Another nice day, with lots of blue sky, little cloud and not too much of a wind. The latter, however, was still in a Southeasterly direction, making it feel pretty cold.
Mostly Buckinghamshire Target Birding today and at very long last, finally connected with an ICELAND GULL today..........
I spent much of the morning at HEDGERLEY LANDFILL (BUCKS), where I had to do my best up against the Gyrfalcon hybrid and its owner. The two earned their money this morning, barely letting the gulls settle for long. There were probably in excess of 3,000 birds loitering, mostly Black-headed and immature Herring, with just 5 Great Black-backed now visiting the scrum. Eventually I located the ICELAND GULL, an immature bird bleaching heavily with spring approaching. I am assuming it is a juvenile moulting into first-summer plumage, as the eye was wholly dark, the bill extensively pale-based and the upper wings mainly just bleached out juvenile feathers. There were quite a few pale grey feathers starting to come through on the mantle but this is to be expected in the second half of February. Chris Heard had also seen this same individual in Berkshire in recent days.
Iceland Gulls have been surprisingly rare this winter, being equal in number to Glaucous (it is generally a 5:1 ration in favour of glaucoides). This is the first one I have managed to see anywhere in the UK this year, despite having visited the Shetland Islands and north of Scotland.
I then did an hour at CHURCH WOOD RSPB, HEDGERLEY (BUCKS), but no sign of any Lesser Spots, before moving on to STOKE COMMON (BUCKS) where once again I failed to locate Peter Stevens' male Common Stonechat. The Common was pretty birdless - just 3 Goldcrests and 9 Carrion Crows seen.
Late afternoon found me at COLLEGE LAKE BBOWT (BUCKS) and just as I arrived at the Bat barn on the east shore, an adult WHOOPER SWAN flew in loudly announcing its arrival. It was covered in iron ore deposits, with a rusty-orange glint to its crown, face and neck, and was instantly disliked by two cob Mute Swans on the main marsh. They followed it around for some time before it was left be, in the far NW corner, up against the bund. It looked very unsettled and nervous and probably touched-down for less than half an hour in total, allowing a few BBOWT staff, Mike Campbell and Graham Smith to connect. I phoned Johnny Lynch to see what was happening in Bedfordshire as regards our Wardown Park Whooper Swans and he confirmed that the resident pair were both at Dunstable Sewage Farm and acting territorial on the island of one of the pans. This winter, there have only been these two birds around, although 3 Whooper Swans were seen together at Wilstone last autumn.
Graham and others watched the adult Whooper Swan fly west over Marsworth Reservoir at around 1710 hours but it must have circled back as at 1745 hours, Johnny phoned to say that it had flown into Dunstable Sewage Works, joining the local pair (but choosing a different pan to settle). Whilst in flight, it was calling loudly.
Other species seen at College Lake included the 3 RED-CRESTED POCHARDS (drake and two females), the drake COMMON SHELDUCK present for its third day, 5 Shoveler, 44 Gadwall, 232 Wigeon, 17 Mute Swans and 32 Coot.
Over at WILSTONE RESERVOIR (HERTS), the elusive redhead GOOSANDER was sticking close to the Drayton Bank, with 5 female Common Goldeneye scattered widely and 53 Shoveler. Mike Campbell and I could not locate the pair of Pintail seen earlier by Ian Williams, whilst after we both departed, Steve Rodwell and Dave Bilcock located a 'new' adult MEDITERRANEAN GULL near enough in full breeding plumage bar a white forehead.
We all then ended up on MARSWORTH RESERVOIR (HERTS) where it was very cold. The COMMON KINGFISHER was by the sluice, whilst a total of 118 CORN BUNTINGS came into roost. The water held 8 Great Crested Grebes, 1 Little Grebe and 22 Northern Pochard, with up to 5 WATER RAILS squealing and the BARN OWL hunting over the back field east of the sewage works. Eagle-eyed Steve then picked up the BITTERN as the light faded, climbing to the top of the reeds in the Bucks section of the reservoir.