Monday, 30 April 2012

The exhilaration of spring birding


Can you believe it - not a single drop of rain today. It was pleasantly warm, the sun shone brightly and the skies were clear intermittently. The wind, initially blowing from the south, veered SE and then due east..........


New arrivals in TOP SCRUB were two singing male GARDEN WARBLERS - my first of the year. Also, at least 6 singing male WILLOW WARBLERS in that area, and a further 3 on Steps Hill.

Another new arrival was a singing male COMMON WHITETHROAT in scrub below the Beacon knollwhilst most impressive, was the sheer array of WHEATEARS, 5 of which were GREENLANDERS. There were 23 individuals in total, matching Mike Wallen's total of early morning, with a party of 12 birds along the fenceline beyond the gate at the bottom of the slope, 5 on the SE slopes, 3 on Gallows Hill and 3 more in the fenced-off sheepfield enclosure. Two singing male CORN BUNTINGS were also observed in the latter, whilst 3 migrant Barn Swallows went through.

(1145 hours visit)

Highlight for me was a single HOBBY chasing Common Swifts in the sky above the Black Poplars in the SE corner, another first for the year.

Otherwise, disaster had struck, with 9 Grey Herons just standing around forlorn, after presumably falling foul of the weekend weather, most likely killing the young.

18 Great Crested Grebes still, 14 Mute Swans (reedbed nest washed out), female Mallard with 3 surviving ducklings, 8 Gadwall, 1 drake Common Teal, 38 Tufted Duck, just 3 Northern Pochard, 83 Common Terns and 40 Common Swifts.

At MARSWORTH RESERVOIR, the male COMMON CUCKOO was still calling, with 8 Common Terns and 5 Blackcaps noted. A tree had been blown down and had fallen across the causeway footpath.

Thankfully, the raft-nesting Mute Swans had survived the floods and wind on STARTOP'S and a pair of Greylag Geese was accompanying 4 yellow goslings.


Next off, I had to undertake two comprehensive wildlife surveys to areas affected by HS2 - both areas completely new to me. The sites were just west of Aylesbury and part of the Thame floodplain, south of the A41. The starting point of the survey was at Putlowes Farm at SP 783 150 before fully surveying the Thame flood meadows in grid square 78 14. The plain was completely flooded due to the recent rains, with many grass fields completely sodden or underwater. This is the area where the HS2 viaduct will be built.

A total of 30 species was recorded in Part 1 of the survey -:

Grey Heron - 4 individuals noted, 3 adults and a first-year

Greylag Goose - 1 pair

Atlantic Canada Geese - 18

Mallard - two pairs on the floods with an additional female with 12 small ducklings

Red Kite - 1 flying overhead

Common Buzzard - single very vocal adult

Common Kestrel - 1 male

Common Pheasant - 15

Argenteus Herring Gull - 3 first-years on the floods

Lesser Black-backed Gull - 8 adults on the floods

Stock Dove - 2 pairs around the farm buildings

Woodpigeon - 15

Collared Dove - pair around the houses by the access road

Eurasian Skylark - just 2 singing males in the cereal crops

Barn Swallow - 2 pairs around the farm buildings

*YELLOW WAGTAIL - single male in the cereal fields and water meadows. According to 83 year-old farmer Geoffrey Jarvis, this species has bred in this area for at least 35 years.

Dunnock - 1 pair in hedgerow

Robin - just 1 pair

Common Blackbird - single pair

*COMMON WHITETHROAT - 2 singing males in hedgerows bordering cereal crops

Blue Tit - 1 pair

Long-tailed Tit - single nesting pair

Common Magpie - single pair

Jackdaw - 90+ of floodplain

Carrion Crow - 5 nesting pairs

House Sparrow - 6 pairs in the vicinity of the barns at the farm

Chaffinch - two separate singing males

LINNET - 3 nesting pairs in hedgerows

Goldfinch - 2 pairs in vicinity of farm buildings

YELLOWHAMMER - pair in hedgerow


The second part of the survey was of the golf course primed as a target for the HS2 route. This and Lower Hartwell Farm were particularly rich in bird diversity. Most unexpected was a migrant male WOOD WARBLER - moving through and singing along the Thame Valley Walk, about 200 yards north of the Newt Pond at the extreme NW end of the golf course.

