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

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

DIVER still present

The juvenile GREAT NORTHERN DIVER remains at Caldecotte South Lake


A SWALLOW was reported from Gallows Bridge Reserve today, along with the two HEN HARRIERS - adult female and juvenile

Monday, 28 November 2011

DIVER still present

The juvenile GREAT NORTHERN DIVER is still present at Caldecotte Lakes today (see Ken Earnshaw's outstanding shots above)

Gallows Bridge continues to reap rewards.....


The day dawned with a ground frost, only the second so far this autumn. This was followed by a beautiful day, although the wind soon freshened up from the west and cloud rolled in. By dusk, temperatures had recovered to an unseasonal 13 degrees C.......


The reservoirs are at the lowest end of November levels that I can ever remember, with even all three smaller reservoirs incredibly low (Startop's End in particular). I took the opportunity of undertaking a full wildfowl census with the calm conditions, with most noticeable the massive increase in Northern Pochard numbers. The full inventory is listed below - 55 species -:

Great Crested Grebe (31 including 11 on Wilstone, 5 on Tringford, 12 on Startop's and 3 on Marsworth)
Little Grebe (3 still on Wilstone and 1 on Startop's)
Cormorant (20 roosting on Wilstone, with 8 on Tringford and 11 on Startop's; ringed 'CAU' Carbo was roosting on Tringford)
Grey Heron (just 2 on Wilstone, 2 on Tringford and 2 on Marsworth)
Mute Swan (just 38 birds - all adult type - including 34 on Wilstone, 2 on Tringford and 2 on Startop's; additionally, an adult was freshly dead on the spit, perhaps killed by Fox)
Whooper Swan (both adults present but one bird appeared to be in distress and reluctant to move - both sitting on the mud by the jetty)
**BEWICK'S SWAN (the Wilstone family party of 4 birds still present but particularly mobile today - flying east from the Drayton Lagoon at 1003 only to return shortly later and then landed near to the hide)
Greylag Goose (67 in the fields to the east of Wilstone Reservoir)
Atlantic Canada Goose (7)
**DARK-BELLIED BRENT GOOSE (the long-staying juvenile was on the bund mid-morning and drinking from the edge of Wilstone Reservoir)
*COMMON SHELDUCK (a drake was by the hide on Wilstone) *Interestingly, David Kramer had one at Priory Country Park, Bedford, this morning.
Mallard (162 including 57 on Wilstone, 93 on Startop's and 12 on Marsworth)
GADWALL (major increase with 66 birds counted, including 24 on Wilstone, 6 on Tringford and 36 on Startop's)
*NORTHERN PINTAIL (just 1 drake on Wilstone)
Northern Shoveler (total of 118 counted, including 86 on Wilstone, 10 on Startop's and 22 on Wilstone)
Eurasian Wigeon (nothing like the numbers that once wintered at the reservoirs but 233 on Wilstone and 22 on Startop's)
Common Teal (327 counted: 216 on Wilstone, with 34 on Tringford, 73 on Startop's and 4 on Marsworth)
Northern Pochard (249 birds, mostly drakes: major increase with 137 on Wilstone and 112 on Startop's)
RED-CRESTED POCHARD (the female remains on Wilstone and 4 birds - a female, a first-winter and 2 adult drakes - on Startop's)
Tufted Duck (very poor numbers noted at 104 comprising just 36 on Wilstone, with 16 on Tringford and 52 on Startop's)
COMMON GOLDENEYE (two female-types on Wilstone)
Smew (no sign of yesterday's redhead on Wilstone)
Red Kite (1 west of Wilstone)
Common Kestrel (1 by Tringford Reservoir)
Common Pheasant (6 males walking out on the vegetation at Wilstone)
Moorhen (full census undertaken with 66 birds recorded: 32 on Wilstone, 14 on Tringford, 14 on Startop's and 6 on Tringford)
Common Coot (all click-counted revealing a total of 950 including a decrease to 622 on Wilstone, 52 on Tringford and 276 on Startop's)
EUROPEAN GOLDEN PLOVER (just 6 present on Wilstone)
Lapwing (17 on Wilstone and 3 on Startop's)
*DUNLIN (a full winter-plumaged bird on the mud at Startop's)
*GREEN SANDPIPER (the wintering singleton still present on the mud at Tringford)
Black-headed Gull (114 on Wilstone, 76 on Startop's and 51 on Marsworth)
Common Gull (7 on Wilstone)
Lesser Black-backed Gull (adult on Tringford)

