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, 29 February 2012

Calvert BBOWT

Following a good run of birds, Calvert BBOWT currently has 8 Barnacle Geese, 2 Common Shelducks and an immature ICELAND GULL (per Warren Claydon)

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

KITTIWAKE at Calvert BBOWT this evening

Although no details are forthcoming as usual, Calvert BBOWT this evening apparently has an adult KITTIWAKE roosting and an immature ICELAND GULL.

KITTIWAKE is a mega-rare bird in Bucks and a highly sought after local bird

Elsewhere, the 2 male BEARDED TITS are still at Dorney Wetlands

Monday, 27 February 2012



Perhaps not as warm as during the weekend but still mild for the time of year, with temperatures reaching 11 degrees C. Very grey and overcast throughout and as dusk approached, some light rain fell.

Most of today was spent birding the Three Counties, concentrating mainly on those waders that have returned in recent days. I added four species to my Bucks Year List and just two to my Beds. Also spent time surveying Rookeries......


A male Song Thrush was in full song whilst 16 LESSER REDPOLL were still in the vicinity. The Rookery at LOWER PYEBUSHES WOOD held 47 active nests (at SU 963 896)

The gull flock was not able to settle in the hour that I was there but included just 400 Black-headed, 170 predominantly juvenile Herring, just 5 Lesser Black-back and 1 adult Great Black-back. There was no sign of the two Iceland Gulls from yesterday.

Red Kites were conspicuous by their absence, just 5 lingering around.


A bumper showing of waterfowl, suggesting that many had moved in from surrounding waters.

Most notable were GREAT CRESTED GREBE and GADWALL. Two pairs of grebe had arrived and no less than 62 Gadwall - one of the highest counts I have ever had there. There were also 4 COMMON TEAL (2 pairs).

Other species noted included 4 Little Grebes, 5 Mute Swans (the resident pair now nest-building and three of last year's young), 24 Tufted Duck and 58 Coot, whilst large numbers of roosting/washing gulls included an adult GREAT BLACK-BACKED (first record this year in my Recording Area), a local record 22 HERRING (90% juvenile), 12 Common and 96+ Black-headed.

Three Red Kites were lingering, Grey Wagtail, a singing male Song Thrush, Long-tailed & Blue Tit, 3 Goldfinch, Common Kestrel, a male SISKIN, Mistle Thrush and 3 singing male COMMON TREECREEPERS.


The Shardeloes Rookery numbered 13 active nests whilst that by the railway in Holloway Lane, Chesham (at SU 973 998) held 17; the Chessbury colony (at SP 957 013) held 16 and that in Chesham Vale at SP 962 023 numbered 33.


The pair of GREAT CRESTED GREBES present since January had relocated to the east end of the larger lake, with 2 first-year Mute Swans, 7 Northern Pochard, 9 Tufted Duck and 8 Coots also present.

Chris Pontin had seen up to 6 Reed Buntings here in recent days but there was no sign today.

On neighbouring POW WOW LAKE, the adult pair of Mute Swans was present and a male BLACKCAP was in quiet subsong in some dense ivy.


A large flock of winter thrushes feeding east of Hastoe Lane, including 240 Redwings and 40 Fieldfares.


College Lake yielded both OYSTERCATCHER and COMMON REDSHANK, single pairs of both having just arrived after wintering on the coast. The 'Oycs' were piping and displaying on the main island of the deep lake whilst the Redshanks were on the main marsh. Up to 8 COMMON SNIPES were on the marsh, as well as 18 Mute Swans, 9 Teal, 2 drake Shoveler, 57 Tufted Duck, 25 Pochard, 13 Wigeon, 48 Lapwing and a pair of Stock Doves.


At MARSWORTH, a single BITTERN was in the reedbed, along with a COMMON SNIPE, with 6 Great Crested Grebes, 1 first-year Mute Swan, 19 Shoveler, Green Woodpecker, 2 Grey Wagtails and a singing male Common Treecreeper also being recorded.

College's pair of Red-crested Pochard had relocated to STARTOP'S END, where 3 Great Crested Grebes, 5 Mute Swans, 31 Tufted Duck and 17 Pochard remained.

The extensive vegetated fringe held 6 Linnets and 8 Pied Wagtails, the latter perhaps migrants.

The first-year DARK-BELLIED BRENT GOOSE was still feeding away on the grass field towards Cemetery Corner on WILSTONE, with 77 Greylag Geese in tow and 2 adult Mute Swans.

Duck numbers were well down on my last visit with just 22 Wigeon remaining, 3 Mute Swans, 220 Teal, 10 Gadwall, 26 Shoveler, 38 Tufted Duck and 42 Pochard. The redhead SMEW was on here, as well as adult drake and female Common Goldeneye; 16 Great Crested Grebes were counted and active Grey Heron nests on the Drayton Bank now numbered 9.


I stopped off in Aylesbury and was delighted to find the female PEREGRINE sitting right inside the chamber, perhaps indicating that she is about to breed for the first time; the male was perched nearby.


Three noted, with two close together in Woodham and another just east of Kingswood Lane (all in SP 69 18).


A flock of 25 EUROPEAN GOLDEN PLOVERS flew over heading NW whilst after a lot of effort, I finally tracked down a recently-arrived male EURASIAN CURLEW (in the horse field opposite the entrance to the reserve). Three Brown Hares were in the vicinity.


The Rookery alongside the A418 south of Rowsham held a total of 12 active nests.


I decided to spend the rest of the afternoon in Bedfordshire, again searching for waders. First off, I checked 100 Acre Meadow, where 400 yards east of the bridge were 105 BARNACLE GEESE, the single long-staying PINK-FOOTED GOOSE and 5 EGYPTIAN GEESE.

A Sparrowhawk and Grey Wagtail were also seen.


No less than 307 BARNACLE GEESE were on the meadow and with them showing well, I decided to take the opportunity and read the red plastic rings. Over half of the flock seem to be ringed and I can confirm the continued survival of UB and BA (a pair), JA, CV, UN, UV, DF, DE, PH, PZ, CC, CJ, PB, NK, NS, FT, NV, AL, KZ, KH, KP, CB, CE and JP (incidentally in the order of each ring I read).

Dovecote Lake held 4 Great Crested Grebes, 4 Mute Swans, 86 Wigeon, 8 Shoveler, 56 Tufted Duck and 3 COMMON SHELDUCKS, whilst waders included an OYSTERCATCHER (my first of the year) and 4 Common Redshanks. A group of 7 Pied Wagtails was feeding on one of the islands.

The Riverside Walk produced both Green & Great Spotted Woodpeckers, 4 singing male Song Thrushes, a charm of 27 Goldfinch and a very nasal and wheezing male Greenfinch.

At DEREK WHITE'S PIT, Steve Blain's Black-tailed Godwit was long gone - just 7 Little Grebes worthy of note from there. Nearby GYPSY LANE PITS at BROOM produced my first local pair of RINGED PLOVERS of the year.

