Compared to most recent years, when for example I recorded 165 species in the county in 2011, 187 in 2012 and 173 in 2013, this has been a particularly poor one with just 157 species recorded by mid December - one of my worst years on record


It's all over - 2012 has come to an end. I managed a total of 187 out of the 198 species recorded all told in Buckinghamshire - 94% of the total - probably my highest-ever annual tally.

The current record is 191 species achieved in 2006 and held jointly by both Rob Hill and Simon Nichols

Saturday, 31 January 2009



DAGNALL (1310-1335 hours)

There was much activity in the vicinity of the nesting Pine. The COMMON RAVEN pair were very busy actively gathering nest material, with the female gathering moss and grass from the ground and the male collecting branches, mainly from a Silver Birch on the slope. Both birds were very vocal and as a RED KITE came across the valley, the agitated male quickly chased it away towards the Zoo.

Francis Buckle obtained the excellent image above. This pair are present for their 5th successive year.



It was the second day of a biting SE wind blowing right in across from Russia. Although dry and bright, the wind chill was quite unbearable.


For much of the morning, a female GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER repeatedly visited one of my nut feeders, close to the window

House Sparrow numbers were holding up well, peaking at 34, but again no Greenfinch.

BERKHAMSTED COMMON (1100-1300 hours)

As Francis Buckle and Mike Campbell departed (after a stint from 1030-1300), I arrived. Following FB's success of yesterday, I had great hopes but it was not to be. After stomping around for some time, I eventually tracked down just 2 LESSER REDPOLL - in Great Frithsden Copse at TL 010 096. I also recorded 1 male SISKIN (in Frithsden Beeches), along with 6 Coal Tits, 22 Great Tits, 15 Blue Tits, Nuthatch, Great Spotted Woodpecker, 4 Chaffinch, 3 Common Blackbirds, 4 Robins and 4 Fallow Deer.

DAGNALL (1310-1335 hours)

There was much activity in the vicinity of the nesting Pine. The COMMON RAVEN pair were very busy actively gathering nest material, with the female gathering moss and grass from the ground and the male collecting branches, mainly from a Silver Birch on the slope. Both birds were very vocal and as a RED KITE came across the valley, the agitated male quickly chased it away towards the Zoo.

A small group of 6 Redwing and 1 Fieldfare were noted.


There was no sign of the Rough-legged Buzzard reported in this area by a visiting Hampshire birdwatcher at 0830 hours, but there was a pale morph Common Buzzard sharing some characteristics of this species.

A first-year RED KITE was showing well just north of Gaddesden Lane at TL 077 119, whilst 55 ROOKS were in stubble at TL 085 116.

GREY PARTRIDGES are apparently fairly numerous in this area (per gamekeeper) although I did not see any (JT & MF saw a pair and later a small covey were noted by Ernest Leahy)


The three long-staying EURASIAN CURLEWS flew in at 3.15pm (Alan Stevens). Unfortunately, just as Alan phoned me, I was attending a call-out at a serious accident on the Northbound A1 where two vehicles had collided, one of which had overturned - at Junction 7. Miraculously, nobody was injured, and after the firemen pushed the 4 x 4 back on to its four wheels and was pulled to the hard shoulder, the motorway was very quickly opened again. I was able to slip away as I was no longer required.

Anyway, fortunately the A404, M25 and M40 were relatively queue-free for a Friday rush-hour and I was able to get to Marlow GP in good time and in good light. This time, after so many unsuccessful visits, I was in luck - and with Graham Anderson was able to get good views of all three birds as they roosted on the spit. They comprised of two males and a female, the latter being larger and with a much longer bill. She also had a very obvious white 'spectacle' or eye-ring, and a noticeable pale eye-stripe. The other two lacked any eye-stripe and had an indistinct eye-ring. They were present from at least 1630-1650.

A PEREGRINE had scattered the Lapwings (600+ tonight) just prior to my arrival (GA), among them being a single EUROPEAN GOLDEN PLOVER.

There were also 5 COMMON SHELDUCKS present (two distinct pairs and the remaining bird from recent weeks) and 37 Magpies again flew to roost (LGRE)


At least 1 EURASIAN BITTERN was showing well at Calvert BBOWT today, superbly photographed by Tim Watts (see above)

Wednesday, 28 January 2009



Well, it rained all day long, but fortunately it was fairly light drizzle for much of the time


I arranged to meet Francis Buckle and Roy Nye early afternoon and together we searched for the redpoll flock seen earlier in the week. This was my second attempt to locate this scarce bird in the area and once again drew a complete blank. Apart from a few Coal Tits, 10+ Blue Tits and several Great Tits around a large garden, it was birdless. A WOODCOCK was flushed from the woodland understorey (FB, RN)

If anybody knows of any reliable redpolls, I will be more than grateful to hear of them.


Well it had to happen didn't it? After roosting for two consecutive nights on the trot, the 3 Eurasian Curlews failed to materialize this afternoon and after searching from 1530 until 1730 I gave up disillusioned. I am certainly not in favour at the moment after missing a Lesser Yellowlegs by a few minutes yesterday (with it reappearing again just after I left, after five hours searching) and dipping on five separate occasions on the Cambridgeshire Rough-legged Buzzard.

Anyway, Little Marlow spit was full of birds..... The list...

Great Crested Grebe (19)
Grey Heron (2)
Sinensis Cormorant (42 roosting)
Mute Swans (5)
Greylag Geese (57 came in after dark to roost)
Canada Geese (28)
COMMON SHELDUCK (1 still present)
Eurasian Wigeon (117)
Common Teal (32)
Gadwall (25)
Shoveler (12)
Tufted Duck (85)
Pochard (56+)
Lapwing (781, many departing at dusk to visit neighbouring farmland to feed)

It was an excellent gull roost with at least 4,062 birds present, including 2,952 Black-headed, 538 Common (still arriving in small flocks up until dark), 225 Herring (mostly Scandinavian argentatus), 316 Lesser Black-backed, 28 Great Black-backed and 3 adult YELLOW-LEGGED GULLS.

Monday, 26 January 2009


At least 3 of the 6 EURASIAN CURLEWS were roosting on the spit again at Little Marlow GP at 5pm this evening, much to my chagrin (per Alan Stevens)


Continuing my 'dipping streak', visited Little Marlow GP twice this weekend and completely failed in my quest to see the 6 EURASIAN CURLEWS.

Following all 6 roosting on the spit Friday night, I arrived on site pre-dawn. Not a sign despite a hard frost.

As the mist slowly cleared, most impressive was a flock of 7 COMMON SHELDUCKS resting on the spit - in addition to the two long-staying birds (pair) which were feeding in the shallows close to the island. All 7 flew off west at 0810 hours, taking with them the female Ruddy Shelduck !

Also present were 17 Great Crested Grebes, 96 Eurasian Wigeon, 42 Common Teal, 33 Shoveler, 51 Pochard, 518 Lapwing, 15 Great Black-backed Gulls and COMMON KINGFISHER.

I then continued on to Devon but at 1427, took a call from Alan Stevens informing me that all 6 birds had just flown in high from the west. Typically, they remained until dusk on the spit and roosted.

I returned to the site on Sunday evening (with Mike & Rose Collard) and from 1430 until 1715 hours, and yes you guessed it, there was NO SIGN of any Curlews.

Enough time was spent however to do a full census of the wintering birds of Little Marlow GP

Great Crested Grebes (22)
Sinensis Cormorants (a whopping 57 on the island)
Grey Heron (2)
Mute Swan (4 - 1 first-winter)
Greylag Geese (57)
COMMON SHELDUCK (only 1 remaining)
Eurasian Wigeon (93)
Common Teal (55)
Gadwall (6)
Shoveler (14)
Tufted Duck (152)
Pochard (59)
Common Kestrel
*LAPWING (1,068 click-counted)
Black-headed Gull (468)
Common Gull (712+ at dusk)
Herring Gull (28, mostly Scandinavian)
Lesser Black-backed Gull (43)
Great Black-backed Gull (23, including 3 first-winters)

COMMON KINGFISHER (2 showing frequently)
Pied Wagtail (6 on the meadow)
Meadow Pipit (1 on the meadow)
Fieldfare (23 on the meadow)
Redwing (2 on the meadow)

Most impressive was the Corvid roosts: a total of 38 (BLACK-BILLED) MAGPIES flew in to the North Scrub to roost, and over 3,670 (WESTERN) JACKDAWS on the island and surrounding trees.

