Now for yesterday's news - THURSDAY 1 OCTOBER
Wind continued from the Northwest but was very calm and it was surprisingly warm in the afternoon sunshine. Another dry day.
I was just attending to one of my cats late morning and talking Northwestern Redpolls and Taiga Flycatcher images with Shetland contacts on the mobile when I heard the familiar bugling or trumpeting sound of WHOOPER SWANS. I looked up to find two birds flying at fairly low level slightly west of north over my house in Little Chalfont. I was absolutely staggered as only yesterday I had constructed an email urging local birders to watch out for this species as large numbers were migrating SSE through Speyside and elsewhere in Scotland on their way back to wintering areas in Norfolk, particularly Welney WWT - much earlier than normal. The birds were dropping in height and I suspected that they were heading for the Chess River Valley where a resident herd of Mute Swans is always present.
Retrieving my Tabby from a neighbours stairway, I jumped in the car and raced over to Latimer, where at 1222 hours I relocated both birds on the main 'Great Water' in front of the Conference Centre and hall (at SU 995 987). They were trumpeting with glee after presumably finishing a long journey and were not impressing the resident Mute Swans and were drinking, washing and bathing. Whooper Swan has never before been recorded in my area and is an excellent addition to the local avifauna and excited with my find I contacted Chris Batty (RBA), Ben Miller, Simon Nichols, Mike Collard and others to ensure that those that may wish to could perhaps come over and see them.
I was most excited about them mainly because one of the birds (they were both full adults by the way) was heavily stained rusty-brown on the head, neck and upperparts - a feature I have noted on numerous returning wild Whooper Swans before and a feature of birds spending the summer in Iceland (apparently the orange staining is caused by iron deposits in the upland pools in which Whoopers feed during the summer months). Both birds were obviously very tired and exhausted after their journey too as within a very short while, they both tucked their heads in and went to sleep. They kept to themselves and to the outer edge of the 18-strong Mute Swan herd. I watched them for about forty minutes before moving on but was pleased to hear from Ashley Stow that they were both still present when he visited later in the afternoon (he also managed to rattle off at least 100 images of them, a selection of which are presented above).
Their arrival coincided with that of many other Whooper Swans in the south, including 80 fresh-in at Welney Refuge and at least two flocks in Cambridgeshire (11 birds flew NW over Paxton Pits NR in the evening).
Great Water also held 22 Coots, whilst nearby parkland held both Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers, several singing Robins, Mistle Thrush, two fly-over Meadow Pipits and a Jay at Chilton's Wood.
IVINGHOE HILLS NR
I then joined Mike Collard on Ivinghoe Hills where on the slope to the SE of the Beacon we enjoyed excellent views of a migrant party of 5 COMMON STONECHATS (including tow males) and 3 NORTHERN WHEATEARS. One of the latter was a brightly marked GREENLAND WHEATEAR. A RED KITE also passed overhead.