Sunday, 20 February 2011



After having spent virtually all week 'wardening' a certain vagrant Turtle Dove, I concentrated my efforts on Hertfordshire today, trying to catch up on a few birds I was still missing.....

Sadly, the weather was very poor, with cold SE winds bringing dank, misty weather with very poor visibility.


A total of 8 Mute Swans now back in Chesham, with two pairs on Lowndes Park Lake, a pair on Bois Mill Pond and 3 birds (regular pair and one of last year's young) at Waterside.


At Pitstone Quarry, I finally added COMMON REDSHANK for the year. It was feeding in the shallows close in to the observation point. There were also 260 Lapwings present, as well as 8 Tufted Duck, 6 Coot and an assortment of gulls - 225 Black-headed, 41 Common and 6 Lesser Black-backed; a Dunnock was in full song.

At nearby Tunnel Way Development Scrapes, the pair of RINGED PLOVERS were still present.


My first visit in a while and the first of three today. The water level has risen dramatically and is now at its highest level. The wintering WATER PIPIT is still present but still extremely elusive - primarily a dawn bird. As a result, no sign of it during my morning visit.

The long-staying redhead adult female GOOSANDER is still present, along with 5 female Common Goldeneyes; 3 LITTLE EGRET were the other highlight (and possibly responsible for the Wendover report of 3 Cattle Egrets!).

The full itinerary: Great Crested Grebes up to 14; Grey Herons (10 active nests on the Drayton Bank); Sinensis Cormorants (16+ with at least 6 active nests in the two tallest trees on the Drayton Bank), 6 Mute Swans including a first-year; pair of Atlantic Canada Geese, 65 Greylag Geese in an adjoining field; 10 Gadwall; just 5 Shoveler; just 17 Common Teal; just 22 Eurasian Wigeon; 92 Tufted Duck; 109 Northern Pochard; 279 Coot; 55 Lapwing, 8 COMMON SNIPE in the cut-reeds by the hide, Grey Wagtail, 2 Great Tits, male Common Blackbird and Goldfinch.

A noisy CETTI'S WARBLER to the right of the hide was my first of the year and one of two different birds to survive the freeze (per Johnne Taylor).

Roosting gulls at that time included 3 Argenteus Herring Gulls and 3 adult intermedius Lesser Black-backed Gulls.


The pair of Red-crested Pochards was still present, along with 5 Great Crested Grebes, just 1 adult Mute Swan, 8 Pochard, 1 Shoveler, 35 Tufted Duck and 142 Coot


(Afternoon visit) Shovelers have returned to Marsworth as they do each spring with 63 snorkelling together; 7 Pochard also present, along with 6 Tufted Duck and 2 Coot; also 3 Moorhens and 12 Atlantic Canada Geese in the paddocks and a male Great Tit in full song.


With so much Badger activity at the moment, it came as no surprise to see one dead besides the main road in Cow Roast.


Three BLACK-NECKED GREBES are now present, including one adult in full breeding plumage.

A female GOOSANDER was eventful here but little else of note apart from 2 Mute Swans, 2 Gadwall, 2 Great Crested Grebe and 2 Dabchicks. There was a large gull roost including 500+ Black-headed, 60 Common, 6 Argenteus Herring, 28 Lesser Black-back and incredibly my first county GREAT BLACK-BACKS of the year - an adult and immature.


Returned to Marworth Reservoir with Dave Bilcock and others, primarily with the view of counting CORN BUNTINGS. A grand total of 159 was click-counted and roosting by 1700 hours, a massive increase on my previous counts this winter. Prior to roosting, many of them perched in the trees at the back of the reedbed.

Dave and I also saw 2 EURASIAN BITTERNS (one in the Bucks section of reedbed as well as the regular rooster midway along the reedbed, whilst Paul and others saw a third bird close to the sluice), heard 1-2 squealing WATER RAILS and saw the two resident BARN OWLS hunting over the meadow.


Thanks to Steve Rodwell who remained at the gull roost until last knockings, I managed to see a single adult GREAT BLACK-BACKED GULL at last light roosting in the melee - this is a very scarce species at the reservoirs. As darkness drew in, there were also 39 Lesser Black-backed Gulls present (probably all migrant intermedius and evidence of active passage as just five minutes earlier Steve counted only 32). There were also three different adult Argenteus Herring Gulls in the roost, whilst Black-headeds numbered over 3,000 and Common Gulls over 80. Once again, there were no Mediterranean Gulls present in the roost.

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