Mute Swan - pair on Hartwell House Lake

Atlantic Canada Goose - 8 in the grounds of Hartwell House

Common Buzzard - single flew high over Lower Hartwell Farm

Common Pheasant - 12

Coot - pair on Hartwell House Lake

Woodpigeon - 35

Stock Dove - pair nesting in tree hole on golf course

Green Woodpecker - 1 yaffling

Great Spotted Woodpecker - pair feeding young

Wren - 6 territories

Dunnock - pair breeding in vicinity of Hartwell Farm

Robin - two nesting pairs, with singles at Hartwell Farm and on the golf course

SONG THRUSH - 4 birds on the golf course with nesting suspected

Common Blackbird - 5 nesting pairs

Blackcap - 4 singing males

COMMON WHITETHROAT - singing male by Newt Pond

*LESSER WHITETHROAT - rattling male by Newt Pond

Common Chiffchaff - 2 singing males on Golf Course

Great Tit - 4 birds

Blue Tit - 2 nesting pairs

Long-tailed Tit - 3 nesting pairs

Common Magpie - 4

Jay - single pair

Jackdaw - 50+

*ROOK - colony in trees on west flank of golf course with 72 active nests in main cluster and an additional 9 in a neighbouring colony

Carrion Crow - 3 nests

House Sparrow - breeding pair in barns at Whaddon Hill Farm

LINNET - pair

Goldfinch - 2 pairs

Greenfinch - singing male on golf course

YELLOWHAMMER - pair in cereal fields and hedgerow

A single Grey Squirrel was noted, whilst butterflies included 2 Peacocks, a Large White, 4 Brimstones and a Speckled Wood. The ponds hold Great Crested Newts


Both the adult drake COMMON SCOTER and the still-transitional-plumaged SLAVONIAN GREBE were still present, with a singing male GARDEN WARBLER and several Willow Warblers present close to the Scrapyard Corner of the lake. With MJP, watched 4 ARCTIC TERNS fly straight through to the east at 1635 hours but failed to locate the Common Nightingale noted earlier.

At PRIORY COUNTRY PARK (BEDS) at 1709, the single BLACK TERN was present, whilst at PEACOCKS LAKE, BROOM (BEDS), all 3 BLACK TERNS could be seen at 1739. A pair of GREY PARTRIDGES was showing in a cereal crop opposite. Nothing else of significance though, although Richard Bashford and SCB saw Bar-tailed Godwits later in the evening in the area.


Returning back to Wilstone at 1930 hours, I was very pleased to see the adult drake GARGANEY found by Stuart Wilson just prior to my arrival. It was showing very well swimming back and forth along the Drayton Bank and at times was only 75 yards from the hide. Barry Reed had found a different drake at Amwell early morning and that bird was also still present this evening.

Whilst watching the Garganey, an adult summer LITTLE GULL dropped in whilst COMMON SWIFT numbers reached 90. The pair of LITTLE RINGED PLOVERS were still present as well as 4 Teal.


The first local WESTERN REED WARBLER of the year arrived today in the larger lake reedbed on the west shore, with both Great Crested Grebes and 28 Tufted Ducks also present

The end of another exhausting day

Sunday, 29 April 2012

BAR-WIT passage beginning


Well, Sunday morning was a complete washout. Overnight and this morning, rain was torrential with a strong NE wind bringing down many trees, falling because of waterlogged foundations. Rivers and streams burst their banks too and fields were completely sodden.

It was not until Dan Forder phoned me that I decided to venture out - he had seen a male Ring Ouzel in a local Hemel Hempstead park. Despite joining him within five minutes, neither I, Lucy Flower or Dan could relocate it. Whilst looking for it, Kevin Duncan rang to say that he had just relocated the Dorney GREY PLOVER. Drat, I had got soaked for that one yesterday. Anyway, I told Kev to keep his eyes on it and made my way down to him...........


I got to Dorney at 1645 hours, where I joined Kevin, Dave Cleal, Adam Bassett & son and Graham Smith overlooking the reserve pools at the 750m marker. The winter-plumaged GREY PLOVER was still present and after feeding for a short while, concealed itself amongst vegetation and hid. Bonus bird however was a cracking breeding-plumaged BLACK-TAILED GODWIT, its long and bright orange-based bill, orange-brown underparts, white undertail coverts and vent, strong mid-breast barring (not blotching) and tiger-striped tertials indicating that it was a passage nominate bird - EUROPEAN BLACK-TAILED GODWIT (Limosa) - by far the much rarer of the two that occur in Bucks. These two passage waders constituting my 152nd species in the county in 2012 - the first time I have ever recorded 150 species prior to the end of April.

A couple of Common Redshanks were also present, as well as pairs of both Common Shelduck and Egyptian Geese, with 90+ COMMON SWIFTS encountered and 4 male NORTHERN WHEATEARS. The heavens opened again whilst we were there, the second afternoon running I have got drenched through at the site.

Visited Spade oak after the rain but little to speak of - a COMMON SANDPIPER, a few COMMON SWIFTS, 45 House Martins, a nesting pair of COMMON KINGFISHERS, Egyptian Geese on the tern raft, 8 Common Terns and a single singing WESTERN REED WARBLER but no Garden Warblers on the south shore.

At 1930 hours this evening, the corking full breeding-plumaged BAR-TAILED GODWIT was still showing well on the main spit at Tyttenhanger, being constantly harassed by the nesting Lapwings and Common Redshanks. Around the same time, a flock of 59 Bar-wits flew east through Amwell

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Some drought this is


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


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


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


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


(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)

Gadwall (2)

*GARGANEY (pair on the bund, seemingly washed out by rising water levels)

Shoveler (2 drakes)

Tufted Duck (32)

Northern Pochard (2)


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)

Jackdaw (46)

Carrion Crow (7 nesting pairs)

Common Magpie (4)

No Common Cuckoo or Garden Warbler noted


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).


