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 July 2010

A circuit of North Buckinghamshire - breeding TREE SPARROWS

JULY 2010


Some light relief early on when a band of light drizzle passed across the Chilterns. The heat soon returned though and by late afternoon, it was muggy and hot again. Temperatures peaked at 28 degrees C, although the sun struggled to break through the heavy cloud.

I reserved today to do a full circuit of North Buckinghamshire and eventually recorded 68 species. Highlights included breeding TREE SPARROW, YELLOW WAGTAIL and new HOUSE MARTIN colonies but biggest disappointment was failing to locate the breeding Goosanders and again failing to find Grey Partridge.....


After hearing of Rob Hill's sighting of a female GOOSANDER and 3 young (initially there had been 6 young), I was mad keen to witness this exceptional county breeding record and made an early start up there. Sadly, despite an exhaustive search, I could not relocate them, despite searching the Great Ouse river as far east and north for a mile.

Above Olney town itself, over 50 House Martins were overflying (suggesting a respectable breeding colony) and 30 Common Swifts, whilst on the River Great Ouse 'island' was an adult post-breeding OYSTERCATCHER, an adult summer-plumaged Black-headed Gull and an adult Common Tern.

Walking a mile stretch of river yielded 9 Mute Swans, a group of 54 Atlantic Canada Geese (mostly juveniles), 10 non-naturalised Barnacle Geese, several Moorhens and a Little Egret.

Breeding species in the Mill area included GREY WAGTAIL (pair with three fledged juveniles) and COMMON KINGFISHER (pair feeding young), whilst WESTERN REED WARBLERS included three singing males in sedges along the south bank of the river. A pair of House Sparrows was present in gardens opposite the churchyard.

An interesting observation involved a family group of Carrion Crows. One of the adults stood next to one of the juveniles and started preening its head in the same fashion as an ape would check another ape or how a mother would check her child's head for lice. This behaviour went on for over half an hour and was meticulous, the adult carefully peeling apart the feathers and presumably checking for lice and other parasites. I had never seen such behaviour before and it was very interesting to watch - the family bonding between the corvids is tremedous.

A pair of Mute Swans was attending 3 cygnets by the A509 bridge and a male Pied Wagtail was returning repeatedly to the church roof with food.


In neighbouring Emberton Park, the flock of non-naturalised Barnacle Geese was 81, including many juveniles.


I decided to return to Stoke Goldington to check the resident TREE SPARROWS. I was delighted in finding three active nests, two in and around the garden that I first found them in April and another in a tall Ash tree nearby. One nest was only just above head height in a short, quite young tree and contained several chirping babies. By erecting nestboxes in this vicinity, we could perhaps bloom a thriving colony as happened at Beddington Sewage Farm - must be worth a try.

A singing male Common Whitethroat was nearby whilst in the village, I located 1 HOUSE MARTIN nest in the High Street, on the house bearing the sign ''Birds Lane''.


Walking across to the farm buildings at Quarryhall from Mill Farm yielded Green Woodpecker, several Eurasian Skylarks, 3 Greenfinches, 2 Yellowhammers, Goldfinch, 2 Stock Doves and most importantly, breeding YELLOW WAGTAILS. Three pairs in all, in cereal fields north of the footpath at SP 855 455, and the females repeatedly returning to a small brook adjacent to find food.

Along the River Great Ouse, a female Reed Bunting was feeding young (on damselflies) and 2 WESTERN REED WARBLERS were in song. A pair of Moorhens had two small young.

On the main pit to the east of the complex, the summering drake EURASIAN WIGEON was present at the far east end, along with 15 Greylag Geese, 16 Mute Swans and a pair of Great Crested Grebes. A pair of Lapwing were attending a single chick on the shoreline, whilst a Common Chiffchaff was in song from the wood by the footpath.


Adjacent to the Giffard Park roundabout at Rawditch Furlong, I discovered a thriving HOUSE MARTIN colony on the new properties being built there. There were at least 12 active nests.


LITTLE EGRETS have once again had an excellent breeding season at the site and of the 10 birds recorded today, four were fledged juveniles, actively moving about the heronry.

Great Crested Grebes were also present (2 pairs), with 1 pair nesting.

