Saturday, 31 March 2012

Amwell this morning

Two Swallows south, 2 Blackcap, 8 Chiffchaff, 1 LRP, 5 Little Egret, 5 Goldeneye, 4 Redshank this morning (Graham White)

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Sherrardspark Wood for the very first time..........


Another very unseasonally warm day with temperatures again reaching 66 degrees F this afternoon; wall-to-wall sunshine and light SE winds.

After a brief flirtation with Hertfordshire this morning, I spent the rest of the day in Bedfordshire, catching up with a few more migrants........


A new site for me and a tremendous relic ancient woodland site. It is one of Hertfordshire's largest and most important Oak woodlands and extends to approximately 80 hectares (200 acres) and has some of the county's finest Oak and Hornbeam trees. It is an ancient woodland for which there is archaelogical evidence to suggest that people lived there some 4,000 years ago. It is also home to an important colony of Hazel Dormice.

Anyway, the reason for my visit. After hearing of numerous reports of LESSER SPOTTED WOODPECKER from Monks Walk, I decided to visit this morning and was not disappointed. Chris King first espied it - a nice male moving quickly through the tall canopy of Hornbeams to the right of the tree-lined avenue. It called just once and moved rapidly through the trees. A very welcome Herts year tick and a nice new site tick.

The area also held both Great Spotted and Green Woodpeckers, several Nuthatches, Common Treecreeper, Great and Blue Tits, nesting Stock Dove and Chaffinches.

Being positioned on the A1, I was relatively convenient for Bedfordshire and as it was, Matt Burgess discovered a passage flock of Little Gulls......whilst driving north, a pair of MANDARIN DUCKS flew across the A1 at Welwyn, just over a mile south of Junction 6.....


A nice selection of waders present including a LITTLE RINGED PLOVER, 2 Ringed Plovers, 2 Oystercatchers, 2 Common Redshanks, several Lapwing, a GREEN SANDPIPER and a Little Egret

PEACOCK'S LAKE, BROOM GP (BEDS) (1130-1230 hours)

After an initial dipping session, I joined finder Matt Burgess at the watchpoint and enjoyed good views of his 4 winter-plumaged adult LITTLE GULLS. The birds were extremely restless and active and on at least two occasions, thermalled up very high in the sky and attempted to fly off east; both times they returned back down though. MJP, Pip and SCB soon caught up with them too.

Not many wildfowl left on the lake, just 3 Wigeon, a few Teal, 4 Shoveler and a scattering of Tufted Duck and Pochard, along with 8 Lapwing and 1-2 Common Redshank.

Whilst keeping on the Little Gulls high in the sky, several raptors were intercepted, including 3 Sparrowhawks, a Red Kite and a number of Common Buzzards. A single SAND MARTIN was also picked up.

At least 2 Common Chiffchaffs were singing in the vicinity


Not a great deal to report but 304 Barnacle Geese on the grass, 8 Meadow Pipits in the new plough and 2 Common Shelducks, 8 Wigeon, 2 Oystercatchers and 2 Ringed Plovers on Dovecote Pit. Again, also 2 singing Common Chiffchaffs


The surrounding parkland yielded my first Beds male BLACKCAP of the year, along with 2 more singing male Common Chiffchaffs. The country park itself was heaving with people with dogs galore entering the lake at the eastern shore

Checked out a number of other sites but nothing worth mentioning - just numerous singing Common Chiffchaffs.

At FLAUNDEN (HERTS), I noted my first Orange Tip butterfly of the year

Bramfield Woods today

Took a walk in Bramfield Woods this morning with the hope of finding the Crossbills and the Brambling recorded yesterday by Alan Reynolds. Normally I would park up in the village and walk northwards along the footpath leading up the hill and into the woods from the southeast end but I decided to park in the layby near where Tewin Hill meets Winding Shott and walk along the footpath that goes through Nicholson's Wood.

It started rather quietly with just a handful of tits, wren, blackbird and woodpigeons until I approached the crossroads in the northeast corner of Nicholson's Wood where there were several chaffinch on the ground. I scanned them with the hope of a Brambling but there were none. A Nuthatch caught my eye low down and then a Chiffchaff burst into song. As I neared the crossroads where I noticed a small pond the distinct calls of Lesser Redpolls became apparent and I noticed several coming down to the pond plus several more in the pinetrees -around 20-25 in total. I decided that the site looked good for attracting birds down to drink so I set myself up in a position overlooking the pond and waited.

It was not long before I heard the call of Crossbills and caught the brief glimpse of a female passing overhead but then it was gone. A year tick but all a bit too brief really so I returned to watching the pond where chaffinches, goldfinches, blue, great, coal and long-tailed tits, dunnock and wren were intermittent visitors along with the redpolls. After about 20 minutes a male BRAMBLING in full breeding plumage landed on a small shrub near the pond and although it only remained there for about 5 seconds, it was just what I wanted. My first for the year (I did not get out much in January and February) and a male in breeding plumage with full black hood to boot. Shortly after this, suddenly a pair of Common Crossbills landed on the lower branches of a nearby tree no more than 25ft away and were frantically calling. I watched them for a while thinking this is far better, when I could hear a rustling sound at the base of the tree the crossbills were in. A JUVENILE!!!!.. WOW!!! a juvenile Common Crossbill was about 20ft from me amongst the leaf litter. I had never seen a fledgling crossbill before (seen juveniles capable of feeding themselves in Scotland and first winter birds in various places) and here was one barely a few miles from where I live in Herts. I watched open mouthed and awe struck as the juvenile managed to escape the leaf litter and fly to a shrub about 40ft away from me where the adults followed and the female preceded to feed it with regurgitated seeds. The feeding process took about 20 seconds before both adults left leaving the juvenile quietly perched some 10ft above ground all on its own where it remainedso for at least another 15 minutes until I left the area. The juvenile was uniformly greyish brown with heavy streaking throughout with the wings appearing darker. The bill appeared to have a slight curve but seemed to lack any crossing and was grey with a yellowish tint. The tail was distinctly shorter than the adults appearing somewhat stub-tailed which made it difficult for the bird to balance... seeming front (head and bill) heavy.

