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, 18 September 2012

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.