Tuesday, 30 April 2013

At last - a singing WOOD WARBLER

When I went away in mid April, it still felt like Winter in the field. Now I am back, it still feels like Winter in the field..........
Anyway, with a brisk NNW wind blowing, temperatures hovering around 8 degrees C but relatively clear blue skies, I set forth on a day's birding on the local front, after being lured away in recent days by the likes of Rock Thrush and Eastern Subalpine Warbler......
WILSTONE RESERVOIR was my first port of call where Roy Hargreaves had discovered a singing male Wood Warbler early morning in the vicinity of the Drayton Bank Hide. Both Mike Campbell and Cliff Tack had already spent time looking without success, so putting in a further hour on top with no bird was not looking good. Birding in this vicinity did produce a flyover COMMON CROSSBILL at 1045, a flyover Linnet, singing Common Chiffchaff behind the hide, 2 COMMON WHITETHROATS, 2 different singing male WILLOW WARBLERS, at least 9 Blackcaps, Long-tailed Tit and a pair of COMMON TREECREEPERS, whilst on the reservoir proper, the two drake Wigeon and a single Black-headed Gull. A spell of sunshine produced Small Tortoiseshell and Peacock butterfly.
Most concerning was the mindless vandalism to have taken place overnight. Our information board by the car park being smashed, uprooted and thrown into the reservoir.
A flock of 8 House Sparrows was by the farm shop
After giving up on the Wood Warbler, I joined Martin, JT and Anna Marett at STARTOP'S END, where a full breeding-plumaged BLACK TERN was performing, along with 44 Common Terns and the 3 RED-CRESTED POCHARDS.
Knowing that Steve Blain had relocated the NORTH AMERICAN GREEN-WINGED TEAL at 100 Acre Pools east of Priory Country Park (Bedfordshire), I decided to switch counties. Just as I drove away, Joan and Anna had an OSPREY fly from Marsworth to Wilstone, bad timing or what. Anyhow, stopping off at BROGBOROUGH LAKE (BEDS) on the way, I was pleased to see 5 ARCTIC TERNS, a COMMON WHITETHROAT and the continuing SLAVONIAN GREBE, now in full summer attire.
I did an extensive sweep of 100 ACRE LAKES (BEDS) but failed in my quest to locate the drake straggler - it had flown. Not much to be found apart from a single COMMON SANDPIPER, 6 COMMON WHITETHROATS and a singing male SEDGE WARBLER.

Whilst on site, I received a call from Ian Williams. He had visited WILSTONE in his lunch hour and had relocated the WOOD WARBLER - time to move on. Just over twenty minutes later, I was back at WILSTONE where COMMON SWIFT numbers had dramatically increased from about 130 to 220. Swiftly walking round to the hide and past a rather happy looking Mike Campbell, I was rather surprised to hear the male WOOD WARBLER after just a few minutes. It was inhabiting a dense area of Hawthorn scrub about 90 yards NW of the Drayton Bank Hide but was far from easy to see. In fact, it took Peter Brazier and I over an hour to get really good views but well worth it as it was a brightly marked individual (see Peter and Dave Hutchinson's images above). It sang about once every five minutes and kept high in the canopy, often feeding on the newly flowering buds of the Black Poplar trees. After missing two different birds at Amwell and two at Spade Oak, I was very relieved at finally getting this one - Wood Warbler now being a pretty scarce bird in our region.
As I walked back to the car, a first-summer Mute Swan flew in and Tufted Ducks had increased to 171 birds.
At STARTOP'S END, the tern flock now included two nice ARCTIC TERNS within their ranks, with 2 Grey Wagtails, 11 Common Swifts and several House Martins noted.
MARSWORTH held the Greylag Goose pair and at least 4 Lesser Black-backed  Gulls, with the horsefields producing no less than 14 YELLOW WAGTAILS, a BLUE-HEADED WAGTAIL and 46 Barn Swallows.
With plenty of time to check the hills, I headed towards Ivinghoe Beacon but was diverted at the last minute by a call from LEIGHTON BUZZARD. A EURASIAN BITTERN had been found on the tiny Dragonfly pools at LEDBURN ROAD, TIDDENFOOT (BEDS) - a species I had managed to miss in the county this winter. Luckily, being just seven miles away, I was there within 10 minutes - and luckier still, finder Rory Morrisey was just getting back to the car park. Rory escorted me part way to the site, then Cliff Tack took over - Mike Wilkes and his wife and Bob Henry staying with the bird.
Getting to Bob he exclaimed ''It's in my 'scope'' and looking through the viewfinder I was shocked to find such an emaciated bird. It was ludicrously close (10 feet) and was sat in the water like a goose. Something was seriously, seriously wrong. I phoned Andy Plumb and Steve Blain to see if anyone else had shown an interest and then waited for Johnny Lynch to arrive from Tring. I suspected that the bird had collided with overhead power cables and I was right, as after half an hour we captured the bird - it had a broken wing and a slightly damaged leg (see photos below).
Certainly an eventful day

