MONDAY 18 APRIL
Most likely the last day of high pressure for a little while with the beautiful calm sunny conditions giving way to fresher SE winds as the day went on. As a result, some very early BLACK TERNS arrived in the Home Counties, including 5 at Calvert Sailing Lake and 2 at Rookery........
LITTLE CHALFONT (BUCKS)
A party of 4 RED KITES drifting slowly east at 1140 hours about a mile SE of the village
BROOM GP (BEDFORDSHIRE)
Checking Gypsy Lane Pit early afternoon revealed the presence of a COMMON SANDPIPER - the first of the year in the county - along with 4 LITTLE RINGED PLOVERS, a pair of Ringed Plovers, 2 Common Shelduck, 1 Lapwing, a female Grey Wagtail, 2 male Pied Wagtails, 65 Sand Martins and a female NORTHERN WHEATEAR; also another Holly Blue butterfly.
WILLINGTON GRAVEL PIT COMPLEX (BEDFORDSHIRE)
Spent a prolonged period on site, initially checking the main Dovecote Pit and then the riverine scrub along the Cycle Way and former railway line. Persistence paid off with three new additions to my county yearlist......
The main pit held no less than 7 LITTLE RINGED PLOVERS, 2 Ringed Plovers, 4 Oystercatchers, a pair of Common Shelduck, nesting Coots, a Common Tern and 35 Sand Martins, with the adjacent fields harbouring 13 remaining Barnacle Geese and 7 YELLOW WAGTAILS
Back to the Cycleway, a COMMON CUCKOO flew around calling - my first of the year - with the scrub adjoining the track and the old railway track yielding a host of newly arrived warblers including at least 5 COMMON WHITETHROATS, 12 Blackcaps, 5 Common Chiffchaffs and 3 male WILLOW WARBLERS. Several pairs of Long-tailed Tits were seen, with Robins, Common Blackbirds and Song Thrushes all already busily gathering food and feeding young. A COMMON KINGFISHER showed well along the river course.
Checking around the lake 500 yards west of the entrance, a female NORTHERN WHEATEAR was flitting along the fenceline, with single pairs of both Mute Swan and Coot present. Several Common Buzzards were overhead.
Sadly, but most likely because of the time of day, there was no sight nor sound of the male Common Nightingale present yesterday but after an extended vigil, I did eventually track down the EUROPEAN TURTLE DOVE - gently 'purring' from the two tallest Copper Beeches to the east of the lake. Also, shortly after 1615 hours, a male GRASSHOPPER WARBLER began reeling from a clump of hawthorn in the centre of a reedy area just east of the lake - both latter species new for me.
In the warm sunshine, butterflies were pleasantly abundant, with healthy numbers of Small, Green-veined and Large Whites, Peacocks and Speckled Woods, as well as 2 Holly Blues and single Red Admiral and Small Tortoiseshell.
ROOKERY PIT (BEDFORDSHIRE)
I joined Keith Owen at Rookery late afternoon (from 1715) where two summer-plumaged adult BLACK TERNS were gracefully dipping over the water's surface catching insects much earlier than normal. There was also an influx of small waders in the drained pit including at least 7 LITTLE RINGED PLOVERS, a single DUNLIN, a Common Snipe and several Common Redshanks.
The drake GARGANEY was still present, associating loosely with 5 Shovelers and 3 Common Teal, with 1 pair of RED-CRESTED POCHARDS still showing, a pair of COMMON SHELDUCK and the two singing male Willow Warblers still near Jackdaw Bridge.
MJP joined us at about 1730 hours and within minutes I heard of a HOOPOE in Hardmead hamlet, just across the border into North Buckinghamshire. The bird had just flown into and out of Paul Nye's back garden and as I attempted to get hold of him, had flown on to a neighbours shed and then dropped down onto the grass playing area adjacent. All three of us decided to make a dash for it but despite taking just 12 minutes to get on site, the bird had flown from behind Paul's house and disappeared towards the Rectory garden 200 yards to the north. We all spread out, including Roy (Paul's father) and a birding neighbour living closeby (and later Dick Bodily) but despite an exhaustive search of the Rectory garden, the churchyard, adjoining gardens and fields, there was no further sign of the bird up until dusk.
A very attractive hamlet however and brightened up by sightings of a male GREY PARTRIDGE, a solitary late FIELDFARE, a RED KITE and two singing male Yellowhammers.
ASTWOOD (NORTH BUCKS)
Most pleasing for me as it was a belated county yeartick was a hunting BARN OWL at 1945 hours, south of the village and in the vicinity of the Green Valley Farmhouse. Before it alighted on a post, it hunted the roadside verge briefly