WEDNESDAY 14 APRIL
That cold Northeasterly wind keeps blowing, keeping migration to a minimum and preventing many small birds from singing. It remained dry but was grey and overcast up until early afternoon. For me, it was another day birding locally......
WILSTONE RESERVOIR, TRING (HERTS)
Dave Bilcock had seen a single Arctic Tern early morning but there was no sign of it several hours later when I visited - just 5 Common Terns still.
In fact, Wilstone was very quiet, with 8 Great Crested Grebes, 25 active Grey Heron nests, 3 Common Teal still, 18 Shoveler, 8 immature Black-headed Gulls, 15 European Barn Swallows and a migrant male YELLOW WAGTAIL.
STARTOP'S END RESERVOIR (HERTS)
A pair of Great Crested Grebes was building a nest on one of the green algae bunds, with 6 Mute Swans, 35 Tufted Ducks and 17 Coot counted. There was a total of 164 hirundines grounded by the grey conditions, including 151 SAND MARTINS and 13 Barn Swallows.
In windy conditions, I still failed to find any Sedge Warblers in the Marsworth reedbeds, even though at least one male is present.
WINGRAVE AREA (BUCKS)
In an attempt to nail Grey Partridge for my Bucks Year List, I spent some considerable time searching the farmland to the east of Wingrave, either side of the Leighton Road and east as far as the Mentmore Cross Roads (SP 890 205).
In the sheep fields to the west of Upper Wingbury Farm (SP 875 198), I located two COMMON RAVENS, both birds in wing moult, with one quite heavy. They were feeding in the fields and later flew off east calling loudly, in the direction of Mentmore Park.
There were two Common Buzzards in this area, as well as 1 RED KITE, whilst Common Kestrel, Great Spotted Woodpecker and 14 Common Starlings were also noted.
Very pleasing was the locating of four nesting pairs of LAPWING in the fields, although disconcerting was an obvious Carrion Crow nest at the top of an isolated tree (most likely designed to fledge at the same time as the baby Lapwings).
Chaffinches were quite numerous, whilst a pair of Long-tailed Tits were nesting in the roadside hedgerow just NE of Wingrave.
Alas, no Grey Partridge were located.....
WINGRAVE VILLAGE (BUCKS)
I took advantage of my visit to fully survey the breeding birds of Wingrave village, with the following results -:
Moorhen (pair on the tiny village pond)
Eurasian Collared Dove (8+ birds noted)
Dunnock (1 singing male)
European Robin (a bare minimum of 7 breeding pairs)
Common Blackbird (7 nesting pairs)
Common Starling (3+ pairs, with a singing male at 119 Winslow Road)
COMMON CHIFFCHAFF (a singing male in Willows in Lower End at the south end of the village)
*HOUSE SPARROWS (the real success story, with 5 pairs at the north end and a further 3 at the south end and two more in the ivy on the Rose & Crown public house)
Greenfinch (2 displaying males)
Jackdaw (3 pairs nesting on chimneys, with 2 on Winslow Road and another on Nup End Lane)
LONG MARSTON AREA (HERTS)
Next off, I surveyed the ROOKERIES between Wingrave and Long Marston, with 10 active nests opposite Boarscroft (at SP 882 175) and 68 active nests in the Common Alder trees opposite Betlow Farm entrance at SP 885 165.
A dead Badger was just south of Whitwell Farm (SP 881 170) at SP 883 168, whilst the farmhouse itself held 2 further pairs of breeding HOUSE SPARROWS and 2 Red-legged Partridges and a male Pied Wagtail on the plough opposite.
Just south of Beeching House, Green Woodpecker, Song Thrush and Great Tit were all recorded.
In Long Marston village, another 8 pairs of HOUSE SPARROW was located, including pairs by the Primary School and several on houses 9-15, and 5 pairs of Eurasian Collared Doves.
OVING AREA (NORTH BUCKS)
Utilising the information kindly provided by John Hale, I then tried the Oving area for Grey Partridge but despite following John's detailed notes to the line, I completely failed in my quest to locate any. Hearing of a Herts Ring Ouzel on site then diverted my attention..........
NORTON GREEN (HERTFORDSHIRE)
It was 43 miles between Oving and Norton Green and I finally arrived on site mid afternoon. Just four birders were on site and most were leaving, having had brief flight views of the bird. Fortunately, Alan Reynolds was on site, and kindly helped out with further searching, whilst Tony Heuking was to join us a short time later. When Alan had seen it earlier, it had been favouring the thick scrub and hedgerow along the eastern flank of the former landfill and had disappeared deep within. All three of us spread out and carried out a sweep of the site north to the traveller's site.
Apart from four Common Blackbirds, 2 Red-legged Partridges and a Small Tortoiseshell butterfly, nothing was found. Just as we were about to finish the sweep however, Alan and Tony flushed the RING OUZEL as it was hiding in a small bramble literally by one of the main tracks. It flew a few yards and landed again and then flew in a wide arc, back over us and landed in a fallen tree, some 150 yards away. At last, we were able to get good views of the bird, albeit it through the 'scope. It was a first-summer male and sat 'chacking' in the branches for the next 25 minutes, acting extremely wary throughout and refusing to move. All three of us hid behind a flowering bush and eventually the bird flew to the open plateau in the middle of the terrain and fed on the ground. These afforded the best and most closest views. Within a short while though, it was on the move again, and flew back to the area it seems to favour, the valley scrub about 75 yards in from the southern entrance (TL 228 235). This is only the second Ring Ouzel recorded in the county this year and after I left at 1645 hours, Darrell Bryant saw it later feeding with Fieldfares in the evening.
Note: access the location from Bessemer Drive
AMWELL NR (HERTFORDSHIRE)
It was a very pleasant evening at Amwell, with clearing skies and the cool NE wind abating somewhat. Despite that, the male Grasshopper Warbler present for three days did not start reeling prior to 1930 hours.
The following species were recorded -:
Great Crested Grebe (6)
Continental Cormorant (9 active nests on the smaller island)
Mute Swan (3)
Common Teal (10)
Tufted Duck (52)
Northern Pochard (5)
LITTLE RINGED PLOVER (1 on the muddy spit in front of the watchpoint)
Common Redshank (4)
COMMON SNIPE (1)
Argenteus Herring Gull (2 adults south)
European Barn Swallow (1)
*WESTERN REED WARBLER (2 singing males in the reedbed close to the boardwalk near the White Hide, my first of the year)
SEDGE WARBLER (6 singing males in all, including one on the pit to the west of the railway)
CETTI'S WARBLERS (4 singing birds including excellent views of a showy individual best viewed from the upper deck of James Hide)
Blackcap (2 singing males)
Common Chiffchaff (1 singing male)
Common Treecreeper (singing male)
Linnet (1 flew north)