Monday, 29 April 2013

LGRE Diary Notes


At STARTOP'S END RESERVOIR late afternoon, 3 BLACK TERNS with 27 Common Terns, whilst MARSWORTH produced a single COMMON SWIFT and 6 House Martins. No less than 9 WESTERN REED WARBLERS were singing from the reedbeds, and 3 SEDGE WARBLERS - with male Blackcaps in the wood and by the canal.

BROGBOROUGH LAKE (BEDS) at 1800 hours yielded a female-type COMMON SCOTER, a summer-plumaged adult LITTLE GULL, 4 BLACK TERNS, 8 Common Terns and the continuing breeding-plumaged SLAVONIAN GREBE.


Heavy rain overnight and cold NW winds. At MARSWORTH RESERVOIR, a pair of Oystercatchers was on the horse fields, even copulating at one point, with 23 Common Terns on the bales, Common Kingfisher, 8 singing Western Reed Warblers, Goldcrest, Wren, Common Chiffchaff and Blackcap in the Wood and a single male YELLOW WAGTAIL

On STARTOP'S, the 3 RED-CRESTED POCHARDS, 25 Tufted Ducks, 2 Grey Wagtails, 42 Sand Martins, 30 Barn Swallows and 5 House Martins; 3 Lapwings flew east

WILSTONE yielded 3 COMMON SANDPIPERS together on the bank and 2 migrant Argenteus HERRING GULLS - an adult and first-year. The two drake EURASIAN WIGEON remained, with a single drake Northern Pochard and 37 Tufted Duck. Lots of hirundines present including 73 Barn Swallows and 8 House Martins, as well as 13 COMMON SWIFTS. Unexpected highlights included a flyover TREE PIPIT at 0817, a COMMON RAVEN with a full crop west at 0828 and a single male YELLOW WAGTAIL on the bank.

Walking from DRAYTON BEAUCHAMP along the DRY CANAL to the ORCHARD added Linnet (4+), COMMON WHITETHROAT (7 singing males), COMMON CUCKOO (calling male), Yellowhammer (6), WILLOW WARBLER (singing male), Eurasian Skylark (singing male), Chaffinch (6), Red Kite, Stock Dove, Green Woodpecker, LESSER WHITETHROAT (rattling male), Robin, Long-tailed Tit and Great Tit (4).

COLLEGE LAKE BBOWT was quiet with 10 Mute Swans, a drake Wigeon, 2 Common Shelduck, drake Northern Pochard, 8 Common Redshank, 2 OYSTERCATCHERS and a Jay noted, whilst PITSTONE QUARRY added 2 Little Grebe, 6 Coot, a singing Blackcap and a further Jay; a female NORTHERN WHEATEAR was a surprise in the NORTHFIELD FARM PADDOCKS.

No Wheatears in OLD AMERSHAM (BUCKS) though, but 2 singing male YELLOWHAMMERS by School Lane.


A bit of local birding between East Anglian twitching with DEREK WHITE'S PIT, BIGGLESWADE (BEDS) supporting a nice sub-adult EURASIAN SPOONBILL and 60 Barn Swallows, and GYPSY LANE EAST PITS, BROOM (BEDS) adding Oystercatcher (2 pairs), Common Shelduck (pair), Gadwall (4), Common Teal (6), Shoveler (7) and Common Tern (2).

