Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Adam Bassett's third trilling WOOD WARBLER in a fortnight - plus, showy pair of FIRECRESTS at Weston Turville


The last day of April proved to be a fortuitous one, with warmer temperatures (13 degrees C), lighter winds (NW) and largely clear skies. Buckinghamshire was my domain throughout the day, with 6 County Year Ticks (CYT) for my efforts...

Following a mid-morning call from Adam Bassett, MARLOW proved to be my first destination, where in the PUMP LANE VINEFIELDS, I soon located the two NORTHERN WHEATEARS (male and female) and the single WHINCHAT (see images below).

I then joined Adam and Dave Cleal at the MARLOW LOW GROUNDS where almost at the end of LOWER POUND LANE, the WOOD WARBLER was still trilling from the Willow and Alder Carr every five minutes or so. Unfortunately, it was frequenting the back garden of a large property and we were only to get rather distant views as the bird sang and flitted through the Willow branches. It was nothing like as bright as yesterday's Wilstone bird. With this being such a late spring and many of the woodlands three weeks behind in flowering, exceptional numbers of passage Wood Warblers have been recorded this spring, many in locations close to water, perhaps 75 in total. Exceptional too has been the fact that Adam has found three separate singers, all within the Marlow area.

Whilst standing listening and searching for the Wood Warbler, 3 HOBBIES glided overhead in the heat of the early afternoon sun, several Common Buzzards and Red Kites, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, food-carrying Common Treecreepers and two Goldcrests also seen. The water meadows themselves held a pair of Egyptian Geese tending 5 small young (see picture below). Butterflies emerging in the sun included Brimstone and Green-veined White.

Neighbouring SPADE OAK NATURE RESERVE (LITTLE MARLOW) very quickly yielded me GARDEN WARBLER, with 4 singing males in the south hedgerow, with 13+ Blackcaps and 5 Common Chiffchaffs singing. Not much on the pit apart from 12 Coot, 6 Lapwing, 7 Gadwall, 1 Egyptian Goose, 1 COMMON SNIPE, 44 Argenteus Herring Gulls, 2 Mute Swans and 5 Common Terns.

Checking the SCHOOL LANE cereal fields in OLD AMERSHAM, I was surprised to find a single LAPWING feeding. It also provided me with an opportunity to get some nice Rook shots as they busily filled their crops to feed the young birds in the rookery across the road. A male Muntjac crossed the field too.

Thanks to some guidance from Graham Smith, I soon connected with both COMMON CUCKOO and LESSER WHITETHROAT at COLLEGE LAKE BBOWT - the former calling from the railway embankment in the NE corner of the reserve and the latter rattling and warbling from the scrub in the far NW corner. Both were new for me.

Also a Site Tick for me was FIRECREST at WESTON TURVILLE RESERVOIR: a pair showing very well in ivy-clad trees, Holly and Birch scrub just beyond the last outbuilding in the grounds of Perch Cottage, perhaps 45 yards in from the road. I managed a few images but the birds were particularly mobile (see below). A COMMON SHREW that ran across the path was also my first of the year.

The two Firecrests - typically flitting

I finished off my day with a visit to SHARDELOES LAKE where I was surprised to see breeding in full swing. No less than three broods of Mallard were on the water, with two well grown young and groups of 4 and 7 ducklings. Coot nests numbered 12, with one pair already feeding a single tiny youngster (adults numbered 42 in total). The Mute Swans were also nesting (see pix below).

The male GREAT CRESTED GREBE was busy feeding, with 4 Little Grebes, 13 Tufted Duck, 3 pairs of GADWALL and 3 MANDARIN DUCKS (2 drakes) present on the lake.

Other species noted included COMMON KINGFISHER, Great Spotted and Green Woodpecker, 2 Red Kite, 3 Stock Dove, a singing male Song Thrush, single singing males of both Blackcap and Common Chiffchaff, Wren, Robin (feeding young), 3 Goldfinch and 2 Barn Swallows.

YELLOW WAGTAILS on the Horse Field at Marsworth

PITSTONE QUARRY in fine fettle

The view overlooking PITSTONE QUARRY. It has more water in it than I have ever seen and should yield a superb harvest of breeding birds.

More of my shots from recent days

This pair of OYSTERCATCHERS pitched up in the horse field east of Marsworth Reservoir

Greylag Goose and last lingering Black-headed Gull on Marsworth

Up to 171 Tufted Ducks on Wilstone at the moment

The 3 COMMON SANDPIPERS on the bank at Wilstone

RED KITE drifting overhead

COMMON WHITETHROATS are in plentiful supply now - this bird being photographed on the Dry Canal

