Sunday, 1 February 2009



With a second day of strong, freezing-cold SE winds, Wilstone Reservoir reaped the rewards. A flock of 14 adult DARK-BELLIED BRENT GEESE touched down early morning (from at least 0735 - per Stuart Wilson) and were identified by David Bilcock at 0747. Dave was very quick to get the message out and within ten minutes, JT had 'phoned me and kindly prompted me to check my mobile.

DBBG is a very rare bird locally and it was time for me to make a dash. I informed several other observers on the local grapevyne and also rang RBA and arrived literally seconds after Dunstable-based birder and very close friend Francis Buckle. DB was again on the phone. Oh no I thought - flying off before I got to the top of the steps ! But no, it was Dave to say that there were now 20 birds present - 6 more had flown in from the NW at 0833.

I dashed up the steps and quickly located the throng - all bunched together about 100 yards west of the jetty. Francis had to get back as he had arranged to go to Cambridgeshire and quickly departed. I walked on and joined DB, RH, SW, MCa and JT on the jetty (soon to be joined by MF) where we all enjoyed excellent views of the tightly knit flock - all 20 of them uniformly-marked adults. Dave managed a number of shots (see above).

The birds remained until at least 0935 hours when I departed but always seemed nervous and alert. Not once did they feed but occasionally the odd bird would have a drink. They were part of a widespread overland movement which included 70 over Grafham Water (Cambs), 30 over Great Leighs (Essex) and a single at Brogborough Lake (Beds). I later learnt that all 20 flew off at 1039 hours.

Dark-bellied Brent Goose is a scarce visitor to Tring Reservoirs with just 14 previous records (involving 85 individuals, with previous flocks of 10, 26 and 29)

1) An adult with Canada Geese on Wilstone Reservoir from 20-25 February 1987
2) A party of 4 present for just half an hour on Wilstone before flying south over Tring town on 19 November 1989
3) Two present on Wilstone for just 15 minutes before flying off high SW on 8 November 1992 (Rob Young)
4) Three present on Wilstone Reservoir on 20-21 February 1993
5) An adult present on Wilstone from 2-14 November 1993 (Rob Young et al)
6) Three visited Wilstone on 17 February 1994.
7) A flock of 10 was noted over Wilstone on 8 November 1994
8) A flock of 26 was present on Wilstone on 3-4 January 1996 (Marcus Brew)
9) One present on Wilstone on 28 September 1998 (Rob Young et al)
10) One visited Wilstone on 2 April 2003 (Dave Bilcock)
11) A flock of 29 flew NEW over Wilstone on 20 March 2005.
12) One was present on Wilstone for 45 minutes early morning on 2 April 2005.
13) Two visited Startop's End Reservoir on 16 October 2005
14) One visited Wilstone on 5 January 2006 (Roy Hargreaves)

Elsewhere in Hertfordshire, flocks exceeding 20 individuals have included 29 adults over Amwell NR on 30 November 1986 (Graham White), 37 SE over Hilfield Park Reservoir on 20 March 2005 and 38 NE over Ware on 28 April 1993 (Barry Reed) but the record number involves 48-50 which flew over Tyttenhanger GP on 7 April 1996.

Apart from the Brent flock, Wilstone Reservoir was fairly quiet with 59 Greylag Geese in the Cemetery Corner Field (and another one dead on the jetty), 5 COMMON GOLDENEYE (2 adult drakes), an adult drake RUDDY DUCK and a lone Fieldfare. Two RED KITES were in attendance, with one flying over fields to the north of the reservoir and another over Little Tring Farm.


Sheltering many of the ducks including 60 Shoveler, 2 Gadwall, 3 Common Teal, 37 Tufted Ducks, 8 Pochard and 24 Coot.


Virtually birdless apart from 2 Great Crested Grebes - bitterly cold.


In my quest for a Bucks Grey Partridge, I spent over an hour searching the arable farmland within a radius of Mentmore. The paddocks held an impressive flock of 337 winter thrushes including 277 Fieldfares and 60 Redwings, as well as many corvids including 83 Jackdaws and 27 Rooks.

A flock of 30 more Fieldfare was in Mentmore itself, with a single Yellowhammer by Wingbury Farm. By the time I reached Wingrave there was a shoot on, and the only gamebird I spied was a single Red-legged Partridge sheltering from the guns in a Leighton Road garden in Wingrave village !

Despite interrogating Mike Campbell over potential sites in his neighbourhood, I still drew a complete blank.


With light fading fast, I decided to check Stocker's Lake, in the hope of seeing the Egyptian Goose pair that had been recently sighted on the water meadows by the farm. They were not there.

The main lake was also surprisingly devoid of most ducks but did include a very beautiful and graceful adult drake GOOSANDER and a very impressive flock of 173 NORTHERN SHOVELER. A flock of 19 Common Goldeneye included a number of neck-throwing displaying drakes whilst other visitors had seen a redhead Smew.


For the first time this winter, I decided to visit the Broadwater LITTLE EGRET roost and was astounded to find an exceptional 48 birds present - by far the highest number I have ever counted at the site. Talking to Andrew Moon (the regular counter at the site), it transpired that this number had been present since 24th January, following his counts of 45 and 43 on 6th and 20th December 2008 respectively. The same peak number had also been counted in December 2005.

The location was also covered in large numbers of wintering wildfowl, including 105 Pochard and a redhead GOOSANDER. I also counted an impressive 46 Great Crested Grebes.
Lee G R Evans

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