works. Eagle-eyed Steve then picked up the BITTERN as the light faded, climbing to the top of the reeds in the Bucks section of the reservoir.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

COLLEGE LAKE blossoming

At last something to report from College Lake BBOWT and a day that had spring in the air. Lapwing numbers were much higher than usual with C200 all round the reserve, a small number have started to claim territories on both marsh islands. There was a single COMMON SHELDUCK which may be one of the hopefully returning pair. At the north end of the reserve there was a Peacock butterfly. Also on the marsh male and female PINTAIL and on the lake a single female Goldeneye and the Red Crested Pochards (per Paul Reed)

Not a lot happening

Highlight of this past week has been the WAXWINGS - up to 16 of them in trees near Tring Station. Still two different MEDITERRANEAN GULLS roosting at Wilstone, a redhead GOOSANDER in the area and at least 2 BITTERNS on Marsworth......

Some great new shots from Michael Casey

Little Owls are still to be found round the back of Wilstone, as well as Nuthatch, Marsh Tit, Yellowhammer, Bullfinch and Jay

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Redhead GOOSANDER and a different MED GULL

This adult drake Ring-necked Duck/Tufted Duck hybrid was at Wilstone this weekend, where it has relocated from Dunstable Sewage Works (Dave Bilcock). A redhead GOOSANDER was present on Tringford (along with the redhead SMEW) and a 2nd-winter MEDITERRANEAN GULL roosted on Wilstone. The 5 RED-CRESTED POCHARDS were again on Marsworth, where at least 2 BITTERNS remained (see Michael Casey's image below)

Michael Casey also captured these 'spring'time images - Great Crested Grebes 'courtship dancing' and Tufted Ducks pairing up

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Images from this weekend

Although I have not been around, Dave Bilcock and others have walked the circuit, the best of the weekend being a brief redhead GOOSANDER, a LESSER REDPOLL and the 3 BITTERNS.

Dave Hutchinson photographed the LESSER REDPOLL on Wilstone, whilst Chris Hinton had some terrific photographic moments at Marsworth (Water Rail, Common Kingfisher and fish-catching Great Crested Grebe)

Friday, 1 February 2013

This afternoon's Images

Hemel photographer Mike Casey was with me tonight at Marsworth and managed to get these excellent shots of the closest BITTERN and the RED-CRESTED POCHARDS

MEDITERRANEAN GULL roosting regularly; BITTERNS still performing - and BARN OWL, SMEW still and RED-CRESTED POCHARD flock


Another new month and temperatures sliding back a little (5 degrees C) as a freshening Northerly wind sets in. Not a bad day though, with long clear spells.

Eventually got out into the field early afternoon and just did some local birding, including my first visit to Tring Reservoirs in over two weeks......

In the CHESS VALLEY (BUCKS), my first Sinensis Cormorant of the year, drying its wings out on one of the fishing pontoons 100 yards west of the Chenies Bottom bridge. No sign of the Great White Egret again - just 4 Little Egrets. Both the LITTLE OWLS and BARN OWL were showing well.

SHARDELOES LAKE (BUCKS) was pretty much devoid of wildfowl (apart from the pair of Mute Swans, already nesting, and a couple of COMMON TEAL), but the Coot flock was still holding up at 127 birds. Still 6 Little Grebes present, two males of which were whinnying, whilst roosting gulls included 8 adult Common, an adult Lesser Black-backed and 13 Argenteus Herring Gulls. A single adult Argentatus Herring Gull was also present.

Green Woodpecker, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Common Treecreeper, 2 Mistle Thrush, SISKIN, 3 Goldfinch, 3 Common Buzzard, 5 Red Kite, 2 Wrens, 2 singing male Great Tits, 2 Carrion Crow and a Common Magpie were also seen, as well as a nice stag Muntjac.

The first of a trio of dead BADGERS found today was seen on the Amersham Road (the A355), with one on Gore Hill at SU 959 962 and another near Red Barn Farm at SU 956 935, and a further one on the Great Missenden bypass at SP 902 002.

As luck would have it, virtually all of the gulls at HEDGERLEY LANDFILL (BUCKS) this afternoon were roosting on the grassy slope behind the Recycling Centre, enabling some really nice 'scope views to be had. All in all there were about 680 gulls present, including 278 Black-headed, 302 Herring and just 5 adult Lesser Black-backed. At least 7 of the Herring Gulls bore red North Thames Gull Ringing Group rings, as did two of the 91 GREAT BLACK-BACKED GULLS present. I was able to pick out 5 different CASPIAN GULLS on the slope, including an adult of 3 bearing a distinctive green ring and two different first-winters (both different to the regular male at Spade Oak).

Large numbers of Corvids also present, 41 Red Kites and 200 Common Starlings.

I then moved on to the TRING RESERVOIRS (HERTS) to carry out my first thorough counts of the month; I had not been there in over 20 days but little seemed to have changed.

In the MARSWORTH WOODED BELT, 2 Blue Tits, a singing Robin and a Common Blackbird, and on the reservoir proper, 1 Little Grebe, 8 Great Crested Grebes, 2 Coot, 4 Moorhen, a drake Pochard and all 5 RED-CRESTED POCHARDS from neighbouring College Lake, showing very well from the causeway and displaying.

STARTOP'S END RESERVOIR yielded 54 Greylag Geese, 1 Great Crested Grebe, Grey Heron, 11 Mallard, 73 Tufted Duck, 15 Pochard and 193 Coot, whilst TRINGFORD RESERVOIR (surprisingly with water level now dropping) producing 8 Sinensis Cormorants, 2 Mute Swans, 1 Great Crested Grebe, 8 Common Teal, 6 Gadwall, 12 Mallard, 9 Tufted Duck, 8 Moorhen and 86 Coot. The long-staying female SMEW was showing well from the screen.

WILSTONE RESERVOIR held a lot of wildfowl including 5 Great Crested Grebes, just 2 Mute Swans, 8 Greylag Geese, 19 Mallard, 213 Wigeon, 52 Teal, 14 Gadwall, 66 Shoveler, 173 Tufted Duck, 191 Pochard and 5 COMMON GOLDENEYES (1 adult drake), as well as a single Little Grebe and 215 Coot (just 496 overall).

David Bilcock was just leaving as I entered the Drayton Bank Hide but it was a healthy gull roost, with just over 3,000 well-spread Black-headeds, 76 Commons, a single adult Lesser Black-backed and the regular first-winter MEDITTERANEAN.

Returning back to MARSWORTH, all 3 EURASIAN BITTERNS showed before dusk, including the regular bird close to the causeway climbing up to its reedy'platform'. The BARN OWL also appeared on cue over the Sewage Farm Field, with 4 WATER RAILS in the Cut Reeds.