Images from recent days

Yesterday's BLACK TERN on Startops

Great Crested Grebe in channel behind Drayton Bank Hide

Nesting pair of Mute Swans on Wilstone

Great Crested Grebes just off of the car park steps

This first-summer Mute Swan splash-landed on Wilstone mid-afternoon

Local Mega: singing WOOD WARBLER

When I went away in mid April, it still felt like Winter in the field. Now I am back, it still feels like Winter in the field..........
Anyway, with a brisk NNW wind blowing, temperatures hovering around 8 degrees C but relatively clear blue skies, I set forth on a day's birding on the local front, after being lured away in recent days by the likes of Rock Thrush and Eastern Subalpine Warbler......
WILSTONE RESERVOIR was my first port of call where Roy Hargreaves had discovered a singing male Wood Warbler early morning in the vicinity of the Drayton Bank Hide. Both Mike Campbell and Cliff Tack had already spent time looking without success, so putting in a further hour on top with no bird was not looking good. Birding in this vicinity did produce a flyover COMMON CROSSBILL at 1045, a flyover Linnet, singing Common Chiffchaff behind the hide, 2 COMMON WHITETHROATS, 2 different singing male WILLOW WARBLERS, at least 9 Blackcaps, Long-tailed Tit and a pair of COMMON TREECREEPERS, whilst on the reservoir proper, the two drake Wigeon and a single Black-headed Gull. A spell of sunshine produced Small Tortoiseshell and Peacock butterfly.
Most concerning was the mindless vandalism to have taken place overnight. Our information board by the car park being smashed, uprooted and thrown into the reservoir.
A flock of 8 House Sparrows was by the farm shop
After giving up on the Wood Warbler, I joined Martin, JT and Anna Marett at STARTOP'S END, where a full breeding-plumaged BLACK TERN was performing, along with 44 Common Terns and the 3 RED-CRESTED POCHARDS.
Knowing that Steve Blain had relocated the NORTH AMERICAN GREEN-WINGED TEAL at 100 Acre Pools east of Priory Country Park (Bedfordshire), I decided to switch counties. Just as I drove away, Joan and Anna had an OSPREY fly from Marsworth to Wilstone, bad timing or what. Anyhow, stopping off at BROGBOROUGH LAKE (BEDS) on the way, I was pleased to see 5 ARCTIC TERNS, a COMMON WHITETHROAT and the continuing SLAVONIAN GREBE, now in full summer attire.
I did an extensive sweep of 100 ACRE LAKES (BEDS) but failed in my quest to locate the drake straggler - it had flown. Not much to be found apart from a single COMMON SANDPIPER, 6 COMMON WHITETHROATS and a singing male SEDGE WARBLER.
Whilst on site, I received a call from Ian Williams. He had visited WILSTONE in his lunch hour and had relocated the WOOD WARBLER - time to move on. Just over twenty minutes later, I was back at WILSTONE where COMMON SWIFT numbers had dramatically increased from about 130 to 220. Swiftly walking round to the hide and past a rather happy looking Mike Campbell, I was rather surprised to hear the male WOOD WARBLER after just a few minutes. It was inhabiting a dense area of Hawthorn scrub about 90 yards NW of the Drayton Bank Hide but was far from easy to see. In fact, it took Peter Brazier and I over an hour to get really good views but well worth it as it was a brightly marked individual (see Peter and Dave Hutchinson's images above). It sang about once every five minutes and kept high in the canopy, often feeding on the newly flowering buds of the Black Poplar trees. After missing two different birds at Amwell and two at Spade Oak, I was very relieved at finally getting this one - Wood Warbler now being a pretty scarce bird in our region.
As I walked back to the car, a first-summer Mute Swan flew in and Tufted Ducks had increased to 171 birds.
At STARTOP'S END, the tern flock now included two nice ARCTIC TERNS within their ranks, with 2 Grey Wagtails, 11 Common Swifts and several House Martins noted.
MARSWORTH held the Greylag Goose pair and at least 4 Lesser Black-backed  Gulls, with the horsefields producing no less than 14 YELLOW WAGTAILS, a BLUE-HEADED WAGTAIL and 46 Barn Swallows.
With plenty of time to check the hills, I headed towards Ivinghoe Beacon but was diverted at the last minute by a call from LEIGHTON BUZZARD. A EURASIAN BITTERN had been found on the tiny Dragonfly pools at LEDBURN ROAD, TIDDENFOOT (BEDS) - a species I had managed to miss in the county this winter. Luckily, being just seven miles away, I was there within 10 minutes - and luckier still, finder Rory Morrisey was just getting back to the car park. Rory escorted me part way to the site, then Cliff Tack took over - Mike Wilkes and his wife and Bob Henry staying with the bird.
Getting to Bob he exclaimed ''It's in my 'scope'' and looking through the viewfinder I was shocked to find such an emaciated bird. It was ludicrously close (10 feet) and was sat in the water like a goose. Something was seriously, seriously wrong. I phoned Andy Plumb and Steve Blain to see if anyone else had shown an interest and then waited for Johnny Lynch to arrive from Tring. I suspected that the bird had collided with overhead power cables and I was right, as after half an hour we captured the bird - it had a broken wing and a slightly damaged leg (see photos below).
Certainly an eventful day

Monday, 29 April 2013

Recent Highlights LGRE


At STARTOP'S END RESERVOIR late afternoon, 3 BLACK TERNS with 27 Common Terns, whilst MARSWORTH produced a single COMMON SWIFT and 6 House Martins. No less than 9 WESTERN REED WARBLERS were singing from the reedbeds, and 3 SEDGE WARBLERS - with male Blackcaps in the wood and by the canal.

