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, 19 February 2012



An overnight light frost was followed by a cold, dry day, with cloud moving in from time to time and some long sunny periods. Temperatures reached 4 degrees C

My main target bird today was Lesser Spotted Woodpecker and with such a nice morning, I finally connected..........


(0800-1000 hours) After almost completing a full circuit of the reserve, a female LESSER SPOTTED WOODPECKER actually found me. I was alerted to her presence by the shrill piercing call, uttered from near the top of a Silver Birch tree. I quickly locked on to her and followed her movements for several minutes as she flicked from tree to tree. I then heard the male calling from a neighbouring tree and the two birds kept in close proximity for several more minutes. A couple walking their dog then approached and this sent both birds flying further into the wood and as I walked away, the male called loudly again.

The pair were in the Birches just left of the 4 tall Douglas Fir trees about 80 yards before the eastern end of the wood. The main track follows parallel with the outside perimeter track here.

Church Wood has consistently (for me at least) been the most reliable site in Buckinghamshire to see this species and a visit between February and April is likely to reap rewards. I have found the period 0800-0900 hours to be optimum. Last year though, I drew a complete blank here.

Doing a full circuit of the wood also yielded singles of both Great Spotted and Green Woodpeckers (no drumming as yet), an impressive 8 Common Treecreepers, 4 Nuthatches, 2 Coal Tits, numerous Blue and Great Tits, three separate flocks of Long-tailed Tits, Jay, 6 Goldcrests, 5 SISKINS, Wren and 120 Redwings at the east end (feeding on the understorey and leaf litter).


Despite little disturbance, the 2,000 or so gulls present did not appear to have anything interesting with them - just 73 Herring Gulls and 7 Great Black-backed Gulls. Charlie Jackson visited much later though and saw a 2nd-winter Iceland Gull and an adult Yellow-legged Gull.


My next 'target bird' of the day was CORN BUNTING. Following some excellent advice from local birder Warren Claydon, I checked the 7 stubble fields south of Saunderton. First off, I checked the long thin field next to the railway line at SU 823 972. In here, I found 8 Red-legged Partridges, 1 Skylark, 193 Linnets and 26 Yellowhammers, with a nice male BULLFINCH in the railway scrub. I then walked a whole host of what seemed like suitable fields but in the very last one I checked, the large stubble field at SU 824 977 east of the main A 4010, I located a flock of 200 Skylarks, 53 Linnets and 29 CORN BUNTINGS - the latter conveniently lining themselves up alongside each other on the overhead wires. This same field also held 5 Brown Hares and 8 Stock Doves.

These were my first Bucks Corn Buntings of the year........


Situated 3 miles NNW of Hemel Hempstead lies Water End Meadows, SE of Great Gaddesdon church and school at TL 033 110. One can park sensibly at SU 030 113 and walk SE alongside the Gade.

Dan Forder had photographed a WATER PIPIT here during the harsh icy conditions of last week and today the same bird was showing very well at the top of the stream, just yards from Hemel Hempstead Garden Centre. It was feeding with 2 Grey Wagtails and was surprisingly approachable, revealing its slate grey crown and hindneck and quite warm brown mantle and back. The white supercilium was bold and extensive and the white underparts evenly streaked.

Walking as far SE as the wooden bridge across the stream, I also added 9 Teal, 8 Gadwall, 2 Little Grebes, 8 Moorhen, 4 Coot, 1 Grey Heron and 1 Common Snipe.

Although Water Pipits were once an annual winter visitor to Hertfordshire, with up to 10 recorded, it is now a very rare bird in the county and to have two birds (this and the wintering bird at Tring Reservoirs) is quite exceptional.


A brief incursion was then made in to Bedfordshire where, upon driving north on the A5 NW of Hockliffe, I sadly came upon a dead BARN OWL (a species I have yet to see alive in the county this year). The bird was quite badly damaged but was ringed - BTO metal GR 32025 being the number. The bird had been hit directly opposite Fourne Hill Manor at SP 956 283 (record for Peter Wilkinson).


Had a quick look at Battlesden Lake but little of note - 2 Mute Swans, 4 Gadwall, 8 Wigeon, 5 Tufted Duck, 360 Black-headed Gulls, 40 Common Gulls and 15 Lesser Black-backed Gulls.


Walked down to the bridge at the north end of the lake and as SCB advised, placed some peanuts on the posts. Within no time at all, up to 4 different MARSH TITS arrived with the numerous Blue and Great Tits - my first of the year in the county.


Parked up at SP 936 342 NW of Woburn and took the bridleway leading across Aspley Heath on the east side of the main road. Peter Smith had earlier seen a pair of Common Stonechats here (a species ridiculously rare this winter) but despite criss-crossing the area as far north as the new plantation, only found 56 Linnets, a Chinese Water Deer and a male Muntjac.


Returning to North Bucks, visited LINFORD NATURE RESERVE in the hope of finding the Black-tailed Godwit that had been present the last three days. Despite scouring the bund high and low, there was no sign of it. Masses of waterbird present though, with 8 Grey Herons, 1 Little Egret, 35 Mute Swans, many Canada & Greylag Geese, 112 Teal, 312 Wigeon, 19 Shoveler, 20 Gadwall, 298 Tufted Duck, 184 Pochard and a drake Goldeneye.


Joined Keith Owen for the roost but it was poor; no more than 2,000 gulls roosting consisting of mostly Black-headed (including the adult leucistic bird), 500 Common, the usual adult MEDITERRANEAN now sporting resplendent black on the head and blood-red on the bill, about 50 Lesser Black-backed, just 15 Herring and not one Great Black-backed.

Two female-type GREATER SCAUPS were identified amongst the many Aythyas.

I then spent the last half-hour of daylight searching for Barn Owls but failed as usual; I also drove up to Cranfield Aerodrome where Dave Odell enjoyed excellent views of 4 SHORT-EARED OWLS 20 minutes before I arrived - at 1710 hours. They had been searching for Voles over the rough area at the western end.