Tuesday, 15 April 2014
TUESDAY 15 APRIL
Still a cool wind blowing but in sheltered areas, feeling pleasantly warm in the wall-to-wall sunshine
It was another day spent locally with the addition of just one new 2014 species for me in the end - COMMON WHITETHROAT....
I started off at CROXLEY COMMON MOOR (HERTS) in the hope of Cuckoo or Common Whitethroat but it was hard going with very few migrants present. A pair of GREY WAGTAILS was busy building a nest beneath the canal bridge, while a singing male WILLOW WARBLER, 5 Blackcap and 3 Common Chiffchaff were the only migrants of note. More regular species encountered included Mute Swan, 6 Canada Geese, Moorhen, Lesser Black-backed Gull (pair), Mallard, Wren, Robin (4), Common Blackbird, Dunnock, Greenfinch (4), Magpie, Carrion Crow (3), Common Buzzard, Great Tit, House Sparrow (3), Common Starling (16), Long-tailed Tit (pair), Goldfinch, Collared Dove, Jay and Stock Dove (2).
STOCKER'S FARM FLOOD was a distinct improvement with 3 beautiful male YELLOW WAGTAILS feeding along the shallow edge of the pool and a pair of EGYPTIAN GEESE guarding 6 goslings. Other wildfowl included 10 Canada Geese, 4 Mallard, 2 pairs of Gadwall and a drake Shoveler, with a pair of Coot and 2 pairs of displaying Lapwing. Hirundines included 4 Barn Swallows and a Sand Martin, with 8 House Sparrow, 12 Common Starling, 2 Ring-necked Parakeet, Dunnock and 6 Pied Wagtail also noteworthy.
Over at WEST HYDE, CORN BUNTING numbers had increased to 4, along with 8 Skylark in the cereal crops. A lot of Small Tortoiseshell butterflies too.
At WATER END, the Rookery held 25 active nests and a male Blackcap was singing, with a pair of Barn Swallow at LOWER GADE FARM south of DAGNALL.
Thanks to Ian Williams, I soon located the first of two singing male COMMON WHITETHROATS along the DRY CANAL at WILSTONE - the first of the year for me. This walk also produced a male Blackcap, a male Yellowhammer, Wren, Chaffinch and Goldfinch as well as a host of butterflies including 8 Brimstone, 2 Orange Tip, Small White and 5 Small Tortoiseshell. Once again, I failed in my quest to locate the Little Owl at Miswell Farm - my 5th attempt in recent weeks.
A major surprise in DRAYTON BEAUCHAMP HAMLET was a cracking male BRAMBLING having a drink in a roadside puddle - presumably a migrant on its way east. A few Greenfinch were also about, as well as 6 Jackdaw, Dunnock and Wren.
On MARSWORTH RESERVOIR (TRING), CETTI'S WARBLERS had now increased to 3 singing birds, with a second singing SEDGE WARBLER in the reedbed at the east (Bucks) end. Otherwise, 3 Blackcap, Song Thrush and 1 Common Chiffchaff, with a female Mallard with 9 ducklings, the Greylag Goose pair, 2 Great Crested Grebe, an increase to 10 Coot, 8 Common Tern, the 1 Mute Swan, Grey Heron and a pair of Lesser Black-backed Gulls.
STARTOP'S END RESERVOIR yielded 4 Great Crested Grebe, 37 Tufted Duck, 6 Mute Swans (including '4ABK', the drake Red-crested Pochard, Common Redshank, 2 Common Terns, a flyover Oystercatcher, Green Woodpecker, Grey Wagtail, 4+ Barn Swallow, Common Buzzard, a pair of Long-tailed Tits and a male Reed Bunting. Highlight was a male YELLOW WAGTAIL in the second horse paddock north of the reservoir.
Little to add from TRINGFORD RESERVOIR other than 4 Great Crested Grebe, nesting Mute Swan, 38 Tufted Duck and 23 active Rook nests.
COLLEGE LAKE BBOWT was also very quiet with waders represented by Lapwing (6 pairs), Common Redshank (4+ pairs) and Oystercatcher (1 pair) and migrants by 2+ Blackcap and 2 singing male WILLOW WARBLERS. As at the reservoirs, a worrying number of paired up Lesser Black-backed Gulls (seems to be a pair on Wilstone, Startop's, Marsworth & College).
