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.

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