Friday, 28 November 2008
Very quiet around the reservoirs, a single female NORTHERN PINTAIL was on Wilstone otherwise little to report.
In the gull roost at Wilstone this evening ca.2000 Black-headed Gulls.
Monday, 24 November 2008
Drake Goosander moulting out of eclipse, Tringford Reservoir, Tring, 22 November (Dave Bilcock) - one of four birds that passed through that day.
David Bilcock recorded four GOOSANDERS on Saturday 22 November - an adult drake on Tringford and three 'redheads' on Wilstone Reservoir. All four birds stayed just briefly and were presumably associated with the cold, NE winds.
On Sunday 23 November, a COMMON SHELDUCK was present on Wilstone, along with 5 COMMON GOLDENEYES and a 3rd-winter YELLOW-LEGGED GULL briefly. Three HERRING GULLS were in the evening roost.
A juvenile ATLANTIC GREAT CORMORANT bearing a white darvic ring with green lettering roosted on Wilstone (all Dave Bilcock and Steve Rodwell)
Friday, 21 November 2008
Wednesday, 19 November 2008
A colder day, with a fresh westerly wind blowing bringing down the overall temperature. Dry throughout with the odd bright period.
Skirting around the Hunt's Green area, a raptor survey revealed the presence of 3 RED KITES, a Common Buzzard and a single male Common Kestrel.
Two RED KITES were over Long Meadow in Aylesbury with a third bird over the Tring Road; all at 1310.
BROUGHTON POOLS, AYLESBURY
Following a call from Mike Collard, I followed up a report of a drake American Wigeon or hybrid - as I expected, it related to an adult drake CHILOE WIGEON present at Wilstone Reservoir earlier in the month. Interestingly, this escaped bird was feeding alone on the closest bank of the first trout pool. At the back of the pool were 22 Eurasian Wigeons (14 drakes).
There were also 3 Grey Herons at the pools, a single fishing Cormorant and 3 Redwings in adjacent hedgerows.
WILSTONE RESERVOIR (birding with Peter Leigh)
Great Crested Grebe (16)
Little Grebe (3)
Mute Swans (15 adults)
WHOOPER SWANS (2 adults still)
Greylag Geese (94)
Eurasian Wigeon (332)
Common Teal (256)
Northern Shoveler (85)
Northern Pochard (59)
Tufted Duck (97)
RED-CRESTED POCHARD - adult female, straight out from car park
COMMON GOLDENEYE (3 females together in NW corner)
RUDDY DUCK (1 winter male)
EUROPEAN GOLDEN PLOVERS (243, most now roosting on the bund with the rise in water level)
Lesser Black-backed Gull (2 adults roosting)
LITTLE OWL (roosting out in the open in bush behind car park)
Pied Wagtails (2) Grey Wagtail (1)
Meadow Pipit - 1 in NW corner
REDWINGS - 25 in 'Overflow Hedgerow'
3 Great Crested Grebes, 13 roosting Sinensis Cormorants, 5 adult Mute Swans, 4 Gadwall and 4 Pochards.
Walking through Tringford Wood and then back along the canal towards Little Tring Farm yielded -:
COMMON TREECREEPER, Great Tit, Blue Tit (4), Long-tailed Tit (two parties totalling 12 birds), Wren, 5 Goldcrests, 15 Common Blackbirds (including 9 in isolated berry-bearing shrubs adjacent to the canal and 6 around Little Tring Farm and Manor House), 3 Redwings, 2 COMMON STONECHATS (a pair by the canal and horse paddocks), 7 Goldfinch, 3 European Robins and 25 Feral Pigeons (on the flour mill).
