Saturday, 23 January 2010

A saturation of WATER RAILS!

WATER RAILS by Martin Parr


A dry day, but overcast and still rather cold - temperatures in the afternoon struggling to a high of 7 degrees centigrade. Light winds.

A relatively local day, with a morning search for the Chess Valley GWE, a visit to Forest Hill for the Rosy Pastor and a failed attempt at the regular Merlin. Water Rail was the bird of the day, with no less than 8 seen.


At Latimer Bridge, LITTLE EGRETS tallied 4 (with 8 in the valley all told - per Ben Miller, Mike Ilett), with 11 Mute Swans including an adult and two first-winters just west of Latimer Bridge, an adult and first-winter and two adults in the Church Covert area and four adults east of Chenies Bottom Bridge. My visit at the latter site coincided with a shoot, with most birds flying out, but Grey Wagtail and 2 Greenfinch were encountered.

At Sarratt Mill House, 9 Moorhens were on the lawn, with Stock Dove and Nuthatch within the grounds, with 1+ RING-NECKED PARAKEET in the area.

A WATER RAIL was seen in the shallow stream just east of the bridge - my first of the day.


Joan Thompson and I decided to have a search for the Jack and Common Snipe that Paul Lewis and Steve Carter had flushed at Scotsbridge a week ago. We did not find the Jack Snipes but did find an exceptional number of wintering WATER RAILS - 8 in total - all frequenting shallow chalk-based streams with adequate reed cover. This is the largest number of birds that I have recorded at a single locality and in a very small surface area for a very long time.

Two LITTLE EGRETS were also seen - one adult with aigrettes particularly confiding - along with single Grey Heron, 1 female Common Teal, 3 COMMON SNIPE, female Grey Wagtail, Jay and Great Spotted Woodpecker.

Two LITTLE OWLS were calling - one either side of the playing fields - with a male Song Thrush, Chaffinch, European Robin and Wren in full song.

A flock of 62 Lapwings flew north.


I decided to try once more for the Merlin being frequently seen hunting the bonanza of small birds feeding in the winter stubble just south of Stotfold village. Although it was seen mid-afternoon just briefly, Martin Palmer, Darren Thomas and I failed to locate it between 1500 and 1700 hours.

The CORN BUNTING mass were still present (my best count today was 688 when all roosting in the Poplar trees), along with 29 Yellowhammers and 17 Chaffinch, whilst a pack of 32 Common Magpies were feeding together in the field just north of the A 507.

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