Woodpigeon (massive decrease in numbers with a flock of 200 in cereal crops near Marsworth village)
Collared Dove (2 in Wilstone village and 16 in Marsworth)
**WATER PIPIT (the wintering bird on Wilstone showing very well today in the small bay north of the jetty)
Meadow Pipit (8 on the vegetated fringes of Wilstone)
Pied Wagtail (good numbers around including 21 on Wilstone, 2 on Tringford and 4 on Startop's)
Grey Wagtail (singles on Wilstone and Marsworth)
Wren (Marsworth Wood and Wilstone)
Dunnock (3 birds noted along Watery Lane)
Robin (5 noted - on Wilstone and Marsworth)
Song Thrush (a number of singing males including singles by the hide and in the East Poplars on Wilstone and 2 at Startop's/Marsworth)
Fieldfare (about 40 on the eastern flank of Wilstone)
Common Blackbird (5 present in the former orchard adjacent to the Black Poplars on Wilstone's East Bank)
Blue Tit (3 in Marsworth Reedbed)
Long-tailed Tit (party of 11 birds on Wilstone)
Common Magpie, Carrion Crow, Rook and Jackdaw all noted
Common Starling (34 in fields around Wilstone)
House Sparrow (as usual, only birds a flock of 16 by Startop Farm)
Chaffinch (1 in Marsworth Wood)
LINNET (a flock of 17 feeding on the Wilstone mud with the Meadow Pipits and Pied Wagtails by the jetty)
BULLFINCH (1 in Watery Lane, Marsworth)
Reed Bunting (1 in Marsworth Reedbed)


The female PEREGRINE was sat on the platform at midday


Present from 1230-1300 hours, joined Ken & Sally Earnshaw, Mike Habberfield and his wife and Dave Parmenter in the main car park at Gallows Bridge and enjoyed some real quality birding.....

The two regular HEN HARRIERS - the initial adult female and the small bright juvenile - were both present and showing well - the juvenile on view virtually all of the time. The latter was patrolling the rough field to the west of the main reserve field, as well as the right hand hedgerow, and approached to within 75 yards at one stage whilst the adult kept to the cereal field on the north side of the hedgerow. The second-winter male showed up briefly just after I left (per KE)

Other raptors present included Red Kite, Common Buzzard, Sparrowhawk and 5 Common Kestrels whilst up to 12 COMMON RAVEN present in the main field was bizarre. They all eventually flew off towards Waddesdon. The increase in this species in our region is nothing short of remarkable.

A flock of 35 Linnets and 7 Skylarks was also to be seen and a male Bullfinch on teasels by the entrance track

Nearby, 2 SHORT-EARED OWLS were showing well near Westcott

Talking of the latter, I returned early afternoon to a site in central Bedfordshire where I and another local observer were treated once more to an incredible display by up to 10 hunting SHORT-EARED OWLS. These birds have been present for just over a week now but are wintering on land earmarked for an astonishing 5,000 new homes ! A further 4 individuals are also present in the Brogborough area - by far the most I have ever seen in the county at one time and testament to the numbers currently wintering in Britain following the exceptional breeding season. The two female-type MERLINS were also still around.

A single Little Egret was south of the Kempston Bypass on the larger pit.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Sunday Roundup

In North Bucks today, Paul Saynor watched the juvenile GREAT NORTHERN DIVER at Caldecotte Lakes fly from North Lake over road bridge to South Lake with a fish in its beak at about 11-30am and later saw 3 Little Egrest at reserve end of South Lake.

The GREAT WHITE EGRET was again at Linford whilst at Gallows Bridge Farm Upper Ray Meadows Reserve, an adult male HEN HARRIER joined the adult female and juvenile wintering there.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Today's News - GWE, GND and two HEN HARRIERS

The juvenile GREAT NORTHERN DIVER was still present at Caldecotte Lake today until at least 10.30, covering huge areas of both the North and South lakes; it can literally disappear in front of your eyes; 6 Siskin over and 2 Little Egrets also (per Mike Wallen) (see Malcolm Stewart's superb images above)

Nearby, the wintering GREAT WHITE EGRET is still present at Linford NR and in the west of the county, Warren Claydon has confirmed the presence of two HEN HARRIERS at Gallows Bridge Farm, the original adult female that Warren and I both saw and the juvenile that has been present for a couple of weeks now

Thursday, 24 November 2011

DIVER still present

The juvenile GREAT NORTHERN DIVER is still present at Caldecotte Lake North, but ranging quite widely


Not a great deal of interest today except for a Dark-bellied Brent Goose on the spit along with a Bar-headed Goose, 5 Egyptian Geese and some 100 or so Golden Plover (Ken Earnshaw)

Monday, 21 November 2011

First-winter WILLOW TIT at Linford NR Woodland Hide Feeding Station

As I reported last week, I spent 45 minutes on site at The Woodland Hide and enjoyed excellent views of at least 3 black-capped tits - two very obvious and vocal Marsh Tits and another bird showing many characteristics of a WILLOW TIT. The nasal calls it was giving were very typical of Willow Tit and identical to those given by Willow Tits I have most recently looked at in the Thet Valley, Norfolk Breckland. I did have reservations over the paucity of the pale wing panels but as Richard Broughton has published, this feature is variable and the fact that this bird is most likely a first-winter, perhaps has a bearing on it.

