Saturday, 29 August 2009

WHINCHATS at Tyttenhanger

2 Northern Wheatears and a WHINCHAT on the fence in the sheep field at the east side of Tyttenhanger Main Pit (Steve Blake et al)

BLACK-TAILED GODWIT still present Friday

King's Meads

Mud now starting to look good but still only 1 BLACK-TAILED GODWIT and 6 Snipe.

Also: 8 Shoveler, 14 Teal, 12 Little Grebe, 1 Grey Wagtail, 25 Goldfinch


Water levels still dropping with 3 Common Sandpiper and 1 Green Sandpiper (Alan Reynolds)


1 RUFF, 1 GARGANEY, 4 Green Sandpiper, 3 Snipe, 12 Chiffchaff, 1 Cetti's Warbler on Thursday (Graham White)

Batford REDSTART still present on Thursday

The male COMMON REDSTART, found by Darin Stanley, was still showing very well at 14:00 in the famous hedge to the east of Batford (at about TL153148) - flycatching in the sunshine on the west side of the hedge, and showing off its plumage at about 40 m distance at times. A very nice bird. This hedge is becoming 'the' spot for Herts Redstarts! (Jason Chapman)

King's Mead 27 August

West Pool at King's Meads is showing some mud at last.

Today (27 August):1 BLACK-TAILED GODWIT still; 6 Common Snipe; 48 Lapwing; 27 Shoveler; 12 Teal (Alan Reynolds)

Thursday, 27 August 2009


The Batford COMMON REDSTART was still present yesterday evening, as were 4 GARGANEY and the juvenile RUFF at Rye Meads RSPB

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Plagued by Aythya hybrids

An extended session watching from the Wilstone hide this morning, as it was too wet to venture up the hills. There was an increase in the numbers of Tufties and Pochards present. Amongst these was the 'ferruginous' type hybrid which Roy saw last week and presumably that seen by Lee and Steve at Marsworth the following day. Also present was a 'lesser scaup' type, just off the reed bed to the left of the hide (pictures of both birds above)(Dave Bilcock)

Tuesday, 25 August 2009


Deadmans Hill (early morning):1 MARSH HARRIER, 36 GREY PARTRIDGES (3 Pairs with 12,11 & 7 young)


Amwell (Midday): Spotted Flycatcher, 2 Green Sandpiper, 3 Common Sandpiper, 1 Hobby (Mike Ilett)


This juvenile OSPREY (photographed excellently by John Edwards) visited Stocker's Lake, Rickmansworth, two days last week.


located 1 COMMON REDSTART in usual hedge by layby by Batford. flitting in & out of both sides of the hedge & in company of an adult & juvenile Robin. 1st one of the year around this neck of the woods (Darin Stanley).

Monday, 24 August 2009

A few snippets

Ringed Plover at Beech Farm today, and both GARGANEY and RUFF still present at Rye Meads RSPB

'Resident' HEN HARRIER still on territory

Deadmans Hill this evening (8pm): first-summer female HEN HARRIER viewable from the green gate at the bottom of Deadmans Hill, showing well hunting along back of fields. Also 1 MARSH HARRIER (Mike Ilett)

King's Mead Godwit still present

During a fairly quiet WeBS count today (Sunday 23 August) the highlights were the continuing BLACK-TAILED GODWIT and 7 Teal. Also some mud starting to appear so fingers crossed (Alan Reynolds)

PIED FLYCATCHERS and BLACK TERNS herald autumn passage

A summary of Recent Sightings - 21-24 August

Two juvenile PIED FLYCATCHERS were discovered: in Willows and scrub in the old sailing base area of the North Metropolitan Pit at Cheshunt (Graham White) on 22nd and at New Park Farm, Newgate Street on 23rd (per Alan Gardiner)

With a touch of east in the wind, BLACK TERNS arrived at Wilstone Reservoir, with 27 on 23rd and a further 18 on 24th (many observers), whilst a juvenile MARSH HARRIER lingered from 1605-1618 hours on 24th (Steve Rodwell)

At least 1 GARGANEY remained at Rye Meads RSPB, with a juvenile RUFF there on 22nd-23rd (Graham White), whilst at Cheshunt GP on 22nd, a late COMMON SWIFT, 8 YELLOW WAGTAILS and a WHINCHAT were noted (Graham White), and a NORTHERN GOSHAWK near Broxbourne Woods on 23rd (Graham White).

MARSH HARRIER numbers have now dwindled on the Therfield Downs, with just 4 juveniles remaining, whilst the first-summer female HEN HARRIER continues to roam, being watched on the ground for some time on 22nd (Mike Ilett)

Thursday, 20 August 2009


BLACK-TAILED GODWIT on a very full West Pool at King's Meads. Any other wader would be swimming (Alan Reynolds)

Another look at yesterday's EURASIAN CURLEW

Steve Carter obtained this image of yesterday's EURASIAN CURLEW at Wilstone - sparking off a heated row and a huge one-sided debate on Alan Gardiner's local email group

Third consecutive day for WHINCHAT

The juvenile WHINCHAT is still present on the fenceposts at the back of the first field NW of Miswell Farm - its third day (per Roy Hargreaves)

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

OSPREY over Stocker's Lake

An OSPREY drifted over Stocker's Lake at 10.45 a.m. (John Newson)



BLACK-NECKED GREBES continue to show well at Hilfield Park Reservoir, adults still feeding young at the site. This remains the best site in Southern England for this species, birds being present from March to October and occasionally overwintering.

Permits are easily obtainable for all members of the Herts and Middlesex Trust and regular watchers are provided with their own personal key so that they can access the site at all times and treat the reserve as if it is their own private nature reserve. Superb close views can be obtained of the grebes from the jetty halfway along the dam.

There are still 3 Ruddy Ducks left on site, these of which will presumably be shot when members of the club and the owners of the reservoir allow Defra access in September to shoot them, as they have ashamedly done in the past four winters.

Chasing a 'Whimbrel' bags me a EURASIAN CURLEW


A real scorcher of a day with early afternoon temperatures rising to a sweltering 30 degrees C (86 degrees fahrenheit). Clear blue skies all the way and a slight southerly breeze.

WILSTONE RESERVOIR (1100-1230 hours)

After hearing of Richard Bennett's Wilstone 'Whimbrel' at 0930, I hurriedly made my way over there. Just as I arrived in the car park, Dave B texted to say that Mike Campbell and others were watching it from the hide. Knowing how often waders fly off as you are walking round to them, I scanned from the top of the steps but to no avail. I phoned MC and he confirmed that the bird was still present but could ONLY be seen from the hide; it was feeding on the south side of the shingle causeway.

Ten minutes later I reached the hide and setting up my 'scope, I exclaimed to Mike ''It's a juvenile EURASIAN CURLEW''. It was showing extremely well and was resting at the edge of the water, occasionally drinking, and just after I spoke to Mike announced itself personally and uttered a typical Curlew wail.

