Compared to most recent years, when for example I recorded 165 species in the county in 2011, 187 in 2012 and 173 in 2013, this has been a particularly poor one with just 157 species recorded by mid December - one of my worst years on record


It's all over - 2012 has come to an end. I managed a total of 187 out of the 198 species recorded all told in Buckinghamshire - 94% of the total - probably my highest-ever annual tally.

The current record is 191 species achieved in 2006 and held jointly by both Rob Hill and Simon Nichols

Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Adam Bassett's third trilling WOOD WARBLER in a fortnight


The last day of April proved to be a fortuitous one, with warmer temperatures (13 degrees C), lighter winds (NW) and largely clear skies. Buckinghamshire was my domain throughout the day, with 6 County Year Ticks (CYT) for my efforts...

Following a mid-morning call from Adam Bassett, MARLOW proved to be my first destination, where in the PUMP LANE VINEFIELDS, I soon located the two NORTHERN WHEATEARS (male and female) and the single WHINCHAT (see images below).

Very difficult to get a clear view through the metal gables

I then joined Adam and Dave Cleal at the MARLOW LOW GROUNDS where almost at the end of LOWER POUND LANE, the WOOD WARBLER was still trilling from the Willow and Alder Carr every five minutes or so. Unfortunately, it was frequenting the back garden of a large property and we were only to get rather distant views as the bird sang and flitted through the Willow branches. It was nothing like as bright as yesterday's Wilstone bird. With this being such a late spring and many of the woodlands three weeks behind in flowering, exceptional numbers of passage Wood Warblers have been recorded this spring, many in locations close to water, perhaps 75 in total. Exceptional too has been the fact that Adam has found three separate singers, all within the Marlow area.

Whilst standing listening and searching for the Wood Warbler, 3 HOBBIES glided overhead in the heat of the early afternoon sun, several Common Buzzards and Red Kites, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, food-carrying Common Treecreepers and two Goldcrests also seen. The water meadows themselves held a pair of Egyptian Geese tending 5 small young (see picture below). Butterflies emerging in the sun included Brimstone and Green-veined White.

This Common Buzzard was sat opposite

Neighbouring SPADE OAK NATURE RESERVE (LITTLE MARLOW) very quickly yielded me GARDEN WARBLER, with 4 singing males in the south hedgerow, with 13+ Blackcaps and 5 Common Chiffchaffs singing. Not much on the pit apart from 12 Coot, 6 Lapwing, 7 Gadwall, 1 Egyptian Goose, 1 COMMON SNIPE, 44 Argenteus Herring Gulls, 2 Mute Swans and 5 Common Terns.

Checking the SCHOOL LANE cereal fields in OLD AMERSHAM, I was surprised to find a single LAPWING feeding. It also provided me with an opportunity to get some nice Rook shots as they busily filled their crops to feed the young birds in the rookery across the road. A male Muntjac crossed the field too.

Thanks to some guidance from Graham Smith, I soon connected with both COMMON CUCKOO and LESSER WHITETHROAT at COLLEGE LAKE BBOWT - the former calling from the railway embankment in the NE corner of the reserve and the latter rattling and warbling from the scrub in the far NW corner. Both were new for me.

The view looking towards the BBOWT centre from the North Bank

Also a Site Tick for me was FIRECREST at WESTON TURVILLE RESERVOIR: a pair showing very well in ivy-clad trees, Holly and Birch scrub just beyond the last outbuilding in the grounds of Perch Cottage, perhaps 45 yards in from the road. I managed a few images but the birds were particularly mobile (see below). A COMMON SHREW that ran across the path was also my first of the year.

I finished off my day with a visit to SHARDELOES LAKE where I was surprised to see breeding in full swing. No less than three broods of Mallard were on the water, with two well grown young and groups of 4 and 7 ducklings. Coot nests numbered 12, with one pair already feeding a single tiny youngster (adults numbered 42 in total). The Mute Swans were also nesting (see pix below).