Tufted Duck (23), Pochard (7), Lesser Black-backed Gull (7), Common Gull (4) and Linnet (4)
DOWN FARM STUBBLE FIELDS
Black-headed Gulls (180)
Jackdaws - 373 click-counted; all feeding in the Kale field
Rooks - 122
Carrion Crows (20)
Stock Dove (7)
Common Starling (27)
Linnets (83 in flock - large reduction)
Meadow Pipit (1)
*COMMON STONECHAT - single male by Kale field opposite entrance to farm
STARTOP'S END RESERVOIR
Great Crested Grebe (26), Mute Swan (2 adults with 1 first-winter), Tufted Duck (63)
MARSWORTH RESERVOIR (1515 until dusk) (with Peter Leigh)
**SHOVELERS - 166 in feeding frenzy including a large gathering of 50+ birds that were all 'shovelling' together in one tight mass. Extremely entertaining to watch.
Great Crested Grebe (9)
Tufted Duck (4)
WATER RAIL (2 squealing)
Little Grebe (1 fishing in the new cut)
Fieldfare (6 over)
Common Gull (4 over)
Eurasian Sparrowhawk (hunting near dusk)
GREY WAGTAILS - communal roost at the edge of the reedbed involving 7 birds, a single male of which was extremely vocal as dusk approached.
Reed Bunting (3 roosted)
*CORN BUNTINGS - a total of 120 roosted. The first 45 arrived before 1530 hours, perched up high on the trees above the main causeway. These were followed by a single at 1540, 6 (1542), 9 (1544), 21 (1555), 10 (1557), 5 (1559), 10 (1601), 9 (1604) and the last 4 at 1609.
**COMMON STARLINGS (1,600+ roosted) A remarkable spectacle: the first flock of about 500 birds first started wheeling around at 1550 with smaller groups of up to 120 birds joining frequently from thenon. The flock gradually got larger and larger, with the usual acrobatics following. At around 1605 hours, one group of 650 birds broke away and flew towards us and went in with a loud 'whoosh' into the reeds just left of the new cut through. The sound was amazing. These birds then gradually moved from the left side of the cut to the right hand side, where there is more protection. The remaining 1,000 or so birds then roosted at the opposite end of the reservoir, in the smaller reedbed not far from the canal.
Saturday, 15 November 2008
STARTOP'S END RESERVOIR (with Ben Miller)
26 Great Crested Grebes, 2 adult Mute Swans, 63 Tufted Ducks and 2 RUDDY DUCKS.
(Much earlier, MW had seen a redhead GOOSANDER briefly)
TRINGFORD RESERVOIR (with Ben Miller)
Great Crested Grebes (3), Little Grebe (1), Grey Heron (12 roosting), Sinensis Cormorant (18), Mute Swans (4 adults), Common Teal (3), Tufted Duck (12), Pochard (4) and an adult Lesser Black-backed Gull. The undoubted highlight was a group of 6 MANDARIN DUCKS (5 drakes and a single female) by the overhanging trees and vegetation in the SW corner.
(Earlier, Dave Bilcock had seen and photographed 5 drake RED-CRESTED POCHARDS - see top image - but they had clearly gone).
MARSWORTH RESERVOIR (with Ben Miller)
Great Crested Grebe (3), Little Grebe (1) and Mute Swan (2 adults and a first-winter)
Great Crested Grebe (16), Little Grebe (3), Grey Heron (5 - making a total of 17 overall), Mute Swans (just 10 adults), WHOOPER SWAN (both adults by hide), Eurasian Wigeon (311+), Common Teal (235+), Gadwall (16), Northern Shoveler (158), Tufted Duck (127+), Northern Pochard (56), RED-CRESTED POCHARD (dark-billed female-type by central spit), GOOSANDER (redhead still roosting between new overflow and Drayton Bank - see images above taken by Francis Buckle - with possibility of second redhead seen), Coot (300), Lapwing (458), EUROPEAN GOLDEN PLOVER (302), Common Snipe (6+ - note that 26 were seen on 14th), and DUNLIN (on remaining islands - SR et al).
Little Grebe (7), Tufted Duck (25), Pochard (6), COMMON GULL (18, including 17 adults and a first-winter) and Lesser Black-backed Gull (6 adults).
