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

Thursday, 31 January 2013

Hard work in the inclement conditions


Well the last day of January went out much in the same vein as all month with very strong winds coming from the West and quite a few heavy showers. Temperatures remained constant at the January average of 7 degrees C.

Not a great day for me, with little to show from a dawn until dusk bash.....

In the CHESS VALLEY (BUCKS), 3 Little Egrets present but no sign of the Great White Egret in any of its normal haunts.

Then negative results on Jack Snipes - none at Broughton Trout Ponds, Lemsford Springs nor East Hyde. As news broke on the pager of a Great White Egret at WHITWELL CRESSBEDS (HERTS), I met John Temple sitting in his car at the East Hyde bridge - he had seen nothing either.

Anyway, just over 10 minutes later, I was at WHITWELL CRESSBEDS and no Great White Egret to be seen (nor observer) - just 6 Little Egrets showing well from the road, and 4 Red Kites hunting over a neighbouring field. No sign of a breeding pair of Common Raven either - a huge branch on one side of the tree having broken off.

I then moved over into BEDFORDSHIRE and drove around Linslade and Leighton Buzzard searching for Waxwings but with no joy.

STOCKGROVE COUNTRY PARK (BEDS) was still devoid of Mandarin Ducks on the lake but a photographer feeding birds on the bridge did fortuitously provide me with an easy MARSH TIT, at least 3 Coal Tits, 6 Great Tits and 5 Blue Tits.

I then did a long walk into WOBURN PARK (BEDS), where at the Abbey Lake (SP 962 325), I saw 2 Grey Herons, 2 EGYPTIAN GEESE, 4 Mute Swans, 1 Great Crested Grebe, 66 Wigeon, 3 SHOVELER (2 drakes), 31 Tufted Duck, 22 Pochard, 4 GOOSANDER (3 adult drakes and a redhead), 25 Coot and Nuthatch.

Thanks to some advice from Peter Smith, I eventually located the resident pair of AUSTRALIAN BLACK SWANS - at the far NW end of Upper Drakelow Pond at SP 950 336 - grazing with Atlantic Canada Geese. This pair had successfully reared three young last summer and were part of a UK naturalised population of just under 100 individuals. In Holland, the population of this species is even greater - clearly eligible under Category C. The Upper Drakelow Pond also held 8 Northern Pochard.

I then returned to BUCKINGHAMSHIRE with a visit to GALLOWS BRIDGE. Very, very quiet and very, very windy - the highlight being a small flock of 21 EUROPEAN GOLDEN PLOVERS.

CALVERT SAILING LAKE (NORTH BUCKS) was my last destination of the day and finding a sheltered spot in the SW corner, set forth on counting and scrutinising the gull roost. The roost was very impressive - and massive - with no less than 13,500 gulls roosting by 1720 hours when Warren and I gave up looking at darkness. The vast majority were Lesser Black-backed Gulls - 98% or more adult - with an incredible 6,425 click-counted. Herring Gulls were second most numerous at 4,100 (with perhaps 10% northern Argentatus) and Black-headed Gull in third place at 2,637 birds.

GREAT BLACK-BACKED GULLS numbered an impressive 216 individuals (again, 98% adult), with just 122 Common Gulls and just 2 YELLOW-LEGGED GULLS, an adult and a 4th-winter. None of the hoped-for white-wingers came in - the only rarity being CASPIAN GULL - an adult and a first-winter.

Passerines encountered included Green Woodpecker, 3 BULLFINCH, 2 Fieldfare and 5 Redwing.

Driving about a mile east of QUAINTON (BUCKS), a TAWNY OWL flew across the road at BLACKGROVE FARM at SP 765 189 - my first of the year.

Wednesday, 30 January 2013



A windy start to the day but dry and very mild (12 degrees C); later deterioated somewhat, with near gale force SW winds and driving rain

I did a little bit of local birding first thing before driving to East Sussex and dipping a Bonaparte's Gull for the third time in four days.....

Most pleasing was finding the two Eton Wick EURASIAN WHITE-FRONTED GEESE feeding out on DORNEY COMMON (SOUTH BUCKS), 50 yards west of the flooded area - a single adult and first-winter. They were consorting with 52 Atlantic Canada Geese.

In the neighbouring ROUNDMOOR DITCH at ETON WICK (BERKS/BUCKS BORDER), a hive of activity within 90 yards of the bridge, with no less than 12 Collybita COMMON CHIFFCHAFFS feeding, as well as the well-marked and striking single tristis SIBERIAN CHIFFCHAFF that is wintering at the site and the similarly-plumaged and rather grey/green/white abietinus or abietinus-intergrade SCANDINAVIAN CHIFFCHAFF (this bird calls fairly frequently, uttering a contact call not dissimilar to Collybita). In addition, two female BLACKCAPS taking advantage of the fallen apples just 30 yards downstream of the bridge.

Following a report of a Whooper Swan at Dorney, trekked right round the back of the lake but found nothing and after a lot of effort, eventually located a flock of 31 Mute Swans in cereal crop near BARGE FARM at SU 908 801. No Whooper but an adult Mute Swan marked with a white ring 'K2B'; also a single juvenile 'Polish' Swan. Several Skylarks in full song too in the cereal.

Back at Dave Cleal's house in BURNHAM (SOUTH BUCKS), a nice female BLACKCAP and a Long-tailed Tit visiting his garden.

Fortunately for Dave, he left his Pompey tickets behind and had to return home. I carried on to EAST SUSSEX, where in a rain-lashed PRINCES PARK, EASTBOURNE, I spent six hours dipping an adult Bonaparte's Gull. Just 2 Turnstones and a Sparrowhawk enlightened this period, with the park also yielding 13 House Sparrows, Moorhen, Coot and Common Starling. Just 4 Black-headed Gulls visited the lake in all of this time, loosely associating with the 50 or so resident Argenteus Herring Gulls.

Monday, 28 January 2013

Record flock of GREATER SCAUP in North Bucks


After a long sojourn away from the Home Counties on a 'Round Britain' tour, it was back to reality today and a rush round BEDFORDSHIRE, trying to catch up with those birds many of the locals had already seen.

Following yesterday's foul weather, I was rather surprised to see an overnight frost and by day, temperatures struggled to reach 5 degrees C. It was a nice morning but as the afternoon progressed, the wind increased and as darkness approached, more heavy rain arrived.


I was very pleased to get an early morning call from Andy Plumb, informing me that yesterday's drake FERRUGINOUS DUCK had returned (per David Kramer) so without any ado, it was there that I headed for first, meeting at the hide with MJP, Pip, Francis Buckle and Roy Nye. The bird was showing very well roosting with 64 Northern Pochards to the left of the hide, mainly asleep but waking up every now and again. In terms of plumage, it was typical of an adult drake, with rich chestnut-red head, breast, underparts and sides, a much darker back and upper tail, and very conspicuous, heavily contrasting, gleaming white underparts. The eye (iris) was typically pearly-white, with an off-white (almost yellowish-white) nictating membrane. The peaked head shape was also spot on. It also preened for a short while, revealing a very conspicuous pure white wingbar.

Ferruginous Duck hybrids are a common sight in Britain and up to 70% of the claims relate to these and so I was keen to get a good look at the bill. Fortunately, the black was restricted to the nail only and did not extend around on to the bill flanges, thus ruling out any obvious signs of hybridisation. It did however show some bluish-white internal markings in the bill often associated with UK in-bred captive Ferruginous Ducks but as this feature occurs widely in the overall World population of the species (and is a feature of all Aythyas), I guess we can safely give it the benefit of the doubt and claim it as a genuine vagrant. Knowing that Welney Refuge had recently had a hybrid Ferruginous Duck (but a very good lookalike), I 'phoned Mark Thomas to ask him to check out the images of it on BirdGuides to see how similar it was. Frustratingly, my mobile then ran out of juice and I was unable to make any further contact with anyone during the day. Steve Blain later confirmed that it was clearly a different bird.

