WEDNESDAY 8 MAY
Overnight and into morning saw a band of rain cross the region but by 0900 hours, it had cleared away to the east. It was replaced by cooler, fresher conditions, with a freshening SW wind and occasional spells of warm sunshine. Temperatures peaked at around 14 degrees C.
This was my first opportunity in a week to do a full day's local birding, the undoubted highlight being a purring TURTLE DOVE........
I started my day at TRING RESERVOIRS (HERTS) where both Greylag and Atlantic Canada Geese were now accompanying young on WILSTONE. A single LITTLE EGRET was roosting on the west shore, whilst migrants included 140 Common Swifts and 60 House Martins. Not much else of note other than a singing male Mistle Thrush. No sign of any nesting Common Terns - in fact just 2 were on the bunds.
STARTOP'S END RESERVOIR also held large numbers of Common Swift (130 at least), along with 33 Tufted Duck, 13 Greylag Geese, 16 Coot, 4 Great Crested Grebes, 30 Common Terns and the pair of Red-crested Pochard, the female acting as though she had a nest on one of the rafts.
A single breeding-plumaged BLACK TERN was showing well on MARSWORTH RESERVOIR, often roosting for long periods on the bunds (see pictures below); it was associating with up to 33 Common Terns. Several Western Reed Warblers were singing from the reedbed at the west end (Af Nasir had yet another Osprey fly over mid afternoon).
Retreating to the IVINGHOE HILLS, I searched high and low for the Tree Pipit seen by Rob Andrews a few evenings ago but no joy - Top Scrub yielding 2 singing male GARDEN WARBLERS, 2 Common Chiffchaffs, 2 singing male WILLOW WARBLERS, 3 male Common Whitethroats and a single male Song Thrush.
I then made a brief incursion into BEDFORDSHIRE where a jangling male CORN BUNTING was along WELLHEAD ROAD in TOTTERNHOE and the KNOLLS produced a 'purring' male EUROPEAN TURTLE DOVE - my first of the year. The dove was showing well in scrub just beyond the Lime Kiln perimeter fencing and perched long enough for me to get some shots (see below). The area also held several Common Blackbird, 2 Common Whitethroat, 2 singing male WILLOW WARBLER and my first Speckled Wood butterfly of the year.
Joining Francis Buckle at COLLEGE LAKE BBOWT (who incidentally had seen the Turtle Dove yesterday afternoon), we enjoyed perched views of one of the two HOBBIES present on the main marsh (see pic). Otherwise, usual fare, including 16 Mute Swans, Greylag Goose still incubating, the drake COMMON SHELDUCK, both OYSTERCATCHERS (with one now sat on a nest on the lefternmost island) and a singing male Western Reed Warbler.
Thanks to Richie Moores, I then added a new species to my BUCKINGHAMSHIRE LIST - albeit one of an introduced nature. A pair of MONK PARAKEETS was busily nest-building in the grounds of HARTWELL HOUSE, on the western outskirts of AYLESBURY, a species never recorded in the county before in a wild capacity. I took a lot of photographs (see selection below), the Monk Parakeet population in Britain now weighing in at a minimum 73 birds.
I then checked the southern end of BALDWIN'S WOOD in the Hertfordshire section of the CHESS VALLEY. Anna and JT had seen a Common Crossbill here recently (a species which bred here in 2012) but this afternoon all I could find was 1 singing male FIRECREST, 3 Goldcrests, 1 male Coal Tit, 5 territorial Wrens and a single singing male Blackcap.
Moving into HERTFORDSHIRE again, the KIMPTON area yielded the usual pair of EGYPTIAN GEESE near the cressbeds and a family party of COMMON RAVENS. The usual Cedar tree nest played host to four noisy youngsters this year, furthering the success of this rapidly increasing and east-expanding Corvid.
At the end of the day, I spent a couple of hours searching for RDA's Short-eared Owl around the BEACON but by 2100 hours, it had failed to appear - I gave up as another band of heavy rain crossed the Chilterns