Most intriguing was the presence of 27 Carrion Crows feeding on the mud; also 4 Magpies.
Thursday, 13 November 2008
A return to damp, dismal and very grey conditions, with persistent and steady rain from mid-afternoon
Highlight today was an exceptional gathering of NORTHERN SHOVELER and my first Tring GOOSANDER of the year
Two Moorhens in the pool by the railway bridge
Long Marston (Cricket Club Fields)
Woodpigeons (72 on wires just NE of the Wingrave Road roundabout)
Startop's End Reservoir
Great Crested Grebes (28), Mute Swans (3 - 1 first-winter), Mallard (8), Shoveler (1), Tufted Duck (65), Pochard (11), Coot (68), Common Gull (1 adult), Common Blackbird (4) and Goldcrest (3).
Great Crested Grebe (2), Grey Heron (12 roosting in trees), Mute Swans (3 adults), Tufted Duck (8) and Coot (34)
Great Crested Grebe (6 including two first-winters), Mallard (18), COMMON KINGFISHER, Redwing (1 over), Wren and CETTI'S WARBLER (still near overflow)
Highlight was a staggering feeding 'frenzy' of 197 NORTHERN SHOVELERS - the highest gathering of the year so far. They were all 'shovelling' around the algae bund 'balls'.
With recent heavy rain, the level has raised substantially and with it, large numbers of wildfowl.
Great Crested Grebe (16)
Sinensis Cormorants (high count of 51 roosting)
Mute Swan - just 9 adults
Greylag Geese (19)
Eurasian Wigeon (587+ - huge increase)
Common Teal (334+)
Gadwall (33 - large increase)
Northern Shoveler (22)
Tufted Duck (145)
Northern Pochard (96)
Ruddy Duck (1 winter drake)
**GOOSANDER - a single 'redhead' was roosting in the NW corner, easily visible from the hide or new overflow.
A total of 1,264 ducks was counted comprising of ten species
EUROPEAN GOLDEN PLOVERS (430)
Common Snipe (5)
COMMON GULLS (2 roosting on spit - an adult and first-winter)
Collared Dove - 3 on wires at Wilstone Great Farm
Common Starlings - 360 in fields NW of reservoir
BERRYFIELDS, just NW of AYLESBURY
Constant rain, very unsuitable weather for hunting owls and consequently none seen
Tim Watts and I watched the juvenile HEN HARRIER arrive from the east at 1605 hours and after a couple of passes at a male and female Common Pheasant in the long grass, it flew towards the far hedgerow and was lost in the gloom at 1608.
Jackdaws were flighting to roost all evening, with 222 too the SW by 1608, with 24 Rooks and the odd Carrion Crow mixed in with them; 2 Goldcrests moved west along the car park hedgerow.
Monday, 10 November 2008
G.C.Grebe 54 (22 S, 8 M, 6 T, 21 W),
Little Grebe 10 (2 S, 2 T, 6 W),
Cormorants 51 roosted Wilstone,
Mute Swan 33 (3 S, 1 C, 10 T, 19 W),
Greylag Goose 21 (2 C, 19 W),
Canada Goose 2 (1 C, 1 W),
Wigeon 400+ Wilstone,
Teal 272 (3 S, 5 T, 264 W),
Tufted Duck 195 (62 S, 1 M, 7 T, 125 W),
Shoveler 153 (1 T, 152 W),
Mallard 126 (16 S, 32 C, 15 M, 22 T, 41 W),
Pochard 99 (6 S, 93 W),
Gadwall 21 (12 T, 9 W),
Ruddy Duck 2 Wilstone,
Pintail 1 Wilstone,
Moorhen 82 (10 S, 3 M, 5 T, 64 W),
Coot 547 (55 S, 3 M, 6 T, 484minimum W),
Lapwing 379 W,
Golden Plover 400+ W,
Grey Wagatil 4 (2 S, 2 W),
Kingfisher 2 (1 S, 1 W),
Siskin 1 Startops.
