Monday, 20 May 2013


Ian Williams and Dave Hutchinson had an OSPREY fly through Marsworth and Wilstone Reservoir on Sunday morning at 0915 hours whilst this morning, Dave Bilcock had a TURNSTONE on the bank by the jetty at 0600 hours just before it was flushed by the first dog walker

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

SWIFTS galore

Over 1,000 COMMON SWIFTS were present on Startop's End Reservoir this evening.........just look at my images

Is this really mid-May? Just 4 degrees C - no wonder HOUSE MARTINS are in trouble


Lots of rain overnight leading to some localised flooding with showers persisting throughout the morning and into early afternoon. During this period, the temperature struggled to get higher than 4 degrees C, incredibly unusual for this late in May. The sun started shining at 1500 hours and temperatures did then recover to 12 degrees C.

My first port of call was WILSTONE RESERVOIR (HERTS) where a Sanderling had been seen flying around early morning (per Paul Reed). There was no sign of it when I arrived at 0800 hours, in fact there was very little of anything other than EUROPEAN BARN SWALLOWS........

I carefully checked through them for a Red-rumped but there was no immediate sign and a click-count from the jetty revealed the presence of no less than 433 hawking back and forth over the reservoir, an exceptional number so late in the spring. There was a surprisingly low number of Common Swifts - just 55 - whilst House Martins peaked at 32 - whilst other migrants included a male YELLOW WAGTAIL on the east bank and 5 Pied Wagtails near the car park.

At nearby MARSWORTH RESERVOIR, another 80 BARN SWALLOWS were logged, many taking to sheltering in the reeds due to the cold and wet. A drake Gadwall was also present, as well as 6 Great Crested Grebes, with 15 or so Western Reed Warblers singing from the reeds.

STARTOP'S END RESERVOIR held even more incredible numbers of BARN SWALLOWS - a bare minimum of 713 birds - as well as 168 HOUSE MARTINS. The latter were in a terrible state, taking refuge on the bank (see photographs below) and I worried for their welfare.

On the water, 2 drake Gadwall, a Mute Swan, 4 Great Crested Grebes, 16 Coot, a drake Northern Pochard and two pairs of RED-CRESTED POCHARD were present, with both Greylag Geese and Atlantic Canada Geese pairs accompanying 3 goslings a piece. In the car park, the Carrion Crow was still incubating and a pair of Greenfinch were prospecting, with a Grey Wagtail on the west shore and 4 migrant YELLOW WAGTAILS in the horsefield at STARTOP FARM.

Replacing Francis Buckle in the main hide at COLLEGE LAKE BBOWT gave me the opportunity to photograph the 6 summer-plumaged DUNLIN that had arrived early morning but both Paul and Francis confirmed that the Wilstone Sanderling had not relocated here. Other waders present included singles of both Ringed and Little Ringed Plovers, the Oystercatcher pair and 5 Common Redshank, whilst Common Terns had increased to 27 and showed signs of real interest in nesting. The two COMMON SHELDUCKS were both present, with Mute Swans down to 12.

Stuart Warren then found another SANDERLING and this one was sticking and part of a major arrival of passage waders at BROOM GYPSY LANE EAST PITS in Bedfordshire. I decided to make a move that way, arriving just as Lol Carman and John Temple were leaving. The wader flock were still in situ and comprised of 3 summer-plumaged TURNSTONES, a winter-plumaged SANDERLING, 23 Ringed Plover (including several considered to be of the Arctic form tundrae), 6 Dunlin and 4 Little Ringed Plover. I took over 100 photographs of the Turnstone and Sanderling (see selection below). Not much else present though, with the Mute Swan nest still active, 2 adult Lesser Black-backed Gulls and an impressive 10 Common Shelducks.

In AMPTHILL at the BOWLING GREEN, the male COMMON NIGHTINGALE was singing away from at least 1400-1415 hours, whilst in WOBURN PARK, two drake MANDARIN DUCKS were on the lake by the gatehouse.

Half an hour later, the sun came out and temperatures recovered to 12 degrees C. I joined Jeff Bailey at STARTOPSEND RESERVOIR and we did a sweep of the site. This time, with large numbers of insects on the wing, COMMON SWIFTS were dominating, with perhaps 1,000 birds in all. A Common Redshank was also present, whilst 5 HOBBIES appeared from nowhere and began hunting the Buckinghamshire stretch of the bank. On neighbouring MARSWORTH, the CETTI'S WARBLER sang from the reedbed.

BOVINGDON BRICKPITS (HERTS) this evening yielded both BULLFINCH and COMMON WHITETHROAT, with 3 Common Buzzards and a Red Kite overhead and two Common Chiffchaffs singing

Monday, 13 May 2013

Nice WHINCHAT - Saturday 11 May

Ian Williams shots, taken when the bird was inside Herts.......