To the right of the same hide was a newly-discovered first-winter BLACK-NECKED GREBE, showing well just in front of the main island. Also seen were 8 Great Crested Grebes, 36 Mute Swans, 22 Gadwall, numerous Tufted Duck and Coot and the aforementioned Pochards.

Driving through WILLINGTON VILLAGE (BEDS) and just beyond produced a Sparrowhawk and at least 350 Fieldfares, with many more Fieldfares and a singing Skylark at the HATCH TURN. Just along ICKWELL ROAD in UPPER CALDECOTE (BEDS), a covey of 5 GREY PARTRIDGES was seen.

I then pulled in for the first of three visits to GYPSY LANE PITS, BROOM (BEDS) during the day, all three resulting in the failure to locate the regular wintering male Merlin - he was just nowhere to be seen. Stomping around the gravel workings did however yield excellent views of up to 9 different JACK SNIPES, this location certainly being one of the hotspots for this tricky-to-find winter visitor. Also recorded were 8 Stock Doves and a Meadow Pipit, whilst on the WEST PIT, a single redhead SMEW was amongst the wildfowl at the south end, as well as 4 Great Crested Grebe, 1 Little Grebe, 15 Wigeon, 36 Tufted Duck and 19 Pochard (3 Smew had been seen earlier).

On the other side of BROOM GRAVEL PITS and to the east of the B 658, a single (long-staying) adult PINK-FOOTED GOOSE was amongst 85 Greylag Geese in fields at TL 168 440.

In SOUTHILL VILLAGE (BEDS), I managed to find 5 TREE SPARROWS chirping in a hedgerow bordering the horse fields along with Chaffinch, 18 Greenfinch, Common Magpie and Blue Tit, but driving wistfully around BIGGLESWADE failed to locate any Waxwings.

Back to WILLINGTON DOVECOTE PITS (BEDS) and not that much to show for the walk - still 404 Barnacle Geese in the usual field with 3 hybrid birds intermingling with them - SISKIN, Robin and Mistle Thrush augmented the tally.

Both Roy and Francis had found a nice (showing) Bittern at the west end of BROGBOROUGH LAKE (BEDS) but by the time that I arrived, Martin and Pip had watched it drop down from the reeds and slither away from view. The GREATER SCAUPS were a great treat though but still the same three I had seen earlier in the month - the adult drake, first-winter drake and female. The SLAVONIAN GREBE was up the west end of the lake too, showing reasonably well in with a flock of Tufted Duck towards the NW bank; at one point, it got spooked, and flew a short way. A total of 31 Common Goldeneyes was counted, with 258 Tufted Duck and 11 Great Crested Grebes also logged. A pair of Bullfinches were noted too.

I then made a brief sortie into NORTH BUCKINGHAMSHIRE where at CALDECOTTE SOUTH LAKE (SP 888 346), the flock of 8 GREATER SCAUPS were still present, consisting of two fine adult drakes and 6 female-types. This is the largest single gathering ever recorded in the county, eclipsing the 6 seen at Boveney Lock on 10-11 February 1991. They were showing very well from the footpath that runs around the western shore of the lake. Very little else of note there, apart from a raft of 29 Tufted Duck.

Checked a few of WOBURN PARK'S LAKES (BEDS) but saw little of interest outside of 83 Tufted Duck, 3 Pochard and 8 Gadwall, whilst STOCKGROVE COUNTRY PARK LAKE was still frozen and totally birdless.

Better success came from WILSTEAD VILLAGE (BEDS), where opposite the entrance to ELMS LANE (LITTLEWORTH) at TL 079 442, I was very pleased to find 8 BRAMBLINGS - a species I failed to find at all in Bedfordshire in 2012.

The weather then got increasingly wet and I gave up for the day

Sunday, 27 January 2013

LGRE is back

Back after ten days touring the UK. Highlights whilst I was away included a flock of 11 or more EURASIAN WHITE-FRONTED GEESE on the Jubilee River at Marsh Lane, an adult drake SMEW on Willen Lake, a county record flock of 8 GREATER SCAUPS at Caldecotte South Lake, up to 3 MERLINS, some excellent counts of GREY PARTRIDGE in the snow and both juvenile ICELAND and GLAUCOUS GULLS at Calvert Sailing Lake. The GREAT WHITE EGRET remains present too in the Chess Valley.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Cold Weather Movements

Steve Rodwell had 2 GREATER SCAUP and 5 GOOSANDER at Caldecotte Lakes today, whilst 3 drake PINTAIL remain at Spade Oak (3rd day) and the juvenile female GREATER SCAUP on the Roach Pit. Quite a few WOODCOCK being seen at a number of sites.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Everywhere is frozen


The cold snap continues with temperatures overnight and for most of the morning at minus 4 degrees C. Although there was no precipitation during the day, most of the places I visited were covered in ice, even on the vegetation and trees. It did warm up slightly during the afternoon, with the odd location at 2.5 degrees C.

Just Target Birding today, mostly successful.........

At a very iced-over FULMER LAKE (SOUTH BUCKS), all of the waterbirds were crammed into one little area, including 3 first-year Mute Swans, 33 Atlantic Canada Geese, 16 Mallard, 27 Wigeon, 18 Teal and 24 Coot. In the surrounding woodland, Common Kestrel (male), Redwing, Great Spotted Woodpecker and BULLFINCH (pair) were noted.

STOKE COMMON (SOUTH BUCKS) was equally frozen and despite a thorough search, I could not locate the pair of Common Stonechats seen on 12 January. Two COMMON SNIPES were unexpected, whilst male Common Kestrel, 8 Carrion Crows, Great Spotted Woodpecker, 6 Fieldfares, 5 Chaffinches, 3 Goldcrest, Coal Tit and 2 Meadow Pipits were recorded.

Success came at BLACK PARK COUNTRY PARK (SOUTH BUCKS), when a flock of 13 'chipping' COMMON CROSSBILLS flew over as I approached the Five Point Crossroads - also Jay, 3 Nuthatches, Coal Tit, 8 Long-tailed Tits, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Common Blackbird, Song Thrush, 2 Goldcrests and 9 Grey Squirrels.

Had a quick look at the AMERICAN BUFF-BELLIED PIPITS at KINGSMEAD QUARRY, HORTON (BERKSHIRE), the two birds commuting between the waste ground here at TQ 005 758 and Queen Mother Reservoir immediately north. View only from the gate at TQ 004 758, where you can park alongside. This is on the B376 just before the traffic lights and at the entrance to the RMC Aggregates land. A few SISKIN were in the tall Alders opposite the gate.

It was then time to head eastwards towards HERTFORDSHIRE, where I wanted to see a certain roosting gull. On route, just over 120 European Golden Plovers were west of the A10 east of THEOBALDS PARK in the large field at TL 350 006 (the field immediately to the south of Lieutenant Ellis Way).

I arrived at AMWELL NATURE RESERVE WATCHPOINT (HERTS) at 1530, where local birder Bill Last and St Albans birder Wendy Hatton were already in position. Bill had already picked out the first-winter CASPIAN GULL standing on the ice amongst the throng - a bird superbly picked out and identified (photographed) by Barry Reed on Monday, just as he came back from Brazil. It had been present from at least 1500 hours and was a very eye-catching bird. In fact, it was a classic first-winter. Its most striking features were its clean white head, long sloping (snout-like) forehead and long legs, these allowing it to be picked out with relative ease. On closer inspection, it had a thick, straight, all-dark bill, dark eyes and pale pink leg colour, the tibia length being the critical feature (markedly longer than the surrounding larids). Diagnostically, the lower scapulars had already advanced to a nice pale grey colour, with the upper scapulars being very dark chocolate-brown and very contrasting with the rest of the uopperwing coverts. The tertials too were a dark brown, with a broad white fringe at the tip. The uppertail was largely black, whilst the underparts were essentially white but heavily blotched brown in patches. It was a large bird, very long-winged with characteristic gleaming white underwings.

