Sunday, 31 March 2013

Despite the conditions, a trickle of migrants battling through


With temperatures failing to rise above 4 degrees C all day, March 2013 goes down as the coldest in the UK since 1962 - a staggering 51 years - and not set to get any better anytime soon......

I spent the day trying to eek out some migrants that may have managed to get through and did succeed in connecting with the odd few....

PITSTONE QUARRY is the deepest I have ever seen it but was largely iced over - just 6 Coot and 4 Mallard noted - whilst just 1 LITTLE RINGED PLOVER was on view at the INDUSTRIAL ESTATE SCRAPES at PITSTONE.

Steve Rodwell had been sitting on the jetty bench at WILSTONE RESERVOIR since 0600 hours and at the time when the temperature was still at minus 6. For this privelege, he recorded 2 flyover YELLOW WAGTAILS and a PEREGRINE. I joined him at a more sociable hour but as we stood there, two pipits appeared on a number of occasions - a WATER PIPIT in near breeding plumage and a SCANDINAVIAN ROCK PIPIT. For a short while, both birds landed on the East Bank but were quickly flushed by the succession of Easter walkers. This was a different Water Pipit to the one I saw a few days ago on Startop's. A couple of male Reed Buntings also flew through.

Wilstone was dominated by an impressive number of duck, including 214 Northern Pochard, 152 Wigeon, 276 Tufted Duck, 46 Shoveler and 2 female Common Goldeneye, as well as 12 Great Crested Grebe and 2 Mute Swans. The clear blue skies also played host to much raptor activity, with up to 9 Red Kites and 8 Common Buzzards overhead.

Ian Williams had seen a pair of Grey Partridge just NW of Startop's End Reservoir early morning but all I could find in a lengthy search was a single Chinese Water Deer and several singing Skylarks. Ian had also seen two male Yellowhammers by the Dry Canal and reported recent sightings of the 2 Nuthatches by the orchard.

The male NORTHERN WHEATEAR was still showing in the paddock at STARTOPS FARM, whilst Dave Bilcock confirmed the presence of 4 more just below the Beacon at Ivinghoe Hills CP.

I moved on to WESTON TURVILLE RESERVOIR where I was pleased to finally connect with the SAND MARTIN there (after several unsuccessful visits). Incredibly, this was my first year since 1972 that I had not seen a March bird at Tring. In fact, other than today's bird at Tringford (DB), there had not been one all month - exceptional.

A drake MANDARIN DUCK was flying about the reservoir, with the 2 Great Crested Grebes, 2 Pochard and drake Shoveler still there.

At WEST WYCOMBE HILL, a pair of COMMON RAVEN was in tumbling display.

And then, back to a very windswept DORNEY LAKES, where the LITTLE RINGED PLOVER pair were still displaying by the Reserve Pool and 4 NORTHERN WHEATEARS were on the grass (three adult males and a single first-summer male). No sign of any White Wagtail but Pied Wagtails and Green Woodpecker (and two freshly dead Mute Swans too, curiously missing legs and feet).

Just up the road at the MARSH LANE WEIR (JUBILEE RIVER), the adult male BLACK REDSTART was still present but as elusive as ever; also 95 FIELDFARES

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

My images from today

The two drake GOOSANDERS

Male Pied Wagtail

The 3 Red-crested Pochards

Lingering Eurasian Wigeon on Startop's North Bank

This fine male Northern Wheatear was feeding on the North Bank of Startop's


A biting Easterly wind


Really, really cold with a strong, biting, Easterly wind. Snow still lying and another overnight frost with some light snow flurries during the day. Top temperature - FREEZING....

Anyhow, devoted all my time today to HERTFORDSHIRE - picking up at least 3 County Year-ticks...

WOODOAKS FARM at MAPLE CROSS was my first destination of the day and with Geoff Lapworth and four other local birders enjoyed a beautiful adult male MARSH HARRIER as it interacted with one of 3 Red Kites as it flew east across the fields. It is most likely the male that Geoff saw at Stockers Lake yesterday and that seen previously in the Misbourne Valley at Shardeloes - presumably waiting for a change in the weather.

Other migrants included 74 EUROPEAN GOLDEN PLOVER (several of which were in breeding attire), 2 male NORTHERN WHEATEARS and a male COMMON STONECHAT. Not a bad start to the day.

I then headed north to TRING RESERVOIRS where MARSWORTH RESERVOIR held two adult drake GOOSANDERS (see images above), 6 Coot, 4 Moorhen, 6 Tufted Duck, 9 Great Crested Grebe and an adult Lesser Black-backed Gull; two WATER RAILS were walking about the reeds too, with a male Reed Bunting in song.