The male GREAT CRESTED GREBE was busy feeding, with 4 Little Grebes, 13 Tufted Duck, 3 pairs of GADWALL and 3 MANDARIN DUCKS (2 drakes) present on the lake.

Other species noted included COMMON KINGFISHER, Great Spotted and Green Woodpecker, 2 Red Kite, 3 Stock Dove, a singing male Song Thrush, single singing males of both Blackcap and Common Chiffchaff, Wren, Robin (feeding young), 3 Goldfinch and 2 Barn Swallows.

Monday, 29 April 2013

Recent Birding with LGRE


At STARTOP'S END RESERVOIR late afternoon, 3 BLACK TERNS with 27 Common Terns, whilst MARSWORTH produced a single COMMON SWIFT and 6 House Martins. No less than 9 WESTERN REED WARBLERS were singing from the reedbeds, and 3 SEDGE WARBLERS - with male Blackcaps in the wood and by the canal.

BROGBOROUGH LAKE (BEDS) at 1800 hours yielded a female-type COMMON SCOTER, a summer-plumaged adult LITTLE GULL, 4 BLACK TERNS, 8 Common Terns and the continuing breeding-plumaged SLAVONIAN GREBE.


Heavy rain overnight and cold NW winds. At MARSWORTH RESERVOIR, a pair of Oystercatchers was on the horse fields, even copulating at one point, with 23 Common Terns on the bales, Common Kingfisher, 8 singing Western Reed Warblers, Goldcrest, Wren, Common Chiffchaff and Blackcap in the Wood and a single male YELLOW WAGTAIL

On STARTOP'S, the 3 RED-CRESTED POCHARDS, 25 Tufted Ducks, 2 Grey Wagtails, 42 Sand Martins, 30 Barn Swallows and 5 House Martins; 3 Lapwings flew east

WILSTONE yielded 3 COMMON SANDPIPERS together on the bank and 2 migrant Argenteus HERRING GULLS - an adult and first-year. The two drake EURASIAN WIGEON remained, with a single drake Northern Pochard and 37 Tufted Duck. Lots of hirundines present including 73 Barn Swallows and 8 House Martins, as well as 13 COMMON SWIFTS. Unexpected highlights included a flyover TREE PIPIT at 0817, a COMMON RAVEN with a full crop west at 0828 and a single male YELLOW WAGTAIL on the bank.

Walking from DRAYTON BEAUCHAMP along the DRY CANAL to the ORCHARD added Linnet (4+), COMMON WHITETHROAT (7 singing males), COMMON CUCKOO (calling male), Yellowhammer (6), WILLOW WARBLER (singing male), Eurasian Skylark (singing male), Chaffinch (6), Red Kite, Stock Dove, Green Woodpecker, LESSER WHITETHROAT (rattling male), Robin, Long-tailed Tit and Great Tit (4).

COLLEGE LAKE BBOWT was quiet with 10 Mute Swans, a drake Wigeon, 2 Common Shelduck, drake Northern Pochard, 8 Common Redshank, 2 OYSTERCATCHERS and a Jay noted, whilst PITSTONE QUARRY added 2 Little Grebe, 6 Coot, a singing Blackcap and a further Jay; a female NORTHERN WHEATEAR was a surprise in the NORTHFIELD FARM PADDOCKS.

No Wheatears in OLD AMERSHAM (BUCKS) though, but 2 singing male YELLOWHAMMERS by School Lane.


A bit of local birding between East Anglian twitching with DEREK WHITE'S PIT, BIGGLESWADE (BEDS) supporting a nice sub-adult EURASIAN SPOONBILL and 60 Barn Swallows, and GYPSY LANE EAST PITS, BROOM (BEDS) adding Oystercatcher (2 pairs), Common Shelduck (pair), Gadwall (4), Common Teal (6), Shoveler (7) and Common Tern (2).