At AMWELL NR (HERTS) in the evening, I connected with the fabulous male PIED FLYCATCHER thanks to Simon Knott and Phil Ball, plus a reeling GRASSHOPPER WARBLER by the James Hide, numerous Blackcaps and Western Reed Warblers, 4 Common Redshanks and at least 20 pairs of raft-nesting Black-headed Gulls.

Another BLACK RED at Norton Green (20 April)

Managed to get one or two distant images of the bird this morning, it was ranging widely but was a lot easier to see now the wind had dropped (Phil Bishop)

BLACK-NECKED GREBE at Tyttenhanger 19 April

BLACK-NECKED GREBE, scrape area, main pit 11:05 (Steve Blake)

First WHINCHAT - 19 April

09:00 Whinchat on fence posts at Willows Farm, Tyttenhanger, car park 1 (Steve Blake)

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

ARCTIC TERNS moving through

ARCTIC TERNS at Startop's End Reservoir this afternoon (Peter Brazier)


A strengthening SSW wind made birding quite unpleasant at times today and also made it difficult locating small birds. Early morning showers quickly moved through giving way to clear, bright conditions and temperatures as high in the shelter from the wind as 16 degrees C.

Although nothing like as good as yesterday, there was still an ongoing arrival of migrants today, particularly of warblers. A major passage of ARCTIC TERNS too began mid-afternoon.....

Once the rain had cleared, I took the opportunity of walking round MARSWORTH and STARTOP'S END RESERVOIRS (TRING) where quite a number of warblers had arrived - WILLOW WARBLERS included singing birds on the causeway, in the wood and by the canal, with male BLACKCAPS singing behind the reedbed and close to the canal; Common Chiffchaffs remained unchanged at perhaps 6 singing males.

I failed to find any of yesterday's Western Reed Warblers but Peter Brazier photographed a singing male in the reedbed by the sluice.

There was a major increase in COMMON TERN numbers with at least 22 present prior to lunchtime, commuting back and forth between both reservoirs. Both pairs of Lesser Black-backed Gulls remain on territory and creating havoc, whilst 2 EURASIAN CURLEW were something of a surprise as they flew North calling.

Up to 5 male Reed Buntings were in song, with 4 House Martins, 9 Sand Martins and several Barn Swallows in the area, the pair of COMMON KINGFISHERS, pair of BULLFINCH and Great Spotted and Green Woodpeckers.

On STARTOP'S END RESERVOIR, the pair of Red-crested Pochard were inspecting one of the rafts, with another drake standing on the bank of MARSWORTH. A pair of Common Teal were also lingering.

Peter, Jack O'Neill and I tried our luck at neighbouring COLLEGE LAKE BBOWT but it was very quiet, Lucy Flower having seen a male Common Whitethroat in West Scrub. I noted Common Shelduck (the usual drake, with two others coming in and out), 14 Mute Swans (2 first-summers), 1 pair of Wigeon, the OYSTERCATCHER pair, 1 Sand Martin, 1 Barn Swallow and 1 singing male WILLOW WARBLER.


With not much happening, I decided to travel north to MANOR FARM WORKINGS, OLD WOLVERTON (NORTH BUCKS), where Simon Nichols had discovered a COMMON GREENSHANK. Fortuitously, the bird was still present, along with other waders in the form of 2 COMMON SANDPIPERS, 2 Ringed Plovers, 6 LITTLE RINGED PLOVERS and 2 Common Redshanks. Hardly any ducks left apart from 6 Teal and 2 Gadwall and migrant larids including a first-summer Great Black-backed Gull and 8 Common Gulls. A Carrion Crow posed for some nice shots (see below) but most impressive was the array of migrant WAGTAILS on view, an exceptional 11 WHITES and 16 YELLOWS, the formers numbers somewhat correlating with the large flocks to be found in neighbouring Bedfordshire at Castle Mills and Broom GP. A Green Woodpecker finished off the tally.

On Graham Smith's recommendations, I returned to STARTOP'S END RESERVOIR where it seemed an arrival of ARCTIC TERNS had taken place during the afternoon. Although some individual birders were happy to count as many as 10 birds, photographing each individual tern and studying them satisfied me personally that at least 4 birds were present (including a bird in transitional plumage with growing streamers). Peter Brazier obtained some reasonable shots of the four birds (see below).

