SUNDAY 5 JANUARY
Well the rain eventually ceased on Saturday evening but then the skies cleared and the temperatures plunged resulting in quite a hard frost and some extremely dangerous driving conditions very first thing. It remained dry until mid afternoon, the clear skies of the morning giving way to increasing cloud arriving from the west. The wind freshened up from the south, the temperature recovering to around 8 degrees C by dark.
A colourful rising at dawn
Hearing that a juvenile SABINE'S GULL had roosted overnight at WESTON TURVILLE RESERVOIR (BUCKS), David Bilcock, Ian Williams and I were on site just as daylight was breaking. The bird was still roosting close to the reeds on the north-eastern shore but as the first glimmers of daylight started breaking through above the Wendover escarpment, the bird suddenly took flight and flew purposefully southwestwards and away. I 'scoped it until lost from view behind the trees at 0732 hours. This is an exceptional winter record and follows a juvenile in the Thames off Shoeburyness on New Years Day (Steve Arlow) - certainly the first I have ever seen in winter in the UK. Although initially seen by Mike Campbell as a Little Gull earlier in the day yesterday, its true identity was not revealed until dark when Mike & Ted Wallen identified it whilst waiting for the Bitterns to roost.
A total of 20 LITTLE EGRETS departed the roost by 0740 hours.
At nearby WILSTONE RESERVOIR (TRING) (HERTS), DB and I enjoyed good views of the WATER PIPIT in Cemetery Corner before it flew NW along the bank. I then flushed it from the weedy field next to Wilstone Little Farm and it returned to the NE corner for a few minutes before flying again. Once again, it was accompanied everywhere by a single Meadow Pipit. A Grey Wagtail was in the same vicinity and a male Song Thrush was singing loudly from the East Bank 'Wood', with 80 Fieldfare in fields to the north of the reservoir.
Otherwise, everything the same - LITTLE STINT, BLACK-TAILED GODWIT, 2 COMMON REDSHANK, 268 European Golden Plover, 700+ Lapwing and a female Common Goldeneye - a selection of Sally Douglas' images from today's BBC field outing follow.
The Little Stint
...and the long-staying Black-tailed Godwit
I then moved on to IVINGHOE BEECHES (BUCKS) where the 55 Chaffinch and 30 BRAMBLING were still feeding beneath the Beech trees south of the main car park; 4 Bullfinches also in Top Scrub.
Chaffinches feeding beneath the Beeches
No sign of the resident pair of Common Ravens at DAGNALL (BEDS) but 115 Rook, 220 Jackdaw, Green Woodpecker, 1 Fieldfare, 1 Redwing and Jay noted.
TOTTERNHOE'S WELLHEAD ROAD (BEDS) was very productive with 6 CORN BUNTINGS and 17 YELLOWHAMMERS sharing a field edge, and 2 Eurasian Skylarks. No such luck at STOCKGROVE COUNTRY PARK however - not a Mandarin Duck in sight. I took some dried mealworms down and spent a while photographing Grey Squirrels, Common Blackbirds, Nuthatches, Robins and Coal, Great and Blue Tits (see selection below); 4 Goldcrests were in the tall firs.
....and Yellowhammers in fields along Wellhead Lane
....and at Stockgrove, both female and male Common Blackbird..
acrobatic Grey Squirrels
...and Great Tits
Had a good look around WOBURN PARK where the SHOULDER OF MUTTON and ABBEY PONDS yielded Little Grebe, 10 Mute Swan (4 first-years), 11 Greylag Geese, 16 Mallard, at least 137 Eurasian Wigeon (a high count for this site), 12 Gadwall, 17 Tufted Duck, 31 Northern Pochard and 112 Coot, pride of place going to 11 beautiful GOOSANDER (including 4 dapper drakes). Great Spotted Woodpecker, 2 Nuthatch, Coal Tit and Robin were also encountered.
A grazing flock of over 100 Eurasian Wigeon
...and Rooks making the most of the damp ground
At the LOWER DRAKELOE POND, 2 Great Crested Grebe, 6 Mute Swan (2 first-years), 2 adult Australian Black Swan, 42 Gadwall, 8 Wigeon, 32 Tufted Duck, 12 Northern Pochard and 27 Coot were counted, whilst EVERSHOLT LAKE at the southern extremity of the Park harboured 7 of the same GOOSANDER, 15 Mallard, an additional 8 Wigeon (my first-ever at this site) and 3 Moorhen. A Red Kite was overhead, whilst the Alders produced a flock of 85 SISKIN, 13 Goldfinch, 18 Fieldfare, 6 Redwing and 3 Blue Tits.
The resident pair of Black Swans
Just west of RIDGMONT, 8 Chinese Water Deer were in cereal fields (see below)
Returning to BROGBOROUGH LAKE from last night, better views were obtained of the juvenile COMMON SCOTER - the slight yellow in the bill indicating it is a drake (very poor record shot below). GOLDENEYE now numbered 41, Tufted Duck just 116 and Coot just 152, whilst 9 Great Crested Grebe, 4 Little Grebe, 8 Redwing and a nice COMMON KINGFISHER finished off the tally.
Very distant record shots of the Common Scoter
and parts of the 41-strong Goldeneye
Thanks to Neil Wright, took me a matter of minutes to locate the wintering Chiffchaffs at MARSTON SEWAGE WORKS - a total of 5 individuals being seen with Long-tailed Tits in the vicinity of the brick building just inside the complex perimeter fence. The birds were flicking about in the bramble scrub the lake side of the fence and were showing well, despite the deterioating weather conditions. Two birds were quite vocal and showed all of the hallmarks of abietinus-types (what I consider SCANDINAVIAN birds) whilst two were typical dark colybitta. Standout bird was a really nice buff/tan-coloured tristis (SIBERIAN) - black-billed, black-legged with a hint of a wingbar and some greenish remiges in the tail. It uttered a very solemn single note on one occasion and was a typical individual on plumage. I didn't look for the GREAT NORTHERN DIVER but other observers had seen it.
Driving through MOGGERHANGER, 2 Red Kites were seen, with 8 Collared Doves together in UPPER CALDECOTE. To the north of GYPSY LANE EAST at BROOM, I was pleased to see two coveys of GREY PARTRIDGE (an 8 and a 7) and 5 Red-legged Partridges.
From thenon it all went downhill - the weather and the birding: no sign of the male Merlin at Broom, no sign of Jim Gurney's Stonechat on Biggleswade Common, no sign of any Little Owls at four separate sites and no sign of any Barn Owls at dusk. Hay-ho!