My UK Year List - 2014

  • 117-118) GREAT WHITE EGRET and LONG-TAILED DUCKS at Mary's Lake, Earls Barton GP, 9 January
  • 116) Barnacle Goose, Emberton Park, 9 January
  • 114-115) SMEW and Cetti's Warbler at Great Hardmead Lake, Amwell, 7 January
  • 113) Reed Bunting, Tyttenhanger, 7 January
  • 112) Tree Sparrow (32 birds), Tyttenhanger, 7 January
  • 111) Sparrowhawk, West Hyde, 7 January
  • 110) Mandarin Duck, Burnham Beeches NNR, 7 January
  • 100-109) Curlew, Knot, Bar-tailed Godwit, Dunlin, Oystercatcher, Grey Plover, Sanderling, Common Shelduck, Kittiwake and Mediterranean Gull at Church Norton, 6 January
  • 99) RUDDY SHELDUCK, Sidlesham Ferry, 6 January
  • 96-98) Purple Sandpiper, Turnstone and Rock Pipit in Shoreham Harbour
  • 95) Red-breasted Merganser, Widewater, 6 January
  • 94) GREY PHALAROPE, Hove Lagoon, 6 January
  • 93) Grey Partridge, Broom, 5 January
  • 92) Goosander, Woburn Lakes, 5 January
  • 91) Skylark, Totternhoe, 5 January
  • 90) Yellowhammer, Totternhoe, 5 January
  • 89) Corn Bunting, Totternhoe, 5 January
  • 88) Water Pipit, Wilstone, 5 January
  • 87) SABINE'S GULL, Weston Turville, 5 January
  • 86) Common Scoter, Brogborough, 4 January
  • 85) GREAT NORTHERN DIVER, Stewartby Lake, 4 January
  • 84) Red-legged Partridge, Hatch, 4 January
  • 83) Common Kestrel, Langford, 4 January
  • 82) GLOSSY IBIS, Frensham, 4 January
  • 81) Goldcrest, Frensham, 4 January
  • 80) Green Sandpiper, Lynsters, 3 January
  • 79) Stock Dove, Lynster's, 3 January
  • 78) Egyptian Goose, Lynsters Farm, 3 January
  • 77) Common Chiffchaff, Stockers Lake
  • 76) SIBERIAN CHIFFCHAFF, Stockers Lake
  • 75) Siskin, Stockers Lake
  • 74) Dunnock, Stockers Lake
  • 73) Ring-necked Parakeet, Stockers Lake
  • 72) Lesser Redpoll, Stockers Lake
  • 71) Coal Tit, Chaffinch House
  • 40-70: Nuthatch, Greylag Goose, Pied Wagtail, Lapwing, Golden Plover, Great Crested Grebe, Cormorant, Common Redshank, Common Snipe, Teal, Wigeon, Shoveler, LITTLE STINT, Black-tailed Godwit, Grey Wagtail, Goldeneye, Meadow Pipit, Greenfinch, Marsh Tit, Dunnock, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Long-tailed Tit, Bullfinch, Jay, Red-crested Pochard, Wren, Collared Dove (all at Tring Reservoirs), Brambling (Ivinghoe), Herring & Great Black-backed Gull, CATTLE EGRET (Briarhill Farm, Calvert) & Green Woodpecker
  • 1-39 all local, Chess River Valley & Shardeloes Estate: 1 January 2014: Chaffinch, Common Starling, Woodpigeon, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Common Magpie, Mute Swan, Mallard, Moorhen, Carrion Crow, Jackdaw, Rook, Common Buzzard, Canada Goose, Coot, Black-headed Gull, Tufted Duck, Pochard, House Sparrow, Common Blackbird, Woodpigeon, Pheasant, Gadwall, Kingfisher, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Robin, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Little Grebe, Common Gull, Red Kite, Redwing, Fieldfare, Song Thrush, Goldfinch, Mistle Thrush, WOODCOCK, Treecreeper, Greenfinch and Water Rail

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Year Listing in the UK

Lee Evans has been Year-listing in the UK since 1977 and has achieved annual totals of over 300 species ever since. Although he has recorded in excess of 360 species on some nine occasions, his record stands at 386 species - achieved in 1996. Adrian Webb in Year 2000 recorded at least 378 species, making him by far the highest-listing individual to compare with Lee. In terms of Life Listing, Lee has recorded 577 species in Britain and Ireland and 853 species in the wider Western Palearctic region.

Friday, 26 November 2010

For the second year running, an ORIENTAL PRATINCOLE.......