W=Wilstone, S=Startops, M=Marsworth, T=Tringford, C=canal next to Startops
Two COMMON STONECHATS in field behind Tringford (between flour mill and pumping station).
81 Feral Pigeons flour mill.
Marsworth at dusk: Starling Roost, 1 Daubenton's Bat.
Wilstone Gull roost with Dave:2000+ B.h. Gull, 41 Common Gulls, 4 L.B.B. Gulls, 1 adult MEDITERRANEAN GULL
Earlier there was 1 2nd winter Herring Gull.
Friday, 7 November 2008
(A pleasant day, with light SW winds and much milder temperatures than of late)
(1200-1320 hours, with Adrian Conlon et al)
Great Crested Grebes (15)
Little Grebes (5)
Sinensis Cormorants (41)
Mute Swans (18) Interestingly, a family group of 9 birds - adult pair with 7 cygnets - flew around the reservoir at 1241 hours and then headed off east. Such a large family group is quite unusual and I cannot help thinking that it is the same family of 9 which originated from the Chess River Valley where I live and I last recorded two weeks ago. A first-winter was killed overnight (presumably by a Red Fox) with its remains adjacent to the isolated pool in the NW corner.
Greylag Geese: 18 including the sick juvenile
Eurasian Wigeon (332)
NORTHERN PINTAIL - an adult drake was showing well by the hide
Common Teal (235+)
Northern Shoveler (105)
Northern Pochard (71)
*COMMON GOLDENEYE - 2 females showing well favouring the North Bank by the car park
RUDDY DUCK (6 still)
Eurasian Coot (579)
EUROPEAN GOLDEN PLOVERS (404, but very flighty)
Common Snipes (3 roosting in front of hide)
Black-headed Gulls (154+)
Common Gull (1 adult)
Lesser Black-backed Gull (3 adults)
Common Pheasants (2 'Ring-necked' males in front of hide)
RED KITE - 1 over
Common Buzzard - 1 over
Meadow Pipits - 5 on North Bank
Grey Wagtails - 2 first-winters in front of hide
Common Chiffchaff - 1 by hide
Long-tailed Tits - two groups, one of 8 and 1 of 13
Just outside the recording area
BERRYFIELDS A41 SITE, NW of AYLESBURY
A record 37 observers was present at 1600 hours, all anticipating tonight's 'show'. First to perform, as usual, were the SHORT-EARED OWLS, with all three birds hunting widely across the fields for over half an hour.
At 1635 hours, I located the juvenile HEN HARRIER, once again appearing from the east and then flying across the road and to within 75 yards of the large, assembled crowd. Fantastic views were obtained, allowing me to fully explain and illustrate to others the intracacies of ageing ringtail harriers. The viewing lasted just over four minutes as at 1639, it dived down into the long grass and did not reappear.
A noisy flock of 17 Greylag Geese flew SW, 2 COMMON STONECHATS were seen, 3 Roe Deer, 27 FIELDFARES, 352 Common Starlings SE to roost and as dusk approached, a beautifully close BARN OWL.
Thursday, 6 November 2008
MARSWORTH RESERVOIR: 41 Shoveler, 1 Little Owl, 1 Water Rail, 17 Long-tailed Tits including several ringed birds (interestingly a similar number were around the back of my house, just over the Lower Icknield Way in Tring and not very far from the Tring Reses, which also included several ringed birds (perhaps the same birds?), and was a part of a larger tit flock around Lakeside, including 2 Coal Tits and 2 Nuthatches), several bats pm, including what I presume to be Daubenton's Bat (medium sized, flying low over the water).
WILSTONE RESERVOIR Gull Roost - large numbers of Black-headed Gulls, at least 1500, 13+ COMMON GULLS, 5 Lesser Black-backed Gulls, 1 adult HERRING GULL and 1 first-winter GREAT BLACK-BACKED GULL. Also 1 COMMON GOLDENEYE and 1 Little Owl
Tuesday, 4 November 2008
In the early hours of daylight, there was little wind, but as the day progressed, the cool NE airflow set in again. It remained grey and overcast all day, with poor visibility, and with temperatures peaking at 9 degrees Centigrade.