Young Curlews such as this one are often an identification challenge because not only do they show a hint of a supercilium but they also have a relatively short bill. In reality, there is no supercilium and the eye is enclosed by an obvious whitish ring; furthermore there are no coronial crown stripes or median crown stripe. On close inspection, the bill was seen to have a broad pinkish base, the long legs a very blue cast and the breast sides and flanks very finely streaked (not spotted as in adults).

What I found most interesting (and it is a feature I have often noted with juveniles) was that the underwing and axillaries were very clean white and unmarked - a feature often associated with Eastern Curlew (orientalis) identification - and one constantly metered out by those backing the Northumberland Slender-billed Curlew ill-fated and misguided wagon.

Steve Rodwell is the Wilstone Curlew specialist (he generally has between 4 and 8 spring flyovers) and I was delighted to see this individual pitched down and readily twitchable. Steve Carter, Phil 'long-haired' Ball and several other interested parties also connected and the bird remained 'settled' on the bund until at least 1230 hours, basking in hot sunshine.

Runners Up

LITTLE EGRETS continue to increase, with all of yesterday's 7 showing - commuting between the fallen Willow, the creek behind the hide and the muddy creek in the SW corner.

An adult HOBBY was again present, whilst waders were represented by 398 Lapwing, the 3 juvenile COMMON GREENSHANKS and the COMMON SANDPIPER.

Wildfowl remain static at drake Eurasian Wigeon, 22 Common Teal and 35 Northern Shoveler.

19 Common Tern and single COMMON KINGFISHER

Tuesday, 18 August 2009


Amwell still fairly quiet with just 2 Common Sandpiper, 2 Snipe, 2 Hobby and 30+ House Martins.

Popped down to Lower Hatfield Road Hertford opposite the Riverside Garden Centre at dusk and had fantastic views of 2 Little Owls and 1 BARN OWL (Alan Reynolds)

GARGANEYS still present

Two GARGANEY still present at Rye Meads RSPB, and at least five Green Sandpipers. Not much else there though the Common Kingfishers still feeding young at the nest hole (Phil Ball).

EURASIAN CURLEW in 'London' Herts

My first ever local EURASIAN CURLEW in TQ09 flew over Hampermill Lakes calling several times this morning at 8:30AM. A flock of 20 Common Tern roosted on small stony islands being the largest number I have seen at this site this year shows that autumn passage is underway (Joan Thompson).

Monday, 17 August 2009

MARSH HARRIERS breaking all records

11 MARSH HARRIERS (9 coombe rd & 2 Deadmans Hill)
4 Red Kite (3 Coombe Rd & 1 Deadmans Hill)
12 Common Buzzard (8 Coombe Rd & 4 Deadmans Hill)

Mike Ilett

Owling.....with Mike Ilett - Saturday evening 16 August


2 Barn Owls - Wallington to A505 rd
1 Barn Owl - Top of Deadmans Hill
1 Barn Owl - A505 to Kelshall rd

2 Tawny Owls - Sandon to Deadmans Hill rdMike

AMWELL NR on Saturday (16 August)

Between 1300-1530 hours:

Common Sandpiper
2 Little Egret1
1-2 Hobby

Just 3 Common Tern after 30+ a couple of days ago.

Alan Reynolds

SANDON on Saturday (16 August)

Took a trip up to Sandon today, raptors were:-

4 Common Buzzard
6 kestrel
5 Red Kite
Plenty of heat haze!!

From the next turning along off the A505 I flushed 16 GREY PARTRIDGE that flew across the cereal field when I pulled off the road to let another car go by (Graham Smith)


Two GARGANEY continue to show well at the Draper Hide, Rye Meads RSPB, along with up to 6 GREEN SANDPIPERS. (RSPB)

Saturday, 15 August 2009

The Story So Far in 2009 - the Hertfordshire Year List

A total of 182 species has been recorded in Hertfordshire by 15th August 2009
(LGRE Total = 166 - those marked in blue)

Birds marked with an asterisk (*) are of unknown origin, most likely escapes from captivity

1) Great Crested Grebe
2) Little Grebe
4) Sinensis Cormorant
7) Little Egret
8) Grey Heron
10) Mute Swan
12) Greylag Goose
13) Canada Goose
14) Barnacle Goose
16) Common Shelduck
18) Egyptian Goose
19) Mandarin Duck
20) Mallard
21) Gadwall
22) Pintail
23) Shoveler
24) Eurasian Wigeon
25) Common Teal
27) Pochard
28) Red-crested Pochard
29) Tufted Duck
31) Common Goldeneye
32) SMEW
33) Goosander
35) Ruddy Duck
37) Red Kite
41) Common Buzzard
42) Sparrowhawk
43) Kestrel
44) Hobby
47) Red-legged Partridge
48) Grey Partridge
50) Common Pheasant
51) Water Rail
52) Moorhen
53) Coot
54) Oystercatcher
56) Ringed Plover
57) Little Ringed Plover
59) Lapwing
61) European Golden Plover
64) Dunlin
66) Common Sandpiper
67) Green Sandpiper
68) Common Redshank
69) Common Greenshank
74) Woodcock
75) Common Snipe
76) Jack Snipe
77) RUFF
78) Black-headed Gull
79) Common Gull
81) Herring Gull
82) Yellow-legged Gull
84) Lesser Black-backed Gull
85) Great Black-backed Gull
90) GLAUCOUS-WINGED GULL* (still under review)

93) Common Tern
96) Stock Dove
97) Woodpigeon
98) Collared Dove
100) Common Cuckoo
101) Tawny Owl
103) Barn Owl
104) Little Owl
105) Common Swift
106) Common Kingfisher
107) Ring-necked Parakeet
108) Green Woodpecker
109) Great Spotted Woodpecker
111) Skylark
113) Sand Martin
114) Barn Swallow
115) House Martin
116) Meadow Pipit
119) Pied Wagtail
121) Yellow Wagtail
122) Grey Wagtail
123) Wren
125) Dunnock
126) Robin
127) Common Nightingale
128) Common Redstart
130) Northern Wheatear
131) Stonechat
133) Song Thrush
134) Redwing
135) Mistle Thrush
136) Fieldfare
137) Common Blackbird
138) Garden Warbler
139) Blackcap
140) Lesser Whitethroat
141) Common Whitethroat
142) Sedge Warbler
143) Cetti’s Warbler
144) Western Reed Warbler
146) Grasshopper Warbler
148) Willow Warbler
150) Common Chiffchaff
151) Goldcrest
153) Spotted Flycatcher
154) Great Tit
155) Coal Tit
156) Blue Tit
157) Marsh Tit
158) Long-tailed Tit
159) Nuthatch
160) Common Treecreeper
162) Magpie
163) Jay
164) Jackdaw
165) Rook
166) Carrion Crow
168) Starling
169) House Sparrow
171) Chaffinch
173) Linnet
175) Goldfinch
176) Siskin
177) Greenfinch
178) Bullfinch
180) Reed Bunting
181) Yellowhammer



Anwell GP (early afternoon update)

1 European Golden Plover (flew over around 8)
1 juvenile BLACK-TAILED GODWIT (landed in front of the viewpoint, chased off by a Sparrowhawk – probably the same bird seen irregularly since Wednesday - I managed this single image above)
1 Green Sandpiper
3 Hobbies

Jan Hein Steenis

Rye Meads RSPB - GARGANEY still present

At Rye Meads this morning: still 2 GARGANEY showing well from Draper hide, also 8 Green Sandpiper, 1 Hobby.