Brendan Glynne and Phil Ball joined us shortly later, along with finder Barry Reed, the bird remaining present when I left at about 1620 hours.

There was a fair-sized roost of large gulls on Great Hardmead Lake this evening, including a single first-winter YELLOW-LEGGED GULL (also striking, very white-headed and a noticeable bird), 27 Great Black-backed Gulls, 81+ Lesser Black-backed Gulls (including an adult bearing a red ring inscribed in black 'OR31'), 239 Herring Gulls (including good numbers of Argentatus still) and at least 96 Common Gulls.

[Bill Last had earlier seen both BITTERNS and the first-winter drake GREATER SCAUP]

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Overwintering BLACKCAPS and a RUFF just out of county


Seriously cold overnight, with temperatures in the Chilterns plunging to as low as minus 8 degrees C. Many of the smaller waterbodies froze over during the night and any lying snow survived the day. For a while, the area was covered in freezing mist, the sort of localised fogging that resulted in a twin-engined helicopter colliding with a 700' crane in Central London at 0800 hours...

A quick browse of the Bucks Bird Club bird news highlights an increasing number of overwintering BLACKCAPS in our region, presumably Blackcaps of German origin. And with this species in mind, I was overjoyed to be invited into a Chesham bungalow this morning to see one such individual

At Richard Ness' well-stocked garden in Crabbe Crescent, CHESHAM, I enjoyed excellent views of the male BLACKCAP as it repeatedly visited the feeding station to take food. A cracking adult male Pied Wagtail and Winter Wren were also enticed to within inches of the window by the attraction of mealworms, whilst a Jay stole 11 peanuts in one stash and other visitors in the hour that I was there included 10 Chaffinches, 4 Common Blackbirds, Collared Dove, 21 Starlings and 4 Goldfinches.

Down at BEACONSFIELD SERVICES early afternoon, no sign of the Waxwings (although Graham did see them later) - just 2 Fieldfares in the trees.

And then a return visit to the ROUNDWOOD DITCH, ETON WICK (on the Bucks/Berks border), where the SIBERIAN CHIFFCHAFF was showing well today, frequenting the ivy and riverine vegetation at the back of the houses. The same stretch also held 7 additional COMMON CHIFFCHAFFS, including one with characters of the SCANDINAVIAN form abietinus.

Some beautifully performing CETTI'S WARBLERS as usual, as well as an awful lot of activity around the warm water in the ditch, including 4 Robins, 2 Meadow Pipits, 17 Pied Wagtails, 13 Reed Buntings and 4 Grey Wagtails.

In the Berkshire section, the flood to the east of the ditch yielded 16 Common Snipe, 4 DUNLIN and a single RUFF, along with 7 Shoveler and 32 Gadwall.

SPADE OAK PIT at LITTLE MARLOW (SOUTH BUCKS) had seen its water level drop dramatically since my last visit with the spit appearing once more. Feeding there out in the open were 16 COMMON SNIPE. However, this number paled into insignificance when I reached the Thames Floodmeadows, with a further 49 probing the fringes - a whopping 65 in total - my highest number in the county in a very long time. The male COMMON SHELDUCK had also relocated to the meadows.

Unlike previous January visits, COMMON KINGFISHER proved easy, with one flying by almost the minute I looked over the pit. A Collybita COMMON CHIFFCHAFF was also moving in and out of the pitside vegetation, with 30 Redwing and a single Song Thrush in the 'wood' and a Grey Wagtail in flight. The numbers of Northern Shoveler had increased to 27, whilst Gadwall were holding up at 103.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

WAXWING flock back at Beaconsfield


Yesterday's snow was still lying this morning, although more of it melted during the day as temperatures rose to just above freezing. It was a bright, clear day but extremely cold and by 1800 hours, temperatures in Little Chalfont had already fallen to minus 5 degrees C. Norfolk had been hardest hit by this latest slice of Arctic weather, with up to 6 inches of snow laying....

At CHENIES BOTTOM BRIDGE (BUCKS), the GREAT WHITE EGRET was performing extremely well, fishing in the Chess just 50 yards downstream.

I then met up with Graham Smith and spent a very cold 45 minutes studying and counting the GULLS at HEDGERLEY LANDFILL, BEACONSFIELD (SOUTH BUCKS). There were impressive numbers present, ducking and diving the various council vehicles attempting to flatten out the disposed refuse - a bare minimum of 5,300 birds...

Most impressive were the GREAT BLACK-BACKED GULL numbers - a diminishing species - 102 being my highest count, the vast majority full adults. Next off, Herring Gulls were in abundance, with at least 2,200 present, including no less than 178 Northern Argentatus on one sweep. Lesser Black-backed Gulls were noticeable by their absence - perhaps just 38 in all - with just 1 adult Common Gull (this species just does not like working tips) and the rest (2,900 or more) being Black-headed Gulls. There was one Caspian/Yellow-legged Gull present (an adult-type, seen only in flight) and an odd-looking Herring Gull hybrid that was very pale and had pale biscuit-brown/creamy upperwings which was strikingly white-winged gull-like as it flew around.

Otherwise, 42 Red Kites, 213 Common Starlings, 32 Pied Wagtails, a Meadow Pipit and 2 Song Thrushes.

As is normally the case just lately, as soon as the Council guy saw us 'scoping across, he unleashed his hybrid Saker on the flock and almost immediately, every gull in the vicinity headed off. It was time to move on.

At nearby BEACONSFIELD SERVICES, 29 BOHEMIAN WAXWINGS were back in the adjacent trees, flying back and forth to drink on the roof of the Shell Service Station.

To the east of HILLMOTT'S END WOOD and south of HEDGERLEY LANE, the fields were full of Red-legged Partridges - 68 at least - presumably part of a local release by gamekeepers.

After a short meeting, I then spent the rest of the afternoon at MARSWORTH RESERVOIR, TRING (HERTS), in the great company of Richard Woodhead and Richard Ness. I had been spurned on to visit by Rob Andrews, after his fabulous CORN BUNTING counts of last night. I was also very surprised to see all of the reed cutting that had been performed since my last visit, one of two EURASIAN BITTERNS this evening immediately utilising the cut-channel closest to the causeway to feed briefly. WATER RAILS numbered at least 4, whilst the BARN OWL performed as usual but at the later time of 1643 hours; a Green Woodpecker was noted too.

However, it was the CORN BUNTINGS I had come to see, and following on from RDA's magnificent 204, that same tree on the far side of the reservoir eventually harboured an astonishing 229 birds this evening - presumably the result of this change in weather. This is by far my highest count in a long time.

Monday, 14 January 2013

Waterbirds in Bucks in the first half of January

Up until today, Buckinghamshire had benefitted from relatively mild conditions and with waterfowl numbers perhaps at average numbers. In the first 14 days, coverage of key sites was 83%, but with numbers considerably up from those in December.

A total of 10,924 birds was counted, including 102 Great Crested Grebes, 37 Dabchicks, 619 Mute Swans, 569 Greylag Geese, 113 Egyptian Geese, 48 Mandarin Ducks, 2,604 Mallards (although this figure includes those at Littleworth Common), 338 Gadwall, 1,684 Tufted Duck, 53 Common Goldeneye, 1,443 Coot, 200 Moorhen, 26 Little Egret and 10 Common Kingfisher; on the debit side, just 247 Teal and 199 Northern Pochard counted.

