THURSDAY 11 APRIL
It rained for much of the night, eventually petering out mid morning. I had raised expectations of a decent-sized fall after such conditions but I could not have been more wrong - very little being forced down. For most of the morning, it remained murky and misty, only eventually clearing up from early afternoon. Not a bad day temperature-wise, with an afternoon peak of 12 degrees C.
As Steve Rodwell was birding Tring and seeing surprisingly little, I diverted to the Hills where results were largely similar.
Although Francis Buckle had been successful before my arrival, Cliff Tack and I fared badly during the hour or so we searched BISON HILL, WHIPSNADE (BEDS) - just 75 Fieldfare, 18 Redwing and 3 Mistle Thrush being noted. The IVINGHOE HILLS were equally poor, with naff visibility and nothing of note to be seen (just lots of hillwalkers, dogwalkers and children on holiday).
Joined up with Peter Brazier at WILSTONE RESERVOIR (TRING) where 44 hirundines were in attendance - including 8 BARN SWALLOWS, 3 HOUSE MARTINS and 33 SAND MARTINS - a major arrival of birds. Also new in was a nice male NORTHERN WHEATEAR on the Jetty, loosely associating with Pied Wagtails.
Once again I dipped the Mandarin pair (SR had seen them at least twice prior to my arrival) but lingering wildfowl included 4 Mute Swans, 6 Gadwall, 72 Shoveler, 87 Wigeon, 4 Teal, 6 Pochard, 117 Tufted Duck and a single female COMMON GOLDENEYE. The drake Ring-necked Duck/Lesser Scaup hybrid was still present too, diving with Tufted Ducks not far off of the jetty.
In ASTON CLINTON (BUCKS), Rookeries were noted at SP 870 120 (4 active nests) and SP 865 115 (9 nests), whilst WESTON TURVILLE RESERVOIR produced nothing more than 3 SAND MARTINS and a singing Common Chiffchaff.
COLLEGE LAKE BBOWT had not improved on recent days, although the OYSTERCATCHER pair were back (on the westernmost island), COMMON REDSHANKS had increased to 10 and the bachelor male COMMON SHELDUCK was still resident.
More expected fare included 17 Mute Swans (1 first-summer), 6 Greylag Geese (3 pairs), 6 Gadwall, 4 Shoveler, just 8 Wigeon, a single Little Grebe, 34 Coot, 3 Common Snipe, 8 Lapwing and 18 Linnets.
MARSWORTH RESERVOIR (TRING) was fairly productive, yielding my first local LITTLE EGRET and CETTI'S WARBLER of the year, with 3 different singing male Common Chiffchaffs (1 in the wood, 1 by the canal and 1 in a plantation in the Barn Owl Field), a singing male Mistle Thrush, 10 Great Crested Grebes, 4 WATER RAILS, 3 singing male Reed Buntings, 2 Sand Martins, 2 Barn Swallows over the Horse Fields, a singing male Goldcrest in the wood, 3 'new' Rook nests by Manor House Farm, 3 Mute Swans, 4 Fieldfares east and a constant procession of Common Gulls migrating east. The local pair of COMMON KINGFISHERS were continuing their excavations.
Both WATER PIPITS were again on STARTOP'S END RESERVOIR, whilst TRINGFORD RESERVOIR held all 6 RED-CRESTED POCHARDS and a staggering migratory flock of 430 FIELDFARES. The Rookery in the Wood was in great shape with 37 active nests being utilised.
I then returned for another look at WILSTONE, where SR was part-way through another 3-hour watch. Little was happening, although we did watch a COMMON TERN fly straight through (it headed high NNW after just a brief stay), a first-summer Argenteus Herring Gull, a displaying Lapwing and a Song Thrush. Once again, adult Lesser Black-backed Gulls have taken up residence in the area, causing mayhem amongst local breeders.
With visibility improving, I headed over to ELLESBOROUGH and explored this very underwatched area. A lot of Red Kites were soaring over Beacon Hill to the south, as well as 2 Common Buzzards, whilst the Juniper Valley on the NW slope (at SP 833 063) held 2 RING OUZELS - a nice male and female. This area also held Mistle Thrush, Song Thrush and 1 Redwing, whilst the tall trees west of the village church harboured 18 active Rook nests.
Driving back through east, the reservoirs were still unproductive, so I returned to BISON HILL for the evening. This time, with no dogwalkers around, the RING OUZELS were showing well - favouring the sheep field 450 yards east of the car park. Elsewhere, 2 Ring Ouzels were seen today at Quainton Hills, with the long-staying male still in Wing. A most productive week for this gorgeous migrant.