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


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..........


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.


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.

NIGHTINGALES back at Fishers Green, Lee Valley Park

There are quite a lot of COMMON NIGHTINGALES singing on the Essex side of the valley in the Fishers Green area but there are also 2 singing near Cheshunt, i.e. in Hertfordshire. One at north end of Cheshunt Lake (Young Mariners' Base lake) and one by Cheshunt Lock, just north of the first. Birds were also singing here last year (per HBC).

Friday, 27 April 2012


There was a cracking male WHINCHAT at Croxley Common Moor this evening, along with 5 WHEATEARS (one of which was a male Greenland) (Daniel, JT & LGRE)

WHEATEARS in Cassiobury Park

For anyone interested there are currently 4 Wheatears by the log benches near the large Cedar tree near the car park!! - Ian Bennell


This drake GARGANEY photographed by Michael Sculley was present at Verulanium Park Lake in St Albans on 25 April. That same day, Derek Turner had both BLACK TERN and 2 LITTLE GULLS on Hilfield Park Reservoir, and 2 LITTLE GULLS flew through Amwell

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Major passage of ARCTIC TERNS


Another day of topsy-turvy weather. Initially, winds were blowing from the Northeast and it was cold and grey then, by early afternoon, the cold front had been matched by higher pressure from the south, clearing the skies and inducing temperatures to virtually double to 13 degrees C. There was no rain during the afternoon

The big story of the day was the ARCTIC TERN passage, with over 500 being recorded over the Midlands Region today, peaking at a flock of over 115 in the Northamptonshire Nene Valley. COMMON SWIFTS were also notable by their arrival........


The first-summer Sinensis Cormorant was still present in the Chess Valley, this morning roosting on the island at Bois Mill Lake.


At WILSTONE RESERVOIR from 0900-0945 hours in a cool Northeasterly, no less than 22 ARCTIC TERNS were present, many of which were in full breeding attire with full tail streamers. Significant also was the large arrival of HOUSE MARTIN - 76 being click-counted.

Otherwise, fairly standard-fare and no wader passage - 12 Great Crested Grebes, 10 active Sinensis nests, 5 Mute Swans, 14 Greylag Geese, 8 Gadwall, 8 Common Teal, 98 Tufted Duck, 53 Common Terns, pair of adult Lesser Black-backed Gulls, 45 Barn Swallows and 55 Sand Martins.

At MARSWORTH, no luck with the earlier Cuckoo, but a 'new' singing Common Chiffchaff along the causeway, 3 singing Western Reed Warblers and another pair of Lesser Black-backed Gulls. By Lock 41, the reeling male GRASSHOPPER WARBLER was still present (see Lucy Flowers fabulous new shots above).

STARTOP'S END RESERVOIR held a single COMMON REDSHANK, 5 Black-headed Gulls and a House Martin.


Most noteworthy was a COMMON SANDPIPER on the 'beach' in the NW corner of the marsh - my first of the year in Bucks. Other waders, mostly actively breeding, included 9 Common Redshanks, the OYSTERCATCHER pair (now sitting) and 12 Lapwings.

Three Shoveler remain, as do 1 pair of Gadwall, the 2 COMMON SHELDUCKS and the drake Red-crested Pochard, whilst 2 pairs of Greylag Geese were present (1 female sat on eggs), 2 Common Terns and 2 singing male WESTERN REED WARBLERS.


Both COMMON SHELDUCK remain, with 15 Herring Gulls, 10 Common Terns and at least 120 Sand Martins.


No evidence of much movement, with 2 Common Terns and a singing male Willow Warbler at the west end.


At the Pillinge Lake, OYSTERCATCHER (pair), LITTLE RINGED PLOVER and Common Redshank were present, with a nice male LESSER WHITETHROAT 'rattling' away and showing occasionally in bushes and Hawthorn scrub along the NW bank (my first of the year).

In fact, a wealth of warbler activity was apparent, with 2 CETTI'S WARBLERS, 11 SEDGE WARBLERS, 5 WESTERN REED WARBLERS, 13 Willow Warblers and 15 Blackcaps. Hirundines included 4 Barn Swallows and a party of 9 House Martins that quickly flew through.


With vastly improving weather. Stewartby Lake held 17 ARCTIC TERNS and 4 Common Terns at 1230, the former part of a widespread movement in the county that included 40+ at Broom and 3 at Priory Country Park.


Parking up behind the Oasis Swimming Pool, I walked the 400 yards east along the Ouse to the main lagoon at Fenlake, where in the short sedges at the NE corner, 2 reeling GRASSHOPPER WARBLERS were performing exceptionally well early afternoon; there were also 2 singing male COMMON WHITETHROATS alongside the riverbank.


