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, 16 March 2012

Little Marlow shines through the murk


A very grey and dreary day with very little brightness. Despite a SW wind, temperatures were pegged well back and struggled to reach 8 degrees C by mid afternoon. I expected little to be happening but was surprised, particularly by the first real rush of Northern Wheatears.....


Alan Stevens very kindly texted me early on to say that the SANDWICH TERN was still present. Having missed it yesterday, I was most keen to connect and after battling my way through the school traffic, eventually arrived on site at 0922 hours. The bird was still there and in Alan's 'scope ! I had a quick glance and then located it in my own. It was roosting in with the Black-headed and Common Gulls and was in full 'shaggy crested' summer plumage. It was my first of the year and a very welcome county year tick - this species can be particularly tricky to see locally each year. It remained in situ for about 15 minutes before the flock were rudely interrupted by two low-swooping Red Kites. It then flew with the entire mass but returned fairly quickly to the spit. About 20 minutes later, the episode was repeated by two Common Buzzards, and this time all of the gulls and the Sandwich Tern flew off high east at 1010 hours. It seemed to have gone.........

Other species encountered included 9 Great Crested Grebes, 3 Egyptian Geese, a pair of COMMON SHELDUCK, 5 Eurasian Wigeon, 10 Common Teal, 16 Gadwall, 4 Northern Pochard, 12 Shoveler, 39 Lapwings, 57 Herring Gulls (virtually all first-years), 15 Red Kite and 12 migrant Redwings.


Had another check of the ROOKERY and found 54 nests active


Flushed with the success of the Sandwich Tern, I was hoping for something new at the reservoirs but it was deadly - nothing new whatsoever really.

On the mud at STARTOP'S END, the OYSTERCATCHER was having a bath at the water's edge, with 17 Pied Wagtails still there and the pair of Red-crested Pochards. MARSWORTH was relatively birdless - just 2 Mute Swans and 6 Great Crested Grebes.

Highlight at WILSTONE was finally connecting with the resident MARSH TIT - the bird showing well and calling frequently just by the entrance gate to the orchard. Seemingly new in was a singing COMMON CHIFFCHAFF in the eastern hedgerow in the extreme SE corner.

Both the DARK-BELLIED BRENT and WATER PIPIT were still present, along with 27 Shoveler, a pair of Wigeon and 4 Little Egrets. A Common Treecreeper was in the Poplars in the SE corner.


JT phoned me whilst I was at Wilstone to say that John Edwards had located a drake Ferruginous Duck at Broadwater. Being with Tufted Ducks, I fully expected it to be the drake both Joan and I recently enjoyed great views of at Bray GP near Maidenhead. Anyway, got there in about half an hour and eventually located it in the area of the first wooded island - in fact the former Little Egret roost-site. It had a 'perfect' body and rear end but when I saw the head and bill, I felt deflated. It was yet another 'Fudgie-hybrid', this time possibly with a Ring-necked Duck ! The head shape was 'naff' and the basal colour very dark with a hint of dark green but the bill was the nail in the coffin - it had a gleaming white 'ring' around the base of the bill and an extensive amount of white on a sky-blue on the upper mandible; it also had extensive black flanging to the nail. Presumably an escape.

Three GOOSANDER were on the lake (2 adult drakes), whilst at least 8 pairs of Black-headed Gull were utilising the tern rafts and a pair of Oystercatchers flew over calling. A single Common Chiffchaff was singing from the tall trees on the causeway.

Anyway, whilst updating the various news services, news came in that Dave Parmenter had found a SCANDINAVIAN ROCK PIPIT in South Bucks - at Spade Oak again ! A swift exodus followed........


Arrived back at Spade Oak at around 1245 hours, where I joined Adam Bassett and Bill Stacey (and latterly Graham Smith and Jackie Newcombe). The SCANDINAVIAN ROCK PIPIT was on the spit and skulking in some longer grass just where the spit meets the reedbed. It was loosely associating with a young male Pied Wagtail and two male Reed Buntings - most likley all migrant birds freshly arrived. Although difficult to see initially, the pipit eventually flew out on to the open spit and afforded some excellent views, latterly literally just beyond the sandy edge. It was moulting well towards spring plumage and already had a nice pale grey head and ear-coverts and salmon-pink underparts. The white orbital ring was there, with the white supercilium running between the lores and the eye. The breast was still heavily sullied and still quite densely streaked but with gleaming white undertail coverts and buffish wingbars. The upperparts were fairly concolorous, with the mantle and back quite olive-tinged (Water Pipit has a nice soft brown back and mantle). Another great bird to get in Bucks - I'm very lucky if I get one per year on average.

Also newly arrived was a singing male COMMON CHIFFCHAFF

Just as I was talking to Graham at 1322 hours, news came through of an AMERICAN GREEN-WINGED TEAL at Broom GP in Bedfordshire. I was off..........


Richard Bashford had discovered the Nearctic Teal on his lunchbreak and was still present on my arrival at 1530 hours. It was actually residing on a small reed-fringed pool to the east of Gypsy Lane, directly opposite the south end of the west pit on the opposite side of the road. It was showing well and consorting with 11 Common Teal. MJP, Pip, Jim Gurney, Martin Stevens, Lol Carman and Bob Chalkley were all present and the bird remained intermittently in view until at least 1600 hours.

NORTH AMERICAN GREEN-WINGED TEAL is a rare vagrant to Bedfordshire and this drake represents only the 8th county record - the previous were as follows -:

1) A drake at Radwell GP on late afternoon and evening 12 April 1987;
2) A drake visited Luton Hoo on 8 February 1995;
3) A drake remained at Dunstable Sewage Works from 2-16 April 1996;
4) A drake was present at Radwell's Viaduct Pit on 10-11 February 2002;
5) 2003 saw two records with a drake at Warren Villas on 12-13 January and another at Harrold-Odell Country Park on the last day of the year on 31 December; The latter remained on site until 4 January 2004;
7) Radwell Viaduct Pit attracted another drake on 15 February 2009.

This pit and the adjacent flashes also yielded a pair of COMMON SHELDUCK, 8 Shoveler and 2 Ringed Plover whilst PEACOCK'S LAKE produced a female-type GOOSANDER and the female RED-CRESTED POCHARD.

I then spent the rest of the afternoon 'dipping' and failing in my quest to find any more migrants

OCTAGON FARM held 225 EUROPEAN GOLDEN PLOVERS but no Green Sandpipers

ROOKERY censusing found 58 active nests at Bedford Football Club, with an additional 19 by the nearby bypass roundabout, a grand total of 153 nests in the Stewartby area (12 by the landfill and 141 near Martin Green's house at the lake) and a further 33 nests at Brogborough village.

At MARSTON VALE, a male Great Spotted Woodpecker was watched demolishing new nestboxes in the small plantation by the sewage treatment works compound. It was enlarging the holes by bashing all of the wood away and had done this on 5 of the newly erected boxes. Interestingly, as I went closer to inspect the damage, a female Great Spot flew out of one of the boxes so perhaps they were enlarging the holes to make way for roosting !

I then went down to BLOWS DOWNS PADDOCKS but could not find the two male Northern Wheatears seen earlier. Try again tomorrow