FRIDAY 26 MARCH
During the morning, the wind was mainly SW with temperatures reaching 11 degrees C, but as the day progressed, it swung round to the NW pegging temperatures back down to 8 degrees. It also brought with it some hefty rain showers.
Today was my first real opportunity to catch up with some local birding and with this in mind I targeted the many migrants now flooding in to the country and immediate Three Counties area. Most peculiar was the complete lack of hirundines today. The highlight was a superb adult male RING OUZEL and a very dapper WATER PIPIT.
CHURCH WOOD RSPB, HEDGERLEY (SOUTH BUCKS)
There was no sign this morning of the Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers but I did see 3 Great Spotted Woodpeckers and a single Green Woodpecker. There was much drumming activity going on.
Common Treecreepers and Nuthatches were both vocalising again, whilst 2 male Coal Tits were in song, a male Song Thrush and 5 different male Chaffinches.
Once again, I failed to locate the Northern Goshawks nearby.
SPADE OAK GRAVEL PIT, LITTLE MARLOW (SOUTH BUCKS)
I carried out a full inventory of the site and walked the entire circuit of the lake. Three species were new to my Bucks Year List - LITTLE RINGED PLOVER, Common Chiffchaff and WILLOW WARBLER. A total of 44 species was noted.
Great Crested Grebe (10 present, mostly all paired up)
Continental Cormorant (25 active nests on the island, many in one tree)
Grey Heron (14 nests on the main island and another 5 on the small island just 45 yards out from the west bank)
Mute Swan (3)
Greylag Goose (15)
Atlantic Canada Goose (22)
COMMON SHELDUCK (2 pairs roosting on the spit)
EGYPTIAN GOOSE (12 present and much display and territorial behaviour being acted out)
Northern Shoveler (17)
Eurasian Wigeon (32 lingering)
Common Teal (8)
Tufted Duck (14)
Red Kite (3 overhead)
Lapwing (14 on the spit)
LITTLE RINGED PLOVER (my first of the year showing well on the nearside of the spit - 224)
Black-headed Gull (48)
Common Gull (78 including two second-winters showing characteristics similar to those shown by a popular bird in Leicestershire)
Argenteus Herring Gull (24 including 1 summer adult, 3 second-years and 20 juveniles)
Lesser Black-backed Gull (3 adults)
Woodpigeon (16, already nesting)
Ring-necked Parakeet (2 in Poplars)
Great Spotted Woodpecker (1 in garden)
Pied Wagtail (pair on spit)
Wren (8 territories)
European Robin (several already pair-bonded with 12 noted in total)
REDWING (single migrant in bushes at east end)
Common Blackbird (5)
COMMON CHIFFCHAFF (2 singing males in NW corner and two migrants in Railway Hedgerow)
WILLOW WARBLER (my first of the year - a singing male in the SE corner - 225)
Great Tit (3)
Blue Tit (7)
Long-tailed Tit (5)
Common Treecreeper (singing male in wood on north bank)
Common Magpie (pair building nest)
Jackdaw, Carrion Crow and Rook (all noted flying overhead)
Chaffinch (6 singing males)
BLOWS DOWNS (BEDFORDSHIRE)
(early afternoon) A cracking adult male RING OUZEL, found shortly after dawn by Lol Carman, was still present, commuting between the grassy slope and scrub just west of the main pit and 45 yards from the gate. This is a fairly early date for a local bird and much earlier than average. My 226th species of the year. Frustratingly, I departed the site not knowing about the trio of Northern Wheatears present on the Paddock Slope - a species I have still to see in Beds this year.
OCTAGON FARM, WILLINGTON GP (BEDFORDSHIRE)
Following in Tony P, Lol and Bob's footsteps, I arrived at Octagon Farm at around 1330 hours. Recent rains had flooded much of the gravel car parking area and had created two fantastic scrapes 75 yards east of the main raised bank, attracting an excellent selection of birds. The star bird, and at my 5th attempt this year, was the long-staying and overwintering WATER PIPIT, now in its full summer finery, with grey head and nape, contrasting white supercilium and pinkish-buff upper breast. It was showing very well consorting with the alba wagtail flock and on one occasion, flew to the pool and bathed.
The Alba Wagtail flock numbered 31 birds, amongst them being a dapper male WHITE WAGTAIL - my first of the year (227) - as well as 4 Meadow Pipits and 2 adult male Reed Buntings. Despite the heavy rain shower, a charm of 6 Goldfinches flew in also to drink and bathe !
Waders present included 4 LITTLE RINGED PLOVERS and 6 RINGED PLOVERS (my first Beds birds of the year) and two Common Redshanks.
An adult male PEREGRINE was nearby
BROGBOROUGH LAKE (BEDFORDSHIRE)
Just after 1520 hours, a heavy rain shower pushed away to the east, allowing me to 'scope from the Watchpoint. Both long-staying juvenile GREAT NORTHERN DIVERS were still present and showing well (pushed up to the west end by windsurfers) as well as 8 lingering Common Goldeneye (including a first-year drake and an adult drake). My first Beds COMMON CHIFFCHAFF of the year was singing from the scrub.
LINFORD NATURE RESERVE (NORTH BUCKS)
Thanks to Simon Nichols and Paul Moon, I was able to add this year's first Buckinghamshire DUNLIN to my Year List - a winter-plumaged bird feeding with two Common Snipe on the first sections of the bund now starting to emerge as the water level drops significantly. Other migrants included a flock of 136 FIELDFARES.
On the breeding front, 13 active Grey Heron nests were now being utilised.................
WILSTONE RESERVOIR, TRING (HERTS)
Surprisingly devoid of any hirundines or migrants. Most impressive were the TUFTED DUCK numbers - 257 in all - the highest number this year. There were also 9 remaining Eurasian Wigeon, 18 Gadwall, 8 Common Teal, 16 Northern Shoveler and 29 Northern Pochard. Just 6 Great Crested Grebes were apparent, whilst 61 Greylag Geese were on the field east of the reservoir.
In the far distance over Northfield Road and Bulbourne were a flock of 107 EUROPEAN GOLDEN PLOVERS.
STARTOP'S END RESERVOIR, TRING (HERTS)
The adult drake RED-CRESTED POCHARD was busily dredging up weed from the bottom of the reservoir whilst other wildfowl present included a pair of Mute Swans (with 3 more on the adjacent canal), 2 Great Crested Grebes, 20 Tufted Duck and a drake Pochard.
No migrants were present but 2 Grey Wagtails and 43 Pied Wagtails roosted on the rafts.
PITSTONE QUARRY (HERTS)
Very deep with no muddy islands - 1 Great Crested Grebe, 6 Little Grebes and 5 Tufted Ducks present. Nothing nearby on the Pitstone Industrial Estate pools.