Wednesday, 31 December 2014

No Great Grey Shrike today but 85 Great Crested Grebe in cold-weather movement

The last three days have seen heavy overnight frosts, with temperatures dropping down to as low as minus 8 degrees. As a result, many of the local waters have largely frozen over, certainly in part...
Yesterday afternoon, David Bilcock photographed a GREAT GREY SHRIKE in bushes adjacent to the Grand Union Canal, half way between Slapton and Grove Locks, near Whaddon Farm. There was no sign of it today unfortunately.
DB also had a flock of 5 GOOSANDERS on Marsworth Reservoir first thing this morning - all 5 spooking readily and quickly moving to Wilstone, before flying off south.
I did a full inventory later in the morning, the freezing conditions seeing a marked arrival of wildfowl, as well as an exceptional 85 Great Crested Grebes.....
On WILSTONE, 54 Great Crested Grebe, 5 Little Egret, 71 Sinensis Cormorant, 1 Little Egret, 8 Grey Heron, 3 Mute Swan, just 1 Canada Goose, 36 Gadwall, 140 Shoveler (a year high), 340 Common Teal, 320 Wigeon, 170 Pochard, 377 Coot and 3 Common Goldeneye
At STARTOP'S END, 1 Mute Swan (4BED), 21 Canada Geese, 26 Great Crested Grebe, 5 Little Grebe, 5 Wigeon, 3 Teal, 31 Pochard, 3 Shoveler and 198 Coot, with a few Redwing and Fieldfares feeding on the berries on the north bank and 12 House Sparrows in conifers by the Angler's Retreat and an additional 8 by the Wood Carving Studio.
Very little on MARSWORTH, other than the drake Gadwall, 5 Mute Swans (including pair 4ABK and 4ABL), 1 Pochard, 3 Great Crested Grebe, 2 Grey Heron, Grey Wagtail, 2 Teal, Water Rail and an adult Lesser Black-backed Gull.
A flock of 83 Woodpigeon was roosting in trees at the back of TRING SEWAGE WORKS, with TRINGFORD adding 2 Great Crested Grebe, 2 Little Egret, 9 Grey Heron, the family party of 8 Mute Swans, 24 Teal, 18 Tufted Duck, 10 Pochard, 180 Coot, 84 Black-headed Gull, an adult Common Gull, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Song Thrush, 5 Redwing, Goldfinch and several Common Blackbirds.

At least 124 Common Teal remained in PITSTONE QUARRY, but little else of note in there, while SHARDELOES LAKE was 90% frozen - 59 Coot, 8 Little Grebe, 19 Common Gull and Green Woodpecker being the highlights.

Tuesday, 30 December 2014


I eventually managed to find the GREAT GREY SHRIKE sat on a mound in field west of the canal, after a while it flew into the tree next to where I was standing on towpath. I parked by Slapton Lock and walked north along tow path towards Grove Lock, although it  was nearer Grove Lock. Phone-scoped pictures attached, it was showing rather well! (David Bilcock)

Monday, 22 December 2014

GOLDEN PLOVER flock peaks at 577, with LAPWING at 802.....

Monday 22 December
My first visit to TRING RESERVOIRS this week has seen the water levels on WILSTONE rise even further - just two islands now remaining near the Drayton Bank and a little bit of the spit.
In terms of waterbirds, not much change in numbers and if anything, a decrease - particularly in Mute Swan which now number nil. 31 Great Crested Grebe, 72 Sinensis Cormorant, 8 Grey Heron, 95 Greylag Geese, 6 Canada Geese, 72 Mallard, 278 Wigeon, 330 Common Teal, 66 Shoveler, 97 Tufted Duck, 44 Pochard and 375 Coot were all counted, whilst the wader flock held 577 EUROPEAN GOLDEN PLOVER and 802 Lapwing and the gull flock 5 Common, 2 Lesser Black-back and a juvenile argenteus Herring Gull. Very little else of note other than a Sparrowhawk, Common Kingfisher and 4 Fieldfare.
Over at TRINGFORD RESERVOIR, all 8 Mute Swans were surviving, with 2 Great Crested Grebe, both carbo and Sinensis Cormorants roosting, 216 Coot, 22 Teal, 1 Pochard and 9 Red-crested Pochard (5 drakes) also noted. A flock of 12 Stock Dove were by the woodland hide, with 8 Grey Heron roosting and a Common Kestrel hunting over farmland.
At STARTOP'S END, the 4 Little Egrets were still present, with 118 Canada Geese, 2 Wigeon, 29 Teal, 12 Pochard, 6 Mute Swan, 26 Great Crested Grebe, 5 Little Grebe and 190 Coot all counted.