WILSTONE RESERVOIR (two visits today, one midday and the other 1320-1540 hours, the latter in part-company with Cliff Worrall and Leighton Buzzard-based birder Timothy Andrews)
Great Crested Grebe (22)
Little Grebe (7, including feeding group of 5)
Sinensis Cormorant (45 roosting in trees and on central spit)
Grey Heron (4)
A total of 1,022 birds involving 13 species
Mute Swans (20, including two first-winters)
**WHOOPER SWANS (the two regular adults remained but were briefly joined by two additional adults - both very wary - which touched down in the SE quarter visible from the hide. They remained until a huge black balloon disturbed them - and everything else on the reservoir - at 1340, when they flew off strongly east - Cliff Worrall, LGRE).
Greylag Geese (19)
Common Teal (277)
Eurasian Wigeon (316)
NORTHERN PINTAIL (2 adult drakes by central spit and female in SE quarter from hide)
Tufted Duck (122)
COMMON GOLDENEYE (1 female flew up from the isolated pool in the NW corner)
RUDDY DUCK (6 still present)
A huge rise in Golden Plover numbers and with 3 juvenile American Golden Plovers in Southern England, well worth keeping under close scrutiny
EUROPEAN GOLDEN PLOVER (massive increase with the roosting flock click-counted at an impressive 594 birds today)
Common Snipes (9)
Black-headed Gulls (77)
Common Gull (1 adult)
Lesser Black-backed Gulls (4 adults)
Eurasian Sparrowhawk (female over)
Woodpigeon (36 in isolated tree near car park, with 150+ in flight over fields to north as balloon passed over)
Collared Doves (8 on wires by Wilstone Great Farm)
Green Woodpecker (1 in Poplars near Drayton Bank Hide)
COMMON KINGFISHER (see and heard several times by new outflow)
Pied Wagtails (flock in NW corner feeding on large expanse of mud now increased to 14 birds)
Grey Wagtails (3 with the above)
Meadow Pipits (just 2 remaining on mud)
Mistle Thrush (1)
FIELDFARES (24 flew south at 1452)
Common Starlings (35)
*BRAMBLING (a superb winter male landed briefly in the tree adjacent to the new overflow. It nasally called a few times before flying off with a single Chaffinch - LGRE, Timothy Andrews).
STARTOP'S END RESERVOIR
29 Great Crested Grebes noted, 23 Cormorants in feeding flock, Little Grebe still, 2 Greylag Geese, 5 Common Teal, 44 Tufted Duck, 8 Pochard, 15 Long-tailed Tits (in and around the car park) and 9 FIELDFARE west.
6 Great Crested Grebes (including the 2 noisy late juveniles)
Northern Shovelers (8, 4 pairs)
CETTI'S WARBLERS (2 separate birds calling/exploding from the reedbed)
After receiving a call from Steve Rodwell informing me of a flock of 70 'grey' geese in fields near Wing, I drove the circuit north of the reservoirs embracing Long Marston, Wingrave and Cheddington searching for the flock. I searched all suitable farmland but to no avail. In my quest, I observed the following -:
A CHINESE WATER DEER south of Leighton Road, opposite Wingbury Farm and east of Wingrave, with a single RED KITE hunting farmland north of this road east of the farm.
A very pale Common Buzzard was perched at the top of a dead tree north of Crafton, with another CHINESE WATER DEER feeding on the grass verge SE of Mentmore Park Farm.
Driving through Cheddington village revealed the presence of 57 Common Starlings, 14 House Sparrows and 11 Collared Doves.
Walking in from College Farm, I then checked College Lake for the geese flock. I was impressed by the variety and number of ducks present.
