TUESDAY 13 APRIL
The biting NE wind continues, pegging temperatures right back and making birding extremely unpleasant at times. Great once in the shelter but freshening towards evening and bringing increased cloud cover.
Once again, more birds were deposited on the highest hills by the conditions, particularly RING OUZELS, but 2 BLACK REDSTARTS made for a change and a (BLACK-LEGGED) KITTIWAKE was the main prize..........
IVINGHOE HILLS NR (BUCKS)
More RING OUZELS arrived overnight so my first port of call was once again the Ivinghoe complex. Viewing from the shelter of the scrub just east of the S-bend and close to the kissing gate, I soon located 5 different male RING OUZELS which were flying out from a dense area of scrub to feed out in the open literally yards out from the wire fence and just 150 yards south of the trig point at Ivinghoe Beacon. One male in particular was very confiding and repeatedly came out whilst the others were more elusive and skulking and eventually flew up further to feed on the grass much closer to the trig point.
After a while I was joined by Eaton Bray birder Richard Woodhead, and after he had enjoyed good views of the single male through my 'scope, we decided to explore further. As we searched either side of the ridge, I watched all of the ouzels fly east, 'chakking' loudly as they went, and appearing to alight on the main slope SE of the peak and above the sheep pens and fields.
A male COMMON WHITETHROAT was singing from scrub just 100 yards east of the peak and after enjoying a good view of that and of more migrant WILLOW WARBLERS (there had been a major fall of this species today involving at least 17 individuals), I suddenly came upon another small passerine hopping on and off the wire fence as the track heads east towards Gallows Hill. I quickly intercepted it in the 'scope and was delighted to find that it was a female BLACK REDSTART - my first in the county this year. It was showing very well, just flitting to and fro from the fenceline on to the main track. I quickly contacted RBA and Dave Bilcock, and finally raised Steve Rodwell.
Beacon Hill was then found to be housing two different BLACK REDSTARTS, as shortly later Richard and I located a second bird - this time a first-summer male - just 80 yards further east along the footpath. The five male RING OUZELS had also chosen to relocate to the south-facing slope above the sheep pens but due to the constant pressure of walkers, eventually flew further east and disappeared, leaving just one bird in the area of the 'Mushroom Hawthorn'. Both BLACK REDSTARTS were very similar in appearance, although the young male had much more warmth (brown) in the upperwings and was deeper grey on the upperparts. Neither bird had any white panel in the wing. Dave Bilcock obtained an excellent selection of images of the female (see above).
With news on the pager, birders took no delay in arriving, and after Mike Campbell and Steve Rodwell pitched up, quite a crowd gathered - and within 20 minutes, twice as many than had turned up for last week's Dartford Warbler ! Ring Ouzels really do have that special attraction.
We were all treated to an excellent display by both species and a further search of the area yielded nothing more than a flyover LESSER REDPOLL - it was time for me to retreat and after a follow-up call from Mark Thomas, it was Peacocks Lake at Broom that was to be my next destination......
BROOM GP (PEACOCK'S LAKE) - BEDFORDSHIRE
Joining Mark Thomas at 1220 hours, I was very pleased to find that the summer-plumaged adult (BLACK-LEGGED) KITTIWAKE was still present, sat on the water just west of one of the smaller islands. It was a graceful, sleek gull with a pure white rounded head, tiny beady black eye and lime-green bill. It sat for a while, occasionally stretching its wings, before being 'mobbed' by the nesting Black-headed Gulls and forcing it to take flight. Again a very graceful bird, with neat, well-defined and strikingly contrasting jet-black outer primary tips, a pure white tail and rump and short, dark legs. For a brief period we lost it, but then Mark relocated it much closer and again it sat on the water. MT had seen an adult Kittiwake earlier in the morning at Broom, along with a single Arctic Tern, but both birds had flown off strongly northeast. It is unknown whether the original bird returned or if this was a second bird but in any event, it was still present when Mark and I departed at 1235.
The adult WHOOPER SWAN was still consorting with 15 Mute Swans to the west of the main lake in the cereal crop whilst the only other bird of note was a singing male WILLOW WARBLER.
To the west of Ampthill Park and NW of Westminster Fishing Lake, the three male RING OUZELS were still present in the fields and paddocks north of Warren Farm and the Alpaca Farm at approximately TL 017 385. They were still favouring the hedgerow bordering the fields and were commuting between there and the evergreen trees surrounding the farm buildings. As on my previous visit on Sunday (when four males were present), the trio were very elusive, disappearing for long periods, but occasionally showed well, in the retreat of the hedgerow, feeding in the leaf litter. The west end of the park also held several singing male Blackcaps.
TYTTENHANGER MAIN PIT (HERTS)
There was no sign of David Booth's single Black-tailed Godwit at 1500 hours, the main sand workings yielding 10 Shoveler, 8 Common Teal, a Common Redshank, 5 Common Gulls (adult and 4 first-summers), 2 adult Lesser Black-backed Gulls, 8 Sand Martins and 2 TREE SPARROWS (by the Feeding Station).
Nearby, Willows Farm Pool at 1522 hours held the female Ruddy Shelduck, the pair of OYSTERCATCHERS and a cracking adult male WHITE WAGTAIL