BROGBOROUGH LAKE (BEDS) at 1800 hours yielded a female-type COMMON SCOTER, a summer-plumaged adult LITTLE GULL, 4 BLACK TERNS, 8 Common Terns and the continuing breeding-plumaged SLAVONIAN GREBE.


Heavy rain overnight and cold NW winds. At MARSWORTH RESERVOIR, a pair of Oystercatchers was on the horse fields, even copulating at one point, with 23 Common Terns on the bales, Common Kingfisher, 8 singing Western Reed Warblers, Goldcrest, Wren, Common Chiffchaff and Blackcap in the Wood and a single male YELLOW WAGTAIL

On STARTOP'S, the 3 RED-CRESTED POCHARDS, 25 Tufted Ducks, 2 Grey Wagtails, 42 Sand Martins, 30 Barn Swallows and 5 House Martins; 3 Lapwings flew east

WILSTONE yielded 3 COMMON SANDPIPERS together on the bank and 2 migrant Argenteus HERRING GULLS - an adult and first-year. The two drake EURASIAN WIGEON remained, with a single drake Northern Pochard and 37 Tufted Duck. Lots of hirundines present including 73 Barn Swallows and 8 House Martins, as well as 13 COMMON SWIFTS. Unexpected highlights included a flyover TREE PIPIT at 0817, a COMMON RAVEN with a full crop west at 0828 and a single male YELLOW WAGTAIL on the bank.

Walking from DRAYTON BEAUCHAMP along the DRY CANAL to the ORCHARD added Linnet (4+), COMMON WHITETHROAT (7 singing males), COMMON CUCKOO (calling male), Yellowhammer (6), WILLOW WARBLER (singing male), Eurasian Skylark (singing male), Chaffinch (6), Red Kite, Stock Dove, Green Woodpecker, LESSER WHITETHROAT (rattling male), Robin, Long-tailed Tit and Great Tit (4).

COLLEGE LAKE BBOWT was quiet with 10 Mute Swans, a drake Wigeon, 2 Common Shelduck, drake Northern Pochard, 8 Common Redshank, 2 OYSTERCATCHERS and a Jay noted, whilst PITSTONE QUARRY added 2 Little Grebe, 6 Coot, a singing Blackcap and a further Jay; a female NORTHERN WHEATEAR was a surprise in the NORTHFIELD FARM PADDOCKS.

No Wheatears in OLD AMERSHAM (BUCKS) though, but 2 singing male YELLOWHAMMERS by School Lane.


A bit of local birding between East Anglian twitching with DEREK WHITE'S PIT, BIGGLESWADE (BEDS) supporting a nice sub-adult EURASIAN SPOONBILL and 60 Barn Swallows, and GYPSY LANE EAST PITS, BROOM (BEDS) adding Oystercatcher (2 pairs), Common Shelduck (pair), Gadwall (4), Common Teal (6), Shoveler (7) and Common Tern (2).

At AMWELL NR (HERTS) in the evening, I connected with the fabulous male PIED FLYCATCHER thanks to Simon Knott and Phil Ball, plus a reeling GRASSHOPPER WARBLER by the James Hide, numerous Blackcaps and Western Reed Warblers, 4 Common Redshanks and at least 20 pairs of raft-nesting Black-headed Gulls.


Freshly returned from Central Asia, I made an immediate visit to TRING RESERVOIRS within an hour of my return, where on STARTOP'S END were 3 BLACK TERNS with 27 Common Terns and on MARSWORTH, a COMMON SWIFT, 2 singing male Blackcaps, 9 WESTERN REED WARBLERS, 3 SEDGE WARBLERS and 6 House Martins


Whilst checking the meadow behind the hide tonight I disturbed a female COMMON REDSTART on the hedge of the paddock in the corner near Stuart Wilson's house. I saw it 3 times over a 5 minute period at about 5.40 but no further sign by 6.30. At least one COMMON SWIFT in the assembled hirundines and 2 Common Tern flew through (Ian Williams)

WHIMBREL at College 21 April

Started at the Beacon in the hope of Gdn warbler but only Blackcap, Common Whitethroat, Chiffchaff & Willow Warbler.

Next Marsworth where both Reed and Sedge Warbler were singing but only saw Sedge

Then on to Wendover Woods with Charlie where it was very quiet but Charlie eventually located the song of a Firecrest which I 'called' down to within 3 metres where it sang at me! See Charlie's pic.

I then left Charlie and went to College Lake where I 'jammed' in on a WHIMBREL on the deck and had a good view through some ones 'scope' who I didn't know but kindly let use his. Before I could put the message out it flew did a couple of circuits and left. I then did get through to Dave B. I also had good views of Sedge and Reed Warbler at College in the reed/willows on the Octagon hide path with Richard Woodhead who I bumped into. Only the Reed was singing.

Francis Buckle


ARCTIC TERNS at Startops' End 17 April - Dave Hutchinson

PIED FLY at Weston Turville

This very showy female PIED FLYCATCHER attracted a constant stream of admirers at Weston Turville Reservoir on 18 April; Graham Smith obtained these excellent images