The WATER PIPIT was showing well with two Pied Wagtails in the Buckinghamshire SE corner of STARTOP'S END RESERVOIR, where also 28 Coot, 3 RED-CRESTED POCHARD, 3 Northern Pochard, 12 Mallard, 15 Eurasian Wigeon, 67 Tufted Duck and 2 Great Crested Grebe were present. A singing male Chaffinch and 7 House Sparrows were by STARTOPS FARM, as well as a pair of Greylag Geese, with a cracking male NORTHERN WHEATEAR on the North Bank and 34 migrant REDWING in a tree there. Additional fare included 4 Moorhen, 4 Pied Wagtails and a single male Grey Wagtail.

TRINGFORD RESERVOIR was relatively quiet with little more than 2 Mute Swans, 22 Coot, 4 Gadwall, 2 Shoveler, 24 Tufted Duck, 10 Teal, 1 Pochard and 15 Mallard noted, with 2 Long-tailed Tits and a Goldcrest in the hedgerow.

WILSTONE was bleak and windswept with little of interest - 3 Great Crested Grebes, 4 Mute Swans, 36 Shoveler, 78 Pochard and 303 Tufted Duck being the pick of the bunch.

Nesting species on the Drayton Bank included 11 active Sinensis Cormorant nests (including four on the lower stretch of Willows) and 4 active Grey Herons.

Lastly, I visited TEWINBURY NATURE RESERVE near WELWYN, where from the reserve's Judy Adams hide I obtained excellent, prolonged views of a JACK SNIPE feeding at the edge of the mud - one of two birds present at the site for over a month. Also a single Common Snipe feeding, 2 Little Grebes and a reed-dwelling Wren.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Recent Highlights: 15-25 March

On 15 March, Dave Bilcock noted two different adult summer KITTIWAKES in the Wilstone roost, with a BLACK-TAILED GODWIT at College Lake BBOWT briefly next morning (Rose Collard)

Lucy Flower then found both WATER and SCANDINAVIAN ROCK PIPIT on Startop's End Reservoir on 19 March, these two birds remaining for several days.

The first of three MARSH HARRIERS flew over College on 23rd (RDA), with both a male and a female at Wilstone next day (Steve Rodwell/Warren Claydon).

Dave Bilcock had up to 5 NORTHERN WHEATEARS over the weekend, including 2 at the Pitstone Industrial Estate scrapes and a bird on the bank at Wilstone.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Waders moving

Dave Bilcock had a DUNLIN and two COMMON REDSHANKS on the little stretch of mud at Startop's End this morning, proving that this spot is well worth keeping an eye on

Meanwhile LOCAL MEGA - there is a first-winter RING-BILLED GULL at Stewartby Lake this evening

My New Group is up and running - feel free to join

The new 'Birding Tring Reservoirs' email group is now up and running - simply click on the following link and press JOIN NOW - I will do the rest -

Remember, this group is for active members of the Reservoir natural history brigade and we welcome sightings of bird, mammal, reptile, butterfly or plant interest. It also embraces the wider general area and therefore covers sites such as Wendover Woods, Dancers End, Dagnall, Ashridge Forest, Weston Turville and the Ivinghoe Hill escarpment.

What I don't want is back-biting, suppression or argumentative behaviour, but constructive criticism and healthy discussions are fine. Photographic contributions are particularly welcome and information is welcome, whether it is of the most common or rarest of local birds.

Obviously as moderator, I shall control who can become a member and who cannot, but if you have something to offer, are particularly active or just appreciate the help that I and other friendly locals can offer, then you are most welcome. The four individuals involved with the Wilstone Savi's Warbler suppression are certainly not welcome - local birding is about sharing and caring - and this particular local community will be just that.

Very best wishes

Lee G R Evans

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Tringbirding email group

The Tringbirding email group seems to have died a death as birder participation seems to have tailed off through petty squabbling. As such, I shall be setting up a new group for those interested in discussing the birds of the Reservoirs and the neighbouring areas such as Ivinghoe Beacon, Weston Turville, Wendover Woods and the like. If you would like to be considered for this closed group, please email me on

Monday, 11 March 2013

New File uploaded

I have uploaded a new report covering January and February 2013 - just click on the Summaries button above

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Another KITTIWAKE or the same

This evening with Steve, Charlie and Roy, presumably the same adult KITTIWAKE as yesterday was present (picture above) on Wilstone. Gull numbers were slightly lower but a single full breeding plumaged MEDITERRANEAN GULL was present (Dave Bilcock).

