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

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Record shot of WOODLARK

Adam Bassett managed to get this shot of one of today's WOODLARKS

Almost flogging a dead horse but a few surprises - WOODLARKS, OSPREY, GROPPER - and a lot of late WHINCHATS


A band of heavy rain passed through from the southwest early to mid morning before clearing away. It was replaced by very still conditions - and quite mild. Having aborted a trip down west for Ortolan/Buff-breasted Sandpiper, I was soon then hit by all manner of messages from the Northeast - with rare warbler after rare warbler found as the skies cleared. In fact by 1400 hours, no less than 3 different Pallas's Grasshopper Warblers had been found - I was well depressed....

Anyhow, I made the best of a bad situation and decided to flog around the local areas in search of that rare and although not in the same league as your Arctic/Greenish, did turn up a few surprises.....but it was hard work

(mainly private)

I decided to start at Springfield Farm where GS had 'gripped' me off the previous evening with his phone call. After liaising with him again this morning, I soon located the COMMON STONECHATS - in fact 3 of them - an adult male, an adult female and a first-year. There was also at least 1 WHINCHAT still present, as well as a single adult COMMON WHITETHROAT. The chats were concentrated well down the cinder track - much further down than usual - and were the first that I had seen in the Recording Area for a couple of years. But better was yet to come......

As I got to the point where the cinder track veered sharply to the left, I became aware of a very large flock of Meadow Pipits (100+) in the patch that had been cleared by the archaeologists' earlier in the summer. As I wandered out into the sparsely vegetated ground to check through them, I heard a liquidy alarm note and there just a few yards in front of me were 2 WOODLARKS - an adult and a first-year. I enjoyed excellent views of them for a few minutes before they flushed and flew calling across to the well vegetated pit top at the end of the track. I immediately called Rob Hill as I knew this was a species he wanted to see in the county, and then RBA, Graham Smith and Dave Cleal. As I was on the phone, both birds seemed to drop back down on the cleared area and I left them (Adam Bassett phoned me later to say that he was getting great views of one of them).

I did a thorough search of surrounding areas but only came across 8 Linnets, more Meadow Pipits, 2 COMMON RAVENS and lots of Red Kites. A group of 6 adult male Greenfinches were nearby bathing.


I then joined up with Steve Blake at Tyttenhanger where we enjoyed excellent views of a male COMMON STONECHAT and a WHINCHAT on the fenceline on the east side of the main birding pit; also a Bar-headed Goose amongst 59 Atlantic Canada Geese and two Common Chiffchaffs.


For around half an hour, it poured with rain and I sat in the car talking with the various observers that seemed to be stumbling into PG Tips on the North East Coast. With clearing skies and slack winds, I decided to take my chance on the hills and do a full circuit. Approaching the trig point, a large raptor appeared overhead and rather than the expected Red Kite, it was a juvenile OSPREY purposefully on its way SSW. It was flapping strongly rather than gliding and was following the contour of the hills and had a typically well streaked breast band, distinctive pale tips to the terminal tail band and gleaming white unmarked underwing coverts. This was at 1425 hours and by three minutes later it was gone - perhaps heading towards the Gade Valley.

As I continued up towards the Beacon trig point, I flushed a strange looking bird from the edge of the chalk track. It had a longish tail and was very dark. I thought pipit at first but when I tracked it down in the grass, I was surprised to see that it was a locustella - and quite a greyish one at that. I looked at it for ages and next to point blank range but could not make it any more than just a GRASSHOPPER WARBLER - perhaps a young one or an individual from further east.

A wave of 22 House Martins and 7 Barn Swallows passed away to the SSW (following the same line as the Osprey), whilst 50 or so Goldfinches were still resident along the top escarpment.

Dropping down into the weedy field at the base of Gallows Hill, the fenceline held 3 WHINCHATS and 2 Northern Wheatears, whilst the only other migrant I noted in the area was a single Common Chiffchaff by the car park. An awful amount of flogging around with few birds to show for it.


