Male Black-winged Stilt, Rainham Marshes RSPB (Simon West)
THURSDAY 8 APRIL
High pressure is now firmly in charge and with it came the warmest day of the year so far. Clear blue skies predominated, along with warm sunshine, with afternoon temperatures reaching just under 60 degrees fahrenheit. Winds were very light with a touch of southwesterly.
As is often the case with clear conditions, visible migration was stifled and in stark contrast to yesterday, few birds of note appeared. Bird of the day was undoubtedly the male BLACK-WINGED STILT which had relocated from the Isle of Wight to Essex.....
RAINHAM MARSHES RSPB (LONDON/ESSEX)
The RSPB's flagship reserve at Rainham continues to attract rare birds and proved once again today that it is one of the most productive locations that there is and after Alpine Swift, Hoopoe and Ring Ouzel last week, Peter Hale this morning pulled a cracking adult male BLACK-WINGED STILT out of the hat. The bird was showing exceptionally well in the closest corner of Purfleet Scrape to the information centre and performed all day, delighting several hundred admirers.
I managed to get down late morning, about two hours after Peter first identified it, and thanks to Joan Thompson and Mick Frosdick, enjoyed excellent 'scope views of it as it fed actively in the shallow water. It was an adult male, with a slight pink flush to the underparts, extensive black on its crown and jet-black upperwings and mantle. The hindneck was mainly white but was peppered lightly with black flecking, whilst the forehead was extensively white. The red in the eye was particularly noticeable.
It was presumably the same male that had spent the day at Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight two days ago on 6 April.
Many birders were arriving whilst I was on site and I noticed Howard Joliffe and Nick Green amongst them. As I was leaving, the crowd had swelled to 40 or more. Of course, Howard Vaughan was on site and being extremely helpful and informative. Another great day for Rainham.
CROXLEY COMMON MOOR LNR(HERTS)
In surprisingly warm conditions, a circuit of this site of Special Scientific Interest yielded two singing male WILLOW WARBLERS, a singing Common Chiffchaff, a pair of BLACKCAPS, Green Woodpecker and 3 Greenfinches. No Common Whitethroat though.
THE WITHEY BEDS LNR (HERTS)
Again, no sign of the singing Common Whitethroat seen earlier. The tiny reserve held a singing Common Chiffchaff, a singing male Nuthatch, a singing male Bullfinch, Great Tit, Song Thrush and nesting pairs of Ring-necked Parakeet and Jay, as well as my first butterflies of the year - 3 Commas, a Small Tortoiseshell and a Peacock.
Sadly, a dead BARN OWL was lying on the central reservation of the westbound A41, just SW of Berkhamstead.
MARSWORTH RESERVOIR (HERTS)
Marsworth Reedbed Wood held Great Spotted Woodpecker, a pair of Bullfinch, two singing male BLACKCAPS and an increase to at least 5 COMMON CHIFFCHAFFS. Both adult pair Mistle Thrushes were busy gathering food in the main field, and the male WILLOW WARBLER was still singing along the causeway. A single Song Thrush was also seen.
Up to 5 COMMON TERNS were on the reservoir, whilst the horse paddocks revealed the presence of no less than 8 YELLOW WAGTAILS (SR later had 9) and 2 adult male WHITE WAGTAILS.
STEPS HILL AND INKOMBE HOLE, IVINGHOE HILLS NR (BUCKS)
Three RING OUZEL remained from much earlier in the day - two males and a female - moving between the southern flank of Inkombe Hole and the Steps Hill slope in line with the stile. Typically, they were very elusive, and repeatedly disturbed by dogwalkers, joggers and walkers.
WILLOW WARBLERS had increased to 5 singing males in the area, with 2 Red Kites and 2 Song Thrushes also noted. A late REDWING arrived late evening.
As dusk approached, the fields around Down Farm attracted at least 107 FALLOW DEER out to feed, as well as several Red Foxes.
CHESHAM VALE (BUCKS)
The Rookery at the south end of the Vale wood held at least 35 active nests, with 130 Jackdaws roosting.