At AMWELL NR (HERTS) in the evening, I connected with the fabulous male PIED FLYCATCHER thanks to Simon Knott and Phil Ball, plus a reeling GRASSHOPPER WARBLER by the James Hide, numerous Blackcaps and Western Reed Warblers, 4 Common Redshanks and at least 20 pairs of raft-nesting Black-headed Gulls.

Raptor Passage 26 April

Alan Stevens had both an OSPREY and a MARSH HARRIER pass high over Spade Oak Pit in the evening (26 April)

26 April - early morning wader passage

A flock of 28 breeding-plumaged ICELANDIC BLACK TAILED GODWITS have just (06.22) flown into Manor Farm Workings, they join the 5 DUNLIN already present !! (per Simon Nichols)


24/4 14:05 : SPOTTED REDSHANK : Little Marlow GP.

At point of spit, then working up far side from bench.

Simon Ramm

Another WOOD WARBLER at Spade Oak, both found by ADAM BASSETT

23/4 09:00 : WOOD WARBLER : Little Marlow GP.

A different bird to Saturday's. As Jim's photo shows pretty well, the undersides on this bird were much whiter, with yellow restricted to the sides of the upper breast and chin. Saturday's bird had more yellow on the throat and upper breast.

Adam Bassett

WOOD WARBLER at Spade Oak 20 April

I made an early(ish) start this morning and was out the door at 6:30am. It was only 0.5 degrees, so when I arrived at LMGP, I had full winter gear on! There was partial mist over the lake, though this was quickly disappearing, but it was obvious that nothing much of note was present – just 3 Common Terns and a single LRP. I decided to do a circuit, finding nothing on the meadows, but there were plenty of Blackcaps and Willow Warblers singing. In the SE corner, a Garden Warbler in sub song was new for the year, showing itself in a patch of ivy. A Sedge Warbler singing in the same area an hour later was silent at this time and the obvious influx of Whitethroats seen by others later (I didn’t have any) were also silent – it was probably too cold for them!

At about 7:30am, as I passed the small wooden bridge on the NE side, I stopped in my tracks as a familiar trilling song coming from the hawthorn hedge just in front of me alerted me to a WOOD WARBLER! Then nothing for the next minute or so, so I began to think I’d imagined it. Then it sang again – phew! but then stopped. It gave its lovely trilling song about 5 or 6 times over the next 10 minutes from the same patch of hawthorn hedge about 20 yards in front of me, but I couldn’t see anything except a Blackcap. Then I saw it emerge from the back of the branches at the top of the hedge, a lovely clean-looking phyllosc, with primrose yellow throat, face and super and clean white lower breast and underparts. Having now heard the bird singing and seen it, I decided to text the news out. I took my eyes off it and sadly and disappointingly never saw or heard it again – I’ve no idea in which direction it went. It was still cold, but beginning to warm up, so I hoped that it was feeding up and might start singing again in warmer weather, but it appears to have moved straight through.

A very unexpected patch tick – might get Whitethroat for the year tomorrow.

Adam Bassett

Lodge Hill 19 April

Two RING OUZELS and a WHINCHAT (per Warren Claydon)

HEN HARRIER at Gallows Bridge (18 April)

Roger Kirk had a ringtail HEN HARRIER at Gallows Bridge BBOWT on 18 April

Local Mega: PIED FLY at Weston Turville

Local birder David Wilson stumbled on this very showy female PIED FLYCATCHER at Weston Turville Reservoir on 18 April - the bird showing incredibly well until late in the day. Graham Smith obtained these superb images.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

GREENSHANK in North Bucks


A strengthening SSW wind made birding quite unpleasant at times today and also made it difficult locating small birds. Early morning showers quickly moved through giving way to clear, bright conditions and temperatures as high in the shelter from the wind as 16 degrees C.

Although nothing like as good as yesterday, there was still an ongoing arrival of migrants today, particularly of warblers. A major passage of ARCTIC TERNS too began mid-afternoon.....

