A beautiful day with moderate to fresh warm SSW winds, clear blue skies and temperatures reaching 23 degrees C. I decided to bird South Bucks today searching several farmland sites and then Dorney Rowing Lakes........
After directions and details were finally forthcoming, I spent time checking the gamebird feeding trays near Hillmotts Farm and Hyde Farm. Red-legged Partridges were absolutely everywhere, with many small 'poults' running around - along with many young Common Pheasants.
RED KITES numbered 34 on and around Hedgerley Landfill.
DIPPLE WOOD AREA (SU 930 884)
After spending 90 minutes or more scanning from the raised bund overlooking the overgrown gravel pits east of Over's Farm and the farmland therein, I failed in my quest of locating the 3 Common Ravens that had been seen in this area in recent days. I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of large raptors in this area, with RED KITES absolutely everywhere. The farmer at Castleman's was ploughing his fields and spraying them with manure which in turn, attracted the kites from every quarter. I was staggered by the number of juveniles - 13 in total - indicating yet another booming breeding season. Adults numbered at least 30 - many in ragged and very worn plumage - and many diving down on to the soil in search of prey and food.
Common Buzzards were also abundant, with what appeared to be two nesting pairs from Dipple Wood - adults feeding two juveniles in both cases - and a pair of Common Kestrels feeding two young.
Large numbers of Carrion Crows (44+) were also in the area, Dipple Wood also harbouring Great Spotted Woodpecker and Wren.
CASTLEMAN'S FARM (SU 926 877)
I was delighted to find 35 HOUSE SPARROWS roosting in the hedgerow bordering the eastern boundary of the farm as well as two separate families of Barn Swallow - three juveniles in each.
At the tiny farm pond opposite (at SU 924 877), Moorhens have successfully bred, with 3 juveniles fledged.
OVER'S FARM (SU 925 886)
Linnets bred successfully, with an adult feeding two young.
DORNEY ROWING LAKES
With quite a fresh SSW wind, I decided to take my chance at Dorney, where Kevin Duncan had been recording a different selection of waders on every visit. Looking at the site, it was clear to see why. The Seasonal Pool at 1,250m is particularly attractive to migrant birds at the moment, especially waders.
At least 4 migrant Common Chiffchaffs were feeding in the hedgerow adjacent to the car park, whilst a migrant YELLOW WAGTAIL flew south as I walked down the central causeway. Further migrants included 18 BARN SWALLOWS flying SW, whilst a Grey Wagtail flew east.
At least 13 Egyptian Geese were sleeping in the grass trying to escape the heat, with 3 Common Terns fishing at the north end of the return lake.
As I approached the Seasonal Pool, a COMMON GREENSHANK flew from the largely dried up reserve pool and landed. It was to join two more birds feeding at the back of the pool, all three individuals being juveniles.
As I was studying the Greenshanks, I heard an unfamiliar call and looked up to see a medium-sized wader flying in from the north. It was a very strange call, very gruff and low, and at first I thought that it may be a Pec. As it banked, I noticed that the dark feathering extended well on to the sides of the rump and as it made landfall on the pool, I could clearly see that it was a RUFF. With its clean white face and throat, pale sandy-buff unmarked underparts, neatly patterned mantle and neatly bordered black-centred scapulars and wing-covert feathers, the bird could clearly be seen to be a juvenile. Its long legs were quite yellowish, whilst its very slightly decurved, medium-length bill was blackish.
Within a very short time of landing, it was set upon by a rogue of Western Jackdaws, and they chased it around the pool for about four minutes. Again, the bird was making this peculiar anxiety call, and as it flew strongly back and forth, a white wingbar was clearly apparent and trailing legs beyond the tail. The Jackdaws would not leave it alone and at one stage, 15 or more were in hot pursuit. It eventually used the Greenshanks as protection, landing with them for a minute, but all that happened was that all three waders were attacked. Knowing KD was keen on the site, I phoned to inform him of the Ruff, as well as RBA and Simon Nichols.
I clapped my hands several times and that distracted the Jackdaw flock; the RUFF dropped back down on the pool and started feeding amongst some Black-headed Gulls on the north edge. A single Common Sandpiper quickly joined it. I was also joined by another local birder who had nipped out in his lunch hour.
I then turned my attention to the roosting gulls; there were 4 adult COMMON GULLS roosting, 2 adult Lesser Black-backed and (eventually) 21 HERRING GULLS, including 4 juveniles.
Kevin had shown major interest in the Ruff so as I scanned to see where he was in the car park at the south end, I picked up a large wader flying low over the eastern rowing lake. It landed tired on the grass sward of the central causeway just north of the 1,750 m mark and was a juvenile ICELANDIC BLACK-TAILED GODWIT. The bird appeared to be very exhausted and in no time at all was hastled by an adult Carrion Crow. At the same time, a dogwalker was approaching and the bird walked slowly into the grassy edge and disappeared from view.
Once the dog and joggers had passed, the godwit crept out again on to the open grass and once again was attacked, this time by Jackdaws. He moved to the middle and I lost it from view. Ten minutes later Kevin appeared and as he walked towards me behind an elderly couple, the godwit finally flushed at 10 yards range !! It flew back to the edge and stood. I walked back down to join Kevin and enjoyed staggering close views of this Arctic tundra born waif. In fact, Kevin managed to photograph me and the bird (see above) as well as some crippling images of the tired wanderer. It allowed approach to within just a few feet poor thing but at least we kept the corvids at bay.
We returned to the Seasonal Pool where newly arrived was an adult RINGED PLOVER. I walked back towards the car and saw 4 more RINGED PLOVERS arrive from the north at 1555.
The grass also held 10 Linnets and a charm of 17 Goldfinches.
MILL WOOD/OVER'S FARM AREA
I returned back to the farmland south of the M40 and at 1640 hours, I eventually located an adult COMMON RAVEN feeding in the overgrown gravel pit. It soon flew and went directly towards Mill Wood and Wooburn Green. It was in primary moult with at least one full feather missing on its left wing.