Sunday, 25 January 2009


A COMMON RAVEN was in fields alongside the A422 just before the turning to Leckhampsted this afternoon (per Simon Nichols)


In addition to the four wintering EURASIAN BITTERNS, the juvenile ICELAND GULL and an adult MEDITERRANEAN GULL roosted on Calvert BBOWT (Warren Claydon, Tim Watts).

Mike Wallen did the Sailing Lake roost where he saw the two regular CASPIAN GULLS (adult and first-winter) and 6 YELLOW-LEGGED GULLS.


There were 3 BARN OWL near the centre and 2 possibly 3 SHORT-EARED OWLS. A large flock of SISKINS were in the Alder between the hides (probably 50) (Richard Goodlad)


9 DARK-BELLIED BRENT GEESE flew N low over Beaconsfield at 11.05. When going out of sight they changed direction to NNE (Dave Ferguson)

Much earlier, at 0810, 9 COMMON SHELDUCK were present at Little Marlow GP. Seven then flew off west, with the female Ruddy Shelduck in tow (Lee Evans)


With Tim Watts and others first thing Saturday morning:

BITTERN (4 separate birds, excellent views of each)
Water rail (1 - in front of the hide and then flew into the reeds to the right of the hide.
Common snipe (2 - in front of the hide).

John Hale


2 SHORT-EARED OWLS showing very well in the field next to the approach road at Linford this morning. One of them perched on one of the roadside posts and didn't budge until my car was virtually alongside it - brilliant.

Also the near-adult CASPIAN GULL-type on the bund, 1 LESSER REDPOLL, 1 COMMON REDSHANK and loads and loads of duck, mainly Wigeon, Teal, Gadwall and Tufties but including 3 NORTHERN PINTAIL (drake and two females) (Rob Hill)

Friday, 23 January 2009


This Afternoon at Little Marlow GP, 1 PEREGRINE chasing Lapwings; it did catch 2 but each time they spirraled towards the water the peregrine let go of them and ended up with nothing - amazing sight though.

Also 6 EURASIAN CURLEW came in at 3-20 and were still there when i left at 3-50 (Alan Stevens)

Thursday, 22 January 2009


Calvert BBOWT; 3-5:30 p.m With Phil, Nick and Gareth between us had 11 separate views of BITTERNS. These included, one on inside edge of reeds briefly, 1 in flight close doing croaking call, 2 together with threat display seen (as yesterday).

Best of all was that between us we located 3 roosting with a 4th suspected - 2 in opposite bank reedbeds and 1 in inside left. Inside bed had 2 areas of heavily jolting reeds tight to left of hide. One jolting area produced one roosting but not second area although hard to view that spot.

Gareth, with his hawk like eyes!, spotted our 3rd bird on opposite bank when virtually dark, just as we had settled for 2. Getting 4 on a relatively small site does seem remarkable but reckon they arrived during the recent big freeze. Most waters in county were frozen over and if feeding reed areas as well as ice adjoining the deeper water roosting spots iced over could have prompted birds from other sites to move. Apart from small area of cut reeds and bit of inside bed Calvert remained ice free. Calvert consisits of very deep clay pits and as foxes seen on frozen lakes in county think open ice free/predator free roosting spots at Calvert would be very attractive to Bitterns.

Much squabbling between the 4 birds and do not no how much longer they will tolerate being in such close proximity to each other (Tim Watts)

Wednesday, 21 January 2009


A brief pre-dusk visit to Linford today was rather productive. Most notable bird was a BLACK-TAILED GODWIT, which was with the Lapwings - the first for the year. It flew off north at 4.45pm when the majority of the Lapwings were spooked.

Also 1 Common Redshank, 1 WOODCOCK, 4 redhead GOOSANDER, 4 Goldeneye, 564 Wigeon,and a Barnacle Goose came into roost with the Greylags.

At Willen North at lunchtime, 2 GREEN SANDPIPERS and 13 Snipe, and 120 EUROPEAN GOLDEN PLOVER at Broughton Grounds (Rob Hill)



Another light frost followed by a gloriously clear, sunny day, with virtually no wind.


A rather forlorn-looking LITTLE EGRET was stood within the sewage work compound


Tufted Duck (6)
Pochard (16)
Coot (33)
Black-headed Gull (35)

*COMMON KINGFISHER (showing very well on adjacent brook)
Great Tit (2 males in full song)


COAL TIT in song (with another in my garden)


In fields south of Chesham Road (the B4505) (at TQ 002 032), a flock of 21 LAPWING and 26 EUROPEAN GOLDEN PLOVERS was noted (earlier on Graham Smith had counted 45 of the latter further west along the road in Orchard Leigh). At Lye Green, a Eurasian Sparrowhawk flew across Rushmere Lane


A tributary of the River Chess just west of Chesham (north of the B 485) yielded a pair of Mute Swans, 2 Grey Herons and 10 Moorhens. Missenden Road also produced 2 RED KITES.

SE AYLESBURY: 2 RED KITES over suburbia, with the resident pair of PEREGRINES roosting on the SE corner of the Council Offices (per Mike Collard)


After speaking to Tim Watts early afternoon, the excitement of FOUR different EURASIAN BITTERNS was too much, and listening to Tim's exultation and vivid descriptions of the birds really left me with a lot of expectation. I even invited Mike Collard along.

And so it was......arriving at 1308 hours, I joined Tim, Gareth Leese and Nick Foxton in the Crispin Fisher Hide and waited. Tim and the others had literally just obtained fabulous views of two birds 'displaying' to each other but they had just moved out of view as I walked in. Tim's description was 'mouth-watering'. In fact, he kept rubbing in exactly where all four different birds were and their approximate positioning in the well separated reedbeds. Anyway, I waited and waited, and within a short time, 'lucky' Mike Collard arrived, as well as Badger-watcher Bernard, who had never seen a live Bittern in Britain.......and still hasn't.

Anyway, nearly two hours later, I eventually set eyes on the usual BITTERN (thanks Gareth), 'licking his bill' after consuming a meal, in the reedbed to the left of the hide just feet left of the obvious bush. Bits of him showed well, particularly the crown and eye, and as the afternoon progressed, he too flew and disappeared into the bay to the left (the same place probably all four had). None of the other three put in an appearance unfortunately and I left for pastures new. Better luck tomorrow maybe !

During the three hours I sat in the hide, the gull roost gathered pace, with some 515+ Lesser Black-backed Gulls dropping in for a wash and brush-up, 138 Herring Gulls (still predominantly Scandinavian) and just 6 Great Black-backed Gulls (all first and second winters). YELLOW-LEGGED GULLS numbered 7 adults, all in full breeding plumage.

A WATER RAIL flew across the cut-reeds in front of the hide (where a single COMMON SNIPE was day-roosting), with 2 Great Crested Grebes, a single Little Grebe, 11 Cormorants, 2 Greylag Geese and 35 Tufted Ducks counted. A Common Buzzard sat in trees left of the hide briefly and a Grey Wagtail flew by.

On CALVERT LANDFILL, 13 RED KITES or more were in attendance, 5 of them fighting over a bag of rubbish at one stage, whilst the Common Starling flock was still well over 800.


At long, long last, I finally added JACK SNIPE to the 'Bucks Year List' with two seen. A flock of 18 Eurasian Wigeon were feeding on the unfrozen SW corner of the pool at SP 845 143.


I have now received all the totals back from the EXTREMELY well received and executed Big Bucks WeBS Count. The results are very interesting.

Together, counters recorded 47 of the WeBS Core Species with a further 6 in the dubious section (Cackling Canada Goose and Ruddy Shelduck are part of the 47 ) at a whopping 49 Sites around the county.

A total of 20,662 birds was counted.

