Birding on the eastern Ridgeway hills

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.

A view from the top of Aldbury Nowers. iPhone 7Plus © Gyorgy Szimuly

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.

One of the several Red Kites gliding and hovering over the ridges. Photo was taken by a Sony Cyber-shot HX400V camera © Gyorgy Szimuly

In sunlight these Red Kites looked amazing. Photo was taken by a Sony Cyber-shot HX400V camera © Gyorgy Szimuly

Pitstone Hill top. iPhone 7Plus © Gyorgy Szimuly

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.

Loose flock of European Golden Plovers on the plow field next to Pitstone Hill. Photo was taken by a Sony Cyber-shot HX400V camera © Gyorgy Szimuly

European Golden Plover in beautiful breeding plumage. Photo was taken by a Sony Cyber-shot HX400V camera © Gyorgy Szimuly

The song of Yellowhammer brough some very nice memories of my childhood when these birds were much commoner than today. Photo was taken by a Sony Cyber-shot HX400V camera © Gyorgy Szimuly

Lower end of the Pitstone Hill with the golden plover field. iPhone 7Plus © Gyorgy Szimuly

A poor record shot of a small Corn Bunting flock. Photo was taken by Sony Cyber-shot HX400V camera. © Gyorgy Szimuly

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.

A view to the Steps Hill. iPhone 7Plus © Gyorgy Szimuly

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.

The hillside of Steps Hill might be a potential place to find migrating Ring Ouzels. iPhone 7Plus © Gyorgy Szimuly

If only I had a proper camera for these spectacular birds of prey. A view from the top of Aldbury Nowers. Photo was taken with a Sony Cyber-shot HX400V camera. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Meadow Pipits were ruling on Beacon Hill. Photo was taken with a Sony Cyber-shot HX400V camera. © Gyorgy

Beacon Hill provides lovely views to Leighton Buzzard and as far as to Central Milton Keynes. iPhone 7Plus © Gyorgy Szimuly

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.

My activity summary according to the Apple Health app.

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.

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