Well the day started off fine and dry with another light frost followed by clear, bright periods. The wind was light northerly and with the sunshine, temperatures reached 52 degrees F by late morning. Dark clouds then approached from the west with a cold front encroaching down from the north, pegging temperatures back by at least 10 degrees by mid-afternoon. Some hefty rain/sleet showers followed, with further rain setting in by evening.
With such an abrupt change in the weather, migrant birds were bound to appear and by the end of the day, a nice haul was bagged.......
CROXLEY COMMON MOOR (HERTS)
Following up on Geoff Lapworth's visit of yesterday, I joined JT mid-morning and enjoyed my first views of WILLOW WARBLER this year - a male singing and showing close to the main footpath that crosses the common; also a singing male Blackcap and at least 6 singing Common Chiffchaffs
STOCKER'S LAKE (HERTS)
Next off, Joan and I visited Stocker's. Avian highlights included a single COMMON TERN (another year first for me), 7 Red-crested Pochards (6 drakes) on Bury Lake, a single BARN SWALLOW by Stocker's Farm and a very confiding and vocal CETTI'S WARBLER in scrub along the causeway.
The full list of species included Great Crested Grebe (8), Sinensis Cormorants, Grey Heron, Mute Swan, Atlantic Canada Geese, Mallard, 2 Common Teal, Gadwall, 6 Shoveler, Tufted Duck, Pochard, a remaining adult drake COMMON GOLDENEYE, Sparrowhawk, 2 Ring-necked Parakeets, pair of Greenfinches, 8 House Sparrows by Stocker's Farm, Reed Bunting, 11 singing male Common Chiffchaffs and 5 singing male Blackcaps
Joan and I then decided to visit GLOUCESTERSHIRE, where we quickly connected with a first-winter BONAPARTE'S GULL.........
**ADD IN NOTES FROM GLOUCS
As we arrived back into Buckinghamshire, we hit a huge hail storm and blackened skies. Such conditions are ideal for grounding migrants so Joan and I headed straight for the hills.....
At the entrance to WAUDS HURST FARM, RINGSHALL (SP 984 147), sadly a dead BADGER (this follows two that I saw on the A41 at the weekend and another on the B4442 in Chalfont St Giles (SU 994 939))
IVINGHOE BEACON (BUCKS)
In much cooler temperatures, Dunstable birder Tony Stachnicki, JT and I walked up to just below the Beacon trig point and relocated Daniel's cracking adult male RING OUZEL. It was favouring the rabbit burrows on the SE slope and as evening approached, it flew to roost in scrub adjacent to the Beacon footpath. I speculated whether or not this was last year's adult male returning (the long-staying male of last spring). The slope also held 3 migrant NORTHERN WHEATEARS, a bright male and two females.
WILSTONE RESERVOIR, TRING (HERTS)
In such conditions, it is always worth checking Wilstone and this evening proved extremely worthwhile. Whilst scanning the large number of newly-arrived hirundines, I came across a large raptor circling the reedbed at 1920 hours and instantly recognised it as a male MARSH HARRIER. In fact it was an adult male, with some moult in the primaries. I quickly got Joan on to it and then 'phoned Dave Bilcock. Two corvids took an instant dislike to the bird and began pestering it, forcing it to gain height. It kept on spiralling upwards and then when just above the Black Poplars, started to flap strongly eastwards. The two corvids continued to harass, the harrier then gaining ever increasing height. It then started to head northeast. At this point, Charlie Jackson arrived at the steps, and after a few attempts, I finally managed to get him on to the bird. Joan and I then watched it eventually disappear to a dot, most likely over Long Marston in the end. I took my eyes off of it at 1927 hours.
A single noisy EURASIAN CURLEW was roosting on the hide spit before it flew off east, whilst a single COMMON TERN was flying amongst 15 Black-headed Gulls. A swirl of SAND MARTINS numbered an impressive 83 birds. Great Crested Grebes numbered 32.
STARTOP'S END RESERVOIR, TRING (HERTS)
The Wilstone EURASIAN CURLEW had relocated to the mud on Startop's but after calling loudly, it once again flew off and this time headed south towards Tring. Both OYSTERCATCHERS were present and the single drake Wigeon.