Mute Swans (21 present including a first-winter)
Eurasian Wigeon (284)
Gadwall (117 - this is where they have all gone!)
NORTHERN PINTAIL (6 present - 4 drakes and 2 females)
Tufted Duck (41)
Pochard (2 drakes)
RED-CRESTED POCHARD (adult female with Wigeon)
*COMMON GOLDENEYE (2 females)
Eurasian Coot (46)
IVINGHOE HILLS NR
After being disturbed from here earlier by JT, I returned in the afternoon to do a more thorough search of the area. Surprisingly, it was much quieter than yesterday with far fewer thrushes to be found, in particularly Fieldfare. What was apparent was the large numbers of COMMON BLACKBIRDS in the murky, grey conditions, presumably mostly 'Continental' birds. Some 150 were in Top Scrub and Steps Hill, along with a small number of REDWINGS. Whilst scrambling about trying to locate a Ring Ouzel (MW had seen one earlier), I flushed 3 WOODCOCKS from dense cover in Top Scrub and the Bluebell Wood, whilst other migrants included 25 Goldcrests and 3 COMMON STONECHATS on the Sheep Field Fence. Five BULLFINCH were also noted.
DOWN FARM STUBBLE FIELDS
Spent time with the friendly owner of Down Farm enthusing about the large numbers of birds in his fields. Checking the last remaining crop field of maize, we flushed an almighty 3,700 Woodpigeons and 372 Common Starlings. He informed me that in the past few months he had killed just under 1,000 Woodpigeons (apparently they are a foreign delicasy, the supermarkets selling them for £2.20 per bird). I was mightily impressed by his knowledge of nature and his efforts to harbour wildlife on his farm and surrounding fields. He knew full well, for example, the differences between Woodpigeon and Stock Dove, even in flight). Very few small birds were encountered in the fields to the west of the road, apart from a few Yellowhammers and Chaffinches; a RED KITE scattered a flock of 75 Skylarks and just under 250 LINNETS.
GROVEBURY SAND QUARRY (BEDFORDSHIRE)
Just north of the county boundary at 1600 hours, I joined Johnny Lynch (the finder), Lol Carman and Bob Chalkley at Grovebury Sand Quarry. At the south end of the deep pit and just on the edge of several hundred roosting gulls, I located the erect shaggy-crested juvenile/female RED-BREASTED MERGANSER roll-preening with 2 Great Crested Grebes. Sitting body very low-in-the-water, this grey-plumaged bird differed from the rather similar Goosander in its slighter build, more rakish profile, much slimmer bill and less contrasting head. There was little contrast between the grey of the breast and the orange-brown of the upper neck, with just a thin dark line on the loral region (not a dense dark loral area) and an uptilted, pale pink, thin bill. On preening its wings, the forewing was dark rather than pale, with an obvious pure white secondary bar separated by a narrow blackish bar. The short crest was untidy and spiky.
The bird had previously been very mobile, working its way through the gull roost and diving almost constantly. John had initially discovered it at 1300 hours and it was still present as I left the site at 1630.
The pit held large numbers of birds including 3 COMMON GOLDENEYES (adult drake with two females), 22 Great Crested Grebes, 5 Eurasian Wigeon, 26 Tufted Ducks, 11 Pochards and 236 Lapwings. The gull roost contained at least 500 birds.
Another good morning, this perhaps the best Autumn I've had here.
Two WOODLARKS flew over together, 1 RING OUZEL, good numbers of Redwing, Fieldfare but the highlight was an invasion of Blackbirds, with many on the hills and others passing over all of the early morning.
Monday, 3 November 2008
Another cold and grey day with a brisk (and increasing) NE wind blowing. Mainly dry but with intermittent drizzle late afternoon.