MONDAY 10 MAY (Week 19)

Allan Stewart picked me up at 0425 hours – a TAWNY OWL was calling from the wood adjacent to my house. We were about to endeavour on a trip to North Lincolnshire, where an ORIENTAL PRATINCOLE had been seen the previous evening. It was a fairly bright day, with temperatures slightly improved than of late – at 12 degrees C.


We arrived on site at 0640 hours. Walking out to the hides was brightened up by several singing male CORN BUNTINGS, Reed Buntings, Skylarks and Linnets and after a good 15 minute walk, we eventually pitched up in the East Hide.

There was an excellent selection of bird species on offer but the target bird had not been seen since dawn – and there were about 15 people looking.

Amongst the more common fare were Great Crested Grebe, Greylag Geese, Common Shelduck, Teal, Gadwall, Shoveler, Tufted Duck, Wigeon (pair), Coot, Moorhen, Lapwing, Common Redshank, Ringed Plover, Common Tern, Stock Dove, Common Swift, Meadow Pipit, Western Reed Warbler and Sedge Warbler.

More interesting were 1 Little Egret, 7 DARK-BELLIED BRENT GEESE, 9 Dunlin, 5 Ruff including some beautiful males, numerous Pied Avocets, Ringed Plovers, 2 pairs of Little Ringed Plovers, a pair of Oystercatchers, Black-tailed Godwits, a winter-plumaged Red Knot, 2 WHIMBREL and my first CURLEW SANDPIPERS of the year – 3 summer-plumaged adults.

Three first-summer LITTLE GULLS were on the main lagoon, along with 2 immature Herring Gulls, 2 male YELLOW WAGTAILS and up to 8 NORTHERN WHEATEARS.

We had been in the hide a good hour scanning around when suddenly I heard a shout – someone had located the ORIENTAL PRATINCOLE. Remarkably, it was in exactly the same place as the evening before, roosting in the grass perhaps 50 yards from the East Hide where we had been sat. It was very difficult to see and was best observed from the footpath.

We gradually worked out the best position from where to observe the bird, in the best light, and we were lucky that it flew and landed much, much closer – perhaps just 50 yards away. The views were excellent allowing all of the salient features to be noted – the very short tail feathers and the little or no white in the trailing edge. The underwing was very rusty, with warm brown on the breast, the creamy-buff throat patch bordered by the black and the reddish base to the bill. It was seen in flight on several occasions and on occasions, running about the ground and flycatching. It was under constant observation from 0750 to 0835 hours.

It represented my 265th species of the year and my first Oriental Pratincole in Lincolnshire. It also represented only the 4th Oriental Pratincole for Britain -:

1981 Suffolk/Essex Dunwich Beach Pools, first-summer, 22nd June to 8th July; same, moulting to adult, Old Hall Marshes, Essex, about 6th August to about 11th October (British Birds 82: 521; 86: 115-120, plates 20-22; Ibis 133: 218).
1988 Kent Harty, 21st or 22nd June to 3rd September, presumed same, Elmley, 4th, 14th, 25th, 30th September to 3rd October (British Birds 82: 521; Birding World 1: 359-360; Ibis 133: 218).
1993 Norfolk Gimingham, adult, 14th May to 3rd June, same, Weybourne, 3rd, Blakeney Point, 4th, Burnham Norton, 5th to 21st, 13th July to 13th August, Titchwell and Thornham, 14th to 17th (British Birds 87: 522, 523, plates 129-130; Birding World 6: 192-193).
1993 East Sussex Pevensey Levels, 29th to 30th August (British Birds 88: 509) (same as above)
1993 Suffolk Havergate Island, 4, 19th September (British Birds 88: 509).(same individual as above)
2009 West Sussex Pagham Harbour North Wall, 28th-29th May (British Birds 103: 582, plates 273 & 315)
2009 Kent Dungeness, 3rd June (same bird as in West Sussex) (British Birds 103: 582)

As we walked back to the car, we added Common Whitethroat (10+), Yellowhammer, Sparrowhawk (male) and Red-legged Partridge (pair) to the day-list, whilst in the Kirton area nearby, Jay, Mistle Thrush, House Sparrow, Greenfinch and Goldfinch were added.


A pair of MONTAGU’S HARRIERS was showing very well in the usual area. The adult male caught a small Field Vole and then did a food pass to the female.

Marsh Harriers were also in the vicinity, as well as Common Buzzard, Common Whitethroat and a rattling male Lesser Whitethroat..


Scanning across the marshes from the road yielded Pied Avocets, Black-tailed Godwits, Common Redshanks, 8+ Egyptian Geese with young, Greylag Geese, numerous Little Egrets, the tree-nesting colony of Cormorants, a female Marsh Harrier, 8 Wigeon, Gadwall, Shoveler, Common Shelduck, Common Swifts, House Martins, Common Chiffchaff and Common Whitethroat.


