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, 31 July 2012

BLACK TERN still at Calvert

A BLACK TERN remains for a third day at Calvert Sailing Lake.

Monday, 30 July 2012


Two WHINCHATS at Ravenstone Sewage Works this afternoon and a new juvenile COMMON REDSTART in the north of the county in Phil Tizzard's garden in Stowe (his second this autumn). Other REDSTARTS still around include 5 at Rowsham and a further male in Incombe Hole, Steps Hill

Saturday, 28 July 2012


Matt Slaymaker found 6 ICELANDIC BLACK-TAILED GODWITS at Manor Farm yesterday with one remaining today. Tim Watts had an early returning BLACK TERN at Calvert and one of the COMMON QUAILS is still calling at Pitstone Hill.

Up to 8 post-breeding SPOTTED FLYCATCHERS at Shardeloes Lake.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Manor Farm today

As Graham has stipulated, the possible Wood Sandpiper was in fact a juvenile Common Redshank - the second such identification confusion of this type in two days - and following on from the same misidentification at College Lake just under a month ago. Easily happens.

Manor Farm Workings was full of birds though - and huge potential - and now being managed by the Parks Trust who were on site detailing what they were going to do with the site. Interesting stuff - and following on the lines of Marston Vale. Talk of reedbeds again - cripes !

Anyhow, back to the birds - or waders

4 summer-plumaged DUNLIN on site, 2 adult COMMON SNIPES, 6 Little Ringed Plovers, the Oystercatcher pair, 168 Lapwing, 3 GREEN SANDPIPERS and 7 COMMON SANDPIPERS
96 Common Terns, a sickly sub-adult Common Gull, Coot with 3 chicks and two broods of Tufted Duck - a 4 and a 7

Monday, 23 July 2012

RUFF added from North Bucks


Summer has arrived at last. Temperatures this afternoon reached 84 degrees F with wall-towall sunshine and clear skies.

After spending four days at the Olympic village it was nice to be able to get out in the field again for more than just a couple of hours. I concentrated my efforts locally.........

A lot of raptor activity including at one site, 8 Red Kites in the air together


Water levels at overflowing point on all four reservoirs and hence little chance of waders this autumn......

Walking between Cemetery Corner and the far end of the orchard produced 2 Song Thrushes, Common Whitethroat feeding young, a juvenile MARSH TIT, a pair of BULLFINCHES, a pair of Greenfinches and the family party of 5 SPOTTED FLYCATCHERS but no sign of either the 2 Nuthatches or the recent Coal Tit. Lots of butterflies were on the wing including Marbled White, Gatekeeper, Meadow Brown, Comma and a tardy Red Admiral.
A male Reed Bunting was singing from the reedbed whilst a second pair of BULLFINCH was encountered near Rushy Meadow and 8 Goldfinch.

Not much on the open water: 46 Mute Swans, 8 Great Crested Grebes, 22 Tufted Ducks and 300 Coot (in dredging flocks of 160, 98 & 42). Just 2 Common Terns were present.

Three female House Sparrows alighted near the car park to have a drink whilst a worn male was gathering damselflies for its young. A Common Chiffchaff was singing in the NE corner.


Lots of butterflies on the wing including 13 DARK GREEN FRITILLARIES, 70+ CHALKHILL BLUES and several Marbled Whites


This site is looking absolutely superb and is by far the best site in the county at present for waders. Between 1300 and 1400 hours, I recorded 8 species - a superb male RUFF (a so-called white satellite male) (my first of the year), a single summer-plumaged DUNLIN, 4 Little Ringed Plovers, pair of Oystercatchers, a juvenile Common Redshank, 89 Lapwings, a COMMON SANDPIPER and 3 GREEN SANDPIPERS.

Common Terns were plentiful too with, of 84 counted, 7 fledged juveniles and 8 still being fed on the islands; 6 Lesser Black-backed Gulls too and nesting success by Great Crested Grebe (two young being fed) and Coot (2 small chicks being fed).


A female GOOSANDER was by the main road bridge on the Ouse with four small young, whilst a Great Crested Grebe was with two small young east of the mill and an adult and juvenile Common Tern.

On the opposite side of the road, the resident pair of Mute Swans had 6 attendant cygnets
In Emberton Park, Mute Swans numbered 38, an adult Great Crested Grebe was feeding a well grown youngster, a COMMON KINGFISHER was on the river and the naturalised flock of Barnacle Geese numbered 107 by the yacht club (including good numbers of young birds).


Dropped down into Bedfordshire where my luck seemed to change. Checked out all of the wetland reedbeds and Rookery South but no sign of the 2nd-summer female Marsh Harrier - not in Quest Pit either.