After hearing of 2 Whimbrels on site at 1115 hours, I decided to try my luck with them but with most records of this species in the county, their stay was short-lived and they had already departed by the time Tim Watts arrived an hour earlier than me. A few EURASIAN CURLEW were in the vicinity, a nice male YELLOW WAGTAIL, a singing WILLOW WARBLER, a singing COMMON WHITETHROAT and several Blackcaps.


On the main Sailing lake at 1634 hours, 19 ARCTIC TERNS was present, many of which were sat on the water washing and bathing. TW had found them much earlier in the morning. Nothing much else though, apart from 3 singing male WILLOW WARBLERS.


One of the adult PEREGRINES was sat on the nest


A return evening visit in the company of Mike Campbell and Mike & Ted Wallen. A total of 78 sterna terns was present including at least 25 ARCTICS, along with a single LITTLE RINGED PLOVER by the hide and 7 newly arrived COMMON SWIFTS - my first of the year.

A Sparrowhawk flew high across the reservoir, with 5 Red Kites in the vicinity. Sand Martins numbered 70+ with 25 Barn Swallows.

Monday, 23 April 2012


Two singing male COMMON WHITETHROATS at Croxley Common Moor today

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Heavy rain, then sunshine and showers


A band of heavy rain moved north through much of the morning, associated with some quite strong SW winds. As expected, it produced a surge of tern passage through our region, but you had to be quick to intercept them...........


The persistent rain stopped at about 1030 hours and was replaced by sunshine and showers. I headed straight over to Wilstone, where I met Cliff Tack at the top of the car park steps.

A total of 71 'Commic Terns' was present, of which I identified 15 ARCTIC TERNS, 3 of which being in nice condition and with full streamers. Dave Bilcock had seen 3 Arctics during the rain but acknowledged that there had been a marked arrival since the rain had stopped. What was surprising was how many of last night's Common Terns were absent.

Other than the Arctic Terns though, it was fairly disappointing, and it was just hirundines increasing in number (17 House Martins, 70 Sand Martins and 25 Barn Swallows). A single male YELLOW WAGTAIL flew over.

A female Mallard was accompanying 12 tiny ducklings, with the DARK-BELLIED BRENT showing well by the hide, 22 Gadwall, 20 Common Teal and 8 Shoveler remaining. A male House Sparrow was on the bank.


Both the Black Poplar Common Chiffchaff and woodland Goldcrest were singing with Reed Bunting activity involving at least 6 singing males. A male SEDGE WARBLER was singing from the reedbed, as well as 3 WESTERN REED WARBLERS.

Neighbouring STARTOP'S END RESERVOIR yielded my first COMMON REDSHANK of the year, whilst the nesting LITTLE RINGED PLOVERS were still present and the 2 Red-crested Pochards. Three more male House Sparrows were by the hide.


Blowing a gale and very inclement and nothing to add to the 8 RING OUZELS remaining on Gallows Hill and the SE slope


With Lol just leaving and heading up the Paddock Slope, I braved the heavy shower and relocated the COMMON REDSTART that he had just seen briefly. It was flitting about on the 'new' fencing at the very top field of the paddocks and had joined the original bird initially found by Rob Dazley. Both birds were females and were showing very well. A single male RING OUZEL was also still present in the paddocks (its 6th day) and others had seen at least 8 more on the slopes. Whilst watching the redstarts, Jim Gurney phoned to say that a Sandwich Tern was showing at Derek White's............


It took me about half an hour to get to Derek White's Pit and alas NO Sandwich Tern - it had departed (apparently JG had watched it up until 1249 hours). Consolation came in the form of 9 Common Terns


Little success here either - and certainly no Arctic Terns - 7 Common Terns being the best on offer on Peacock's Lake

Then did a tour of the usual Bedfordshire locations, stopping off at WILLINGTON GP (very quiet, with 1 Barnacle Goose, 2 Willow Warblers and 8 Blackcaps highlighting), OCTAGON FARM (zilch), PRIORY COUNTRY PARK (very poor, no Sedge or Reed Warblers or House Martins), STEWARTBY LAKE (distant views of the still transitional SLAV), MILLENIUM PARK (useless in the strong winds, neither Reed or Sedge Warblers) and BROGBOROUGH LAKE (birdless).

At 1545 hours, Jeff Bailey phoned with news that he had just found a LITTLE TERN at Wilstone. It was time to head straight back.........


Jeff very kindly kept on the LITTLE TERN until I arrived - it was still flying backwards and forwards amongst the throng of Commic Terns at the reedbed end on the far southern bank. Mike & Ted Wallen were already watching it and within minutes, both Ian Williams and Bill Pegram arrived. The bird had quite an extensive white forehead but an obvious yellow bill and seemed to be in transitional plumage. I kept on it until it suddenly flew through the gap by the Drayton Bank and crossed over into the SW quarter - the heavens then opened and Ian and I retreated to the cars. At this moment (1640 hours) Dave Bilcock arrived and in very inclement conditions, we failed to relocate it (it did reappear though and was still present until at least 1915 hours)

The ARCTIC TERN count was still at 15 but HOUSE MARTINS had really increased in number - up to 72 birds at least - a marked arrival


I finished the day at Spade Oak, joining Alan Stevens and a couple of other locals at the 'bench'. Once again, my arrival coincided with that of a huge downpour and for 10 minutes or more I got soaked (the others sensibly had umbrellas). However, once the shower had moved away to the east, diligent searching of the terns revealed the presence of 17 Common and 1 ARCTIC, the latter having an obvious broken tail streamer.