Another cold night with a lot of overnight rain and followed by a day of WNW winds and temperatures no higher than 9 degrees C - well under par for the second week of May. I concentrated in the local area as nationally, rarities were few and far between.....

Following an early morning call from Ian Williams, met him and Mike Campbell along the DRY CANAL 200 yards east of DRAYTON BEAUCHAMP (BUCKS) at 0800 hours, where a cracking male WHINCHAT was showing well in the early morning sunshine along the hedgerow running perpendicular to the canal, frustratingly 100 yards into Buckinghamshire. Both Ian and I obtained a series of images of this gorgeous migrant (see both my Tring and Bucks blogs). Also noted in the short stretch of canal hedgerow were Mistle Thrush (singing from trees in the churchyard), 2 Yellowhammer, 4 Linnets and 2 Common Whitethroats.

And my shots of the same Whinchat when it was in Bucks and much further away

Simon Nichols then texted with a SANDERLING in North Bucks and, just 23 minutes later, I was with Martin Yapp watching it ! Once again, it was MANOR FARM WORKINGS that had attracted this scarce passage migrant, far and away the best site for waders in the county at the moment. The SANDERLING was in transitional plumage and favouring the eastern set of islands but was too far away to get anything more than a poor record shot.

Also present were a nice breeding-plumaged COMMON GREENSHANK, 9 DUNLINS, 12 Ringed Plover including a party of 4 Arctic-bound TUNDRAE, 6 Little Ringed Plover, Lapwing and Common Redshank. The middle island held 32 Common Terns (seemingly nesting) whilst overhead, 85 Common Swifts, 8 House Martins and 120 Sand Martins were noted.

A male Song Thrush was singing loudly from the hedgerow by the car park.

At STEWARTBY LAKE (BEDS) late morning, no sign of Andy Grimsey's two Turtle Doves but a singing male GARDEN WARBLER and at least 8 WILLOW WARBLERS in the Scrapyard Corner area. In AMPTHILL, no sight nor sound of the Nightingale.

Relocating to TYTTENHANGER GP (HERTS), I finally added Ringed Plover to my Herts Year List - a single feeding on the sand (see pic on my Herts blog). Little else seen though, apart from 2 Little Ringed Plovers. Dipped Tree Sparrows for the umpteenth time this year.

SYMONDSHYDE GP nearby proved more worthwhile, with a drake MANDARIN DUCK and 2 HOBBIES on the usual pit (plus a pair of Mute Swans) and singing GARDEN WARBLER and Common Chiffchaff in the surrounding scrub

Friday, 10 May 2013

A flush of Wader Arrivals at College Lake


Another day of strong WSW winds, although not as strong as yesterday. It remained dry throughout with some bright interludes - temperatures hovering around 14 degrees C.

Spent a few hours at COLLEGE LAKE BBOWT RESERVE this afternoon where waders were the order of the day. In addition to the breeding pair of OYSTERCATCHERS (see pic), 5 pairs of Lapwing and 8 Common Redshanks, were 3 LITTLE RINGED PLOVERS, a single RINGED PLOVER (my first in the area this year and I still haven't seen one in Herts), a COMMON SANDPIPER and two summer-plumaged DUNLINS.


Joan and I did the wildfowl counts with all 16 Mute Swans in situ (including orange-ringed adult '4AFA'), at least 1 Greylag Goose pair still sitting, the COMMON SHELDUCK pair again, 2 drake Mallard, 2 drake Gadwall, a pair of SHOVELER and 17 Tufted Duck; also 6 active Coot nests still. A pair of Common Terns was prospecting on the westernmost island, whilst a LITTLE EGRET dropped in and fished in front of Octagon Hide for 5 minutes before flying off.

Shelduck pair, both drake Gadwalls and the drake Shoveler

Little Egret and LRP from the Octagon Hide

Migrantwise, little to be found, other than 35 Common Swifts, 5 House Martins and singles of both singing Sedge Warbler and Willow Warbler

Whilst there, Paul Reed rang to say that his partner Nancy had seen the SHORT-EARED OWL again hunting by the vergeside to the north of IVINGHOE BEACON. Joan and I, Mike Campbell and Graham Smith rushed up there but there was no further sign. In fact, I spent from 1500 through 1830 hours there and yielded nothing more than 4 Common Kestrels, 3 Common Whitethroats and a trickle of Common Swifts moving west.

The display of BLUEBELLS in DOCKEY WOOD (ASHRIDGE FOREST) at SP 965 157 is resplendent and well worth a look (see my images below) whilst Rook activity was in full swing at the 15-strong colony in FLAUNDEN'S HOGPITS BOTTOM PLANTATION at TL 018 013