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, 26 August 2011

BLACK TERN arrival


From early on this morning, the entire Chilterns region was embraced by heavy cloud, bringing rain (often heavy) throughout the day until mid afternoon. The wind was very light and variable, although underlying was a south-eastern element to it. I was expecting quite a lot to turn up today but in the end, it was mainly RUFF and scarcer terns that were located. My best find of the day was a SANDERLING.....


Despite the heavy rain, I joined the Amersham Ornithological Society and both Francis Buckle and Mic Wells at Wilstone mid morning. At first glance, it appeared that nothing new had arrived with the weather - and in fact, yesterday's star bird, the Black-necked Grebe, had disappeared after just one day (see Dave Bilcock's belated images above).

All 4 juvenile RUFFS were still present, the 9 COMMON GREENSHANK, 9 RINGED PLOVERS, the 2 LITTLE RINGED PLOVERS, the 2 juvenile BLACK-TAILED GODWITS, 4 Common Sandpipers and the GREEN SANDPIPER. Just 8 Common Terns remained, and wildfowl numbers remained constant. The only noticeable increase was in the hirundine numbers (with Sand Martins at 85, House Martin at 130 and Barn Swallow at 65), whilst Steve Rodwell located 4 SPOTTED FLYCATCHERS in the meadow behind the hide.


The first hint of passage came when I located 3 freshly-arrived juvenile RUFFS at 1140 hours on the increasing patch of mud in the SW corner of Startop's - they involved two smaller female Reeves and a larger male (see Dave Bilcock's superb images above). Most surprisingly, and probably as a result of the inclement weather, they remained all afternoon and evening. A Common Sandpiper there was also new in, whilst both juvenile BLACK-TAILED GODWITS dropped in for a while, as well as 8 of the Wilstone Little Egrets. Both adult pair of WHOOPER SWANS were still present too.

I then decided to check the hills for migrants but was very disappointed with my results - virtually nothing. I failed to find any Whinchats, even at Blows Downs or Luton Airport. BLOWS DOWNS PADDOCKS supported just single NORTHERN WHEATEAR, LESSER WHITETHROAT, juvenile Willow Warbler and male Blackcap as migrants and a roving party of 18 Blue Tits.


By 1430 hours, the rain was still falling, with Stewartby Lake yielding 48 Mute Swans and an arrival of 6 BLACK TERNS (a moulting adult and 5 juveniles).


Again, fairly lacklustre, with no new waders (the 3 RUFF and a single Common Greenshank) and the lingering juvenile MARSH HARRIER. A Chinese Water Deer was seen but more interesting was a Weasel encounter on the main track not far from Jackdaw Bridge. I had been looking at a Dunnock feeding beneath a bush when it was suddenly 'grabbed' by a Weasel around the neck. The Weasel quickly suffocated it and it fell silent and still. It was then dropped on to the ground before a very peculiar ritual took place. The Weasel repeatedly bounded backwards and forwards seemingly 'dancing' around the corpse before eventually, after about 5 minutes, picking it up and carrying it off into the undergrowth.


At around 1530 hours, I picked up a winter-plumaged SANDERLING feeding on the Washout Pit with a Green Sandpiper. which was still present when I departed the site at 1610 hours (and later when SCB and others arrived on site). Although gleaming white on the underparts and peppered dark grey/black above, it was surprisingly difficult to locate in its 'orange' surroundings and kept 'hiding/crouching' when other birds flew over the site.

Thanks to Jim Gurney and Steve Blain, I was eventually able to locate the juvenile WOOD SANDPIPER that was present for its third day in the vicinity viewing from the western track. The bird was feeding on flotsam along the NE shoreline, immediately north of Peacock's Island on the main Peacock's Lake. It had however been commuting between here and the Washout Pit today.

Other species of note included a Common Sandpiper and 16 Yellow Wagtails.


With reports of both White-winged Black and Whiskered Terns entering the Thames at Rainham Marshes RSPB and realising that this week's Little Terns eventually made it to Marlow, I decided to take a chance and see if either turned up there. After about an hour of negotiating the Friday afternoon traffic, I eventually arrived late afternoon, coinciding with that of other Little Marlow regulars and Dave Cleal. Neither vagrant marsh tern was there but there was a flock of 13 BLACK TERNS, including 3 moulting adults and 10 juveniles.

Northern Pochards had increased to 7, 3 Argenteus Herring Gulls were in the Lesser Black-back roost and Common Kingfisher was seen.


By evening, the rain had moved through, giving rise to clear blue skies and bright sunshine. Joining Ian Williams by the car parks steps, I was very pleased to see 3 very freshly-plumaged juvenile ARCTIC TERNS that DB and SR had discovered at 1600 hours. All 3 birds were showing very well and were patrolling the east shore back and forth.

There was also an additional REEVE feeding on the main spit - a fifth juvenile present on the reservoir - and making 8 in total with the 3 Startop's birds.

Little Egrets again numbered 18, whilst 15 Pied Wagtails were noted and a Common Kingfisher.