Although Richard clearly has opposing views on this, and I certainly have no concrete evidence to back up my claims, I do have reservations over the appearance of these 'non-classic' individuals and I do worry that as the species becomes more and more outnumbered by Marsh Tits that peripheral birds are not hybridising. In Top Scrub at Ivinghoe Beacon for years we had breeding Willow and Marsh Tits side-by-side and they were very easy to differentiate. In April and May, the loud repetitive song of the Willow Tit was truly diagnostic and enlivened the scrub. At one time, Willow Tit was the commoner species, with as many as 8 territories along the ridge. Towards the end though, when numbers suddenly declined dramatically and Marsh Tits became to dominate, the vocalisations and appearance of the last remaining Willow Tits was not so clear-cut and they seemed to show mixed characters and much overlapping of features.

If we are to take vocalisations as the positive feature, then there is no doubt that the current bird wintering at the feeding station at HESC (Linford Lakes) is a WILLOW TIT. Although I have not recorded Willow Tits in Little Linford Wood since the last breeding pair in the 1990's, the species does still occur not far away across the border in Northamptonshire, in surprisingly good numbers. In 2010, there were 48 reports from 20 separate localities, with 6 individuals being trapped and ringed at Stanford Reservoir (on the Leicestershire border) between January and October. These 20 locations being Ravensthorpe Reservoir, Boddington Reservoir, Pitsford Reservoir, Stanwick GP, Storton's GP Northampton, Daventry CP, Burgh Hill, East Carlton CP, Weedon, Nobottle Wood, Fineshade Wood, Salcey Forest, Badby Wood, Glyn Davies Wood, Blueberry Farm Maidwell, Draughton, Maidwell Dale and Creston Capes (per Bob Bullock, Northamptonshire County Records).From this list, Salcey Forest is of the most relevant, virtually straddling the county border, and easily where this latest first-winter may have straggled from (Lee G R Evans)

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Ageing of HEN HARRIERS respective to Gallows Bridge Farm

Discussing Hen Harrier ageing with Warren Claydon this afternoon, I decided to write this short piece. Warren and I had seen a Hen Harrier at Gallows Bridge Farm on 6 and 7 November 2011 which we both considered to be an adult female on field views. Subsequently, there has been much discussion as to the ageing of this bird, and it remains a real possibility that more than one bird is involved in the sightings. Over the past few days, some reasonable images have appeared of the bird present this weekend, allowing some comparable discussions to take place

The above image by Rod Scarfe is taken of a HEN HARRIER recently at Gallows Bridge Farm; it clearly shows a JUVENILE FEMALE.......

Critical features to consider when ageing Hen Harriers are the eye colour, saturation and colour of the underparts and the wing patterning.

The image here taken by Tim Watts, shows a bird with FIVE obvious fingered primaries, ruling out Pallid Harrier

The eye colour appears to be uniform dark brown, both adult male and females having a pale yellow iris, whilst the facial disc pattern is clearly of a juvenile, with the dark brown circumnavigating the paler eye crescents and being bordered behind by a thin pale collar.

Juvenile Hen Harriers possess an orange-brown ground colour to the underparts whereas second-winters and adult females are invariably whitish in terms of basal colour. Juveniles generally show a contrast between the darker breast and the paler belly and the streaks on the underparts gradually become narrower from the breast towards the belly, with the undertail-coverts uniformly paler.

The adult females have the underparts boldly striped dark brown and essentially (and critically) have BARRED greater coverts and secondaries in the upperwing. Juveniles have a more uniformly patterned upperwing pattern.

Friday, 18 November 2011



A much cooler day than of late with SSE winds pegging temperatures back. A dry day though, and fairly bright......


The juvenile GREAT NORTHERN DIVER was still showing very well today, frequenting the extreme NE corner of Caldecotte North Lake. It was diving almost continuously and also ventured out on to the main lake. As both Simon and Ben have already expressed, the bird is particularly photogenic, and swims within 30 feet of the boardwalk.

DIRECTIONS: From the A5, take the H10 Bletcham Way eastwards. Just after the Brewer's Fayre pub, take first right on to Monellan Grove. Within a few yards, turn left on to Caldecotte Lane and then left again on to Wadesmill Lane. This road takes you under the Walton Park underpass and after about 150 yards turn left in to Chase Avenue. Continue on until Redcote Manor cul-de-sac appears on your left and park sensibly as you come across the bay.

This was the first time I had ever visited this particular part of the lake and I was impressed by the number of waterbirds present - 6 Great Crested Grebes, 5 Mute Swans (2 first-winters), 38 Mallard, 5 Gadwall, 13 Tufted Duck, 28 Coot, 1 Grey Heron and a COMMON KINGFISHER.....

Allan Stewart and I then checked Caldecotte South Lake where a further 8 Great Crested Grebe, 11 Mute Swans (including family party of 6) and 83 Coot were noted.