At Amwell, 3 Common Sandpipers, 5 Little Egret, 6 Teal (Graham White)

HUNGARIAN-ringed juvenile MEDITERRANEAN GULL again in Tring Area

This Hungarian-ringed juvenile MEDITERRANEAN GULL was present in Pitstone Quarry again this morning (Dave Bilcock - see above) before being relocated in fields being ploughed opposite Town Farm east of the B489 at Ivinghoe (at SP 953 160) (Steve Rodwell, Rob Andrews).

These fields had seen a massive arrival of feeding gulls, including 1,031+ Black-headed Gulls and a staggering 262 Lesser Black-backed Gulls, including adults of both intermedius and graellsii stock (LGRE). There was also 5 HERRING GULLS including a heavily worn 4th summer and a freshly arrived argentatus (SR, RDA, LGRE, DB).

Friday, 14 August 2009

Raptors galore; MARSH HARRIERS break new record

I made my first evening visit to Deadman's Hill this evening and it was just superb. I was there from 7-8.30pm and saw the following:

10 MARSH HARRIERS mostly juveniles, the largest single count ever known in the county
the first-summer HEN HARRIER
3 Red Kites
4 Common Buzzards
3 Kestrels
1 Hobby
1 Sparrowhawk
1 COMMON QUAIL (heard)

All were seen from the green metal gate at the bottom of Deadman's Hill. When I arrived the ringtail Hen Harrier showed well, but fairly briefly in the direction of Bury Barns. The Red Kites spent the entire time quarrelling with the Buzzards over the most distant of the hills to the right, and the Hobby made a dash from left to right in front of me.

The Marsh Harriers were captivating. Started off with 3 or 4 fairly distantly,and I was constantly struggling to improve the count. It did get better, with 7 and then 8, before finally there were 10 all in the air at once fairly close along the far edge of the field parallel to the road. Wonderful stuff. I know that they can be seen in good numbers in Norfolk /Suffolk / Kent, but this is Hertfordshire birding and it doesn't get much better than this. If anyone hasn't been, I would thoroughly recommend it. I was joined by another birder and we heard Quail fairly close in one of the fields on the West side of the road - interestingly these have been cut, and we thought might give a good chance of seeing it. Of course it wasn't to be, but worth bearing in mind for anyone there. (Graham Knight)


Two NORTHERN WHEATEARS were in fields at Holt Farm (close to M1/M25 junction) this afternoon (per Alan Gardiner)

Burst of activity - migrant OSPREY

An OSPREY flew SE towards Stocker's Lake at 1827 hours whilst an adult BLACK TERN is present on the main pit at Tyttenhanger GP this evening. A COMMON CUCKOO was also seen at the latter site today, along with 2 DUNLINS.

Meanwhile, in the Sandon and Deadman's Hill area, at least 9 MARSH HARRIERS remain, the first-summer HEN HARRIER, 4 RED KITES and at least 1 PEREGRINE

Today's Waders

The juvenile WOOD SANDPIPER remains for a second day in Pitstone Quarry, whilst a BLACK-TAILED GODWIT rested briefly on the spit at Tyttenhanger GP.

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Hilfield gulls this evening

A juvenile MEDITERRANEAN GULL and an adult YELLOW-LEGGED GULL roosted for their second consecutive evening at Hilfield Park Reservoir, easily viewable from the Observation Platform on the south side.


Steve Chilton had a BLACK-TAILED GODWIT fly through at mid-day, presumably the King's Meads bird. During the afternoon there were 2 Common Sandpiper, 1 Green Sandpiper, 1 Grey Wagtail and a Hobby. Earlier in the day a Tawny Owl and Yellow Wagtail had been reported (Alan Reynolds).

Just one BLACK-TAILED GODWIT remained on site yesterday morning after the flock of 13 was present at dusk the previous evening (Mick Ilett)

WOOD SANDPIPER still present this evening

This juvenile WOOD SANDPIPER and adult schinzii DUNLIN were still present in Pitstone Quarry this evening (Dave Bilcock)

Looking for Beatrice; WOOD SANDPIPER bonus


Another hot day with temperatures quickly climbing to 22 degrees centigrade. Some cloud cover but generally bright and blue with a light to moderate WNW wind.

With the female Osprey 'Beatrice' now in close proximity and airspace, I decided to put in time searching for her today but typically with scant chance of connecting. Last year, she flew south over Bison Hill and Dagnall and then went south over the Chess River Valley and my house before continuing on to Sussex.

(1015-1109 hours; with Mike Campbell)

Ben Miller discovered a WOOD SANDPIPER early morning and it was still present when. firstly SR visited at 0900 hours, and then when Mike and I arrived (and departed) during 1015-1109. It was feeding at the very western tip of the long sand bar that has now emerged and was showing very well wading in shallow water. It was a typically fresh juvenile and represents our third individual in the Tring Recording Area this year.

A single RINGED PLOVER was also present alongside the Wood Sandpiper but sat down on the chalk to have a well earned rest after its overnight migration. Three COMMON SANDPIPERS completed the wader list.

Light WNW winds are excellent for a light passage of southbound waders migrating back down from Northern Europe, Greenland and the Arctic.

A total of 21 Little Grebes was on show (14 adults and 7 juveniles) whilst all 9 MANDARIN DUCKS (two broods) were sunbathing together on the spit.

Most interestingly, I pointed out to Mike a juvenile Carrion Crow that showed the pale mantle and hindneck and underparts of a Hooded Crow - a real quirk of nature.

Mute Swans (both birds still present, one of which was pushed out of College Lake by the four resident adults)
Common Buzzards (2 recently fledged juveniles begging for food from the fenceline)
Bullfinch (adult male)
Coal Tit (1 juvenile - fairly scarce in this area)

(1100-1300 hours)

Looking for Beatrice, I sat myself down on the second 'knoll' giving me full access to over 20 miles of sky and the complete line of the Chiltern Hills. The lunchtime period has always seen peak activity in terms of migrating raptors but today there was absolutely zilcho - not even a Red Kite on the move. The best I could offer was a party of 36 HOUSE MARTINS that flew SW and a single YELLOW WAGTAIL (Ben and Steve had seen an additional bird over PQ earlier)

Elsewhere, two male GREY PARTRIDGES were calling back and forth to each other in the uncut Barley field immediately below the car park. Neither Whinchat nor Ian's Common Redstart were on the fenceline but Top Scrub held 1 Song Thrush, 9 Blackcaps, 5 Common Chiffchaffs and 1 juvenile WILLOW WARBLER and good numbers of Common Blue, BROWN ARGUS and PAINTED LADY butterflies. A surprising number of SEVEN-SPOT LADYBIRDS were also encountered, signifying that a percentage have now penetrated inland from the Norfolk coast.

WILSTONE RESERVOIR (1330-1520 hours)

Very little new action except for the addition of a Ringed Plover and the first migrant White Wagtail of the autumn. The farmer was ploughing the field north of Miswell Farm but did not attract a Yellow-legged Gull in the time I was checking.