In fact, very little at the Millenium Park - 1 Little Egret, a female Tufted Duck with 6 small ducklings and a juvenile COMMON CUCKOO


Went over and checked the bridleway leading north from east of the village but no sign of either yesterday's Whinchat or Common Redstart this evening, although the latter was still present in the hedgerow this morning (per finder). I just saw 7 Common Whitethroats.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Passage RUFF in North Bucks

Our celebrity continues to summer on the Chess but due to restricted access, the bird cannot be seen without trespassing. Several SPOTTED FLYCATCHERS remain in the Misbourne Valley, whilst passage COMMON REDSTARTS continue to be seen, particularly the 3-4 east of Rowsham along the main track that runs parallel to the hedgerow running away to the south (and in the vicinity of the chalk mounds).

A single RUFF was a nice find at Manor Farm, Old Wolverton, with a WHIMBREL over too. Little Marlow was quiet but up to 8 YELLOW-LEGGED GULLS continue to be seen

Thursday, 19 July 2012


COMMON REDSTARTS are returning southwards in force with 4 today at Rowsham, 3 in Inkombe Hole, 1 near Downs Farm, a male still at Quainton and a juvenile at Stowe

There was also a nice WHINCHAT at Ravenstone Sewage Works today

At Olney Mill, a female GOOSANDER accompanies just three surviving chicks, with another female nearby

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

QUAIL near Saunderton

A Quail was found on Monday evening by Dan Hoare (per Ched George) just of Smalldean Lane in crop field by Small Dean Farm at SU821986.

Parking in small NT (free) car park on Smalldean Lane SU823989.

Walk up through woods and take gate on left through the clearing straight down and out of the gate at the bottom of the north end of the Park Wood clearing.

Also accessible from public footpath along edge of crop field off Smalldean Lane (parking as above).

Monday, 16 July 2012



Another day of rain. All day again it seems, but not with the intensity of recent weeks

Thanks to Graham Smith and Simon Nichols, I was finally able to add EUROPEAN TURTLE DOVE to my Bucks Year List. In fact, they were the first I had seen in the county since 2010 - that's how bad it has got.

I managed two 'purring' males, side-by-side, on wires between thick transects of woodland at SP 930 162. Easily audible but much harder to see - keeping in the main to tall Ash trees.

Take the public footpath from Cheddington Road in Pitstone just NW of ''Autumn Leaves'' and continue for about 250 yards to the metal gate to the left of the gravelly footpath. Literally another 50 yards beyond the gate is a narrow clearing with wires running away down it - this is where both doves kept continually returning to. This was like the territory border line, with both birds returning to the tracts of woodland either side.

I also stumbled on a Sparrowhawk's nest here - noisy chicks being fed in the nest. Quite a few COMMON CROSSBILLS in the area too - at least 7 flying over.


Nothing new to report on but some breeding success still worthy of merit.......

Wader-wise, adult OYSTERCATCHERS still busily feeding the two healthy chicks buy one sadly being left to fend for itself and looking in bad shape. A Carrion Crow was taking an unhealthy interest in it.

Two adult LITTLE RINGED PLOVERS still, yesterday's adult summer DUNLIN still (working it's way along the bund edge), 2 juvenile Common Redshank and 3 baby Lapwings still.

All 3 juvenile COMMON SHELDUCKS still with both parents, Mute Swan pair, 144 moulting Atlantic Canada Geese, 6 Common Teal and the continuing lone Great Crested Grebe

Common Terns feeding two small young on the West Island spit, with 45 Common Swifts overhead


The pair of BULLFINCHES still present in the garden and eating large numbers of white sunflower hearts


Once Pete Davis had confirmed that the bird was still there, JT and I drove up to Holland Haven to meet our good friend Chris Baines. After a week of dipping, I had some better luck - and the adult PECTORAL SANDPIPER was feeding between the islands at the far side of the main shallow scrape. Although quite mobile, it was still there when we departed the site in the rain at 1500 hours. It was a large individual so most likely a female.
Other waders present included 45 Pied Avocets, 1 summer-plumaged Dunlin, 5 Oystercatchers, 2 Common Redshanks and a Green Sandpiper, whilst also noted were adult Little Egret, adult Sandwich Tern, 40 Common Swift and 5 Sand Martins

Sunday, 15 July 2012

REDSTARTS and returning waders

COMMON REDSTARTS, presumably early returning Midlands passage birds, were seen at Quainton Hills and Rowsham today (2 individuals at both sites).....