PITSTONE QUARRY is still looking in excellent condition and today housed a Great Crested Grebe, 4 Little Grebe, nesting Canada Geese, 6 Tufted Duck, 6 Coot and 6 Moorhen, with a pair of Common Redshank and male Pied Wagtail on the mud and singing Common Chiffchaff and Blackcap in the wood.
DEEP MILL LANE POND supported 2 Little Grebe and two family parties of Coot (both with 5 young apiece), with LITTLE MISSENDEN WATER MEADOWS harbouring a pair of Gadwall and Grey Heron, with Barn Swallow and 5 House Sparrow nearby.
At SHARDELOES LAKE, another pair of Lesser Black-backed Gulls was in residence. Nothing new to shout about but all 3 Mute Swans, 44+ Canada Geese, 5 pairs of Gadwall, 28 Tufted Duck, a female Northern Pochard, 1 of the Great Crested Grebes, 10 Little Grebes and 38 Coot, 11 nests of the latter now being occupied. A single Grey Heron was on the island, with Jay, Common Chiffchaff and Blackcap completing the list
Wednesday, 9 April 2014
WEDNESDAY 09 APRIL
The day started with an overnight frost and clear skies. Temperatures soon recovered though and by afternoon it was pleasantly warm, the light SW wind pushing temperatures up to around 14 degrees C.
It was around 1730 hours that I finally managed to get out to do some birding and with Chris Pontin finding 1-2 Willow Warblers at CHESHAM FISHING LAKES, that's where I headed. As it was, the skies had clouded somewhat and the temperature had dropped - there being no sign of the immigrant warblers, just a single singing Common Chiffchaff and 5 Blackcaps. Barn Swallow numbers had increased though (to eight) while also new in were 2 HOUSE MARTINS and a single SAND MARTIN - both species new to the Recording Area List this year.
A pair of Atlantic Canada Geese was nesting on the island but both Great Crested Grebes were on the water suggesting that they may have abandoned their first attempt. A total of 31 Tufted Ducks was a good count, with 8 Coot noted (one pair nesting) as well as 3 Grey Heron (the Pow Wow pair chasing away an intruder), Red Kite, Collared Dove, Jackdaw, Wren (4), Common Blackbird (4) and Common Starling (5). A male Mistle Thrush was singing from the top of the Poplar trees.
Part of the 31-strong flock of Tufted Duck present
I suddenly heard the loud cries of Lesser Black-backed Gulls and upon looking up, realised that they were mobbing an OSPREY and I shouted to Chris (who was now with me, intent on showing me the Willow Warblers) to try and keep on it while I attempted to photograph it. The two gulls chased it overhead but rather than just flying away, the Osprey circled around numerous times in an attempt to fish the lakes. It was under observation from 1810-1820 hours and unlike the College Lake Osprey I found last week, was flying at treetop height rather than many hundreds of feet high in the sky enabling me to get some form of record shots. Still with gulls in tow, the bird eventually flew off purposefully towards Chesham. Although I have seen numerous Ospreys in the Chess Valley over the years, this was the first I had ever seen at the fishing lakes. Ospreys had featured heavily in the region today with singles at Tyttenhanger, Amwell and Maple Cross, the latter just half an hour earlier probably the same individual.
I then decided to drive over to KINGS LANGLEY, where Ephraim Perfect had discovered a singing CETTI'S WARBLER - the first record for the area. Hemel birder Dan Forder very kindly helped out with detailed directions (see map below) and from 1900-1945 hours, the bird was singing and occasionally showing every five minutes or so. It was frequenting an area of overhanging vegetation on the west shore of the Grand Union Canal parallel with the fishing lakes, to the north of the fallen Poplar and ranging some 70 yard stretch of canal bank.