Otherwise, fairly normal fare, with the drake Wigeon, Egyptian Goose, pair of LRP, 41 'immature' Herring Gulls, 37 Barn Swallows, 26 Sand Martins and 5 House Martins.

Monday, 16 April 2012

RING OUZELS-a-plenty

RING OUZELS (Martin Parr)


The only birdwatching I managed over the weekend was a quick twitch for Alan Gardiner's adult male PIED FLYCATCHER at FROGMORE LAKES, RADLETT late on Sunday afternoon. It was a cracking stunner and afforded tremendous views, Ian Williams obtaining an impressive array of images as it flitted from Willow to Willow just 80 yards along from the Hyde Lane car park footbridge (see my Hertfordshire Birding blog for images). Just 9 birders were there to savour the delights !

Today saw a heavy frost overnight in the Chilterns, followed by clear blue skies and sunshine. A cool northerly wind kept temperatures hovering around just 9 degrees C

On a local front first thing, the Red-legged Partridge pair was still in the field at the BELL LANE/LATIMER ROAD JUNCTION in LITTLE CHALFONT and 3 Tufted Ducks were in LOWNDES PARK, CHESHAM - my first ever there.


Joined Francis Buckle, Chris King, Peter Leigh, Mike Collard and many others at this 'in place' and enjoyed views of at least 9 continuing RING OUZELS feeding out on the slope just SE of the Beacon (possibly all 13 still present). This same area also held 8 WHEATEARS including a nice male GREENLANDER.

Attempting to see/hear a Lesser Whitethroat (Mike Wallen had seen one earlier), I walked the entire circuit but failed in my quest; 8 singing male WILLOW WARBLERS was noteworthy though


I then followed up on Dave Odell's messages and drove over to Pegsdon Hills (and to answer Paul Phillips' question, it is 19 miles between these two sites). Although it took an eternity, after sitting down on the ridge at the top of ''Chack Valley'' (the valley immediately south of the wood), eventually the RING OUZELS emerged from the scrub. A total of 11 birds finally appeared, the flock including 4 female/first-year males. I enjoyed superb views from above, the birds settling down to feed during a lapse in hillwalker activity. Not much else to report other than COMMON RAVENS and 2 MARSH TITS in the small thicket above the valley.


Next off, I took the opportunity of checking out some more ROOKERIES on route to Quainton Hills. Alongside the A418 at ASCOTT HOUSE, WING (SP 895 233), there were 5 active nests, with a further 27 near WINGRAVE CROSSROADS and 38 more just south of ROWSHAM. Further along the A418 in BIERTON, another 40 active nests in two clusters.

Driving NW along the Berryfields Road east of LOWER FARM, in the line of trees running NE of the road, another colony of 55 active nests. I then came upon a large number of Rookeries in the QUAINTON area, with 2 nests in tall pines at the start of DENHAM LANE at SP 751 200, 65 across the road at SP 753 197 and 20 by farm buildings at SP 744 210

A further 21 nests in the plantation at SP 740 227, 34 more SW of STONEHILL FARM at SP 758 221 and then a cluster of colonies along CARTERS LANE in the vicinity of QUAINTON DAIRY (SP 764 205), with 19, 17, 21 and 8 respectively. Then where the lane met the Whitchurch road at the T-junction (at SP 767 195), a further 7, 8, 13 and 8 nests in four loose colonies.

Between WHITCHURCH and AYLESBURY on the A413 saw more 'new' colonies, with 7 nests just south of WHITCHURCH (at SP 805 203) and 10 near WEEDON at the NEW ROAD JUNCTION at SP 808 177. Lastly, in AYLESBURY TOWN CENTRE, 4 nests (presumably relocating birds from the former Police Station site) in the tree by WEARDALE HOUSE opposite MILTON ROAD at SP 827 127.


Explored the area with Waddesdon birder Laurence Bryant and after eventually contacting Quainton Hills regulsr Tim Watts, managed to secure some birds on this mammothly extensive site. A first-summer male BLACK REDSTART was located at FULBROOK FARM, 8 RING OUZELS were feeding together on the 'humpy' field at the top of the West Slopes, 5 WHEATEARS were on the North Slope (including 2 bright GREENLANDERS) and a single Barn Swallow was noted.

We parked by the shop in the High Street in Quainton village and followed the marked footpath north across Simber Hill and cow-filled pasture fields to the transmitter and beyond. The ouzel field was just 100 yards NNW of the transmitter.

Once back in the car, I drove round to FULBROOK FARM (situated at SP 749 225 and enjoyed superb close views of the BLACK REDSTART, the bird singing from the fence and farm mavchinery. A flock of 42 FIELDFARES was by the disused railway line to the west and a dead BADGER was beside the quiet lane by the entrance to Hogshaw Hill Farm at SP 745 227.


