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

Sunday, 1 January 2012



A considerably mild start to the year with temperatures reaching 13 degrees C. The day was mainly overcast with light rain for a time.

A total of 234 species was recorded in Britain and Ireland today, following last year's record total of 453 - a New Forest Dark-eyed Junco of 24 & 30 December being a belated addition.

As I had been partying for most of the night, my birding today was restricted to just local. I didn't start until 0930 hours so reaching 72 species by nightfall was reasonable I suppose (including 64 species in Bucks and 55 in Herts)..........


In the vicinity of the garden first thing noted House Sparrow (30), Common Magpie (2), Carrion Crow, Common Blackbird, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove and Blue Tit


All 4 COMMON TEAL were still present on the lake (3 drakes), along with the Little Grebe and 2 Mute Swans. A pair of GREY WAGTAILS was on the river, whilst Mallard, Robin, Wren, Moorhen and Jackdaw were also seen. The first of several singing male Song Thrushes of the day was noted whilst a further pair of Mute Swans was on the Chess by Church Covert.

At LATIMER, a flock of 116 Atlantic Canada Geese was in the fields

BOIS MILL POND added a further pair of Mute Swans, as well as the regular adult Continental Cormorant (sinensis) perched aloft the island tree; Long-tailed Tits were by the brook

A quick circuit from WATERCRESS COTTAGE around to CHESHAM FISHING LAKES yielded 3 more singing male Song Thrushes, Dunnock, Wren, 4 Robins, Rooks (inspecting the nests), 14 Redwing, Grey Heron and 3 Red Kites. The lakes held 4 Mute Swans (2 first-years), 1 Canada Goose, 37 Mallard, 16 Tufted Ducks, 10 Coot, 6 Moorhens and 73 Black-headed Gulls, the latter commuting to the sewage works.


I had a quick check of the large stubble field in School Lane where the flock of wintering YELLOWHAMMERS were still present - 70 seen with little effort; also Chaffinch, Goldfinch and Common Pheasant

SHARDELOES LAKE was pretty dire, mainly because of serious disturbance from New Year ramblers, but it was nice to see all 8 Mute Swans together, before the cob clears them all off this spring. Up to 50 Fieldfares were also still in the area.


No New Years Day is complete for me without a visit to my main local patch and it gave me an excuse to do my first January count of the year as well as connecting with the major rares still left over from yesterday. Other than the wintering Water Pipit and a visiting Peregrine, it was a clean sheet.

I met up with my very good friend Darrel Bryant at Startop's and we birded the reservoirs together; I also saw both Roy and Ian as well as over 25 other regulars and visitors.

At STARTOP'S END RESERVOIR, the most celebrated local bird of 2011 was still present - the first-winter male SNOW BUNTING. Today it was showing as well as ever and was frequenting the north shoreline by the steps in the NW corner. Three Pied Wagtails were also in this vicinity.

Waterbird-wise we had 1 Little Grebe, 5 Great Crested Grebes, 11 Mute Swans (3 first-years), 27 Atlantic Canada Geese (marked arrival of this species), 93 Mallard, 17 Wigeon, 15 Common Teal, 42 Gadwall, 53 Tufted Duck, 11 Pochard, 289 Coot and 13 Moorhens.

A scan of the roosting Black-headed Gull flock on the mud and islands produced the wintering adult MEDITERRANEAN GULL (just before it flew off west at 1030 hours) and 3 adult Common Gulls.

TRINGFORD RESERVOIR was pretty scant - the usual 2 Mute Swans, 54 Coot and a few ducks. By the fisherman's car park, 35 Fieldfares were flying down to the field to feed.

A small crowd of observers were standing on the causeway overlooking MARSWORTH RESERVOIR reedbed and thanks to Roy, I was able to see both JACK and COMMON SNIPE huddled in a roost up against the reedbed (the mud is rapidly disappearing). Most unexpectedly, 2 JACK SNIPES was present - both violently 'bobbing' - as well as 3 COMMON SNIPES.

The reservoir held 5 Great Crested Grebes and 33 Shoveler, with both Great Spotted and Green Woodpecker and 2 Grey Wagtails in the area.

Although we (and everybody else it seems) failed to locate the wintering Water Pipit, it was pleasing to find that the first-winter DARK-BELLIED BRENT GOOSE had survived into the New Year - still mixing with the 73 Greylag Geese and 29 Atlantic Canada Geese in the roadside fields to the east of the reservoir.