Predictable KITTIWAKE - Weekend Highlight


Following last weeks brief burst of spring weather, Winter returned with a vengeance this weekend, with very cold Easterly winds blasting in from the Continent pegging temperatures back to just above freezing. Skies were largely grey and overcast

Due to Highways Agency commitments, my birding day was limited to post 1530 hours, by which time virtually all of the day's goodies had passed through - eg, Pintails in Bedfordshire and Little Gull, Pintails and Dunlin in the Tring Area. Also unbeknown to me at the time was a Pied Avocet at Marlow, frustratingly twitchable for just under two hours.

Anyway, just as I was available, Lol Carman notified me of an adult KITTIWAKE in Bedfordshire at GROVEBURY PIT, LEIGHTON BUZZARD - so that was where I headed. Within half an hour, I joined Rob Dazley and Johnny Lynch at the mud-infested site, where the KITTIWAKE in full breeding plumage was affording some reasonable views. Two YELLOW-LEGGED GULLS, an adult and first-winter, were also in the roost, whilst a drake GOOSANDER and 3 COMMON SHELDUCK were also present. At 1650 hours, the distinctive whistle of a EURASIAN CURLEW was heard, and flying around we quickly picked up three birds in flight, seemingly trying to find somewhere to land. The calls continued for the next five minutes as the three birds wheeled around when suddenly a fourth bird joined them from the ground, this increasing to an exceptional EIGHT when I latched onto them again, some time later. All eight eventually landed on the east side of the pit (much to Bob & Lol's delight), the pit also attracting a flock of 5 Oystercatchers. Also noted were a flock of 32 Linnets.

I returned to the Tring Area (Herts) and joined David Bilcock and Jenny Wallington on the concrete pad at WILSTONE RESERVOIR. The ten Pintails from earlier had gone but most impressive was the gull roost - the best and varied I had seen it this year. Although Black-headed Gulls probably numbered no more than 1,200 birds, three different MEDITERRANEAN GULLS were with them - two adults in breeding plumage and a 2nd-winter - as well as 46 Common Gulls. Large white-headed gulls were well represented, with an exceptional 43 Lesser Black-backed and two Argenteus Herring Gulls (a first-year and a fourth-year). DB was just commenting upon KITTIWAKE occurrences when I came face-to-face with an adult in my 'scope - another pristine adult in full breeding plumage. Dave quickly got on to it and over the next half hour or more prior to dusk, it showed well, frequently being chased by Lesser Black-backed and Common Gulls. It seemed to frighten the Black-headed Gulls too as it hastened to land, and was heard calling on at least two occasions.

Whilst we were stood on the bank, two Common Starling flocks totalling some 330 birds flew east towards dusk.


A further deterioation in the weather with a swing in the wind to an incredibly biting north-easterly - it was raw and felt absolutely mind-numbing freezing in the field. There were a few light snow flurries in the wind and it remained grey and overcast, with temperatures failing to rise above 2 degrees C.

I spent the first couple of hours (1030-1230) of my birding day at HEDGERLEY LANDFILL SITE (BUCKS), trying to locate the recent adult Iceland Gull but again it was nowhere to be seen. Gull numbers had dwindled to around 3,000, with perhaps 750 large white-headed gulls still present. Just 2 Great Black-backed Gulls were identified (an adult and a first-year) and 250 Lesser Black-backed, whilst predominantly Argenteus Herring Gull numbered 462 (the majority juveniles). Amongst the Black-headed Gull throng was a nice breeding-plumaged adult MEDITERRANEAN GULL but most interesting of all was an apparent adult breeding-plumaged BALTIC GULL (form fuscus), standing out like a sore thumb from the other Lesser Black-backed Gulls present. It was like a miniature Great Black-backed Gull in appearance, with very black upperwings leading to little contrast with the wing-tips. It was also strikingly smaller, shorter-legged and longer-winged, with a smaller rounded contrasting clean-white head. It was quite small-billed by comparison and had a more 'gential' feel about it. Sadly, it was bearing no rings, so ruling it out from the blackest intermedius was not possible, but I did get a few distant record shots of it as it fed amongst the rubbish clearly illustrating its blackness and easy detection. In flight, the upperwings appeared all black with no contrast, with the thin white trailing edge to the secondaries and inner primaries and hardly any evidence of white tipping to the outer primaries. It just had to be a fuscus it was so distinctive.