A flock of 98 Dark-bellied Brent Geese was present in the Eye Field.

Meanwhile, North Scrape yielded 4 LITTLE TERNS – my first of the year (267), along with 22 Sandwich Terns, a TEMMINCK’S STINT, 3 Common Sandpipers, Pied Avocets, 2 Ruff, 80 Icelandic Black-tailed Godwits, 4 Common Terns, Ringed Plovers, Wigeon, Shoveler, an immature Great Black-backed Gull, Sand Martins and a male Northern Wheatear by the pillbox.

In the area by the crossroads, a singing NIGHTINGALE, 2 Willow Warblers, a Garden Warbler, a Blackcap, two Common Whitethroats, Robin and Blue, Great and Long-tailed Tit were all recorded.


A return visit to Holkham resulted in us finally connecting with the long-staying COMMON CRANE. The bird was showing very well at the edge of the pool and was easily visible from the Washington Hide. There was also a male Marsh Harrier in the same area, with a COMMON KINGFISHER at the pool by Meals House, and Coal Tit, Goldcrest and Common Treecreeper along the ride.


It has been many years since I last walked down this track to the beach but today our target was a very confiding first-winter RED-NECKED GREBE that had been present in the dyke just east of the footpath for several weeks. The bird was showing very well but was sadly fairly moribund (and consequently died a few days later). It climbed out of the water on one occasion (see Carl Chapman’s image below). Ashley Banwell obtained the other shots. The walk also yielded a single Dark-bellied Brent Goose, 2 Muntjac Deer, a rattling male Lesser Whitethroat, 5 Common Chiffchaffs and two singing male Willow Warblers.

(1520-1620 hours)

A pleasant hour spent at the reserve with a total of 49 species recorded

Great Crested Grebe (1 offshore)
Mute Swan and Greylag Geese
Dark-bellied Brent Geese (100+)
Common Shelduck, Mallard and Gadwall
RED-CRESTED POCHARD (2 separate pairs on the freshwater lagoon)
Northern Pochard (2 adult drakes)
GARGANEY (drake)
Northern Shovelers
Common Scoters (300+ offshore)
Eurasian Sparrowhawk (female)
Common Kestrel
Marsh Harriers (6 over the reedbed)
Common Pheasant and 2 Red-legged Partridges
Moorhen and Coot
Grey Plover (5)
Red Knot (6)
Sanderling (50+)
Eurasian Curlew (1)
Bar-tailed Godwit (1)
Lapwing, Common Redshank and Dunlin
Ringed Plover
Common Greenshank (1)
Turnstone (28)
Pied Avocets
Black-headed, Common, Herring, Lesser Black-backed & Great Black-backed Gulls.
Common Tern
Little Tern (1)
Common Swift, Sand & House Martins.
GRASSHOPPER WARBLER (1 reeling by footpath)
Cetti’s and Western Reed Warblers, Common Chiffchaff
BEARDED TITS (10+ by footpath, with much activity)


A drake Common Scoter was offshore, along with Northern Fulmars – the 114th species of the day.


We drove back from North Norfolk to Essex, where at last light, we located a WOOD SANDPIPER on the most northerly Langridge Pit – my first of the year. A BARN OWL was hunting near Holyfield Farm, whilst Great Spotted Woodpecker, Green Sandpiper, Common Greenshank, 3 Little Ringed Plovers, a male Yellow Wagtail, Little Grebe and 6 adult Egyptian Geese were noted (1 pair accompanying 6 young).

With four new species at this latter site, our final day tally was 118.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

GARGANEY at last in Bucks


Continuing cool northerly winds but dry and overcast….

(0900-1230 hours)

Thanks to Colin Tubbs, I was finally able to add GARGANEY to my 2010 Buckinghamshire Year List – a female roosting on the grass adjacent to the shallow muddy pool south of the footpath to Low Grounds Farm (accessed from Lower Pond Lane).

The site also yielded a Common Sandpiper, 2 pairs of Common Redshank, Lapwings with young, a female Mallard with 7 ducklings, Egyptian Geese nesting, Greylag Geese nesting and 4 male Pied Wagtails.

Marlow Low Grounds is situated to the SW of Marlow and is an excellent area for waterbirds. There is a muddy scrape which dries out in midsummer.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Northeasterly winds continue


The cool North-easterly winds still blow and again are accompanied by intermittent rain showers. Such conditions continue to ground interesting migrants locally and today was no exception….

