FRIDAY 18 MARCH
Following a few days of SE winds and rather cold conditions, today followed in the a similar vein but with rain. In fact the rain eventually fizzled out late morning and was replaced by clear, bright conditions as the day came to a close.
I spent the day locally, connecting with yesterday's PIED AVOCET in North Bucks as well as a newly arrived GREY PLOVER and found one migrant SCANDINAVIAN ROCK PIPIT and then later saw another. Spring really is well and truly under way now..........
WILSTONE RESERVOIR, TRING (HERTS)
(0830-1000 hours; joined by Francis Buckle and Chris King)
Out early at Wilstone, due to the report of a drake Red-breasted Merganser by Jeff Bailey and others yesterday afternoon. No sign of it of course and then later heard from Jeff that there had been a mix-up - the report actually related to a drake Red-crested Pochard !!
Early migrants were-a-plenty with my first EUROPEAN BARN SWALLOW of the year sortying over the jetty and east end of the reservoir with 12 SAND MARTINS (the Swallow had initially arrived yesterday - RH), whilst two adult male Pied Wagtails were on the North Bank and a male COMMON CHIFFCHAFF was singing from the North Hedgerow just east of the new overflow. A single adult intermedius Lesser Black-backed Gull flew east.
The adult female GOOSANDER remained, whilst an inventory revealed the presence of 21 Great Crested Grebes, 11 Grey Heron nests, 5 Mute Swans (including 2 first-summers), 65 Greylag Geese, 4 Gadwall, 12 Common Teal, 44 Shoveler, 41 Northern Pochard, 87 Tufted Duck and 3 female Common Goldeneyes.
Two Mistle Thrushes were busily gathering food on the north bank, with 2 Dunnocks and a male Common Chaffinch also feeding there; a male Song Thrush was singing from the Poplar Wood and 4 Long-tailed Tits were unusual in feeding in the bankside Willows.
Just as I was about to leave and was saying goodbye to Chris and Francis by the steps, I noticed two pipits flying in, one of which landed on the top bank. In the quick view I had of it before it flew, I was sure it was a Rock Pipit. All three of us then made slow approach to where both birds had dropped in over the bank but were overtaken by a woman walking her dog on a long lead. I tried to keep ahead of her but in doing so, watched both pipits fly up - one of which continued from the north to the east bank. The bird which remained became very vocal and was the usual wintering WATER PIPIT, now gradually losing its breast streaking and becoming whiter on the underparts but retaining its striking white supercilium. This bird was then flushed.
We watched the woman continue and were fortunate in that she flushed both pipits back towards us, the WATER PIPIT resettling on the east bank and the other bird landing back near the car park steps. We carefully crept back and checked the shoreline, Francis catching a movement. It was the bird and in getting it in the 'scope, I was quickly able to confirm that it was a SCANDINAVIAN ROCK PIPIT. It was partially in spring plumage, with much grey in the head and a dark malar stripe, but with just a pale eye-ring (no stripe), heavily streaked underparts (on a buffish basal background), dark brownish-red legs, brown upperparts and white undertail-coverts. The bird showed very well indeed and was still present when we all departed. My first of the year.