Total No of birds 20,662
Total No of Cormorants Gulls, Waders, Herons and Kingfishers 7,980
Total No of Grebes, Ducks, Swans, Geese , Water rail, Moorhen and Coot 12,682

Some random facts

Top 5 Species

Black Headed Gull - 4,034 ( probably less then 50% of actual birds counted )
Coot - 1,960
Mallard - 1,887
Canada Goose - 1,763
Lapwing - 1,698 (again a non recorded species at a few sites )

Top 5 Commonest Species by location numbers

Mallard - 43 Locations
Coot - 34 Locations
Mute Swan - 34 Locations
Moorhen - 33 Locations
Tufted Duck - 30 Locations

Top 5 Sites by Numbers Present

Bletchley Brick Pits - 2634 birds ( 95% Gulls)
LMGP - 2390
Linford - 1661
Willen Lake - 1397 ( No Gulls Counted )
Wooton Lakes - 1069

Top 5 Sites by Species present

LMGP - 28 Species
Foxcote - 22 Species
Wooton - 22 Species
Willen Lake - 27 Species
Calvert - 21 Species
(Linford had 16 , but another 10 WeBS species were almost certainly present)

Other notable numbers 678 Gadwall; 428 Moorhen; 1456 Tufted Ducks; 62 Little Grebes

Cheers and massive thanks to all those who took part (Simon Nichols)


I had a great view of the BITTERN this lunchtime, as it stomped around in a thin patch of reeds. Plus a Water Rail showed briefly, and 2 Siskins were in a lakesidealder (Ted Reed)


Late afternoon today (Tues), RUFF still presentand showing well on spit. One COMMON SHELDUCK, one Common Snipe, continuing huge numbers of Lapwing and at 4.30pm three EURASIAN CURLEWS flew in onto spit, right beside the Ruff. Could not relocate them at 5 pm (just on dusk) as I was returning back towards car (John Bowman)

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Now 3 BITTERNS at Calvert BBOWT

Calvert BBOWT lake 20 JANUARY 2009; Can confirm there are without doubt 3 EURASIAN BITTERNS on site. Have suspected 3 for a week or so and on two visits was pretty sure but always one with unseen escape route available. Birds are using all 7 reedbeds on both banks, with many flight views during day. Trick is to pin individual birds down once they have landed in isolated reedbed and keep an eye on them. Today after early flights I knew where two were. Joined by Ken Earnshaw and Oxonbirder, we saw one fly right down to bottom bed on opposite bank, shortly followed by 2nd which landed in different bed but also down bottom/South end. Was sure neither of these came from bed near hide where had seen one earlier. We kept eye on all 3 areas and sure enough the one by hide flew!! So definitely THREE. Getting silly now!!.. but outside chance 4 !!! When we had 3 pinned down one appeared in flight, landed in inside bed. It did not appear to come from 3 areas mentioned but can't be sure. They are very visible in flight, in good light, and gulls/cormorants go mental, so good early warning system. For 2nd time heard one doing rarely heard croaking call in flight, earlier this week saw one puff out breast, neck with wings out in threat posture, pretty sure to another Bittern. They do not seem to like each others company and I think because there are three different birds on site this is resulting in numerous flights/activity during daylight. I once had 11 separate views on one visit !! If you spend an hour in the hide at the moment, virtually guaranteed seeing one.

Also today 3 NORTHERN PINTAILS (drake and two females) ( 2nd hide) and wintering CETTI'S WARBLER (Tim Watts)


The first drive along Swans Way produced 1 Meadow Pipit over then 13:20 1 SHORT-EARED OWL hunting towards the canal bridge. On my way back another TWO had joined it, one of these perched on the wooden posts and the third one on top of one of the trees across the middle of the field (drove right up to it - would have made a great pic). Also 9 more Meadow Pipits flushed by one of the owls. Finally 1 Barn Owl perched along the back of the footpath into Linford reserve (Paul Moon, Tuesday 20/1)

Monday, 19 January 2009


Below are the duck count numbers from Foxcote Reservoir, counted between 13:10-15:10 hrs today:

Little Grebe - 1
Great-crested Grebe - 4
Cormorant - 12
Grey Heron - 2
Mute Swan - 7
Wigeon - 422
Gadwall - 18
Teal - 57
Mallard - 12
Shoveler - 3 (2m, 1f)
Pochard - 43
Tufted Duck - 28
GOOSANDER - 4 (2m, 2f)
Moorhen - 5
Coot - 277
Black-headed Gull - 425
Lesser Black-backed Gull - 5
Common Gull - 16

Undoubtedly the highlight was the BITTERN which showed immediately in front of the hide for nearly 10 minutes. I had heard something crashing about in the reeds as I was counting the ducks, but despite looking on a couple of occasions couldn't see anything moving so assumed it was a Coot or some other duck. I was halfway through counting the Pochard when I heard another noise and the Bittern was stood on reeds in the open (in the small channel that's been cut through the reeds to water's edge in front of hide). It stayed there for 2 or 3 minutes before working right along the water's edge, stopped where the reeds stop (just to right of hide) and then flew back left in front of the hide and along the reeds. Due to the very cold wind, I had the left hand flaps shut, so didn't see where it dropped down, but assume it's still present. As I was doing the WEBS count, I hadn't brought a camera, but the bird was no more than 5 metres from the hide in beautiful winter sunshine - stunning! It also provided a tick to a couple from Marsh Gibbon who were making their first ever visit to Foxcote - claimed to be Calvert regulars, but hadn't met them before.

The RING-NECKED DUCK was appearing occasionally on the edge of the reeds at the end of the spit.... and finally, not sure where all the ducks have appeared from (Bill Parker)


At least three, very probably four SHORT-EARED OWLS late afternoon with 1+ Barn Owl. Maximum of three SEOs in the air at one time but at 1620 found another bird on the deck very close to where the group had been watching from behind the stone wall. This couldn't have been one of the three up earlier unless it had walked a long way.

Also 1 Snipe, 2 Skylark and about a dozen Meadow Pipits all flushed by hunting owls, plus GSW & Fieldfares (Graham Shortt)


Two SHORT-EARED OWLS were showing well at Linford this afternoon, plus one Barn Owl. Also the regular 4th-winter CASPIAN GULL on the bund, and 4 redhead GOOSANDER in amongst a rather impressive number of wildfowl (Rob Hill)


Following a very rough night with gale-force SW winds and torrential rain, Sunday morning saw three flocks of EURASIAN WHITE-FRONTED GEESE pass through the county.

First off was a party of 17 that flew SW from Olney towards Gayhurst and the M1 (Andrew Harding) and then two groups (57 and 11) which flew over Little Marlow GP mid-morning (Alan Stephens)


A female MERLIN was at Linford NR at 1430 today; it was a female and came from the reserve and crossed the rough ground and Swans Way where the owls are wintering before going straight over the Canal. At a guess I'd say it was doing about 60 mph !!

The Aylesbury County Hall PEREGRINES remain on the tower with the female right next to the platform on Saturday and the male there on Sunday.In the last week their prey has included 2 Feral Pigeons, 1 Lapwing and 1 Song Thrush (Mike Wallen)

The Merlin represents the 119th species of the year.



A relatively mild day, with bright periods and a fresh southerly wind. As the evening approached, the wind increased from the SW bringing heavy rain.

LITTLE MARLOW GP (mid-morning)
(brief visit, with Dave Horton)

The single RUFF, discovered by Alan Stephens on 16th, was still present, showing well on the spit and consorting with the Lapwings. Initially asleep, it then woke up and began feeding on the sand. It was a white individual, with a patchy head and mottled breast-sides. The underparts were predominantly unmarked white. It had some dark on the crown but with a contrasting white collar and white fringed upper wing-coverts. Most distinctive were its bright orange legs and bill.

Also noted were -:

Sinensis Cormorants: 2 pairs back on territory and repairing nests on the island
COMMON SHELDUCK: pair still present
*Ruddy Shelduck: female still present
LAPWING (733 on spit)

Ring-necked Parakeet (pair)
SISKINS: a flock of at least 50 birds feeding in the canopy of the trees adjacent to the car parking area, 30 yards from the Sewage Farm entrance.

**About 45 minutes after I left, Alan Stephens 'phoned to inform me of 6 EURASIAN CURLEWS that flew in to the spit early afternoon. They settled, preened for a while, but flew off about ten minutes later - presumably adults returning north to moorland breeding grounds. They represented the first of the year for the county - species 117.

