Tuesday, 1 April 2014

It's all hitting off.......

A return to much warmer weather as a ridge of high pressure intensifies over Southern Britain. In fact, this was the warmest day of the year so far with temperatures reaching 18 degrees C during the afternoon
Undoubted highlight of the day was a PIED AVOCET that graced TYTTENHANGER MAIN PIT from mid morning 'til dusk - the third individual in that area this year. It was favouring the sandy spit and shallows thereabouts and was discovered shortly after a flock of Pintails and 2 Mandarin Ducks had passed through. I connected with the bird at 1650 hours, along with a few Common Snipe, 2 Lapwing, 5 Common Teal and 9 SAND MARTINS.

An adult Little Gull that moved from Weston Turville Reservoir to WILSTONE RESERVOIR at 10am was still there when I left Tyttenhanger (per Steve Rodwell) but when Ian Williams, David Bilcock and I arrived 40 minutes later, it had disappeared.....
WILSTONE proffered 7 Little Grebe (all together in one tightly knit flock), 7 Mute Swan, 34 Greylag Geese, 8 Shoveler, 2 Gadwall, drake Wigeon, 96 Tufted Duck, 52 Coot, 7 Pochard and a Stock Dove while a pair of Little Egrets was nesting again along the Drayton Bank.
STARTOP'S END yielded 28 Black-headed Gulls but no Little Gull, 3 Mute Swans (including a first-summer), 66 Tufted Duck, 16 Coot and 4 Great Crested Grebe, with Greenfinch, 4 Common Blackbird, 6 Common Starling, a Common Kestrel and 2 Pied Wagtails around the periphery.
A fair bit of activity over at TRINGFORD RESERVOIR with the Great Crested Grebe pair, Mute Swan pair and Red-crested Pochard pair, drake Teal, 28 Tufted Duck and 10 Coot, 3 singing male Common Chiffchaff and a party of 35 SAND MARTIN. The Rookery was at full speed with no less than 32 active nests this year, the woodland also supporting 3 Goldfinch, 6 Robin, 9 Wren, 3 male Dunnock, 2 Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush and 70 Jackdaw.
I stopped off at WESTON TURVILLE RESERVOIR at dusk, just in case the Little Gull had flown back, but there was pretty much nothing - 2 Great Crested Grebe, 2 Mute Swan, 8 Coot and 2 Moorhen.

The Sinensis colony.....

drake Tufted Duck in full attire

The Tringford Rookery in great shape with 32 active nests

The last day of March was another very warm one with temperatures once again reaching 18 degrees C and Saharan dust even making the Chilterns. It proved to be an excellent day for rare passage waders.....
After counting 15 active nests in OLD WOLVERTON ROOKERY, my first visit of the day was to MANOR FARM WORKINGS in OLD WOLVERTON, where both the transitional plumaged SPOTTED REDSHANK and winter-plumaged GREY PLOVER were still present, albeit rather distantly (see pix below). This chain of gravel workings really are looking superb this spring and should yield some excellent results, today's wader haul including Oystercatcher (pair), Lapwing (22), Ringed Plover, LITTLE RINGED PLOVER (4), GREEN SANDPIPER and Common Redshank (4). Also present were a splendid pair of GOOSANDER, 3 lingering Wigeon, 8 Teal, 2 Shoveler, 28 Tufted Duck, 2 Mute Swan and 2 Great Crested Grebe, as well as a first-summer Common Gull, Green Woodpecker and a Peacock butterfly.

Found by Rob Hill on Sunday evening, this adult Spotted Redshank was in dapper condition

....and present for a third consecutive day was this winter-plumaged Grey Plover

Goosanders hanging on and Oystercatchers on territory

.....and looking just superb this spring - just watch this space

More Rook counting followed with 5 active nests by the CHILDS WAY ROUNDABOUT, M1 JUNCTION 14 and 105 at SALFORD and a further 67 at MEADOW LANE (BEDS).
Once in CAMBRIDGESHIRE, Brimstone butterflies became apparent, with 3 along a short stretch of the A428 just east of ST NEOTS and active Rookeries including 8 nests at WINTRINGHAM HALL, 19 at ELTISLEY MANOR, 35 close to the ABBOTSLEY ROAD JUNCTION and 13 just east of CROXTON; a further 4 were by the A14 at FENSTANTON.
FENDRAYTON GP as I once knew them were barely recognisable from the changes undertaken in the last 3 years by the RSPB, the reserve being so extensive and large now that you need either a bicycle or a taxi to get round!! I parked up at the entrance and walked the muddy mile distance to the Couch Hide overlooking the westernmost MOORE LAKE where within seconds I had espied the breeding-plumaged drake BAIKAL TEAL that had been gracing the site since early in the month. It was very loosely associating with Wigeon and Teal but largely kept to itself, feeding at the west end of the lake. Not sure of its merits as a genuine vagrant from the Orient but certainly as good as the majority of recent drakes in Britain, including those in Essex and Oxon. This is now one superb reserve, full of potential and birds - highlights of my visit today including a dapper drake SMEW (displaying to some of the 28 Common Goldeneye present), 3 GARGANEY (2 drakes and a female), a LITTLE RINGED PLOVER, single Black-tailed Godwit and a party of 9 LITTLE GULLS (including 2 first-years).

A pristine drake Baikal Teal of unknown origin

Limosa or islandica - a sick individual either way?

...and a dapper drake Smew

An impressive list of species included Great Crested Grebe (12), Little Grebe (3), Sinensis Cormorant (28 nests), Grey Heron, Mute Swan (4), both Greylag & Canada Geese, Common Shelduck (pair), Egyptian Goose (pair), Wigeon (28), Gadwall (42), Teal (70), Shoveler (20), Tufted Duck, Pochard, Coot, Moorhen, Oystercatcher (pair), Lapwing, Common Snipe (25), Common Redshank (6), Black-headed, Common and Lesser Black-backed Gulls, Jay, Reed Bunting, 8 Cetti's Warblers, 9 singing Common Chiffchaffs and 3 singing male Blackcaps. A Fox was also seen as well as a dead American Mink on the tramway.

3 from a 9-strong flock of Little Gulls

An American Mink hit by bus

one of the many observation platforms

and we are talking big here - some reserve this is

Driving back down the A10 in Hertfordshire, Rookeries in HARSTON yielded 27 active nests and SHEPRETH POPLARS 43, while a Red Kite was seen over HAMELS PARK.
I finished my day off with a visit to AMWELL NATURE RESERVE where it was a full house at GREAT HARDMEAD LAKE to see the SPOTTED REDSHANK that had arrived mid-morning. All the hard hitters were there including Ron Cousins, Barry Reed, Graham White, Mike Ilett, Paul Hackett and Jason Ward and the bird put in an outstanding performance, commuting between the new cut up towards the hides and the shallow vegetation in front of the watchpoint.


In addition to the 'Spot-shank' were 22 Wigeon, 8 Gadwall, 12 Teal, 8 Shoveler, 10 Pochard, 3 Goldeneye (1 drake), 2 Redhank, Common Snipe and 2+ Little Egret, with a Marsh Tit scolding from the woodland on the opposite side of the canal.

The Amwell Sinensis Cormorant colony on the island

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