WEDNESDAY 01 MAY
What a fantastic glorious day, this year's May Day was; wall-to-wall sunshine and afternoon temperatures reaching 18.5 degrees C. It really felt like summer had arrived. It had all started out very differently though with an overnight frost and some heavy mist first thing.
I spent a lot of the day in North Bucks and Bedfordshire concentrating on some Target Birding. However, another day - another WOOD WARBLER - and I just could not resist. I love Wood Warblers, and unlike yesterday's bird at Marlow, this was a shower, although it did take me over an hour to successfully photograph......
Anyway, here we go, my Diary Notes for today.........
Thanks to some excellent on-site directions from Simon Nichols, I was with the bird pretty quickly. This part of the OUSE VALLEY PARK at MANOR FARM was not normally in my remit, so parking by the Galleon pub in OLD WOLVERTON, I followed the canal for 500 yards to the Iron Trunk Aquaduct, where from here it was just a short 100 yards walk to the new wooden bridge. The male WOOD WARBLER was trilling on my arrival, in the tall Poplars just beyond, and singing perhaps once every five minutes. Frustratingly, it kept largely to the high canopy, and although it was easy to get good views in the binoculars, it was mighty hard to get in the viewfinder and photograph. The pale yellow was largely restricted to the upper breast, with a stark contrast with the gleaming white underparts. The facial area was very yellow, with a striking black loral line and a bright orange-straw bill. The tail was short and noticeably forked. After about an hour of viewing, I was eventually happy with two images (see below).
Simon and others had already checked the gravel pits so I gave them a miss as very little of note was to be seen - I did see a pair of LITTLE RINGED PLOVERS on the newly excavated pit by the canal.
I then moved on to the nearby LINFORD NATURE RESERVE where the pair of GARGANEY were showing very well from the Near Hide. I took about 60 shots of them as they fed in the emergent vegetation some 75 yards away (see selection of pix below). The two birds had been present on site for just under a week and were a UK Yeartick for me.
Linford otherwise was alive with Warbler song in the warm sunshine. GARDEN WARBLERS are a speciality of the reserve and today no less than 8 singing males were battling it out for territory - occasionally giving views from the dense Hawthorn canopies. A couple of Western Reed Warblers were also singing from the Hawthorns, with 5 Common Whitethroats, 3 Willow Warblers, 2 Common Chiffchaffs and 7 Blackcaps making up the numbers.
A mobile COMMON CUCKOO was in the area, as well as a nice male Bullfinch, with Common Treecreeper, Song Thrush, Jay, Great Spotted Woodpecker and Green Woodpecker on site. A CETTI'S WARBLER sang from the far side of the lake.
Activity at the Woodland Hide was surprisingly bristling, with the WILLOW TIT and 2 MARSH TITS joining the Great and Blue Tits at the feeders. Lots of butterfly activity too, with 5 Peacocks, 8 Small Tortoiseshell, 4 Brimstone and 6 Large White seen.
Being in the area, I had a brief look at MISSENDON HOUSE GARDEN in STOKE GOLDINGTON and very quickly saw 10 TREE SPARROWS, two of which I photographed (see below).
I also crossed the border into NORTHAMPTONSHIRE visiting the SALCEY FOREST but despite searching the regular site, no Wood Whites were on the wing yet, presumably delayed like most creatures this spring. Large White, Orange Tip, Green-veined White and Small Tortoiseshell were all seen.
BEDFORDSHIRE now beckoned and with temperatures soaring at 18.5 degrees C, I walked around MARSTON VALE COUNTRY PARK. The COMMON CUCKOO was calling from Black Poplars behind the Pillinge, with 17 Western Reed Warblers on territory, 5 Sedge Warblers and a single CETTI'S WARBLER. Thanks to a tip-off from MJP, I had soon added GARDEN WARBLER and LESSER WHITETHROAT - both easily seen along the eastern shore of STEWARTBY LAKE between Scrapyard Corner and the inlet. A single male WILLOW WARBLER was in this area too.
I then drove down to one of Darin Stanley's local hideouts at CHILTERN GREEN - an area of farmland accessed from Chiltern Green Road at TL 127 184 - and after a 450 yard walk located a pair of WHINCHAT and a pair of NORTHERN WHEATEAR in a cereal crop at TL 135 183. The area also produced a Common Whitethroat, 8 Red-legged Partridges, Yellowhammer and an impressive flock of 60 Linnets in a recently ploughed field (Darin had a Hobby during a visit shortly later).
At the end of the day, I joined Chris Pontin at CHESHAM FISHING LAKES (BUCKS), where the first male WESTERN REED WARBLER had arrived. Two broods of Atlantic Canada Geese goslings were also to be seen - an 8 and a 5 - as well as 9 Tufted Ducks and 15 Barn Swallows.