Popped in this evening at 1930 hours but little going on in the cold conditions. The COMMON TERN flock numbered 81 individuals, with 12 Great Crested Grebes, 1 Little Grebe, 13 Mute Swans, 4 Teal, 6 Shoveler, 5 Pochard, 1 adult Black-headed Gull, 1 adult Common Gull, 15 Sand Martins and 12 Barn Swallows being noted.

Male RING OUZEL still at Tyttenhanger

Male RING OUZEL still along hedgerow along model railway club, north of main pit. 08.30 (Steve Blake)


Alan Gardiner discovered a cracking adult male PIED FLYCATCHER mid-morning at Frogmore Lakes, Radlett, with the bird still showing well there late afternoon (LGRE, Bob Harris, Ian Williams, et al). It was favouring the Pussy Willows either side of the track and around the edges of the first two lakes just 80 yards from the wooden footbridge by the Hyde Lane car park. Ian Williams obtained the fabulous selection of images above.

Saturday, 14 April 2012


Male Redstart, in willow bush 100yd from fishing huts, left of fishing lake (per Darrel Bryant/Steve Blake), with another male with 3 GREENLAND WHEATEARS on Croxley Common Moor (Brendan Glynne/JT/John Edwards/LGRE/Steve Carter/Geoff)

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

WHEATEARS in Cassiobury Park

There are currently 2 NORTHERN WHEATEARS at the park by the log benches and the large Cedar tree on the brow of the hill just NE of the car park (Ian Bennell)

Monday, 9 April 2012

Rain all day


What a dreary Easter ! The wet theme continued today with rain virtually falling all day. The wind was in the southwest and temperatures were just slightly lower than average at 11 degrees C

This was my first full day's birding since last Tuesday so I was keen to make the most of it, visiting all three Home Counties in the process and adding a few 'year birds'.....


Checked out two Rookeries in Old Wolverton - that at the west end (SP 804 411) yielding 15 active nests and that at the east end (SP 820 414), a further 10 nests.


Thanks to Simon Nichols, eventually managed to find my way around this large complex of pits and walked from the south side to the north bank. There was no sign of yesterday's drake Garganey but the site did yield 4 Common Teal, pair of Tufted Ducks, pair of OYSTERCATCHER, 4 Common Redshanks, numerous Lapwings, at least 1 pair of displaying LITTLE RINGED PLOVERS, Song Thrush, 5 Sand Martins and 2 singing male Common Chiffchaffs. The highlight however was the wagtail flock at the NE end of the complex, including two male YELLOWS (my first of the year) and two eye-catching male WHITES. I also saw a pipit here that was either a Water or Scandinavian Rock but it flew before I managed a decent view; 9 Meadow Pipits were also in the area.


At midday, looking north from the hide, I noted 1 drake Wigeon, 2 COMMON TERNS and 3 HOUSE MARTINS, with a singing male WILLOW WARBLER in trees behind the hide and a noisy CETTI'S WARBLER in scrub to the right of the hide; at least 5 Blackcaps too and several singing Chiffchaffs

Just south of MOULSOE BUILDINGS on the A509, a dead BADGER at SP 893 413


I then entered Bedfordshire in search of migrants, with my first port of call the Willington area. The recently tilled field adjacent to the footpath to Dovecote Pit held both YELLOW WAGTAIL (two beautiful males) and WHITE WAGTAIL (a single male), along with 23 FIELDFARES, numerous Linnets and 15+ Meadow Pipits. A female Mallard was accompanying a single duckling on the river and I saw just 2 Barnacle Geese in the grass field.


There was no sign of the 2 Ruff at Derek White's and with Aubrey and Martin Stevens, saw very little of note at Broom. At the East Pits, 4 COMMON SHELDUCK and 2 Sand Martins were of note, but Steve Heath's adult Little Gull had moved straight through


Traversed the area back and forth in the rain but no migrants and certainly no obvious Ring Ouzel - up to 4 Red Kites and two displaying male Meadow Pipits.


Managed my first WILLOW WARBLER of the year in Beds but otherwise just 6 Mute Swans, the pair of Whooper Swans, pair of COMMON SHELDUCKS, 14 Common Teal, 12 Gadwall and a single GREEN SANDPIPER


A single BARN SWALLOW with 27 Sand Martins but little else of note


After the excitement of the last few days (Fulmar, Kittiwake, etc), 1520 hours this afternoon was back to normal. COMMON TERNS had increased to 6 birds, with 15 Black-headed Gulls, 43 Shoveler, 16 Gadwall, the continuing DARK-BELLIED BRENT, 14 Sand Martins, 5 HOUSE MARTINS and 3 Barn Swallows to see.


The drake Red-crested Pochard and pair of LITTLE RINGED PLOVERS noted, with 10 Great Crested Grebes in residency on here and adjacent Marsworth.