The CALVERT BBOWT roost yielded 2 'regular' CASPIAN GULLS - the adult and first-winter (Warren Claydon)

Friday, 16 January 2009


The first RUFF of the Bucks Year (Species 116) was discovered at Little Marlow GP this afternoon, consorting with 900 Lapwings on the spit. The pair of COMMON SHELDUCK were still there, as well as 2 Common Snipe (Alan Stevens)


At Foxcote Reservoir at about 2 pm: drake NORTHERN PINTAIL on the dam, drake drake RING-NECKED DUCK put in a brief apperance on the far side of the reservoir opposite the hide.At Calvert BBOWT: CETTI'S WARBLER showing well in reeds to right of first hide. Water Rail strolled across in front of hide. BITTERN in left hand reed bed having a dull yellow bill, clambered up the reeds; 2nd BITTERN showing well at edge of right hand reed bed having a greenish tinged bill. It then strolled steadily across in front of hide in view for about 15 mins in total giving some excellent views. A reasonable gull roost eventually built up but no wihite-winged gulls noted (Ken Earnshaw)


Three SHORT-EARED OWLS tonight 1600-1630, good views hunting and often perched up close to the Little Owl tree. Also, one BARN OWL hunting along theapproach track to the Study Centre (David Roe)

Furthermore, Paul Moon saw 2 HAWFINCHES at Gayhurst Manor Grounds this afternoon, feeding on Ash 'keys'


Simon Nichols saw 1 HAWFINCH in the scrubby patch behind the grey barn this morning near Dairy Farm. It then flew back into the Gayhurst village area

Thursday, 15 January 2009


HAWFINCH (DAVE HUTTON) - Not taken in Buckinghamshire unfortunately but of a particularly confiding bird this winter at Cannock Chase in Staffordshire.........


A much colder day again, with the wind veering due west. Although dry, remained grey and overcast throughout.

Road casualties were the order of the day with a dead Badger in Chorleywood (at the side of the A404 at TQ 032 967) with another on the A41 near Hemel Hempstead, and an adult Black-headed Gull and first-winter Mute Swan both hit and killed by drivers as I drove towards Aylesbury.


A flock of 60 Fieldfare were feeding on Hawthorns just west of the railway cutting.


I visited my favourite field again today and it was bursting with birds: 660 corvids including 202 Rooks and 458 Jackdaws, 313 Woodpigeons, 35 Feral Pigeons (including 13 Fan-tailed Doves), 281 Common Starlings and 76 Chaffinches. Most impressive was a single flock of 147 EURASIAN SKYLARKS - my largest flock this winter.

At least 3 RED KITES were hanging around, as well as a single Common Buzzard.

It was here that I heard from Paul Moon that Rob Hill had discovered TWO HAWFINCH, literally half a mile from where Rob Norris had found one just a couple of days ago (and where I had spent 90 minutes searching in vain the same day). I quickly contacted Rob H and discussed with him my options. It was worth a go I thought, particularly as Rob had left them there still showing.


I arrived on site at 1425 hours and immediately began searching the small isolated scrubby patch east of the barn, just 90 yards beyond the road stile. Viewing from the car, the Hawthorns were birdless apart from 18 Blue Tits moving through after spending the day feeding in the nearby village. I waited awhile but there was still nothing. I was soon joined by local birder Graham Squirrell and whilst chatting to him, I heard the HAWFINCHES and the sound was coming from the tall trees surrounding the pond in the private Gayhurst Estate. Within seconds of me getting on to them, the birds took flight - and there were THREE BIRDS. They took to the air and flew overhead, two birds quickly returning and the other flying off SE towards Mill Farm. The two then returned to the Evergreen Fir trees (where they perhaps roost) and quickly disappeared into the foliage. There is also a row of old Hornbeam trees in the estate - again, a favoured feeding tree. Ideal habitat and indicating that they have probably been around for some time. The birds were extremely vocal, with their loud 'ticking' call being clearly heard.

Some excellent refinding by Rob H - first rate and bang on target - with Hawfinch pushing me through the 100 barrier for the year (Buckinghamshire).

The location is more than a little bit precarious with warning signs up all around. Gayhurst House and village are strictly private and one can only view from the lane that leads up to Dairy Farm. Whilst I was there, 7 vehicles came and went, all enquiring as to why I was there (and reiterating that it is private). Hopefully, the birds will favour the bush clump adjacent to the barn, where they can be seen easily from the car. In fact, there is a small pond therein and maybe that is why the Hawfinches and other birds visit this isolated clump.

Access is off of the Haversham road at SP 850 457. After 800 yards you cross a stile and before you arrive at the barn on the left, the bushes are obvious to the left. The Hornbeams, Firs and gardens are immediately on your right.

The Dairy Farm fields held 23 Linnets.


Four LITTLE EGRETS were pre-roosting on the main lake, with Grey Herons prospecting the nests on the island. There were few wildfowl other than 35 Teal, 8 Pochard, just 15 Eurasian Wigeon and a drake Common Goldeneye, whilst 112 Lapwings and 3 Common Snipe were roosting on the bund.

Most interesting was a large white-headed gull standing with two adult Common Gulls. Clearly bigger and with a similarly shaded grey mantle, it had sepia-grey coloured legs, rather long and lanky. It had a completely white head but a rather rounded head and did not have an aggressive feel nor a long sloping forehead. It had a small, dark, beady eye and a relatively thick pale green bill with an orange-red gonydeal spot. It was long-primaried but rather small in size. I did not get a good look at p10. It was very close to near adult in plumage but with some immaturity in the outer primaries and primary coverts. Although I suspect it has Caspian Gull influence, it just did not seem absolutely right for that species.

Just around the corner, by the old ruins, Graham was watching a BARN OWL (my first of the year) and within five minutes, a Common Buzzard appeared and in no time physically attacked the Barn Owl, forcing it to dash for shelter in the wood behind. This is the first time I have seen actual physical contact between these two species but confirms Dave Anderson's studies in that Common Buzzard is their main predator.

A single SHORT-EARED OWL was showing well (before dogwalkers arrived) and a pair of BULLFINCH were noteworthy.


A COMMON REDSHANK was showing well in front of the hide, feeding with 33 Lapwings.

At the reedbed end, I was surprised to find a skulking Mr Hill, no Bitterns but two noisy WATER RAILS and 1-2 'exploding' CETTI'S WARBLERS.


Calvert BBOWT; Juvenile ICELAND GULL in pre-roost; 2 EURASIAN BITTERNS still in front of hide; WATER RAIL; drake COMMON GOLDENEYE (Tim Watts)

One BITTERN came to roost at 16.30; at the edge of the reedbed in front and left of the first hide. CETTI'S WARBLER heard also (David Roe)

Wednesday, 14 January 2009



The Chess River Valley was bathed in dense fog all morning, with the Latimer Bridge area yielding just 1 LITTLE EGRET, a single adult Atlantic Great Cormorant, 1 COMMON TEAL and 7 NORTHERN POCHARDS. Once again, there was no sign of the Green Sandpiper.

Whilst returning to write, and whilst enjoying watching a Coal Tit repeatedly take single Sunflower seeds from one of my feeders, Rob Norris sent an email detailing his sighting of a HAWFINCH NE of Gayhurst Motorway Pit late morning. The bird had been perched high with several Yellowhammers by the game strip and was likely to be still in the area.

So it was North Bucks yet again for me, and after 55 minutes drive, I parked up at the end of Lane.


I spent a good hour and a half traversing the various plots of maize game-strips east of Mill Farm but could not locate Rob's Hawfinch. Once again, the undoubted highlight was the presence of 19 TREE SPARROWS (two groups, 14 and 5) in the bushes just west of the manure spoils at SP 857 455, along with 25 Red-legged Partridges, 5 Goldfinch, 14 Chaffinch and 7 Yellowhammers.

The Greylag Geese flock had returned to the meadows and numbered an unhealthy 385+, with 126 Lapwings and 54 Fieldfares also sharing the same food source (now completely thawed).

Vast numbers of wildfowl were feeding on spilt grain on the Motorway Pit, including 108 Mute Swans, 2 adult Australian Black Swans, 11 Common Teal, 16 Gadwall and 404 Eurasian Wigeon. Eventually, two NORTHERN PINTAILS were located - an adult drake and a female (not together) - constituting my first of the year.

In the gardens bordering the access lane, 13 Blue Tits, 5 Great Tits, 7 Greenfinches and a Jay were noted.


In a brief visit, excellent views were obtained of a single resting SHORT-EARED OWL. Earlier, three had been showing, as well as 3 Barn Owls.