I was pleasantly surprised by the diversity of birdlife present in this fairly restricted area of south Hemel (actually NASH MILLS District) with Mute Swan, Tufted Duck (21), Great Crested Grebe (pair), Moorhen and Coot (10) on the main lake and Magpie (pair), Song Thrush (2), Greenfinch (4), Chaffinch (5) and Common Starling in the parkland surrounding. In addition to the 4 singing Blackcaps in the scrub bordering the canal were a singing male WILLOW WARBLER and Common Chiffchaff
Sunday, 6 April 2014
To see a fully illustrated version of this blog post, click here :-
FRIDAY 04 APRIL
A rather grey and overcast day with a switch to SW winds and temperatures no higher than 12 degrees C.
First thing, I returned to WEST HYDE and PUBLIC BRIDLEWAY NUMBER 4 and this time was lucky. A single male CORN BUNTING was jangling from the fenceline no further than 200 yards along and was showing very well, occasionally darting off into the cereal crop to sing and cajole with Skylarks. This is the ONLY site for Corn Bunting within the area - last year the site yielding 3 males.
At least 8 Skylarks were seen, as well as 2 Meadow Pipits, Carrion Crow, 2 Wren, Chaffinch, Common Blackbird and Dunnock, while 44 Black-headed Gulls were following the plough again and a Herring Gull flew over.
In WELWYN GARDEN CITY, the male LESSER SPOTTED WOODPECKER was visiting the nest-site again - the immediate area also yielding 4 Nuthatch, Green Woodpecker, Common Starling, Collared Dove, Woodpigeon (10), Blue Tit (a lot of displaying), Dunnock, Coal Tit, Common Blackbird and a singing male Blackcap.
Along the NORTH ORBITAL ROAD east of the main ST ALBANS roundabout, 8 active Rook nests.
Late morning saw me at COLLEGE LAKE BBOWT where some 20 minutes previous, a party of 10 COMMON SCOTER had dropped in on the main lake. They were still showing well when I arrived and I was able to take a number of photographs from the Octagon Hide. The flock consisted of 7 drakes and 3 females and is the largest flock in the Tring area for a number of years.
As is often the case in SW winds, raptors were on the move and in the space of an hour, an immature female MARSH HARRIER, OSPREY Red Kite and male Sparrowhawk all drifted over the reserve, all heading high and tracking ENE. A pair of LITTLE RINGED PLOVER were also showing well in front of the hide, the marsh also producing Little Grebe, 3 Mute Swans, 4 Wigeon, 6 Gadwall, a pair of Teal, 6 Shoveler, 52 Tufted Duck, 8 Coot, a pair of Greylag Geese and 24 Atlantic Canada Geese. Waders were represented by Lapwing (6 pairs), Common Redshank (4+ pairs), Oystercatcher (1 pair) and 3 Common Snipe. The larger lake added Cormorant, the Common Shelduch pair, 2 Lesser Black-backed Gulls and 22 Black-headed Gulls, while 2 Common Magpie, Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Reed Bunting, Linnet and Great Tit were also seen. A male WILLOW WARBLER was singing from scrub on the west side and at least one male Common Chiffchaff was heard.
At MARSWORTH RESERVOIR (TRING), the first BLACKCAPS were back and belting their hearts out. Two male Common Chiffchaff were in the Black Poplars, with Robin, Wren, Blue Tit (2) and Goldfinch in the wood. The CETTI'S WARBLER was still bursting into song every 15 minutes not far from the sluice while waterbirds present included 2 Mute Swan, 4 Great Crested Grebe, a pair of Gadwall, 4 Greylag Geese and 4 Atlantic Canada Geese.
STARTOP'S END RESERVOIR seemingly attracted the most action with a flock of over 140 hirundines containing 120+ Sand Martin and up to 20 BARN SWALLOWS and a first-summer LITTLE GULL arriving in the evening and staying until dusk (see pix). Up to 11 mainly first-year Black-headed Gulls were present, along with 3 Mute Swans, 4 Great Crested Grebe (1 pair nesting on the artificial bunds), 2 Greylag Geese, 74 Tufted Duck and 2 Lesser Black-backed Gulls, while College Lake's OYSTERCATCHER pair flew over heading towards Wilstone late on.