I was also pleased to see a male COMMON WHITETHROAT in the Canal Hedgerow (my first of the year), whilst at least 2 flava Wagtails were still commuting back and forth between the horsefields and the bank at Startop's. Steve Rodwell later saw one well and declared it a Blue-headed.

Monday, 15 April 2013

Birds dropping out of the skies - HOOPOE, REDSTARTS - whatever next


An early morning call from Lol Carman sent me scurrying in the direction of BLOWS DOWNS, DUNSTABLE (BEDFORDSHIRE), where it soon became apparent that a fall had occurred......

The wind was fairly strong SW, with occasional spots of rain and a lot of cloud - but very warm - 15 degrees C on several occasions.

Anyhow, within 37 minutes I was at BLOWS - too late however to see the 2 male Whinchats that Lol had seen earlier. Lol had estimated too the presence of 25 NORTHERN WHEATEARS in the Paddocks, but the best I could muster was 17. The main attraction though was the fall of COMMON REDSTARTS - no less than 5 individuals brightening up the Paddocks and showing well (see my pix above). Four were males, with a single female in the eastern paddock. A single WILLOW WARBLER was in the main hedgerow, with up to 9 Common Chiffchaffs in the area, 2 singing male BLACKCAPS and the odd SWALLOW flying through. Two LESSER REDPOLL and a pair of BULLFINCH were also in the vicinity and 4 Yellowhammers.

Three RING OUZELS (two males and a female) were on the Kingsbury Slope above Tesco's, whilst an additional 5 (four males and a female) were on the Caddington Slope before being flushed east within a short while (the latter seen with MJP). Three trilling BOHEMIAN WAXWINGS spent a short time in a taller tree halfway between the Paddocks and the Quarry, coming hard on the heels of the 40 Barry Squires and I saw in Shefford High Street on Saturday.

Whilst watching the Common Redstarts, Darrel Bryant phoned with news of the first fall at NORTON GREEN this spring, and with Black Red still missing from my 2013 Herts List, I started to head that way. Incredibly, as I was driving along the A414, a very excited Steve Blake 'phoned with news of a HOOPOE and being less than a few miles away, I immediately diverted.......

Picking up a lost notebook as I ran from Lawson's Woodyard (it transpired it belonged to Alan Gardiner), I met up with Steve just a few minutes later and there before us was the quarry - a fabulous HOOPOE - a pretty rare visitor to Hertfordshire. The bird was happily feeding in the sheep field immediately east of the main 'birding pit' and was keeping to the fence edge. I crept to within 100 yards of the bird and fired off over a 100 images (a selection to be found above). It continued probing the damp soil for the next 20 minutes, Ricky Flesher arriving from a work break in the meantime, and was seen to take a few grubs. It was very, very alert and repeatedly froze on several occasions. Then, just as it raised its head and glanced all around, it flew and headed off north across the fields to the far hedge. It landed in a tall Oak tree briefly but as Steve Murray approached from the Pumping Station footpath, it flew back towards us and landed in the sheep field adjacent. The grass here was longer, making the bird much more difficult to see, and after 8 minutes it flew again and returned to its original spot down by the edge of the main pit. It then resumed a better showing and continued to do so for the next 20 minutes but then flew strongly at 1315, alighting briefly in a Willow at the far south end of the pit. It quickly flew again and continued west towards Willows Farm and was lost.

Although I failed to find the male Common Redstart that Ricky chanced upon as he walked back towards his car, an impressive 22 NORTHERN WHEATEARS was encountered and a single male YELLOW WAGTAIL. Hirundines included 8 Sand Martins.

With confirmation from Tony Hukin that Darrel's Black Redstart was still present at NORTON GREEN, I headed that way, but despite searching in the increasingly strong wind for over an hour, I failed to relocate it - 4 NORTHERN WHEATEARS, a male YELLOW WAGTAIL and 2 Barn Swallows being my highlight.

MACKERYE END (HERTS) was my next destination and after a bit of searching, I finally relocated Darin Stanley's male COMMON REDSTART by the spoil heap at the road junction at TL 155 155, about 150 yards further to the north of where DS initially found it. It was calling frequently and zipping in and out of the hedgerow and I was pleased at getting a fairly decent shot of it (see above).