A lunchtime visit produced 1 Mallard from the (only) hide over looking the larger lake (where the Bittern was yesterday). On my second visit to the "Reed bed platform" (because the hide has been burnt down) I could hear something moving, then saw the reeds moving - then the BITTERN gave itself away by catching a prey item from the water - the white on its throat and gape clearly visible, it then walked slowly off left and deeper into the reeds and out of sight. Also 2 Water Rail calling from the reed bed (Paul Moon)

January Totals - 114 Species thus far

The Story So Far……… Buckinghamshire

A total of 114 species has been recorded by 14 January 2009
LGRE has seen 95 species (those marked in blue)

1) Great Crested Grebe
2) Little Grebe
3) Atlantic Great Cormorant
6) Grey Heron
7) Mute Swan
8) Greylag Goose
9) Atlantic Canada Goose
10) Barnacle Goose
11) Common Shelduck
12) Ruddy Shelduck*
13) Egyptian Goose
14) Mandarin Duck
15) Mallard
16) Gadwall
18) Shoveler
19) Eurasian Wigeon
20) Common Teal
21) Northern Pochard
22) Red-crested Pochard
24) Tufted Duck
26) Common Goldeneye
27) SMEW
28) Goosander
29) Red Kite
30) Common Buzzard
31) Eurasian Sparrowhawk
32) Common Kestrel
33) Peregrine
35) Red-legged Partridge
36) Grey Partridge
37) Common Pheasant
38) Water Rail
39) Moorhen
40) Coot
41) European Golden Plover
42) Lapwing
46) Common Redshank
47) Woodcock
48) Common Snipe
50) Black-headed Gull
51) Common Gull
52) Herring Gull
53) Yellow-legged Gull
55) Lesser Black-backed Gull
56) Great Black-backed Gull
58) Stock Dove
59) Woodpigeon
60) Collared Dove
61) Tawny Owl
63) Barn Owl
64) Little Owl
65) Common Kingfisher
66) Ring-necked Parakeet
67) Green Woodpecker
68) Great Spotted Woodpecker
69) Skylark
70) Meadow Pipit
71) Pied Wagtail
72) Grey Wagtail
73) Wren
75) Dunnock
76) Robin
78) Song Thrush
79) Redwing
80) Mistle Thrush
81) Fieldfare
82) Common Blackbird
83) Blackcap
84) Cetti’s Warbler
85) Common Chiffchaff
86) Goldcrest
88) Great Tit
89) Blue Tit
90) Coal Tit
91) Marsh Tit
92) Long-tailed Tit
93) Nuthatch
94) Common Treecreeper
96) Magpie
97) Jay
98) Jackdaw
99) Rook
100) Carrion Crow
102) Common Starling
103) House Sparrow
105) Chaffinch
107) Linnet
108) Lesser Redpoll
109) Goldfinch
110) Greenfinch
111) Siskin
112) Bullfinch
113) Reed Bunting
) Corn Bunting

Tuesday, 13 January 2009


PEREGRINES on Aylesbury Town Hall (Tim Watts)


A much milder day than of late with temperatures reaching 9 degrees centigrade. The thaw continues with much of the ice now disappearing on the reservoirs. SW winds.

My target today was Pintail and Jack Snipe but despite much effort, failed to locate either species once again.


A Coal Tit was noted in gardens at Ivy House Farm (SU 977 995), with four pairs of Rook prospecting old nests in the wood above at SU 975 995).


A flock of 20 Magpies was feeding close to the horses in the paddock, with a lone FALLOW DEER sat on the ground amongst the horses. Nearby, 138 Woodpigeons were in fields west of the road south of Park Hall Farm.


Little Grebe (2), COMMON TEAL (9), Tufted Duck (17), Pochard (5), LAPWING (135), Black-headed Gull (211), Common Gull (4 including a first-winter), Lesser Black-backed Gull (5 adults), Carrion Crow (8 together), Song Thrush (1), Redwing (4) and Goldcrest (1).


Great Crested Grebe (1 - scarce here in winter), Atlantic Great Cormorant (presumed 'Sinensis') (13 roosting on island), Greylag Geese (23), Canada Geese (15), Mallard (86), *MANDARIN DUCK (10 present - 7 drakes, 3 females - all favouring the west end of the main marsh), Gadwall (62), Shoveler (5), Common Teal (38), Eurasian Wigeon (78), Tufted Duck (33), Pochard (3), *RED-CRESTED POCHARD (5 still present on main lake - JT counted 6 yesterday), NO Common Goldeneye, Coot (35), Great Spotted Woodpecker, Redwing (5), Great Tit, Blue Tit and Long-tailed Tit (7).

The TRING RESERVOIRS (mainly Hertfordshire)

Tringford Reservoir: a creck of 14 Moorhens feeding together in the field just east of the reservoir at SP 920 134, whilst the reservoir held 3 Great Crested Grebes, 4 Grey Herons, 8 Mute Swans, 16 Gadwall, 22 Common Teal, 8 Tufted Ducks, 1 Pochard and 7 Shoveler. A single first-winter Herring Gull flew over.

Nearby, 2 male STOCK DOVES were displaying from tall trees at the south end, with 2 male Common Pheasants opposite Little Tring Farm and 76 Jackdaws feeding in the paddocks between the wood and the Grand Union Canal. A single female COMMON STONECHAT was still present just east of the new plantation and horse paddock, 100 yards east of Tringford Pumping Station, frequenting the small weedy field and fenceline (at SP 920 129) (present since November 2008). A small flock of 8 Meadow Pipits was in the grass field adjacent to the Canal.

Startop's End Reservoir was very quiet with the 3 Mute Swans (1 first-winter), 2 Greylag Geese, 15 Tufted Duck, 14 Pochard and 32 Coot present, whilst Marsworth Reservoir was equally uninspiring, yielding just 1 Great Crested Grebe, 1 Little Grebe, 59 Shoveler, 3 Tufted Ducks, 5 Pochard, 4 Wrens, 1 Song Thrush, 2 Great Tits, Goldcrest and a pair of BULLFINCHES. The Sewage Farm held a further 15 Shoveler and a pair of Mute Swans.

WARNING: An employee of British Waterways Board asked me to be particularly vigilant now in the area as 'travellers' have acquired a plot by Wilstone Reservoir and are grazing their horses in neighbouring fields. They have moved in heavy machinery and caravans and are now residing on the plot. Very recently, the pumping station shed was broken into and over £7,000 worth of uninsured tools and machinery was stolen.

Wilstone Reservoir: again, very quiet, with less wildfowl than of late - 8 Great Crested Grebes, 5 Little Grebes, just 6 adult Mute Swans, 64 Greylag Geese, 302 Eurasian Wigeon, 26 Gadwall, 89 Common Teal, 1 Shoveler, 83 Tufted Duck, 43 Pochard, 1 drake RUDDY DUCK, 5 COMMON GOLDENEYES (2 adult drakes, 3 females), 126 Lapwings, 2 adult Common Gulls, 40 Redwing (near car park) and 1 Fieldfare (with Adrian Condon)


Despite a complete thaw, not 1 Jack Snipe could be located - just 2 Common Snipe. A COMMON KINGFISHER was once again showing very well 'fishing' from perches overhanging the Aylesbury Arm of the Grand Union Canal just east of the bridge.


The pair of PEREGRINES, both now in full breeding condition, were showing very well on the roof at the SE corner of the building. They were sat just two feet apart, with the male gently 'calling' and 'softly twittering' to her on several occasions. The platform was just a few yards away and I am extremely confident that they will breed this year, although I am not sure if they will utilise the chamber, particularly without any cover or protection from the elements.


Another abortive attempt for Jack Snipe.

(dusk visit; with Andy Harding)

Wildfowl numbers were much depleted, and there was no sign of the 2 Pintail present here on at least 11th (SN, RH, et al) nor of the redhead Smew. The adult drake RING-NECKED DUCK was hiding in reeds west of the NW arm, with 3 Pochard, 9 COMMON GOLDENEYE (3 drakes) and c200 Eurasian Wigeon of note. The drake Wigeon with the dark eye-stripe was still present - indicating some influence of either Chiloe or American Wigeon genes.


One of two wintering EURASIAN BITTERNS in the small reedbed in front of the Crispin Fisher Hide at Calvert BBOWT Lake. Tim Watts obtained this impressive selection of images.