Great Crested Grebe (20)
Little Grebe (6 including a group of 4)
Mute Swans (24 including the first-winter still)
WHOOPER SWANS (adult pair still, noisily calling on the central spit)
Greylag Geese (17)
Mallard (34) Gadwall (7) Eurasian Wigeon (263) Common Teal (297 click-counted)
Chiloe Wigeon - the escaped adult was still present with the Eurasian Wigeon. This species natively breeds in South America in southern Argentina and Chile, as well as on the Falkland Islands. It migrates north to winter in Paraquay, Uruquay and extreme southern Brazil (see photograph above, taken by Will Forrest).
NORTHERN PINTAIL (Just 1 female noted)
Northern Shoveler (148) Tufted Duck (117) Northern Pochard (72)
COMMON GOLDENEYE: the adult drake and single female were both still present
RUDDY DUCK (5)
Eurasian Coot (484) Moorhen (107)
EUROPEAN GOLDEN PLOVER (big increase overnight, with 303 birds click-counted on the mud
DUNLIN (just 1 remaining from Sunday and this bird too flew off south at 1215)
Common Snipes (14 roosting on the spit in front of the hide)
Lesser Black-backed Gull (5 adults roosted on the spit)
Collared Dove (1 at Wilstone Great farm)
Pied Wagtail (11 feeding on the mud in the NW corner)
Grey Wagtails (2)
Meadow Pipits (7 feeding on the mud and short vegetation in the NW corner)
European Robin (marked increase, with 9 in the surrounding hedgerow)
Common Blackbird (8 in the small wood between the Farm Shop and East Bank)
Song Thrush (male singing in the small wood)
Water birds included 7 Little Grebes, 14 Tufted Duck, 4 Pochards and 2 Eurasian Coot, whilst roosting gulls included 2 adult Commons, 5 adult Herrings and 16 adult Lesser Black-backeds.
IVINGHOE HILLS NR
Following 40 FIELDFARE feeding on berries on the sheltered west side of Beacon Hill, very large numbers of winter thrushes were recorded in 'Top Scrub' and the 'Copper Beech belt'. The flocks contained predominantly REDWING, with c600 counted, with 80 FIELDFARE, at least 50 Common Blackbird and 3 Song Thrushes also noted.
Two Green Woodpeckers were also recorded, with 170 Jackdaws in a nearby field.
Much FALLOW DEER activity, with some 70 animals encountered. Very quiet birdwise, with just Coal Tit of note. Sadly, a dead Badger was by the houses in New Road, Northchurch.
After a belt of very heavy rain passed over the region overnight, today dawned very still and misty. It remained very grey all day, with the NE wind picking up again in the afternoon. It also remained rather cold. These conditions resulted in an excellent day locally with the highlight being a juvenile GREY PLOVER and an impressive flock of DUNLIN
(1100-1400 hours, birding with SR, FB, MC, and others)
Great Crested Grebe (19)
Little Grebe (5)
Mute Swan (21 including the first-winter)
WHOOPER SWAN - both adults back on the main spit (2nd day)
Greylag Geese (15)
Eurasian Wigeon (250+)
*Chiloe Wigeon - an adult drake moulting out of eclipse was with 56 Eurasian Wigeon close to the Drayton Bank Hide and showing very well. It had first been seen on Saturday 1st (RH, SR, LGRE, FB, MC, et al).
Common Teal (298+)
Northern Shoveler (125+)
Northern Pochard (76)
Tufted Duck (105)
NORTHERN PINTAIL (2 adult drakes on spit)
RUDDY DUCK (5)
EUROPEAN GOLDEN PLOVERS (169)
A juvenile landed on the main spit from the jetty at 0930 hours (Ed Griffiths) and then quickly flew from there towards the hide. It was relocated at 1015 and then remained on view, mainly in the far right bay from the hide, until dusk (Mike Collard, Dave Hutchinson, LGRE, SR, FB, SW, RH, DB). It was 1100 hours when I first saw it, feeding on the far mud and viewed from the north bank. Mike Collard had very kindly informed me of the bird some 25 minutes earlier when its identification was unknown, I enjoyed much better views from the hide, where it could be seen to be obviously larger than the Golden Plovers, longer-legged, much greyer in plumage and heavier-billed. It had very beige, lightly streaked underparts, fading to white on the lower breast and undertail-coverts, with heavily notched and neatly spotted upperwing-coverts and similarly-patterned mantle feathers. It had a slightly darker area on the ear-coverts and a darker cap, with an ill-defined whitish eye-stripe and a noticeably heavy, all-dark bill. It fed typically plover-style on the mud, taking short, fast steps and deep pecks at the ground, similar in fashion to the Lapwings.