(0730 hours)

Up and about early but not in the same league as DB and the other Tring regulars – chasing Dave resulted in seeing the 5 COMMON GREENSHANKS that were roosting and feeding on the island in the North Lake and noting the first breeding attempt of Black-headed Gull at the site (a single pair nesting on the island) and 23 pairs of breeding Common Terns (all sadly to be taken by an American Mink later in the week). There were also 22 Tufted Duck on the lake and the COMMON CUCKOO was calling loudly and frequently from Pitstone Fen.


The local pair of LITTLE RINGED PLOVERS was seen, along with 2 Little Grebe, 8 Tufted Duck and singing Common Chiffchaff and Blackcap.


Very quiet by recent standards although 54 Common Swifts and 116 European Barn Swallows were of note; also 16 Mute Swans, 52 Tufted Duck and a Lapwing over.


Checking the reedbed behind Marsworth and the sewage farm proper revealed the presence of several CETTI’S WARBLERS, 5+ Western Reed Warblers, a rattling male LESSER WHITETHROAT and a calling male COMMON CUCKOO.


Made a hasty return visit to see a WHIMBREL that had pitched down and was roosting close to the Jetty – it was present until about 0905 hours before flying east (see Dave’s images above). In addition to the 2 HOBBIES flying around, a huge flock of hirundines had built up, with 500 or more Common Swifts present and a Lesser Whitethroat rattling from the hedgerow by the car park. Also new in were 2 adult summer Black-headed Gulls and 4 ARCTIC TERNS..

Dan Forder had seen and photographed a large flock of Whimbrel fly east (see below) but the only birds of interest I noted were a male YELLOW WAGTAIL which eventually flew north at 1235 (image below), 2 drake Northern Pochards and the first Greylag Goose gosling of the year.

Two COMMON RAVENS in heavy wing moult were seen over Wendover Woods but observed from the Wilstone bank.


A pair of EURASIAN CURLEW showing well but nothing else of note


At least 15 Common Terns on the lake and raft, with 1-2 CETTI’S WARBLERS in front of the hide and both Western Reed and Sedge Warblers singing.

Not that far away and to the north, a LITTLE OWL was sat on a telegraph pole just south of the pylons at Spinney Farmhouse.


A late visit highlighted in the sighting of a BARN OWL and the singing male COMMON NIGHTINGALE and two reeling male GRASSHOPPER WARBLERS nearby. All were in the vicinity of the Fishermen’s car park.

An outstanding day at Tyttenhanger Gravel Pits


Those cold NE winds just keep on blowing and today was no different. It did remain dry though and fairly bright. Once again, Steve Blake discovered the first SANDERLINGS in the county this year and after he phoned, I made my way straight there......

(1100-1330 hours)

I arrived at Tyttenhanger just after 1100 hours and joined Steve Blake observing from by the conveyor belt in the NE corner of the main pit. All 3 SANDERLINGS were still present and showing well on the extensive sandy spit on the east shore. All three individuals were in transitional plumage - in fact the very white plumage of early spring - with just the first hints of the summer dress coming through on the breast and a few rufous and chestnut feathers coming through on the scapulars and mantle. They kept close together and ran like 'clockwork' across the sand. Just as JT joined us, I watched a particular aggressive and territorial male Ringed Plover chase them off but fortunately they re-landed and could be viewed from the south side of the islands. They represented my 151st species of the year in the county and remained present all day.

No sooner had I left Joan and Steve to find that another rare wader had arrived - this time the first EURASIAN CURLEW of the year. Another grounded migrant, this tired female pitched down at the end of the spit and went to sleep almost immediately and afforded excellent views through the 'scope. Joan had initially found it in flight and I could easily see why she had assumed it was a migrant Whimbrel - it had a particularly short bill. However, on good views, it could be seen to have an obvious white eye-ring, a blank face, no black eye-stripe and no black stripes on the crown and was heavily streaked on the underparts and admixed grey in the dark brown upper wing coverts. It slept for some time but was forced to fly on a couple of occasions, circling the pit. On both occasions, I followed it in the 'scope, and was very surprised to see that its underwing and axillaries were gleaming white and very unlike the grey washed underwing of arquata Eurasian Curlew. It also had an extensive gleaming white rump and upper tail coverts. The white underwing is often associated with orientalis (Eastern Eurasian Curlew), although studying large flocks of passage Curlews at coastal sites in Britain, I have found that this feature is highly variable. Eastern birds generally have very long bills. At 1327 hours, the Curlew took flight and finally flew off west for the last time.

