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

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Butterflies Galore, two juvenile GARGANEYS and a MEDITERRANEAN GULL


After the odd rumble of thunder and isolated shower, the day was rather pleasant, with some good spells of sunshine giving rise to warm temperatures. The SW wind continued and was fairly brisk. I had planned to check on a number of raptor nests but that all went pear-shaped, when an adult summer Cattle Egret was located in West Berkshire. That bird was dipped on two occasions but two Garganey and a Mediterranean Gull salvaged the day.


I did the Chess Valley Walk from Chenies Bridge (TQ 017 987) to Valley Farm (TQ 026 992). Very quiet birdwise but notable for the number of Barn Swallows recorded.

*COMMON KESTRELS (pair busily feeding four noisy fledglings which are all on the wing)
RED-LEGGED PARTRIDGE (adult in Mill Farm Meadow - unusual in July)
Green Woodpecker (3)
BARN SWALLOWS (2 hawking over Mill Farm Meadow, with a further 15 over the paddock immediately west of Valley Farm. Several juveniles from the two nests at the farm were queuing up along the fence to be fed by the parents. At least four nests in this small area successfully fledged young - an excellent year)
Wren (1 by Chenies Bottom Bridge)
Mistle Thrush (2 at Chenies Place)
COMMON WHITETHROAT (single juvenile in Frogmore Meadow)
Goldfinch (2)
Black-billed Magpie (2 adults; I also found a juvenile shot dead)
Long-tailed Tits (8 in Limeshill Wood)
MARSH TIT (1 scolding in Limeshill Wood at TQ 023 991)

Frogmore Meadow and the adjacent meadow were swarming with butterflies, with the wild flowers and weeds attracting incredible numbers including 600+ Large Whites, 74 Green-veined Whites, 44 Small Whites, 1 tatty Small Tortoiseshell, 11 COMMAS, 55 COMMON BLUES, 67 Peacocks, 330+ Meadow Browns, 55 Ringlets, 22 Small Heath, 65 Gatekeepers, 25 SMALL COPPERS (with egg-laying observed) and 14 PAINTED LADIES. A total of 13 species in one small area.

My walk was rudely interrupted at 1505 hours when Ken Moore and Roger Stansfield discovered a summer-plumaged Cattle Egret at Padworth Lane GP in neighbouring Berkshire - only the second county record and a species I have still to see in the county. I made my way back to the car, picked up Ray Scally and then finally got going at 1536. Just as I got to the M4, I received a call from Andy Horscroft giving me the good news that the bird had flown east and had been lost. I turned around and headed back.

SHARDELOES LAKE (1630-1730 hours)
(with Ray Scally)

Ray Scally is the Irish artist that has illustrated both Russell Slack's new book on Rare Birds and my forthcoming 2009 revision of the Ultimate Site Guide and he was keen to get some photographs of local Buckinghamshire birds. With no Cattle Egret to chase, I took him to Shardeloes, where many species show well. This afternoon's haul included -:

GREAT CRESTED GREBES (pair constantly feeding the three growing juveniles)
Little Grebes (7+ including the usual family group)
Grey Heron (1 juvenile)
Mute Swan (family party of 6 birds)
Canada Geese (69, including 59 just east of Kennel Farm)
GADWALL (2 eclipse birds at west end)
Tufted Duck (2)

Common Buzzard (moulting adult)
Red Kites (several including the two fledged juveniles)
Common Kestrel (first-summer male)
Stock Dove (6+)
BARN SWALLOW (juvenile hawking over cricket pitch)
House Martins (18)
Grey Wagtail (1)
Pied Wagtail (just 9 left on the cricket field)
*SPOTTED FLYCATCHERS (now 5 showing well at the west end, flycatching in the sun from the Willows)

At 1739 hours, Andy Horscroft 'phoned again to say that the Cattle Egret had returned to the spit. Off I went again in hot pursuit. Battling the Marlow Bypass and the M4 around Reading at rush hour is not a good idea and by the time I got to the A4 at Junction 13, guess what the egret flew east once more (at 1845). I had 'dipped' twice on the same day, without ever getting to the site.

(1910 hours; with Alan Stevens and others)

Jim Rose had located two Garganey late afternoon so being a species I had not observed in the county this year (I am not sure if there have been any, certainly not while I was in the country), I quickly double-backed down the motorway, arriving not long after 1900 hours. At last some success.

Great Crested Grebes (12 present including a single first-winter)
Continental Cormorants (18)
Egyptian Geese (17 including an adult female still with her single gosling on the spit)
Common Teal (single)
**GARGANEY (two very freshly plumaged juveniles feeding on far side of spit, keeping very close together and moving between the island and the far left of spit. Uniformly coloured underparts and striking head pattern with nondescript upperwings. My first of the year in Buckinghamshire)
Northern Shoveler (3)

OYSTERCATCHER (still present)
Lapwings (300+)

Black-headed Gulls (462)
**MEDITERRANEAN GULL (at 1925 hours, I located a 2nd-summer fly in to the Black-headed Gull roost and land amongst them at the far side of the spit. It had largely moulted all of its black head feathers and had some dark shading in front of and just behind the eye and some grey extending towards the rear crown. The thicker bill was orange-red marked with a diagonal black bar, whilst the longer legs were deeper red. It was very pale grey above, pure white below, with some black spotting on the primaries. It attempted to drink at the edge of the water but within a couple of minutes of landing, the entire flock was spooked and the Mediterranean Gull flew up in the melee and disappeared towards the River Thames - at 1928. It did not reappear in the roost)
YELLOW-LEGGED GULL (5 present, including 3 adults and 2 3rd-summers)
Lesser Black-backed Gull (45 including 12 juveniles)
Interestingly, no British Herring Gulls

COMMON KINGFISHERS (2 racing around, calling frequently)
House Martins (17)
Sand Martins (5)

Lee G R Evans