Met Bob & Lol in the Paddocks where we obtained excellent views of a female BLACK REDSTART and pair of NORTHERN WHEATEARS as the rain stopped and the SW wind freshened.


Both Great Crested Grebes were on the larger lake whilst an arrival of hirundines included 5 BARN SWALLOWS and 3 HOUSE MARTINS

RING OUZEL at Tyttenhanger 07/4

Saturday 07 April: male RING OUZEL on high mound, in field north of main pit with Wheatear. (Steve Blake)

Friday 06 April: Norton Green

Adult male RING OUZEL still present viewable from south bank near small willow copse

Also 7+ Northern Wheatears (Mike Ilett)

Thursday, 5 April 2012

MEGA ALERT - NORTHERN FULMAR on Wilstone Reservoir

A stranded NORTHERN FULMAR remained on Wilstone Reservoir from late morning until dusk allowing more than 60 birders to connect (see more details on my Tring Reservoirs blog). Dave Bilcock obtained the excellent images above

Also in the county, a pair of RED-BREASTED MERGANSERS were present at Amwell NR most of the day (see Alan Reynold's shot above)

RING OUZEL still at Norton Green

The male RING OUZEL is still present but was over in the north western area of the site today.Also present are a definate 14 WHEATEARS (Darrel Bryant)

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Another great shot of the Norton Green RING OUZEL from ALAN REYNOLDS

Large fall of WHEATEARS at Norton Green and RING OUZEL still there

At least 13 NORTHERN WHEATEARS this morning at Norton Green, with the male RING OUZEL still present and showing well (Darrel Bryant)

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

More cracking shots of the Norton Green RING OUZEL, this time from MIKE ILETT

Lots of new birds as weather changes dramatically


Well the day started off fine and dry with another light frost followed by clear, bright periods. The wind was light northerly and with the sunshine, temperatures reached 52 degrees F by late morning. Dark clouds then approached from the west with a cold front encroaching down from the north, pegging temperatures back by at least 10 degrees by mid-afternoon. Some hefty rain/sleet showers followed, with further rain setting in by evening.

With such an abrupt change in the weather, migrant birds were bound to appear and by the end of the day, a nice haul was bagged.......


Following up on Geoff Lapworth's visit of yesterday, I joined JT mid-morning and enjoyed my first views of WILLOW WARBLER this year - a male singing and showing close to the main footpath that crosses the common; also a singing male Blackcap and at least 6 singing Common Chiffchaffs


Next off, Joan and I visited Stocker's. Avian highlights included a single COMMON TERN (another year first for me), 7 Red-crested Pochards (6 drakes) on Bury Lake, a single BARN SWALLOW by Stocker's Farm and a very confiding and vocal CETTI'S WARBLER in scrub along the causeway.

The full list of species included Great Crested Grebe (8), Sinensis Cormorants, Grey Heron, Mute Swan, Atlantic Canada Geese, Mallard, 2 Common Teal, Gadwall, 6 Shoveler, Tufted Duck, Pochard, a remaining adult drake COMMON GOLDENEYE, Sparrowhawk, 2 Ring-necked Parakeets, pair of Greenfinches, 8 House Sparrows by Stocker's Farm, Reed Bunting, 11 singing male Common Chiffchaffs and 5 singing male Blackcaps

Joan and I then decided to visit GLOUCESTERSHIRE, where we quickly connected with a first-winter BONAPARTE'S GULL.........


As we arrived back into Buckinghamshire, we hit a huge hail storm and blackened skies. Such conditions are ideal for grounding migrants so Joan and I headed straight for the hills.....

At the entrance to WAUDS HURST FARM, RINGSHALL (SP 984 147), sadly a dead BADGER (this follows two that I saw on the A41 at the weekend and another on the B4442 in Chalfont St Giles (SU 994 939))


In much cooler temperatures, Dunstable birder Tony Stachnicki, JT and I walked up to just below the Beacon trig point and relocated Daniel's cracking adult male RING OUZEL. It was favouring the rabbit burrows on the SE slope and as evening approached, it flew to roost in scrub adjacent to the Beacon footpath. I speculated whether or not this was last year's adult male returning (the long-staying male of last spring). The slope also held 3 migrant NORTHERN WHEATEARS, a bright male and two females.


In such conditions, it is always worth checking Wilstone and this evening proved extremely worthwhile. Whilst scanning the large number of newly-arrived hirundines, I came across a large raptor circling the reedbed at 1920 hours and instantly recognised it as a male MARSH HARRIER. In fact it was an adult male, with some moult in the primaries. I quickly got Joan on to it and then 'phoned Dave Bilcock. Two corvids took an instant dislike to the bird and began pestering it, forcing it to gain height. It kept on spiralling upwards and then when just above the Black Poplars, started to flap strongly eastwards. The two corvids continued to harass, the harrier then gaining ever increasing height. It then started to head northeast. At this point, Charlie Jackson arrived at the steps, and after a few attempts, I finally managed to get him on to the bird. Joan and I then watched it eventually disappear to a dot, most likely over Long Marston in the end. I took my eyes off of it at 1927 hours.