There were also a few more returning waders, with 2 ICELANDIC BLACK-TAILED GODWITS and 2 Dunlins at Manor Farm and a single Dunlin at College Lake BBOWT

Undoubted highlight was a EUROPEAN TURTLE DOVE on territory at Pitstone Green, near Ivinghoe, possibly the bird seen earlier near Long Marston in June

A juvenile COMMON NIGHTINGALE near Ascott follows up to 5 singing males there in May.

What was probably the female LITTLE BITTERN was glimpsed at a private site in the south of the county today.

Friday, 13 July 2012

Male WHINCHAT present for 3rd day


So far so good. No rain for six hours at least, although it did rain all night. Quite warm too, and occasionally sunny

Finally got a chance to check out Springfield Quarry, where Peter Stevens, Dave Cleal, Mike & Rose Collard and David Ferguson had all seen the WHINCHAT in the past two days. Yesterday's rain had worked in my favour and the bird - a very heavily moulted male and presumably a failed breeder - was still showing well on the great selection of weeds and wild flowers growing alongside the former footpath running across the site, just east of Lillyfee's Studio. An unusual midsummer record, although this site annually produces passage Whinchats in double figures.

I was also very pleased to see 2 juvenile COMMON RAVENS around the site, as well as a single flock of 63 STOCK DOVES, 1 moulting adult Lapwing, breeding Linnets and a family party of Common Whitethroats. Also several hundred Meadow Brown butterflies and a few Small Skippers and Small Heaths.

Drastic though was the collapse in numbers of nesting Sand Martins - from a colony last year of several hundred to just 9 active nests this year.


A gorgeous adult male RED-BACKED SHRIKE continues for a third day at Lake Farm Country Park, keeping faithful to a small area of bushes about 100 yards east of the car park. Park by the A437 at TQ 087 804. This is a bird rich haven surrounded by Heathrow development harbouring over 30 breeding pairs of Common Whitethroats, 6 pairs of Meadow Pipit and 5 pairs of Reed Bunting

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Returning waders

Two adult ICELANDIC BLACK-TAILED GODWITS and a WHIMBREL through College Lake BBOWT early this morning, with 2 more WHIMBREL through Spade Oak Pit, Little Marlow. Also numerous Common and Green Sandpipers now on return passage from the Arctic, where it seems as if waders have had a failed breeding season.

Up to 8 Yellow-legged Gulls also at Little Marlow GP

Thursday, 5 July 2012

SABINE'S still present today

Another great batch of shots - taken by Simon West.

At Little Marlow GP today, up to 7 Yellow-legged Gulls in the gull roost.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

More shots of the Sabine's Gull

Another truly excellent selection of images from professional photographer Paul Keene

And still present for a fourth day

More shots of our celebrity bird - these taken by John Foster

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

There was no need for all that panicking - SABINE'S is still there for its third day

Another fabulous selection of shots of our celebrity bird taken by Martin Parr. Bird still present today on Startop's and showing exceptionally well

Monday, 2 July 2012

And Dave Hutchinson's SABINE'S GULL images from today

MEGA - SABINE'S GULL at Startop's


Awaiting news on a Yorkshire Alpine Swift, I took some time out this morning to do some online updates. I was slowly trawling through emails and eventually came through one from local Tring birder Ian Williams entitled Nuthatch and including his weekend photographic results from the reservoirs. Ian had texted me at 0830 hours yesterday morning with a first-year Little Gull he had found on Startop's and having seen a 'bagfull' at the ressies this year it almost went straight over my head. Anyway, it was gone 1700 hours when I finally got in from work yesterday evening and although I discussed with Carmel the possibility of me checking it out, I fell asleep on the sofa through tiredness. When I reawakened at around 1900 hours, it was time for the Spain-Italy match so I gave it a miss - what a mistake that was.

Anyhow, to get back on track, I started to upload Ian's images on to my Tring Reservoirs blog site - starting first with the juvenile Nuthatch. Then, without opening any of the shots, I started a new thread on the Little Gull. The first image started to unravel on the blogger screen and I could hardly believe what I was seeing - the bird appeared to be a SABINE'S GULL. I then continued uploading all six images and they were all of a Sabine's Gull ! Surely Ian could not have got it wrong I thought - perhaps he had mixed up the shots. I phoned him straight away and questioned him - there was no doubt that it was yesterday's bird. What a mega - and around all day without anyone other than Ian and MC seeing it. Ian was as mortified as me and apologised repeatedly for the unfortunate misid. I felt physically sick as here again I was expecting to miss out on a mega that should have been just 15 minutes drive down the road. In fact the stress of missing such an excellent bird locally, in addition to the recent Savi's Warbler, Eastern Crowned Warbler and Spotted Sandpiper, set my migraine off and I struggled to think straight.