Once the rain had cleared, I took the opportunity of walking round MARSWORTH and STARTOP'S END RESERVOIRS (TRING) where quite a number of warblers had arrived - WILLOW WARBLERS included singing birds on the causeway, in the wood and by the canal, with male BLACKCAPS singing behind the reedbed and close to the canal; Common Chiffchaffs remained unchanged at perhaps 6 singing males.

I failed to find any of yesterday's Western Reed Warblers but Peter Brazier photographed a singing male in the reedbed by the sluice.

There was a major increase in COMMON TERN numbers with at least 22 present prior to lunchtime, commuting back and forth between both reservoirs. Both pairs of Lesser Black-backed Gulls remain on territory and creating havoc, whilst 2 EURASIAN CURLEW were something of a surprise as they flew North calling.

Up to 5 male Reed Buntings were in song, with 4 House Martins, 9 Sand Martins and several Barn Swallows in the area, the pair of COMMON KINGFISHERS, pair of BULLFINCH and Great Spotted and Green Woodpeckers.

On STARTOP'S END RESERVOIR, the pair of Red-crested Pochard were inspecting one of the rafts, with another drake standing on the bank of MARSWORTH. A pair of Common Teal were also lingering.

Peter, Jack O'Neill and I tried our luck at neighbouring COLLEGE LAKE BBOWT but it was very quiet, Lucy Flower having seen a male Common Whitethroat in West Scrub. I noted Common Shelduck (the usual drake, with two others coming in and out), 14 Mute Swans (2 first-summers), 1 pair of Wigeon, the OYSTERCATCHER pair, 1 Sand Martin, 1 Barn Swallow and 1 singing male WILLOW WARBLER.


The Manor Farm Complex.....

With not much happening, I decided to travel north to MANOR FARM WORKINGS, OLD WOLVERTON (NORTH BUCKS), where Simon Nichols had discovered a COMMON GREENSHANK. Fortuitously, the bird was still present, along with other waders in the form of 2 COMMON SANDPIPERS, 2 Ringed Plovers, 6 LITTLE RINGED PLOVERS and 2 Common Redshanks. Hardly any ducks left apart from 6 Teal and 2 Gadwall and migrant larids including a first-summer Great Black-backed Gull and 8 Common Gulls. A Carrion Crow posed for some nice shots (see below) but most impressive was the array of migrant WAGTAILS on view, an exceptional 11 WHITES and 16 YELLOWS, the formers numbers somewhat correlating with the large flocks to be found in neighbouring Bedfordshire at Castle Mills and Broom GP. A Green Woodpecker finished off the tally.

On Graham Smith's recommendations, I returned to STARTOP'S END RESERVOIR where it seemed an arrival of ARCTIC TERNS had taken place during the afternoon. Although some individual birders were happy to count as many as 10 birds, photographing each individual tern and studying them satisfied me personally that at least 4 birds were present (including a bird in transitional plumage with growing streamers). Peter Brazier obtained some reasonable shots of the four birds (see below).

I was also pleased to see a male COMMON WHITETHROAT in the Canal Hedgerow (my first of the year), whilst at least 2 flava Wagtails were still commuting back and forth between the horsefields and the bank at Startop's. Steve Rodwell later saw one well and declared it a Blue-headed.

Graham and Lee grilling the Commic Terns and Graham reviewing his images

Monday, 15 April 2013

Migrants dropping out of the skies


An early morning call from Lol Carman sent me scurrying in the direction of BLOWS DOWNS, DUNSTABLE (BEDFORDSHIRE), where it soon became apparent that a fall had occurred......

The wind was fairly strong SW, with occasional spots of rain and a lot of cloud - but very warm - 15 degrees C on several occasions.

Anyhow, within 37 minutes I was at BLOWS - too late however to see the 2 male Whinchats that Lol had seen earlier. Lol had estimated too the presence of 25 NORTHERN WHEATEARS in the Paddocks, but the best I could muster was 17. The main attraction though was the fall of COMMON REDSTARTS - no less than 5 individuals brightening up the Paddocks and showing well (see my pix above). Four were males, with a single female in the eastern paddock. A single WILLOW WARBLER was in the main hedgerow, with up to 9 Common Chiffchaffs in the area, 2 singing male BLACKCAPS and the odd SWALLOW flying through. Two LESSER REDPOLL and a pair of BULLFINCH were also in the vicinity and 4 Yellowhammers.