Later in the afternoon, it was seen in flight from the top of the car park steps, flying back and forth over the SE quarter. The black axillaries were diagnostic, as well as the bold white upper wing-bar and pure white rump and lightly barred uppertail. The long legs did not trail beyond the tail. I did not hear it call.
DUNLIN - 15 in total, the highest number recorded this year, with 3 from Saturday in with the Golden Plovers to the north of the hide and a 'new' flock of 12 which arrived mid-morning in the misty conditions.
Common Snipe (6)
It was a remarkable day for gull passage with the pre-roost Black-headed Gull flock containing a single first-winter MEDITERRANEAN GULL (SR), a total of 21 Herring Gulls either over or roosting on the spit (including 9 east at 1210) (SR, LGRE), 21 Common Gulls (SR) and 48 Lesser Black-backed Gulls (SR). Most impressive (and rare) were up to 5 GREAT BLACK-BACKED GULLS, including two adults, two first-winters and a third-winter bird (an adult and first-winter roosted on the spit for over two hours) (SR, LGRE, FB, RH).
At least 1 ROCK PIPIT was seen near the new overflow late afternoon (SR), whilst other species noted included COMMON KINGFISHER and a single YELLOWHAMMER west.
DAUBENTON'S BATS were seen at both Wilstone and Marsworth, as well as the regular female CHINESE WATER DEER (SR).
At Startop's Farm/Angler's Retreat garden, 31 HOUSE SPARROWS were counted.
PITSTONE HILL/DOWN FARM STUBBLE FIELDS (SP 960 145)
A large flock of LINNETS consisted of 204 birds (in stubble opposite Down Farm entrance), with 15 Goldfinch mixed in, with 537 Woodpigeons in the area and 273 Rooks.
On the Down Farm side, the stubble field there held 5 Yellowhammers, several Chaffinch, 125 Common Starlings and 175 Jackdaws
When Af's Snow buntings were flying over the Beacon I was walking along the footpath from Pitstone Hill car park to Incombe hole, if only they had headed West along Steps Hill I might have connected with them! Excellent record though Af, just shows what must go through undetected. Good numbers of Skylarks, Corn Buntings, Linnets and Yellowhammer were in the fields around Down farm and ca.300+ Woodpigeons.
2 Ravens in a search of the fields north of the Beacon.
This evening 2 Herring gulls were in the gull roost and 3 DUNLINS amongst the Lapwings at Wilstone.
I had 5 SNOW BUNTINGS flying north over Beacon Hill this morning at 9.10am. I initially heard one and looked up to see it fly over my head. I could then hear others calling, and got another 4 which the single bird then joined. The group flew low over the north side of Beacon Hill and headed for the road. Frustratingly, I didn't have my phone on me, and there was no one else around to share the sighting with. Also 1 male BLACKCAP, a pair of COMMON STONECHATS, and a reasonable flurry of Redwings, Fieldfares, and Woodpigeons. There were also a couple of Goldcrests flitting around so maybe worth a look in the scrubby area for something more unusual.
The second largest thrush movement that I have seen this Autumn , with good numbers of Redwing and Fieldfare over. Finches were the first birds on the move with a few more BRAMBLING trickling through and a single COMMON CROSSBILL was a real surprise, they're very rare up here. Later whilst watching some thrushes arrive, they suddenly scattered and a female MERLIN came ploughing into them from behind, I didn't see it take one as they all disappeared into the top scrub. A Grey Heron also passed over which are also unusual here.