TUESDAY 6 APRIL
A bright and breezy day with some warm spells of sunshine pushing temperatures up to 57 degrees F. Although the wind was initially SW, it veered during the day to a cooler SE.
It was an excellent day for incoming migrants, with good numbers of Osprey, Tree Pipit, Common Redstart, Common Tern, Garganey and Yellow Wagtails arriving, along with the odd male Pied Flycatcher and Common Cuckoo, as well as some 'new' vagrants, most notably a Black-winged Stilt on the Isle of Wight. On a local basis, it was also a very productive day, a flock of WAXWINGS being the main highlight............
THE CHESS RIVER VALLEY, FROM MILL FARM HOUSE TO SARRATT BOTTOM (BUCKS/HERTS)
A full inventory of resident and migrant birds was carried out with 38 species recorded. No Blackcaps or Willow Warblers noted, although Chris Pontin recorded the first of the latter in the Recording Area this year at McMinn's Yard in Chesham today -:
CONTINENTAL CORMORANT (a subadult roosting on the 'Osprey branch' by Crestyl Watercress Beds)
Grey Heron (1 on the Chess by the cressbeds)
LITTLE EGRET (1 still present, feeding on the Chess in front of Chenies Place)
Mute Swan (4 non-breeding subadults by Mill Farm House, with a pair nearby in front of Chenies Place - the cob still frequenting the back garden of Woodside House)
Australian Black Swan (a pinioned bird just outside of the Chess in front of Sarratt Bottom village - recently released)
Atlantic Canada Goose (3 separate pairs on the Chess adjacent to Sarratt Bottom village, with one pair actively nest-building)
Mallard (5 pairs)
Red Kite (1 lingering over Wallace's Wood Larch plantation)
Common Buzzard (1 in Mount Wood)
RED-LEGGED PARTRIDGE (pair just west of Valley Farm)
Common Pheasant (2 males in paddocks west of Valley Farm)
Moorhen (4 pairs)
Eurasian Coot (3 pairs on Chess)
Black-headed Gull (2 flew west along valley)
Woodpigeon (40+ noted)
European Green Woodpecker (3 yaffling birds noted, with one by Chenies Place and two in Mount Wood)
European Barn Swallow (pair by Valley Farm)
Wren (2 singing males in Chenies Bottom gardens, with two more by the boardwalk near Valley Farm, 3 in Sarratt Bottom and a male along Holloway Lane)
Dunnock (2 singing males in Sarratt Bottom)
European Robin (2+ pairs in Chenies Bottom, another opposite Frogmore Meadows, 2 pairs near Valley Farm, at least 3 pairs in Sarratt Bottom and 2+ pairs in Mount Wood)
Song Thrush (singing males in Wallace's Wood, opposite Frogmore Meadows, in Sarratt Bottom (3), 2 within 30 yards of each other in Mount Wood and 2 more along Holloway Lane)
*REDWING (6 late migrants in trees and scrub by the Crestyl Watercress Beds - flew off east)
Mistle Thrush (1 flew across valley towards Chenies village)
Common Blackbird (3 nesting pairs in Chenies Bottom, with another pair near the Water Vole watchpoint and another by the cressbed, at least 4 pairs in Sarratt Bottom, 1+ pairs in Mount Wood and two further birds along Holloway Lane)
*COMMON CHIFFCHAFF (6: singing males in scrub opposite Frogmore Meadows, by the Water Vole watchpoint [also female here, by the boardwalk], by the river on the south flank of Frogmore Meadows and two different birds either end of Sarratt Bottom)
GOLDCREST (pair nesting in tall evergreens in garden of Woodside House)
Great Tit (a pair prospecting a nest-site by Mill Farm House, with a pair in Limeshill Wood, 3 pairs in Mount Wood and another near Holloway Lane)
Blue Tit (a party of 3 birds by the cressbeds, with another pair in Mount Wood and in the top wood by Holloway Lane)
Long-tailed Tit (single pairs in Sarratt Bottom and near the buildings of the cressbeds)
Nuthatch (singing birds by the decoy lake in Mount Wood and at the west end of that wood)
Common Treecreeper (a pair in Mount Wood)
Common Magpie (3 pairs)
Jay (1 in the bushes and trees alongside the Crestyl Watercress Bed)
Jackdaw (15+, including a pair breeding in a dead tree in Mount Wood)
Carrion Crow (8+)
House Sparrow (a pair in Chenies Bottom)
Chaffinch (3 pairs in Chenies Bottom, with the same in Sarratt Bottom and another in Mount Wood)
Goldfinch (pair around Mill Farm House and party of 5 birds in Valley Farm area)
Greenfinch (2 singing males in Chenies Bottom)
Grey Squirrels (18+)
LATIMER HOUSE GROUNDS AND GREAT WATER (CHESS VALLEY)
The grounds held 5 Woodpigeons, Common Magpie, singing male Great Tit and Greenfinch and a Mistle Thrush, with a singing male COMMON CHIFFCHAFF nearby in bushes alongside the track to Neptune Falls, with a young male Common Kestrel in the same area and Great Water yielding 13 Mute Swans, 35 Tufted Ducks (including 18 drakes) and 12 Coot.
MARSWORTH RESERVOIR, TRING (HERTS)
The singing male COMMON CHIFFCHAFF was still in the tall Poplars of Reedbed Wood, with the two different CETTI'S WARBLERS in the reedbed, the male BLACKCAP still and the singing male WILLOW WARBLER first found by Chaz Jackson still in trees and ivy just at the start of the causeway. Two male REED BUNTINGS were singing and in parachute display in the reedbed.