Three RING OUZELS (two males and a female) were on the Kingsbury Slope above Tesco's, whilst an additional 5 (four males and a female) were on the Caddington Slope before being flushed east within a short while (the latter seen with MJP). Three trilling BOHEMIAN WAXWINGS spent a short time in a taller tree halfway between the Paddocks and the Quarry, coming hard on the heels of the 40 Barry Squires and I saw in Shefford High Street on Saturday.

Whilst watching the Common Redstarts, Darrel Bryant phoned with news of the first fall at NORTON GREEN this spring, and with Black Red still missing from my 2013 Herts List, I started to head that way. Incredibly, as I was driving along the A414, a very excited Steve Blake 'phoned with news of a HOOPOE and being less than a few miles away, I immediately diverted.......

Picking up a lost notebook as I ran from Lawson's Woodyard (it transpired it belonged to Alan Gardiner), I met up with Steve just a few minutes later and there before us was the quarry - a fabulous HOOPOE - a pretty rare visitor to Hertfordshire. The bird was happily feeding in the sheep field immediately east of the main 'birding pit' and was keeping to the fence edge. I crept to within 100 yards of the bird and fired off over a 100 images (a selection to be found above). It continued probing the damp soil for the next 20 minutes, Ricky Flesher arriving from a work break in the meantime, and was seen to take a few grubs. It was very, very alert and repeatedly froze on several occasions. Then, just as it raised its head and glanced all around, it flew and headed off north across the fields to the far hedge. It landed in a tall Oak tree briefly but as Steve Murray approached from the Pumping Station footpath, it flew back towards us and landed in the sheep field adjacent. The grass here was longer, making the bird much more difficult to see, and after 8 minutes it flew again and returned to its original spot down by the edge of the main pit. It then resumed a better showing and continued to do so for the next 20 minutes but then flew strongly at 1315, alighting briefly in a Willow at the far south end of the pit. It quickly flew again and continued west towards Willows Farm and was lost.

Although I failed to find the male Common Redstart that Ricky chanced upon as he walked back towards his car, an impressive 22 NORTHERN WHEATEARS was encountered and a single male YELLOW WAGTAIL. Hirundines included 8 Sand Martins.

With confirmation from Tony Hukin that Darrel's Black Redstart was still present at NORTON GREEN, I headed that way, but despite searching in the increasingly strong wind for over an hour, I failed to relocate it - 4 NORTHERN WHEATEARS, a male YELLOW WAGTAIL and 2 Barn Swallows being my highlight.

MACKERYE END (HERTS) was my next destination and after a bit of searching, I finally relocated Darin Stanley's male COMMON REDSTART by the spoil heap at the road junction at TL 155 155, about 150 yards further to the north of where DS initially found it. It was calling frequently and zipping in and out of the hedgerow and I was pleased at getting a fairly decent shot of it (see above).

I then decided to check the IVINGHOE HILLS (BUCKS) but other than 27 NORTHERN WHEATEARS, it was hard work (others had seen the likes of Short-eared Owl, Marsh Harrier, 4 Ring Ouzels and 2 Common Redstarts, whilst further to the west, Ring Ouzels numbered 5 at both Ellesborough and Great Kimble).