(1410-1440 hours)

A single COMMON SANDPIPER on the spit represented my first of the autumn return passage, although there was no sign of any of the Green Sandpipers recently seen there.

Otherwise, there were Great Crested Grebe (4 pairs), Little Egret (3 on the island), Mute Swan (pair with a single cygnet), Lapwing (3), Coot (85, plus breeding pairs with 3,3 and 2 young respectively), Common Tern (9 adults on rafts, with two well grown juveniles and one recently fledged young), Western Reed Warbler (16 territories in total) and Sedge Warbler (1 singing male by the river on the east side).

Driving west towards Buckingham on the A421 SE of Thornborough, there was a dead BADGER sadly (at SP 750 327)


Foxcote Reservoir was very low and in great shape for wader passage with extensive mud on show and lots of roosting birds. The reserve had been the victim of unwarranted vandalism, with the hide partly singed and the blinds along the boardwalk burnt and smashed in places. Species noted included :-

Great Crested Grebe (10 including a pair mating)
Little Egret (1)
Mute Swan (22)
Lapwing (21 post-breeders)
Black-headed Gull (1 juvenile - my first of the year)
Common Tern (2 adults)
Western Reed Warbler (3+)
Reed Bunting (3 singing males)

My only Common Kestrel of the day was a male by 'The Lodge' on the A421.


Hillesden Pools were a complete waste of time and effort, as after I had battled my way along the overgrown footpath riddled with the nettles and brambles, I arrived at the hide to find it was locked with a combination padlock.

The Hillesden House garden held Linnet, a male BULLFINCH and a singing male WILLOW WARBLER - the latter my first in a while.

In the village itself (SP 682 301), House Sparrows were relatively plentiful (10+) and 6 European Barn Swallows including juveniles lined the wires, whilst in Church End (SP 685 288), more House Sparrows were seen and a nesting pair of SPOTTED FLYCATCHERS in the Vicarage Garden.


With little news reaching me these days of birds at this site, I popped in and carried out a breeding bird survey. Being hot and in early July, birdlife activity was minimal bit I did record 10 Great Crested Grebes (1 pair with 2 young and another with just 1 young), a pair of Mute Swans with 5 cygnets, 1 female Tufted Duck, 22 Coot (with two juveniles), 3 adult Common Terns sitting on nests on the rafts but no evidence of any chicks, Western Reed Warblers (5+ pairs feeding young) and a singing male Common Whitethroat. Marbled Whites were in evidence on the heath opposite the hide but no European Turtle Doves were either seen or heard (nor were they at other regular sites I visited this afternoon).


The grass and vegetation is so long now that it is virtually impossible to see anything other than the scrape by the car park and the one in front of the first hide. Consequently, the breeding Curlews were not seen. Highlight was a male YELLOW WAGTAIL in front of the hide, along with 15 post-breeding Lapwing, a Brown Hare, a breeding pair of Meadow Pipits feeding young near the hide, Common Kestrel, Linnets, Eurasian Skylarks (6+), Red Kite, 2 singing male Reed Buntings, male Yellowhammer and an adult male Pied Wagtail and 3 juveniles. Emperor Dragonflies were in front of the hide and Marbled Whites were in good supply.

Recent sightings here have included up to 4 Eurasian Curlew, Green Sandpiper, 3 Little Ringed Plovers (pair and juvenile) and a jangling male Corn Bunting on 25 June.

A further HOUSE MARTIN nest was located in Waddesdon.


I checked out the ''Duke Cutting'' at Ivinghoe this afternoon and was delighted to see good numbers of very fresh DARK GREEN FRITILLARY butterflies on the wing on the more open area just north of the S bend at Ivinghoe. There were several Marbled Whites as well, along with Meadow Browns and Ringlets, as well as 27 Pyrammidal Orchids and several hundred jaded Common Spotted Orchids.


Just inside Bedfordshire and west of the B4506 (at SP 995 174), there are some amazing fields completely covered in Red Poppies - a staggering sight.


Chris Pontin and I counted 83 spikes of Pyrammidal Orchids in the field just adjacent to Hodd's Wood (see photographs above), along with large numbers of Marbled White butterflies. A Song Thrush was singing loudly from the wood.