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

Friday, 2 January 2009


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