I then decided to check the IVINGHOE HILLS (BUCKS) but other than 27 NORTHERN WHEATEARS, it was hard work (others had seen the likes of Short-eared Owl, Marsh Harrier, 4 Ring Ouzels and 2 Common Redstarts, whilst further to the west, Ring Ouzels numbered 5 at both Ellesborough and Great Kimble).

Returning to the CHESS VALLEY in CHESHAM (BUCKS), BOIS MILL POND held 2 Grey Herons and a single immature Sinensis Cormorant. Walking the WATERCRESS COTTAGE LOOP TRAIL yielded Little Egret, Wren and 4 different singing male Common Chiffchaffs, with 10 GADWALLS, GREY WAGTAIL and 2 Pied Wagtails on POW WOW LAKE and an excellent selection of birds on CHESHAM FISHING LAKES including no less than 7 WILLOW WARBLERS (the largest congregation of this species in the Chess Valley for several years), a male BLACKCAP, a pair of COMMON KINGFISHERS, 14 BARN SWALLOWS, 3 HOUSE MARTINS and 2 SAND MARTINS. Another pair of GADWALL and 12 Tufted Ducks were also noted, as well as Chaffinch, Long-tailed Tit and 2 Song Thrushes.

Friday, 12 April 2013


Away from Tring (where details of sightings can be had on my Birding Tring Reservoirs blog), today's highlight was 2 SANDWICH TERNS at Amwell early morning (Barry Reed)

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Late News for Yesterday: LITTLE GULLS at Amwell

Early yesterday morning, Amwell was blessed by a large (9 birds) flock of LITTLE GULLS - the first such movement of this size this year (per Barry Reed)

My first YELLOW WAG of the year


A beautiful day weatherwise, if not a little hazy, with light southerly winds and largely clear conditions. The forecast rain did not materialise.

I was expecting more from today, especially following yesterday's excitement, but some birds did get through, noticeably the odd Marsh Harrier and Osprey...

RING OUZELS remaining from yesterday's fall included 3 at BISON HILL, WHIPSNADE (BEDS) and 2 in INKOMBE HOLE, STEPS HILL (BUCKS) whilst Rook nest numbers in the Beech trees north of DAGNALL at SP 995 176 now total 33 active nests.

Over at TRING RESERVOIRS (HERTS), a little change from yesterday, with more hirundine passage...

At STARTOP'S END RESERVOIR, Common Redshank numbers had increased to four birds, with one pair showing an interest in one of the rafts. Both WATER PIPITS were on the west shoreline once again, as well as the two GREY WAGTAILS, whilst migrants included 8 SAND MARTINS and 2 BARN SWALLOWS. All 5 Great Crested Grebes were on view, whilst Wigeon numbers had dwindled down to 7; a Mistle Thrush was in the paddock.

*Others I met had heard Willow Warbler (on the West Bank) and Cetti's Warbler in the Marsworth Reedbed

A long vigil in excellent conditions at WILSTONE RESERVOIR failed to reap much in the way of reward - a single flyover YELLOW WAGTAIL being the best of the bunch (and my first of the year).

A singing male Common Chiffchaff in the East Bank Poplar trees was a new arrival, as was a Willow Warbler by the old cress beds. SAND MARTINS numbered up to 28 (some passage evident), with 3 or more BARN SWALLOWS coming through.

Clear skies and light winds meant lots of raptors in the sky, including up to 12 Red Kites, 8 Common Buzzards, 3 Common Kestrels and a single Sparrowhawk, whilst late evening saw the first Osprey of the year appear - over Weston Turville Reservoir (per Stephen Richards).

Usual fare included 2 Mute Swans, 27 Greylag Geese, 70 Wigeon, 88 Shoveler, 116 Tufted Duck, just 9 Pochard, 12 Great Crested Grebe and 11 active Sinensis nests, whilst 90+ Black-headed Gulls, 25 Common Gulls and 7 Lesser Black-backed Gulls took advantage of the increase in flying insect matter high above the reservoir.

A male Song Thrush was singing from the Black Poplars in the SE corner, 4 Linnets passed by and Yellowhammers finally gave themselves up for me, performing along the Dry Canal.

Steve Blake then phoned with news of Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Tree Sparrow, Firecrest and Black-tailed Godwit from his home patch of TYTTENHANGER GP, which sounded too good to refuse. I soon met up with him but failed to locate ANY of these birds - just 4 yaffling Green Woodpeckers, 3 Nuthatches and a singing Common Chiffchaff as compensation.

