Friday, 26 August 2011

Tyttenhanger and elsewhere yesterday

Steve Blake had 3 Yellow Wagtails, a WHINCHAT and a Peregrine at Willows Farm, Tyttenhanger, yesterday, whilst a RUFF was new in at Rye Meads RSPB. A few NORTHERN WHEATEARS were scattered elsewhere.......

Tring Reservoirs continue to be the premier site in the county - keep track of all events on my Birding Tring Reservoirs blogspot

Monday, 22 August 2011

A Red Letter Day in the Local Area


With a steady SSE breeze blowing and part-cloudy skies, I knew today was going to be special - it had that feel to it. Being bereft of any avian enjoyment since Friday, I was ready for action and committed a day to slogging the local patches - and furthermore Steve Rodwell was back and work and out of play.........

(0940-1320 hours)

Despite feeling very warm, there was enough dark clouds in the sky to thwart migrating birds over the Chilterns and as usual in such conditions, today the reservoirs acted as a magnet.....

Looking to the skies throughout the morning, it soon became apparent that many raptors were migrating, mostly in a west or SSW direction. Pride of place went to an adult OSPREY that came through late morning, being slowly harassed by corvids as it flew at great height slowly west and then SSW across the reservoir. I picked it up initially over Wilstone village (from the Drayton Bank Hide) and managed to get all other 8 occupants in the hide on to it before it drifted away towards Drayton Beauchamp. Two different juvenile MARSH HARRIERS also came through, neither even pausing to check out the mud or reedbeds, and simply flying from NE to SW and making a beeline for the Wendover escarpment. A steady stream of Red Kite and Common Buzzard was apparent (at least 16 of the former and 11 of the latter, the Common Buzzards of which all were juvenile) with 2 Sparrowhawks (probably of local origin) also seen.

Steve Rodwell's BLACK TERN was also still present and was a pristine juvenile (second day). It frequently settled and joined the ever-growing daytime gull roost on the mud left of the hide, which this morning hosted two different very fresh juvenile MEDITERRANEAN GULLS, 216 Black-headed Gulls and 16 Lesser Black-backed Gulls; 25 Common Terns remained too.

Waders were also exciting with the arrival of 4 RUFFS at 0945 (all juvenile, with three males and one female) - joining a throng of 13 COMMON GREENSHANKS (mostly juvenile), two juvenile BLACK-TAILED GODWITS, a single juvenile DUNLIN, 2 Green Sandpipers, 2 Common Sandpipers and 330 Lapwing.

Since my visit last week, there was also a marked increase in wildfowl numbers with Common Teal up to 43, Shoveler to 17, Gadwall to 18, Wigeon to 8 and Northern Pochard to an impressive 30, whilst 14 LITTLE EGRETS were tricking the last few remaining fish in the shallow SE quarter into submission by their continual foot-paddling.

There was a constant procession of hirundines migrating, with over 190 Barn Swallows south during the morning and 85 House Martins, whilst a Common Chiffchaff was in song in the NW corner and a juvenile COAL TIT was in the Poplars just west of the car park.

A Grey Wagtail and 27 Mute Swans were also noted, as were both Chinese Water Deer......


Having great expectations, I walked from the south end of Aldbury Nowers north and east along the Icknield Way to the east end of Gallows Hill - a distance of over 10 miles in total. Was it worth it - yes - as the highlight was a very vocal and stonking fresh male COMMON REDSTART showing very well in the isolated five Hawthorn bushes on the slope above Brook Statnall's Wood at Pitstone Hill, about 350 yards SW along the Icknield Way from the main car park. It was a gorgeous bird - and so showy.

The only other migrants noted, apart from one flock of 24 Barn Swallows, were 2 juvenile NORTHERN WHEATEARS - one on the fenceline just SE of the trig point at the Beacon and another on the fence by the Sheep Pen.

Two Brown Hares were sighted at Gallows Hill, whilst butterflies included a good number of Meadow Brown and Small Heath, 20 Chalkhill Blues and single Red Admiral and Small Tortoiseshell.


As the evening progressed, a thick band of darker cloud cover encroached from the south - a precursor of some seriously wet weather expected overnight. Despite an extensive search, there was no sign of the female Common Redstart - the only migrants apparent being 2 juvenile WILLOW WARBLERS, 5 SPOTTED FLYCATCHERS, a juvenile Blackcap and a Common Chiffchaff.