Following up on a report, Allan and I visited the Woodland Hide at Linford Reserve. In the 45 minutes that we were present, a procession of Great and Blue Tits visited the two feeders consistently. There were also 3 black-capped tits visiting throughout, including two pale cutting-edged MARSH TITS and what appeared to be a WILLOW TIT. All three birds were typically vocal, the apparent Willow Tit making the nasal call most frequently associated with that species. It was also very bull-necked in appearance, with the black extending slightly further back on to the hindneck, the white cheeks contrasting with the warmth of the head and the sides and flanks very richly coloured. The black bib was more extensive and patchy and the crown colour more drab and plain. The wing panel however was very ill-defined and difficult to see.

The Woodland Hide also yielded 4 Bullfinches, 30 Fieldfares, 28 Redwings and 2 Song Thrushes, whilst Black Horse Lake held 9 Great Crested Grebes and Linford Lake 14 Little Grebe (all in one flock), 54 Mute Swans and 62 Common Teal on the pool by the Swans Way.


We had a good look round for Tree Sparrows but failed to locate any and likewise failed in our quest to locate the Great White Egret......

However, driving down the track towards Gayhurst Manor, we were surprised to find a COMMON RAVEN 'guarding' the road and gathering horse hair in its beak. Surely it was not nesting already. Anyway, as we approached, it cronked a couple of times and then flew off in the direction of this spring's nest. The same pony fields yielded 40 Meadow Pipits and 15 Pied Wagtails.

Little Linford Wood was devoid of any maize crop and consequently any Tree Sparrows or farmland birds but 5 Fieldfare were noted.

At SP 850 440, the large lake to the west of the M1 held 42 Mute Swans.


Nothing new had arrived - in fact the adult Eurasian White-front had departed.

The juvenile DARK-BELLIED BRENT was still in the usual field adjacent to Rushy Meadow, the family party of 4 BEWICK'S SWANS in the isolated pool in the NW corner by the Black Poplars and 3 Little Grebes, 65 Greylag Geese, 2 drake PINTAIL, the female RED-CRESTED POCHARD and 5 COMMON GOLDENEYE on the main reservoir.


A splendid performance by up to 4 SHORT-EARED OWLS at dusk, including 3 typically pale individuals and a single darker bird. Also no less than 6,500 Jackdaws flew noisily in to roost - this being one of the largest roosts of this species in Britain

HEN HARRIER still at Gallows Bridge

Gallows Bridge NR - Fri 18 Nov 11.30-14.30

My first visit to this NR. Target birds were Hen Harrier and Short-eared Owl. Good views of the long-staying adult female HEN HARRIER, white rump prominent as it hunted over the hedgerows harrassed constantly by Carrion Crows. No sign of the Short-eared Owl.

Good sized flocks of Golden Plover (150), Lapwing (100+) and Starlings (200+) which could only be seen from the hide when spooked from their feeding fields by the numerous Red Kites, Kestrels and Hen Harrier. Also flocks of Linnets (50) and Fieldfares (30), 2 Herons over and occasional Skylarks. 4 Red-legged Partridges and 3 Cock Pheasants (Sally Douglas).

Thursday, 17 November 2011

North Bucks GREAT NORTHERN DIVER still present

Juvenile GREAT NORTHERN DIVER still present between 08.30 and 09.00. In the basin on the eastern edge of the north lake of Caldecott (access from Redcote Manor, Walton Park). It did a lap of the fringe of the basin before settling in the southern section. Surfaces for about 5 seconds, then disappears and reappears some distance away (Peter Barnes)

Wednesday, 16 November 2011


After a tip off from Dick at 14.47 that Cliff Dell had a Diver species on the north lake , I dashed over from Tilbrook and at 15:00 was stood next to Cliff watching a fantastic GREAT NORTHERN DIVER at c 30 yds range - Ben Miller and Dick joining us shortly afterwards (the former fortuitously driving along the M1 on his way home); it is in the North Eastern Arm ranging from that bay to the other side (south) of the island , it is diving frequently, often spending a minute under the water only to surface a distance away , stay up for 10 seconds and dive again , it appears to be a juvenile. Ben Miller is onsite and obtaining images.

