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

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Dorney SANDERLING goes some way to salvaging disastrous day


Shortly after 1030 hours, I took a call from East Kent informing me of a BLUE-CHEEKED BEE-EATER that had made landfall at St Margaret's-at-Cliffe, about four miles north of Dover. The bird had been flying back and forth over the paddocks near the monument but had then drifted off north after just ten minutes of presence (1000-1010 hours). It was heard again at 1030 but not seen.

My only BCBE in Britain had been the well-showing bird at Cowden in East Yorkshire in July 1989 so after 20 years I was more than keen to see another one, particularly as it would have been a Kent tick.

Anyhow, just over an hour later at 1130 hours, I took another call from Jerry Warne informing me that the bird was still present and showing well perched in a bush 400 yards north of Bockhill Farm. That was the catalyst that sent me running and as I sat queuing on the M25 in the roadwork section between Junction 17 and 16, Steve Rodwell 'phoned to say that he had just found a juvenile MEDITERRANEAN GULL in Pitstone Quarry. It was all happening at once.

Just as I approached the M25 services at Clacket Lane, Jerry 'phoned again to say that the bird had flown north at 1250 and had possibly flown out to sea. It had certainly been lost from view. Foolishly, I pulled up in the services to wait for news. At 1303, it flew back to its favoured bush and was showing well again, so once more I was on its trail. Just as I was traversing my way around Dover, Garry Bagnell 'phoned to say that yet again the bird had flown, and had been lost (at 1338). This time I ignored the disappointing news (particularly as I was just ten minutes away) and felt sure that it would return.

However, on leaving the main Deal road at the St Margaret's junction, I was horrified to see an advert for a local ballet performance of the 'Nutcracker Suite'. This bought back memories of another major 'dip' I had experienced at St Margaret's - that of a Nutcracker that had spent several hours showing well there that I had driven from Porthgwarra in Cornwall for one August day. My heart sank.

On arrival, I was met by a plethora of gleeful observers that had 'filled their boots' with 'scope views of the lost waif, some of whom had obtained crippling photographs of it. I was well and truly gripped. Anyway, it had last been seen flying south with a party of Sand Martins and Barn Swallows and had been lost.

And that was it. Despite searching for over three hours, it was not to be found, and 73 predominantly Kent-based birders had gone home happy. Throughout the afternoon, squadrons of hirundines battled their way south along the coastline into the strong southerly. It appears that the Bee-eater had done this too.

DORNEY ROWING LAKES (1940-2040 hours)

Attempting to salvage something out of the day, I targeted Dorney Rowing Lakes on my way home. Dave Cleal and Kevin had discovered a SANDERLING late afternoon and after missing Alan's bird at Spade Oak on Sunday was very keen to get this one.

DC very kindly pinpointed its exact position over the phone and after a 17-minute and 2,500 metre hike from the main gate, I set eyes upon it, still feeding in that very same spot. It was favouring a sandy inlet almost directly in line with the 1,500 metre marker on the west shore of the Return Lake and was showing well. It was an adult that had largely moulted out of breeding plumage but still possessed a light russet chin and throat, a mixture of black and orange-russet feathers about the face, crown and hindneck and a strong gorget of darker feathers. From hereon, the underparts were entirely gleaming white and unmarked.

The mantle and back were neatly striated black, with black 'spangled' feathers on the scapulars and black-centred tertials. There was some warmth to the coverts but these were largely bleached and overall the bird was a pale small wader. When preening, it showed an awful amount of white in the rump and had a prominent white wing-bar when outstretched. The bill was relatively short and straight, thicker at the base and jet-black; the legs were relatively short and also jet-black.

The bird moved very little during the half-hour I watched it and did not run vigorously. It was feeding with two Common Sandpipers, in which it was surprisingly comparatively sized. Dave Cleal had photographed it earlier (see above) and Kevin had videoed it.

As Sanderling is such a scarce July visitor to Buckinghamshire, I would hazard a guess that this bird is the same one which Alan saw at Marlow on Sunday.

Also noted were 3 COMMON SHELDUCK on the Seasonal Pool (adult and two juveniles - the latter fledging from a nest on the Jubilee River), 24 EGYPTIAN GEESE and a huge swarm of corvids, including 614 Jackdaws and 236 Rooks.

As dusk approached, large numbers of hirundines flew south, including 58 SAND MARTINS and 13 BARN SWALLOWS. Four Common Swifts were also associated with this movement.