There was little else elsewhere in the woods, although a horse-rider mentioned seeing a large brown bird of prey sitting on the ground on one of the rides but it was not there when I arrived (presumed buzzard).

The pond is located at TL 2829 1705 just to the north of the crossroads in the northeast corner of Nicholson's Wood and seems to be a huge attraction to finches and tits given the warm weather and lack of water around.. It is shaded by pines and looks to have plenty of water in it and as well as the redpolls, crossbills and brambling could potentially attract hawfinches which are believed to be in the area.

Tony Wileman

Monday, 26 March 2012

Southeasterly winds displace large LITTLE GULL flock


The gorgeous summer-type weather continued today with a light SE breeze and wall-to-wall sunshine culminating in another top temperature of 66 degrees F.

Although most of the day was spent surveying, a brief visit to Tring Reservoirs finally pushed my tally through the 100 species barrier......


Spring is well and truly underway with bird song seemingly everywhere. The Brickpits were alive with activity and although I failed to find yesterday's Willow Warbler, no less than 8 Common Chiffchaffs were in full song. A nice male Blackcap was showing well too.

Otherwise, the site yielded Red Kite, 3 Green Woodpeckers, Great Spotted Woodpecker, 2+ Nuthatch, 2 Song Thrushes, 5 Common Blackbird, Dunnock, Robin pair, 2 Wrens, singing male Goldcrest, BULLFINCH and 6 Linnets. Butterflies on the wing included COMMA and Small Tortoiseshell.


That at Chessbury has now increased to 44 active nests whilst the colony besides the A413 just south of Great Missenden (at SU 905 996) now holds 15 nests. In the town centre by the church (SU 894 014), one tree holds 16 nests, whilst further north just before the A413 enters the Wendover Bypass, 29 active nests were counted at SU 873 066. A singing male Common Chiffchaff was also at the latter site.


Spent three hours surveying Coxgrove Wood, Smalldene Farm, both High and Low Scrubs, Upper Bacombe, Bacombe Warren and Bacombe Hill Nature Reserve. Although Dave Cleal and I found Firecrest in this area last year, my visit today resulted in a blank sweep. In fact, despite a massive area of suitable fir woodland covered, just 2 Goldcrests were found. A total of 5 singing male Common Chiffchaffs was noted, with 6 Nuthatches, 2 Jays, Common Treecreeper and a single MARSH TIT (High Scrubs). A pair of BULLFINCH was in 'Upper Verney' garden, with 18 Carrion Crows in one group in a neighbouring field.

Numerous butterflies were on the wing including Green-veined White, Peacock and 4 Brimstones.


Did a full and comprehensive survey of all of the southern part of the forest - beginning at 1330 hours and finishing just over two hours later. Perhaps it was the time of the day but it was real hard work. I managed to find just 5 FIRECRESTS (4 singing males), with 1 close to the Hale entrance gate on the main drove, two males in a usual area not far from the hide and a pair in a new area east of the fort. Steve Rodwell had fared much better yesterday, recording no less than 9 singing males.

GOLDCRESTS were far more numerous with no less than 11 singing males counted.

At the Keeper's Cottages at the Hale entrance, a gorgeous male BRAMBLING was in full song, with two more females with Chaffinches in the same area. SISKINS were seemingly everywhere and in constant display throughout the wood, whilst 2 COMMON CROSSBILLS flew over near Post 9.

Three Nuthatches, 9 Coal Tits, 2 MARSH TITS (singles at the Hale and another near 'Picket Piece') and a singing male BLACKCAP were also encountered, whilst a TAWNY OWL hooted in the warmth of the afternoon sun at 1503 hours. Lots of butterflies again, with 3 COMMAS, Small Tortoiseshell and up to 6 Brimstones.


Following a call from Dave Hutchinson, arrived at Wilstone at 1545 hours - a flock of LITTLE GULLS had flown in on the southeasterly. Initially, 16 birds was present, but this soon increased to 20, including four adults in full breeding plumage and a single first-year. The remaining birds were a mixture of white-headed adults and third-years. This was my largest flock in quite a while at Wilstone and I immediately updated RBA and David Bilcock. Francis Buckle and Jack O'Neill soon turned up and the flock were still present when I departed (1615). According to Charlie Jackson, both he and Mike Wallen watched the flock get intimidated by a Lesser Black-backed Gull not long later and this forced them all to fly off strongly east towards Ivinghoe Beacon. Chaz then discovered a further single early evening.

Also on Wilstone Reservoir were 21 Great Crested Grebes, 2 Little Grebes, 3 Mute Swans, 15 Teal, 8 Gadwall, 2 drake Wigeon, 12 Shoveler, all 10 remaining Common Goldeneyes, 4 Little Egrets and the 2 OYSTERCATCHERS. A full breeding-plumaged adult Common Gull flew through.