The best place to view is from the boardwalk along the edge of Redcote Manor ( Road ) which is actually in the Walton Park area of Caldecotte,Caldecotte,+Milton+Keynes&gl=uk&ei=ItnDTpzxMMPJswbCkrz2Cw&sa=X&oi=geocode_result&ct=image&resnum=2&ved=0CCcQ8gEwAQand

zoom in under the area of Walton Park It is the 17th record for Bucks following birds in 2006 and 2009 at Calvert. Great find by Cliff in a woefully under watched area of Caldecotte lake hopefully it will still be there in the morning ! (Simon Nichols)


GREAT NORTHERN DIVER at Caldecotte North , viewable from the Bandstand at 15.05 found by Cliff Dell and confirmed by Simon Nichols, Ben Miller and Dick Bodily

Sunday, 13 November 2011

HEN HARRIER at Gallows Bridge Farm

John Foster photographed this HEN HARRIER - an apparent adult female - at Gallows Bridge Upper Ray Meadows Reserve today

Roosting LITTLE EGRETS continue to break records in North Bucks - 43 this evening

Rob Hill and I did a coordinated roost count @ Linford this evening 15.30 -16.40

One of the SHORT EARED OWLS was hunting the Paddocks as we drove past , along Swans Way

We set up counting position opp Tern Island , 2 LITTLE EGRETS (LE) were already in residence and a further 5 were roosting in the trees at the east edge along with the GREAT WHITE EGRET , within minutes another 4 had flown in (1 + 2 + 1 ) then at 15:50 an incredible flock of 30 birds headed in from the same direction as last night , along the river from Haversham and Bradwell ! ! Most of the flock dropped into the main lake and began washing and preening , then at 16.00 a single bird flew in making 42 birds onsite , at about 16.10 the GWE and 1 LE left towards Bradwell !? There was another 1 at 16.15 (previous bird returning) and then the GWE flew in at 16.20 , this time straight into the roost trees , almost immediately most of the onsite LE started to make their flight to the roost trees , there was another LE in at 16.21 to make an incredible 43 Little Egrets into roost ...... There were no more new arrivals in the next 20 minutes (Simon Nichols)

Bumper number of SHORT-EARED OWLS

Tim Watts had 3 SHORT-EARED OWLS towards dusk at Gallows Bridge and another at nearby Westcott

Today's Highlights

In North Bucks, the GREAT WHITE EGRET remains at Linford NR, whilst 2 TUNDRA BEAN GEESE were seen at Gayhurst Pits briefly early morning (Rob Hill).

The adult female HEN HARRIER is still at Gallows Bridge and in South Bucks, the SLAVONIAN GREBE remains at Spade Oak NR, Little Marlow

A herd of 10 BEWICK'S SWANS flew west over College Lake BBOWT at 0945 hours

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Today's Highlights

In addition to the aforementioned Spade Oak SLAVONIAN GREBE and the 4 WAXWINGS at Ivinghoe Beacon, Wally Smith noted 2-3 FIRECRESTS in Hogback Wood, Beaconsfield, and the adult female HEN HARRIER remains at Upper Ray Meadows, Gallows Bridge.

WAXWINGS on the Hills

I was very pleasantly surprised by the arrival of 4 WAXWINGS whilst out birding this morning. They arrived from the East and alighted on the tall trees close to the car park. They moved from tree to tree for about 5 minutes before flying off West. However, as I walked down towards the S-bend, I saw them circle back round and onto Steps Hill. They were in the area for at least 20 minutes. I managed the record shots above.

It was also nice to see a couple of Nuthatches in the area (Lucy Flowers)

SLAV GREBE still present

Got back home late last night after a (mistimed) long weekend 'Up North' with the parents, so first light found me at LMGP praying the SLAVONIAN GREBE was still in residence. News of a bird at Queen Mother Resr this morning had me worried it had moved on, but eventually it appeared in the North East section of the pit, and then showed very well, including a period of preening among the Tufted Duck flock. I moved into the area and started my Bucks list in early 2003 - I really didn't think it would take eight years to see a Slav Grebe in the county!!

Interestingly, there is another new Slav Grebe nearby at Brogborough this morning, with Purple Sand at Draycote, Velvet Scoter at Gratham Water, RB Meg in Beds, and a bit of a movement of Brent Geese thrown in as well... A good day to be out looking, there is more to be found (Ben Miller).

Monday, 7 November 2011

No Snow Bunting but HEN HARRIERS compensate


Well I felt pretty depressed last night. After showing well for about four hours yesterday, the Ivinghoe Beacon Snow Bunting decided to go awol just as I rolled up on site yesterday afternoon, and despite searching for the next 90 minutes with the two young Perfect brothers, the bird was nowhere to be found - it had presumably moved on due to the pressure of dogwalkers and Sunday strollers. Two drab first-winter RING OUZELS in neighbouring scrub were scant compensation.......

Well today dawned grey and drizzly and with the wind still in the east (it had veered from NE to SSE) I returned first thing to the Hills.....


I was faced with thick fog early morning but despite that, there was enough visibility at the Beacon trig point to see that the Snow Bunting was not there. In fact it was dead, just 1 Song Thrush and 3 Goldcrests


Very little change since my last visit of about a week ago, although the water level had risen slightly...

The EUROPEAN GOLDEN PLOVER flock had risen dramatically - from around 180 to 411 - but otherwise it was standard fare.......