It was then time to do some ROOKERY SURVEYING, particularly as many were now active with the recent weather change. AT CHESSBURY ESTATE, CHESHAM (BUCKS) (SP 957 012), 39 nests were active, whilst at PEDNOR BOTTOM (BUCKS), numbers totalled 34. The CHESHAM VALE Rookery (SP 963 033) was a respectable 44 active nests, with just 6 left by the railway in HOLLOWAY LANE and 9 at the new site by BOIS MILL FARM. Lastly, 52 active nests at LATIMER PARKFIELD, including quite a few in the conifers.

In addition, CHESHAM'S BURY LAKE held the two first-summer Mute Swans, with 5 pairs of LAPWINGS in the grass field opposite.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Tring paying off dividends


For the first time in what seems like ages, woke up this morning to rain. Not heavy rain but a constant drizzle - lasting for perhaps 2-3 hours. Coupled with this rain were SSE winds, an excellent combination for passage.......

And that was the theme of the day, with a lot more birds arriving in the region, including a few gems...

Steve Rodwell texted with a LITTLE GULL early doors but by the time I reached WILSTONE RESERVOIR (HERTS) at 0830 hours, it had already gone. Common Gull passage was being maintained though, with 31 through to the east in 15 minutes (that reminding me also of the adult Mediterranean Gull that roosted last night - per SR & DB). Most unexpected was a single HOUSE MARTIN flying around - my first of the year. Also 83 Shoveler still in attendance.

On nearby STARTOP'S END RESERVOIR, both WATER PIPITS were showing well, one much more advanced in plumage than the other. Also, a single passage Meadow Pipit, and a cracking male WHITE WAGTAIL commuting between the East Bank and the Horse Fields. Other migrants included 4 SAND MARTINS and a single BARN SWALLOW, whilst all 6 Red-crested Pochards were flying around, including a lone female with Mallards, with the pair of COMMON REDSHANK in display, 9 remaining Eurasian Wigeon, 2 Grey Wagtails, 4 Pied Wagtails and 4 Common Chiffchaffs in the West Hedgerow.

A male SISKIN flew over TRINGFORD RESERVOIR, where the single Great Crested Grebe remained and the Mute Swans were still nesting.

MARSWORTH RESERVOIR held a further pair of Mute Swans, with another on the Grand Union Canal near the car park, 8 Great Crested Grebes, a pair of Lesser Black-backed Gulls and the first COMMON TERN of the year (see pix). Small birds included Dunnock, Chaffinch and singing male Great Tit.

COLLEGE LAKE BBOWT was in fine fettle with the weather change with some of the waders back on territory, including 8 Common Redshanks. Three pairs of Lapwing were in attendance, plus 1 Common Snipe, whilst wildfowl included 13 Mute Swans, all 6 Greylag (3 separate pairs), 20 Wigeon, 4 Shoveler (2 pairs), 4 Gadwall, 66 Tufted Duck, 3 Pochard and 17 Coot. Migrant-wise quiet - just 2 SAND MARTINS.

Neighbouring PITSTONE QUARRY held a further 4 Common Redshanks (making it 14 in total) before I commenced a walk from ALDBURY NOWERS to the east end of GALLOWS HILL. Hard graft but migrant returns included 8 different RING OUZELS (1 female), 185 Fieldfares, 6 NORTHERN WHEATEARS, 80 Meadow Pipits and a number of Linnets; 4 COMMON RAVENS as well. A further male RING OUZEL was still south of ELLESBOROUGH at DEACON HILL.

BEDFORDSHIRE was then in my sights and producing birds (finds) at a healthy pace......

CASTLE MILLS GRAVEL WORKINGS, NE OF BEDFORD (and north of the new bypass) is in fabulous condition and proving a magnet for passage birds. This afternoon in an extensive exploration of the site I had a beautiful full breeding-plumaged WATER PIPIT, two winter-plumaged SCANDINAVIAN ROCK PIPITS, 25 Meadow Pipits, 3 Pied Wagtails, a cracking male WHITE WAGTAIL, 3 DUNLIN, 4 Common Redshank, 2 Ringed Plover, pair of Oystercatcher, Little Egret, 3 Common Shelduck, 8 Teal, 6 Gadwall and Common Kingfisher. The pipits were favouring the NW end of the workings - perhaps 100 yards west of the skip and red-and-white flag - but were typically mobile and elusive.