New birds for me for 2012 included a pair of LITTLE RINGED PLOVER and a splendid adult male WHITE WAGTAIL, both species joining the pair of RINGED PLOVER and the near summer-plumaged WATER PIPIT


Again, no sign of the Willow Warbler seen by Chris Pontin here on Friday, just 2 singing male Common Chiffchaffs and the resident pair of Common Kestrels


BRAMBLINGS were in fine fettle and making a cacophony of nasal sounds. At least 36 birds were still utilising the site for roosting, initially arriving in the tall fir trees at the west end of the main circuit before flighting down towards the Penna Rhododendrons to roost. Many of the males were in outstanding condition and the birds were feeding on seeds in the conifers.

Four COMMON CROSSBILLS were in the tall pines along the western perimeter trail including a female with a bulging lower mandible.

A male BLACKCAP was also noted, 4 different male Common Chiffchaffs, 8 singing male Goldcrests, Nuthatch, 6 Coal Tits and 3 singing male Song Thrushes.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Female BLACK REDSTART on Glebe Road in Letchworth

Showing well on rooftops and front gardens at intersection of Glebe Road and Cromwell Road. Seen in garden and on rooftop of number 99 and also other side of junction at 97.

Friday, 23 March 2012

OSPREY north over Cassiobury Park

At about 2.20 this afternoon the first park record of OSPREY was seen as a bird drifted off NW over the council yard being mobbed by 3 Herring Gulls (per Ian Bennell)

With SE winds, LITTLE GULLS arrive

First thing, Mike Ilett had two adult LITTLE GULLS briefly at Amwell, whilst this evening, Steve Rodwell found another on Wilstone

Thursday, 22 March 2012

HEN HARRIER finally nailed


Another fabulous day, with temperatures reaching 64 degrees F mid afternoon in the sunshine and clear blue skies. A fresh South-easterly then set in, increasing as the afternoon went on.

At CHENIES (BUCKS) first thing, I noted my first local RED-LEGGED PARTRIDGE of the year, calling from a bare patch in the field just east of the village.


At 1515 hours, Joan picked up the ringtail HEN HARRIER over the fields adjacent to the Icknield Way and by watching from the gate by Greys Farm, we followed it for several minutes as it quartered the farmland hunting for food. At one stage, it was mobbed by a couple of corvids. It was the first time I had seen this bird this year, despite trying on numerous occasions; a single Red Kite was also in the vicinity.


On the western outskirts of Royston bordering Therfield Heath, I counted 5 active nests in trees on the A505 roundabout at TL 333 403 and a further 17 in the trees bordering the road at TL 342 405. Closeby at Thrift Farm (TL 321 383), 38 more active nests were counted.


With the SE wind quite strong by early evening, I fully expected something new to be at the 'resses' but it wasn't to be. STARTOP'S best offerings were the RINGED PLOVER pair, 18 Linnets and the 2 continuing Meadow Pipits, one of which is in transitional plumage.

WILSTONE was relatively quiet with not a hirundine in sight but 2 OYSTERCATCHERS by the hide on the bund, 2 COMMON SNIPES feeding at the edge of the reedbed, the 10 COMMON GOLDENEYE still and a small number of wildfowl including 4 Gadwall, 42 Teal, just 7 Wigeon, 18 Shoveler and 4 Mute Swans. Active Sinensis nest have now increased to ten, with 3 Little Egrets present and the gull roost at a pitiful 212 Black-headeds. A pair of Stock Dove was feeding on the bund

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Another BLACK REDSTART - this time a cracking adult male


Today was glorious through and through. After a very light frost overnight, the day dawned clear and bright and stayed very much like that for the rest of the day. There was a light westerly wind blowing and temperatures climbed to a very pleasant 12 degrees C.

I had reserved today for crest surveying and teamed up with Dave Cleal at Cliveden mid-morning. Despite much Cherry Laurel clearing being undertaken, we had a very successful first days outing, recording no less than 11 singing male FIRECRESTS and 13 Goldcrests........


My only incursion into Hertfordshire today was a brief visit to Woodoaks Farm, where superb views were obtained of a beautiful adult male BLACK REDSTART around the barns and farm machinery at the north end of the complex - my third in the county in two days.

Lee G R Evans

GREAT GREY SHRIKE still in East Herts

The GREAT GREY SHRIKE still remains at Therfield Heath, being observed from the Icknield Way only yesterday (per Martin Parr)

Monday, 19 March 2012



A glorious day weatherwise following a sharp overnight frost. Predominantly blue skies, bright sunshine and a light westerly wind.


Following up a call from Chris Pontin, my first valley COMMON CHIFFCHAFF of the year was singing from the tall Poplar trees by Pow Wow Lake; 8 Gadwall were also freshly arrived, whilst the pair of Mute Swans were still in attendance.

A Great Spotted Woodpecker was drumming, with a male Goldcrest singing from thick ivy, 2 Wrens, a pair of Long-tailed Tits and a singing male Great Tit.

(Chris had earlier had 4 Ring-necked Parakeets fly over)

On the lower Chesham road, yet another dead Badger by Bois Mill Cottages.


Two pairs of Mute Swan were in close proximity near Latimer Bridge, with 4 Little Egrets on the new lake west of the bridge at Chenies Bottom.