And so on to the reservoirs and Startop's was pretty birdless - fishermen were wading out into the water. WILSTONE on the other hand still harboured our celebrity GREAT WHITE EGRET - fishing in the shallows but in the boatyard corner and rather distant (see Alan Reynold's superb montage of images above).

All 6 Little Egrets were still present too, 16 Great Crested Grebes, 42 Mute Swans, 4 Greylag Geese, 12 Gadwall, the 3 PINTAIL, 113 Shoveler, 114 Wigeon, 313 Teal, 138 Tufted Duck, 106 Pochard and a whopping 802 Coot - RINGED PLOVER still present, 39 :Lapwing, active Kingfishers and a single remaining HOBBY - oh, and a bright and chirpy Lucy Flower !

And that was it......

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

LITTLE STINT and GREAT WHITE EGRET just over the border


Another day of strong WSW winds but dry and bright and much cooler than of late


After discussing the bird with the finder Kevin Duncan, I felt I must go down and have a look at the bird just on the outside chance it was a SemiP - after all, no less than 12 of them have appeared in the UK this September. Although just over the border in Bucks, once again I was stood in the county when studying this small wader. Although somewhat flighty, it was showing well and was indeed a LITTLE STINT, although it had largely moulted into first-winter plumage. A nice record and proof of what a bit of floodwater can do (a Dunlin also arrived there later).

DORNEY COMMON held at least 100 Meadow Pipits, with 8 migrant SISKINS overhead and the boundary ditch harbouring 3 CETTI'S WARBLERS and a Grey Wagtail


Joan and I then returned north back to Bedfordshire where over the lunchtime period, we met up with Johnny Lynch, Ted & Evelyn Reed, Stuart Warren, Steve Blain, Graham White, Richard Bashford, Mark Ward and others. This time we were quids in - the juvenile PECTORAL SANDPIPER was on view and giving fairly good, albeit distant views. It was favouring the pit on the right (the furthest one visible from the watchpoint) moving between the left hand and right hand gravel edges. It was often with a single Ringed Plover, whilst on the lefthand pit were a juvenile Dunlin and Green Sandpiper. Quite a few Teal and Shoveler, and 25 or so Meadow Pipits on site.


The drake RED-CRESTED POCHARD was still present, along with 63 Northern Pochard and 11 Great Crested Grebes.


Spent several hours in the hide. The GREAT WHITE EGRET was performing well, fishing in the shallows to the right of the hide. A very popular bird with countless photographs being taken, a large selection of which are now published on my Tring Reservoirs blog site.

Also LITTLE EGRETS now up to 6 (just how does the message get round so quickly that feeding conditions are optimum), with large numbers of returning waterbirds including 8 Great Crested Grebe, 42 Mute Swans, 72 Pochard, the 3 PINTAILS, 200+ Teal, 75 Shoveler and 566 Coot.

The single RINGED PLOVER was still in the NW corner, with a male Sparrowhawk over and no less than 66 House Martins feeding.

Got home and almost immediately received a call from Graham Smith - two COMMON STONECHATS were present for their third day at Springfield Farm Quarry - an excellent record and a species that really needs to be flagged up on Marek Walford's site

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Today's MONTAGU'S HARRIER at Dorney - more meat to the bone

As it had stopped raining I thought I would have a look at Dorney Common for Jim's Wheatear of yesterday (I still haven't seen one this autumn believe it or not). I wandered up to the Pec pool which was alive with hirundines but no Pec. After about 30 minutes I walked back to the car and drove back across the common turning into Boveney Rd.

I had just come past the last house, when I noticed a small group of corvids mobbing a much paler bird,just 50 yds infont of me, crossing the road west to east. My heart took a leap as I slammed the brakes on (for once nobody behind me) and grabbed my binoculars. I could hardly believe it but I was already guessing it was a male MONTAHU'S HARRIER even before I got my bins on it.