The last hour of daylight was spent searching for Golden Plover and Barn Owl but as usual, I failed to find either

Friday, 24 February 2012

CURLEWS back at Upper Ray Meadows

Gallows Bridge 14.00-16.30

In field left of car park 5 Canada Geese by large pool of water and
great views of a pair of hares. All the usual residents - Red Kites, Kestrel
and flock of mixed finches and Skylarks singing overhead. In the right-hand
old crop field 4 Red-legged Partridges and pheasants.

Highlight was a Curlew in the grass field from the second hide. It wasn't
visible for a while because of the furrows on the far side from which it
emerged (see rather distant photo's). As I reached the car park I heard
a Curlew calling and one flew in from the left. The other joined it circling
overhead and they flew down into the pool areas in front of the hides.

I decided not to go back to get better views of them because the hedges
in that area have been re-laid and do not provide any screening for approaching
watchers. I didn't want to flush them.

Kind regards.

Sally Douglas

BEARDED TITS perform well and first migrant MEADOW PIPITS arrive


Following a phenomenal two days of warm summery weather where temperatures have reached an incredible 17 degrees C, the first migrants have started arriving into Britain, including a Stone Curlew, several Garganeys, Reed Buntings and the first Northern Wheatears........Today, even Bucks saw its first, with Curlews and Meadow Pipits arriving......


Following a timely tip-off from Pete Hutchins, I arrived at Dorney Wetlands at 1100 hours. Parking up in Lake End Road car park, I walked the 200 yards along the southern bridleway to the reedbed. The section of reedbed west of the two picnic tables is claimed by Buckinghamshire County Council and checking from the scrubby bank, the reedy water-filled ditch immediately produced a Water Rail, one very noisy CETTI'S WARBLER and 8 Reed Buntings. Pishing very softly, I soon coaxed out the two male BEARDED TITS and was able to get snatches of good views every now and then. The two birds were keeping to the ground, at the very base of the reeds, and were very elusive in general. They called only very occasionally and kept loyal to one small area of reedbed. I phoned the news out to RBA and within a short time was joined by local birder Jim Reid.

The birds moved further west into the slimmer section of reedbed and then returned back eastwards, being intercepted as they entered a section of sedges. I then enjoyed my best views in over an hour as the two males crept along the outside edge of the reeds in the bright sunlight, in the area of flattened reeds immediately north of the middle bench.

A flock of 26 Fieldfares was also noted, as well as 5 Linnets.


I met up with Dave Cleal and checked out MILL WOOD (SU 920 883) for Woodcock. Despite an exhausted search, none was found unfortunately. However, on walking back to Lillyfee Farm across a large grass field, we came across a flock of 6 Skylarks and 26 migrant Meadow Pipits. Red Kites were everywhere too, many in display mode in the warm conditions.

At Castleman's Farm, no less than 18 EGYPTIAN GEESE were present, with another pair nearby on the M40 BEACONSFIELD SERVICES LAKE.


A further 5 migrant Meadow Pipits were encountered but nothing else of interest


The fields to the west of Lodge Lane held 44 Jackdaws and a singing Skylark whilst the properties and gardens yielded 25 House Sparrows

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Rookery records wanted

I am undertaking a full Rook census in Buckinghamshire this year, attempting to map and count all of the rookeries. With this in mind, I will be very grateful for any records.

Between now and the end of March is the best time to count, as the trees are still not in leaf and the nests are easily visible. The information I require is thus -:

1) Location of Rookery with 6 figure OS grid reference

2) Exact number of active nests (eg, occupied nests)

3) accurate count of Rooks present in or around colony

If you know of a Rookery but can't get over to check it, let me know it's location and I will get round to surveying it

I shall present a detailed summary of results which will be sent out to all contributors

Please email me on with any information

Many thanks


Tuesday, 21 February 2012

A day of death and destruction


A touch milder today, with temperatures climbing to 8 degrees C. Dry throughout, although a little light drizzle in the WSW wind as nightfall approached

Another local day birding today, concentrating on repeat visits after the ice has melted. Sadly, death was the general theme of the day, with a number of dead creatures recorded. I finally added Lesser Redpoll too to my 2012 Hertfordshire List......

In LITTLE CHALFONT (BUCKS), a Sparrowhawk flew parallel with Stanley Hill first thing

Then, driving between Amersham and Beaconsfield on the A 355, firstly I saw a dead BADGER near Brentford Grange at SU 956 949 and then a dead COMMON BUZZARD by Birchen Spring Wood at SU 953 924 - both road casualties.


Around 2,000 gulls were present from 0900 hours involving mostly Black-headed Gulls. A single adult CASPIAN GULL alighted briefly but nothing else of interest was seen - the flock including 11 Common Gulls, still 300 or more Herring Gulls, just 15 Lesser Black-backed Gulls and 7 Great Black-backed Gulls.

I did a Carrion Crow count (261) just before the regular guy in his red Toyota Hi Lux released his Gyrfalcon x Saker on proceedings. The bird incredibly quickly singled a first-year Argenteus Herring Gull out from the flock and continuously harassed it. The young bird flew lower and lower into the empty pan adjacent and was completely isolated from the rest of the flock (which scattered in all directions incidentally). It made a number of desperate cries and repeatedly tried to outwit the falcon but by twisting and turning, the Gyr cross gradually forced the gull deeper and deeper into the pit and into trouble. Next minute the falcon had made contact, smashing the head of the gull and seemingly blinding it. The Herring then lost all sense of balance and was struck again several times before falling quickly to the ground. The powerful falcon followed and tussled on the ground, the two birds rolling over and over in contact. There was repeated blows to the head and neck but the gull just kept on struggling and attempting to escape. The attempt to relinquish its prey of life went on for nearly 10 minutes, eventually the bird of prey's owner racing down to retrieve it. I watched him humanely destroy the gull before rewarding the bird for its work. The Gyr then stood tall on its kill and plucked it, tearing away at the lifeless body.

I am not sure of the legality of this, considering Herring Gull is a protected species in Britain, but I guess as European Legislation demands such safeguards of vermin control at landfill sites, this will come under the Operations remit.


Needing to charge my battery up on a rarely used Vauxhall Corsa, I decided to drive the 22 miles to St Albans, where once again I visited this delightful reserve, close to the town centre. I met up with one local volunteer and she informed me of the tremendous cost feeding the birds on the reserve entailed. No less than £1,000 per year - a staggering cost - and no wonder the Nyger feeders were in need of a refill.

Anyway, after a little time, I eventually sighted a LESSER REDPOLL loosely associating with the 8 or so visiting SISKINS.

A COMMON KINGFISHER was an excellent record, whilst 2 Grey Wagtails, 2 Coots, Great Spotted Woodpecker, male Greenfinch. 6 Goldfinch, 8 Chaffinch, Dunnock, Robin, Woodpigeon, Grey Heron and Blue, Great, Coal and 6 Long-tailed Tits were seen.