I scrambled my mobile and informed numerous contacts of the incredulous news. Fortunately, MC would be back on site within ten minutes. I was praying that the Sabine's had been blown inland from the Atlantic on the weekend's strong southwesterlies, the same weather displaying large and unusual numbers of Pomarine Skuas. I was incredibly lucky - the bird was still there.

JT picked me up shortly later and within half an hour we were on site. The SABINE'S GULL was affording exceptional views - flying back and forth at just 5-10 yards range. Local birders were quick to turn out - including Bill Pegrum, Mike & Rose Collard, Warren Claydon, Dave Parmenter, Dave Hutchinson, Martin Parr, Francis Buckle, Roy Hargreaves, Lucy Flower, Simon West - and many more. The bird was favouring the NE corner (Bucks section) of Startop's End Reservoir and only occasionally foraging into the Hertfordshire section of the reservoir but what a bird it was - and what a stunning performer - it was a real photographer's delight.

Sabine's Gulls are exceptional in that they undergo a complete moult in their first year in early spring - a reverse of the moult seasons of other gulls. Also, unlike most other gulls, which start the post-juvenile moult at or shortly after fledging, Sabine's Gull retains full juvenile plumage throughout the first autumn until arrival in the southern wintering areas, where the post-juvenile head and body moult to first-winter plumage takes place during November and December. This is followed by a complete moult during the following February to April, from first-winter to a very adult-like first-summer plumage but lacking a full hood (Piet Meeth in Grant 1986). This was our bird.


In every respect, the bird appeared very adult-like, with the mantle, scapulars and back uniform grey, with thin white scapular and tertial crescents, wholly white underparts and a wholly white tail. Striking upperwing pattern, with the inner wing-coverts and innermost secondaries uniform grey and the remainder of secondaries, most of the outer greater coverts, the outermost median and lesser coverts and the inner primaries white. The alula and outer coverts of the outer wing were contrastingly black and the outer five primaries black with obvious white tips and white tongues on the inner webs. The underwing was clearly white, with the white secondaries and inner primaries forming broad and translucent white triangles on the trailing edge of the inner wing reflecting the upperwing pattern.

The tail was markedly forked and very white and did not appear to be particularly worn. The head was white with a black collar and a smudgy grey hood, confined mainly to the ear-coverts and nape, with some grey extending onto the neck side.

The legs and feet were a dull pink whilst the bill appeared to be all-black with just a very small hint of a paler tip at very close range.

Unusually, the bird was quite vocal, interacting with the 3 or 4 feeding Common Terns. A rather Arctic Tern-like 'krrr' uttered on several occasions


There are six previous records of Sabine's Gull at Tring Reservoirs, all but one in the 'Great Storm' of October 1987. Two adults were discovered on Marsworth on 16 October 1987, only to be followed by a juvenile on Wilstone on 17 October and two different adults on Wilstone from 18-21 October. One of these remained until 23 October feeding on flooded fields at nearby Long Marston during the day. Two years later, an adult flew east over Startop's End at 1255 hours on 22 November 1989.

At the same time in October 1987, Barry Reed recorded a juvenile at Amwell GP at 1300 hours on 16th, whilst Graham White saw different adults later that day at the same site at 1745 and 1810 hours. An adult was also seen at Rye Meads at 0705 the following day (17 October).

In 1988, a juvenile first seen at Hilfield Park Reservoir on 23 September remained until 1000 hours the following day.

In neighbouring Buckinghamshire, two adults were seen at Willen Lake on 13 October 1981. Then, following the Great Storm, a juvenile flying NE over Colnbrook village on 17 October 1987 was followed by up to three adults in flooded roadside fields at Colnbrook from 21-28 October 1987.

The Startop's first-summer Sabine's Gull continued to perform in poor weather up until dusk eventually roosting on the artificial platforms, pleasing over 100 observers in the interim period. A very popular bird indeed.

Ian Williams is to be congratulated for obtaining such outstanding initial images that enabled my instantaneous identification and for getting them to me in such swift time. Sabine's Gull is such a rare local bird that it is understandable his mistake, especially as he had only seen one before. A truly momentous and memorable event, enjoyed by many.

Not much else to report today in the conditions - a single Grey Wagtail, 5 Sand Martins and around 70 Common Swifts.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

More calling QUAILS

In addition to the 3-4 calling birds at Pitstone Hill/Down Farm Cereal Fields, Richard Billyard found 2 more today near Great Kimble

Near Stokenchurch, no sign in 5 visits of the Honey Buzzard pair - in suitable weather too