Whilst working out my next move, Richard Bashford 'phoned to say that he had a SPOTTED REDSHANK at GYPSY LANE EAST, BROOM GP. Within 18 minutes I had joined him and for the next half hour or more, we enjoyed some nice views of it and heard it calling on at least five occasions. I obtained quite a few record shots (see above). There had been a noticeable increase in wader arrivals with 5 DUNLINS feeding together on the West Scrapes, 6 LITTLE RINGED PLOVERS, 10 Ringed Plovers, 4 Common Redshanks and 4 Common Shelducks.

At BROGBOROUGH LAKE, an adult LITTLE GULL in full breeding plumage was on view from the Watchpoint, as well as the 6 GREATER SCAUPS and 23 Common Goldeneye. The winter-plumaged SLAVONIAN GREBE was still at the west end, with the adult in all of its summer glory still on ROOKERY PIT NORTH at STEWARTBY.

An evening visit to PEGSDON HILLS added yet more RING OUZELS to the day tally, with a male NORTHERN WHEATEAR on Deacon Hill, 40 Meadow Pipits, 120 Fieldfares and 4 Red Kites.

Saturday, 6 April 2013

JACK SNIPE at Amwell

Alan Reynolds obtained these nice shots of the JACK SNIPE at Amwell last week

Monday, 1 April 2013

Todays WHITE STORK in Sawbridgeworth

A fabulous selection of shots taken by Jason Ward before it was frightened away by children

A Day to Forget


Another overnight frost and another raw day. In fact, colder than ever, with a freshening ENE wind blasting in all of the way from the Russian Urals. Felt like several degrees below freezing and was almost unbearable to bird in. I gave in at 1600 hours and came home

In such harsh conditions, only worthwhile Target Birding and that proved largely ineffective...

Joined Alan Stevens first thing at SPADE OAK GRAVEL PIT (LITTLE MARLOW) (BUCKS) where it was hoped to secure White Wagtail but that was a falsehood - nothing to declare other than 4 Pied Wagtails. A couple of Common Chiffchaffs were in the sewage farm hedgerow but other than that, usual wildfowl fare (3 Egyptian Geese, 8 Shoveler, 19 Teal, 24 Gadwall, 33 Wigeon & 51 Tufted Duck) and roosting gulls (including 150+ Herring and 3 Great Black-backed).

Mike Harris called to say that it was not an April Fool and that an unringed White Stork was in fact roosting on a lamp post in SAWBRIDGEWORTH TOWN CENTRE (HERTS). I contacted both Jay Ward and Laurence Drummond and decided to make the effort, even though it was a 45 mile drive to the far eastern fringe of the county. Of course, by the time I arrived, the stork had gone awol, with conflicting messages being broadcast on the pager. Laurence and I toured the town before taking different routes - I taking time out to photograph Fieldfares whilst Laurence returning to the original playing fields east of the main road. Unbeknown to me, Chris Beach had intercepted the stork as it was flying north towards the church spire and over a period of a few minutes, Laurence and a couple of other local birders latched on to it. I was north of them at the time but still managed to miss it - and whilst searching in vain for the next half an hour - missed it again as it circled Thorley Wash (Bishops Stortford) at 1230. And that was it - as nearly three hours later, it was flying east over Braintree.

Dejected and cold, I returned to WILSTONE RESERVOIR, TRING (HERTS), where SR and DB had braved the morning and logged 3 Dunlin, drake Goosander and Sand Martin. Steve was back again for more and in an hour early afternoon, we scored COMMON RAVEN and male Greenfinch - both new for me for the annual tally.

The SAND MARTIN had moved back to TRINGFORD RESERVOIR, where it was relatively sheltered from the biting wind, with the road causeway producing 3 COMMON CHIFFCHAFFS and 6 Long-tailed Tits. Five RED-CRESTED POCHARDS remained.

A WATER PIPIT in transitional plumage was showing well on the western shore of STARTOP'S END RESERVOIR