Calvert BBOWT Lake; Bitterns looked for from 1st hide by John, myself and others virtually all day but no sign as far as I know in daylight; 1 hauled up reeds to roost in left reedbed 16:50.
With Warren C and Steve N we gave gull pre-roost a go. We had 3 distinctive gulls seen here before, the 1st Winter and near adult CASPIAN GULLS and the adult thayeri-type Scandinavian Herring Gull with white wing tips (see photographs above).
Coot seen stating to build a nest!! (TIM WATTS)


The drake SMEW was still present late afternoon, showing very well, midway along the north bank of South Lake, Willen from 15:45 until 16:20, when it flew to the extreme SE corner of South lake where it appeared to be feeding; 3 GOOSANDER (2m, 1f) in the same area. It was still in the SE corner when I left at 16:45.

Also present on South Lake were 1 COMMON KINGFISHER in NW corner, 122 Mute Swan and at least 19 COMMON GOLDENEYE (Bill Parker)

MERLIN for the year

This afternoon, 1530- male MERLIN upsetting finch flock (in field adjacent to the old model aircraft shed, Linford). Very good flying and perching performance from the owls around 4pm -2-3 BARN, 2-3 SHORT-EARED, ranging from the ruined church to the ARC entrance path (John Callaghan)

'New' EURASIAN BITTERN wintering

A EURASIAN BITTERN is present for its fourth day at WALTON LAKE, Milton Keynes. Today, the bird was showing from the (only) hide, looking right and with the iron railings / sluice in the background the bird was low in the reeds to the left of here. There were also 5 Siskins in the car park.

Walton Lake is situated at SP 880 370 (see map above, by kind courtesy of OS) Park in the car park,walk east a few metres and then you will come to the reedbed and boardwalk, and then the hide (per Paul Moon).


Willen North this morning still held yesterdays COMMON REDSHANK, only the second bird in the county this year. At Linford at lunchtime, lots of mud and bund - looks good! But only held 1 COMMON REDSHANK of note. 5 Goldeneye 1 Little Grebe A flock of 20+ SISKINS contained at least 2 LESSER REDPOLL, 1 Buzzard over and 1 Barn owl actually inside the reserve. No owls seen around Swans Way as viewed from the LITTLE OWL tree (Paul Moon)

Drake SMEW still present

The adult drake SMEW (photographed by Dick Bodily, above) remains for a second day in the NW arm of Willen Lake South Basin (Rob Hill)

Thursday, 8 January 2009


A mammoth roost at Caldecotte this evening, with c7000 BHG's,1600CG's, and at least 800 Herring Gulls, easily the most of thislatter species I've ever seen in an MK roost. There was 1ad CASPIAN GULL in there too, but still no white-wingers. Also 14 Goosander (8m 6f), 54 Gadwall, and c65 Greenfinch roosting bythe sailing club.

At Calvert mid-morning, 1 BITTERN showed briefly, flying from onereedbed to another before stalking out of sight. Also 2 YELLOW-LEGGED GULL (1 2nd-w & 1 3rd-w) and 1pr Goldeneye on the sailing lake.R (Rob Hill)

Later, towards dusk, an adult CASPIAN GULL roosted, 2 BITTERNS showed, as well as CETTI'S WARBLER and WATER RAIL (Ken Earnshaw)


A EURASIAN BITTERN flew over the reed bed at Walton BL this lunchtime. It then perched high in the reeds, giving a great view. And two Water Rails were calling as well (Ted Reed)


Redhead SMEW and drake RING-NECKED DUCK both present this afternoon, the Smew tucked in under the bank on the NE shore. Also 6 GOOSANDER, 8 Goldeneye, 428 Wigeon, 135 Teal and 10 Great Crested Grebes (Phil Tizzard)

Wednesday, 7 January 2009


At Caldecotte this evening, an adult CASPIAN GULL in a very large gull roost; also 500+ Herring, 300+ LBBG's and 140+ GBBG's. Loads of Common & BHG's too, but they were standing on the ice, too tightly packed to estimate properly. A large proportion of the gulls took off north, presumably to roost at Willen, but loads still remained until dusk.

Also 52 Great Crested Grebe, 63 Cormorants roosting, 6 Goosander (3m3f), 8 Dabchick, and singles of Water Rail and Grey Wagtail (Rob Hill)



Calvert BBOWT; The 2 EURASIAN BITTERNS seen 4 times in flight between 2:20- 4p.m. One flew across lake to different small reedbed than one used last night. Only small patch of ice left in deeper water, but as last night, the loafing gulls on this gave good early warning of Bitterns flying or emerging. If they go up screaming, get bins up and ready!

Also male Common Goldeneye/6 Shoveler new in.

Sailing lake; male + imm male Common Goldeneye. Colleen came to see Bitterns and as usual spotted the most unusual/unexpected birds of visit! I was greedily, quickly scanning deep water for Divers/Grebes when she pointed out 2 DUNLIN feeding virtually under my feet!! She let herself down though by insisting we went home just as dusk approaching!! Wanted to check the Greylag flock more than anything and like last night trying to optomistically spot a 3rd Bittern!!

(Tim Watts)




A day of two tales, with one of the best days the valley has ever seen (in terms of variety) but a very sad one, with the killing of one of our two wintering Atlantic Great Cormorants.

Firstly, Richard Tomlin witnessed the Cormorant (an immature of the Continental form Sinensis) being shot east of Latimer Bridge at cTQ 007 986. The bird fell to the ground (and incidentally it had been roosting alongside a single Little Egret at the top of a dead tree) and was still alive before being finished off with a single bullet. The corpse was then taken away by the assailant. This incident happened shortly after midday and was shot from the south side of the river south of Church Covert.

A license can be issued to fisheries provided they can provide proof that a number of Cormorants are taking an excessive number of fish. A number of birds can then be 'culled' through the winter months. There is a small fishery at Great Water, half a mile from this location. I do not know whether the person that shot this bird had a valid certificate and was therefore within his rights to shoot the bird, but I would be very surprised that a certificate was issued for this location which rarely attracts more than three wintering birds. What worries me much much more is the possibility of my Little Egrets being shot, of which there has only been three regular birds this winter, surprisingly less than normal! I welcome any comments on this subject and if visiting this location, please be vigilant and record details of person with firearms, vehicle license plate if known, etc

Anyway, back to the positive points of my email

Today's sightings in the valley included
(from 1030-1200 hours, Stuart & Lesley Wilson, Richard Tomlin and 1500-1630, LGRE)

Little Grebe (6 on lake below Neptune Falls, with another east of Latimer Bridge)
Grey Heron (1+)
*LITTLE EGRET (7 birds recorded today, 4 of which were feeding east of Latimer Bridge)
Mute Swans (3 by Latimer Bridge and 6 on Great Water)
Mallard (9)
*COMMON TEAL - 3 on the Chess just west of Church Covert (S&LW)
Tufted Duck (26 on Great Water)
*NORTHERN POCHARD (55 on Great Water - peak count this winter) (LGRE)

*LAPWING (31 in filed NW of Mill Farm in Chenies Bottom at TQ 013 989)
**EUROPEAN GOLDEN PLOVERS (18, morning only, with the Lapwings above - S&LW)
**GREEN SANDPIPER (the bird first seen by Dave Horton on New Years Day was still present today east of Latimer Bridge)
*COMMON SNIPE (8 in cressbed just east of Latimer Bridge)

Black-headed Gulls (106 flew from Chesham direction towards Chorleywood at dusk presumably to roost at Hilfield Park Reservoir)

*COMMON KINGFISHER (1 on Great Water)
Common Kestrels (2)
Grey Wagtail
Pied Wagtail
*MEADOW PIPITS (large flock of 40 on meadow east of Latimer Bridge)
Wren (8)
Mistle Thrush (2)
Song Thrush (3)
*SISKINS (40in Alder near Chenies Bottom Bridge)

Monday, 5 January 2009


BITTERNS and more BITTERNS. With the freezing conditions of the past week, Buckinghamshire has experienced an influx of this reed dwelling species, with 2 birds at Willen Lake, 2 birds at Weston Turville Reservoir and 2 birds at Calvert BBOWT Lake. At least two more are at Tring Reservoirs, just over the county border in Hertfordshire. Mark Stirland took these fantastic images above.


