Monday, 21 September 2009

Searching for the Ibis proves fruitless


Well it was a very excited Steve Blake on the phone mid morning after he had just witnessed the first-ever GLOSSY IBIS to be recorded in the county since 1887 ! The bird had flown several circuits of Tyttenhanger GP Main Pit in an attempt to land on the spit but its efforts were scuppered as its archaic profile frightened the roosting gull flock and it was consequently chased away to the NW by two persistent individuals. It never did land and local patchworker Steve was in the unenviable position of being the only observer to witness this colossal event. One could argue that with over 37 juvenile Glossy Ibises touring Britain at the moment, it was perhaps inevitable that one would finally overflow Hertfordshire airspace.

Anyhow, along with Steve, I spent the next several hours trying to intercept it and perhaps second-guess where it may have landed. Sadly, both of us failed in our quests. Steve took the option of continuing to scour the Tyttenhanger complex and neighbouring gravel pits, ditches and fields whilst I drove out to Tring Reservoirs and environs, where conditions offer the best feeding prospects for a tired and hungry vagrant ibis.

Weather today saw a change in wind direction - from northeasterly to westerly - but temperatures remained high and skies were predominantly clear.


My first stop was Pitstone Quarry but with a new building being put up on the south bank of the workings, disturbance had guaranteed complete departure of avian life bar 14 Little Grebes and 18 Tufted Duck.

(1200-1300 hours)

Once up the steps, I immediately tracked down all LITTLE EGRETS - just in case our rare visitor had been attracted in by them. All 11 was still present but 9 were roosting and just 2 were feeding. Nothing was with them. The water level was so low that the bar between the Jetty and Drayton Bank was now exposed - so much so that some enterprising angler just had to walk across it and in turn flush everything in sight - just as three balloons had ruined my visit the previous evening. I notified the bailiff John and he very kindly agreed to sort out some more signs. We also further discussed the very distressing behaviour of certain East Europeans as regards to our ever-declining Mute Swan stocks too - I counted just 28 birds today.

Anyway with no Plegadis to view, I decided to undertake a full inventory of birds present once they had all settled back down. A total of 1,524 birds was seen - of 29 species.

Great Crested Grebe (17)
Little Grebe (2 first-winters, awkwardly getting out of the water and 'running' across the bar)
Continental Cormorant (17)
Grey Heron (4)
LITTLE EGRET (all 11 present, all unringed. Interestingly, one juvenile was very dark flecked about the upper mantle whilst another bird actually 'sat' on the mud)
Mute Swan (just 20 present)
Atlantic Canada Goose (26)
Mallard (126)
Gadwall (18)
NORTHERN PINTAIL (just 1 present; 8 had been seen yesterday - SR)
Shoveler (118; several drakes now in good plumage)
Eurasian Wigeon (83)
Common Teal (massive increase with at least 413 counted)
GARGANEY (single with Teal feeding to north of hide)
Pochard (11)
Tufted Duck (34)
Red Kite (3 in area)
Moorhen (82)
Coot (473)
Lapwing (just 14 birds - massive departure)
GREEN SANDPIPER (1 near hide)
**SPOTTED REDSHANK (the two juveniles were still present, presumably both from the same nest and favouring the muddy edge between Cemetery Corner and the former boathouse site)
Black-headed Gull (33)
HERRING GULL (juvenile showing well by hide)
Great Spotted Woodpecker (1)
Meadow Pipit (4 overhead)
YELLOW WAGTAIL (4 still present in the ploughed field NW of the new overflow)
Linnets (2)


Great Crested Grebes (7 birds still present including this year's three late-brooded juveniles, one of which was still begging of its parents)
HOBBY (an adult showing well, hawking back and forth over the reedbed; in view from at least 1305-1325)


Great Crested Grebe (2)
Mute Swans (just 8)
Greylag Geese (12)
Tufted Duck (32)
Coot (126)


Jay (1 flew over)

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