Of the residents, the female MANDARIN DUCK was still present - this evening venturing out on the grass to graze.....

Also 7 Little Grebes (4 juveniles) (but again no sign of any GCG's), the Mute Swan family (6 surviving cygnets), now 4 NORTHERN POCHARDS (female and 3 drakes), 3 Tufted Duck, Common Kestrel, pair of Stock Dove, 2 Common Magpies, Nuthatch, 3 Great Tits, 12 Long-tailed Tits, 15 Blue Tits, Great Spotted and Green Woodpecker, Goldcrest, 13 Goldfinch and COMMON KINGFISHER

If all goes to plan, tomorrow should be very exciting.........WATCH THIS SPACE

Saturday: COMMON REDSTART at Hatfield Aerodrome

21 August - Found a male COMMON REDSTART at Hatfield Aerodrome Saturday morning, in the bushes just north of the gap in the big central hedge; very vocal and perching out in the open when I left at 10.45 (Laurence D)

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

First REDSTART of the autumn

COMMON REDSTART on the home patch on hill at stort park west, Bishop's Stortford, TL466 208 right now! Look in bushes nearest electricity wires (Graeme j Smith)

Friday, 12 August 2011

CURLEW at Wilstone - a welcome addition to the Year List (LGRE)


Still SW winds but much lighter in strength than yesterday. A few bright intervals but mainly cloudy - still warm though.........


Spent much of the afternoon at Wilstone where I was dismayed at the number of families walking their dogs and children wandering aimlessly out on the mud and flushing up all of the birds. Where are the signs informing people where they can and cannot walk - PLEASE KEEP ONLY TO THE FOOTPATHS AND DO NOT WALK OUT ON TO THE MUD OR SPITS....

At around 1430 hours, a Numenius species flew in and landed on the vast tract of mud in front of the Drayton Bank Hide. Initially 'scoping from the car park steps, I could not make out its exact identity, particularly as it had a short bill. I walked down to the new overflow bridge and was delighted to find that it was a juvenile EURASIAN CURLEW - my first at the reservoirs this year and my first in the county this year too. It did have a very short bill but also had a pale eye-ring, little in the way of an eye-stripe, an all dark uniform crown and rather sullied breast washing. It fed unperturbed for some while before being suddenly attacked by a juvenile YELLOW-LEGGED GULL of all things and then flew around calling loudly for several minutes. It initially landed in Cemetery Corner before relocating to the central spit and was then flushed by a man walking his dog across the spit ! It then flew back towards the hide and landed again, resuming feeding at the water's edge and affording excellent views from the hide. It then had to endure another flushing from a woman and her two children, who had walked out from the beach in the SE corner to the ringing site and then out along the Drayton Bank. This was the last straw and the Curlew flew off strongly east, 'shouting' loudly as it went (1530 hours).

Other waders present included 4 adult ICELANDIC BLACK-TAILED GODWITS (1 remaining after the flush), an outstanding 11 COMMON GREENSHANKS, 5 GREEN SANDPIPERS, 3 Common Sandpipers and the juvenile DUNLIN. I could not find the two LRP's that Roy and Francis had seen earlier but the Lapwing flock was still high at 382 individuals.

The juvenile RED-CRESTED POCHARD was present for a second day by the middle spit, whilst other wildfowl included 17 Common Teal, 17 Shoveler, 11 Northern Pochard and 41 Mute Swans. LITTLE EGRETS were well down at just 22, whilst Common Terns numbered 52.

Richard Woodhead located a single SPOTTED FLYCATCHER in the 'usual' hedgerow leading north from the new overflow bridge, this bird showing well for IW, JT, DB and myself, whilst 2 juvenile Blackcaps were also migrants; Barn Swallows numbered 22 and House Martins 46, with a pair of Stock Doves dropping down to the mud edge to drink.

On STARTOP'S END RESERVOIR, the two adult WHOOPER SWANS were still present

There was no further sign of Francis Buckle's adult OSPREY that quickly flew through west.



Another dry day, relatively warm, mainly overcast and with light variable winds..

Having missed all of the Wood Sandpipers that have so far occurred in the county this year, I was mightily pleased to hear that Barry Reed had located two at Amwell and that Bill Last had confirmed that both were still present early afternoon.