The first thing that stuck me was the obvious white rump contrasting with the slightly darker grey of the back and the light flight,coupled with the overall light grey colouring and the little line of black secondaries; they struck me more than the black wing tips. It was constantly mobbed by several Jackdaws and a Crow but hardly altered its course as it ploughed on towards the trees along the Roundmoor Ditch. It had to rise to fly above them it then dropped the other side out of sight. I can't now remember too much about the underwing I was just aware of how it held it's wings in a V but I did get an impression of a mauve/brown color within the underwing plumage. My whole view was from behind the bird and I had it in view for a max of 30 seconds but a fantastic bird and certainly a highlight of my recent birding experiances (DAVE CLEAL).

Another MONTIE'S flyover

Dave Cleal watched a male MONTAGU'S HARRIER fly slowly SSE across Dorney Common in overcast conditions at 1630 hours this afternoon, whilst earlier in the day, the juvenile PECTORAL SANDPIPER was still on the flood at Eton Wick, just 100 yards across the border in Berkshire

Elsewhere, the RUFF remains for a second day at Gallows Bridge BBOWT, the juvenile CASPIAN GULL at Calvert Lakes (5th day), a COMMON STONECHAT at Ivinghoe Beacon (22nd) (Lucy Flower) and 3 WHINCHATS at Springfield Farm Quarry

Wilstone GREAT WHITE EGRET flies in from Bucks


It was obvious today was going to be a good day. The wind was in the east and heavy rain was forecast to come in - ideal conditions for birds to be moving in front of the weather.....

As such, I headed down to the reservoirs to see what was happening

First bird I set eyes upon was a juvenile NORTHERN GANNET in the extreme NE corner of STARTOP'S END RESERVOIR - straddling the shoreline. I telephoned RBA immediately of my find, then Dave Bilcock and then JT. Dave arrived within 15 minutes but it appeared the bird was dead. I picked it up.

I then went to check the wildfowl numbers on WILSTONE RESERVOIR...

Scanning from the bank by the car park steps, I picked up an egret flying in high over DRAYTON BEAUCHAMP (BUCKS) at 0945 hours that had an all-orange bill - it was a GREAT WHITE EGRET ! It kept on flying towards the reservoir and flew along the line of the Black Poplars before checking out the ditch behind the Drayton Bank Hide. It then circled round over the hide and flew along to the right and landed on a muddy fringe at the edge of the reedbed about 150 yards right of the hide. Frustratingly, I didn't have Steve Rodwell's phone number (who I knew was sitting in the hide) so I phoned Dave Bilcock so that he could get in touch with him. Minutes later, Dave Hutchinson phoned (who was also sat in the hide) to say that they had just seen it and he had managed to photograph it !

Despite being pestered by a Grey Heron a few times, it eventually settled into feeding and could be easily viewed from near the car park steps or from the overflow. Once again, I phoned RBA, DB and JT within a MINUTE of me first seeing it arrive. It remained on view until at least early afternoon. Within a very short while, twitchers began arriving, with DB, Chaz Jackson and Mike Campbell soon to be followed by John Foster, Brendan Glynn, Chris White, Bill Pegram, Ian Williams, Lucy Flower, Paul Reed and the majority of the Tring regulars.

It was an unringed individual and most likely the same bird that has returned for three consecutive winters, being seen in the Chess Valley in its first year and in the Linford area last winter.

Wilstone also harboured 5 LITTLE EGRETS this morning, with wildfowl including at least 28 Mute Swans, 135 Common Teal, 59 Wigeon, 61 Shoveler, the 3 NORTHERN PINTAIL (2 drakes and a female - present for two weeks now), 32 Pochard and 73 Tufted Duck. A single RINGED PLOVER was feeding on the mud in the NW corner (for its second day), with 29 Lapwing, an adult Common Gull with the Black-heads and a Common Kingfisher flashing by. A tremendous number of HOUSE MARTINS was present - at least 230.