Checked out a report of a female Black Redstart seen close to Junction 20 of the M25 yesterday but failed to find the correct farm nor the pond accompanying the grid reference ! Anyhow, whilst there, I then took a call from Darrel Bryant who had just found a BLACK REDSTART at Norton Green. Having missed out on two yesterday, I made my way straight over.......driving north up the A1, noticed two more dead Badgers within a mile of each other by the Welwyn Garden City exits


With Darrel's help, I quickly located his BLACK REDSTART, still frequenting the small scrubby bushes situated around the burnt out rubbish and caravan parts just yards south of the gypsy encampment. It was a young male, most likely a first-summer (slate-grey on the upperparts). It was consorting with a nice male NORTHERN WHEATEAR.

As I walked along the eastern flank of the site, I discovered a second BLACK REDSTART, this time an adult female. It was in the vicinity of some dumped hosing and was showing well. I phoned both Darrel and Mike Ilett to tell them of the update and I was talking to Mike, I had to make a very hasty retreat as three 'youths' were attempting to break in my car parked by the metal gate. One of them was watching me whilst the other two were trying to open the doors. BE VERY CAREFUL WHERE YOU PARK YOUR VEHICLE AT THIS LOCATION.

I then decided to visit the Sandon area in the hope of locating Merlin or Hen Harrier


Spent virtually three hours in the area with scant rewards

Yet another dead Badger noted - this time near the Bury Barns entrance

A nice male GREY PARTRIDGE was with 2 Red-legged Partridges close to the Horseshoe Wood Farm entrance, with another pair of GREY PARTRIDGE in the field south of Upper Heath Farm.

No less than 74 BROWN HARES were logged in the area, and three herds of FALLOW DEER

Totalling up the Rook nests lining the A505 came to an impressive 83 active

Just SW of Deadman's Hill, the fields and game strip thereabouts produced 330+ LINNETS and 18 CORN BUNTINGS

I came back through BEDFORDSHIRE, stopping off firstly at PEGSDON HILLS (birdless) and then BARTON HILLS (just 3 Yellowhammers). Finally added a county COMMON CHIFFCHAFF at DUNSTABLE SEWAGE WORKS and then headed back to Herts


Spent the last hour of daylight at Tring whereby WILSTONE offered 23 Great Crested Grebes, the DARK-BELLIED BRENT, the pair of Little Egret, 57 Teal, 46 Shoveler, Wigeon pair, 4 Gadwall, 18 Pochard and an impressive 237 Tufted Ducks. Highlight was a party of 10 COMMON GOLDENEYES - adult drake, first-winter drake and 8 female-types.

The pair of RED-CRESTED POCHARDS were on STARTOP'S, with a singing male COMMON CHIFFCHAFF in the Black Poplars behind MARSWORTH REEDBED. The CORN BUNTING roost was well attended with 151 birds arriving. With Jack O'Neill for company, we watched the BARN OWL appear over the meadow from 1820 hours

Sunday, 18 March 2012

BLACK REDSTART in Kings Langley

Just wanted to let you know that I found a female BLACK REDSTART at Clapgate Farm, Kings Langley (TL075016) today which was flitting about around the small pond just west of the Farm (Samuel Perfect).

Saturday, 17 March 2012

HEN HARRIER still in East Herts

A ringtail HEN HARRIER from Redhill rd toward Deadmans Hill this evening (Mike Ilett and Darrel Bryant)

WHEATEARS arrive in force

One of 3 Scandinavian Rock Pipits at Tring Reservoirs today (John Foster)


A band of rain crossed the region for the best part of three hours early morning eventually clearing away to leave a fine day. The wind remained in the Southwest and it was quite chilly early on, warming up during the afternoon.

Northern Wheatears seemed to have arrived in good numbers overnight, my tally by the end of the day being 16. Tring Reservoirs saw an arrival of ROCK PIPITS.........


My first port of call was Norton Green where with Tony Hukin and another lad, we enjoyed good views of two male NORTHERN WHEATEARS and a female COMMON STONECHAT in scrub just south of the gypsy encampment. A migrant Song Thrush was also noted (with a resident bird singing nearby), as well as 15 Common Blackbirds, 3 Yellowhammers and a pair of Red-legged Partridges.


A pair of COMMON RAVENS were busy making plans for nesting whilst Rook nests censused included 42 active ones in Whitwell and a further 54 in the grounds of Kimpton Grange.


A single Little Egret and GREEN SANDPIPER was noted on the main river just south of the bridge


In drizzly conditions, the two male NORTHERN WHEATEARS were feeding together in the upper section of the paddocks.


After searching an area of farmland previously inhabited by the species, I was very pleased to find a pair of EURASIAN CURLEWS - my first in the county this year. The same field also held a pair of GREY PARTRIDGES and shortly later, a COMMON RAVEN flew in. The latter was then 'attacked' by a mob of Carrion Crows, forcing it to eventually fly off.


Not much to speak of, apart from a drake Goldeneye, 37 Lesser Black-backed Gulls and a migrating flock of 120 Fieldfares. Four Sand Martins were present briefly.


I covered the area between the car park and Gallows Hill to the east, finding 3 NORTHERN WHEATEARS in the sheep field just beyond the pens. One was a nice male and the other two females. A flock of 8 Meadow Pipits was also in the sheep field, and 15 Common Gulls.


Two more NORTHERN WHEATEARS, a male and a female, were discovered just SW of the main car park, with then a further 7 birds at the edge of the large fields and on Pitstone Hill proper 500 yards further on.