Great Crested Grebes (22)
LITTLE EGRETS (3 on view, all fishing)
Mute Swans (29)
Common Teal (23)
Shoveler (29+)

RINGED PLOVER (an adult feeding on the mud visible from the new overflow - most probably tundrae)
COMMON SANDPIPER (juvenile on the algae bunds)
COMMON GREENSHANK (3 birds on the Drayton Bank favouring the East Shore beneath the Cormorant roosting trees)

Common Gull (1 adult in the ploughed field)
Lesser Black-backed Gull (8 in the ploughed field including 3 juveniles)
Common Terns (27)

House Martin (just 1 today)

*WHITE WAGTAIL (following yesterday's surge in alba wagtails, I was very pleased to locate an adult White still in excellent condition on the spit in the middle of the reservoir - the first returning bird of the autumn)

Lee G R Evans


Took a tour of King's Meads this morning. The pools are as deep as ever with water lapping right up to the grass and reedy banks, so no chance of any waders there. Carried on round the rest of the meads , looking for any yellow wagtails, chats etc. Walked across Park Mead at the extreme western end and flushed a BLACK-TAILED GODWIT from the floods, yes floods!! The whole mead is fairly soggy and is flooded up to 6 inches in places, quite bizarre for the middle of August. The godwit circled for a bit then landed once I had moved on. No chats or anything else for that matter (Alan Reynolds)

Tyttenhanger GP today had 2 DUNLIN on the spit mid-morning (Steve Blake)

WOOD SANDPIPER just inside the county - by 65 yards

The WOOD SANDPIPER, single Ringed Plover and 3 Common Sandpipers all still present in Pitstone Quarry at 0900 hours (per Ben Miller - the finder - with Steve Rodwell)

Pitstone Quarry is private with no access. It can be viewed from a small gap in the hedge accessed from the layby in Northfield Road just south of Folly Farm and the roundabout. Follow the footpath into the wood and view after 35 yards.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Sandon Harrier Fest continues

At Sandon today, the 9 MARSH HARRIERS remain, as well as the first-summer HEN HARRIER, 2 HOBBIES, several RED KITES, a EUROPEAN TURTLE DOVE and at least one calling male COMMON QUAIL (many observers)

Last week's biggies at Tyttenhanger - Ian Bennell's record shots

The BLACK and LITTLE TERN and SANDERLING from last week


Dave Bilcock observed a colour-ringed juvenile MEDITERRANEAN GULL at Wilstone Reservoir this morning, bearing a red ring with the transcription 'HY94'.

Remarkably this was '386882' , a juvenile ringed in the nest at Bugyi (Kavics Union), Pest, in HUNGARY. It had therefore travelled 1,519 km in 53 days.

Although not that unusual in terms of Mediterranean Gull movements, this post-breeding dispersal by species is fairly representative of many birds of the region - and another case in hand is that of our two Ruddy Shelducks of late.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Sandon area this evening - ringtail HEN HARRIER over near Pott's Hill at 20:20. Also several juvenile MARSH HARRIERS, including 4 roosting in the corn near Bury Barns.

COMMON QUAIL calling intermittently in field near Deadman's Hill (Rob Davies)

And with light NW winds and good visibility, another migrating flock of BLACKWITS drops down for a rest

This evening at Amwell GP, a flock of 13 ICELANDIC BLACK-TAILED GODWITS have dropped in


Tyttenhanger Main Pit

The COMMON GREENSHANK appeared on the mud after we (myself, Joan Thompson and Steve Blake) had moved around the lake and after a few minutes flew off to the east calling. We were not sure if the bird had been hidden there for some time or had flown in unobserved and not stopped for more that a few minutes. More large gulls there than is usual but no Yellow-legged (Alan Gardiner)

Wilstone Reservoir, Tring

Meanwhile, no new arrivals by early afternoon, just 2-3 COMMON GREENSHANK and 2 GREEN SANDPIPERS on the mud (Steve Rodwell)

Monday, 10 August 2009

Another GREY PLOVER - belated news

At around 1245 hours on Friday 7 August, Ian Williams noted a summer plumaged GREY PLOVER fly SE over fields at Deadman's Hill.


For all Tring Reservoirs news, save the following link to your favourites

After spending the day in East Norfolk, I spent the last hour of daylight at Wilstone. At last, waders are lingering, most likely because several of them are juveniles. Wildfowl numbers are increasing daily.
(1940-2040 hours; partly with Ian Williams and son; constant drizzle, humid and light SW winds)
Great Crested Grebes (substantial increase in numbers with 35 counted, with 28 roosting together around algae bunds)
LITTLE EGRET (1 feeding by hide)
Mute Swans (29+)
Common Teal (marked increase; at least 15 birds)
Shoveler (notable increase with 36 counted this evening)
Pochard (9)
Lapwing (114)
COMMON GREENSHANKS (5 widely scattered, including several juveniles)
*ICELANDIC BLACK-TAILED GODWITS (3 adults, all still in partial breeding plumage, showing well feeding to right of hide until at least 2040 hours; discovered by Steve Rodwell late afternoon and phone-scoped by Dave Bilcock shortly later - see images above)
Common Terns (34 still present)
House Martins (7)
Lee G R Evans


Up to 5 GARGANEY have been present at Rye Meads RSPB during the last two days

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Welsh RED KITE at Sandon

A wing-tagged RED KITE which has been present in the Sandon area for several weeks has remarkably come from Radnorshire in Central Wales.

Water Level dropping at Amwell NR


Water levels still dropping quite dramatically. 4 Common Sandpipers, 2 Hobbies and 30 Common Terns. Earlier in the day reports of Red Kite and 2 Spotted Flycatchers.

King's Meads

Unlike Amwell the water levels here are actually going up!! There is now not the slightest sign of any margins, just totally full lakes. This is due to the water level being dependent on Chadwell Spring which in turn is fed from Mimshall Brook which disappears down a swallow hole at Water End (near Welham Green south of Hatfield), ten miles away, and makes its way underground to re-emerge as Chadwell Spring. Because of the distance involved it takes up to a week for the rains to have any effect on the water levels at King's Meads.

30 Common Swifts. noted at King's Meads

Riverside Garden Centre, Lower Hatfield Road, Hertford

On land opposite, 1 Barn Owl and 2 Little Owls.

Alan Reynolds

An amazing 9 MARSH HARRIERS now in the Sandon area

This afternoon (3.30 - 5.00)

No less than NINE MARSH HARRIERS present (Mike Ilett had 6 on the ground at Coombe Road whilst Joan Thompson and Steve Murray were still watching 3 over the Deadmans Hill area)

The first-summer HEN HARRIER was still present, along with the PEREGRINE, 2 HOBBIES and 3 RED KITES (many observers)

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Raptor fest continues in Deadman's Hill and Sandon areas

Whilst collecting 4 varieties of feral plums around the hedgerows between Sandon and Deadmans Hill today, I noticed 1 HEN HARRIER, 4 MARSH HARRIERS, 2 Red Kites, 1 PEREGRINE, 1 Sparrowhawk, 15 Yellow Wagtails and a WHINCHAT but surprisingly no Mike Iletts !

