FRIDAY 01 FEBRUARY
Another new month and temperatures sliding back a little (5 degrees C) as a freshening Northerly wind sets in. Not a bad day though, with long clear spells.
Eventually got out into the field early afternoon and just did some local birding, including my first visit to Tring Reservoirs in over two weeks......
In the CHESS VALLEY (BUCKS), my first Sinensis Cormorant of the year, drying its wings out on one of the fishing pontoons 100 yards west of the Chenies Bottom bridge. No sign of the Great White Egret again - just 4 Little Egrets. Both the LITTLE OWLS and BARN OWL were showing well.
SHARDELOES LAKE (BUCKS) was pretty much devoid of wildfowl (apart from the pair of Mute Swans, already nesting, and a couple of COMMON TEAL), but the Coot flock was still holding up at 127 birds. Still 6 Little Grebes present, two males of which were whinnying, whilst roosting gulls included 8 adult Common, an adult Lesser Black-backed and 13 Argenteus Herring Gulls. A single adult Argentatus Herring Gull was also present.
Green Woodpecker, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Common Treecreeper, 2 Mistle Thrush, SISKIN, 3 Goldfinch, 3 Common Buzzard, 5 Red Kite, 2 Wrens, 2 singing male Great Tits, 2 Carrion Crow and a Common Magpie were also seen, as well as a nice stag Muntjac.
The first of a trio of dead BADGERS found today was seen on the Amersham Road (the A355), with one on Gore Hill at SU 959 962 and another near Red Barn Farm at SU 956 935, and a further one on the Great Missenden bypass at SP 902 002.
As luck would have it, virtually all of the gulls at HEDGERLEY LANDFILL (BUCKS) this afternoon were roosting on the grassy slope behind the Recycling Centre, enabling some really nice 'scope views to be had. All in all there were about 680 gulls present, including 278 Black-headed, 302 Herring and just 5 adult Lesser Black-backed. At least 7 of the Herring Gulls bore red North Thames Gull Ringing Group rings, as did two of the 91 GREAT BLACK-BACKED GULLS present. I was able to pick out 5 different CASPIAN GULLS on the slope, including an adult of 3 bearing a distinctive green ring and two different first-winters (both different to the regular male at Spade Oak).
Large numbers of Corvids also present, 41 Red Kites and 200 Common Starlings.
I then moved on to the TRING RESERVOIRS (HERTS) to carry out my first thorough counts of the month; I had not been there in over 20 days but little seemed to have changed.
In the MARSWORTH WOODED BELT, 2 Blue Tits, a singing Robin and a Common Blackbird, and on the reservoir proper, 1 Little Grebe, 8 Great Crested Grebes, 2 Coot, 4 Moorhen, a drake Pochard and all 5 RED-CRESTED POCHARDS from neighbouring College Lake, showing very well from the causeway and displaying.
STARTOP'S END RESERVOIR yielded 54 Greylag Geese, 1 Great Crested Grebe, Grey Heron, 11 Mallard, 73 Tufted Duck, 15 Pochard and 193 Coot, whilst TRINGFORD RESERVOIR (surprisingly with water level now dropping) producing 8 Sinensis Cormorants, 2 Mute Swans, 1 Great Crested Grebe, 8 Common Teal, 6 Gadwall, 12 Mallard, 9 Tufted Duck, 8 Moorhen and 86 Coot. The long-staying female SMEW was showing well from the screen.
WILSTONE RESERVOIR held a lot of wildfowl including 5 Great Crested Grebes, just 2 Mute Swans, 8 Greylag Geese, 19 Mallard, 213 Wigeon, 52 Teal, 14 Gadwall, 66 Shoveler, 173 Tufted Duck, 191 Pochard and 5 COMMON GOLDENEYES (1 adult drake), as well as a single Little Grebe and 215 Coot (just 496 overall).
David Bilcock was just leaving as I entered the Drayton Bank Hide but it was a healthy gull roost, with just over 3,000 well-spread Black-headeds, 76 Commons, a single adult Lesser Black-backed and the regular first-winter MEDITTERANEAN.
Returning back to MARSWORTH, all 3 EURASIAN BITTERNS showed before dusk, including the regular bird close to the causeway climbing up to its reedy'platform'. The BARN OWL also appeared on cue over the Sewage Farm Field, with 4 WATER RAILS in the Cut Reeds.