A single noisy EURASIAN CURLEW was roosting on the hide spit before it flew off east, whilst a single COMMON TERN was flying amongst 15 Black-headed Gulls. A swirl of SAND MARTINS numbered an impressive 83 birds. Great Crested Grebes numbered 32.


The Wilstone EURASIAN CURLEW had relocated to the mud on Startop's but after calling loudly, it once again flew off and this time headed south towards Tring. Both OYSTERCATCHERS were present and the single drake Wigeon.

Male RING OUZEL remains for third day at Norton Green

I went up to Norton Green this morning to try and connect with the Ring Ouzel. Just before I arrived it had flown into the trees on the eastern side and I managed to locate it deep in the gulley. I backed off hoping that it would come out to feed on the plateau and walked round the site looking for the two female Wheatears that had been reported earlier but only managed to find one. As I was completing the circuit I managed to locate the Ring Ouzel feeding in the open with two Common Blackbirds towards the southern end and managed to get a few shots (see attached). A cracking bird (Alan Reynolds)

Monday, 2 April 2012

YELLOW WAGTAIL at Ashwell - first in the county this year

This gorgeous male YELLOW WAGTAIL was photographed at Ashwell by Robert Chapman yesterday (1 April)

Today's Norton Green RING OUZEL superbly photographed by up-and-coming youngster Robert Chapman

Cracking male RING OUZEL


After a very slight frost, it was another glorious day, with light northerly winds, clear skies and unbroken sunshine. Despite the cool wind, temperatures reached 12 degrees C during the afternoon

Following an early morning call from Darrel Bryant, I started off my day at Norton Green.......


Darrel discovered a cracking adult male RING OUZEL at Norton Green last night and luckily, despite clear skies, it was still present this morning. I joined two other observers mid-morning to find the stunning bird resting in Willows on the west flank of the site, just 200 yards in from the parking gate at the south end. It sat there for about 25 minutes before finally being pestered by a male Common Blackbird and then flew to the ground and started feeding. It afforded excellent views and was still present when I departed at 1020 hours.


Two CORN BUNTINGS noted in the roadside hedgerow at TL 164 287


Walked the Icknield Way Path and Deacon Hill area but failed to find any Ring Ouzels or Northern Wheatears - just 4 FIELDFARES on the lower slopes, 1 singing Common Chiffchaff in the Palnatation, a singing male Blackcap in The Meg and several Red-legged Partridges. A Red Kite was busy collecting nest material.

Spent an hour or so in suitable weather scanning over Goshawk habitat but no joy - just several more Red Kites and Common Buzzards.


The two (pair) Whooper Swans were present, along with 15 Common Teal and 8 Gadwall, 4 Common Snipes, a LITTLE RINGED PLOVER and 4 singing male Common Chiffchaffs


Not far from Grovebury, I located two displaying pairs of EURASIAN CURLEW, the eery calls penetrating loudly across the fields; also Sparrowhawk and a single FIELDFARE

On the pit itself, very quiet - pair of Great Crested Grebes, pair of Mute Swans and pair of OYSTERCATCHERS

Nearby at GROVE (BUCKS), the small coppice at SP 920 222 held 28 active Rook nests (the total this spring in the county a whopping 1,094 nests - and still more to count)


An impressive 35 waders of 5 different species noted, including a pair of LITTLE RINGED PLOVERS from Octagon Hide (my first in Bucks this year), 2 Common Snipes, the usual pair of OYSTERCATCHERS (which, incidentally, do seem likely to be the parents of the Tring 3), the 11 Common Redshank and 18 Lapwing (7 birds now sitting).

Also present were 6 Great Crested Grebes, 9 Mute Swans, the COMMON SHELDUCK pair, 8 Teal, 6 Shoveler, 6 Common Gulls, 1 Argenteus Herring Gull, pair of Lesser Black-backs and singing Blackcap and Common Chiffchaff (2).


No sign of KD's Dark-bellied Brent Goose of the last two days but 32 Mute Swans grazing in the second field south of the river.


Little migrant activity apart from 20 SAND MARTINS, a single BARN SWALLOW (my first in Bucks) and the LITTLE RINGED PLOVER pair on the spit

Usual padders in the form of Egyptian Goose, Gadwall, 8 Teal, 2 Wigeon, 6 Shoveler and 8 Great Crested Grebes, just 12 Lapwing, 18 Herring Gulls, 25 Common Gulls (mostly first-years), 2 Sparrowhawks, upwards of 25 Red Kites and singing Common Chiffchaff and Blackcap.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

RING OUZEL at Norton Green

I found a male RING OUZEL , this evening at Norton Green at approx 6pm.The bird was feeding on the south bank of the site for around half an hour showing extremely well, in the warm evening sunshine. I was soon joined by fellow regulars Ray Hooper and Tony Hukin. The bird was then spooked by a motorbike and flew to the scrub in the centre of the site. Also present was a female NORTHERN WHEATEAR (Darrel Bryant)