Returning to the CHESS VALLEY in CHESHAM (BUCKS), BOIS MILL POND held 2 Grey Herons and a single immature Sinensis Cormorant. Walking the WATERCRESS COTTAGE LOOP TRAIL yielded Little Egret, Wren and 4 different singing male Common Chiffchaffs, with 10 GADWALLS, GREY WAGTAIL and 2 Pied Wagtails on POW WOW LAKE and an excellent selection of birds on CHESHAM FISHING LAKES including no less than 7 WILLOW WARBLERS (the largest congregation of this species in the Chess Valley for several years), a male BLACKCAP, a pair of COMMON KINGFISHERS, 14 BARN SWALLOWS, 3 HOUSE MARTINS and 2 SAND MARTINS. Another pair of GADWALL and 12 Tufted Ducks were also noted, as well as Chaffinch, Long-tailed Tit and 2 Song Thrushes.

Friday, 12 April 2013

Lots of Goodies

Rob Andrews had a nice male HEN HARRIER this evening drift over Steps Hill whilst earlier, Nick Marinner had a SHORT-EARED OWL over Broughton Fields, Aylesbury.

Steve Rodwell and I had an OSPREY east over Tring Reservoirs whilst another was seen this evening over Ravenstone Sewage Works

Quite a few RING OUZELS still, with 3 at Beacon Hill (Ellesborough) and 2 on Quainton Hills, where also a FIRECREST and a male COMMON REDSTART at Gallows Bridge BBOWT

Thursday, 11 April 2013

A Day of Hirundine increase and more OUZELS


Ring Ouzels in the Juniper Valley at Beacon Hill today

It rained for much of the night, eventually petering out mid morning. I had raised expectations of a decent-sized fall after such conditions but I could not have been more wrong - very little being forced down. For most of the morning, it remained murky and misty, only eventually clearing up from early afternoon. Not a bad day temperature-wise, with an afternoon peak of 12 degrees C.

As Steve Rodwell was birding Tring and seeing surprisingly little, I diverted to the Hills where results were largely similar.

Although Francis Buckle had been successful before my arrival, Cliff Tack and I fared badly during the hour or so we searched BISON HILL, WHIPSNADE (BEDS) - just 75 Fieldfare, 18 Redwing and 3 Mistle Thrush being noted. The IVINGHOE HILLS were equally poor, with naff visibility and nothing of note to be seen (just lots of hillwalkers, dogwalkers and children on holiday).

Joined up with Peter Brazier at WILSTONE RESERVOIR (TRING) where 44 hirundines were in attendance - including 8 BARN SWALLOWS, 3 HOUSE MARTINS and 33 SAND MARTINS - a major arrival of birds. Also new in was a nice male NORTHERN WHEATEAR on the Jetty, loosely associating with Pied Wagtails.

Once again I dipped the Mandarin pair (SR had seen them at least twice prior to my arrival) but lingering wildfowl included 4 Mute Swans, 6 Gadwall, 72 Shoveler, 87 Wigeon, 4 Teal, 6 Pochard, 117 Tufted Duck and a single female COMMON GOLDENEYE. The drake Ring-necked Duck/Lesser Scaup hybrid was still present too, diving with Tufted Ducks not far off of the jetty.

In ASTON CLINTON (BUCKS), Rookeries were noted at SP 870 120 (4 active nests) and SP 865 115 (9 nests), whilst WESTON TURVILLE RESERVOIR produced nothing more than 3 SAND MARTINS and a singing Common Chiffchaff.

COLLEGE LAKE BBOWT had not improved on recent days, although the OYSTERCATCHER pair were back (on the westernmost island), COMMON REDSHANKS had increased to 10 and the bachelor male COMMON SHELDUCK was still resident.

More expected fare included 17 Mute Swans (1 first-summer), 6 Greylag Geese (3 pairs), 6 Gadwall, 4 Shoveler, just 8 Wigeon, a single Little Grebe, 34 Coot, 3 Common Snipe, 8 Lapwing and 18 Linnets.

MARSWORTH RESERVOIR (TRING) was fairly productive, yielding my first local LITTLE EGRET and CETTI'S WARBLER of the year, with 3 different singing male Common Chiffchaffs (1 in the wood, 1 by the canal and 1 in a plantation in the Barn Owl Field), a singing male Mistle Thrush, 10 Great Crested Grebes, 4 WATER RAILS, 3 singing male Reed Buntings, 2 Sand Martins, 2 Barn Swallows over the Horse Fields, a singing male Goldcrest in the wood, 3 'new' Rook nests by Manor House Farm, 3 Mute Swans, 4 Fieldfares east and a constant procession of Common Gulls migrating east. The local pair of COMMON KINGFISHERS were continuing their excavations.

