Recording Area Annual Totals

97 Species in 2013, 99 in 2012, 94 in 2011, 108 species were recorded in 2010;

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

OSPREY does a star turn and Mike Collard finds the first Chess Valley BLACK REDSTART in over 25 years

Juvenile Osprey, Chess River Valley, Bucks/Herts, 21 October to 11 November at least (superb photographs taken today by Dave Bilcock)

Although continuing damp and dreary, temperatures recovered a little today with the onset of SSW winds. There were a few heavy rain showers too.


The juvenile OSPREY was around a lot today giving its best performances so far. I saw it on at least five occasions this morning, once from the house and then several times in the Latimer area. After hearing from Mike Collard, I decided to help him out and went out again late morning. As soon as I drove down North Hill at 1100 hours, I picked up the bird - it was sitting bold as brass on top of a fir tree just north of the Three Valleys Pumping Station compound at TQ 036 978 just SE of Sarrattmill Bridge. The views were absolutely 'crippling' - at 75 yards - and for the very first time I realised that the bird was ringed - a blue ring with white inscribed letters on its left leg and a metal BTO-type ring on its right leg. The bird continued to show well for eight minutes and then something took its eye.

It plunged at breathtaking speed almost vertically into the very shallow River Chess (perhaps no more than a foot or so deep) and then incredibly hit the water with a splash and then swam underwater using its wings to move forward. It grabbed a large fish (most likely a Brown Trout) with its talons, swam along another five feet or more, reached the surface and then took to the air, still clutching the fish. It was absolutely amazing to watch in the crystal-clear water. It then flew very low away to the east and disappeared out of view in some Evergreen trees behind the row of Black Poplars.

This set off a host of shreeking Ring-necked Parakeets and at 1118 hours, the OSPREY took to the air again, complete with fish, flew back towards me, over my head and back west down the Chess Valley. I phoned MC who was able to intercept it as it flew low NW over the valley a couple of minutes later.

It then continued further west past Mount Wood towards Chenies Bottom, where it presumably found a suitable perch and consumed its prize. I joined Mike and others in the search for it but was waylaid when Mike discovered a beautiful, bedazzling adult male BLACK REDSTART in the Valley Farm horse paddocks (more of that later).

Anyway at 1249 hours I relocated the OSPREY in Mount Wood; it flew from the west and alighted on one of its favourite roost perches opposite Sarratt Bottom village and behind the Cress Bed nursery at TQ 030 988. Once again it provided astounding views allowing Mike C and two local residents to enjoy it, as well as Luke Massey, Dave Bilcock and at least one other observer who arrived. It stood there preening and stretching for the best part of two hours, allowing Luke, Dave and Mike to take a large number of images.

I struggled in vain to accurately read the inscription on the blue ring but it was either ''Z15'' or ''E15''.

I spoke with the Fishing Bailiff on this section of the river and he had been aware of the bird's presence since last week. He told me that the Chess was well stocked with over 800 Trout, with a mixture of Brown and Rainbow. He also stated that the bird had been frequently visiting the Solsbridge Lane Fisheries and had taken a number of very prized Koi Carp. I explained to him that there was every possibility that the bird would overwinter now and could very well take a large number of fish over the period; I also informed him that the bird was ringed and that it was fully protected by law. He was more than happy to acknowledge its importance and very kindly pointed out that the Grey Herons and wintering Little Egrets also took their toll on the fish.

Anyway back to that other mega - the BLACK REDSTART. Mike Collard had briefly espied the bird as it flicked along the paddock fencing at 1220 hours. It then vanished but was relocated on the roof of the main Valley Farm adjacent at TQ 027 992 and continued to show there, mainly on the flat roof of the long barn alongside, intermittently over the next couple of hours. It was an absolutely stunning adult male and was the first record in the immediate Amersham Recording Area in a very long time indeed. Valley Farm is in Hertfordshire.

The notepad-fillers -:

Mute Swan (2 adults by the Sarrattmill Bridge)
WOODPIGEONS (an extraodinary flock of at least 850 birds in Limeshill Wood)
LITTLE OWL (2 calling from dead trees around Valley Farm)
RING-NECKED PARAKEETS (up to 18 in Poplars east of Sarrattmill Bridge)
FIELDFARE (flocks of 8 and 57 flew NW)
Redwing (2)
Mistle Thrush (2)
Jay (5)
BULLFINCH (4 in the Sarratt Bottom area)
SISKIN (singles heard in two locations)
LESSER REDPOLL (three separate singles noted)

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