WEDNESDAY 26 SEPTEMBER
A band of heavy rain passed through from the southwest early to mid morning before clearing away. It was replaced by very still conditions - and quite mild. Having aborted a trip down west for Ortolan/Buff-breasted Sandpiper, I was soon then hit by all manner of messages from the Northeast - with rare warbler after rare warbler found as the skies cleared. In fact by 1400 hours, no less than 3 different Pallas's Grasshopper Warblers had been found - I was well depressed....
Anyhow, I made the best of a bad situation and decided to flog around the local areas in search of that rare and although not in the same league as your Arctic/Greenish, did turn up a few surprises.....but it was hard work
SPRINGFIELD FARM QUARRY, BEACONSFIELD (SOUTH BUCKS)
I decided to start at Springfield Farm where GS had 'gripped' me off the previous evening with his phone call. After liaising with him again this morning, I soon located the COMMON STONECHATS - in fact 3 of them - an adult male, an adult female and a first-year. There was also at least 1 WHINCHAT still present, as well as a single adult COMMON WHITETHROAT. The chats were concentrated well down the cinder track - much further down than usual - and were the first that I had seen in the Recording Area for a couple of years. But better was yet to come......
As I got to the point where the cinder track veered sharply to the left, I became aware of a very large flock of Meadow Pipits (100+) in the patch that had been cleared by the archaeologists' earlier in the summer. As I wandered out into the sparsely vegetated ground to check through them, I heard a liquidy alarm note and there just a few yards in front of me were 2 WOODLARKS - an adult and a first-year. I enjoyed excellent views of them for a few minutes before they flushed and flew calling across to the well vegetated pit top at the end of the track. I immediately called Rob Hill as I knew this was a species he wanted to see in the county, and then RBA, Graham Smith and Dave Cleal. As I was on the phone, both birds seemed to drop back down on the cleared area and I left them (Adam Bassett phoned me later to say that he was getting great views of one of them).
I did a thorough search of surrounding areas but only came across 8 Linnets, more Meadow Pipits, 2 COMMON RAVENS and lots of Red Kites. A group of 6 adult male Greenfinches were nearby bathing.
TYTTENHANGER GP (HERTS)
I then joined up with Steve Blake at Tyttenhanger where we enjoyed excellent views of a male COMMON STONECHAT and a WHINCHAT on the fenceline on the east side of the main birding pit; also a Bar-headed Goose amongst 59 Atlantic Canada Geese and two Common Chiffchaffs.
IVINGHOE HILLS (BUCKS)
For around half an hour, it poured with rain and I sat in the car talking with the various observers that seemed to be stumbling into PG Tips on the North East Coast. With clearing skies and slack winds, I decided to take my chance on the hills and do a full circuit. Approaching the trig point, a large raptor appeared overhead and rather than the expected Red Kite, it was a juvenile OSPREY purposefully on its way SSW. It was flapping strongly rather than gliding and was following the contour of the hills and had a typically well streaked breast band, distinctive pale tips to the terminal tail band and gleaming white unmarked underwing coverts. This was at 1425 hours and by three minutes later it was gone - perhaps heading towards the Gade Valley.
As I continued up towards the Beacon trig point, I flushed a strange looking bird from the edge of the chalk track. It had a longish tail and was very dark. I thought pipit at first but when I tracked it down in the grass, I was surprised to see that it was a locustella - and quite a greyish one at that. I looked at it for ages and next to point blank range but could not make it any more than just a GRASSHOPPER WARBLER - perhaps a young one or an individual from further east.
A wave of 22 House Martins and 7 Barn Swallows passed away to the SSW (following the same line as the Osprey), whilst 50 or so Goldfinches were still resident along the top escarpment.
Dropping down into the weedy field at the base of Gallows Hill, the fenceline held 3 WHINCHATS and 2 Northern Wheatears, whilst the only other migrant I noted in the area was a single Common Chiffchaff by the car park. An awful amount of flogging around with few birds to show for it.
WILSTONE RESERVOIR, TRING (HERTS)
And so on to the reservoirs and Startop's was pretty birdless - fishermen were wading out into the water. WILSTONE on the other hand still harboured our celebrity GREAT WHITE EGRET - fishing in the shallows but in the boatyard corner and rather distant (see Alan Reynold's superb montage of images above).
All 6 Little Egrets were still present too, 16 Great Crested Grebes, 42 Mute Swans, 4 Greylag Geese, 12 Gadwall, the 3 PINTAIL, 113 Shoveler, 114 Wigeon, 313 Teal, 138 Tufted Duck, 106 Pochard and a whopping 802 Coot - RINGED PLOVER still present, 39 :Lapwing, active Kingfishers and a single remaining HOBBY - oh, and a bright and chirpy Lucy Flower !
And that was it......