In terms of individual locations, Willen Lake South Basin came out top with a whopping 952 birds, followed by Gayhurst Motorway Pit with 849, Spade Oak Pit with 707, Linford Nature Reserve with 607, Foxcote Reservoir with 447 and College Lake BBOWT with 442.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Kevin Duncan, Robert Norris, Bruce Goldsmith, Alan Stevens and his wife and Simon Pettit for their help with counts

I still have a number of sites that require regular counting (twice a month from September to April) including a few notable sites such as Furzton Lake, Bletchley Blue Lagoon, the Stony Stratford Pits and Hillesden Pools. Please email me on if you would like to take part

The snow finally arrived but the Whoopers did a bunk overnight


Well for days they have been predicting SNOW and this morning it finally arrived. With temperatures overnight below freezing, snow that began falling in the early hours had settled to a thin covering by the time I got up at 0600 hours and side roads were decidedly dodgy. At first, it was a mixture of sleet and snow, but by mid-morning, and with temperatures recovering a little, it fell quite heavily, so much so that by dusk, there was a widespread covering of up to two inches in the Chilterns Region.

I had got up early so that I could be in the hide at Foxcote before daylight but what a waste of time and effort that turned out to be. I did not know that Whooper Swans moved during the cover of darkness........


The access road between Maids Moreton and Leckhampstead was typically treacherous, with snow laying several millimetres thick. I was in the hide before daylight but there was no sight nor sound of last night's flock of 9 adult Whooper Swans, a party of the same size apparently at Drayton Bassett (Staffordshire) early on (per Graham Smith). In fact, there was not a great deal to shout home about, just a nice adult drake GOOSANDER....

Just 3 Great Crested Grebes, 21 Mallard, 22 Teal, 33 Wigeon, 8 Gadwall, 11 Pochard, 16 Tufted Duck, 8 COMMON GOLDENEYE (2 drakes) and 16 Coot counted, with a pair of BULLFINCH by the gate and 5 Common Blackbirds in the hedgerow NNE of the reservoir.


The Whooper Swans were not at Hyde Lane either, although the 20 Mute Swans (including 4 first-winters) were still in the cereal field to the south of the access track. Thirteen more Mute Swans were on the fishing pit, along with 1 Great Crested Grebe, 1 Cormorant, 7 Mallard, 7 Gadwall, 29 Wigeon, 52 Tufted Duck and 32 Coot. Four COMMON GOLDENEYE (1 drake) were noteworthy.

The cereal crop (covered in snow) also yielded a flock of 36 Eurasian Skylarks, 4 Meadow Pipits and just 2 Pied Wagtails, as well as 5 Rabbits.

Being back in the North of the county, I decided to finish off two of the main counts I had missed out on during my previous visit....

At CALDECOTTE NORTH, the logcall included 3 Cormorants, 1 Grey Heron, 11 Mute Swans, 4 Greylag Geese, 8 Mallard, 4 Gadwall, 6 Tufted Duck, 8 Great Crested Grebes, 10 Coot and 6 Moorhens, whilst across the dual carriageway on CALDECOTTE SOUTH, a single Little Grebe, a further 11 Mute Swans (including the family party of 4 juveniles), 29 Atlantic Canada Geese, 9 Greylag Geese, 22 Cormorants, 16 Mallard, 4 Gadwall, 5 Shoveler, 37 Tufted Duck, 24 Northern Pochard, 28 Coot, 6 Moorhen but NO Goosander or Goldeneye.

WILLEN LAKE SOUTH BASIN came up with the goods and had an impressive number and variety of waterbirds to see and count - most noteworthy being the 37 COMMON GOLDENEYE. The largest county congregation of Mute Swans too - 113 in total - along with 60 Atlantic Canada Geese, 29 Greylag Geese, 28 Mallard, 24 Gadwall, 2 Shoveler, 121 Wigeon, 220 Tufted Duck, 295 Coot, 9 Moorhen, just 5 Great Crested Grebe, 9 Cormorants and 35 Lapwing.

On the NORTH BASIN, an additional 6 Great Crested Grebes, 4 Little Grebes, 7 Mute Swans, 7 Teal, 8 Gadwall, 2 Shoveler, 35 Wigeon, 36 Tufted Duck, 6 Pochard and 71 Coot, with 6 COMMON SNIPE and 51 Lapwings showing well just in front of the hide.

The last of my counts was at TONGWELL LAKE (NORTH BUCKS) (SP 868 423) where an impressive 59 Gadwall were in residence; also 3 young Mute Swans, 16 Atlantic Canada Geese, 2 Greylag Geese, 2 Teal, 2 Shoveler, 26 Tufted Duck, a female Pochard, 22 Coot and a single Great Crested Grebe.

It was now time to concentrate on BEDFORDSHIRE, the first time I had visited the county this year........

In BROGBOROUGH VILLAGE, I saw Collared Dove and Carrion Crow, before joining up with Paul Wright at the Watchpoint at BROGBOROUGH LAKE. Paul had just watched 15 DARK-BELLIED BRENT GEESE fly in and they were still present as I pulled up in the heavy snow, swimming in the centre of the lake. They were all adult birds and had presumably been displaced by the onset of this cold snap, all remaining until at least 1112 hours, when Paul, Tony P and I departed the site (Jim Gurney, Lol & Bob and Chris Dreary also connecting).

As Steve Blain had stated yesterday, most of the huge number of Aythya ducks I had counted in November 2012 had moved on, and there was not a great deal in the way of other birds present. Highlights included the SLAVONIAN GREBE (in the NE corner), 2 GREATER SCAUPS, an adult drake and a first-winter drake (with Tufted Ducks close to the southern shore) and 27 Common Goldeneyes, with Cormorant, Great Crested Grebe, Coot, Mute Swan, Mallard, Northern Pochard (just 2), Common Magpie and 2 Greenfinch padding out the list.

The fields and hedgerows around SHEEPTICK END supported 30 Fieldfare whilst LIDLINGTON VILLAGE added Common Starling, Jackdaw, Robin, Pied Wagtail, 6 Common Blackbirds and a Song Thrush.

I was hoping for Waxwing at MARSTON VALE COUNTRY PARK but there were none to be seen - just several more Fieldfares, 5 beautiful BULLFINCHES, Green Woodpecker, Jay, Goldfinch, Woodpigeon, Dunnock, Great Tit and Blue Tit. The PILLINGE PIT had very few wildfowl other than Tufted Duck, Gadwall and Teal, but did have Grey Heron, Moorhen and large numbers of day-roosting gulls, including well over 400 Common Gulls (and 18 Lesser Black-backeds and 500+ Black-headeds).

As I entered the QUEST PIT, the snow got heavier and heavier and increasingly settled, and despite doing a full suite of the site, none of the 3 redhead Smew was found. Plenty of Pochard (42), Wigeon, Teal and Mallard, and 18 Meadow Pipits in the long grass.

I then spent an absolute age searching CHIMNEY CORNER SOUTH and NORTH PITS (at TL 035 445 and TL 037 453 respectively) for the juvenile GREAT NORTHERN DIVER that Tony P had seen only a short while earlier and had been discovered during the Great Duck Hunt yesterday. In fact, I was just about to give up when Chris Dreary espied it briefly as it dived underwater. It was in the centre section of the South Pit and lingering in the channel between the southernmost island and the reed-fringed edge of the next island to the north. It was incredibly elusive and once in diving mode, soon disappeared from view. Mute Swans numbered 73 on the Pit, seemingly attracted to feed.

By now, the snow was falling so thick and fast that I decided to abort and headed back home

Sunday, 13 January 2013


Steve Rodwell discovered a juvenile ICELAND GULL at Hedgerley Landfill today, whilst up to 3 different CASPIAN GULLS and 2 MEDITERRANEAN GULLS were seen at Spade Oak Pit, Little Marlow.

In the North of the county, Jeremy Rowley espied a flock of 9 adult WHOOPER SWANS at Foxcote Reservoir from 1600 hours until dusk, the same party which had earlier touched down briefly at Harrold Country Park in North Bedfordshire (Richard Bashford)

Saturday, 12 January 2013

HERTFORDSHIRE BIRDING but the SMEW relocates to College Lake


The day started off bright, sunny and calm but later clouded over, whilst temperatures struggled to get higher than just 3 degrees C. There was no rain to speak of.

I had reserved today for my first real outing into HERTFORDSHIRE, with a number of target birds on the menu. Rather remarkably, the last three years in the county have resulted in me seeing exactly 171 species. I managed all of my targets bar Tree Sparrow.....