The resident pair were settled in to nesting with the female busy sitting and the male occasionally making the odd foray to the hill slope.


All back to normal after the snow and ice with the main marsh in great demand. Large numbers of Lapwings were on site, with 91 on the bund and a further 43 all having a communal bathing session. A single Common Snipe was probing, with the COMMON SHELDUCK on one of the islands.

Gadwalls numbered an impressive 64, with 24 Wigeon, 6 Teal, 43 Tufted Duck, 16 Pochard, 14 Mute Swans and 78 Coot being click-counted. The usual RED-CRESTED POCHARD pair were on the deep lake, as well as a single Little Grebe. A Stock Dove was feeding on top of one of the islands.


No sign of any spring migrants as yet, although geese numbers have burgeoned in recent days

On MARSWORTH RESERVOIR, 22 Shoveler had returned following the ice, along with 3 Great Crested Grebes and 32 Pochards

The redhead SMEW was still present on STARTOP'S END RESERVOIR, with 7 Great Crested Grebes, 11 Mute Swans (a huge decrease), 82 Pochard and 174 Coot. The ever-present SNOW BUNTING was in the NW corner.

TRINGFORD RESERVOIR now had wildfowl after nearly two weeks without any, with 2 Mute Swans, 22 Coot, 26 Tufted Duck, 2 Pochard and 4 Gadwall.

As I approached WILSTONE RESERVOIR, the goose flock in the Cemetery Corner Fields had risen dramatically - the first-winter DARK-BELLIED BRENT GOOSE was now associating with 111 Greylags and 124 Atlantic Canadas - some 226 geese in all.

Not much happening on the main reservoir with 13 Great Crested Grebes, 8 Mute Swans, 22 roosting Cormorants, 298 Wigeon, just 350 Teal (massive decrease), 2 Goldeneye (pair) and 44 Lapwing.

Breeding was now on the minds of some resident birds with 6 Grey Herons now active on the lower bushes of the Drayton Bank and still the 5 active Sinensis nests in the sole remaining tree.

The field next to the car park held 4 Fieldfares and a Mistle Thrush, whilst a young male Sparrowhawk that zipped past JT, Anna and I was my first local bird of the year.


Thanks to a tip-off from Anna Marrett, I decided to walk the 400 yards downstream of Wharf Lane in Wendover. A cracking and very approachable (and therefore photogenic) drake MANDARIN DUCK was consorting with the 76 Mallard in the vicinity, with a single Little Grebe, surviving family party of 7 Mute Swans, 6 Coot, 8 Moorhen, male Greenfinch, 8 Redwing and a singing male Goldcrest also seen.

More carnage was then to follow, with a dead BADGER along the B485 at HYDE END (at SP 919 012) and then a dead BARN OWL near LOWER HUNDRIDGE FARM at SP 941 014. I have not seen a live Barn Owl in my Recording Area for three years so this finding was particularly gruelling.


No less than 22 LITTLE EGRETS flew to roost towards Stocker's Lake after 1700 hours, the same number Chris Pontin had witnessed in the valley on Sunday.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Spring is in the air with birds now on the move


A frosty start followed by a cold day, with temperatures struggling to reach 6 degrees C. A westerly wind increased during the day bringing in heavy cloud but it remained dry until darkness fell at 1742 hours

Not much happening today locally, although the first migrant Ringed Plovers were welcome; many Fieldfares moving back north too


No less than 17 LITTLE EGRETS present for their second day, including one single party of 8 birds at Church Covert. Also pleased to see the return of the nesting pair of Mute Swans at Chenies Bottom, one of them marked with a white plastic ring inscribed in black ''T2L''


Met up with a long-standing friend and now Somerset birder and all-round naturalist Jeff Hazell, who had just come from Church Wood watching the male Lesser Spotted Woodpecker do its thing in the same general area as yesterday and at the same time (0930-1000 hours).

The gulls were only being intermittently disturbed off of the tip at lunchtime allowing observation and study to take place. The 2nd-winter ICELAND GULL was present again, as well as 75 Herring and a handful of Lesser & Greater Black-backs. Two YELLOW-LEGGED GULLS were identified - a 4th-winter and a first-winter, whilst star of the show for me was a lovely adult MEDITERRANEAN GULL sporting a blood red bill and extensive black on the hood apart from the forehead. This bird stayed around for some time and rather than hang around with the Black-headed Gulls, it was keeping company with Herring Gulls. It was my first for the year in Bucks and as such, my 114th species.

Despite only relatively small numbers of large gulls present, a number of them were ringed, including an apparent Herring Gull with a white ring. A number of Herring Gulls were also bearing bright red plastic rings.

The Meadow Pipit was in the long grass again, and the 16 LESSER REDPOLLS in the trees, whilst a male BULLFINCH was nice and the Common Starling flock on the tip numbered 120.


Following a call from local guy Steve Blake, I drove over to Tyttenhanger where the first pair of (GREATER) RINGED PLOVER of the year were running about on the sandy spit of the main pit. The drake COMMON SHELDUCK was still there, along with 4 Great Crested Grebes, 15 Tufted Duck, 60 Common Gulls and 3 adult Lesser Black-backed Gulls. Garden Wood held Green Woodpecker, 3 Jays and 5 Long-tailed Tits whilst the Fishing Lake at the far west end of the complex harboured two corking adult drake GOOSANDERS - hauled out on the bank preening. What an outstandingly handsome duck this species is.


Another new site for me and what a well-managed and well-kept reserve it is, situated in the centre of St Albans. It backs on to the River Ver and has a main lake and smaller tributaries - a major haven for wildlife.

Well, the reason I had pitched up here was for its Lesser Redpolls - apparently up to 6 of them frequently visiting the feeder in front of the information centre. Well not this afternoon, as the sunhearts and its feeder were being hijacked by an army of 6 noisy Ring-necked Parakeets - and nobody else was allowed a look-in. I saw 3 Greenfinches, 7 Chaffinches and a continual procession of Blue and Great Tits but no redpoll. Highlights were a Grey Wagtail and a RED KITE drifting overhead.


A flock of 70 smart Fieldfares feeding in one of the horse paddocks, most likely heralding a major push northwards this week by this winter visitor.

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.

Saturday, 18 February 2012



The first half of the day continued very mild and drizzly, with temperatures hovering around 10 degrees C. The wind remained in the SW but as the day wore on, gradually veered around to the NW, bringing with it an hour or so of heavy rain early to mid afternoon. The skies then cleared, giving rise to plummeting temperatures. An overnight frost was expected.

Today was reserved for more local target birding with species such as Lesser Spotted Woodpecker and Firecrest on the menu.......


