29th June 2011 â Greater London, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire
Thirty minutes after a 6am pick up from their hotel in Knightsbridge, my clients, a couple from the Boston area of the USA, and I were at out fist site of the day, Minet Country Park near Hayes in West London. The field inside the âcycle trackâ gave excellent views of perched Common Skylark, Meadow Pipit and Reed Bunting, whilst all around us Common Whitethroat were singing as well as family parties of this warbler species being seen. We also have good views European Goldfinch and European Greenfinch and a Common Kestrel hunted over the grasslands.
The main hedgerows were alive with birds in the morning sunshine and we saw both Great and Blue Tit, Blackcap, Song Thrush, a very obliging Chiffchaff was singing from a bare branch and Robin and two Purple Hairstreak butterflies were resting in an Oak tree. The Lepidopteran theme continued in the meadows where there were loads of Marbled White and Meadow Brown Butterflies and a Cinnabar moth and the birds were represented by a singing, but unfortunately not seen, Lesser Whitethroat; likewise a Green Woodpecker.
We then moved on to Wraysbury Gravel Pits in Berkshire. The pits themselves were fairly quiet but while watching the Great Crested Grebes, Grey Heron and Greylag Geese we had a good view of a Great Spotted Woodpecker sitting in the uppermost branches of a dead tree which of course flew off just as I got the âscope on it.
As we headed out towards the site proper, I heard a Pied Wagtail alarm calling and a Eurasian Hobby appeared overhead before stooping off towards the lake in search of dragonflies. The path along the river produced the most birds at this site with good views of Common Whitethroat, Garden Warbler and Blackcap and we heard Western Reed Warbler.A Common Buzzard was heard calling overhead and was soon seen, before being joined by two more Common Buzzard (presumably the local birds have bred successfully) and a pair of very vocal Peregrine (the first Iâve seen at this site). The insect interest continued with lots of different species of butterfly including Comma, Red Admiral and Large and Small Whites while dragonflies were represented by Small Blue Damselfly, Emperor, Southern Hawker and Banded Demoiselle. A reptile was also seen briefly by one of my clients but we could not relocate it so could not identify whether it was a Slow Worm or Grass Snake, thought the latter was more likely.
A walk across the scrub to the Sailing Pit produced brief but âtickableâ views of Sedge Warbler and Common Linnet and the walk back gave us a very good and prolonged flight view of Green Woodpecker, another (or the same) Eurasian Hobby, Eurasian Jay and Tufted Duck. Surprisingly there was no sign or sound of the several Willow Warbler that frequent that area, through I had heard a distant bird singing shortly after we arrived at the site.
We then moved onto Little Marlow Gravel Pit in Buckinghamshire where after lunch in the local pub we walked around the main pit. The sand spit held good numbers of Northern Lapwing, plenty of Common Tern, Black-headed, Herring and Lesser Black-backed Gulls, a single adult Little Ringed Plover and a pair of Common Teal and we had good flight views of a Common Kingfisher dashing across the water. There were several Tufted Duck on the lake, a single female Common Pochard, and plenty of Great Crested Grebes, Eurasian Coot and Common Moorhen, whilst the reeds held a family of Sedge Warbler. The fields down to the river provided us with excellent views of a Mistle Thrush collecting food, a male Pied Wagtail and a flock of Eurasian Jackdaw hunting for âleatherjacketsâ (Crane Fly larvae) and beetles in the grass, whilst Sand Martins (Bank Swallow) and Barn Swallows hawked insects overhead. Further around the pit we found a family of Reed Warblers that showed themselves well in the reeds and surrounding vegetation and a pair of Long-tailed Tits were mixed in with a loose flock of Blue and Great Tits.
All three hirundines species; Barn Swallow, Sand Martin (Bank Swallow) and House Martin were seen hunting for insects around the farm and we heard another Common Kingfisher calling but could not locate it. The woodland area was very quiet with only the occasional high pitched calls, from young birds, (probably Blue Tits) from deep within, but we did come across another tit flock in the wet meadows. As well as Long-tailed, Blue and Great Tits, this flock also held a pair of Eurasian Treecreeper and at least two Chiffchaff.
Our final port of call for the day was the fields at the base of the below the Chiltern ridge below Stokenchurch. Here we had excellent views of Yellowhammer and surprisingly, our first Common Chaffinch of the day (though we had heard others at both Wraysbury and Little Marlow GPs), a splendid male, as well as the ubiquitous Red Kites which offered superb photo opportunities. The fields were full of Rook and several Common Skylark were seen. A quick peer over the fence before we got back into the car to head back into town gave us two more birds for our day list, Common Pheasant and Red-legged Partridge, which took our total to 74 species recorded during the trip.
The favourite birds for the trip were Green Woodpecker (which had been a keenly sought- after bird) and Blue Tit for my male and female clients respectively and for me it was either the Peregrines at Wraysbury of the Little Ringed Plover at Little Marlow.