SATURDAY 28 APRIL
It rained virtually from dawn until dusk - perhaps for 13 hours in all. It was also very cold, with strong winds blowing in from the Northeast. I managed to stay in the field all day despite the soaking and was highly rewarded for my efforts, culminating in my largest-ever flock of WHITE STORKS in Britain
WILSTONE RESERVOIR, TRING (HERTS)
Despite being on site by 0715 hours, I still managed to dip out on the two Common Shelduck (College pair) that Ian Williams had seen close to the hide. There was also no sign of last night's Northern Wheatear in Cemetery Corner and most frustrating of all, missed yet another Osprey by a few minutes (Dave Bilcock watched one fly along the Dry Canal just as I left the car park)
Anyway, browsing across the windswept pallet, noteworthy were just 7 Mute Swans, 40 House Martins, 120 Barn Swallows and 45 Common Terns
MARSWORTH RESERVOIR, TRING (HERTS)
A CETTI'S WARBLER was singing loudly from the far reedbed whilst a COMMON CUCKOO in the Black Poplars was my first of the year
WILSTONE RESERVOIR, TRING (HERTS)
Returning once more at 0800 hours, primarily to search again for the Osprey, a first-summer LITTLE GULL had dropped in and a female YELLOW WAGTAIL was with 2 Pied Wagtails by the steps. As I stood talking to Ian, Steve Blake 'phoned to inform me of 2 PIED AVOCETS at Tyttenhanger.........I left Ian to grip me off
TYTTENHANGER GP (HERTS)
Just as I arrived at a wet and soggy Tyttenhanger, Steve Blake 'phoned me to say that the Avocets had only that minute just flown off. Great I thought. Anyway, there was a possibility that they had flown on to the Fishing Pit, so I got back into the car and drove around to the north side. Thankfully, just as I was parking, SB phoned again to say that they had both returned and so with a little hastiness, I ran to the watchpoint and clocked on to them, just in case they got airborne again.
Both PIED AVOCETS, an apparent adult pair, were showing very well on the main sandy spit of the east shore and were both wading and swimming just offshore. Although annual these days, still a great bird to see in the county and rarely any more than a one-dayer. Perhaps due to the inclement conditions, they remained all day.
Also noted were 2 Common Redshanks, 10 Common Terns, a COMMON CUCKOO and single singing SEDGE WARBLER and COMMON WHITETHROAT by the conveyor belt.
MILLBROOK PILLINGE (BEDFORDSHIRE)
After speaking to Lol, Keith Owen and others, it was clear that driving up to Broom to search for Mark Thomas' Rough-legged Buzzard was going to be a waste of time - it had not been seen since MT had watched it fly north not long after 0600 hours !
Instead, I chose to twitch Martin Green's Pillinge Pit Grey Plover, still present in front of the hide at 0730. The rain got gradually worse as I drove north and was now constant. I joined both Lol and Bob in the Pillinge hide but no joy - the plover had long gone. The only waders present were 3 LITTLE RINGED PLOVERS and the OYSTERCATCHER pair.
A COMMON CUCKOO flew past the hide and landed in Poplars to call, whilst a COMMON SWIFT was over the lake - both new species to my 2012 Beds list. Over 50 House Martins were also over the lake, whilst 2 different CETTI'S WARBLERS were singing.
STEWARTBY LAKE (BEDFORDSHIRE)
More frustration was to follow. Scanning back and forth over the lake revealed the presence of 175 Barn Swallows, 110 House Martins and 70+ Sand Martins, with the male COMMON WHITETHROAT still singing opposite the car park. There was no Turtle Dove to be found along the Green Lane wires and at that time, the first-summer Kittiwake that Martin and Dave Ball both saw for 10 minutes later (1239-1249) had not arrived.
MANOR FARM, OLD WOLVERTON (NORTH BUCKS)
After consulting with Simon Nichols and Graham Smith, next stop was Manor Farm but typically the waders had gone (particularly the 2 Dunlin I was after). However, opposite where I parked the car, a female RING OUZEL was showing very well in the sheep field adjacent to the access track.
Much of the complex was flooded and waterlogged, with 1 Oystercatcher and a pair of Little Ringed Plovers on view.