Got in early before the bird scarers arrived and spent two hours or so carefully scrutinizing the gulls present. With a procession of refuse lorries coming in and out and offloading, there was no shortage of available food and over 2,500 gulls were scavenging through it. Most surprising, nothing of interest was found. Black-headed Gulls predominated with about 2,100 present, followed by 11 Common Gulls, just under 300 Herring Gulls (90% Argenteus), just 85 Lesser Black-backed and 17 Great Black-backed.

Walking down just beyond the footbridge, I came face-to-face with a Red Fox, whilst the scrub there yielded 25 LESSER REDPOLLS, 2 Song Thrush, 15 Redwings and several Chaffinches and Goldfinches. Two different singing male Dunnocks were noted, with a Skylark over and the MEADOW PIPIT still in the rough grass besides the track. Some 25 Pied Wagtails were in the area.

Red Kites numbered just 26 today.


No sign of any Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers at either site. In fact, very quiet, Church Wood producing 2 Nuthatches and a singing male Mistle Thrush.


After spending half an hour wandering about the woodland with no results, I came across 3 FIRECRESTS together as I approached the Woodside Road entrance. They were inhabiting the thick section of ivy, Holly and Laurel overhanging the footpath immediately behind Tinglewood Cottage and were showing very well, feeding low down in the habitat and a male in full song.


Steve Blake kindly provided me with a site for Lesser Redpoll but despite bashing about for half an hour or more, could not find any in their favoured Silver Birches. What I was most pleased with however was stumbling upon a WOODCOCK roost - no less than 5 birds in one small area of vegetation, all within 15 feet of each other. It was in an area of newly planted trees, scattered with thick Laurel scrub.

Jay, Long-tailed Tit and Goldcrest were the only other species noted, whilst the main pit was very quiet (not even the Shelduck), 107 Lapwings and 17 Common Gulls being of note.


This is a great little reserve and with heavy rain for a few hours, I utilised the hides for shelter. The cress beds produced 4 LITTLE EGRETS, Grey Heron, 8 Moorhens, 3 GADWALLS (2 drakes - a scarce species here), 3 Teal (2 drakes) and 4 GREEN SANDPIPERS (one of which was colour-ringed in August 2008).

A pair of Stock Doves, Jay, 6 Chaffinch, Goldcrest and 5 SISKINS were also encountered, along with 2 female Reed Buntings on Barry's feeders.


It was whilst chatting to warden Barry Trevis about one of his ringed Mute Swans I recently recorded at Tring that he tipped me off about a large flock of finches and buntings he had been trapping at Cromer Hyde (in game strips south of the village at TL 205 116). Although the weather was not particularly conducive for study, I was delighted to find 5 BRAMBLINGS in amongst the 200 Chaffinches present (my first of the year in Herts), as well as an impressive number of 140 LINNETS. There were also 70 Yellowhammers and 56 Reed Buntings in the crop and 16 Stock Doves nearby.


Two SHORT-EARED OWLS started to perform shortly after the heavy rain passed away to the SE, one of which captured a Field Vole and then flew with it very high in the sky with a male Common Kestrel in tow. It then proceeded to transfer the dead animal from its talons to its bill, gradually consuming the entire creature after five minutes or so. During this period, it frequently hovered in one place in the sky. Once eaten, it then flew back towards the ground and made an unusual beeline for me, 'growling' as it flew just overhead of me and staring directly at me with its bright yellow eyes. It then flew off over the scrub to join the other hunting bird. The habitat of Ellenbrooks does not appear to be that suitable for SEO now, the scattered saplings now growing quite high.

The only other bird I noted was a male Sparrowhawk.


I spent the last half hour of sunset at Heartwood 'Forest' where I was treated to another glorious display by a further 3 SHORT-EARED OWLS - hunting the long grass just south of the 'Archaelogical Field'. One bird was taking advantage of a wooden platform and perching, regurgitating pellets every now and again. A magical evening.

Another Red Fox was seen as it got dark

Friday, 17 February 2012

FERRUGINOUS DUCK literally yards from Bucks border


With temperatures reaching 14 degrees C today, it was hardly surprising that many bird species felt that spring had arrived. It was very cloudy generally but brightened up this afternoon, with light SW winds.

The first part of the day was spent twitching the 8th ever COMMON YELLOWTHROAT in Britain in Gwent in South Wales, whilst the afternoon was spent locally.....


Literally just yards west of the Bucks border, Bray Gravel Pits is situated north of the A 308 along Monkey Island Lane. The majority of the wildfowl (mostly diving ducks) was on the easternmost pit, on the opposite side of the river and conveyor belt, at SU 915 785

The drake FERRUGINOUS DUCK was showing very well for a second day, favouring the left hand of the pit. It was consorting with a remarkable number of Aythya ducks, including no less than 337 Tufted Ducks and 92 Pochards. Over 40 Gadwalls were also present, as well as a displaying pair of Sparrowhawks.


A visit mid-afternoon resulted in me adding two patch ticks for the year - the dapper drake NORTHERN PINTAIL showing well from the hide and a GREEN SANDPIPER on the right hand side of the bund

The heavily ringed Dutch male RUFF was still present, parading up and down the emergent vegetation close to the hide. On his left leg, he is wearing a yellow plastic ring over white and on the right leg, a yellow over blue over a red flag (with a darvic ring above the tibia).

Other notables included a single Little Grebe back, 8 Great Crested Grebes, 723 Teals, a drake Shoveler and 12 Gadwall; still 5 active Sinensis Cormorant nests, whilst 2 immature Argenteus HERRING GULLS dropped in for a while.

On STARTOP'S END RESERVOIR, all 3 show-stoppers were on view - the WATER PIPIT and SNOW BUNTING both vying for attention in the NE (Bucks) corner and the redhead SMEW on the water.


Chris Pontin and I enjoyed excellent views of 2 WATER RAILS and a GREY WAGTAIL this evening on the allotment cressbeds.

CROSSBILLS in Bow Brickhill

Around 20 very noisy COMMON CROSSBILLS at Bow Brickhill this afternoon. They were in Pines on the left of the track down to the Golf Club, about 150 yards down from the radio mast.Also two more near the Clubhouse (Robert Norris)


A BLACK-TAILED GODWIT is present for its second day on the bund at Linford NR (per M McGar)

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Snow's all gone but day out in North Bucks provides dividends


The warmest day in a long time with afternoon temperatures reaching a sultry 10 degrees C. There was quite a strong NW wind blowing but it remained dry and quite sunny at times

Apart from a brief sojourn in the Tring Area, I spent most of the day in North Bucklinghamshire, adding a total of three new species to my local Year List - WATER PIPIT, TREE SPARROW and MERLIN. I also checked out the GOOSANDERS in the county, recording a total of 61 birds including a single flock of 32....


