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

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