Just as the rain started at 1050 hours, Steve, I and others watched a juvenile ARCTIC TERN arrive......perhaps a precursor of what to come. An enjoyable morning

Friday, 21 September 2012


At Gallows Bridge BBOWT Reserve this evening, Warren Claydon watched a male MONTAGU'S HARRIER fly west at 1730 hours and a RUFF dropped in to the pools

Elsewhere in the county though, it has been very quiet this week

Thursday, 20 September 2012

PEC SAND present for its third day

Graham Jepson got this nice shot of the juvenile PECTORAL SANDPIPER present on the flooded pool at Eton Wick (Berkshire) literally yards over the border

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Today's PEC

Ashley Stow managed this decent image of today's juvenile PECTORAL SANDPIPER at Eton Wick.

Borderline birding with a PEC' PIPER


Whilst working on a recipe of Badger, Western Sand and Blue-winged Teal hybrid correspondence, a conversation with Chris Heard at about 0900 hours stopped me on my tracks - he had just found a juvenile PECTORAL SANDPIPER close to the Bucks/Berks county border at ETON WICK.....

I quickly rounded up an email I was writing to Nick Lethaby in North America and made my way down to meet up with Chris; I also made a very quick call to Dave Cleal.

A fresh Northwesterly wind was blowing and it was part cloudy and dry. The Pec had turned up on some floodwater that had first emerged in May and had attracted interesting birds for several weeks, including a Garganey, Ruff and 2 Dunlins. It was situated immediately east of the Eton Wick wintering chiffchaff ditch just yards from Dorney Common......


I joined CDRH and Dave Cleal at about 0950 hours and immediately got on to the juvenile PECTORAL SANDPIPER. It was showing well on the extensive muddy edges of the pool and was the only wader present apart from numerous Lapwings and 4 Common Snipe. It was a very fresh juvenile, with its fresh feathers being typified by its strongly patterned upperparts and mantle/scapular 'V's'. There was a hint of rufous in the dark crown, with an obvious split supercilium and densely striated pectoral breast band. In profile, the primaries were seen to be long and pointed, with a slight pale base to the bill and quite pale orange-straw leg colour. A very distinctive bird in summary.

Although it was chased several times by a Lapwing, it did nothing more than a few short flights during the half-hour that I watched it and was still present when I departed mid to late morning.

Up to 10 Common Teal were feeding on the pool, with 1-2 HOBBIES flying over, 1-2 COMMON KINGFISHERS, 10+ YELLOW WAGTAILS with the cattle, Lesser Whitethroat, Blackcap and 1-2 CETTI'S WARBLERS in the ditch.


I then headed north to Hardmead hamlet where I had earlier promised to meet up with Rob Norris. Rob had been watching a juvenile COMMON STONECHAT for several days which this morning was joined by a second. Due to the last two severe winters, Stonechat was a bird I was struggling on this year in the county so a visit was essential. As I met Rob during the afternoon, we were immediately treated to some exceptional views of a FIELD VOLE (Microtus agrestis) running along the verge of the road outside his house. It offered some great photographic opportunities.

We then took a track running NNE and in the weeds bordering the brook between the stubble fields at SP 941 475, we soon located the two young COMMON STONECHATS, one of which was a male. I was delighted - my first of the year. The field also yielded a Yellowhammer and Reed Bunting.

Anyhow, I then headed south and back home but reading Brian Clews' email from Eton Wick on returning, I decided I had to make my way back there. Adam Bassett had also contacted me to say that the Pec was getting flushed at regular intervals and entering Bucks airspace.....


I was back on site just before 1700 hours and remained until dusk and it was not long before one of the HOBBIES had another go at perhaps catching the PEC. It wheeled over the pool and scattered all of the birds feeding on it, the juvenile PEC of course taking flight and doing a wide circuit of the field. Rather stupidly, it announced its presence by calling repeatedly and the Hobby had a couple of half-hearted attempts of pursuit before heading off. Just as Adam had suggested, the Pec did a wide circuit that did indeed include a 50-100 yard extension out over Dorney Common and thus contentiously into Buckinghamshire airspace. A bit of a steal I guess but as official boundaries stand, perfectly acceptable. After all, you are standing in Buckinghamshire when you watch it on the pool anyway.