Three GREATER SCAUPS (an immature drake and two females) were present on Little Marlow GP this week (Alan Stephens et al, photographed above by Jim Rose). A female appeared on 1st and was then joined by two more birds on 2nd-3rd. Much of the lake then froze over and the birds moved on.


I had a fine day today, visiting a few west and mid-Bucks sites.

Starting at Foxcote, where there was - as most of you now know -1redhead SMEW, plus the drake RING-NECKED DUCK, plus 1m Goosander, 16 Common Goldeneye, 523 Wigeon, and 109 Teal amongst plenty of duck, plus 1Water Rail.

Then at Calvert, there was again no sign of the female Scaup. Highlights here were single Snipe and Kingfisher, and amongst a hefty flock of loafing gulls on the sailing lake, 7 YELLOW-LEGGED GULL (5ad,1 3rd-w & 1 1st-w).

At Gallows Bridge Farm, a 110+ Chaffinch flock also held a handful of Reed Buntings and Yellowhammers, and there were 28 Snipe feeding in one of the roadside fields, an encouraging winter sight. Also 1 Golden Plover and 2 Red Kite.

Finemere Wood was, as one might expect, fairly bereft of birds, the best being 1 MARSH TIT. There were also 120+ Fieldfare & c25 MeadowPipit in the approach fields (Rob Hill)




Virtually all frozen but in the one remaining open patch at the west end were gathered 1 Little Grebe, the family group of 6 Mute Swans, a pair of Gadwall and 46 Coots. A pair of MANDARIN DUCKS was standing on the ice.


On the outskirts of the town, two RED KITES were flying together just NE of the A413 opposite Hideaway Farm at SP 854 097


Just north of the town and west of the A413, one field held 45 Skylarks - my first of the year

(1200-1300 hours; with John & Ruth Ward)

The redhead SMEW (discovered earlier by Rob Hill) was still present, keeping to the overhanging vegetation and trees on the North bank at SP 713 365. It was EXTREMELY elusive, rarely straying away from the edge and feeding in one area of unfrozen water.

With so much ice everywhere, it gave me an ideal opportunity to get an accurate wildfowl count, yielding -:

Great Crested Grebe (8)
Mute Swan (11 adults)
Common Teal (212 - my highest count there this winter)
Eurasian Wigeon (204)
Shoveler (5)
Gadwall (6)
Pochard (22)
Tufted Duck (52)
*RING-NECKED DUCK (adult drake showing well)
COMMON GOLDENEYE (10, including 3 drakes)
*GOOSANDER (adult drake)
*WATER RAIL (showing well on the edge of the ice)

LECKHAMPSTEAD: pair of BULLFINCH by junction at SP 730 372


(No sign of drake Pintail)

Just one patch of the Motorway Pit was ice-free with wildfowl 'crammed' on it, including 93 Mute Swans, 7 Greylag Geese (my first of the year), 11 Canada Geese, 200+ Eurasian Wigeon, 11 Common Teal, 4 Gadwall and 20 Pochard.

At least 36 Red-legged Partridges were commuting between the three strips of maize 'game-cover', with passerines including 23 TREE SPARROWS (at SP 842 435) east of Mill Farm, 21 Yellowhammers and 32 Chaffinches. A single Mistle Thrush and 5 Fieldfares were just NW of Mill Farm.


Once again, thanks to Simon Nichols superb directions, I located the non-naturalised goose flock feeding on the grass immediately SE of the River Great Ouse, SE of Olney Church. It contained 58 BARNACLE GEESE (all unringed), 18 Atlantic Canada Geese and an adult SMALL CANADA GOOSE, almost certainly a 'Cackling-type' (has anyone any images of this bird I can use to identify it?)


Despite being almost completely frozen (2 Great Crested Grebes surviving on a very tiny open patch), one EURASIAN BITTERN was still present, roosting in one of the cut-strips of reeds. It then moved out of view into the reedbed. One WATER RAIL was squealing.


The long-staying female-type MARSH HARRIER was just inside the county at Kingsey this afternoon. First seen at 16.05 just east of village flying alongside A4129 opp Dove House Farm and then found again low over paddocks immediately north of Old Farm OS 744070. Last seen towards Tythrop Park in failing light. 40 lapwing on arable between Old Farm and railway line (Francis Gomme)


Small flock (about 10) BOHEMIAN WAXWINGS seen on the edge of common land at 12:30. Flew away east into the estate.Also saw a WATER RAIL browsing bold as brass in the shallow margins under the H10 bridge (Greg Tappenden, 4 January 2009)


4 JANUARY 2009

Berryfields A41 layby; A quick look on the way to pick Colleen up was pretty productive tonight. At 1535 2 SHORT-EARED OWLS up in layby field, 1540 2 more on ridge. With certainty 4 strongly suspected 6 or more! Had to dash off at 1550, at this time there was lots of activity with one owl in seemingly every section of ridge scanned but only 4 seen together at one time (Tim Watts)

European Golden Plovers in Kimble

Walking the dog this morning i noticed the EUROPEAN GOLDEN PLOVER flock in the big field behind where I live now numbers 36 birds (manually counted) as i continued round the village there were 15 more in the field behind the Swan public house (Richard Billyard)

4 JANUARY 2009

Lots of duck at Caldecotte this morning. The north lake was frozen, but the south lake was frozen only round the edges and in patches, and it was here that most of the duck congregated. Unexpected highlight though was a JACK SNIPE (plus 1 Common Snipe) flushed from the ditch just off the "causeway" car park off Monellan Grove. Back on the water, highlights were 16 GOOSANDER (8m 8f), 1 Goldeneye, and high numbers of Pochard & Tufted Duck. Also plenty of gulls loafing on the ice, including a possible Glaucous/Herring hybrid - basically biscuit brown like a GG, with the two-tone pink based bill, gingery coverts, but alas black primaries. I didn't have my scope, otherwise I'd have studied it further. However, at about 11am, a guy on a motorboat whizzed up and down thel ake (to prepare it for the sailing boats), scattering duck hither and thither, and most of the duck flew off north (Rob Hill)

Friday, 2 January 2009


Dick Bodily recorded the following - 13 GOOSANDER on Caldecott Lakes, Little Egret, the drake PINTAIL, BARN OWL and 1 SHORT-EARED OWL at Linford and 1 EURASIAN BITTERN showing well at dusk at Willen Lake North Basin.



A slightly warmer day than of late with no frost and somewhat overcast conditions; E wind picked up during the afternoon


RED KITE over village and several Common Buzzards perched in trees alongside the A41


Very quiet this afternoon with no finches noted, just Red Kite, Common Buzzard, 60 Fieldfares and 7 House Sparrows in garden of 'Winding Brook'. Earlier in the day, Tim Watts had seen PEREGRINE.

(1515-1540; with Bob Fowles)

Great Crested Grebe (7)
Cormorants (25 in trees)
Mute Swans (13 adults)
Canada Geese (85)
Eurasian Wigeon (250+)
Gadwall (18)
Common Teal (11)
Tufted Duck (53)
Pochard (17)
**RING-NECKED DUCK (adult drake initially out of view in reeds at edge of NW arm but disturbance frightened it out and then fed in good view for 15 minutes or more)
COMMON GOLDENEYE (10; 3 adult drakes)
*GOOSANDER (4; 1 drake)


LITTLE OWL nearby in favoured tree

Several more Common Buzzards perched by Buckingham-Winslow road


A total dead loss with nothing seen in the last hour of daylight other than 2 Common Buzzards


Another large roost on Willen south tonight. Alas no white-wingers, but there was 1 adult CASPIAN GULL, and minomum 6 Yellow-legged Gulls (4ads, 11st-w and 1 3rd-w).

Also 27 Common Goldeneyes (Rob Hill)


Hi All

Well what a day (!) and Massive thanks upfront , to all the people who helped out yesterday , We really appreciate ALL your efforts , special thanks should go to Adam Bassett , who kindly allowed the 3 of us (Simon Nichols, Ben Miller and Rob Andrews) into his living room; Dave Parmenter, although it was the Dining Room this time; Dave Bilcock, for sterling efforts on Steps Hill and College Lake; Ted Reed , for finding us at least 2 Blockers on the day; Alan Stevens and friends , for not only finding the Greater Scaup , but staying and putting us straight onto it; Alan Nelson, for staying at a birdless Tongwell until dark for us; Jon Holt , for locating a brambling if we still needed it and Rob Norris for ably checking out Gayhurst for us (even though we ran out of time for the Tree sparrows ! ) Kevin Duncans excellent email directions before the day helped us immensely.