Joined by Steve, JT, Alan Reynolds, Ricky Flesher and a distant Mick Frosdick, I spent a very pleasant hour reaping the delights of a Tyttenhanger 'purple patch' and as Ricky exclaimed that he had a raptor, was delighted to see an adult female MARSH HARRIER appear from the east flying low over the main pit. It was in forceful flight and disturbed all of the birds on the pit and as it cleared the spit area, was harried away by two corvids. It remained on view for a total of four minutes and drifted up high to the NE, eventually disappearing away at 1256 hours. Although its flight feathers were in perfect order, it was missing a couple of tail feathers.

Thinking of passage Ospreys, I then started staring skywards and soon identified Common Kestrel, male Eurasian Sparrowhawk, numerous Common Buzzards, two Red Kites (one of which was a ragged first-summer) and at least 3 HOBBIES. A passage of at least 100 COMMON SWIFTS migrated over to the NE, whilst 54 SAND MARTINS were hunting over the surface of the water.

One of the local OYSTERCATCHERS dropped in briefly for a drink on the spit, with several Lesser Black-backed Gulls through.

There were at least two singing male COMMON WHITETHROATS in the conveyor area

An excellent spot of birdwatching...

My GOSHAWKS are doing just fine


Did very little birding today other than check out a local NORTHERN GOSHAWK nest close to my house. Discreetly concealing myself beneath the Larches, I sat for several hours as both parents visited the nest bringing in food. It was Woodpigeon and Common Blackbird bought in today, whilst on other days, Grey Squirrel has been taken.

Sadly, virtually all Goshawks in my Recording Area get shot and each one of the three nests located in 2008 and 2009 were destroyed. I am praying that this pair succeeds but the young are already becoming very noisy and attracting attention. Utmost secrecy has to surround the breeding location of every pair of Goshawks in Britain and I treasure these birds much in the same way as I safeguard the future of my breeding North American Ruddy Ducks.

Confiding WOODCHAT SHRIKE brightens up a half-day visit to Norfolk

First-summer male Woodchat Shrike, Winterton South Dunes, Norfolk, 6 May 2010 (Chris Morgan)


Had a very enjoyable day out in the field with Mick Frosdick. Norfolk was our destination and a long-staying WOODCHAT SHRIKE was our main target bird. The wind remained in the Northeast, it was clear with little cloud and 14 degrees C.


A COMMON CUCKOO flew across the road, close to the M25 junction, at 1045.


From 1300-1330 hours, Mick and I obtained outstanding views of the first-summer male WOODCHAT SHRIKE in Winterton South Dunes. It was frequenting an area of scattered bushes 250 yards south of the village and was regularly perching out in full view. It represented my 261st species of the year and was beautifully photographed by Chris Morgan.

The Winterton Dune scrub also produced two male LESSER WHITETHROATS, 3 singing male Common Whitethroats, numerous House Sparrows, a European Barn Swallow and a HOLLY BLUE butterfly.


Mick and I did the long walk out to the Weavers Bend hide but on arrival, there was no sign of the Wood Sandpipers present recently. What was noted were 2 pairs of Egyptian Geese, Common Teal, Gadwall, Shoveler, 2 pairs of Marsh Harriers, 2 pairs of Pied Avocets, 7 Common Redshank, 5 WHIMBREL, 1 Common Tern, a GRASSHOPPER WARBLER reeling by the hide, several Cetti’s Warblers, Sedge and Western Reed Warblers, Willow Warbler and 3+ Peacock butterflies.


TREE PIPITS in recent years are getting harder and harder to come by with the population continuing to seriously decline. In my local area now, they are completely lost, with no breeding birds in Bucks, Beds or Herts and the nearest being the odd singing male in Berkshire. Consequently, adding one to the Yearlist involves a fair bit of effort and today – after chatting to Norman Williams – two pairs were located at a regular site NW of Santon Downham village – two singing males displaying less than 100 yards from each other. Excellent views were obtained.

The same area held a large number of COMMON CROSSBILLS – one flock of at least 30 birds seen in flight. A HOBBY was also an unusual sighting.


Two pairs of STONE CURLEW were visible from the road, as well as 1 pair of Eurasian Curlew and a male NORTHERN WHEATEAR.


Officially known as Tubney Farm NT (at TL 554 665), this fabulous new wetland reserve (scrape) providing me with my first TEMMINCK’S STINTS of the year – a trio of birds affording excellent views from the spanking new hide and track adjacent (263)..

The scrapes also held Pied Avocet (3 pairs), Ringed Plover, Common Redshank, GREY PARTRIDGE (pair), Marsh Harrier, Shoveler, Yellow Wagtail, Linnet and CORN BUNTING.