The BITTERN flew to roost on MARSWORTH at 1537 hours but with such blustery weather, not a single Corn Bunting was recorded - just 4 Reed Buntings. Once again, the Common Starling roost was impressive, with 1,200 flighting in, one of them falling prey to one of two Sparrowhawks hunting. A group of 8 Pochard was noteworthy, with just 4 Shoveler counted; a Grey Wagtail was seen, Green Woodpecker, a Linnet flew over as did an adult Common Gull.

Today's Images

Juvenile Herring Gull

...and top birder Dave Suddaby in action on Marsworth, he of the Mullet fame (County Mayo) where his garden has played host to Cedar Waxwing, Blackpoll Warbler and Red-flanked Bluetail in the past 12 years! Dave is in the area for two weeks, staying with his wife's parents in Aylesbury for Christmas

Monday, 8 December 2014

First-ever RED-CRESTED POCHARD for Pitstone Quarry and record number of COMMON TEAL there; surprise BRAMBLING on Marsworth

A light frost overnight followed by a glorious winter's day - clear blue sky, light winds but cold
At BURY LAKE (RICKMANSWORTH AERODROME), 17 Mute Swans included '396' - an adult I hadn't read the ring of last week; WATER RAIL, 86 Coot, 66 Tufted Duck and a juvenile Herring Gull.
From the bridge crossing the River Colne on my walk down to STOCKER'S LAKE, a COMMON KINGFISHER was showing exceptionally well - allowing me to rattle off about 15 shots before it flew.
Highlights on the lake included 7 COMMON GOLDENEYE (including 2 adult drakes), 239 Tufted Duck, 38 Gadwall, 9 Pochard, 330 Coot, 45 Lapwing, Jay, Grey Wagtail, Sparrowhawk, male Common Kestrel, 5 Ring-necked Parakeet and a continuing Australian Black Swan, while just 9 Shoveler were noted - and 12 Mute Swan.
Ten House Sparrows were in residence at STOCKERS HOUSE, the feeders on the bridge attracting both Great and Blue Tits. The STOCKER'S FARM WATER MEADOW held 92 Canada Geese, the resident LITTLE OWL, a pair of COMMON STONECHATS, Great Spotted Woodpecker, 5 Meadow Pipits, Common Gull, several Redwing and a pair of Long-tailed Tit.
A survey of local MONK PARAKEETS yielded 18 individuals in one colonial conifer tree
No sign of Dan Forder's Siberian Chiffchaff at KINGS LANGLEY FISHING LAKES, 4 Mute Swans, 2 Pochard, 2 Mistle Thrush, Goldcrest and 2 Long-tailed Tits being the most notable species seen.
The ALDBURY VILLAGE population of House Sparrows is seemingly holding up with 16 individuals counted, PITSTONE HILL nearby being littered with Redwing, Fieldfare and Common Blackbird in the roadside hedgerow.
At PITSTONE QUARRY, where I haven't visited since September, an impressive number of waterfowl present including 45 Mallard, a female Red-crested Pochard (first site record), a whopping 216 Common Teal (a record number), 11 Tufted Duck, 1 Pochard, 13 Coot, 2 Little Grebe, 3 first-year Mute Swans, 1 Lapwing, Great Spotted Woodpecker and 5 Redwing

A similarly large number of feeding Fieldfare and Redwing were noted on PITSTONE COMMON, with 90 and 230 respectively.

