Today was my first day off after my As exams and I decided to spend it at Tring Reservoirs and Ivinghoe Beacon (unsurprisingly). I arrived at Wilstone at 7:20 after a long and strenuous cycle from Kings Langley leaving the house around 5:45. On the way to Tring, whilst passing along the canal I saw 1♂ Yellowhammer, several Stock Doves, my first juvenile Robin of the year (all seen in the horse field to the right of Chaulden Lane) and Common Terns were calling from the canal. The most obvious birds around at all the reservoirs were the hirundines, there were literally 1000's of Swifts (not quite the 5600 recorded yesterday) but Wednesday's rain storm must have caused the fall of migrants. From the fields leading to the nature reserve I also saw 1 Hobby fly in from Startop's direction, 1♂ Reed Bunting was in the rapeseed field and a few Common Terns also flew over head. In addition, there were smaller numbers of Sand Martins, House Martins and Swallows (in descending order of abundance (with Sand and House Martins easily reaching into the 100's)). Soon after arriving the weather changed from cloudy to drizzle combined with strong westerly winds and even stronger downpours, this made scanning extremely difficult from the jetty, however I did see 3 Mandarin Ducks (2♂,1♀) and a 1♂ Yellow Wagtail that I accidentally flushed and flew of in the direction of Cemetery Corner in the Eastern Corner of Wilstone. Reed Warblers were desperately trying to attract more mates due to the disastrous flooding of the reed bed which must have destroyed a large proportion of the nests. From the hide 1♂ Wigeon was near the spit and Shoveler Pochard, Tufted Duck and 21 Greylag Geese represented the commoner species present. Unfortunately, there were no signs of the elusive pair of Garganey from yesterday and they weren't recorded for the rest of the day. Flyover birds included 4 Lesser Black-backed Gulls, 1 Red Kite, and a second sighting of a Hobby (possibly the same bird from earlier in the morning). There were very few wading birds about except 3 Lapwing. The willows to the right of the hide were occupied by a Little Egret and 8+ Grey Herons were lined along the spit. Passing back through the the rapeseed fields 1 Sedge Warbler was performing display flights from the bushes and I also had fantastic but brief view of a Stoat bound across Tring Ford Road on my way to Startop's End and Marsworth Reservoir.
STARTOP'S END AND MARSWORTH RESERVOIR
The second stop was at Startop's Reservoir, were I hadn't finished scanning the reservoir until a Cuckoo started calling (from Marsworth Reservoir), I located what I thought might be the bird in the ash trees on the opposite side of the reservoir. This meant views were distant and the photos are no were near adequate for certain ID, but the characteristic call and jizz makes it an almost definite Cuckoo. 1♂ Red Crested Pochard was also at Startop's being very photogenic (see photos below).
male Red Crested Pochard
male Cuckoo calling
The third stop was at College Lake were I caught up on some late year ticks including the pair Little Ringed Plovers that were incubating a clutch of eggs in front of the octagon hide. The Lapwings were causing a great deal of disturbance and at one point one of the adults soon responded aggressively by flaring its tail in the intruders direction. I only saw 1 Lapwing Chick, although I'm sure most are still being incubated during the harsher weather. Redshank were also about and I glimpsed 2 Reed Warblers in the neighbouring reeds and singing Reed Buntings were also heard around the southern edge of the reserve.
Little Ringed Plover brooding eggs
Lapwing a little too close for the Little Ringed Plovers liking
Most birds were in fact near the car park so there may have not been any need to walk all the way to the Beacon from Beacon Road. In surrounding fields (mostly neighbouring the road) there was a total of at least 4+ Corn Buntings (most singing from wires), 5+ Yellowhammers (including a courting male in the car park trying to impress an uninterested female), dozens of Meadow Pipits were also in the cow fields and open grassland and 1 Willow Warbler made a brief stop in a shrub before continuing its migration. Whitethroats were also very regular along the path including 1 female carrying food near the beacon. 1 Green Woodpecker was also in the open coppice south of the Beacon Road and 1 Buzzard was seen from the car park.
male Corn Bunting doing its jangling song
PS. The Great Tits in our garden have fledged!