Little of note other than a single LITTLE RINGED PLOVER present.

TUESDAY 4 MAY - working from home

The day was spent at home working from my study. In the garden at Chaffinch House, I recorded JAY, 2 Goldfinches, a Jackdaw on the birdtable (at 1410), 3 juvenile Common Blackbirds and a Coal Tit.

Another day of local tetrad surveying

Buckinghamshire is proving to be one of the strongholds of Firecrest in Britain and I am locating up to 50 singing males per summer in recent years. Mike McKee took these splendid images


Well, it certainly does not feel like the first week in May. I had to resort again to winter gloves today and throughout, the fresh Northeasterly wind was biting. Temperatures struggled to make double figures but at least it remained largely dry, with just the odd light shower.

With so many rares being 1 or 2 dayers of late, I decided to spend the day locally, catching up on vital survey work. It was a very rewarding day, climaxed with a new colony of FIRECRESTS and at the end by a purring EUROPEAN TURTLE DOVE - a very rare sight indeed locally these days........


Despite the torrential rain of Sunday, the two early fledged GREAT CRESTED GREBE chicks on the smaller of the two lakes survived and were both huddled snugly on mum's back under the overhanging Willow branches. Four of the Coot nests had also survived with the birds still sitting tight.

The most impressive sight, as with most water bodies inland at the moment, was of the large numbers of EUROPEAN BARN SWALLOWS hawking over the water - a total of 45 - one of the largest spring gatherings in my area. A total of 5 HOUSE MARTINS was also consorting with them.

Both the singing male WESTERN REED WARBLER and REED BUNTING were still present, in the small reedbeds on the north shore of the larger lake.

The single Mute Swan was still present, whilst a pair of Atlantic Canada Geese were accompanied by a brood of 12 goslings.


Singing male Blackcaps included one by the parking area at the entrance to the Conference Centre and another in the wood just west of the complex, whilst a pair of Common Starlings was busy gathering food and flying to a nest hole in trees near Neptune Falls.

Just downstream of Neptune Falls, the female Mute Swan was still sitting on eggs, whilst on the main Great Water, 11 birds were present. There were also 22 Tufted Ducks present but no sign of any Little Grebes.

A Red Kite in heavy wing moult glided over whilst a pair of Common Buzzards were nesting in Lane Wood. A pair of LINNETS flew over.


I surveyed the area from Pennstreet Farm, through Priestlands Wood and Tragoe's Plantation east to Coleshill Larches and West Wood and back through Winchmore Hill village.

At the tiny farm reservoir just NE of Pennstreet Farm, 3 EUROPEAN BARN SWALLOWS were perched on the wires and 'singing', whilst the trees bordering the road held 23 active Rook nests.

Priestlands Wood (SU 928 957) held 1 singing COMMON CHIFFCHAFF, 2 singing male Chaffinches and a nesting pair of Mistle Thrush, whilst Tragoe's Plantation (SU 933 957) held an additional singing male COMMON CHIFFCHAFF, a male Blackcap, a male Greenfinch, a pair of Great and Blue Tits and 2 Long-tailed Tits. The Chiltern Heritage Trail runs through these two woodlands and there was a healthy spread of flowering Bluebells. There were also 4 free-ranging Vulterine Guineafowl in the wood.

On the opposite side of the road, Coleshill Larches, Turner's Wood and West Wood (SU 930 955) held breeding Blue Tit (1 pair), European Robin (2 pairs), Common Blackbird (2 pairs) and Chaffinch (3 pairs), along with a singing male SONG THRUSH and a male Blackcap.

Winchmore Bottom itself yielded two displaying male Greenfinch, a pair of Goldfinch, 3 Wrens and Common Blackbird (5 breeding pairs), whilst the allotments across the road held a nesting pair of Robins and Long-tailed Tits.

(1700-1800 hours)

A detailed survey of all species present was undertaken with Common Chiffchaff, GARDEN WARBLER and FIRECREST being of prime importance. A total of 19 species was recorded -:

TAWNY OWL (4 nestboxes occupied, all with young)
Green Woodpecker (1 yaffling bird)
Great Spotted Woodpecker (1 nest found in Birches - pair busily feeding young)
Jay (1-2 pairs)
Common Blackbird (3 pairs)
European Robin (5+ pairs)
Wren (5 pairs)
Blackcap (singing male by main drove to Penna, with another in Rhododendron scrub and two further males in southern section)
GARDEN WARBLER (my first in the Recording Area this year, a single well-showing singing male in scrub by a cleared area to the west of the paddock area)
COMMON CHIFFCHAFF (a total of 7 singing males, with one up at the Goose Pond Gate end, two near the Penna, one 200 yards further west and two more in the Tyler Green Gate area, and another pair breeding)
WILLOW WARBLER (two singing males within yards of each other in Birches along the SE ride - only the 2nd-3rd birds in the Recording Area this spring)
GOLDCREST (3 singing males)
**FIRECREST (a new colony discovered, involving 5 singing males - all along the main ride west of the Penna with three in the Rhododendron tunnel and two more in tall conifers where the tracks all meet and it gets particularly muddy at the west end of the main ride. The birds were very low down in the foliage and showing exceptionally well and in full song and territorial display - fantastic. My first in the Recording Area this year but following the two wintering birds in Beaconsfield and another briefly at Shardeloes Lake)
Long-tailed Tit (2 pairs)
Great Tit (5= pairs)
Blue Tit (8+ pairs)
Coal Tit (at least 1 pair)
Nuthatch (not recorded today but usually present)
Chaffinch (6 pairs)
BULLFINCH (pair nesting in Birches along drove on southern flank)

Nearby, a pair of Pied Wagtails were breeding at the Industrial Estate in Penn Street.


In an attempt to add Common Cuckoo and European Turtle Dove to this year's Recording Area list, I made my annual pilgrimage to Bovingdon Green, but neither species was present yet. As usual, COMMON WHITETHROAT was present, with just 1 displaying male.

There were also 3 singing male Blackcaps and 2 singing male Common Chiffchaffs, whilst other species noted included Song Thrush (2 singing males), Common Blackbird, Long-tailed Tit and Great Tit.

Whilst I was failing to find Turtle Dove, Steve Rodwell was watching one..........

(evening visit)

Joining Steve and Vicky and David Bilcock, all four of us listened intently to the sweet soft purring of a EUROPEAN TURTLE DOVE from dense Hawthorn scrub in the Top Scrub at Ivinghoe, 200 yards from the main car park. In the fierce NE wind and above the constant whine of aircraft after aircraft taxi-ing into Luton Airport, it was difficult to hear this distinctive sound of summer and after much searching, we all eventually obtained flight views of the bird.

Top Scrub also held 6 singing male GARDEN WARBLERS and 3 COMMON SWIFTS flew east.


The first COMMON SWIFT of the year arrived this evening - circling the house and road at 2030 hours

Despite the rain, a red-letter day at Wilstone - RED-RUMPED SWALLOW !


With continuing NE winds, temperatures remained low (8 degrees C) and to top that, it rained throughout the day, some pulses being very heavy. On a local basis, it was a RED-LETTER DAY…..


Phew - what an amazing day at the reservoirs.

David Bilcock deservedly discovered a RED-RUMPED SWALLOW on his second early morning walk round of Wilstone, the bird showing well amongst the hordes of newly-arrived House Martins and European Barn Swallows just off the jetty and along the hedgerow of the East Bank. It afforded good views for about a 20 minute period but was generally very difficult to pick out in the large flock of hirundines flighting low over the water in the heavy rain and freezing NE winds. About 25 birders connected during the initial showings and then a further 15 during the next 45 minutes, just before it flew off strongly east at 0932 hours. It was not seen again. It represents only the second Red-rumped Swallow ever recorded at the reservoirs following one on Wilstone on 17 May 1981 and only the NINTH in Hertfordshire (following singles at Aldbury on 11 June 1949, at Hilfield Park Reservoir on 1 October 1966, at Hilfield again on 18 May 1982, at Amwell GP on 5 April 1987, at Hilfield again on 28-29 May 2000, at Hollingson Meads, north of Harlow, on 28-29 May 2002 and at Stocker's Farm on 11 April 2007.

Next off came an OSPREY, initially picked up distantly from Wilstone (Ian Williams et al) at 1557 hours, this bird circled over Tringford Reservoir for some time at low level before drifting off east at 1612 hours - and then flew east over College Lake BBOWT at 1612 - and then yet another MARSH HARRIER - a near adult female - which was either in or above Wilstone reedbed for nearly two hours late afternoon.

And then we had the terns - 116+ Common Terns still in residence, with two passage ARCTICS (present from at least 1000-1900 hours), two BLACK (flew along the line of the Grand Union Canal before flying east) and two LITTLE TERNS (present at around 1600 hours only) - and passage waders (a total of 11 DUNLIN through, including two which lingered during the heaviest spell of rain; a WHIMBREL through, a SANDERLING through and a Ringed Plover - with 2 COMMON SANDPIPERS all day.