At Amwell GP 3 Little Egrets, 3 Common Sandpipers, 15 Common Terns, 2 Common Buzzards and 6 Shoveler (Graham White)

Friday, 7 August 2009

A SHAG in August - not bloody likely

Two juvenile EUROPEAN SHAGS with Continental Cormorant, Drayton Bank, Wilstone Reservoir, 7 August 2009 (Dave Bilcock)
Common Greenshank - one of four individuals by hide today on Wilstone Reservoir (Dave Bilcock)

Another very wet night slowly clearing from the south during the morning. By early afternoon, the sun had broken through, giving rise to hot sunshine during the afternoon and evening and clearer skies as the pressure increased.

For me, it was another red-letter day, full of surprises and some exceptional rares. Choosing bird of the day is a dilemma but I have to go for the SANDERLING - a bird I see less than annually in Hertfordshire. Other highlights included a bumper bag of BLACK TERNS along with a vagrant WHITE-WINGED BLACK TERN, an adult LITTLE TERN, a juvenile MEDITERRANEAN GULL and an exceptional 3 EURASIAN SHAGS.

(1145-1236 hours)

Whilst on the causeway at Staines, Joan Thompson 'phoned a couple of times to inform me of an odd wader Steve Blake had located on the sandy spit at 0945. Steve had identified it as a juvenile Sanderling and Joan had got to him within the hour and reidentified it as a Little Stint. Knowing that either species would be a good county bird, I made my way straight over, battling with the M25 roadworks between Junctions 16 and 19 for over half an hour.

I eventually pulled up at the Fisherman's Car Park at 1145 and after crossing the conveyor belt and walking the 45 yards to the bridge, joined JT, Steve and Alan Gardiner. The mystery wader was on the end of the sandy spit and showing well and was an adult SANDERLING that had largely moulted most of its summer plumage. It was gleaming white below apart from some feather remnants of a breast band, with some pale orange feathers on the lores and face. The upperparts were quite strongly patterned and variegated, with pale grey scapulars and an assortment of dark chocolate/black feathers on the coverts and mantle. There was a hint of an eye-stripe and pale forehead and distinct black legs and stout, short, black bill. It ran about like a clockwork toy and was constantly harassed by the Black-headed Gulls, frequently taking to flight and revealing a broad white wingbar and paler greater covert area.

The bird continued to show well for the next half hour and was still present when I left the site at 1236. It represented the first and only Sanderling in the county this year and my first since the adult I found at Tyttenhanger on 13 August 2005 (see below for a full summary of county Sanderlings 1974-2007)

The spit also held 3 GREEN SANDPIPERS and 2 COMMON SANDPIPERS and as I scanned through the large flock of (326) Black-headed Gulls I first found a moulting adult BLACK TERN and then an alighting very recently fledged juvenile MEDITERRANEAN GULL. Good views were afforded of both birds as they sat and preened. There were also 11 Common Terns on the spit.

A very nice escaped juvenile White-cheeked Pintail was with Mallards in front of the Willows on the spit and 2 juvenile Great Crested Grebes were being fed by their parents.


Whilst checking Luton Hoo Lake for yesterday's Ruddy Shelduck pair, I received a text from Graham Smith informing me of two probable Shags at Wilstone Reservoir. Drawing a complete blank on anything worthwhile in the park, I phoned Steve Rodwell and was astounded when he told me that he was currently watching the Shags and that there were in fact three birds. Early August Shags I thought - ridiculous claim - but like many odd records of this species before including the juvenile I saw only last year at Calvert BBOWT in early autumn - Steve convinced not only himself but me that he wasn't seeing things. I raced straight over.

By the time I arrived (1325), a crowd had already gathered - with SR, GS, Mike Campbell, Chris Deary, and Stuart Wilson already in situ. Roy Hargreaves beat me by just eight steps and as we scanned back between the car park and the jetty, there they were - an unbelievable 3 EUROPEAN SHAGS. Two were clearly this year's juveniles and the other was an older bird, probably a second-summer. They were incredibly mobile, moving quickly from the far east bank, to the jetty and then out to the middle. One particular juvenile came incredibly close, allowing Mike Campbell to hit the 'go' button on his camcorder and get some excellent video footage. The close bird allowed for a detailed description at 35 yards - dark chocolate-brown upperparts, with a tad paler upperwings, with some creamy-brown tips to the mantle feathers and on the wing-coverts. The underparts were uniform pale brown but contrasting with a glaring white throat patch. The bill was bright yellow at the base of both mandibles and then pale lime for the length of the bill - this pale lime colour being the same as on the orbital ring of the glazed eye.

The other juvenile was paler-tipped on the wing-coverts but otherwise identical whilst the older bird was very dark on the upperparts and bronzed green, with a darker throat and more typical adult-type features.

All three birds remained on view for the next 20 minutes allowing further arrivals like Johnne Taylor and Rob Norris an opportunity to see them, but then just two juveniles seemed to be showing, one of which hauled itself out on to the central rocks and dried its wings out. This allowed an excellent comparison with the much larger 6 Continental Cormorants alongside.

This was a totally unique and bizarre occurrence considering not one European Shag was recorded elsewhere inland in Britain today.

Also new in today were 4 COMMON GREENSHANKS, feeding with the two remaining GREEN SANDPIPERS on the mud to the right of the hide throughout the afternoon (Chris Deary et al). Chris also watched a MARSH HARRIER fly east over Wilstone late morning.

The moulting adult BLACK TERN from last night was still present, along with 32 Common Terns, the juvenile MEDITERRANEAN GULL was seen again (Robert Norris) and 2 adult COMMON GULLS were on the spit.

Two COMMON SANDPIPERS remained on the bunds, whilst 15 Shoveler, the drake Wigeon, 4 Common Teal and the LITTLE EGRET was still present.

Whilst Rob N, Graham and I looked skyward in the hope of another migrant raptor, 7 moulting adult RED KITES drifted slowly north over the reservoir as the temperature reached 22 degrees C, with a Eurasian Sparrowhawk, several Common Buzzards, 32 COMMON SWIFTS and 11 Barn Swallows being encountered.


It was then time again to revisit Tyttenhanger, where Simon West had discovered a LITTLE TERN roosting on the end of the spit on the main pit at 1544. I returned to find Steve Blake, Ricky Flesher and Simon on site and the LITTLE TERN - an adult largely in breeding plumage - still sat there, in amongst 18 Common Terns. It afforded excellent views before it was disturbed at 1629 and flew high west. This was my first ever Little Tern at Tyttenhanger and my first ever county bird in August.

A COMMON REDSHANK had also newly arrived since my last visit in the early afternoon, whilst the adult SANDERLING was still present and feeding voraciously on the end of the spit and the moulting adult BLACK TERN was still in the roost.

And that was it - an exceptional August day. Well done Steve Blake, Steve Rodwell and Simon West.

