Thursday, 21 June 2012

Pitstone and College Lake (20th June)


Just a single singing Lesser Whitethroat and a flyover Sparrowhawk were of note on my bike ride to Pitstone Hill.


An early morning rise had me at Pitstone Hill at c.7am following long bike ride.  However, it was worth the effort as I was soon rewarded with my first singing QUAIL.  It classically stayed in cover despite being only feet from where I was stood.  Despite hanging around for some time, it didn't show at all.  Also in the same field and surrounding area were 5+ Corn Buntings, and far more numerous farmland birds including Linnet, Skylarks, Yellowhammers and Small Heath butterflies.  If only all farmland was equally productive.

Pitstone Hill

Pitstone Reservoir


For much of the late morning and afternoon I was wandering around College Lake with some of the regular visitors who showed me the massive variety of flowering plants and butterflies on show (most of which were entirely new to me).  Not much bird wise except for 7 Redshanks (including 3 juveniles), the breeding Shelduck pair with the remaining 3 chicks and 1 Hobby1 Ringed Plover remained as did only 1 Little Ringed Plover (sadly the original pair I had seen only a few weeks before making a scrape didn't breed) and a singing Lesser Whitethroat on the eastern edge of the reserve.  The marsh also had a single Oystercatcher and I was surprised to find a Green Sandpiper amongst the resident Lapwings (a rather unseasonal record).  Insects were also numerous, however, Small Heath was the only one I could recognise .  On the flower front, one of the expert volunteers gave me a private guided walk around the meadows and pointed out a stunning array of flowers that the reserve cultivates including dozens of Bee Orchids, Common Orchid, Pyramidal Orchid, Field Madder, Field Cow-wheat, Corn Camomile, Yellow Rattle, Sun Spurge, Sainfoin, Bladder Campion, Broomrape, Corn Cockle and Pheasants Eye.  On my return, I bumped back into some of the visitors I had met earlier who excitedly told me of a Wood Sandpiper that they had seen from the Lovell Hide on the west side of the reserve, I rushed over with only an hour to spare before closing time.  However I could only locate the juvenile Redshanks which I must admit could easily have been misidentified as the Wood Sand. as I couldn't find any sign of the bird.

 only one of the remaining pair of Little Ringed Plovers

 Pyramidal Orchid


 Bee Orchid

 an unusual variety of Bee Orchid

 Common Orchid

 Field Cow-wheat


 Sainfoin+ the expert

 Pheasants Eye

 plenty of Field Cow-wheat, apparantly found naturally at only two other sites in Britain!

female Common Blue (blue variety)

 one of three juvenile Redshanks perhaps responsible for the record of the Wood Sandpiper


 Green Sandpiper

 sunset at Pitstone Hill complete with calling Quails


I returned back to Pitstone Hill again after the reserve closed in hope of catching at least a glimpse of the elusive Quails.  The wind had picked up and even hearing singing males became a challenge.  However, the conditions calmed down and in the hour before sun set, I counted a total of at least 4 singing QUAILS distributed at relatively even distances around the same field.  I was lying on the ground at one point when one began to sing only 3-4metres from where I was.  All the same it was still impossible to see!

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