The WATER PIPIT was still showing well in the far NE (Bucks) corner of the reservoir this morning, whilst the redhead SMEW was standing on the ice with 12 Shoveler. A mammoth 182 Pochards were present, along with 40 Mute Swans, 8 Great Crested Grebes, 12 Gadwall, 25 Wigeon, 106 Tufted Duck, 237 Coot and 3 Grey Herons. A much larger section of the reservoir was now ice-free

MARSWORTH RESERVOIR was still completely icebound but male Reed Buntings were singing from the reedbed


Met up with Mike Campbell on the bank, with whom I saw the cracking adult male white-headed RUFF, the continuing BLACK-TAILED GODWIT and the DUNLIN - all feeding along the emergent vegetation on the NW shore. A flock of 16 Lapwings flew over

The DARK-BELLIED BRENT GOOSE was alternating between the Cemetery Corner Fields and the NW corner of the reservoir, with 6 Great Crested Grebes, 25 Pochards and Grey Wagtail also noted


The adult male PEREGRINE was sunning itself on the SE corner of the Council Offices mid morning, with a Sparrowhawk shooting across the A41 by the Cotton Wheel public house.


A total of 8 GOOSANDERS present


Birdless, with no sign of the recent Tree Sparrows


Huge numbers of large gulls were loafing about the sheepfields just north of Edgecott at SP 681 230, including 1,235 Lesser Black-backed Gulls (mostly adults), 97 Herring Gulls and 1,500 Black-headed Gulls.


No sign of the 8 Red-crested Pochards present earlier in the week but 11 Great Crested Grebes, 2 Atlantic Canada Geese, 14 Wigeon, 18 Tufted Duck and 23 Pochard


A new site for me - and a site full of potential. The main reason for the visit was to see the GOOSANDER flock and lo and behold 7 birds (4 adult drakes) were showing exceptionally well on the main lake.

Otherwise, an inventory count of the lakes totalled 2 Mute Swans, 8 Canada Geese, 1 Chinese Goose, 26 Mallard and 38 Coot, with small birds represented by Jackdaw, Robin, Blue Tit and 2 Common Treecreepers.


Not a great deal at Foxcote apart from 3 Great Crested Grebes, 2 Mute Swans, 131 Common Teal, 13 Pochard, 38 Tufted Duck, 2 drake Goldeneyes, 112 Coot and 15 Lapwings.


13 GOOSANDERS present, some of which were roosting on the wooded islands


A single drake GOOSANDER was the highlight


Very quiet with just 6 Grey Herons nesting being of note

LITTLE LINFORD WOOD was equally birdless with a bonfire blowing across the maize strip; a male BULLFINCH was the best I could muster

However, STOKE GOLDINGTON VILLAGE changed fortunes, with the garden at the top of Dag Lane finally reaping rewards. I was beckoned over by the house owner and at the feeders enjoyed fabulous views of a pair of TREE SPARROWS and most astonishingly, a pristine WILLOW TIT. The latter has apparently been visiting the feeders since December 2011. Five Greenfinches were present, as well as a Great Spotted Woodpecker, whilst I was shown a nestbox already housing a pair of Common Kestrels. Last year, three pairs of Tree Sparrows fledged young from the nestboxes.


As I drove towards Weston Underwood, I noticed a small falcon sitting on the short roadside hedgerow bordering the road. I screeched to a halt and was thrilled to find that the bird was a female MERLIN. It was 30 yards beyond the entrance of Field Barns (SP 856 493) and sat there glaring at me for several minutes. Then, as a car approached from the Olney direction, it shot off the perch and darted over the hedge, before persuing and startling a large flock of Fieldfares. Still parked off the verge, I walked over to the other side of the road and relocated the bird sat on a fencepost, one of a row leading out across the water meadows. I 'scoped it for several minutes before it raced off again. A special treat!


No sign yet again of any of the Barnacle Geese but a huge flock of 340 Fieldfares in the fields


On the main part of the lake were 24 GOOSANDERS (14 adult drakes, 9 redheads, 1 immature drake), with another 8 (5 adult drakes) on the smaller lake with the hide overlooking it - 32 in all and making a grand total of 61 birds......


There was no sign of the 3 wintering Short-eared Owls at dusk but I did find a nice male GREY PARTRIDGE.

The owls are wintering in an area of rough grass to the south of West Wood, accessed from Sandridge Lane at TL 165 108. Walk west along the main track for just under half a mile to view,

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Another red letter day in the ice


After yesterday's record breaking overnight temperature of -18 degrees in Chesham, last night was far milder at just -10 degrees. Lots of lying snow still and most waterbodies completely covered in ice. With the wind in the north, temperatures did surprisingly recover to 2 degrees, and the snow started to melt.

After recovering from yet more depressing news (Whitney Houston being found dead in her Hollywood flat at just 48 years old - Carmel and I first met dancing to one of her greatest hits in 1987), I eventually ventured out at 1100 hours. It proved to be another exciting day locally.........


Highlights this morning in the garden included 2 Common Buzzards, 1 Red Kite, a Eurasian Sparrowhawk and 3 Goldfinches......


Marsworth and Tringford Reservoirs still completely iced over with restricted ice-free areas on Wilstone and Startop's End

WILSTONE RESERVOIR was my first port of call, the grassy fields in Cemetery Corner harbouring 70 Greylags and the continuing DARK-BELLIED BRENT as well as 91 Atlantic Canadas

Checking the open water yielded 17 Great Crested Grebes, 3 Mute Swans, 42 Mallard, 258 Eurasian Wigeon, 14 Gadwall, 337 Common Teal, a single drake Shoveler, 5 SMEWS (1 drake and 4 redheads) and 2 adult Lesser Black-backed Gulls.

But it was the waders that stole the show with a RED KNOT on the ice until 1314 hours (it eventually flew and circled round several times calling loudly before being watched as a speck over Drayton Beauchamp and into Bucks airspace), a single DUNLIN slipping and sliding about on the ice close to the Drayton Bank and hide and an incredibly confiding BLACK-TAILED GODWIT feeding with grazing ducks in the Cemetery Corner.

The WATER PIPIT was also showing well in Cemetery Corner, along with 2 Pied Wagtails and a Grey Wagtail, and a Common Buzzard flew over.

A Chinese Water Deer was feeding by the reedbed whilst a Red Fox ran right across the ice to the centre bund.

At STARTOP'S END, the male SNOW BUNTING was showing very well in the far NE corner of the reservoir and well into Bucks, and the single redhead SMEW I found earlier this week was still present (see Dave Hutchinson's excellent shots above).

I did a thorough check of the 47 Mute Swans present (11 first-years) for rings. Sadly orange 032 was on his own and without his progeny, whilst metal ringed adults included W29266 and M12946 (another I could only read part of the ring).. Otherwise, 5 Great Crested Grebes, 10 Wigeon, 31 Tufted Duck, 103 Pochard and an adult drake COMMON GOLDENEYE.