The 4 Little Grebes, 7 Great Crested Grebes, 36 Mute Swans, the 2 adult Whooper Swans, 62 Greylag Geese, just 78 Wigeon, 113 Common Teal, 42 Shoveler, 10 Gadwall, 1 drake PINTAIL, 44 Pochard, just 27 Tufted Duck and 10 Meadow Pipits


Following up on Warren's message, I arrived at Gallows Bridge reserve at 1000 hours and departed at just after 1100 hours. In that hour, Warren's HEN HARRIER was intermittently in view, occasionally sitting on top of the hedgerow but generally hunting up and down over the large weedy fields that border the northern perimeter of the reserve. It was constantly harassed by Carrion Crows and to escape their attacks, repeatedly had to resort to sitting on the ground or hedgerow. In flight, it showed five splayed primary 'fingers' and not four and hence quickly eliminated Pallid Harrier, of which there is an unprecedented influx at present. It was also very pale on the underparts, with the saturated breast streaking on a whitish background, and exhibited clear pale covert patches on each upperwing. It appeared to be an adult female. The broad white rump was clearly seen and the strongly barred uppertail. It was also a heavy bird in flight, with broad-based wings.

A single COMMON RAVEN was also in the vicinity, as well as Common Kestrel, Sparrowhawk and Common Buzzard, whilst a flock of 125 European Golden Plover wheeled overhead and spooked farmland birds included 36 Skylarks and 260 Common Starlings.

The Hen Harrier could be seen from either the first hide or the main car park


The long-staying juvenile COMMON SCOTER was still present, closely hugging the NW bank of reeds


Thanks to Steve Blain, I drove as far north as I could go in Bedfordshire and spent the entire afternoon in a damp and bleak landscape of Knotting Green. Light conditions were very poor as mizzle drifted in and out of the valley, whilst underfoot was wet and muddy. I stood at the derelict barn about half a mile south of the road from 1300 hours but it was not until three hours later that I succeeded in my goal - the ringtail HEN HARRIER finally appearing at 1605 hours. The bird appeared high from the south and dropped down into the valley and began hunting over the densely scattered small bushes behind the line of taller trees. At one point, it flushed a female Common Pheasant, and chased it briefly, before dropping down presumably to roost after about ten minutes of flight. It was a very dark chocolate-brown individual on the upperparts and was boldly and very heavily streaked on the underparts. There was little contrast in the wing coverts, with the white rump patch broad and conspicuous and the ringtail characteristically rimmed buff. These features all suggested a juvenile.........I was delighted, after dipping Neil Wright's bird on three occasions, I had at last connected and the long trip and stakeout had been well worthwhile

In all of the time that I was present at the site, there was little else to keep one occupied - no Great Grey Shrike, Short-eared or Barn Owls just 4 Bullfinch, 18 Greenfinch, 3 Reed Buntings, male Common Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, 5 Song Thrush, 30 Redwing and about 100 Fieldfare

OTTERS at Linford

At Linford Sunday morning 2 Marsh Tits woodland hide, 21 Little Grebe in various groups on main lake. Best of all met Rob Hill when walking to Far hide, he told me he had just seen 2 OTTERS. After 10 minutes i saw a large wake under the water near the far bank, an OTTER surfaced with a fish then vanished into the reeds (Mal McGar)

Sunday SNOW BUNTING on Beacon

Iain Malin and Dave Hutchinson discovered this very confiding SNOW BUNTING at the summit of Ivinghoe Beacon at 0930 hours on Sunday morning. It remained on view until early afternoon before becoming more and more mobile as more and more Sunday strollers appeared - some great images from Dave Hutchinson

Saturday, 5 November 2011

SLAV still present - and GREENSHANK finally secured on Year List


A switch overnight in the wind direction. Although slack at first light, a Northeasterly set in during the day, eventually clearing away the thick fog encountered in much of Hertfordshire.........


I returned in much better light conditions to Spade Oak, where the SLAVONIAN GREBE was still present fishing close to the main island. It was fairly elusive, and diving frequently, but on one occasion swam away from the island and headed once more to the Willows in the SE corner of the pit. On closer views, the redness of the eye was apparent, although the lack of a clear demarcation line on the crown and a pale tip to the bill suggested a young bird. Although obviously a small grebe when compared to the Great Crested Grebes, the stark contrast between the gleaming white underparts and the black upperparts ruled out Black-necked Grebe, as well as the flatter crown (no central peak) and the heavier and straighter bill. It was also longer and thicker-necked, and much whiter in the neck.

