Thursday, 22 August 2013

Overnight rain displaces birds to Startop's

At around 2200 hours last night, a band of rain reached the Chilterns and continued through the night until around 0700 hours this morning. It then remained cloudy but warm, a light SSE breeze gradually setting in. At times with the sun out, temperatures climbed to a very sultry 24 degrees C.
With such conditions overnight, I expected a considerable arrival of birds - especially those migrating down from further north in Britain. It turned out that there was not that much - but enough to make for a very enjoyable day.
I started the day at SHARDELOES LAKE, where the cricket pitch still held 14 Pied Wagtails and 2 juvenile Grey Wagtails. The first of 4 different Wrens was heard singing and as I reached the lake, the 2 COMMON KINGFISHERS were still noisily surveying the sluice. The lake held 92 Coot, Grey Heron, Sinensis Cormorant, 3 Gadwall and 2 adult Great Crested Grebes, the latter missing any of their three young. Little Grebes had seemingly had a good season with no less than 7 juveniles on show, from four separate pairs. A female Tufted Duck accompanied 7 well grown ducklings whilst most unexpected were 2 sleeping eclipsed-plumaged NORTHERN SHOVELERS. An adult Lesser Black-backed Gull resting on a post in front of the island was bearing a Yellow ring inscribed ''H-851'' - hopefully I will get a trace on it later. A Common Treecreeper was the only other species noted.

For images see my Birding Amersham blog
WILSTONE RESERVOIR is at last dropping in depth with the margins revealing more and more vegetation each day. As a result, there are now large numbers of waterfowl taking advantage. I did a full inventory -:
Great Crested Grebe: just 6 present but with one pair successfully raising 2 stripy young (see image).
Little Egret: at least 7 birds
Grey Heron: 4
Mute Swan: 42 counted
Eurasian Wigeon: single eclipse drake
Common Teal: an impressive 56
Shoveler: at least 26
Tufted Duck: 127 including a raft of 120
Northern Pochard: 10
Red-crested Pochard: single female
Coot: 555 including 535 dredging weed up from near the Drayton Bank Hide
Moorhen: 33
Lapwing: 96
Common Tern: 22
Migrants were few and far - just 35 House Martins flying through in one group
A Chinese Water Deer was feeding on the emergent vegetation
STARTOP'S END RESERVOIR proved far more exciting with pride of place going to a juvenile PIED FLYCATCHER moving back and forth along the west bank of the reservoir. It was favouring this tallest tree in the hedgerow and kept between the two orange safety rings. It was loosely associating with a family party of 5 SPOTTED FLYCATCHERS - a different party to at least 4 in Marsworth Wood - but was typically elusive and often favouring the sunnier farm side of the hedge from where to flycatch. It was present until at least late morning.

The Pied Flycatcher was so energetic and rapid that I was just not able to photograph it - just missed it here by a fraction of a second

This juvenile Spotted Flycatcher did remain long enough for a shot

 Another highlight was the finding of 3 EGYPTIAN GEESE on the mud of the SW shoreline - the first record at the reservoirs this year. They were roosting - taking it in turn to snooze (see images). The same stretch of mud also held two juvenile BLACK-TAILED GODWITS - these two birds being earlier present on Wilstone in front of the hide.
Other species noted included 4 Great Crested Grebes (pair now with small young), the eclipse drake Red-crested Pochard, 123 Coot, 2 Mute Swans and COMMON KINGFISHER.

I expected IVINGHOE BEACON to have some migrants but other than 25 Barn Swallows and 2 Blackcaps, there was nothing. As usual, the post-breeding flock of Goldfinch and Linnet was in scrub just SSE of the trig point - the former numbering at least 370. The recently ploughed field below the main car park held 64 Lesser Black-backed Gulls.

Looking down across the valley from the top ridge and an abundance of Goldfinches - juvenile galore

 It was now time to check COLLEGE LAKE BBOWT and after liasing with volunteer warden Paul Reed, eventually located the 2 WHINCHATS which were inhabiting the isolated brambles and other bushes in the NW corner of the reserve, just north of the perimeter wire fence. This area also held 2 LESSER WHITETHROATS and a few Common Whitethroats, with 7 Common Chiffchaffs on that western flank of the reserve. I also connected with a male Bullfinch, whilst the second brood of Common Blue butterflies was particularly abundant with at least 70 being counted. A couple of COMMON RAVENS cronked overhead.

The first of two Whinchats....

.......and the second

......a migrant Common Whitethroat

....and a cronking Raven overhead

 The juvenile RUFF was still present on the marsh but proving very elusive, with 4 Mute Swan and 3 COMMON SNIPE also of note. Tufted Ducks have had an excellent year with broods today of 11, 7, 1, 5 and 6 being counted from by the centre. Up to 35 Barn Swallows flew through to the south.

 In amongst the 29 Lesser Black-backed Gulls on the Deep Pit were a single 4th-winter Argenteus Herring Gull and near-adult YELLOW-LEGGED GULL (both photographed), whilst 4 drake Northern Pochard there were a surprise. No less than 7 juvenile Common Terns was still present on the raft. Atlantic Canada Geese numbered 34.

The Herring Gull washing and bathing and preening

Yellow-legged Gull standing tall on the island before taking off

Northern Pochards are unusual here in August - these four drakes being post-breeders freshly arrived from Eastern Europe

The rare Dexter breed of cattle on the reserve

and a confiding Robin

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