(Mike Wallen had earlier had a flock of Goosander and Smew fly over)

(WeBS count)

Never before had I seen most of the deep pit frozen and no wonder wildfowl are really starting to suffer. I did a full inventory of birds present with the following results -:

No Great Crested Grebes but 1 Little Grebe present
6 Mute Swans including 3 youngsters
87 Mallard
78 Wigeon
3 Common Teal
48 Gadwall
92 Tufted Duck
86 Pochard
The 3 female Common Goldeneyes
92 Coot
303 Black-headed Gulls
18 Common Gulls
3 Lesser Black-backed Gulls
(an adult LITTLE GULL had been present earlier)


Met up with Dan Forder and eventually enjoyed views of 2 WATER RAILS, a fabulous JACK SNIPE and a drake NORTHERN PINTAIL with 6 Common Teal, the latter first found by Lucy Flower yesterday.

Also 2 Little Grebes, 4 Mute Swans, a pair of Wigeon, 10 Gadwall and 2 Grey Wagtails

Saturday, 11 February 2012

More after dark news from CALVERT

This afternoon, there were apparently 8 RED-CRESTED POCHARDS at Calvert Sailing Lake, along with a male MERLIN, juvenile ICELAND GULL and 2nd-winter CASPIAN GULL


An adult winter LITTLE GULL was also at College Lake BBOWT with Black Headed Gulls on the ice in front of the small Tern islands. The lake is now 2/3's frozen, only the 3rd time in 15 years this has happened as far as i can remember. The Tring DARK-BELLIED BRENT was also there (Rob Andrews)

First CURLEWS...

Two CURLEWS at Gayhurst Quarry this afternoon. Also Marsh Tit along the lane but little else. No rare geese amongst the 300+ Greylags (Rob Hill)

Meanwhile, news has just reached my ears of a male BLACK REDSTART in a private garden in Priinces Risborough from 24 January until 6 February (per Don Stone)

Twitching the GREY PARTRIDGES - and what a great shot to boot

One of the GREY PARTRIDGES present in the crop field half a mile NE of Stockwell Lane along Kimblewick Road at SP 797 071 on 11-2-12 (Simon Gardner)

Bittern at Walton Lakes

10 February - Decided to finish my working week at Walton Lake today - not a bad decision as it turns out. A BITTERN was seen from observation platform. Flew in from back of reedbed and dropped into reeds behind me at about 16:20. Very clear view but it did not reappear. In previous years a bittern has tended to roost in the tallest reeds to the right of the platform. (Care - the platform was very icey today).

As if that wasn't good enough I also saw WATER RAIL and PINK FOOTED GOOSE. Two water rails showing very well on the ice. There is a 'mink raft' placed halfway up one of the channels in the reed bed and the two rails were very active around this. They appeared to be pecking at something on the raft but what they can have been eating I've no idea.Arriving back at the car park, I scanned the adjacent grazing area which held a very large flock of Canada and grey-lag geese. The Pink Foot was in amongst a sub group of Greylags which eventually joined the main flock.I've had worse days at Walton Lake! (Martin Kincaid)

Thursday, 9 February 2012


Heavy snow is falling in Little Chalfont as I write this email, about two inches so far adding to last Saturday's remaining snow. Tomorrow morning will be fun

Anyway, apparently there was an adult WHOOPER SWAN at Calvert this evening, along with at least 1 roosting ICELAND GULL

In South Bucks, 2 SIBERIAN CHIFFCHAFFS were again reported at Eton Wick


Amazingly, the scene this lunchtime was almost a mirror image of yesterday along the stream - the 10 or so Reed Buntings still present, the 3 Cetti' s (one of which afforded me my best ever views of the species), 6 Common Chiffchaffs and (for me at least) 1 of the SIBERIAN CHIFFCHAFFS (Mike McKee and Renton were still on site when I left so may have found more).

Also, along the stream, a Water Rail called, and a gorgeous pair of Grey Wags performed. On the Jubilee River, the drake Goosander was still near the weir and we had 2 BEARDED TITS (one seen another heard), with a possible third, in the reeds near the picnic benches (the original Bittern bed) which is back in Bucks of course (Brian Clews)

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Freezing conditions continue to produce birds


With a northeasterly wind increasing, the weather got even colder today. It was absolutely freezing out in the field, and encrusted ice suggests that bird populations are really struggling to survive the harsh conditions.


The Fieldfare flock increased to 14 this morning, feasting on the fallen apples.


No sign of the 3 Water Rails but a COMMON SNIPE was unexpected, with 3 Moorhens also seen. A Blue Tit was visiting the unfrozen greenery by the river, as were 4 Long-tailed Tits.


Marsworth and Tringford Reservoirs are completely frozen over, with an increasing section of Startop's End now open and three separate ice-free patches on Wilstone. Numbers of birds in general were well down because of the ice but a redhead SMEW was a nice bonus and the first of the year.......

A COMMON TREECREEPER was in full song as I entered the MARSWORTH WOOD but there was no sign of the Bittern others had seen earlier. All 5 Grey Herons were absent also

The increasingly open patch on STARTOP'S END RESERVOIR was heaving with activity and at the extreme east end of the water, I was pleased to find a redhead SMEW.

No less than 41 Mute Swans were counted, the most this winter, with 10 first-years among them - 5 Great Crested Grebes, 134 Mallard, 1 drake Gadwall, 18 Teal, 10 Wigeon, 25 Tufted Duck, 103 Pochard, 233 Coot and 14 Moorhens.

Three Robins allowed themselves to be handfed on seeds by the hide and in a sheltered area of weeds on the south bank, 9 Common Blackbirds and 8 Fieldfares were feeding.

For the first time in weeks, I was unable to locate the Snow Bunting on the north shore

The first-winter DARK-BELLIED BRENT GOOSE was with 70 Greylags in the Cemetery Corner field on WILSTONE, whilst the three ice-free patches on the reservoir harboured 13 Great Crested Grebes, 2 Mute Swans, 18 Mallard, 149 Wigeon, 135 Teal, 22 Tufted Duck, 47 Pochard and 322 Coot. No Shoveler were seen today.


Not an ounce of ice on the main lake and consequently lots of waterbirds - 7 Mute Swans (including 3 first-years), 194 Wigeon, 64 Teal, 46 Gadwall, the usual pair of RED-CRESTED POCHARDS, 54 Tufted Duck, 62 Pochard, 2 female Common Goldeneye and 92 Coot. 13 Lapwing were also present.


A covey of 6 GREY PARTRIDGE (3 pairs) was in a crop field half a mile NE of Stockwell Lane along Kimblewick Road at SP 797 071.


A site literally on the county boundary with Berkshire and accessed from the B 3026 at the east end of Dorney Common at SU 943 786. A stream runs north to the Jubilee River and is a known haunt of wintering chiffchaffs. In fact on Sunday, Dave Carter located a Siberian Chiffchaff at the site, with Chris Heard locating a second individual yesterday

It was probably too late in the day by the time I arrived at 1600 hours. Although I easily located 6 COMMON CHIFFCHAFFS in the Phragmites 110 yards north along the stream, I could not find the two Siberians. I was amazed at the hive of activity in the short reeds, with 2 CETTI'S WARBLERS putting on a good show, 8 Reed Buntings, 3 Wrens, 3 Grey Wagtails, 3 Pied Wagtails and 6 Long-tailed Tits all taking advantage of the conditions created by the warmer water. A Grey Heron was also fishing and 5 Common Teal were particularly approachable.