Twelve Great Crested Grebes were on the reservoir, with just 4 Pied Wagtails in the horse paddocks and a male Grey Wagtail by the lock.
The neighbouring Grand Union Canal held 10 Mute Swans, including 3 first-summers, whilst Startop's End Reservoir held just 35 Tufted Ducks of note.
My proposed visit to Wilstone Reservoir was immediately interrupted by a very important call from Dave Cleal. He had just discovered 6 BOHEMIAN WAXWINGS.................
CLIVEDEN NT ESTATE (SOUTH BUCKS)
After being away in Highland Scotland when two birds gave themselves up in Milton Keynes, I was delighted to get another chance at connecting with BOHEMIAN WAXWING in Bucks. But in April, this was unchartered territory......
I raced over to Cliveden, where DC had very kindly agreed to keep with the migrant flock of birds. By 1340 hours I had joined him and there feeding on the Mistletoe berries were all six birds - five adults and a first-winter. Dave had done exceptionally well in locating them, feeding high in the canopy and often out of view in the tall trees situated at the junction of the Green Drive and the Dukes Statue at SU 913 845. Excellent 'scope views were obtained, with Dave firing off a number of record shots (see above). They remained present until at least 1443 hours and were particularly rewarding, often pairing up and feeding each other and clearly thinking of spring in Scandinavia. Quite where they had migrated from to get here is unknown, but possibly from Spain or France where they had spent the winter.
Cliveden Estate of course is reknown for its FIRECRESTS and today Dave and I saw additional birds, one pair already nesting and busily carrying nest material. At least 9 singing males have now been located this spring, including 3 in the usual area along Green Drive, and along with these, three additional birds afforded Dave, I and numerous other interested members of public some exceptionally close views. The latter trio were feeding in low introduced Laurel and nesting in an exotic species of Fir.
Newly arrived were at least 4 singing male BLACKCAPS and 1 singing Common Chiffchaff, whilst residents noted included Great Spotted Woodpecker, Nuthatch, Common Treecreeper, Red Kite and Coal Tit.
BATFORD B653 PADDOCKS (BEDFORDSHIRE)
Following up on Darin Stanley's text message, I was delighted to connect at 1540 hours with the stunning male COMMON REDSTART that he had once again discovered earlier in the afternoon during his lunch hour - his 5th individual in fact. The bird was showing well in the 'usual hedgerow' visible from the layby, and was darting out for insects and frequently perching out in full view on the wire fence. It represented my first for the year both nationally and locally. It was virtually in pristine spring plumage and may well be an individual male that annually stops off here as it stages its return migration. Alan Reynolds, Jim Rudland, Dave Calder and Simon West were also present, Simon obtaining the image published above. A male Sparrowhawk also drifted over.
Nearby, 5 LITTLE EGRETS were showing well on the stream at East Hyde at 1600 hours.
GAYHURST QUARRY AND FIELDS (NORTH BUCKS)
As I had not had the opportunity in the interim period to visit Gayhurst Quarry and Rob Norris' BEWICK'S SWAN, I made a special effort and arrived early evening. With directive help from Rob and later Simon Nichols, I searched in vain the fields to the north of the river, clocking eventually 118 non-breeding Mute Swans. The target bird was just nowhere to be seen and with one last call to SN, I made one last scan of the main fishing pit to the east of the main track. I noticed a single swan shuffling around INSIDE a so-called camouflaged hide close to the pit edge and incredibly (as well as bizarrely) it was it - a rather odd-plumaged first-summer BEWICK'S SWAN.
I guess it was inside the hide as grain had been liberally scattered about but as I approached, it walked out, went to the pit, swam out from the edge and then flew to the neighbouring field. What struck me was its incredibly Whooper Swan-like bill, with a long sloping bill and extensive dull yellow at the base. I was confused, but its relatively short neck and small size alongside Mute confirmed bewickii, and on enquiries with Slimbridge WWT, discovered that first-years can look surprisingly long-billed and yellow (Killian Mullarney also confirmed this with his fine artwork in the Collins Bird Guide, page 39). The bird had extensive grey on the neck and head, dark smoky patches on the upperparts and wings and dark on the breast. It was my third Bewick's Swan of the year in Bucks but my first ever April sighting.
The pit also held a female GOOSANDER and 30 lingering EURASIAN WIGEON, whilst the small wood yielded a single singing male COMMON CHIFFCHAFF.
PENN WOOD (TYLERS END GATE) (SOUTH BUCKS)
I always get excited at this time of year when the BRAMBLING numbers at Penn Wood reach a spring peak as birds from across Iberia and southern Britain migrate back north and stage for up to two weeks at this site. Kevin Holt has been daily censusing the roost since Friday, with respective counts of 253 on 3rd, 69 on 4th, 63 on 5th and 165+ this evening. Frustratingly, I arrived just a little too late but still managed 119 birds before they dropped out of view in the Holly to roost. The birds were 'wheezing' loudly and many were adult males in full breeding attire. Simply awesome.
The Greenfinch roost numbered about 60 in total, with Great Spotted Woodpecker and Nuthatch also noted. Kevin had also recorded 6 singing male COMMON CHIFFCHAFFS on territory.
Nearby, 7 Red Kites were assembling in a communal roost at dusk.