LINFORD NATURE RESERVE (NORTH BUCKS)
(complete inventory for Simon and Rob)
With Linford scoring heavily early morning (Whimbrel, Little Tern, etc), I decided it was worth a visit, especially as MJG had informed me that the Stewartby Kittiwake had departed. As such, I had a good look around and conducted a full survey of the reserve's birds (the majority of which had been washed out by the floods) -
Great Crested Grebe (6)
Little Grebe (2)
Sinensis Cormorant (9 roosting on the bund)
Grey Heron (12 nesting pairs)
Little Egret (5 nesting pairs)
Mute Swan (single pair)
Greylag Geese (12)
Mallard (15; just 1 female with ducklings)
*GARGANEY (pair on the bund, seemingly washed out by rising water levels)
Shoveler (2 drakes)
Tufted Duck (32)
Northern Pochard (2)
COMMON SNIPE (1)
Common Tern (4)
Sand Martin (75)
House Martin (55)
Barn Swallow (80)
YELLOW WAGTAIL (2 males on the bund)
Wren (6 territories)
Dunnock (1 pair)
Robin (2 pairs feeding young)
GRASSHOPPER WARBLER (1 reeling from Swans Way Meadow)
Blackcap (14 noted, including 9 singing males)
Common Chiffchaff (5 singing males)
WILLOW WARBLER (8 singing males)
Blue Tit (5)
Long-tailed Tit (3 nesting pairs)
Common Treecreeper (2 singing males)
Carrion Crow (7 nesting pairs)
Common Magpie (4)
No Common Cuckoo or Garden Warbler noted
COLLEGE LAKE BBOWT (BUCKS)
Alan Nelson had relocated Steve Rodwell's Wilstone Whimbrel on the main marsh but it had only stayed a short time. As such, it had gone when I arrived mid afternoon. Click-counting the main lake revealed the presence of 196 Barn Swallows - clearly a major arrival of this hirundine.
Both RED-CRESTED POCHARDS were seen (male and female) with nesting Greylag still, OYSTERCATCHER, 12 Lapwing, 9 Common Redshank, 2 Little Ringed Plovers and Gadwall. The Mute Swan pair seem to have abandoned (or been washed out).
WILSTONE RESERVOIR, TRING (HERTS)
My third visit of the day at 1545 hours heralded little change, except for an impressive arrival of hirundines and numerous COMMON SWIFTS. With the click-counter to hand, no less than 753 BARN SWALLOWS was logged, along with 116 House Martins and about 70 Sand Martins.
The first-summer LITTLE GULL was still present, whilst Common Terns were back up to 88
DORNEY ROWING LAKES (SOUTH BUCKS)
Decided to dip yet another Grey Plover, this time the winter-plumaged bird that Jim Rose had discovered by the 750m mark late morning, but just as I was walking back, news came in of a White Stork in Oxfordshire so I was off..........
STANDLAKE WATER MEADOWS (OXFORDSHIRE)
In still constant rain, I entered Oxfordshire, and after gleaning the knowledge of local guys Adam Hartley and Roger Wyatt, arrived in Standlake village shortly after 1815 hours. After a nervy 500 yard march, there they were, a flock of 6 WHITE STORKS in the grass meadow - resting and preening. After being first seen in Worcestershire (initially in a flock of 9) and then splitting up and moving to North Wales, these 6 had hit Oxfordshire on Thursday, where they had last been sighted flying SW over Didcot and Drayton late afternoon. This was the largest single flock of White Storks to have been seen in Britain for at least 50 years so I was mighty desperate to see them. And there they were - showing exceptionally well just 110 yards away. Both Roger Wyatt and Ewan Urquhart obtained some fabulous shots of them (see above) and despite me phoning RBA within seconds of me seeing them, just 10 observers arrived in the next hour. The birds rested for a bit, sheltering from the increasing NE wind, before lifting up one by one and flying half a mile south to land out of view just north of the River Thames at 1840. All of the birds were identical in plumage barring two birds with much brighter pinkish-red leg colour. All were lightly soiled on the upperparts. Rather surprisingly, none were ringed. It had certainly been an eventful day and this had capped it off well.
FARMOOR RESERVOIRS (OXFORDSHIRE)
Just before I left to drive home, I stopped off at Farmoor, where 5 full breeding-plumaged BLACK-NECKED GREBES were showing at 25 yards range just 100 yards along from the main car park.