WEDNESDAY 12 MAY
In any normal year, the 12th May would be traditionally 'Dotterel Day' but with cold northerly winds now almost in their third consecutive week, migrants of this ilk are still being held up much farther south in Europe. In fact, many areas had experienced a frost overnight, particularly in Scotland and Northern England, but even in this area, temperatures once again struggled to 12 degrees C, well below average. It did remain dry though and the combination of wind and sun ensured that the ground was crusted hard in many areas.
After a very successful day in Bedfordshire on Tuesday, yielding three new 2010 birds including SANDERLING and COMMON QUAIL (the latter, one of my earliest ever in Britain), I returned again today, after Jim Gurney found two Turnstones........It was also another good day at Wilstone, with two more Marsh Harriers - the best year on record.
BROOM GP (BEDFORDSHIRE)
The two near full breeding-plumaged TURNSTONES were still present this afternoon, feeding together and busily turning over vegetation at the far end of Peacock's Island - my first of the year after missing out on the 7 or so that have already passed through the county in this past week or so.
There was little else of note other than 58+ pairs of nesting Black-headed Gull, 32 Common Terns, the Oystercatcher pair and large numbers of Common Swifts.
DEREK WHITE'S EGGS A1 GRAVEL WORKINGS (BEDFORDSHIRE)
Another belated catch-up bird - COMMON GREENSHANK - was feeding alongside a COMMON SANDPIPER on the southern shore, whilst Lapwing pairs had fledged at least 8 youngsters and Common Redshank and LITTLE RINGED PLOVER were still displaying. A Mallard was with 14 ducklings, whilst the island held 6 Common Terns and 5 nesting pairs of Black-headed Gull. At least 16 Sand Martins were feeding.
A HOBBY flew over the Poplars at the A6/A507 roundabout.
CONQUEST WOOD (BEDFORDSHIRE) (TL 050 415)
A thorough check of the new plantation resulted in the finding of 5 Meadow Pipits (2 breeding pairs and an additional singing male, displaying and pirouetting from the sapling tops) but disappointingly no Tree Pipits. Two singing male Common Whitethroats were on site, as well as two singing male Yellowhammers and a nesting pair of Linnets. At least 15 Common Swifts were winging over the village.
This new reserve is part of the Marston Vale Reclamation Project and has been supported by the local residents and is carefully managed. Pedestrian access only is obtained from Houghton Conquest village opposite Broadway and along the trail adjacent to 'Preachers Place'.(TL 049 416). There is ample parking in the village.
HORTON (BUCKS) (SP 925 194)
Within a mile section of the B 488 just north of Horton village, I located two Common Kestrel pairs, including a pair breeding in a dead Elm.
WILSTONE RESERVOIR, TRING (HERTS)
(joined by Mike Hirst and later by Dave Bilcock, Steve Rodwell and Chaz Jackson)
After hearing that Mike Hirst had discovered yet another MARSH HARRIER at Wilstone - his third this spring - I stopped off there on my route south. Mike's bird - a first-summer male - was showing well over the reedbed, between the hide and the Drayton Bank 'Boatshed Corner', occasionally being attacked by corvids. Whilst watching it through the 'scope, a second MARSH HARRIER flew in to view - a dark first-summer female - and for a while the two birds flew around hunting and scattering wildfowl and Coot. I lost track of the male at around 1610 hours but the female reappeared from the reeds on at least five more occasions and flew around and hunted.. At one stage, she was physically attacked by one of the nesting Grey Herons and had to take evasive action, plunging into the reeds to escape. She kept on showing until 1715 before dropping out of view in the reeds, presumably to roost, and did not reappear. MH joined me later and I was able to show him this additional bird, Wilstone having its best ever spring for this ever-increasing and very successful raptor.
HOBBIES were the other big story with at least 13 flighting back and forwards over the reedbeds and Drayton Bank. They afforded magnificent views from the hide and when not feeding took advantage of the many posts to rest. The majority of birds were adults but there were the odd first-summer with them.
Other raptors included Red Kite and Common Buzzard.
Otherwise, the following were noted:
Great Crested Grebes (8)
Continental Cormorant (9 active nests)
LITTLE EGRET (two birds flew in to roost at 1905 hours)
Mute Swan (the 16 regular birds present joined later by 5 new arrivals)
Greylag Geese (two pairs with goslings, both broods numbering 5)
NORTHERN SHOVELER (pair still present)
Tufted Duck (83)
NORTHERN POCHARD (10 present, including 6 adult drakes and a nasal-banded female from France - pale blue band marked =P - see Dave's image above)
COMMON SANDPIPER (1)
Black-headed Gull (adult winter still loafing just off the bank - presumably suffering botulism - but present for its 13th day; interestingly, a pair nearby constitute the first breeding attempt for the area)
Lesser Black-backed Gull (2 immatures)
Common Tern (52)
Common Swift (constant passage overhead, numbering at least 330 birds)
European Barn Swallow (64)
House Martin (14)
SAND MARTIN (late passage - at least 53 counted)
YELLOW WAGTAIL (a male flew east at 1905)
Blackcap (male singing by new overflow)
CHESHAM VALE (BUCKS)
Two European Barn Swallows were on the wires by the Black Horse Inn.