Skylarks were seemingly everywhere with no less than 60 encountered, including 25 singing males, with several Yellowhammers, a flock of 4 CORN BUNTINGS, a pair of Red-legged Partridges and a pair of Long-tailed Tits


At WILSTONE mid-afternoon, the DARK-BELLIED BRENT GOOSE was on the bund, with 9 Eurasian Wigeon still present. As Dave Hutchinson and Lucy Flower walked towards the jetty in front of Ted Reed and myself, both the WATER PIPIT and SCANDINAVIAN ROCK PIPIT flew up calling from the reservoir edge and were watched in flight for several minutes. A single Meadow Pipit was also seen and a bit later, a party of 7 SAND MARTINS arrived, gradually moving from the jetty area to over by the hide.


The OYSTERCATCHER was still present on the mud and showing well, along with the Red-crested Pochard pair and 3 Wigeon. The Pied Wagtail flock still numbered 27, with 3 Grey Wagtails but it was the six pipits present that were causing all of the interest - all being seen from the hide.

Two birds were SCANDINAVIAN ROCK PIPITS in slightly different stages of moult, one having traces of summer plumage. Three more were Meadow Pipits (one quite scruffy and in moult) whilst every now and again, the WATER PIPIT would fly in from Wilstone after being flushed. The two ROCK PIPITS afforded a superb performance, feeding right in front of the hide, allowing John Foster, Dave Bilcock, Dave H and Lucy to obtain some quality pictures (see selection above) and Roy some lengthy video sequences. Both birds were different to the Wilstone Rock Pipit.

On neighbouring MARSWORTH RESERVOIR, the CETTI'S WARBLER released a few snatches of song

Frustratingly, half an hour after I departed the reservoirs, DB and others recorded a CURLEW on the bund in front of the hide at Wilstone

Thursday, 15 March 2012

First WHEATEAR of the year

Darrel Bryant had a nice male NORTHERN WHEATEAR at Norton Green this afternoon, the first in the county this year. I also forgot to mention yesterday's SANDWICH TERN, seen briefly by Steve Murray at Tyttenhanger Main Pit

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Spring migration well under way

Amwell today produced 2 PIED AVOCETS, CURLEW, Dunlin and drake GARGANEY whilst Wilstone had SCANDINAVIAN ROCK PIPIT. At least 10 COMMON CROSSBILL were in Bramfield Woods, with the CETTI'S WARBLER still along Stocker's causeway and the 2 SMEW still there.

College RED-THROATED DIVER departs west over reservoirs this evening and SCANDINAVIAN ROCK PIPIT shows well


Well for most of the day, it was grey, overcast, dull and cool. There was little if any wind and visibility was poor over any sort of distance.. At around midday, the sun started to burn through and a lot of the low cloud started to clear - temperatures increased to about 10 degrees C and eventually the afternoon was quite pleasant, with bright sunshine and clearing skies.

Sometime in the early afternoon I received a call from Mike Collard informing me that Paul Reed had discovered a 'diver species' at College Lake BBOWT - most likely a RED-THROATED - a local mega. At the same time I was also being bombarded with news of rare birds all over the area, including a drake Garganey and 2 Pied Avocets at Amwell (per Barry Reed, Mike Ilett), a Common Stonechat at Batford (Darin Stanley) and a Scandinavian Rock Pipit at Caldecotte North (per Ted Reed). The diver was by far the most important and that is where I made a beeline for............


I arrived on site at about 1600 hours immediately connecting with the now confirmed RED-THROATED DIVER in the car park, courtesy of Simon Nicholl's telescope. The 13-mile journey had taken me over 45 minutes, mainly because it had coincided with school leaving time and BCC were undertaking numerous pothole repairs on the Wigginton road. I was particularly frustrated and anxious, as both JT and SN had warned me that the bird was flying around and seemingly trying to leave.

Anyhow, I was very lucky - the bird had stayed. I joined Jeff Bailey, JT and Anna Marett and together we all walked down to the reserve Octagon Hide, where Roy Hargreaves, Mike Collard and Dave Parmenter were getting much better views. I had also briefly seen the finder Paul Reed by the centre. I was just setting my 'scope up when yet again the bird took flight - and circled the pit three times gradually gaining height before flying back down again and splash-landing. The bird looked up occasionally as it circled round, perhaps peering in all directions to see how clear the sky was; it was still pretty misty to the north.

The bird put down back on the main pit and allowed closer scrutiny. To my surprise, it was an adult in near full breeding plumage, with an extensive deep red throat-line and some neat striping on the hindneck. Most of the head was pale grey too although the mantle, upperwings and sides were largely still in winter plumage, noticeably chequered. It dived frequently, staying down for 20 seconds or more, and also snorkelled (looking underwater for food). I did not see it perform a successful dive although it could of course have found some small prey. It swam from left to right, mainly at a distance of 100 yards, and was on constant alert. The odd Black-headed Gull harassed it.

Within no time at all, it was back in the air, and it repeated this routine on at least three occasions during the first hour I was present. Tempting it to enter Hertfordshire airspace, it never did and eventually I got tired of waiting. A few closer views were had when it landed a tad closer to the Octagon but it always remained relatively distant. Dave Hutchinson did well in getting both a shot in flight and on the deck (see attached) whilst Roy obtained a fair bit of video footage.