The water level was particularly high on the pit, with the perimeter trail quite muddy with the recent heavy rains. Also recorded were the following species -:

Great Crested Grebe (21)
Cormorant (54 on the island)
Grey Heron (7)
Greylag Geese (132 including a leucistic bird)
Egyptian Geese (pair)
Mallard (31)
Common Teal (76)
Wigeon (19)
Gadwall (3)
Shoveler (17)
Tufted Duck (168)
Northern Pochard (23)
Coot (26)
Lapwing (217)
Common Gull (4)
Common Kingfisher (2)
Grey Wagtail (3)
Mistle Thrush (4)


Joined Ray Hooper, Mike Ilett, Brendan Glynn and Chris Stone at the former Quail site and spent two hours searching for Alan Reynold's Merlin. Once again, we drew a blank and once again, the Sparrowhawk was sat in the fields, and 2 Common Buzzards. The covey of 14 GREY PARTRIDGE were still present, along with 32 Red-legged Partridge, as well as 2 European Golden Plovers, 38 Skylark and a flock of 400 Common Starlings. The aforementioned observers all saw the Kelshall GREAT GREY SHRIKE at Coombe Road later too.


After failing to find Stuart Warren's female Black Redstart in East Road, Langford, I headed up to North Bucks where at long last, thanks to Rob Norris, I finally connected with a COMMON GREENSHANK in the county this year. Pretty pathetic I know, but despite Wilstone getting bumper numbers this autumn, Buckinghamshire in general has had relatively few. Anyhow, this bird which has been present for at least a month was still feeding along the muddy edge at the extreme east end of the pit to the right (east) of the footpath. The long-staying adult GREAT WHITE EGRET was also still present on the shallow pit just east of Motorway Pit.


A mid-afternoon visit to Swan's Way yielded just 12 Little Egrets in the roosting Willows and 2 SHORT-EARED OWLS flying high over the rough ground by the ruins. Both birds were being constantly disturbed by a myriad of dogwalkers, joggers and walkers - dogs running all over the site and flushing them up out of the grass.


Late afternoon saw me arrive at Calvert and after a 20 minute search, I eventually located the COMMON SCOTER that has been present for several days. The presence of dusky white underparts (belly) confirmed my suspicions that it was a JUVENILE, although I was surprised by the amount of contrast in the cheek patches. The bill was all dark. Warren had warned me how elusive it was and I eventually found it hugging the NW bank close to the reeds.

The Sailing Lake also held 11 Great Crested Grebes (including a very young, still begging juvenile), 5 Mute Swans (3 young), a pair of Wigeon, 3 Gadwall and 12 Tufted Duck, with a CETTI'S WARBLER vocal in the scrub.

The neighbouring BBOWT Reserve held 3 more Great Crested Grebes, a pair of Mute Swans, Grey Wagtail, 2 Bullfinch and 8 Goldcrests with the reedbed harbouring 13 roosting Reed Buntings and eventually 370 Common Starlings.

It was a sizeable gull roost on the Sailing lake and by 1633 hours, I had click-counted a total of 3,148 large white-headed gulls. These comprised of no less than 2,760 Lesser Black-backed Gulls (predominantly adults), just 44 Great Black-backed Gulls (just 6 first-years), 326 Herring Gulls (including at least 25% Argentatus), 14 YELLOW-LEGGED GULLS (12 adults, 1 2nd-winter and 1 first-winter) and 4 different CASPIAN GULLS (a lovely adult in full winter plumage, a sub-adult (4th/5th winter-type), a 2nd-winter and a first-winter). In addition were two adult-type 'hooded' Lesser Black-backed Gulls closely resembling Azorean Atlantic Gulls.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Calvert this evening

Warren Claydon had two immature CASPIAN GULLS in the roost this evening, as well as the long-staying juvenile COMMON SCOTER on the Sailing Lake

Local Mega - SLAVONIAN GREBE at Marlow


Some long-needed rain at last - buckets of it. Throughout the morning and overnight, southerly winds bought heavy showers leading to some localised flooding. Still very mild though.........


After a plea for help from David Ferguson, I and others went down to Spade Oak to check out the small grebe that DF had discovered. Alan Stephens, Mike Wallen and others arrived there first however and confirmed the birds identity as a winter-plumaged SLAVONIAN GREBE. I watched the bird until dusk, favouring the east end of the pit.

Two GREEN SANDPIPERS were also present, a Common Snipe, 8 roosting Little Egrets and 21 Great Crested Grebes...

SLAVONIAN GREBE is a rare visitor to Buckinghamshire with just 62 previous records, the most recent being in November 2002 -:

There were just 8 records (of 9 birds) prior to 1973 -

1) One shot at Great Marlow in the 1860's;
2) Two shot at Weston Turville Reservoirs between 1874 and 1880;
4) One present at WTR from 29 January to 10 February 1924;
5) One present at WTR from 6 February to 6 March 1937;
6) One at Bletchley Station Pond on 14 February 1937;
7) One at Foxcote Reservoir on 29 November 1964;
8) Another at Foxcote Reservoir from 31 August to 1 September 1969;
9) An adult in full breeding plumage at WTR from 18-21 May 1972.

