Tuesday, 30 March 2010

YELLOW WAGTAIL arrives - LGRE Diary Notes


Talk about a topsy-turvy day in terms of weather. When I first started birding mid morning, the wind was in the west and the temperature was 9.5 degrees C. It was raining intermittently and activity was rather scant. Around lunchtime/early afternoon however, the wind switched to the SSW, the sun came out and temperatures recovered to 13.5 degrees C. Then, darkening clouds brought heavier rain, and between 1500 and 1900 hours, the temperature plummeted to a freezing 5 degrees C and the wind veered to a strong NNW.

Despite the conditions, I had a great day locally, with some nice finds and new additions - particularly Yellow Wagtail and House Martin - both firsts for the year.

(1200-1338 hours)

By the time I had got to Tyttenhanger, the wind had freshened from the SSW and the sun had started to peep its way through the clouds. The temperature started nudging 13.5 degrees C and it became quite pleasant.

Steve Blake had earlier discovered a LITTLE RINGED PLOVER (a Herts Year tick for me and only the second occurrence this year) on the main pit which I was keen to see. I 'scoped across to the mud and located 8 COMMON REDSHANKS and 7 COMMON SNIPE and then a 'ringed plover'. The latter was clearly a RINGED PLOVER so I phoned Steve to query his sighting. He was adamant, so we agreed to meet up at the opposite side. A single COMMON SHELDUCK was also present on the pit.

Making a rendezvous with SB by the conveyor belt, he pointed out the plover that he had found and it was a different bird to that at the opposite end of the sandy spit and a fine adult LITTLE RINGED PLOVER - my first of the year in Herts (120). A party of 8 EUROPEAN BARN SWALLOWS also passed through.

We then went back to WILLOWS FARM POOL (1240 hours), where the female Ruddy Shelduck, a pair of OYSTERCATCHER, a pair of Common Redshank and 2 adult male Pied Wagtails were present. Feeding along the left hand flank were a stonking male YELLOW WAGTAIL (234/121) and a first-summer male WHITE WAGTAIL (122). The latter was soon chased off by one of the male Pied Wagtails.

Returning to the site much later (at 1520), the OYSTERCATCHER pair were still present, along with a pair of Common Shelduck, pair of Gadwall and pair of Shoveler.

Following up on further information of Steve's, I was highly delighted to connect with my first NORTHERN WHEATEAR of the Herts year - a female - perching on the fragments of maize left over in the field behind Tyttenhanger Farm (123). The flattened maize field behind the feeding station hedgerow also yielded 15 Yellowhammers, 12 Reed Buntings and at least 3 TREE SPARROWS.

(Best accessed from Abbey Mill Lane car park)


The main reason I visited this site today was to enjoy and study the drake NORTH AMERICAN RUDDY DUCK that had been present here for the past three weeks or more, perhaps one of the last opportunities to see this enigmatic and charming species in the county following the murderous government campaign to try and eradicate it. The bird was showing exceptionally well and I took the opportunity to show many of the general public the wonders of it. Ironically, it was showing best from just yards in front of the RSPB sponsored information caravan (sadly not being manned today).

I also took the opportunity to do a full inventory of the site with the following results -:

Grey Heron (10 active nests on the main island)
Mute Swan (17 in all, including 11 first-summers and an adult pair on the Model Boating Lake)
Mallard-types (96 in all)
NORTHERN SHOVELER (pair roosting on the smaller island)
Tufted Duck (8)
Coot (96 on the main pond and a further 8 on the neighbouring River Ver - two nests within 20 yards of each other on the Ver, another on the Model Boating lake, 2 on the smaller island and another on the main island)
Moorhen (11)
Black-headed Gull (adult and two first-summers)
Feral Pigeon (25)
Great Spotted Woodpecker (drumming male)
Nuthatch (calling male)
COMMON CHIFFCHAFF (singing male in trees near church)
Mistle Thrush (singing male)
Coal Tit (singing male by lake)
Wren (singing male)


Depressingly, three dead BADGERS within half a mile of each other on the eastbound carriageway of the A414, all SW of Cole Green and east of the roundabout - presumably all related to the Tewinbury population.


There was no sign of Saturday's non-naturalised Barnacle Goose with the Atlantic Canada Geese but a pair of Great Crested Grebes were busy nest-building on the island, 3 Shoveler were present, 13 Tufted Duck and 8 Coots.


My visit here frustratingly coincided with persistent rain and some blustery winds so no sign of Simon Knott's early singing Sedge Warbler - the only individual in the county so far. The only migrants present were 2 EUROPEAN BARN SWALLOWS, a SAND MARTIN and a singing male COMMON CHIFFCHAFF in scrub by the entrance gate.

Wildfowl included two lingering EURASIAN WIGEON (a pair), 22 Gadwall, 3 Shoveler and 5 Northern Pochard, with a pair of adult Lesser Black-backed Gulls on posts and the marshes NW of the flyover yielding 5+ Lapwings, two pairs of Common Redshank and 2 Common Snipes.

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