I left for a while to twitch Roy's Rock Pipit at Wilstone but whilst there, JT kindly rang to say that the bird now appeared to have more momentum about its efforts to leave and that I should quickly get back. I did just that and joined the 'new' observation team, including Ian Williams, Nik Maynard, Paul Moon, young Charlotte and of course, Anna and Joan. The bird was still in flight as I returned and within a few minutes had entered Hertfordshire airspace, crossing the B488 southeastwards towards Tring Station. This was at 1740 hours. By now, the bird was extremely high in the sky, and for a while it headed NE towards Ivinghoe Beacon and the escarpment. It then decided to head back for College again but instead of dropping height, it continued to gain and suddenly seemed to have intent on its mind. I lost it as it flew towards the sun but a sharp-eyed Charlotte quickly re-intercepted it. It was now making a direct beeline for the reservoirs and flew slightly south of west. We all kept on it as it flew very high, firstly over Startop's and Marsworth and then as it continued over Wilstone. I lost it from view at about 1747 hours, the bird seemingly continuing west on its journey, perhaps navigating towards the Severn Estuary as many displaced seabirds inland do. It had been a terrific few hours and well done to all those involved in the finding and access arranging.

It represents only the eighteenth record (32nd individual) of this species in Bucks and the first since November 2005 -:

1) One was shot near Aylesbury Station prior to 1910;
2) An adult was present on Spade Oak GP, Little Marlow, from 27th October to 7th November 1952;
3) One remained on the River Thames at Hurley from 11th-31st March 1970;
4) One was seen at Calvert on 13th-16th February and again on 22nd February 1976;
5) One remained at Wotton Underwood Lake from 5th-12th March 1978;
6) One visited Willen Lake on 14th March 1979;
7) Another was present at Willen from 7th-10th March 1980;
8) A third visited Willen on 7th February 1986;
9) A slightly oiled adult was present on Weston Turville Reservoir from 8th-10th December 1987 before being taken into care; it subsequently died;
10) A remarkable flock of 14 birds touchlanded at Willen Lake during sudden snowfalls on 2nd April 1989. Six remained overnight and flew off shortly after dawn on 3rd April, with a further two departing at 0900 hours;
11) A juvenile remained at Spade Oak GP from 16th December 1990 until 12th January 1991;
12) One was on Eleven Acre Lake at Stowe School on 20th January 1994;
13) A second bird was found at Stoke Mandeville Hospital on 2nd February 1994. It was oiled and taken to St Tiggywinkles Wildlife Hospital at Haddenham;
14) An adult female was found on the bank of Weston Turville Reservoir on 14th March 1996. Despite being taken to St Tiggywinkles, it died on 15th;
15) A diver seen briefly on Taplow Lake on 11th November 1997 was presumably that Red-throated Diver found next day at nearby Bray GP, Maidenhead, in Berkshire;
16) One at Startop's End Reservoir on 22nd December 1997 swam into the Bucks partition of the reservoir;
17) An adult visited Spade Oak GP on 27th November 2005

As regards occurrences at Tring Reservoirs, only the 6th since 1958 -:

1) A male picked up disoriented in Hitchin on 29th November 1958 was released at Wilstone Reservoir on 30th where it was later found dead on 6th December;
2) One was found dead on Wilstone on 22nd November 1959;
3) One remained at Tringford Reservoir from 28th February to 3rd March 1962;
4) One visited Wilstone briefly on 28th April 1975;
5) One visited both Wilstone and Startop's on 22-23 December 1997

In addition to the RED-THROATED DIVER, College Lake also boasted another first today - a CETTI'S WARBLER. Showing well on occasions in the reed-filled ditch adjacent to the track to the Octagon Hide, the bird was still singing this evening.

Also present on the main marsh were 2 COMMON SHELDUCK, 7 Shoveler, 8 Gadwall, 10 Common Redshanks, the OYSTERCATCHER pair, 8 COMMON SNIPES and 2 RINGED PLOVERS, the latter my first in the county this year.


Over at Wilstone, I was very pleased to refind Roy's SCANDINAVIAN ROCK PIPIT of this morning. Just like then, the bird was closely associating with the long-staying WATER PIPIT, the two birds showing very well this evening on the concrete foreshore not far east of the main car park steps. When flushed, the two birds flew to near the jetty but soon returned. Jeff Bailey and a couple were also on hand to enjoy the spectacle. The two birds were like chalk and cheese, the Rock Pipit being much greyer on the upperparts with less of an eyestripe and much heavier sullied and striated underparts. The wintering Water Pipit was now in somewhat transitional plumage, the streaking now more sparten and the underparts much whiter. Some grey was coming through on the head and face, but the back was still a nice soft brown.

Otherwise, DARK-BELLIED BRENT was still in its favoured field and the immature drake Common Goldeneye was off of the jetty; no Sand Martins

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

First migrants starting to arrive at Tring Reservoirs


A very grey day, with little wind and temperatures a lot lower than of late, presumably due to the lack of sunshine.

My main target bird of the day was HEN HARRIER but otherwise just general birding and searching for migrants. Not a bad day in the end.........


The male PEREGRINE was sat inside the chamber with the female standing on the roof adjacent


In the trees bordering the A41 just east of Waddesdon at SP 756 167, a total of 36 active ROOK nests. Nearby on the A41 at SP 717 177 (Westcott), yet another fresh Badger road kill


Following up on a call from Graham Smith, I arrived on site at about midday. I set my 'scope up in the car park and viewed westwards and after a relatively short time, intercepted the ringtail HEN HARRIER present for its third day quartering the setaside field at the far western flank of the reserve just beyond the main grass field. The bird flew back and forth several times, occasionally stooping down on to the ground.

