Friday, 19 April 2013

Success in Target Birding! (19th April)

It's amazing how many things conspire against you when out on a birding trip.  Today started later than expected as my alarm clock failed to work. The journey to Tring by bike wasn't much better as the headwind meant I could only progress at a fairly slow rate and to top it off, a very frustrating puncture set me back at least another hour!

The initial set back wasn't a total disaster as I had a while to scan the fields at Nettleden Road.  The stubble field below Highpark Wood had 3 Hares and 3 Red Kites were in the general area.

I eventually arrived at Ivinghoe were negative news of Ring Ouzels did dampen my spirits a little more.  However, after only a minute or so of scanning I was very pleased to locate a female RING OUZEL!  A brilliant bird which I enjoyed watching for some time feeding on the slope below the beacon.  6 Wheatear (including 4 males) were also around the lower part of the slope "chacking" around me in their usual disgruntled way.

female Ring Ouzel below the Beacon

I heard news of the Arctic Terns at Startop's End Res, so I made a bee line there, skipping out College and Pitstone as I had previously planned.  On arrival at Marsworth and Startop's, I was greeted to the sight of about 20 terns, mostly in flight and gliding around the northern side of Startop's.  It took time to get confident separating the Arctics from the Commons but after a while watching them I managed to see at least 3 ARCTIC TERNS in one "bin-full" (there could have been up to 6 birds).  Another year tick for the day as well as a good education as they performed well, gliding around the Res's and perching on the barley bales.  Other species of note at the Res's included my first SEDGE WARBLER of the year (a singing individual in the far north eastern corner of Marsworth), 2 Kingfishers, 3 Redshank flying over, a burst of song from the Cetti's Warbler, a Whitethroat in sub-song by the canal, 2 Grey Wagtails and 4 Red Crested Pochard (2 drakes and 2 females).  A long search for the reported Blue-headed Wagtail failed but I did locate 12 Yellow Wagtails and 3 WHITE WAGTAILS in the horse field before retracing my steps to College Lake.

Arctic Tern on the barley bales

College Lake was typically quiet but 3 Shelduck (2 males, 1 female), 4 Snipe and 7+ Redshank were of note.  Despite reports of Cuckoo I didn't manage to hear or see any throughout the day.

I decided to have another stab at the wagtail and met up with some of the hardcore local patchers at Startop's again.  Thankfully, while chatting to Roy, the BLUE-HEADED or CHANNEL WAGTAIL suddenly appeared on the causeway in front of me!  We were treated to some excellent views as it moved along the bank before it went to perch in the hedgerow.  As with many subspecies, there was a little dispute over it's real origin so we jokingly decided to settle on wagtail!

Blue-headed or Channel Wagtail? (ID still undetermined)

Pochard×Tufted Duck hybrid on Startop's End Res

"The Wagtail" did in fact draw most of our attention but I also manged to fit in a brief detour in to Wilstone Reservoir.  As expected, there were very few birds (as well as birders) but the 100's of Sand Martins were a treat to see.  A couple Swallows and the odd House Martin were also mingled in but our highlight at Wilstone emerged as we were leaving the car park, a hunting Barn Owl!  As always, it guaranteed a nice round off to the day, followed by a final brief visit to Startop's for a last peak at the Arctic Terns before heading for home.

sunset over Startop's End Reservoir

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