Sanderling is a rare passage visitor to the county with just 105 individuals recorded since 1970 (a 40-year span) including 32 during 1970-79, 27 from 1980-89, 30 between 1990 and 1999 and just 16 since 2000.

1970: 1 - a bird at Hilfield Park Reservoir on 30 December.

1971: none recorded

1972: none recorded

1973: an exceptional year with 13 recorded (3 in spring with 1 at Tring Reservoirs on 7 May followed by 2 at Hilfield Park Reservoir on 16 May and 10 in autumn, with birds at Tring Reservoirs on 10 August, 4 on 23 September and singles on 7, 13 and 20 October and 2 at Hilfield on 24 November)

1974: 2 - 2 at Hilfield Park Reservoir on 8 May

1975: none recorded

1976: another exceptional year with 13 recorded (12 in spring at Tring Reservoirs with singles on 6 and 11-12 May, 7 on 13 May, 1 on 16 May and 1-2 from 21-26 May and a juvenile in autumn on 27 August)

1977: 1 - a single at Rye Meads on the unusual date of 17 April.

1978: 2 - singles at Tring Reservoirs on 3 May and at Hilfield on 9 May.

1979: none recorded

1980: none recorded

1981: none recorded

1982: 1 - a single at Tring Reservoirs on 10 May

1983: 1 - a single at Hilfield on 21 April.

1984: 9 recorded (1 over Wilstone on 21 May, 5 in Pitstone Quarry on 22 May, 2 at Tring Sewage Farm on 22 May and a late bird at Amwell GP on 14 November.

1985: 6 birds, with breeding-plumaged adults at Hilfield on 19 May (2) and 1 June (2) and at Tring Reservoirs on 21 May (2).

1986: 2 - one was at Tyttenhanger GP on 6 May and another at Tring Reservoirs on 19 October.

1987: 6 recorded with one at Tyttenhanger GP on 23 May, 4 there on 24 May and another at Amwell GP on 25 May

1988: 2 - singles were seen at Tyttenhanger GP on 8 May and Aldenham Reservoir on 9 May.

1989: none recorded

1990: 1 - an adult in full breeding plumage was at Beech Farm GP on 16 July

1991: yet another influx of 13 birds (singles were at Tring Reservoirs on 18 and 29 May and Amwell GP on 24 May, 2 at Tyttenhanger GP on 24 and 30 May and a flock of 6 at Hilfield Park Reservoir on 26 May.

1992: none recorded

1993: 1 - at Tyttenhanger GP on 24 May.

1994: 4 - 4 at Hollingson Meads on 23 May.

1995: none recorded

1996: 8 recorded with 1 at Tyttenhanger GP on 4 February, 2 there on 10 May and singles at Hilfield Park on 12 May, Westmill Quarry on 13 May, Tring Reservoirs on 14 May and Tyttenhanger on 19 May. At the end of the year, a short-staying bird was at Amwell GP on 8 December.

1997: none recorded

1998: 2 - singles in spring at Amwell GP on 16-17 May and Hollingson Meads GP on 24 May.

1999: 1 - at Hilfield Park Reservoir on 31 May.

2000: 1 - a mobile individual at Tring Reservoirs on 5 May.

2001: 1 - at Hilfield on 14 May.

2002: 3 - 3 over Hilfield on 25 March - a very unusual date.

2003: none recorded

2004: 3 - Hilfield on 12 May, Wilstone Reservoir on 23 May and a juvenile at Tyttenhanger GP on 30 October.

2005: 1 - an adult at Tyttenhanger GP on 13 August

2006: 5 - a flock of 4 at Tyttenhanger GP on 15 May and a twitchable adult on the Hilfield dam from 19-21 May.

2007: NO DATA

2008: 1 - 1 flew through Wilstone Reservoir with 7 Dunlin on 17 April.

2009: 1

Trim's Green PEREGRINE

Trims Green - PEREGRINE FALCON male (presumably the same one from SUN 2nd Aug at same spot) perched on 2nd pylon SW from Blount's, flying towards Tye Green at 1000 Hrs - Graeme J. Smith

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Autumn Harrier Harvest, a juvenile Wood Sandpiper and baby grebes delight

Today's juvenile WOOD SANDPIPER at Wilstone Reservoir (Dave Bilcock). BLACK-NECKED GREBES have fledged at least three juveniles (Gary Thoburn) and at last, Marsworth Reservoir has yielded a single juvenile Great Crested Grebe (Tim Watts)

A belt of heavy rain moved across the area overnight eventually fizzling out early morning. The skies then cleared, giving way to hot sunshine and light SE winds. It soon became very oppressive, with temperatures climbing to 26 degrees C. Cloud started to gather again later in the afternoon and at 1700 hours, a further belt of heavy rain arrived from the south and continued well into the evening.

The rain resulted in our second WOOD SANDPIPER of the year in the Tring Recording Area and in the afternoon a single BLACK TERN associated with a widespread inland influx. I also spent part of the day enjoying the incredible raptor fest in the east of the county as well as noting further pairs of breeding Black-necked Grebes.

(0849-1000 hours; with SR, Mike Campbell, SW, Joan T, Johnne Taylor, Mike Collard)

Steve Rodwell followed up visits by the dawn patrol and after the rain had stopped discovered a WOOD SANDPIPER feeding with two GREEN SANDPIPERS to the right of the Drayton Bank Hide. He quickly put the news out and after 17 minutes, I peered my head over the bank from the car park. I set my 'scope up and quickly located the bird, still feeding to the right of the hide. Satisfied that I had actually seen it, I then made my way round to the hide where I joined SR, MC and JTa). The WOOD SANDPIPER was feeding 55 yards to the right of the hide on the increasing muddy margin and with its very fresh attire, bold upperwing spotting, diffuse breast patterning and bold white supercilium, could be clearly aged as a juvenile. It was busy probing the soft mud with its medium-length bill and was obviously longer-legged (and paler-legged) than the two Green Sandpipers it was accompanying (it also differed in its breast pattern, head pattern and plumage shading) and when disturbed on one occasion, flew with its legs trailing beyond the tail. It shared an extensive white rump with the two Greens but was more finely barred on the upper tail and had a rather pale underwing rather than the almost black underwing of Green. It also uttered a distinctive high-pitched alarm call when flushed, very different to the typical call of the Green Sandpipers.

The bird remained for the rest of the day eventually being enjoyed by over 30 observers, including JT, Mike Collard, Geoff Young, Jeff Bailey, Ian Williams, Roy Hargreaves and Dave Bilcock. Dave of course got some reasonable images of the bird, two of which are reproduced above.

This is our second Wood Sandpiper of the year following an adult at College Lake BBOWT on 11 June and follows the six birds we had at Wilstone last autumn, detailed in full on page 77 of the 2008 Tring Reservoirs and environs report.