At LYNSTER'S FARM, WEST HYDE first thing, the usual field held 2 EGYPTIAN GEESE, 60 Woodpigeons, 18 Jackdaws, 8 Common Magpies, Carrion Crow, Great Spotted Woodpecker and 1 Redwing

I then went up to ASH GROVE in HAREFIELD where last year I saw 4 Tree Sparrows in gardens. All change this time I am afraid with no feeders, tall fences and no birds. Plenty of suitable stubble fields though with Chaffinch, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Ring-necked Parakeet, Common Starling and a beautiful pair of BULLFINCHES all seen.

Being such a calm and glorious morning, I then decided to visit BROADWATER SAILING CLUB, where just to the North is the RIVER COLNE on the Herts/Middlesex border. This is the only real wintering place in the county for wintering CHIFFCHAFFS and this morning the overhanging branches were alive with them. In a section of river no more than 100 yards long, there must have been at least 17 birds, the majority fairly standard-looking Collybita and a number of darker, greener, longer-winged abietinus candidates. Nothing present suggested tristis. However, one particularly bright Phyllosc did take my eye, having noticeably bright feet, straw-brown coloured legs, yellow breast, rich yellow supercilium, yellow about the face, pale bill and seemingly long primaries - it had to be a wintering WILLOW WARBLER. There was another pale legged bird present but this bird was clearly a Chiffchaff.

The same stretch of COLNE also held 2 Robins, Dunnock, GREY WAGTAIL, Pied Wagtail, 18 Redwings, 1 Great Crested Grebe and a cracking adult drake GOOSANDER.

TROY MILL GP adjacent was brimming with waterbirds and the most inhabited in winter I had ever seen it. COOT were the real story and no less than 527 of them were trawling the pit for weed. Also counted were 22 Mute Swans, 43 Gadwall, a pair of Wigeon, 3 Pochards, 56 Tufted Ducks, 2 Grey Herons and 4 Great Crested Grebes.

COLLEGE LAKE BBOWT (BUCKS) was my next destination where Tringford's redhead SMEW had relocated for the day, showing very well on the main marsh in front of the first hide. The 5 RED-CRESTED POCHARDS were still present in the far NW corner of the Deep Pit, whilst 16 Mute Swans, 138 Wigeon, 22 Gadwall, 58 Tufted Duck, 19 Pochard, 43 Coot, 2 Moorhen, 28 Lapwing and 1 COMMON SNIPE completed the counts.

Tree Sparrow was once again on the menu in the Tyttenhanger/Lemsford areas but despite traipsing round across massive hectares of fields at CROMER HYDE GAME STRIPS and other previous haunts, I totally drew a blank; just 2 birds seemingly reported in the county this year.

In fact the game strips were very poor producing lean returns, just 35 Cjhaffinches in total, no Yellowhammers, 6 Reed Buntings, 25 Common Pheasants, Magpies, Coal Tit, 14 Fieldfare, a male Linnet, Song Thrush and a Common Buzzard.

I spent the rest of the afternoon at AMWELL NR, partly in the company of Jay Ward. Leaving a flock of 55 Goldfinches in Alders by the entrance, I soon located the female NORTHERN PINTAIL which had been found earlier. It was at the south end of the Great Hardmead lake, consorting with Gadwalls by the wooded island. That pit also held 5 Mute Swans, 44 Gadwall, 9 Shoveler, 40 Wigeon, 45 Tufted Duck, 100+ Coot and a large number of roosting gulls, including 128 Lesser Black-backs, 12 Great Black-backs, 72 Herring and 54 Common.

Tumbling Bay Lake to the north of the lock gates held the continuing first-winter drake GREATER SCAUP, the redhead SMEW, a single female Common Goldeneye, 16 Pochard, 44 Tufted Duck, 3 Great Crested Grebes and 2 Little Grebes.

Towards dusk and watching from the Viewpoint, the EURASIAN BITTERN flew to its usual roosting spot at 1620 hours, whilst 2 Little Egrets came in and a Red Fox prowled about in the open

Thursday, 10 January 2013



A sharp decline in temperature today, the afternoon high never increasing to above 3 degrees C - Winter has returned. It was another dry day though, with no wind.

I had planned to do more duck counting today but an early call from close friend Chris Holt, had me returning to Beaconsfield where he wanted to see FIRECREST...


Chris was keen to see FIRECREST so I took him (and another Somerset birder who tagged along) to the most productive area - the extensive cluster of Holly bushes that eventually terminate in a 'tunnel' at the west end. We did cheat though and play the tape and in no time at all, all 4 beautiful, charming tiny sprites surrounded us, piping mournfully back to the MP3 player as it ran. As a consequence, the views were very good and at very close range - and for ten minutes or more, the tiny flock was engaged in aggressive behaviour, one of the males frequently raising its red crown. Years ago, Firecrest was believed to be a summer visitor to our part of the UK but such recent sightings have proved that most likely the majority of our breeders are resident rather than migrant birds. The population goes from strength to strength too - and analysing results from Warren, Steve Rodwell and I combined, it looks as though Buckinghamshire has as many as 74 singing males - and that's before I have surveyed a lot more suitable tetrads.

Other than the Firecrests, much the same species as on my other visits this week - Common Treecreeper, 8 Goldcrests, Coal Tit, Jay, 'singing' Stock Doves and displaying Red Kites.


Only 7 BOHEMIAN WAXWINGS remained - all lazing around in the trees. Hardly surprising, as the remaining berries all looked shrivelled up and unattractive.

At HICKNAHAM FARM, LITTLEWORTH COMMON (SOUTH BUCKS) (SU 942 876), the largest flock of Mallard you will ever see outside of Russia - a bare minimum 1,106 birds, and although free-flying, presumably unnaturally farmed and released.

LAKE END ROAD (JUBILEE RIVER) was equally devoid of Waxwings - just WATER RAIL and Mistle Thrush of interest.

Then, just as I was about to show Chris the Siberian Chiffchaff, I got word that the BUFF-BELLIED PIPITS had been relocated and I had to rush off and jog some 400 yards back to the car.


Despite getting there within ten minutes, I was staggered to see so many Berkshire birders already on site - Graham Jepson, Roger Stansfield and Peter Hutchins amongst them. It took about 11 minutes to run the three-quarter mile distance to the SW bank from the Yacht club car park but thankfully the quarry was still on view. Not just one but 2 BUFF-BELLIED PIPITS showing on the reservoir bank at virtually point-blank range. It was easy to pick out the original bird (initially found and identified by Mike McKee on 12 December 2012) but it was the second that really took my eye. Everything about it was different - it was far more buff on the underparts and had Scandinavian Rock Pipit-like dark-straw/orange-brown leg colour. It also had a much more obvious and flaring eye-stripe (back and behind the eye) and a very brightly (orange-pink) extensively coloured bill. The two birds were like chalk-and-cheese. Knowing that MM had found and photographed both birds, I 'phoned him immediately to talk features, and after consulting the literature, particularly Pipits & Wagtails, it just had to be 'individual variation'. I had been somewhat overly concerned that we were overlooking a japonicus, Siberian Buff-bellied Pipit and a further species in its own right (and a species I see most years in Israel). Separating the two is very difficult, particularly as features overlap, but the fact that these birds were equally as pale olive-grey on the upperparts and the underparts were basally white rather than buff, I had to agree that they must be rubescens (AMERICAN BUFF-BELLIED PIPIT).

Reviewing the photographs later in the comfort of my study, rubescens was the most likely identification of the second bird, despite the fact that it clearly had pale, rather than jet-black, legs. Mike had also managed to get both birds on call (and I hoped to do more with these later). In a nutshell, rubescens can be identified by its rather diffuse, buffish-white greater and median covert bars, paler, olive-grey upperparts, reasonably extensive white on the innermost outer tail feather (see Tim Daccus' photograph in Birding World 25: 491), basally buffish-white underparts and less striking and shorter streaking on underparts.

