Today's Little Gulls at Wilstone (Dave Bilcock) and Ring Ouzels on the Hills (Dave Bilcock/Sally Douglas)
MONDAY 12 APRIL
Well, spring 2010 was certainly short-lived, with cold winds blasting in from the Northeast making it feel freezing. It remained dry though, and fairly bright. Temperatures reached a high of just 11 degrees C, in stark contrast to Scotland, where Aviemore continues to bask in up to 20 degrees C, and even Wick reached 17 degrees. As expected, the biting winds misplaced LITTLE GULLS and RING OUZELS..........
IVINGHOE HILLS NR (BUCKS)
(0830-1100 hours; with Steve Rodwell, Peter Leigh & Chris, and later with Francis Buckle & Dave Cleal)
The two male RING OUZELS first found yesterday morning (Mike Wallen et al) were showing very well this morning and keeping very faithful to one particular area, just SW of the Ivinghoe Beacon trig point. They were actually feeding just east of the Beacon Road at SP 957 167 but were best observed from the penultimate peak just north, and sitting in the lee of the SW slope, it was actually quite pleasant and settled. The two birds were showing very well at sporadic intervals, appearing from the scrub to perch in the open on the leafless trees and the Hawthorn, as well as feeding on the sward of grassy slope (in fact, the 'Duke of Burgundy Cutting' in reality. One was a fabulous adult male, with gleaming white half moon, black upperparts and bright yellow bill, whilst the other was a much drabber and noisier first-summer male - Dave Bilcock obtaining at least one good image of the former - see above). Although they were disturbed fairly frequently by cyclists and walkers alike, the two birds did remain faithful to this one area, but the presence of a nesting pair of Common Blackbirds eventually took its toll. When I returned later in the afternoon to show Francis, just one male was seen in flight and they were no longer visiting the grass to feed. There has been a minimum of 7 Ring Ouzels at the site in the past week but these have been the most reliable and easiest to see by far.
The walk up to the Beacon also produced 2 singing male WILLOW WARBLERS and a singing male Common Chiffchaff, whilst there was also a singing male COMMON WHITETHROAT (Dave Cleal) and two male NORTHERN WHEATEARS (Steve Rodwell). Meadow Pipits were fairly numerous, along with Linnets, and a male Bullfinch was in bushes by the main car park.
The resident pair of COMMON RAVENS were showing very well, the male calling loudly from an exposed branch in the vicinity of the nest and the female (now fairly heavily worn) visiting nearby fields and returning with large crops of food for the growing four youngsters.
A Peacock butterfly was also seen but the pair of resident Little Owls were sheltering out of view from the cold wind.
TUNNEL WAY SCRAPES, PITSTONE INDUSTRIAL ESTATE (HERTS)
Both pairs of RINGED and LITTLE RINGED PLOVERS were present, both now nesting.
COLLEGE LAKE BBOWT (BUCKS)
There were no small plovers, Common Sandpiper or Dunlin present but waders were represented by up to 8 Common Redshank and 9 nesting pairs of Lapwing (1 on the west island, 5 on the east, 1 on the NE and two to the north of the main lake).
One Little Grebe was present, a pair of Shoveler, 18 Tufted Duck and at least 8 Atlantic Canada Geese, whilst migrants included a singing male WILLOW WARBLER and my first COMMON WHITETHROAT of the year - a singing male to the north of the main lake (244).
PITSTONE QUARRY (BUCKS/HERTS border)
There was a fall of BLACKCAPS in the NW corner, involving up to 6 individuals - mostly singing males, with a singing male Common Chiffchaff nearby.
The quarry lake was fairly quiet, with 6 Little Grebes present, pair of Tufted Duck, 4 Coots, the pair of OYSTERCATCHERS (still not nesting) and two adult Lesser Black-backed Gulls.
THE SMALLER RESERVOIRS, TRING (HERTS)
With a fierce and freezing NE wind, birdlife was scant and poorly represented, with 3 Shoveler on Marsworth and 8 European Barn Swallows on Startop's End being the highlights (the weekend had seen the first calling male Common Cuckoo - per Lynne Lambert).
WILSTONE RESERVOIR (HERTS)
(midday-1230 hours) With Steve Rodwell, Mike Campbell, Peter Leigh, Chris and Francis Buckle, recorded my first (and that of the reservoirs') LITTLE GULLS of the year - a winter-plumaged adult, a transitional adult and a well-marked second-summer - all drifting around between the jetty and the Drayton Bank with 9 Black-headed Gulls and 4 Common Terns (245).
Wildfowl included 3 Common Teal (including 1 drake), 19 Gadwall, 18 Shoveler, a drake Pochard and 172 Tufted Ducks, whilst 10 Great Crested Grebes were noted (some pairs in active dancing display). A Coot killed by fishing line at least four days ago lie just off of the car park steps.
Aerial migrants were few and far between, with just a handful of Sand Martins and 3 European Barn Swallows.
WIGGINTON BOTTOM (HERTS)
Surveying both Roundhill Wood and The Flats (SP 94 08), an area of extensive firwoods, new plantations and scrub, the following species were encountered -:
Although no Woodlarks were found (a pair bred successfully here in 2006), the area produced Moorhen (on the pond at SP 939 085), Great Spotted Woodpecker, Green Woodpecker, Mistle Thrush (singing male), Song Thrush (singing male), Wren (3 singing males), European Robin (nesting pair), BLACKCAP (2 singing males), COMMON CHIFFCHAFF (4 singing males, plus a female), GOLDCREST (2+ pairs), Blue Tit and COAL TIT (5 singing males).
HILL FARM (HADDEN'S PLANTATION) (SP 957 064)
More survey work but with little to be found in this extensive coniferous wood and area of barren farmland - 1 singing Eurasian Skylark, singing Song Thrush and male Blackcap and a pair of Chaffinch.
CHESHAM VALE (BUCKS)
Five Lesser Black-backed Gulls flew north, all bar one adult immatures.
After being flooded out a couple of weeks back, the pair of Waterside Mute Swans have relocated and the female is now sitting on a new nest. There is still a pair on Lowndes Park Lake and another on Bois Mill Pond. GREY WAGTAILS are now nesting at McMinn's.
PENN WOOD (BUCKS)
Once again, Kevin Holt and I surveyed the roosting BRAMBLINGS, of which numbers are now dwindling. A total of just 63 birds flew in to roost in the Holly this evening, with the first 5 arriving at 1812 and 25 or more still waiting to drop down at 1915. Although none of the males was in full breeding plumage, several were not far off and in beautiful attire.
Greenfinches numbered 44, whilst Coal Tit and Great Spotted Woodpecker were noted. A TAWNY OWL was showing well at the entrance to its nestbox.
Nearby, 5 RED KITES roosted again