Otherwise, Wilstone Reservoir yielded the following species -:

Great Crested Grebes (15+)
LITTLE EGRET (feeding in the muddy bay in the SE corner)
Mute Swans (39)
Common Teal (6)
Shoveler (large overnight increase with 15 birds now present)
Lapwing (398)

Eurasian Sparrowhawk (two different nests located, the usual one in Poplars by the Drayton Hide and another in the small coppice near the church in Drayton Beauchamp - both contained at least two whining juveniles)
Stock Doves (2 birds feeding on the mud)
Sand Martins (8 but remarkably no other hirundines - major clearout)

PAINTED LADY (1 flew along the bank)


Following Sue Rowe's note, I was delighted to see the 3-day old GREAT CRESTED GREBE chick - still riding on mum's back for protection. This is only the second juvenile fledged at the reservoirs this year - that particular bird still doing well on Wilstone. Both parents were in attendance.

The presumed escape adult female Red-crested Pochard was still showing to three feet distance with Mallards whilst WESTERN REED WARBLER numbers were at least 20, including many juveniles.

Two CETTI'S WARBLERS were also seen in the reedbed, the local pair fledging 7 juveniles this year.


Still acres of mud but few takers - 2 Great Crested Grebes, 28 Mute Swans, 64 Greylag Geese, 1 Gadwall and the female Tufted Duck with her four growing chicks.


Great Crested Grebe (4)
Mute Swan (8)
Tufted Ducks (33 plus adult females with three ducklings and five respectively)


There was no sign of the juvenile Mediterranean Gull that Steve Rodwell had seen earlier on Wilstone and yesterday roosting with 350 Black-headed Gulls here. In fact, the Black-headed Gull flock numbered just 116, with an additional 4 adult Lesser Black-backed Gulls (SR later had 9)

Two Stock Doves were drinking and 17 Little Grebes present.

(SR had also seen 9 Mandarin Ducks by the island - and a peak of 12 there yesterday)

RECORD FOR MIC WELLS: Sadly, yet another freshly dead BADGER, in immaculate condition, on the verge of the eastbound slip-road of the A41 adjacent to Ashlyn's School, Berkhamsted, at SP 988 067.

(1300-1500 hours)

In a sweltering afternoon with heavy skies and light winds, a marvellous raptor feast was to be had for the second day in a row. I perched myself up on the panoramic overlook just below the crest of Deadman's Hill (at TL 296 367) half a mile south of the A505 and 'scoped south and SE the recently harvested barley fields and rolling chalk hillsides. In the general area of Chestnut Hill just NW of Sandon, feeding and playing raptors filled the air.

Pride of place went to the adult male MONTAGU'S HARRIER, presumably the same bird that has been present since late May. Although now fairly worn through summer wear and bleaching, he still retained his black outer primaries and still had some black feathering on the secondary bar, albeit fairly faded. A narrow white rump was still apparent as well as the blue-grey of the upperparts and as it banked and swerved just clipping the tops of the hedgerow, the underwing was heavily barred and extensively black on the outer hand. He hunted low over the fields, mainly those north of Lodge Farm (TL 299 346), for over 20 minutes, following the line of the hedge before suddenly arcing, and then stooping down quickly after potential prey.

Whilst following him, another harrier crossed its path, again with an obvious white rump, but with overall dark and fairly uniform upperparts (apart from the pale panel on the wing coverts), I soon realised that this was the very tatty first-summer HEN HARRIER that I had seen in the area previously. It was even tattier now, with several primaries and secondaries heavily abraded, and tail feathers all worn. This bird followed the line of the contours and soon crossed the road and Bury Barns before heading up and out of view towards Rain Hill (TL 315 359).

Where the fields had been harvested, yesterday's recently fledged juvenile MARSH HARRIERS were still present, playfully hopping from field to field. They spent long periods sat on the stubble, occasionally jumping sidewards and pecking at some morcels disturbed by the harvest. They were in two distinct pairs and kept some 400-500 yards apart, moving between Chestnut Hill and the ridge SW of Sandon and to the east of Roe Wood. They were very dark chocolate-brown on the underparts with contrasting golden-buff crowns and throat patches and were in immaculate flight feather condition. The adult female was also present but commuting between the two sets of juveniles and when close, they would fly up from the stubble or hedgerows where they were roosting and almost tussle in flight and talon-grapple. These are almost certainly the pair which bred in neighbouring Cambridgeshire and have appeared almost to the day when six birds did the same in August 2008.

The same fields also attracted in 3 different RED KITES, 5-6 Common Buzzards, a hunting PEREGRINE, two HOBBIES and at least 5 Common Kestrels - a total of 8 raptor species in total. Awesome !

I found that by wandering a couple of hundred yards along the gravel track towards Chestnut Hill afforded much better views of the birds, accessed from the Sandon road at TL 313 354. Please park sensibly and carefully along this country road.


The COMMON GREENSHANK was still present on the extensive sandy spit, along with 7 Common Terns and 163 Black-headed Gulls. Wildfowl included 2 Common Teal and a single Shoveler whilst the Great Crested Grebe (1 of 4 adults) was busily feeding its single youngster.

(Just after I left, a juvenile MEDITERRANEAN GULL dropped into the gull roost and a female-type MARSH HARRIER drifted over NNE)


Grebes continue to do very well on this reservoir with at least four broods of Great Crested (2+3+2+5), 5 of Little Grebe and much more significantly - of BLACK-NECKED GREBE. A total of 7 adults were seen, all still bearing full breeding plumage, with the well-grown and independently fledged juvenile that I had seen several weeks ago and two more recently fledged juveniles still being tended to by both parents.

I was also delighted to see 1 female RUDDY DUCK being accompanied by a single duckling (along with two adult drakes), whilst other wildfowl were represented by 19 Pochard.

Lesser Black-backed Gulls, including a good percentage of this year's juveniles, were dropping in to bathe almost non-stop, along with 5 adult argenteus Herring Gulls.

WILSTONE RESERVOIR (1740-1800 hours)

A last look at Wilstone just before the heavens opened revealed the presence of a moulting adult BLACK TERN in the SW quarter (and intermittently roosting on the bank in front of the hide) - one of a widespread overland passage this afternoon including 24 on Staines Reservoirs, 54 on Queen Mother Reservoir and 29 at Grafham Water.

Two COMMON SANDPIPERS were active on the algae bunds, with a juvenile Grey Wagtail on the bank below the car park (Lee G R Evans)

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Amwell update

Popped down to Amwell this evening from 2000-2100 hours and once again was the only one there. The water levels are dropping quite rapidly now, probably causing the Lea Bore down towards Rye Meads. Highlights were 37 Common Tern, 5 Little Egret and 3 Green Sandpipers. Earlier in the day there had been reported a Peregrine, Common Sandpiper and Red-crested Pochard (Alan Reynolds)


This superb flight shot of a juvenile MARSH HARRIER was taken at Cley Marsh NWt in North Norfolk, where at least eight young have fledged this year (Steve Gantlett/
In Hertfordshire, four juvenile MARSH HARRIERS have fledged from a nest near Sandon and are now hunting the cornfields anywhere between Wallington and Deadman Hill. Several calling COMMON QUAIL are still in the vicinity, with two at the original site on the Wallington road and at least two at Deadman Hill.

Huge arrival of Black-headed Gulls in Pitstone Quarry

Steve Rodwell discovered yet another juvenile MEDITERRANEAN GULL this lunchtime in Pitstone Quarry, consorting with an arrival of an outstanding 350 Black-headed Gulls, 6 Lesser Black-backed Gulls and an adult COMMON GULL. It was not present late afternoon when most of the gulls had dispersed.