Scandinavian Rock (littoralis) and Water Pipit could be safely ruled out on a number of characters - contrastingly dark tertials, a complete pale eye-ring, unmarked pale lores, a fairly prominent moustachial stripe, a slenderer, more extensively-coloured and more Meadow Pipit in structure bill shape, extensive gleaming white outer-tail feathers, distinct rear-supercilium, concolorous rump colour, uniformly-coloured upperparts and generally more Meadow Pipit-like appearance.

American Buff-bellied Pipit is increasingly being identified in the UK and Ireland, these two now forwarding the audit to no less than 56 birds. However, just one has previously been identified at an inland reservoir - that at Farmoor Reservoirs (Oxfordshire) from 8-10 October 2007 (photograph in British Birds 100: 555, plate 281).. The species breeds in West Greenland, North and NW Canada and in Alaska and winters in western and southern USA, Mexico and in Central South America.

Both birds were still showing very well on the reservoir bank when I departed mid-afternoon, whilst other species noted included the long-staying juvenile LONG-TAILED DUCK (consorting with Tufted Ducks on the North Shore), a SLAVONIAN GREBE (along the west shore), a female Common Goldeneye, Grey Wagtail and 4 Meadow Pipits.

At STAINES RESERVOIRS (SURREY), I was really pleased to see a single drake RED PLANET, along with a drake GREATER SCAUP and a single BLACK-NECKED GREBE. The South Basin held 2 Mute Swans, 2 Egyptian Geese, 12 Gadwall, 26 Common Goldeneye and a GREEN SANDPIPER whilst the North supported 3 Little Grebes, a Common Shelduck, 36 Wigeon, 12 Shoveler and a further 18 Common Goldeneye; in total, 327 Tufted Ducks were counted.

THORNEY COUNTRY PARK (SOUTH BUCKS) at SU 050 790 held 6 Great Crested Grebes, 6 Cormorants, 5 Mute Swans (including a first-year), 7 Mallard, 10 Gadwall, 53 Tufted Duck, 3 Northern Pochard and 51 Coot, with Ring-necked Parakeet, SISKIN and 22 Chaffinches noted in the woodland scrub north of the river.

Neighbouring OLD SLADE GP (SOUTH BUCKS) (at SU 040 770) added 17 Gadwall, 48 Tufted Duck, 10 Northern Pochard, a single drake Wigeon and 8 Coot and a pair of Common Buzzard overhead.

The lake at BLACK PARK COUNTRY PARK (SOUTH BUCKS) (TQ 006 831) harboured 2 Atlantic Canada Geese, 52 Mallard, 25 MANDARIN DUCKS (16 drakes), 5 Tufted Duck, 6 Pochard, 1 Great Crested Grebe, 30 Coot and 6 Moorhen, with both Common Treecreeper and Green Woodpecker in the wood.

The LEA QUARRY PIT along Denham Court Drive (in Denham at TQ 048 862) housed 2 Mallard, a drake Gadwall, 28 Tufted Duck and 16 Coot, whilst the DENHAM GOLF COURSE LAKE just to the North (at TQ 048 865) still held 2 Gadwall, 7 Tufted Duck and 4 Coot. At DENHAM PLACE POND (TQ 039 871), just 9 Mallard, 1 Coot and 6 Moorhen remaining.

A very productive day

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

KINGFISHER secured but JACK SNIPE - forget it


After a very damp start, it then turned out very pleasant with clear blue skies prevailing. Although it was mild to start with, by dusk it was almost freezing

As Paul Keene wanted to photograph the GWE, I wandered down to the CHESS VALLEY to try and locate it. As is often usual in the mornings, it was standing on the pillars of Neptune's Falls, down below Latimer Conference Centre, before quickly relocating to Chenies Bottom. It then wandered about the tall weedy field west of the bridge for the next two hours or more - Martin Parr also turning up in the hope of photographing it.

For me, the highlight was finally connecting with COMMON KINGFISHER - one showing well on the Chess by Mill Farm. A Grey Wagtail was also about, as well as the resident LITTLE OWLS.

A male Sparrowhawk flew across the Chesham Road at LITTLE HAY (HERTS) whilst yet another dead BADGER was besides the westbound A41 near WEST LEITH FARM at SP 912 107.

I was then off in hot pursuit of Jack Snipe but despite trying several reliable previous haunts for this species, I completely drew a blank...

At BROUGHTON TROUT POOLS (BUCKS), east of Aylesbury (at SP 845 143), little to be seen other than 35 Atlantic Canada Geese, 8 Mallard and 2 Moorhens - and a Yellowhammer thrown in for good luck. At the neighbouring BEAR BROOK FLOOD STORAGE LAKES (at SP 842 139), not much different, with 4 adult Mute Swans, 4 Mallard, 2 Coot, 6 Moorhen and a Grey Heron. Three Redwings and a pair of BULLFINCH added some variety.

WESTON TURVILLE RESERVOIR was deadly with just 1 Great Crested Grebe present, whilst RAF HALTON added 35 ground-feeding Redwing.

I thought my luck was in with Golden Plover when I found a large flock of plovers in the large ploughed field just east of ASTON CLINTON (BUCKS) at SP 895 123 but all I could see were 462 Lapwings - an impressive wintering flock though.

I then found myself once again at MARSWORTH RESERVOIR, in the company of Mic & Jan Wells, Mike Campbell, Samuel Perfect and several others. For the second night running, a complete no-show by Bitterns. Getting there much earlier tonight gave me a better opportunity to accurately assess the CORN BUNTING population and by 1630 hours, exactly 140 had dropped into the reedbed to roost. The first 22 arrived at 1550, with the cumulative totals adding up thus: 22-37-41-42-60-97-102-140. Just 1 Common Starling was seen, with 5 roosting Reed Buntings, Grey Wagtail, 2 Coot, 2 Mute Swans, 2 Shovelers and 5 Great Crested Grebes recorded. Some 4 WATER RAIL squealed from the reedbed, whilst a flock of 52 Lapwing flew overhead. The BARN OWL performed from 1625 hours onwards, quartering back and forth over the rough field east of the sewage works.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

More Target Birding


Even milder today, with temperatures reaching a heady 10 degrees C. In fact, very pleasant to be out, with virtually no wind - just very dull and cloudy.

More Target Birding today, treading over much of the same ground as recent days......


After numerous attempts already this year, I was pleasantly surprised to find both LITTLE OWLS on view this morning, peering out from the gnarled branches of the Pollarded Willows west of Chenies Bottom bridge

My heart skipped a beat too when I thought one of my Goshawks had returned. It was a very large accipiter and seemingly displaying but when I got the 'scope on to it, all I could make it into was a very large female Eurasian Sparrowhawk. Quite why she was displaying I don't know but as more and more blue sky became apparent, several Common Buzzards took to the air and thermalled.

The resident pair of Mute Swans were by the bridge, whilst the male of the Crestyl pair flew downriver towards Great Water.

Both COMMON RAVENS were highly active again, flying backwards and forwards with full crops of what appeared to be grass and other vegetation, seemingly lining and repairing the nest of 2011. Interestingly, they are no longer vocal and follow each other silently between the two plantations.

A male Common Kestrel was also seen, plus Wren and a 'brand new' MARSH TIT in Limeshill Wood at TQ 022 992.

The GREAT WHITE EGRET was showing very well on the Chess to the east of Frogmore Meadows Orchid Reserve at TQ 023 988, with at least 7 Little Egrets in the same area too. The wintering GREEN SANDPIPER was also in this vicinity, as well as 2 Common Buzzards, a Song Thrush and a Green Woodpecker.

At Crestyl Cress Beds, 9 Moorhens were present, along with a Little Egret and Grey Wagtail.