A half-hearted check of the water harboured 8 Great Crested Grebes, the continuing Little Grebe, just 5 Mute Swans, 240 Wigeon, 330 Common Teal, 53 Shoveler, 77 Tufted Duck, 97 Pochard and best of all, the 7 COMMON GOLDENEYES in one group (two adult drakes).

Additional fare included a single LITTLE EGRET, Great Spotted Woodpecker, 11 Common Blackbirds in the Orchard area and the flock of 54 Linnets by the Drayton Hide


Moving on to Wendover Hale, it was very nice to bump into Simon Gardner's wife Lynsey and her friend and putting a face to those that kindly tipped me off about the COMMON CROSSBILL flock. Being limited in time today, I stayed around just long enough to see a single flock of 16 birds - all still favouring the cone crop in the stand of conifers by the turnaround, seemingly 700 yards from the access gate at Forestry Cottages. An adult male put on a great show for us, perched out in the open at the top of the tree for 15 minutes or more. John Foster got some nice shots (see above).

I was also very pleased to find a MARSH TIT by the Forestry Cottages, whilst Great Spotted Woodpecker, Song Thrush, 9 Coal Tits, Great Tit and 7 Goldcrests were also noted.


Following up from Mike Wallen's post, both resident pair of PEREGRINES were showing well at the Council Buildings and displaying.


At least 25 House Sparrows counted in the hamlet, with 2 Collared Doves and 6 Red Kites also.


Spent over 90 minutes searching for both Hen Harrier and Merlin but to no avail - only raptors being seen were Common Kestrel, 3 Common Buzzards and 8 Red Kites.

COMMON RAVENS were good value as usual with at least 8 individuals seen, as well as 12 Stock Doves in one flock, a flyover flock of 125 European Golden Plovers, numerous Common Starling and Fieldfare and 23 Eurasian Skylarks.

LINNETS were fairly abundant with a single flock numbering 190 birds.


Being a Sunday and the landfill closed, gull numbers were pretty low. Despite that, there was still a good variety, including a probable adult CASPIAN GULL, 2 adult YELLOW-LEGGED GULLS, 5 Great Black-backed Gulls, 132 Lesser Black-backed Gulls, 31 Herring Gulls (predominantly Argentatus) and an adult Common Gull. Most surprising was the number of laridophiles on site including Ian Lewington, Warren Claydon, Steve Rodwell and Jon Holt.

In addition to the pre-roosting gulls, 2 Great Crested Grebes, 12 Cormorant, 26 Mallard, 27 Tufted Duck, 2 Teal, 3 Pochard and 32 Coot were counted.


Continuing north and east, I eventually reached Caldecotte Lakes. The long-staying juvenile GREAT NORTHERN DIVER that I had initially found at Stewartby Lake in November was still present and showing well from the bypass. It was at the northern end of the South Lake.

There was an impressive gull roost here, including 7 adult YELLOW-LEGGED GULLS, whilst waterbirds counted included 28 Great Crested Grebes (largest number in Bucks?), 23 Mute Swans, 18 Canada Geese and 54 roosting Cormorants; also 128 Coot and 22 Tufted Ducks.


Thanks to Simon Nichols, I was able to make a hasty retreat to Willen North Basin where I quickly connected with the beautiful adult drake SMEW - presumably the bird from Caldecotte and present for five days. It was swimming with dabbling ducks to the east of the spit.

With light fading fast, I undertook a full count of both the North and South Basins resulting in totals of just 21 Great Crested Grebes, 58 roosting Cormorants, an impressive 144 Mute Swans (including 133 on the South Basin), 70 Canada Geese, 28 Greylag Geese, 86 Mallard, 40 Gadwall, 66 Teal, 193 Wigeon, 16 Shoveler, just 38 Tufted Duck, 17 Pochard, 8 Common Goldeneye, NO Goosander, 517 Coot and 397 Lapwings.


As dusk approached, I visited Linford in the hope of counting the egrets roosting. As it was, I arrived too late and they had all disappeared into thick cover. Interestingly, Linford's Great White Egret was intercepted by Neil Wright at Brogborough Lake this morning, constituting the very FIRST record for Bedfordshire. It remained on view for just 3 minutes before heading back in the direction of Milton Keynes.

I counted 54 Mute Swans on Linford but did not see a single Barn or Short-eared Owl along Swans Way as darkness fell......