Both WATER PIPITS were again on STARTOP'S END RESERVOIR, whilst TRINGFORD RESERVOIR held all 6 RED-CRESTED POCHARDS and a staggering migratory flock of 430 FIELDFARES. The Rookery in the Wood was in great shape with 37 active nests being utilised.

I then returned for another look at WILSTONE, where SR was part-way through another 3-hour watch. Little was happening, although we did watch a COMMON TERN fly straight through (it headed high NNW after just a brief stay), a first-summer Argenteus Herring Gull, a displaying Lapwing and a Song Thrush. Once again, adult Lesser Black-backed Gulls have taken up residence in the area, causing mayhem amongst local breeders.

With visibility improving, I headed over to ELLESBOROUGH and explored this very underwatched area. A lot of Red Kites were soaring over Beacon Hill to the south, as well as 2 Common Buzzards, whilst the Juniper Valley on the NW slope (at SP 833 063) held 2 RING OUZELS - a nice male and female. This area also held Mistle Thrush, Song Thrush and 1 Redwing, whilst the tall trees west of the village church harboured 18 active Rook nests.

Driving back through east, the reservoirs were still unproductive, so I returned to BISON HILL for the evening. This time, with no dogwalkers around, the RING OUZELS were showing well - favouring the sheep field 450 yards east of the car park. Elsewhere, 2 Ring Ouzels were seen today at Quainton Hills, with the long-staying male still in Wing. A most productive week for this gorgeous migrant.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

A plethora of OUZELS

There's something very magical about RING OUZELS and the highlight of every spring is seeing so many of these beautiful birds passing through the Chiltern Hills. Today, although I walked miles, I saw loads of RING OUZELS, including some small groups of up to 6 birds. I couldn't resist photographing them all......

RING OUZELS pouring in


For the first time in what seems like ages, woke up this morning to rain. Not heavy rain but a constant drizzle - lasting for perhaps 2-3 hours. Coupled with this rain were SSE winds, an excellent combination for passage.......

And that was the theme of the day, with a lot more birds arriving in the region, including a few gems...

Steve Rodwell texted with a LITTLE GULL early doors but by the time I reached WILSTONE RESERVOIR (HERTS) at 0830 hours, it had already gone. Common Gull passage was being maintained though, with 31 through to the east in 15 minutes (that reminding me also of the adult Mediterranean Gull that roosted last night - per SR & DB). Most unexpected was a single HOUSE MARTIN flying around - my first of the year. Also 83 Shoveler still in attendance.

On nearby STARTOP'S END RESERVOIR, both WATER PIPITS were showing well, one much more advanced in plumage than the other. Also, a single passage Meadow Pipit, and a cracking male WHITE WAGTAIL commuting between the East Bank and the Horse Fields. Other migrants included 4 SAND MARTINS and a single BARN SWALLOW, whilst all 6 Red-crested Pochards were flying around, including a lone female with Mallards, with the pair of COMMON REDSHANK in display, 9 remaining Eurasian Wigeon, 2 Grey Wagtails, 4 Pied Wagtails and 4 Common Chiffchaffs in the West Hedgerow.

A male SISKIN flew over TRINGFORD RESERVOIR, where the single Great Crested Grebe remained and the Mute Swans were still nesting.

MARSWORTH RESERVOIR held a further pair of Mute Swans, with another on the Grand Union Canal near the car park, 8 Great Crested Grebes, a pair of Lesser Black-backed Gulls and the first COMMON TERN of the year (see pix). Small birds included Dunnock, Chaffinch and singing male Great Tit.