I eventually managed to get to Amwell early evening and with local guidance from Barry was quickly able to achieve my goal....

The two juvenile WOOD SANDPIPERS that Barry had located early morning were still present at 1800 hours, feeding and resting together on the western shore of the main lake just 50 yards north of the hide. They were fairly vocal and were seen in flight on one occasion, briefly attempting to land on a bloom of algae. Both were very freshly plumaged but with drab, greyish-green leg colour. Alan Reynolds did manage to get these shots of the birds, published above.

Barry and I also saw a flock of 7 COMMON CROSSBILLS in flight, up to 6 of these birds being seen quite regularly in the area since Sunday.

Two juvenile COMMON SHELDUCK were new in and other migrants included 2 COMMON SANDPIPERS and 8 COMMON SWIFTS.

Five Little Egrets were on site, a Sparrowhawk, two argenteus Herring Gulls flew over and a COMMON SHREW ran across the footpath close to the hide

Monday, 8 August 2011

SPOT SHANK still present and more BLACKWITS arrive


A very autumnly feel to the weather today, with quite strong and cool NW winds and grey, overcast skies for much of the time.........

Another freshly killed Badger I am afraid - this time on the A404 at Hazlemere, by the plantation there at SU 897 958

(from 1100-1300 hours and in the company of Steve Rodwell, Paul Lewis and Steve Carter)

With water levels continuing to dramatically fall due to the water usage in the neighbouring Grand Union Canal, the vast tracts of mud are continuing to pull in passage waders.....

Today's new arrivals were 6 adult summer ICELANDIC BLACK-TAILED GODWITS (initially 5 but then followed by a further single mid-morning), all feeding together in the bay in the far SW of the reservoir right of the hide.

Meanwhile, the juvenile SPOTTED REDSHANK first seen on Saturday remains (see Sally's images above), 6 COMMON GREENSHANKS, 6 GREEN SANDPIPERS and at least 2 Common Sandpipers (9 were noted on 6th).

The remaining roll-call was as follows, with some additional records from Saturday -:

Great Crested Grebe (17)
Sinensis Cormorant (19 roosting)
LITTLE EGRET (21 still present)
Mute Swan (31)
WHOOPER SWAN (both adults still present in the NW corner)
Gadwall (10)
Common Teal (8+, with 18 present on Saturday)
Shoveler (increase of 1 to 8)
Common Buzzard (6)
Red Kite (8)
Eurasian Sparrowhawk (the three young still being fed in the Black Poplar nest by the hide and an additional bird flew south)
HOBBY (successful breeding in the area - probably Mentmore Park - with Steve and I seeing an adult and begging juvenile)
Coot (186 + 74 + 128 = 388 today, but 607 logged on Saturday)
Lapwing (172 today - with 197 present on Saturday)
LITTLE RINGED PLOVER (adult on spit between jetty and Drayton Bank - new arrival)
Black-headed Gull (268 present including 26 juveniles)
Lesser Black-backed Gull (up to 40 in area, including juveniles, some being attracted to fields being ploughed by Cemetery Corner)
Common Tern (just 44 logged, following 82 on Saturday)
Sand Martins (11 migrants)
House Martins (32 today, following the 66 present on Saturday)
Common Starling (11 in area)
Mistle Thrush (party of 29)
Rook and Jackdaw (mixed flock of over 240 birds in fields by the Dry Canal)


Four broods of Tufted Duck this year on Tringford, totalling just 14 ducklings


Another adult HOBBY seen drifting over the ''White Lion'' by the Grand Union Canal bridge in Marsworth village.

Weekend Highlights

At Wilstone Reservoir with increasing mud, Saturday saw a juvenile SPOTTED REDSHANK arrive (Ian Williams, Steve Rodwell, et al) (which remained until Sunday) and Sunday a party of 11 WHIMBRELS (Dave Bilcock).

Elsewhere, one of the breeding pair of BLACK-NECKED GREBES remained at Rye Meads RSPB and Mike Ilett noted 8 MARSH HARRIERS from the green gate at the bottom of the Hill (adult female, 6 Juvenile and a 2nd-Summer male ) plus 1 Quail calling still, 3 Red Kite and 10 Common Buzzard

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

WOOD SAND still at Rye Meads

Alan Reynolds took this shot of the long-staying WOOD SANDPIPER at Rye Meads RSPB reserve today