OK , so how did it go !

The important no was of course 96 , thats our species total for the day. As Lee has already mentioned, there really is limited time on a winter's day bird hunt and we had to drop species throughout the day , as we realised that we would not have enough time to look for them; among these were Tree Sparrow, Corn Bunting and Jack Snipe. We had reliable sites for all three , so that was quite a hard decision to make ! We also dipped on Lesser Redpoll ( by 10 minutes ) and wasted 30 minutes NOT seeing the Ring Necked Duck at Foxcote mid afternoon and despite three attempts, completely failed to see the Peregrines at Aylesbury. We had three sites in place for Green Sandpiper , but all drew a blank during the day. However we did have a great day and saw some amazing birds !

The Meeting point was Aylesbury at 0600, where we failed to see the peregrines by Street lighting, but we did have a Song Thrush ! We were on our way ! A short drive to Weston Turville Reservoir yielded 5 Species including a WATER RAIL squealing in the reedbed.

We arrived at our next port of call (Dorney Lake) at 07:15 ( which was still quite dark ! ) We walked down to the lake from the Dorney Common Car park and were pleased to start recording our first visual species , such as Magpie , Mute Swan and Carrion Crow. We Spent an hour here , walking up to the middle bridge , and although the Seasonal pool was frozen solid, we still managed 41 Species, the highlights of which were RING NECKED PARAKEETS - 10+ Birds calling and flying round, 2 EGYPTIAN GEESE flying in from the Direction of Dorney Village , these flew straight through , a female GOOSANDER , which did two circuits of the lake before heading over the River Thames and the wintering COMMON REDSHANK , which was roosting with the lapwings near the middle bridge. We also recorded Tawny Owl (we heard another one at Black Park later) , Grey Wagtail ( our only one of the day ! ) 3 Little Grebes , and 4 of the 5 Commoner Gulls ( only missed LBB ). We left Dorney , bound for Black Park with 49 Species under our belts !

First stop at Black Park was the car park by the lake , the expected MANDARINS ( 6+ ) were swimming around , whilst we also picked up Goldcrest, Coal tit and SISKIN in the pines. A quick drive round to the north of the park , and within seconds of getting out of the car we had heard Nuthatch and Jay , typically difficult birds to get out of the way on a Birdrace , no matter what tme of the year , a walk down to the 5 way crossroads bought us a further 3 (4) [I saw a Dunnock and despite pointing it out , neither ben nor Rob saw it , we had to wait another 5 (FIVE) hours to record our 2nd one !] species , most notably BULLFINCH (we didnt record another all day).

Dropping behind schedule already (!) we made a hasty drive over to Little Marlow GP, where 'the boys' had located a Female GREATER SCAUP; we enjoyed views of this while mopping up Shoveler , Wigeon and more importantly COMMON SHELDUCK , a pair with the escaped Ruddy Shelduck. Leaving Little Marlow at approx 10am , we then made a call at Adams house in Marlow Bottom and despite the fact that 6 LESSER REDPOLLS were present whilst I was speaking to Adam , these had flown off 10 minutes prior to our arrival and in the 20 minute visit none of Adams' regular Bramblings made an appearance either (we decided to try for our Brambling stake-out of Dave Parmenters Garden) and leaving Marlow Bottom for Wycombe we managed to add Common Buzzard , Red Legged Partridges and Rook. and so it was at 11:06 , BRAMBLING at last ! a female bird , 10 feet from Dave's back window ! Magic , Thanks Dave. House Sparrow in a neighbouring garden took our tally to 72.

We really needed to be in Mid Bucks by 1100, so we were approx 30 mins behind schedule. A second stop at Weston Turville hide bought us an unexpected treat in the shape of 2 LITTLE EGRETS flying up the resevoir and a CETTIS WARBLER calling to the left of the hide.

David Bilcock had given us information about Marsh Tit and Woodcock on Steps Hill and Common Sandpiper and RCP at College Lake, so we lost no time in getting up to College lake , where despite all our best efforts, we had no luck in finding the Sandpiper , 2 of the earlier 3 RED CRESTED POCHARDS were on the island still though; Common Goldeneye and Common Snipe added another 2 species.We then spent a bit of time ( too much as it turned out ! ) around Steps Hill , and were rewarded for our efforts with WOODCOCK and at least 1 MARSH TIT. the hoped for Ravens did not put in an appearance though (another try for the Peregrines in Aylesbury town centre was unsuccessful),.

So with the time at 13:02 and with a species list of 81 , it was time to head north via the bird-rich sites of Grendon Underwood and Calvert , the former did us proud with DUNNOCK, Linnet, Common Pheasant and Yellowhammer (we realised that we still needed SKYLARK at this stage , and worry started to set in ...... ) ( Common Stonechat at Berryfields as well). An adhoc stop off at Calvert paid dividends ! With Ben locating another female GREATER SCAUP ( this bird looked to be a young female , the cheek patch and blaze not as extensive as the Marlow bird ) in the Aytha flock and then trumping this with an adult CASPIAN GULL whilst looking through my 'scope at the adult YELLOW LEGGED GULL , I had just located.

The Species list was now at 87 , and our time was a rather worryingly 14:15 (we had hoped to be at Foxcote for 13:30). Ted Reed , whilst checking out the RND for us , had found a very confiding LITTLE OWL in a tree along the gated road at Foscote and a quick stop prior to this had netted us SKYLARK in the roadside fields. Now our generally good luck started to let us down , and an agonising 25 minute search for the Ring Necked Duck did not reveal its hiding place; 5 GOOSANDERS were noteworthy, as were the 25+ House Sparrows (our first sighting since Wycombe).

We now only had just over an hour of daylight left , and we knew we were trailing the Bedfordshire team by at least 8 Species ......... so the north had to deliver ! Having decided that we did not have enough time for Jack Snipe or Tree Sparrow , we headed straight for Linford , where Ted had relocated the drake NORTHERN PINTAIL on the ice. We duly scoped this bird from Hill Farm, before driving around Swans Way (noting at least 4 little Egrets already in the roost trees ) An Agonising wait of 10 minutes finally saw 2 SHORT EARED OWLS on the other side of the canal and the regular BARN OWL was giving stunning views as it hunted and perched down to 70 yds. At this time we knew that Beds had been on 94 for about an hour or so, and that we were on 92 , so assuming that we were still in with a fighting chance (also assuming that the Beds team had not added many species since 14:30) we went for broke. A quick dash to Ravenstone Valley (where Rob Hill had recorded Golden Plover the previous day) found us looking at a large flock of LAPWING fortunately with 3 GOLDEN PLOVERS in amongst them.

Daylight was by now fading fast and as we approached 15:45, a decision was made to hunt for Barnacle Geese at Olney Mill;,a hair-rasing drive found us along the river watching 3 BARNACLE GEESE (94) and it was then that our luck decided to come back with a vengeance.

I casually mentioned that Kingfisher are regular along this stretch ( we had written off Kingfisher ages ago , with dips at WTR, College and Calvert). I then scanned along the bank and immediately located one on a favourite perch (!). Incredible ! it then flew to its roost hole calling loudly ! With Alan Nelson and Rob Hill staking out the Tongwell and Willen Bitterns respectively, we were delighted to receive a call from Rob telling us that he had located not just one but TWO EURASIAN BITTERNS on Willen North , but one had already retreated (!) .

Another frantic drive was called for and it was at 16:30 with the last dying light that we were able to get stunning views of the Bittern, on its roost stems, 30 feet away ! An amazing end to a fantastic day !!! with 96 Species recorded !

So how did we fare against the mighty Bedfordshire team ..............................Well over a very fine meal and a beer in the Flying Fox , we discovered that their total was .......................... 96 (!)

In the time honoured tradition of tournaments all over the world it was declared a draw, and even though they went on to net a Barn Owl ;-) at the same time as we failed to get the Peregrine ;-) we decided that a fantastic day was had by all and that the draw would stand ( but really they got 97 ;-) ) So thats the target to beat next New Years Day , and it is beatable !!

Simon Nichols