Little of any movement at TRING RESERVOIRS, just 2 Red-crested Pochards remaining on TRINGFORD but Grey Wagtail, Great Spotted Woodpecker, 7 Redwing and 62 Shoveler on MARSWORTH, along with 70 CORN BUNTINGS at roost. Most noteworthy was a single BRAMBLING - flying in with 2 Corn Buntings at dusk but instead of flighting in to the reedbed flew by itself to the neighbouring trees.

Friday, 5 December 2014

A Whole Lotta Thrushes......

A Whole Lotta Thrushes...
Following a gloomy start, Friday eventually brightened up with a ridge of high pressure bringing clear skies, light winds and some winter sunshine; it was cold throughout with temperatures struggling beyond 6 degrees C.

Being a new month, I travelled over to TRING RESERVOIRS to do my monthly wildfowl counts and inventories, and although the water is rapidly rising now on Wilstone resulting in the departure of most of the waders, COOT numbers reached 835 and GREAT CRESTED GREBE 63 - most respectable counts. Worrying though was the presence of just 4 Mute Swans on Wilstone....

WILSTONE RESERVOIR held 34 Great Crested Grebe, 5 Little Grebe, 68 Sinensis Cormorant, 4 Grey Heron, just 4 Mute Swans, 97 Greylag Geese, 1 Atlantic Canada Goose, 39 Mallard, 2 Gadwall, 258 Wigeon, just 210 Common Teal (massive decrease), 83 Northern Pochard, 71 Tufted Duck, 45 Shoveler, 506 Coot and 15 Moorhen, with the BLACK-TAILED GODWIT still present in front of the hide and just 81 Lapwing.
A Grey Wagtail was feeding along the bankline with 3 Pied Wagtails, while making the most of the hawthorns that border the banks were at least 16 Common Blackbird, 80+ Fieldfare and 30+ Redwing. A flock of 27 Eurasian Skylarks flew east.

Over at MARSWORTH RESERVOIR, the highlight was a drake Gadwall - a scarce species here, with 50 Shoveler, 10 Moorhen and 2 Great Crested Grebe noted. STARTOP'S END was relatively quiet, adding a single Mute Swan, 24 Mallard, 2 Wigeon, 19 Teal, 113 Tufted Duck, 6 Pochard, 26 Great Crested Grebe, Common Gull, 8 Moorhen and another 173 Coot. The 4 Little Egrets were still present, as was a Grey Wagtail.
A further 156 Coot counted on TRINGFORD RESERVOIR forwarded the total to 835 individuals - pretty impressive. Otherwise, all 8 Mute Swans (one family), 1 Great Crested Grebe, 15 Sinensis (now taking to roosting in the trees on the south shore), 20 Mallard, 8 Gadwall, 5 Red-crested Pochard, 8 Pochard, 71 Tufted Duck, 3 Little Grebe and the 4 Little Egrets; Common Blackbird, 2 Song Thrush and 2 Redwing too.

At neighbouring COLLEGE LAKE BBOWT, 27 Mute Swans on the marsh (with an additional bird on the Quarry Pit), 150 Wigeon, just 1 Common Teal, 36 Gadwall, 80 Tufted Duck, the female Red-crested Pochard, 6 Pochard, 44 Lapwing, 11 Common Snipe, 5 Little Grebe (2 on the marsh and 3 on the QP) and 41 Coot (40 on the QP). A Goldcrest by the car park was my first at the site this year, with the feeding station yielding 10+ Chaffinch, Greenfinch and at least 8 Blue Tits.

Towards dusk, I visited PENN WOOD SSI, where the Penna Rhododendron roost hosted 53 Chaffinch and 15 BRAMBLING; 85 Redwing roosted in Holly trees too, with 6 Goldcrest noted and a TAWNY OWL hooting. Just 8 Red Kite came into the BROOK WOOD roost, with PENN VILLAGE POOL harbouring 66 Mallard and 9 Moorhen.