COLLEGE LAKE BBOWT was in fine fettle with the weather change with some of the waders back on territory, including 8 Common Redshanks. Three pairs of Lapwing were in attendance, plus 1 Common Snipe, whilst wildfowl included 13 Mute Swans, all 6 Greylag (3 separate pairs), 20 Wigeon, 4 Shoveler (2 pairs), 4 Gadwall, 66 Tufted Duck, 3 Pochard and 17 Coot. Migrant-wise quiet - just 2 SAND MARTINS.

Neighbouring PITSTONE QUARRY held a further 4 Common Redshanks (making it 14 in total) before I commenced a walk from ALDBURY NOWERS to the east end of GALLOWS HILL. Hard graft but migrant returns included 8 different RING OUZELS (1 female), 185 Fieldfares, 6 NORTHERN WHEATEARS, 80 Meadow Pipits and a number of Linnets; 4 COMMON RAVENS as well. A further male RING OUZEL was still south of ELLESBOROUGH at DEACON HILL.

BEDFORDSHIRE was then in my sights and producing birds (finds) at a healthy pace......

CASTLE MILLS GRAVEL WORKINGS, NE OF BEDFORD (and north of the new bypass) is in fabulous condition and proving a magnet for passage birds. This afternoon in an extensive exploration of the site I had a beautiful full breeding-plumaged WATER PIPIT, two winter-plumaged SCANDINAVIAN ROCK PIPITS, 25 Meadow Pipits, 3 Pied Wagtails, a cracking male WHITE WAGTAIL, 3 DUNLIN, 4 Common Redshank, 2 Ringed Plover, pair of Oystercatcher, Little Egret, 3 Common Shelduck, 8 Teal, 6 Gadwall and Common Kingfisher. The pipits were favouring the NW end of the workings - perhaps 100 yards west of the skip and red-and-white flag - but were typically mobile and elusive.

Whilst working out my next move, Richard Bashford 'phoned to say that he had a SPOTTED REDSHANK at GYPSY LANE EAST, BROOM GP. Within 18 minutes I had joined him and for the next half hour or more, we enjoyed some nice views of it and heard it calling on at least five occasions. I obtained quite a few record shots (see above). There had been a noticeable increase in wader arrivals with 5 DUNLINS feeding together on the West Scrapes, 6 LITTLE RINGED PLOVERS, 10 Ringed Plovers, 4 Common Redshanks and 4 Common Shelducks.

At BROGBOROUGH LAKE, an adult LITTLE GULL in full breeding plumage was on view from the Watchpoint, as well as the 6 GREATER SCAUPS and 23 Common Goldeneye. The winter-plumaged SLAVONIAN GREBE was still at the west end, with the adult in all of its summer glory still on ROOKERY PIT NORTH at STEWARTBY.

An evening visit to PEGSDON HILLS added yet more RING OUZELS to the day tally, with a male NORTHERN WHEATEAR on Deacon Hill, 40 Meadow Pipits, 120 Fieldfares and 4 Red Kites.

Sunday, 7 April 2013



Easterly wind made a resurgence today, bringing back cooler conditions. Nevertheless, still pleasant birding wise, with dry, bright conditions prevailing.

SPADE OAK GRAVEL PIT (MARLOW) proved quiet for me, with no hirundines or waders to speak of, just single OYSTERCATCHER, 15 Common Snipe and a Common Kingfisher.

Picked up on news of a stunning male RING OUZEL just 8 miles north of Tring at WING. The bird was favouring an area of common land just south of the village at SP 885 225 - mainly to the west of the plantation. Mike Campbell and I obtained some excellent views of it this evening, the bird loosely associating with 2 Mistle Thrushes, 2 Redwings, a Song Thrush and 5 Common Blackbirds (see my pix above).

At THE RESERVOIRS, my best offering was 40 Redwings at Wilstone

Earlier, Dave B and Steve had a SCANDINAVIAN ROCK PIPIT briefly, with 2 Sand Martins over

College Lake produced the first Barn Swallow of the year today