Steve Carter and Paul Lewis had been keen to photograph the Great White so via JT I contacted them but typically, no sooner had I rang than the bird took flight and went all the way back down to Church Covert, where Jeff Bailey and I were later to get excellent views as it stood in a roadside stream. Thankfully, SC and PL connected.

At CHESHAM FISHING LAKES, SISKIN was the target and after a full circuit of both lakes, I eventually found 6 birds feeding high in the Alders at the extreme east end of the larger lake. The GREAT CRESTED GREBE was back again, with Grey Heron, 14 Tufted Duck, 2 Mute Swans, a drake Pochard and 18 Coot also seen (8 of the latter on the small lake). A Little Egret was feeding in a ditch at the far side of the small lake, whilst a Sparrowhawk circled overhead, a Green Woodpecker fed on the grass and 6 Goldcrests moved through in one flock.

It was then back to HOGBACK WOOD in BEACONSFIELD (SU 928 913). This time I had better luck but I did have to broaden my horizons somewhat. Not just 1 FIRECREST was found but FOUR - all noisily moving about together in the Holly - the somewhat piercing contact call giving their location away. They afforded some nice views, often dropping down in the canopy to almost head height - what fabulous little sprites these birds are - absolutely gorgeous.

From the end of Woodside Road, enter the wood. Turn immediately right up the muddy slope and follow the footpath for just under 100 yards to where it starts to drop down again and the track approaches the rear gardens of the houses. A track then leads away to the left into the woodland - it is an obvious track - and it leads you through some very extensive and thick tracts of Holly scrub. Continue 80 yards or so to where the fallen tree has almost blocked the track and then on to just before the Holly tract finishes - this is the area that the noisy Firecrests were frequenting (all Firecrests with no Goldcrests amongst them). Goldcrests on the other hand were easily located, with 4 in the tall conifers as you immediately enter the wood and 5 or so further along in the scrub that backs on to the gardens. A male Song Thrush was in full song and a male Stock Dove was repeatedly 'cooing' from a tall Beech; Jay being noted also.

I then returned to SPRINGFIELD FARM QUARRY but this time did not have any luck. Despite wandering far and wide across suitable terrain, no sign of the male Common Stonechat. The GREEN SANDPIPER was in the same place again and Common Blackbird, Song Thrush, Meadow Pipit (5) and Red Kite (40) were noted.

Common Kingfisher was next on my menu of requirements but despite a 2-hour vigil at Buckinghamshire's premier site for the species, I dipped again - Dave Horton literally gripping me off with one less than 5 minutes after I departed !

Anyway, it was not all bad news - SPADE OAK PIT, LITTLE MARLOW (SOUTH BUCKS) producing some noteworthy avian highlights. On the wildfowl theme, the drake COMMON SHELDUCK was still present and GADWALL numbered an exceptional 108 - my highest total ever for this location. There were also 7 Mute Swans present, of which two adults were respectively WHITE ringed and numbered 'V2S and V2T' . Also 9 Greylag Geese, Egyptian Goose pair (the male being particularly vocal), 8 Mallard, 58 Eurasian Wigeon, 10 Shoveler, 158 Tufted Duck and 24 Pochard. All 21 Great Crested Grebes were accounted for, with 8 Grey Herons (5 of which were already attending island nests), 44 Sinensis Cormorants, 799 click-counted Lapwings and a WATER RAIL also encountered.

As the afternoon progressed, the gull roost steadily built up, with 65 Herring Gulls attending (mostly juvenile birds and only just 3 adult Argentatus), 3 adult Great Black-backed Gulls and 17 Lesser Black-backed Gulls. The large first-winter CASPIAN GULL flew in at 1529 hours but stayed just ten minutes, being spooked just at the moment Dave Horton looked at it in my 'scope.

Very closeby, at WILTON FARM (SU 875 883), a flock of 140 Greenfinches was gathering to roost in the Leylandii.

I finished the day at MARSWORTH RESERVOIR, TRING (HERTS), where I joined Mic & Jan Wells and Mike Campbell on the causeway. Despite standing there and watching until pitch dark, not a single Bittern roosted, and neither did the Barn Owl show up. In fact it was dire - the only birds of note being a pair of LITTLE GREBE. A small Bat, possibly a Pipistrelle, was also flying around.

Monday, 7 January 2013

No Stonechat, no Firecrest - but Treecreeper


Another dreary grey day with little brightness but still fairly mild for the time of year.

A bit of Targeted Birding today with Stonechat, Firecrest, Hawfinch, Great Grey Shrike and various Owls on the menu. Partly successful, particularly in East Herts

Better news was the return of 15 House Sparrows in the garden (LITTLE CHALFONT), all feeding together on one birdtable shortly after dawn

Also making a reappearance were the 4 Red-legged Partridges on GORE HILL, AMERSHAM (BUCKS) - after disappearing since the New Year

At BEACONSFIELD SERVICES (BUCKS) early morning, the BOHEMIAN WAXWING flock had increased by 4 to 32 birds - all showing well perched high in the trees overlooking the service area

The roads around CASTLEMAN'S FARM, WOOBURN COMMON (BUCKS) were still under deep water and impassable, but around the farm were 33 House Sparrows and a single Moorhen; just 9 Egyptian Geese were in the 'chicken fields'

Chris Holt and I met up with Graham Smith in SPRINGFIELD FARM QUARRY (BUCKS) where we searched without success for the male Common Stonechat Pete Stevens had seen recently. A GREEN SANDPIPER was put up from some damp ground, with 36 Mallard, 24 Lapwing, male Red-legged Partridge, 22 Red Kite, singing Skylark, 7 Meadow Pipit, female Reed Bunting, 2 Goldfinch and 70 Fieldfare all noted.

HOGBACK WOOD at BEACONSFIELD (BUCKS) was our next location where we hoped to connect with the wintering Firecrest. This was not to be and the extensive Holly scrub produced no less than 8 Goldcrests, Coal Tit, Nuthatch, 7 Long-tailed Tits and my first Common Treecreepers of the Bucks Year.

Following up a call from Paul Reed, we diverted to COLLEGE LAKE BBOWT (BUCKS), where Paul had located three different WAXWINGS from the two present at the site yesterday. Sadly, these 3 stayed just two hours. The 5 RED-CRESTED POCHARDS were on show though, favouring the far NW corner of the Deep Pit. Two were adult drakes.

After that, we gave up with South Bucks and headed east into HERTFORDSHIRE...

At BRAMFIELD OLD RECTORY GARDEN, a male HAWFINCH was showing well on our arrival perched high in one of the trees (one of only two seen on site this morning).

The rest of the day was then spent at THERFIELD HEATH, where we did exceptionally well.

Three species of owl was recorded, with a single SHORT-EARED hunting late afternoon in setaside NNE of Greys Farm, along with 2 BARN in the same vicinity. A male Sparrowhawk afforded excellent views as it perched in one of the hedgerows and the wintering GREAT GREY SHRIKE was adorning the hedgerow east of Duckpuddle Bush at around TL 344 385.

A flock of 130 EUROPEAN GOLDEN PLOVERS flew west, with 100 Chaffinches in one field at the south end of the Icknield Way nearer Park Farm and some 25 roosting Yellowhammers at the north end. A large flock of 200 Linnet were in the vicinity, whilst 9 CORN BUNTINGS staged for a while in trackside trees.

The most gratifying experience was that of the GREY PARTRIDGES, of which at least 35 were encountered. As we wandered the mile or so back to the car at dusk, males were calling from virtually every field either side of the Icknield Way - it was fantastic, especially when one considers how scarce this farmland species is now in our countryside. This is certainly one of the best sites around for this species. It made me harp back to the early 1970's when Stone Curlew was still relatively numerous in these fields.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Today's Highlights

GREAT WHITE EGRET still present today and frequenting Mill Farm Water Meadows (Chess Valley) (John Foster's image above) and adult DARK-BELLIED BRENT GOOSE at Newport Pagnell (Robert Norris).