It remained on the pool until just prior to 1900 hours but I did not see it again before dark. A number of birders came and went during the time I staked out the pool, including Dave & Jill Carter, Russell Ness, Pete Naylor, Dave Morris and Kevin Duncan.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Not a bad day

A flock of 7 BLACK-TAILED GODWITS was seen at Spade Oak GP today (Alan Stevens) with another in the north of the county; also at least 6 COMMON REDSTARTS and 3 WHINCHATS on Quainton Hills (Tim Watts) and 2 HAWFINCHES in a Hardmead garden briefly. Quite a few WHINCHATS at different localities elsewhere in the county.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

NIGHTINGALE highpoint of early morning fall on the Hills


A juvenile SPOTTED REDSHANK briefly at Wilstone late on Saturday evening was the weekend highlight locally (David Bilcock), whilst I mustered up 5 WHINCHATS at Springfield Farm Quarry on Monday (03 September).

With a band of thick cloud to the north of the Chilterns, I was quite hopeful this morning and set off early to the Hills. A light to moderate NW wind was blowing and blue sky and sunshine was the norm. It was still pretty warm.

(0730-1130 hours)

I did a full circuit of the Hills, partly in company with Francis and Chris. It was a fairly productive morning. Highlights included a flyover TREE PIPIT at 0916 (my third in recent weeks), an elusive COMMON NIGHTINGALE that moved from scrub by the S-bend to that adjacent to the end of the fenceline below the Beacon and two juvenile COMMON REDSTARTS (both new) on the upper fenceline between the two gates, 170 yards north of the main car park.

Chris had seen 5 COMMON REDSTARTS yesterday (an adult male and female in scrub to the south of the car park, 1 on Steps Hill and two on the SE slope towards Gallows Hill) and 2 WHINCHATS but we could not find any of them today.

There was a steady trickle of hirundines moving west over the Beacon all morning, totalling 13 House Martins and 24 Barn Swallows, whilst further diurnal passage involved 2 Meadow Pipits and a single juvenile Great Spotted Woodpecker. There were two juvenile NORTHERN WHEATEARS around the sheep pen and a further in the field at the base of Steps Hill whilst other migrants included a SPOTTED FLYCATCHER by the S-bend gate, 4 Common Whitethroats, 2 Blackcaps, a LESSER WHITETHROAT in Incombe Hole and 8 Common Chiffchaffs.

At least 240 Goldfinches were in a massive 'charm' just SE of the trig point, including nearly 50% juvenile, with 8 BULLFINCHES around the site of note and a single CORN BUNTING.

Most unusual was a MARSH TIT in isolated Hawthorns 80 yards east of the Beacon, with another one in more typical surroundings in Top Scrub. Lots of butterflies were on the wing (mainly Meadow Browns, Small Heaths and Ringlets) including some nice fresh Brimstones.


Three VIOLET HELLEBORINES were photographed (see blog), one of which was still in pristine condition, but there was no sign of the male pale morph Honey Buzzard from the gate viewpoint at Hill Farm. In fact, there was no apparent raptor movement today. A pair of Mintjac were enjoying the sunshine.


Decided to revisit some extensive woodlands that had yielded both breeding Woodlark and Hobby in the past and was delighted to find large numbers of FIRECRESTS in an area where 3 singing males had been recorded in May. At least 16 birds were recorded, mainly in three noisy family parties, whilst Goldcrests were in double that number, in excess of 35 birds. The area was now being used for motorbike racing and was soon to be visited by loggers.

Other species noted included Common Buzzard, Common Chiffchaff (3), Nuthatch (2 family parties), Common Treecreeper (5), Coal Tit (numerous family parties), Robin, Wren (2) and Great Spotted Woodpecker


All four baby Great Crested Grebes were doing well although again, only the single male to be found. Also 1 juvenile Little Grebe on site. Two Grey Herons, 76 Coot, 2 COMMON TEAL, 5 Gadwall, Grey Wagtail and Common Treecreeper, whilst migrants represented by 4 Barn Swallows, 1 SPOTTED FLYCATCHER, 1 juvenile WILLOW WARBLER and 1 LESSER WHITETHROAT.