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, 23 March 2011

AVOCETS and continuing RUFF at College Lake BBOWT

The AVOCET pair (Mike Nott)

The female RUFF (David Bilcock)

Another glorious day with wall-to-wall sunshine, light winds and temperatures reaching 16 degrees C - the warmest day of the year thus far.

As a consequence, migrants are starting to arrive in good numbers, with several Hoopoes, numerous Garganey, many more Wheatears, Black Redstarts and White Wagtails and the first Tree Pipits, Yellow Wagtails and Ospreys.

Frustrated at dipping last night's Ruff at College after being called away on emergency when an 88-year old driver collided with a parked Mini close to Tring Station and blocked the entire road for over two hours during the rush-hour, I returned there first after being updated early morning by DB.........


Surprised to find 215 COMMON GULLS (mostly adults in breeding plumage) feeding in fields to the west of the A413 - presumably migrants on their way north


An active Rookery opposite the entrance to the park, harbouring 10 nests


Acting upon Dave Bilcock's early morning update, I arrived at College Lake shortly after 0940 hours. Within minutes of setting up my 'scope overlooking the main marsh, my attention was directed to two waders approaching from the west (from the Grand Union Canal direction) and I was astonished to find that they were two PIED AVOCETS ! The two black-and-white birds continued towards me and landed on the main marsh in front of the information centre and showed superbly for about ten minutes before they were rudely interrupted by territorial Lapwings and were spooked up. They had been interacting closely during the brief spell of time they were on the ground and were obviously a pair, perhaps on route to breeding grounds in East Anglia or further north in the UK or in the Netherlands. I immediately contacted DB, SN and Ben Miller to inform them of my find, and RBA.

Both birds circled up above the marsh and called to each other and then flew north towards the deep lake. They found the 'Oystercatcher Island' to their liking and dropped down in height, eventually landing on the shore (and where, incidentally, they remained until dusk - DB, SR & WC). They fed in the shallow water and appeared relatively content (although flew a few times in the hour or so I was present). As Wednesday is volunteer day at College, I spent some time pointing out and showing the two birds to many of the staff and helpers, as well as to an impressive number of visitors (this reserve really is now the flagship of BBOWT). All were delighted in seeing such a rare local bird. Mike Campbell was the only local birder that arrived before I departed, but I was pleased to see that both Dave B and Mike Nott managed a few record shots of the birds (see above).

After all of the excitement relating to the Avocets, I concentrated my efforts on finding the RUFF - the main purpose of my visit. It was consorting with a Common Redshank and was showing well - walking back and forth along the bund - my first of the year in the county and a very rare bird at College. I initially believed the bird to be a female on size and plumage but the fact that it's bill was distinctly orange at the base perhaps indicates that it is actually a male just beginning to acquire breeding plumage.

Other waders present included 7 Common Redshanks and 4 pairs of nesting Lapwing, along with 7 COMMON SNIPE, whilst wildfowl included 3 Mute Swans, 8 lingering Eurasian Wigeon, 4 Shoveler, 20 Tufted Duck and a drake Northern Pochard; 6 Pied Wagtails on the marsh islands were presumably migrants.