WILSTONE RESERVOIR itself was fairly quiet with 6 Great Crested Grebe, 3 Little Grebe, 4 Greylag Geese, 52 Coot, 11 Gadwall, 78 Tufted Duck, 1 Wigeon, 6 Teal and 3 Pochard noted, a Wren singing by the car park, Red Kite, a male Sparrowhawk in full display over the Poplars and 17 SAND MARTIN.
A quick census of DRAYTON BEAUCHAMP revealed the presence of Common Pheasant, Robin (5), Greenfinch (singing male), Chaffinch (3), Wren, Blue Tit, Woodpigeon, Common Starling, Common Blackbird, Jackdaw (4) and Goldfinch.
Failed in my quest to see/hear Ian Bennell's Firecrest in CHIPPERFIELD VILLAGE - a male Greenfinch being the highlight there - while at nearby BOVINGDON BRICKPITS, species of note included BLACKCAP (singing male), BULLFINCH (pair), Nuthatch, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Linnet, Song Thrush and 2 Common Chiffchaff.
The VENUS HILL (HOGPITS BOTTOM) ROOKERY near FLAUNDEN held 30 active nests and a Red Kite overhead, FLAUNDEN VILLEGE itself harbouring at least 28 House Sparrows, 2 Collared Dove, Robin, Blackbird, Chaffinch and Dunnock.
IVINGHOE BEACON was pretty much devoid of migrants and activity other than a male RING OUZEL on the north side of GALLOWS HILL (favouring the 'new' meadow), a Common Buzzard and Red Kite roosting in bushes on the slope above the sheepfield, a few Skylark, Common Kestrel, just 1 singing Common Chiffchaff and a male Song Thrush.
SATURDAY 5 APRIL
Another grey day with temperatures pegged back by the dreary conditions.
A male BLACKCAP by CHAFFINCH HOUSE was the first in the village this year, whilst a pair of MANDARIN DUCK flew across the A40 in the vicinity of BAKER'S WOOD not far from Denham.
A pair of BARN SWALLOWS was by LITTLE TRING FARM as I drove towards WILSTONE RESERVOIR, where with Steve Rodwell I recorded my first 2 COMMON TERNS of the year - conveniently sat on the bunds in front of the car park steps. A large hirundine flock was high in the sky consisting mainly of SAND MARTIN (100+) but also at least 20 BARN SWALLOWS. A Common Chiffchaff was singing from trees just right of the car park and the 2 Common Magpies were loitering about the car park again.
PITSTONE INDUSTRIAL ESTATE SCRAPES provided me with a site first - the 2 COMMON SHELDUCK from College Lake; also a single LITTLE RINGED PLOVER was present but no sign of the Northern Wheatear that Dave Bilcock had seen earlier in the day. A Linnet and 2 male Pied Wagtails were also noted.
Driving west out of Aylesbury on the A418 towards Oxford, the following Rookeries were counted: 21 active nests at HARTWELL (just east of the Bugle Horn pub), 38 east of THAME at SCOTSGROVE HOUSE and 53 in TIDDINGTON VILLAGE. A further 42 nests was counted from the A40 EYNSHAM ROUNDABOUT ROOKERY.
Arriving at FARMOOR 1 RESERVOIR in OXFORDSHIRE at 1920 hours, I was relieved to find the adult summer RED-NECKED GREBE still showing well along the SW shore. And what a bird it was - absolutely gorgeous. As dusk rapidly approached, it swam very close to shore and was pecking phalarope-like on insect prey on the water's surface.
A further 15 active Rook nests were counted from OAKENHOLT HOUSE, near FARMOOR.
SUNDAY 6 APRIL
Although constantly drizzling, I entered PENN WOODLAND TRUST RESERVE at 1730 hours. A typical spread of woodland species was encountered including Wren, Song Thrush (5 singing males), Goldcrest (3 singing males), Common Blackbird, Coal Tit (2), Common Chiffchaff (2 singing), Great Spotted Woodpecker, Jay, 2 male BLACKCAP, Red Kite, Nuthatch, Bullfinch (pair) and Chaffinch but there was no sight nor sound of the recent Firecrests along the avenue of firs.