Other raptors present included up to 7 Red Kites, 5 Common Buzzards and 3 Common Kestrels, whilst the surrounding farmland yielded a pair of Red-legged Partridges, 136 EUROPEAN GOLDEN PLOVERS, 66 Stock Doves in three flocks, 225 Linnets, 117 Fieldfares and 8 Brown Hares.

Two COMMON RAVENS were in the area and seemingly gathering nest material as well as two separate pairs of EURASIAN CURLEW. Singing Skylarks abounded, perhaps as many as 15 birds in total.


I spent the rest of the afternoon birding the Tring area and walking some areas that I rarely check. This resulted in the logging of two new House Sparrow sites and a number of other records of common birds.

WILSTONE RESERVOIR was still supporting yesterday's OYSTERCATCHER on the west shore, with both LITTLE EGRETS still in courtship and active Grey Heron nests now up to 8 on Drayton Bank.

The DARK-BELLIED BRENT GOOSE was still present in the East Fields consorting with 40 Greylags, with 2 Mute Swans still there and another two in the fields. Great Crested Grebes had climbed to a very healthy 29 birds, with a single Dabchick also present in the SE corner. Wildfowl numbers were still in decline with just 7 Wigeon now, 52 Common Teal, 12 Gadwall, 13 Shoveler and 97 Tufted Duck; 3 female COMMON GOLDENEYE too.

At LITTLE TRING FARM, a pair of House Sparrows was noted with a further 10 individuals in the back gardens of houses that back on to the Canal close to the flour mill at SP 924 128.

TRINGFORD RESERVOIR itself harboured 2 Mute Swans, 2 Teal, 7 Gadwalls and 24 Tufted Duck, with two pairs of nesting Stock Dove in the wood and my first Tring BLACKCAP of the year - a male - feeding in one of the ivy-clad trees close to the back entrance. A Song Thrush was by the pumping station and 3 pairs of Common Blackbird and a pair of Collared Dove in the vicinity of Manor Farm in LITTLE TRING.

I joined Sally Douglas on the causeway at MARSWORTH RESERVOIR and we did very well over the next hour or so. The singing male Goldcrest was still present in the wood, with 8 Great Crested Grebes on the reservoir, 7 Shoveler, 2 Jays and 2 Fieldfares.

I glanced over to the expanse of mud on STARTOP'S END and watched a party of 7 small waders arrive - they were 5 winter-plumaged DUNLINS and a pair of RINGED PLOVER. Sally fired off a number of shots (see above). There was also a substantial arrival of Pied Wagtails on the mud numbering 27 birds, as well as 17 Linnets, whilst SD located 2 Meadow Pipits - my first of the year.

There was not much left on the reservoir proper - just 5 Mute Swans, 3 Great Crested Grebes, 3 Wigeon and the regular pair of Red-crested Pochards.

I nipped back over to WILSTONE to do the gull roost - nothing rare but 998 Black-headed including a partial leucistic adult, 21 Commons, a 3rd-winter and juvenile argenteus Herring and 7 Lesser Black-backed.

I then returned to MARSWORTH and again with Sally's help, finally connected with my first local COMMON KINGFISHER of the year. A total of 47 CORN BUNTINGS flew in to roost (28 + 3 + 3 + 13) and the BARN OWL appeared from its roost at 1803 hours. A first-year Sparrowhawk also dashed across the reedbed towards dusk


A PIED AVOCET spent the day at Amwell on Monday 12 March, showing well from the viewpoint throughout - the first of the year in the county. Alan Reynolds obtained the superb shot above

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Returning waders


After a pretty grey and cloudy start, high pressure finally took over and the skies became clear and sunny, with temperatures climbing to a particularly warm 61 degrees fahrenheit. This induced a trickle of migrants to arrive, including several national Garganey and a Short-toed Treecreeper in Kent, with the odd bird locally too.......


Despite much woodpecker activity from up to 6 Great Spotted and 3 Greens, JT and I failed to locate the local Lesser Spot pair. At least 8 Stock Doves were on site, 2 Ring-necked Parakeets, 2 Song Thrushes, 3 Grey Wagtails and a male Common Kestrel displaying to three females.


Highlights included a pair of SMEW, pair of GOOSANDER, Common Treecreeper and a singing male Goldcrest. The sawbills were typically elusive, skulking within the dense island understorey of the site


Checking Tyttenhanger at lunchtime, 'new' waders for my 2012 county list included the pair of OYSTERCATCHERS on the main fishing lake and a single COMMON REDSHANK on the 'birding' pit. Up to 80 Lapwings were on the spit and in amongst the 270 Black-headed and 36 Common Gulls was a 4th-winter CASPIAN GULL intergrade. Although many features were fine for Caspian Gull (head shape, black eye colour, long greyish-pink legs), a few anomalies in the upperwing pattern suggested some influence from argentatus Herring Gull. The bird remained on view for about five minutes before flying off north. Two argenteus Herring Gulls were also roosting on the spit.

Two LESSER REDPOLLS flew over calling by the fishermen's car park


Did a complete circuit of the reservoir, taking in the Dry Canal, Rushy Meadow, Ochards and Back Fields, mainly with the idea of adding Marsh Tit - but failed.

The ever-present first-winter DARK-BELLIED BRENT GOOSE was still consorting with 58 Greylags and 71 Atlantic Canada Geese in the Cemetery Corner East Fields, whilst the redhead SMEW was still to the north of the Drayton Bank.