Frozen to the core, I warmed up in the car and drove the 27 miles west to PORT MEADOW in OXFORD (OXFORDSHIRE), which was in absolutely superb condition. Undoubted highlight was the presence of 6 PIED AVOCETS, noisily moving back and forth over the flood. Other waders present included 200+ European Golden Plovers, a single Oystercatcher and 4 Ringed Plovers, whilst the huge numbers of wildfowl present included 604 Common Teal, 698 Wigeon, a few Shoveler and 18 PINTAIL. A flock of 6 GOOSANDER (3 adult drakes) was also present.

Following the presence of a small flock of Sand Martins at midday, I stopped off at SPADE OAK PIT (LITTLE MARLOW) (BUCKS) on my way back but the only evidence of migration in the bitter wind was the flock of 14 Pied Wagtails on the far spit. The massive gull roost held no less than 3 different breeding-plumage MEDITERRANEAN GULLS and 780 Common Gulls, whilst wildfowl highlighted with 2 Common Shelduck and 2 drake PINTAIL.

Last off, I visited CHESHAM FISHING LAKES (BUCKS), where Chris Pontin had seen a pair of GREYLAG GEESE only an hour earlier. They had departed but compensation came in the form of 2 COMMON CHIFFCHAFFS flycatching in the ditch of the smaller lake - my first of the year in the Recording Area


Despite the weather, it was a particularly productive day today with some great birds. First off, Steve Rodwell found a 2nd-winter LITTLE GULL on Marsworth (see DB's pic above), which remained long enough for several regulars to see it. At the same time, a MEDITERRANEAN GULL was present. Meanwhile, Dave Bilcock found 10 PINTAILS on Wilstone (just brief stayers), whilst the WATER PIPIT was showing well by the Jetty (see Dave Hutchinson's image above). Paul Reed had 2 additional PINTAIL on College Lake WWT, where also 3 Common Redshanks were present, whilst DB located 2 DUNLIN on the Pitstone Industrial Estate scrape (which flew off shortly later).

In the evening, Dave Bilcock and I did the gull roost, where I located an adult summer plumaged KITTIWAKE and Dave 3 MEDITERRANEAN GULLS - two breeding-plumaged adults and a second-winter.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

LESSER SPOTS at Dancers End

06/3 13:30 : 2 LESSER SPOTTED WOODPECKERS : Dancersend.

Very excited chasing and calling going on. Had all three woodpecker species in same area of woodland.

Mick Jones

Redshanks back at College


Although not as mild as yesterday, at 11 degrees centigrade it was half decent. The forecasted rain never happened and it just remained dreary and grey all day. No wind to speak of.

Relatively local birding today, with just one addition - Common Redshank.....

Arrived too late again at HEDGERLEY LANDFILL - Dick Seekins' adult ICELAND GULL being flushed off by the 'Laggar' shortly before I got there. Just 25+ Red Kites loafing around

Graham Smith then phoned me to say he was watching a splendid male MERLIN at GALLOWS BRIDGE and in the 50 minutes it took me to get there, it was on view for 45 of them. Typical - and a really gripping bird too (see Graham's shot above).

Compensation came in the form of a cracking male Yellowhammer, 45 Fieldfares, 1 Redwing, 4 Reed Buntings, 1 Song Thrush and 7 Linnets, whilst Greylag Goose, 2 Atlantic Canada Geese, 3 Red Kites, Common Buzzard, 7 Common Blackbirds, 4 Red-legged Partridge, Meadow Pipit, Grey Heron, 4 Skylarks and a Stock Dove were also noted. A Little Egret here was quite unusual.

The female PEREGRINE was attending the platform in AYLESBURY, whilst at TRINGFORD RESERVOIR (HERTS), the male COMMON SHELDUCK was again present, the 6 RED-CRESTED POCHARDS, 3 Mute Swans and 4 Great Crested Grebes.

COLLEGE LAKE BBOWT yielded my first local Common Redshanks of the year - two on the main marsh - with 21 Mute Swans present (including two orange-ringed birds - '029' and '4AFA'), a single OYSTERCATCHER, 34 Gadwall, 12 Teal, pair of Shoveler, 112 Wigeon, 23 Tufted Duck, 31 Coot and a Green Woodpecker.

At DAGNALL (BEDS), the COMMON RAVENS were visiting the nest, with 4 Mistle Thrush and 2 Greenfinches in the vicinity.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Waders on the move

A RUFF spent ten minutes on the ice at Wilstone this morning, whilst a Common Redshank was seen briefly in the Quarry and an ICELANDIC BLACK-TAILED GODWIT flew from College Lake towards Wilstone (per Ian Williams, Dave Bilcock and Paul Reed respectively)

Otherwise 8 Red-crested Pochards, Common Shelduck and redhead Smew on Tringford