At 1825 hours, the first flock of BRAMBLING arrived to pre-roost (30 birds), and following their wheezing, nasal sounds, I was able to track their position in some tall Beech trees just over 100 yards east of the new gate close to the Penna. Over the next half hour, further birds started to stream in, with the trees being full of a cacophony of sound. Although difficult to be accurate, a bare minimum 312 individuals flew into the trees pre-roost, many immediately starting to feed on the Beech seeds. By 1900 hours, the vast majority had dropped into the Rhododendron scrub to roost - a fantastic experience
Friday, 4 April 2014
THURSDAY 03 APRIL
The fine weather continues, as does the falling of dust from the Saharan Desert, with temperatures peaking at 18 degrees C when the sun broke through, with a light easterly breeze blowing......
A day of mostly Local Birding.....
At BOIS MILL POND (CHESS VALLEY), 3 Tufted Ducks and 10 Atlantic Canada Geese, while in NORTHALL VILLAGE near EATON BRAY, several Common Starlings on territory, 8 Collared Doves and 28 Jackdaws.
Trying once again for Christine's 3 Corn Buntings, BRIDLEWAY No.4 at WEST HYDE yielded 4 Linnet, 6 Skylark, Meadow Pipit, 2 Wren, Common Blackbird and a host of early spring butterflies (mainly Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell & Brimstone) but again no janglers.
A male Linnet
The garden of CORNER HALL held 16 Fan-tailed Doves, 5 House Sparrows and 2 Common Starling, while a farmer ploughing his field attracted in a Red Kite and 70 Black-headed Gulls.
Corner Hall and its Fan-tailed Dove residents
Nearby, LYNSTERS LAKE held 32 Mute Swan, 26 Coot, 4 Great Crested Grebe and a singing Common Chiffchaff, with LYNSTERS FARM FIELD adding 27 Canada Geese, 6 Greylag and 7 Egyptian Geese.
Late afternoon, I spent some 90 minutes photographing a pair of LESSER SPOTTED WOODPECKERS at a nest hole, the second such opportunity this past week. It has been a remarkable year for this species with birds/pairs being reported from a large variety of locations. The same site also hosted Nuthatch, Coal Tit, Sparrowhawk and Common Buzzard.
The nesting tree
Back at CHESHAM FISHING LAKES and the first pair of BARN SWALLOWS had arrived, hawking back and forth over the larger of the two lakes. Also Kingfisher, Grey Wagtail, Greenfinch and singing Song Thrush noted, with the arrival of at least 4 singing male BLACKCAPS. Just a single Common Chiffchaff singing this evening and otherwise, the Great Crested Grebe pair (now nesting), 13 Tufted Duck, Dunnock, Wren, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Great Tit and Common Starling. On neighbouring POW WOW LAKE, the pair of GREY HERON are nesting again, with a single Mute Swan present and another singing male BLACKCAP.
Plenty of Blackcaps now around
Great Crested Grebes nesting on the island
At CHESHAM MOOR (WATERSIDE), the Mute Swans were nesting, while at BURY LAKE I was very disappointed to see that the LAPWING FIELD had been ploughed; two pairs of very forlorn adults were standing around. The first-summer Mute Swan was still present, along with 6 Canada Geese, 4 Coot and another singing male BLACKCAP; 27 Rabbits grazing too.
Continuing further down PEDNOR ROAD, I was pleased to see that the Rookeries were now in full swing, with the SEAR'S FARM colony now numbering 19 active nests and that closer to the road near PEDNOR VALE FARM a further 7. Lots and lots of Red Kite activity with 12 in the air together.
The Sear's Farm Rookery...
...and this new one much closer to the Pednor Road
Common Starling on territory
In LOWNDES PARK, a singing male Coal Tit was a first there, with Pied Wagtail, 2 Rook, Chaffinch and 26 Jackdaw furthering the list. The male Mute Swan was still present, with a Canada Goose active nest on the island and the Chess Valley vagrant GREYLAG GOOSE paired up with a Canada!
It's feeding time in the park
The cob Mute Swan still present
one of the Muscovites was taken by a Fox!
and this new 'concoction' has arrived
Atlantic Canada Goose on nest
and our Greylag now thinks it is a Canada
certainly an odd couple
Red Kites all over the place at the moment