As dusk approached, it was clear I was beneath the flight line of RING-NECKED PARAKEETS - no less than 165 flying east towards Staines to roost.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Today's snippets

A juvenile GLAUCOUS GULL was seen at Spade Oak Pit, Little Marlow, today, with 2 BITTERNS still at Weston Turville Reservoir.

Two TREE SPARROWS in a Mursley garden were an excellent record, the only others in the county being a small wintering flock at Little Linford Wood. The WILLOW TIT remains at Linford NR, at the Woodland Hide.

Monday, 6 February 2012

A red letter day in the Amersham Recording Area (LGRE DIARY NOTES 6 FEBRUARY 2012)


Following Saturday night's heavy snow, a rapid thaw is now in process and throughout the day, the four to six inches of lying snow has been turning to slush. In fact, it felt quite mild, with temperatures at one point climbing to 4 degrees. It was very misty and for a while, it rained a little. Towards nightfall, the skies cleared and it does now look as though a frost will form.

With so much snow about, I took the opportunity to have a good look around my immediate Recording Area, the first time I have put such effort in this year. It turned out to be very rewarding, amongst the many highlights being a Common Crossbill, flock of Lesser Redpolls, big flock of Mandarins, 3 Green Sandpipers, 3 Common Snipe and so on. A red letter day in other words.........


Shardeloes lake was virtually completely frozen over with just one tiny patch of ice-free water. Despite that, a mass of birds were packed in on it, including 82 Coots, 5 first-year Mute Swans, a drake Northern Pochard, 5 Gadwall, 2 Mallard, 3 Little Grebes and best of all, 11 MANDARIN DUCKS. The latter comprised of 6 drakes and 5 females. Several gulls were roosting on the ice including an adult Lesser Black-backed and 5 adult, 2 first-winter Common Gulls.

Also noted were Green Woodpecker, a hooting Tawny Owl, Coal Tit, Red Kite, Song Thrush and 2 Common Treecreepers.

In OLD AMERSHAM nearby, over 100 Fieldfares were in hedgerows along School Lane


Had a concerted effort in the snow to locate Woodcock but failed in my quest. A big bonus however was a nice adult male COMMON CROSSBILL - a rare species locally - whilst a party of 20 LESSER REDPOLLS showed very well in a stand of Silver Birches. One of them was a very brightly plumaged pink male.

More ordinary fare noted included 2 Jays, Coal Tit, 5 Great Tits, 4 Blue Tits, 4 Nuthatches, Wren, 4 Great Spotted Woodpeckers (a lot of drumming activity going on), 12 Redwing and 3 Chaffinches.


Walked a major portion of the valley, west as far as Bois Mill and east to Crestyl Cressbeds. The heavy snow had certainly forced a lot of birds into the valley.

On the Chess just east of Chenies Bottom bridge, no less than 8 LITTLE EGRETS were feeding together with a Grey Heron, whilst a female Grey Wagtail flew overhead.

LATIMER GREAT WATER was largely frozen but within the ice-free area was 9 Mute Swans (2 first-years), 165 Atlantic Canada Geese, 10 Tufted Duck, 5 Pochard, 47 Coot and 11 Moorhen. To the south of the lake, 4 LAPWINGS were walking bewildered about a snow white field. A single sub-adult Sinensis Cormorant was perched at the top of a tree to the west.

In trees by the hall were 4 Mistle Thrushes, 8 Fieldfares, 4 Redwings and a Song Thrush.

A further 8 LAPWINGS were in a field with horses to the north of Mill Farm Water Meadow, taking advantage of the soil exposed by the feeding animals. A Green Woodpecker took advantage too.

At FROGMORE MEADOW, I was very surprised to locate 2 GREEN SANDPIPERS on the Chess, both flying around noisily as I inadvertently flushed them. A further 2 LITTLE EGRETS were seen from the Water Vole Watchpoint, as well as 19 Mallard, 9 COMMON TEAL, 2 Little Grebes and a Great Spotted Woodpecker.

CRESTYL WATERCRESS BEDS were unfrozen and full of birds with the aforementioned TEAL coming and going, 2 Mute Swans, 14 Moorhens, a single LAPWING, yet another GREEN SANDPIPER, 3 COMMON SNIPES, a Grey Wagtail, 2 MEADOW PIPITS and a male Yellowhammer.

A deep guttural cronking call overhead immediately alerted me to a COMMON RAVEN, the bird flying across from Chenies village direction and heading off toward Limeshill Wood. Although JT had seen this bird twice since November 2011, this was the first time I had connected - the possibility being that it was one of the surviving pair that bred in the valley in 2009.

A Grey Heron landed in a tree east of VALLEY FARM and immediately sparked off panic amongst the LITTLE OWL colony. Once the resident pair in the heron's chosen roost tree started complaining loudly, it set off the rest, with eventually 5 different individuals alarming.

Limeshill Wood also produced 2 Nuthatches and 2 Jays.

Just as I was walking back on the boardwalk, I was alerted to a local pager message........


Just under 20 minutes later, I had joined Hilfield patch worker Steve Murray. Steve had discovered two GREATER SCAUP - a species I had failed to see in the county in 2011. Once by the jetty, I located them immediately - a fine adult pair, the drake with his resplendent green head, golden-orange eye, gleaming white flanks, lightly vermiculated grey mantle and black-nailed sky-blue bill and the female with her extensive white forehead blaze, fat rounded head, dark brown head and breast, pale cheek patch, subtly grey vermiculated back and grey sides. There was also a hint of a pale ring around the neck base and a fat spatulate bill, greyer in colour.

They were a spotless pair and a delight to watch, both Steve and I being treated to good views as they gradually swam closer inshore. Once fully 'scauped', I started to pan round and incredibly soon realised that there were actually SIX GREATER SCAUPS on the reservoir and not just two - four adult drakes, a first-winter drake and the adult female. A real treat and tantamount proof of what the weather is doing with the movements of waterbirds.

At around the same time, I watched 4 NORTHERN PINTAILS arrive (three drakes and a female), with the duck logcall also including 107 Pochard, 81 Tufted Duck, 5 Rufous Daniels, 6 Gadwall and 11 Wigeon.