Other migrants included two female GREENLAND WHEATEARS and 3 YELLOW WAGTAILS on the East Bank at Wilstone mid-afternoon, with up to 9 HOBBIES still present over the reedbed.

Just looking at my notebook – 0730-0900 hours – the RRS, 80 House Martins, 1 Sand Martin, 1 Common Sandpiper, 2 Lapwings over, the 2 Dunlin and a Jay by the Sewage Farm….

1230-1330 hours – the two female Greenland Wheatears and 3 Yellow Wagtails on the East Bank, 2 ARCTIC TERNS and 3 Hobbies.

The RED-RUMPED SWALLOW was my first ever at the reservoirs and my third county record. It was also my first of 2010 and is depicted on the following page by Ian Bennell.


Very quiet by comparison to the neighbouring reservoirs with just a drake Shoveler and 10 European Barn Swallows noted. Whilst there, I heard about a Golden Plover species that Franko Maroevic and others were watching at Barnes Wetland Reserve in Central London – it was either a PACIFIC GOLDEN PLOVER or an AMERICAN GOLDEN PLOVER. As either would be a London and Year-tick, I set off in hot pursuit with Allan Stewart and Darin Stanley but driving past the Polish War Memorial at Ruislip, we were given the bad news that the bird had flown off strongly west and had been lost to view at 1037 hours.

I then returned to College Lake and my car, where a COMMON CUCKOO was calling loudly from the Fen reserve, the pair of OYSTERCATCHERS were sitting, two baby Lapwing had fledged, 2 Common Redshank were on view, the hirundine flock had increased to 25 Swallows and 14 House Martins and WESTERN REED WARBLERS were singing.


Twitched a migrant flock of Arctic Terns but they had moved on – just 8 Common Terns, 250+ Common Swifts, large numbers of House Martin and Swallow and 4+ singing Western Reed Warblers.


The reason for my visit here late in the day was to secure COMMON NIGHTINGALE for the year in Herts – with at least two heard in the western part of the reserve adjacent to the canal and a further 5 or more in the Essex section, including one showing well not far from the car park and green bridge.

A COMMON CUCKOO was also noted, HOBBY, large numbers of Common Swifts and a crescendo of warbler species singing.

The first day of MAY - HOOPOE and PURPLE HERON delight

A return to cooler conditions, with NE winds predominating. I started off locally today before moving on to Kent. An excellent afternoon.


Single Great Crested and Little Grebes present, the latter ‘whinnying’, with the resident pair of Mute Swans, 6 Tufted Ducks, 28 Coot, 3 Wren, 3 Goldfinch and a male Blackcap. A female Reed Bunting was the highlight.


Little of note other than a drake Tufted Duck and 6 Coots.


Up to three different adult PURPLE HERONS were seen during the period of observation. The first one was seen from the vantage point overlooking the reedbed at Hookers Pit as it flew along the back and landed in a dyke out of view. I then drove around to Dengemarsh Lane, where with Jerry Warne and others, I enjoyed excellent views of two adults, which both landed in the same area of reedbed and appeared to be displaying to each other. Adrian Kettle visited and obtained these tremendous photographs above and below. It was my first Purple Heron of the year (259).
Two images at top of page: Pair of adult Purple Herons, Denge Marsh, Kent, May 2010 (Adrian Kettle) Both birds displayed and eventually settled down, were observed carrying in sticks, built a nest and eventually fledged a single young in July – the first confirmed successful nesting attempt in Britain

Apart from the Purple Herons, not much else of note was recorded – 100+ European Barn Swallows, large numbers of Common Swifts, a few House Martins, Cetti’s Warblers calling (and seen), Common Whitethroats, Yellow Wagtails and a Corn Bunting.


At Bowley Lane (TQ 896 507), I eventually enjoyed superb views of a HOOPOE feeding in a sheepfield just north of the M20 between 1400 and 1500 hours. It was fairly mobile but once pinned down, showed very well and enabled some great ‘scope views to be obtained as it fed on grubs. Some nice flight views were obtained as well. Marc Heath obtained the excellent image above.


After leaving the Hoopoe site, I had driven as far back as Clacket Lane services on the M25 when I took a call informing me of a Woodchat Shrike in North Kent at Chamber’s Wall. I continued to junction 4 and turned around and made my way all of the way back to Shuart Farm at Reculver. It turned out to be a complete waste of time in the event, as after just 40 minutes of viewing, the Woodchat disappeared from view and could never be relocated.

Along with 8 or so local birders, I searched for two hours or more and drew a blank – just Marsh Harriers (a pair), COMMON CUCKOO (excellent perched views), Yellow Wagtails and large numbers of Common Swifts and European Barn Swallows.