Tyttenhanger today

Today at a very hot Tyttenhanger GP.

5 Common Sandpiper - 2 on fishing lakes. 3 on Main Pit.
4 Green Sandpiper.......1 on fishing lake, 1 on main pit, 2 on back scrape

The gulls seen on the field at Willows Farm last evening have moved to the main pit including 400 Black-headed and 4 Common (Steve Blake)


MEDITERRANEAN GULL; 4 August (juvenile with about 150 Black-headed Gulls bathing early evening - presumed same as bird recorded at Amwell GP on 30 July)

COMMON GREENSHANK; 5 August - single bird flying south calling 6:40am (Phil Ball)

Early morning risers reap benefits of overnight wader arrivals again

This morning was pretty good.

Four BLACK-TAILED GODWITS flew through/off in SSE direction at about 6:15. A COMMON REDSHANK flew in calling, but I could not relocate it again. What sounded like a poorly-heard, quiet WHIMBREL when I first arrived became clear when David B and I got to the hide and I scanned for the Redshank and found a TURNSTONE on the rocks near the Drayton sluice. It sat there for a few minutes before circling round and flying south-west, over the hide, into Bucks at about 6:36. A single Common Sandpiper, three Green Sandpipers and a lone Little Egret were the supporting cast.

Could only find one of the drake Wigeon this morning despite seeing two last week. Startops remains a wader-free zone despite all that mud! (Roy Hargreaves)

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Belated Reports from 01 August

1ST AUG: Amwell NR - Great Hardmead Lake, 4 WHIMBREL flew south at 18:40; 2 GREY PLOVERS, summer plumage flew south at 18:40 (Phil Ball)

Baldock, 3 COMMON QUAIL, At least three calling males and one bird seen well in flight from farm track on Wallington Road (the farmer states that the barley fields are due to be harvested this coming week) (Ray Hooper, John Edwards)

Berkhamsted, 400 Common Swifts, at least (C. M. Everett)

East Hyde, 3 Little Egret, Remaining around meadow (Mike Russell)

Potters Bar, SANDWICH TERN over at 4pm (Rupert Pyrah)

Monday, 3 August 2009

Assumed Staffordshire Ruddy Shelducks make overnight splashdown on Wilstone


WILSTONE RESERVOIR (1745-1900 hours)

Shortly after 0730 hours this morning, I took a call from the Drayton Bank Hide at Wilstone Reservoir informing me of the appearance of two unknown species of wildfowl feeding to the right of the hide. Having been in the hide close to dusk the night before counting Green Sandpipers, I could not work out from the description what the birds were.

Anyway, an hour or so later, Dave Bilcock texts to say two RUDDY SHELDUCK were in front of the hide and showing very well. There was the answer !!

Frustratingly, I was committed for much of the day and unable to get away, and after hearing from Mike Campbell that the birds were still present at lunchtime, I eventually got down early evening.

Fortunately, both birds were still present and showing well. I joined Ian Williams just beyond the new overflow (who was photographing them both) and enjoyed excellent views as they postured aggressively on the mud in front of the Poplars. After a short while, they took flight and went directly to what had become their favourite feeding place just to the right of the hide. I walked round and again enjoyed superb views as they dredged up weed from the shallow water.

The two birds were a distinct pair and were adults. The female had a striking white face and forehead whilst the male still had a hint of a summer black neck-collar. In every other aspect they were very similar in plumage, although there were some plain differencies in the tertial patterning. I was soon joined by Dave Bilcock, and then later by Joan Thompson, the two birds remaining until at least 1900 hours when we all left. During the observation period, the birds were very mobile, flying on three occasions when disturbed by noisy individuals walking into the hide, particularly those with dogs not on leads ! On one such occasion, they flew high and east, reaching the Poplars in the SE corner of the reservoir before heading back and briefly landing near the spit opposite the car park steps. Every time they returned to just right of the hide. On a couple of occasions they climbed out of the water and on to the shingle bank in front of the hide - the plain grey legs could clearly be seen to be unringed. Also, in flight, the primaries and secondaries were in immaculate order, with no missing feathers, damage or gaps.

There has been a small arrival of Ruddy Shelducks into Britain during the past week perhaps indicating that they are post-breeding dispersing migrants from non-naturalised populations in the Netherlands and Switzerland. Disregarding the presumed escaped female on the River Thames in Barking Bay and off Crossness (London) on 31 July to 2 August (in fact this is the bird which was previously seen at Tyttenhanger GP), the long-staying female on the Eric Morecambe Pools at Leighton Moss RSPB (Lancs) and the 3 birds at Rutland Water (Leics), those that can be linked to the Dutch population include two off Old Montrose Pier, Montrose Basin (Angus) on at least 20-27 July, a drake at Loch Leven (Fife) on 30 July, two at Coate Water CP (Wilts) on 31 July to 1 August and a pair at Frolesworth Manor Lake (Leics) briefly on 1 August. What were presumably the latter pair flew in to Uttoxeter Quarry (Staffordshire) at 2035 hours on 1 August and it is my assumption that today's Wilstone pair are in fact one and the same.

The only previous record of presumed wild (and when I say wild, I mean from non-naturalised populations rather than outright escapes) Ruddy Shelducks at Tring Reservoirs was of a flock of five juveniles on Wilstone in August 2005, seen earlier in Lancashire and subsequently at Sidlesham Ferry Pool, West Sussex, before migrating south over the English Channel.

Dave Bilcock and Ian Williams both obtained excellent images of the two birds, Dave's being reproduced above.

In addition to the shelducks this evening was 1 LITTLE EGRET (roosting in the central bank of trees), the drake EURASIAN WIGEON, 6 Shoveler, 7 Tufted Ducks, 8 Gadwall and 6 Common Teal. A total of four GREEN SANDPIPERS remained from yesterday and at least 3 juvenile WESTERN REED WARBLERS were feeding at the edge of the reedbed.

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Sandon area

Nice morning for Birds of Prey out near Sandon - a PEREGRINE the highlight, but also Hobby and several Red Kites. Plus plenty of Common Buzzards, Kestrels and Eurasian Sparrowhawk. Also at least one COMMON QUAIL still calling near Deadman's Hill (R. Davies)


At Tyttenhanger GP today: Green Sandpiper 3 (1 at Willows farm and 2 on main pit); juvenile EGYPTIAN GOOSE still; Little Grebe with 2 young on back scrape and an escaped White-cheeked Pintail (Ricky Flesher)


At Wilstone Reservoir today: 1 TURNSTONE briefly at 12.30 (the first at the site in 2009), 1 Juvenile MEDITERRANEAN GULL on mud until flushed by a dog, 11 Green Sandpiper, 3 Common Sandpiper, 9 Shoveler, 16 Teal, 1 Wigeon, 54 Common Tern and a Red Kite. At Rye Meads: 8 Green Sandpiper, 15 broods of Tufted Duck, 3 of Pochard. At Amwell, 1 Red-crested Pochard (Graham White)