The dusk gull roost was very impressive with well over 4,500 Black-headed Gulls present, as well as 150+ Herring Gulls, 350 Common Gulls, 33 Lesser Black-backed Gulls and a single adult Great Black-backed Gull. Other birds taking advantage of the ice-free water included 35 Great Crested Grebe and 6 Little Grebe

Sunday, 5 February 2012

College Lake and Weston Turville Reservoir today

Highlight of a visit to College Lake this afternoon were 3 Dunlin on themain lake. Two were feeding together on the west shore, with the other oneon the east shore and in flight a couple of times.On the water were 5 Goldeneye, the 2 Red-crested Pochards and good numbersof the usual species.

Called into Weston Turville for the last hour or so of light and was pleasedto see a Chinese Water Deer in the cleared area, followed shortly afterwardsby a Bittern in flight over the far left corner, viewed from the hide at1702hrs. A few minutes later I was joined by John Mason and at around 5.30pmanother Bittern flew out from the closer area of reeds in front of the hideand disappeared behind the clump of willows at the far side of the reedbed.At least 2 Little Egrets came into roost and 4+ Water Rails were calling (Rob Andrews)

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Three Year Ticks - Common Shelduck, BRENT GOOSE and SNOW BUNTING


Another very hard frost with temperatures overnight dropping to -7 degrees. Consequently, many water bodies are now totally frozen over. It was another freezing but bright day but cloud encroached from the west and as darkness fell, snow began to fall (the first real snow of this winter). By 1900 hours, two inches was laying in my garden.


Ice was the name of the day and very little of all four Tring reservoirs was unfrozen. Both Tringford and Marsworth were completely frozen over and consequently, most wildfowl and water birds were concentrated in small patches of open water on both Wilstone and Startop's End............

At STARTOP'S END RESERVOIR, 35 Mute Swans were amongst the birds crammed into the small ice-free area, along with 9 Shovelers, 25 Tufted Ducks, 5 Great Crested Grebes and 272 Coots

At least 15 House Sparrows were by Startop's Farm and 8 Goldfinches, whilst in the NE corner in the Bucks section, the first-winter male SNOW BUNTING was keeping close company with 2 Pied Wagtails

The first-winter DARK-BELLIED BRENT GOOSE was also in Bucks, the first time this winter it has been so. It was with 71 Greylag Geese and 83 Canada Geese 400 yards SSE of College Farm at SP 927 143 (in the second field along the lane).


Due to the Tring Reservoirs being largely frozen over and the fact that the deep BBOWT pit rarely freezes, exceptional numbers of wildfowl were present.

Although the highlight for me was the single COMMON SHELDUCK, numbers included 6 Great Crested Grebes, 2 Mute Swans, 43 Mallard, 53 Gadwall, 122 Common Teal, 223 Eurasian Wigeon, 173 Tufted Duck, 213 Northern Pochard and 5 female Common Goldeneyes.


The corvids present here were having a field day with a freshly dead sheep laying in the field. The two resident COMMON RAVENS were in attendance and giving orders but also busy rebuilding/repairing their nest or simply making a new nest, frequently gathering material and taking it back to a pine.

Stock Dove, Great Spotted Woodpecker and 40 Fieldfares were also noted.


It seemed like all of Bedfordshire's finest were at Stewartby and the Millenium Park today and for good reason - a plethora of birds were on offer, due to the Arctic conditions

The main attraction had been an adult winter LITTLE GULL that Paul Wright had found and had later been seen by Neil, Peter Smith and others. It quickly moved from the main lake to the sewage works compound but whilst I was on site, had somehow managed to give us all the slip by disappearing westwards with a group of Black-headed Gulls.

Next up was Paul's BITTERN, showing regally in the sunshine at the fore of the reedbed in the NW corner. Looking across from the west shore, it was just left of the two light green buoys when I espied it, but as the morning drew on, it disappeared back into the reed fringe.

Over in the Millenium Park on MILLBROOK PILLINGE PIT, Lol, Bob, Roy Nye, Tony Hukin and I observed an adult MEDITERRANEAN GULL in the throng of small gulls present on the pit. It was just starting to get a blackish ear-covert patch and an orange tip to the bill. There was an incredible number of Common Gulls roosting on the pit - I click-counted 342 - along with 3 Herring Gulls and 11 Lesser Black-backed Gulls

The female COMMON SCOTER was still present in the SW corner of the pit, along with the 3 redhead SMEW, 162 Common Teal, 54 Wigeon, 6 Mute Swans (family party, 3 first-years) and 3 Little Grebes.

Returning back to the main lake at Stewartby, following another sighting of the Little Gull, scanning across produced 23 Little Grebes, 32 Great Crested Grebes and 22 Tufted Ducks, whilst the inlet in the NW corner yielded Common Snipe, WATER RAIL and a nice COMMON KINGFISHER.

Shortly after chatting to Steve Blain on the phone, mostly about Pintails and some exceptional flocks of them, no less than 44 NORTHERN PINTAILS and 4 EGYPTIAN GEESE flew overhead, the latter coming down on the Sailing Club green and remaining long enough for Bob, Lol and others to connect.

Forty of the PINTAIL flock made landfall on the Pillinge Pit, with 15 dapper drakes amongst them (Mark Thomas had seen 56 over Willington and 8 remained at Radwell).

Peter Smith also saw Common Redshank and the overwintering COMMON SANDPIPER at Stewartby but frustratingly I didn't hear about them until later.


The 'Corn Bunting fields' held 11 Common Magpies, a Common Buzzard and 170 Fieldfares but no Corn Buntings !

Nearby, a pair of GREY PARTRIDGES were half a mile west of the village and another 6 were seen beside the B658 south of BROOK END NE of Greensands Fishery.


Steve Blain had seen 2 Shelduck and 3 Dunlin at Derek White's earlier but nothing of note was there when I visited in the afternoon but GYPSY LANE WEST LAKE retained the redhead SMEW and PEACOCK'S LAKE the single COMMON SHELDUCK, as well as 21 Mute Swans in one small area of open water


Still 3 SHORT-EARED OWLS and 2 COMMON STONECHATS present but no Barn Owl or Merlin


Returned to Marsworth late afternoon and enjoyed captivating views of up to 3 different EURASIAN BITTERNS, including 2 'scrapping' on the SW corner and one showing very well just standing forlorn and cold on the solid ice. The birds were very popular throughout the day with many observers obtaining photographs (see a nice selection above)

Two WATER RAILS were surviving the weather and were risking being caught by the no less than 7 Grey Herons standing on the ice, whilst the CORN BUNTING roost numbered 89 birds; a group of 18 Moorhens were together on Startop's

Alarmingly, many youngsters were risking life and limb by walking out on to the ice - some walking out over 40 yards. Total madness

Friday, 3 February 2012

Calvert Sailing Lake this evening

Warren Claydon has seen the juvenile KUMLIEN'S GULL I found earlier in the week this evening, as well as at least 3 additional ICELAND GULLS (the 2nd-winter and two juveniles) and the regular first-winter CASPIAN GULL

Furthermore, Hedgerley Tip still has a juvenile GLAUCOUS, a 2nd-winter ICELAND and as many as 7 different CASPIAN GULLS visiting