10) One was seen at Linford GP on 16 & 26 December 1973;
11) One was on floodwater near Great Linford GP on 24 November 1974;
12) One remained at Willen Lake from 21-30 January 1977;
13) One remained at Hyde Lane GP from 5-9 March 1978;
14) Two were at Calvert on 27 January 1979;
16) One remained at Tongwell Lake from 18 February until 5 April 1979;
17) One was on the River Ouse at Tyringham Bridge on 25 February 1979;
18) One was noted at Willen Lake on 14 February 1979;
19) One appeared at Willen Lake on 8 November 1980;
20) One was at Calvert on 4 January 1981;
21) One was at Hyde Lane on 7 November 1982 and was possibly that present at Haversham from 27 November to 4 December 1982;
22) One remained at Willen lake from 5-28 November 1983;
23) No less than a flock of 4 appeared at Caldecott Lake on 13 November 1984;
27) One was at Linford GP on 13 December 1986;
28) A wide ranging bird of Milton Keynes Waters from 28 February to 8 April 1987, being seen mainly at New Bradwell but also at Haversham and Linford NR on at least one date and at Willen lake on 18-21 March;
29) Another bird at Willen from 19 November until 8 December 1987;
30) One in breeding plumage at Willen on 16 April 1988;
31) Two birds at Willen on 9 November 1988;
33) One remained at Caldecott Lake from 15 December 1988 until 3 March 1989 and was presumably the same bird that reappeared on 29 November 1989 and was last seen on 29 March 1990;


34) An early individual at Foxcote Reservoir on 19 September 1990;
35) One was at Emberton Lakes on 17-19 February 1991;
36) One was at Willen on 26 February 1991;
37) One appeared at Willen on 26 October 1991;
38) One was at Foxcote from 30 September to 2 October 1992;
39) One visited Caldecotte Lakes on 14 October 1992;
40) One was seen in the Bucks section of Startop's End Reservoir on 29 October 1992;
41) One remained at Caldecotte Lakes from 11-14 January 1993;
42) One remained on the Blue Lagoon at Bletchley from 14 January until 4 February 1994;
43) One visited Spade Oak Pit, Little Marlow, on 6 January 1995;
44) One remained intermittently on Tongwell Lake from 3 February until 12 March 1995, visiting Linford Lakes from 4-10 March;
45) One was at Foxcote on 12 November 1995;
46) One visited Emberton Lakes on 17-18 March 1996;
47) One remained at Spade Oak from 1-23 December 1996;
48) One was at Thorney CP from 15-31 December 1996;
49) A first-winter visited Willen on 23 December 1996;
50) One was observed on the River Thames at Boveney Lock on 11 January 1997;
51) One was present at Willen from 17-20 December 1997;
52) One visited Thorney CP on 20 December 1997;
53) One remained on Dorney Lake from 11 January until 1 February 1998;
54) One was seen at Linford on 19 November and 5-6 December 1998;
55) One was at WTR on 14 November 1998;
56) A party of 3 birds was discovered at Linford on 31 January 1999, with one remaining until 13 February.

2000 and beyond

59) An adult in transitional plumage at Willen on 31 March 2001;
60) One at the Jubilee River near Slough on 21 November 2001;
61) One at Caldecotte Lake on 2 February 2002;
62) One at Newport Pagnell on 11 November 2002;

North Bucks today - GREENSHANK and SHORT-EARED OWL

The COMMON GREENSHANK remains at Gayhurst Quarry today, ranging between Fishing and Spinney Pits - now present 3 weeks. At Linford tonight there were 2 SHORT-EARED OWLS again. One in the fields around Swans Way and the other mainly in the rough area between the Canal and the new housing estate.

The canal bridge is an excellent place to stand as you can look in both directions. Access from the end of Weavers Way in the new estate, reached from the traffic lights by where Wolverton Road meets the V7 Saxon Street (Rob Norris).

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Exceptionally late COMMON QUAIL at Rowsham

No, I kid you not, I haven't gone totally crazy !
Unbelievably one was accidentally flushed from under a bush/ hedge in Rowsham at about 10.20 this morning.
I was out walking the dog, who is a bit of a 'retriever' when she clearly smelt something under the edge of a hedge, she went around the back of this bit of hedge as I tried to pull her back thinking she was going for a Rabbit. A bird then flushed and broke out of the bush/ longish grass. My initial thought was a Redwing, seeing a brown bird with a strongly marked face pattern. It then came out within perhaps 4 ft of me and immediately turned away from me before rising and going over the 25ft hedge. As it did this it called, not its usual clear call but perhaps a quieter version, but definately 'bubbly'. The view of it was simply breathtaking, albeit for probably only 5 seconds. There is no doubt of the identification.

What on earth is one doing here in November ? I suppose its most likely a 'reverse' migrant and has arrived here on these strong Southerly winds.

Whichever way it was a stunning sight and an amazing record.

I have searched the adjacent field without success but it really is a needle in a haystack now.
Also 300 Fieldfare present (Mike Wallen)