A beautiful male Northern Wheatear (Craig Holden)
FRIDAY 16 APRIL
With the wind still blowing from the Northeast, most of the day was fairly cool. From about midday onwards, the pressure started to build and the cloud cover dissipated, leaving clear blue skies and long spells of sunshine. Towards evening, the wind slackened right off, making it very pleasant.
I spent the day mopping up a few local year-ticks, the highlight being my first LESSER WHITETHROAT of the year, some nice adult LITTLE GULLS and more ARCTIC TERNS.........
CHESHAM FISHING LAKES (BUCKS)
(with Chris Pontin)
At last, my first WILLOW WARBLER of the year in the Amersham Recording Area - a singing male showing well in Willows at the west end of the larger lake. Chris had seen one last week which had sang briefly at the back of McMinn's whilst Kevin Holt had seen an equally brief songster in Penn Wood earlier this week.
A singing male Common Chiffchaff was still present, whilst Blackcaps had increased to two singing males, with at least one female present.
Most unusual was the sight of 4 COMMON RAVENS together at 1130 hours - all having a noisy argument and tussle high above the valley. Again, as other Ravens I have observed this week, they were in heavy wing moult, and eventually all four birds flew high NE towards Berkhamstead.
RED KITES were equally active and abundant with at least 7 in the valley skies, as well as 4 Common Buzzards.
Both pairs of Great Crested Grebe were still present, the nest on the smaller lake still intact, with a Coot now sat on another nest just three yards away. Five Tufted Duck were present (with an additional 13 on Bois Mill Pond).
EUROPEAN BARN SWALLOWS numbered 7, with two singing Wrens, 3 Goldfinch and a displaying male Greenfinch also noted.
CROXLEY GREEN COMMON (HERTS)
Joined Mick Frosdick and Geoff Lapworth on the Moor and finally added LESSER WHITETHROAT to my 2010 Year List - a fairly showy rattling male in a restricted area of bushes adjacent to the canal just north of the small concrete bridge over the river (248). I failed to find Geoff's Common Whitethroat though - the cold wind and grey conditions keeping the bird down and quiet.
Up to 6 Blackcaps were noted however, along with 3 singing male WILLOW WARBLERS, and a pair of GREY WAGTAILS were in the vicinity of the lock gates.
Also noted were 1 Mute Swan, 4 Coots, Green Woodpecker, 1 Barn Swallow, Robin (pair nesting), Long-tailed Tit (5), Greenfinch and Reed Bunting.
WITHY BEDS LNR, MOOR LANE (HERTS)
A pair of Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers have been seen at this site fairly frequently in recent times but this afternoon Mick and I could only locate the regular male Nuthatch.
Most impressive was the male WATER RAIL by the boardwalk - in full 'song' and rarely heard during the day.
Two pairs of Stock Dove were noted, 2 Jays, Mistle Thrush (singing male), Song Thrush, Common Blackbird (male in song), Ring-necked Parakeet (4), Wren (2 singing males), Long-tailed Tits (pair), Blue Tit (pair feeding young), Great Tit (singing male), Blackcap (singing male) and Common Chiffchaff (2 singing males).
Two SAND MARTINS flew quickly north at 1310.
BROGBOROUGH LAKE (BEDS)
I ventured north into Bedfordshire where, mid-afternoon, the juvenile GREAT NORTHERN DIVER was showing very well at the west end and three adult breeding-plumaged LITTLE GULLS were with 4 Black-headed Gulls. A congregation of 26 Great Crested Grebes was huddled together in the NW corner and two male Blackcaps were in full song by the Watchpoint.
MILLENIUM PARK, MARSTON VALE (BEDS)
The drake GARGANEY was still showing very well on Lagoon 9, loosely consorting with a pair of Gadwall, with my first Beds singing SEDGE WARBLER nearby and two singing male Willow Warblers in scrub near the main gate.
BUTTERMILK WOOD (BEDS)
Although nesting Common Crossbills had been located at another site, none was seen in the Charle Wood or Buttermilk Wood areas. In fact, the woodlands were remarkably quiet, with no warblers singing and just Nuthatch, Common Treecreeper, Great Spotted and Green Woodpecker, 3 Goldfinch and 3 singing male Coal Tits noted. A new clearing inside Buttermilk yielded several Peacock butterflies in the afternoon sunshine.
THE IVINGHOE AND PITSTONE HILLS (BUCKS)
With the weather clearing up and the cold NE wind starting to abate, I walked the entire escarpment from Aldbury Nowers, across Pitstone Hill, past Steps Hill and across the Beacon Hill slopes to Gallows Hill. It was virtually birdless and my only highlight was the 3 male NORTHERN WHEATEARS on Beacon Hill, just south of the trig point.
There was no sign of the two male Ring Ouzels present early morning, nor of the male that had been showing well in Inkombe Hole much earlier (per Dave Bilcock).
WILSTONE RESERVOIR (HERTS)
At 1800 hours, I stopped off at Wilstone, where Jeff Bailey and Steve Rodwell were chatting, and Ben Miller was just leaving. The main point of interest were yet another group of 4 ARCTIC TERNS - commuting between the algae bunds and the jetty - and consorting with 3 Common Terns. Interestingly, at least two of the Arctic Terns had a blackish tip to the bill, but overall the bills were slimmer, shorter and deeper red and when perched, the much shorter legs were apparent. The underparts of all four birds were also much greyer than on the accompanying Common Terns and in flight, the wings were much more rakish and particularly contrasting on the underwing. The tail streamers were only fully developed on one individual and in general, there were no discernible differences in this feature with the 3 Common Terns.
Duck included 18 Gadwall, 8 Shoveler and 11 Northern Pochard, whilst 35 Sand Martin were overhead.
A walk along the Dry Canal produced a flyover GREEN SANDPIPER and a single Yellowhammer but there was no sign of the Lesser Whitethroat that Roy Hargreaves had seen and heard earlier in the day