Otherwise, wildfowl were heavily depleted in number, with just 4 Mute Swans, 37 Teal, 11 Wigeon, 14 Shoveler, 112 Tufted Duck, 26 Northern Pochard and 2 female Common Goldeneye present.

The Little Egret pair were busily displaying whilst trekking from behind the hide to the Poplars in Cemetery Corner yielded Green Woodpecker, Great Spotted Woodpecker (2 drumming birds), 2 different male singing Skylarks, a singing male Yellowhammer, 2 Song Thrush, a singing male Mistle Thrush and 2 Red Kites.

In the Orchard area, a migrant flock of 155 FIELDFARE flew in and noisily settled in the trees (many singing), just 5 Redwing with them and a pair of BULLFINCH. There was no sign of the Marsh Tit in an extensive search.

Between 1745 hours and dark, I conducted a count of the gull roost, with 1,982 Black-headed Gulls roosting, just 11 Common Gulls and 1 juvenile argenteus Herring Gull. I could not locate either of last night's two adult Mediterranean Gulls, although Steve Rodwell had seen one of them on Startop's earlier in the afternoon and Rob Andrews had seen one in Pitstone Quarry.


Startop's End was very quiet with the extensive mud/grass affording good feeding conditions for 2 Linnets and 6 Pied Wagtails, whilst Marsworth afforded very close views of the RED-CRESTED POCHARD pair along the causeway and singing Common Treecreeper and 3 displaying Common Buzzards in the sunshine. Tringford produced the first COMMON CHIFFCHAFF of the year - a male singing from the thick hedgerow just in from the main road and fishermen's car park.


JT and I spent part of the afternoon in Essex where we enjoyed good views of a GLOSSY IBIS in fields just north of the entrance track. The bird was bearing a white plastic ring inscribed with black '8J9', a bird ringed in Spain in the Coto Donana colony from where all of these post-breeding Glossy Ibises are dispersing. The site also yielded a nice transitional-plumaged BLACK-NECKED GREBE on the South Pit, 2 Oystercatchers and 9 Egyptian Geese.

The superb Glossy Ibis images above were taken by Graham Ekins

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

GREBES are back and Harefield TREE SPARROWS


Although the day started overcast, grey and cold, it soon brightened up and temperatures eventually recovered to 10 degrees C


Put in a good couple of hours here but no sign of the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker pair.

Highlight was a party of 3 LESSER REDPOLLS including a nice pink male, whilst an excellent list for such a small reserve included Grey Heron, 2 Coot, 1 drake Common Teal (my first here), pair of Common Kestrels (observed mating), 6 Stock Doves (all paired up with one utilising the owl nestbox), 4 Ring-necked Parakeets, Great Spotted Woodpecker (2 males drumming), Green Woodpecker, 4 Song Thrushes, 23 Redwing, calling Nuthatch, Common Starling, 2 Common Magpies, Goldcrest, 8 Goldfinch, 3 Greenfinch and 4 Long-tailed Tits


Following up information kindly supplied by Alan Gardiner and Joan Thompson, I was delighted to find 4 TREE SPARROWS today feeding in the back garden of 91 Ash Grove. The birds were commuting between the bird feeders and the thick ivy-clad trees and scrub adjacent to the public footpath at TQ 061 909. Although just a few hundred yards from the Hertfordshire border, this is a fantastic record for London and the first Tree Sparrows I have seen in this vicinity for a very long time. A female BRAMBLING was also visiting the feeders, along with 2 Long-tailed Tits enjoying the energy pellets.


The 11 EGYPTIAN GEESE were still present and visible from the road


There was no sign of the pair of Smew or Cetti's Warbler but the 3 adult drake GOOSANDERS were showing well on Inn's Lake at the west end. Bury Lake held 6 Great Crested Grebes and 30 Mute Swans whilst Stocker's added 8 more Great Crested Grebes, 6 more Mute Swans, a pair of Red-crested Pochard, 9 Gadwall, 17 Shoveler, 3 Common Goldeneyes and 15 Wigeon. At least 18 Grey Heron nests were now active.


The grebes are back with no less than 9 transitionally-plumaged BLACK-NECKEDS showing well - my first of the year in the county. Also 18 Shoveler, with 150 Fieldfares in the horse field


Four COMMON CROSSBILLS were still present in the well-stocked coniferous trees in Baldwin's Wood, along with Coal Tit, 8 Goldcrests, 2 Jays, 11 SISKINS and 3 calling Tawny Owls

Five Little Egrets were on the Chess, with 1 Little Grebe, 5 COMMON TEAL, male Pied Wagtail, pair of Grey Wagtail and singing male Greenfinch.

A first-year Mute Swan had collided with overhead wires and died.

Basking in the sunshine were a pair of LITTLE OWLS in a pollarded Willow


The GREAT CRESTED GREBE pair were back once more on the smaller lake with an unpaired male on the larger lake; also 4 Mute Swans (2 first-years), 14 Tufted Duck, 1 female Northern Pochard and 3 pairs of Reed Buntings.


No less than 4 WATER RAILS were taking advantage of the shallow water, ideal feeding conditions for them; 4 Moorhens were also in the vicinity


A total of 17 active nests in the Rookery at SU 926 954, with a Stock Dove nearby


A TAWNY OWL was making the most of the afternoon sun whilst roosting finches included 2 LESSER REDPOLL, a female BULLFINCH, 194 Greenfinches (in the Holly Roost) and 76 BRAMBLINGS (Rhododendron Penna Roost), many of the latter now in full spring plumage and wheezing nasally and loudly.