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, 1 April 2011



Although the forecasted temperatures of 20 degrees C did not materialise, the winds did veer more to the Southwest and were unusually strong for this time of year. It was fairly mild - and dry - but the blustery conditions that prevailed over much of the day did somewhat restrict searching for small passerines.

I had originally planned to have a comprehensive search for migrants, especially in Bedfordshire, where I was hoping to connect with Swallow, White Wagtail, Yellow Wagtail, Common Tern and other early arrivals but that all went pear-shaped when I received a call to say that a medium-sized petrel was on view in Berkshire and its identification was not certain.....


The day began early, searching for a male RING OUZEL that Roy Hargreaves had seen in the field immediately south of the Dry Canal, west of the footpath to Miswell Farm.

Despite a lapse of just half an hour, I failed in my quest to relocate either the male Ring Ouzel or a Northern Wheatear that Roy had seen whilst walking back towards his home

The new section of canal either side of the Drayton Bridge held a pair of Mute Swans and 5 Coots, whilst the farmland either side yielded Red-legged Partridge, Eurasian Skylark (singing male), Yellowhammer (4 birds), Greenfinch (male), Goldfinch (6 birds), Dunnock, Wren, Common Blackbird (4), Common Magpie (4), Carrion Crow, Pied Wagtail and a singing male Common Chiffchaff.


Having only seen the drake GARGANEY of suspect origin at Blunham Pit this year in Bedfordshire, I was keen to see Peter's pair that he discovered at Cainhoe West Pit this morning. Despite arriving on site late morning, the two birds were nowhere to be found, neither on the west pit or the more suitable reed-fringed pit to the southeast.

I did see a single drake COMMON SHELDUCK, 4 Common Teal and 27 Tufted Duck, along with a pair of Great Crested Grebes and 1-2 OYSTERCATCHERS and newly arrived migrants in the form of 15 SAND MARTINS and 2 singing male Common Chiffchaffs. A small group of 5 FIELDFARE flew east.


(This premier site is accessed from the Millbrook to Mill End road at TL 023 403, with observation best performed from the pit edge close to the Jackdaw Railway Bridge in the SE corner at TL 020 403)

Not quite as productive as of late with just 3 ICELANDIC BLACK-TAILED GODWITS remaining, 11 Common Redshank and a pair of LITTLE RINGED PLOVERS (actively displaying) present. On the ever-diminishing water of the main pit were 6 Great Crested Grebes, 2 Little Grebes, 10 Mute Swans (including 7 first-summers), 4 Common Teal and 76 Coots, with 5 Common Gulls resting and the hedgerow just north of the bridge harbouring a male Common Chiffchaff and singing male Blackcap.


Very quiet with none of the hoped for hirundines and just the single OYSTERCATCHER on the sailing club green

Just as I was about to move on to check the pits on the Ouse Valley, I was made aware of a petrel species that was being watched on Theale Gravel Pits in West Berkshire. Initially I believed it may be an April Fool's Joke, as inland petrel records in late March/early April are virtually unprecedented in Britain, but after discussing the bird with several Berkshire birders that had been told about the bird and had already arrived on site, the fact that it looked like a LEACH'S PETREL made it even more remarkable. In any case, this was a bird far too rare to miss, and knowing that previous Band-rumped Petrel occurrences have been in early April, I made a hasty retreat from central Beds and made my way back to the M1....


(1500-1700 hours)
By the time I had driven the 77 miles from Stewartby Lake to Theale Fox & Hounds Pit, Chris Heard and other Berkshire birders had arrived on site and managed reasonable views of the unseasonably windblown seabird; it was undoubtedly a LEACH'S PETREL - one of the earliest ever occurrences in Britain in spring. Walking about 400 yards along the eastern shore, I was soon able to see the bird for myself - the bird being chased back and forth low over the water surface by a number of Black-headed Gulls and even at one point, by an island-nesting pair of Oystercatchers ! Its large size was soon apparent (compared to Eurasian Storm Petrel) as well as its longer and more arched wings, with the upperparts characterised by the paler carpal bar. The forked tail, although present, was hard to see in flight. The bird was 'chased' and 'harried' for about five minutes before the gulls lost interest and it then sat on to the water. It then remained on the water for the next hour or more gradually drifting towards the west shore. In fact, throughout the observation period, it generally kept to the far NW part of the main pit.

In addition to the Leach's, the pit held the two Oystercatchers, a pair of Mandarin Ducks, Egyptian Goose, 5 singing Common Chiffchaffs, 2 male Blackcaps.and a Nuthatch.


Newly arrived were 4 highly mobile LITTLE RINGED PLOVERS on the spit, whilst 14 SAND MARTINS were also new for my Bucks Year.

Other species encountered included Sinensis Cormorant (at least 18 active nests on the island), 3 Egyptian Geese, 6 Common Teal (3 pairs), 9 Gadwall, 43 immature Herring Gulls, Common Kingfisher, Great Spotted Woodpecker (pair displaying) and Ring-necked Parakeet (pair).


An evening visit revealed the staggering evidence that the pair of Great Crested Grebes on the smaller lake had successfully nested, with the female carrying two very tiny stripy young on her back. This was remarkable news and the earliest brood of Great Crested Grebes I had ever seen in Britain. The same pair nested early in spring 2011 but sadly lost the eggs after they were predated.

The lakes also held 18 Tufted Ducks (12 drakes) and 10 Coot, with a pair of COMMON KINGFISHERS in noisy courtship display and warblers represented by a singing male BLACKCAP, a 'new' male COMMON CHIFFCHAFF and a Goldcrest.

Good Birding Always
Lee G R Evans