Birding along the eastern end of The Ridgeway always seemed to be very exciting in Spring based on former bird reports. As birds had already started to return from their wintering grounds I thought it might be good to explore the area even by using public transport – what I don’t like at all.
The day didn’t start flawless as the train was delayed by 20 minutes with a ridiculous explanation: no one was available to drive the train. Anyway, even with a half an hour delay I was fine starting my birding just after dawn. Off the railwaystation I was on The Ridgeway straight away. I had to walk through the Aldbury Nowers SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) which was filled by the song of European Robins, Dunnocks, Common Blackbirds, Eurasian (British) Wrens, Common Chiffchaffs but I also saw Mistle Thrush, Fieldfares, Redwing, Song Thrushes and a couple of stunning Stock Doves.
Coming out of the forest I reached the ridge of Pitstone Hill with a nice view to the surrounding gravel pits. I had very close encounters with stunning Red Kites. On the other side of the hill I saw a larger flock of European Golden Plovers flew high then soon descended to the plow land. As I was looking at the golden plovers a Merlin flew over me towards the west with a company of a chasing and mobbing Carrion Crow. Not an everyday bird for me.
On the lower end of the hill I found the feeding flock of golden plovers. Some males were in stunning breeding plumage already. I counted 84 birds and some Corn Buntings feeding among them. European Skylarks, Yellowhammers and Meadow Pipits were singing all around. A real spring feeling.
The next hill was the Steps Hill from where Ring Ozel were frequently reported during spring migration in previous years. I kept my eyes on the slopes and bushes but didn’t find any. European Blackcaps, Common Chiffchaffs and European Robins sang everywhere. On the north end of the Steps Hill I heard and found two Marsh Tits fast moving from one bush to another. These birds are getting really hard to find.
On the top of Beacon HillI realized I left my drinks at home and I already felt dehydrated. I decided to go down to Ivinghoe village for buying some drinks before heading towards The Grand Union Canal. After getting some drinks I found my first Barn Swallows of the year. What a difference they can make in my mood with their aerial songs.
Birding along the canal was rather boring and long. I underestimated the length of this leg of my walking. I have already had 15kms in my feet before I got there. The only notable bird was a year new Sedge Warbler singing briefly in the canalside vegetation. At the Grove Lock I saw my first Sand Martins circling over the lock. From there I speeded up to catch a bus to Milton Keynes. A cup of caramel cortado was a pleasure at Costa.
It is needless to say that early in the afternoon a Ring Ouzel on the Ivinghoe Hill and a singing Wood Warbler on Steps Hill were seen by other birders. Anyway I enjoyed birding on the hills and will return in a few weeks.