Also, adult GLAUCOUS GULL still present at Foxcote, COMMON STONECHAT at Springfield Quarry and lots of WAXWINGS, including 138 in Central Milton Keynes, 42 in Newton Longville, 21 on the Fairford Leys Estate in Aylesbury, 20 at Beaconsfield Services and 2 at College Lake



A very murky start to the day with some light drizzle at first; very mild though, with temperatures stabilising at 8.5 degrees C

When Robert Norris 'phoned at half past 9 to say that he had a DARK-BELLIED BRENT GOOSE at Gayhurst Quarry, I thought great, at last I have got a chance to carry out some thorough counts of North Bucks Water Bodies, but nothing ever goes to plan with birding and as it was I struggled to cover them. Anyway, hard on the heels of his call, I set off........

First off, a roadside casualty at MOULSOE caught my eye - a dead Chinese Water Deer besides the road (the A509) at SP 893 414.


Thinking this would be just a 'walk in the park' was a big mistake. What Rob hadn't told me was that Gayhurst was barely recovering from the recent floods and was a quagmire. I got absolutely caked in mud - and very wet too - part of the Ouse still engulfing the valley. What's more, despite traipsing all over, the straggling Brent was nowhere to be found - it had left for pastures new (and perhaps dry).

Anyhow, a great excuse to carry out my counting..

The gardens at the back of the Lakes Lane extension housed lots of garden birds including 3 Collared Doves, 26 Common Starlings, 4 Dunnocks, 5 Common Blackbirds, 20 House Sparrows, 15 Blue Tits, 4 Great Tits, a male Greenfinch, 25 Chaffinch and a singing male Song Thrush, whilst a lot of noisy Rooks and Jackdaws were in the vicinity.

The QUARRYHALL PIT to the east of the footpath (at SP 860 452) held 105 Eurasian Wigeon, 12 Mallard, 8 Common Teal and 4 Tufted Duck, whilst the two FISHING PITS immediately left of the track (at SP 855 450) added 3 adult Mute Swans, a single Great Crested Grebe, 2 Mallard, 20 Tufted Duck, 17 Coot and 4 Moorhen. As is normally the case, the MOTORWAY PIT (SP 853 449) held the majority of the birds, with a whopping 92 Mute Swans (including 8 first-winters), a staggering 389 Greylag Geese, 35 Atlantic Canada Geese, an exceptional 278 Mallard, 18 Wigeon, 5 Tufted Duck, 5 Northern Pochard, 25 Coot and 2 Grey Herons. The narrow strip of woodland at SP 857 447 yielded a singing male MARSH TIT, 9 Long-tailed Tits, 3 Goldcrest, 3 Goldfinches and 2 Fieldfare.

LAKES LANE RIDING STABLES at SP 863 445 held a healthy population of 8 House Sparrows.

Nearby, just north of the Great Ouse in NEWPORT PAGNELL, another flock of 36 Atlantic Canada Geese, whilst at the neighbouring complex of NEWPORT PAGNELL GP (SP 884 445), a very disappointing number of wintering waterbirds present, with just 1 Little Grebe, 1 Mute Swan, 8 Coot and 35 Tufted Duck; the smaller of the pits held absolutely nothing.

Then, a little bit of luck - there was the DARK-BELLIED BRENT GOOSE right by the road at SP 883 447 - feeding just 50 yards away on the grass field with 70 Greylags, 6 Atlantic Canadas and a Grey Heron. It was in the same field that I and other MK birders had seen a nice male Ring Ouzel last year and was affording cracking views. It was a very dingy individual but the lack of any contrast in the wing-coverts and its dark undercarriage meant that it was an adult-type rather than a first-year and more than likely the bird seen recently in Northamptonshire and Bedfordshire. My trip had been worthwhile and Rob returned later in the afternoon and got a few shots.

Looking NW from SHERINGTON BRIDGE, I counted a total of 46 Mute Swans, 43 of which were by the road at LATHBURY. Nearby TYRINGHAM BRIDGE at SP 858 466 produced Little Egret, Grey Heron, 2 Mute Swans, 3 Greylag Geese, 10 Atlantic Canada Geese and 25 Mallard.

It was then time to visit one of my favourite haunts in North Bucks - the wonderfully picturesque and quaint STOKE GOLDINGTON VILLAGE. This is the last stronghold in the county of TREE SPARROW and in the usual garden at the top end of DAGS LANE, resident birder Keith Mitchell and I had an exceptional 29 birds roosting in the shrubbery above the garden - Magnificent! A male BRAMBLING was also in the vicinity, plus 15 Goldfinch and a Great Spotted Woodpecker. Keith very kindly invited me round to his house in RAM ALLEY where immediately I saw 3 of the 29 LESSER REDPOLLS currently visiting his Nyger feeder.

Eastwards and onwards to Olney where EMBERTON LAKES COUNTRY PARK (SP 882 502) supported large numbers of wintering wildfowl. Despite yachting being carried out on the main lake, the 14 GOOSANDERS were still present, including a drake that was so tame the boats had to avoid colliding with it. There were 7 adult drakes in all, in absolutely crippling finery - what a beautiful sawbill.

The Grebe Lake held 9 Atlantic Canadas, 5 Mallard and 2 Moorhens, whilst the Boating Lake had 5 Mallard and an injured Barnacle Goose. The Heron Lake, due to a lot of activity and disturbance, held most of the birds, including 13 of the GOOSANDER, 11 more Atlantic Canadas, 69 Mallard, a pair of Gadwall, 10 Tufted Duck, 2 Mute Swans (with 2 more on the adjacent Ouse), a Great Crested Grebe, Grey Heron and most unusually, and a site-tick for me - an adult female COMMON GOLDENEYE.

Although there was no maize nor Tree Sparrows to be found at LITTLE LINFORD WOOD, an added bonus was a small covey of 4 GREY PARTRIDGES just to the east of the wood at SP 836 453; also 2 Brown Hares in a field at SP 842 454, close to HOO WOOD. A dead Brown Hare was also west of Mill Farm on the road at SP 849 454.

And then a thorough check of all of the Water Bodies between the M1 and Old Wolverton in chronological order -:

VICARAGE SPINNEY LAKE (SP 850 444) held just 1 Great Crested Grebe, 2 Mute Swans and 37 Greylag Geese and the four fishing pits south of Little Linford Lane absolutely nothing, not even a Moorhen or Mallard. I did not check the Heron Lake at LINFORD but did cover BLACK SWAN LAKE (SP 845 427) (6 Great Crested Grebes, 24 Tufted Duck, 2 Coot and a flyover Meadow Pipit) and the main LINFORD NATURE RESERVE LAKES (SP 838 430) (6 Grey Herons in the colony, 3 Little Egrets*,15 Mute Swans (including 3 first-winters),16 Mallard, 330 Eurasian Wigeon, 42 Common Teal, 138 Tufted Duck, 24 Pochard, 32 Coot and a single Great Crested Grebe) *note no roosting Little Egrets anymore.

HAVERSHAM LAKE (SP 832 425) without sailing held 2 Great Crested Grebe, 2 Mute Swans, 6 Mallard and 36 Coot whilst the two NEW BRADWELL LAKES (SP 830 418) together mustered up 5 Great Crested Grebe, 2 Mute Swan, 10 Tufted Duck and 4 Coot on the east lake and 2 Great Crested Grebe, 2 Mute Swan, 8 Mallard, 14 Tufted Duck, 6 Moorhen and 4 Coot on the larger 'Red-necked Grebe' lake. At dusk, 80 Fieldfares flew over to roost.

Saturday, 5 January 2013

A few more snippets

GREAT WHITE EGRET was present all day, moving between Neptune's Falls and Mill Farm Water Meadows (Chess Valley), with the adult GLAUCOUS GULL at dawn and dusk at Foxcote Reservoir. Up to 3 different CASPIAN GULLS roosted at Calvert with 6 GREY PARTRIDGES seen at Horton Wharf.

Lots of WAXWINGS around including 155 in Central Milton Keynes and 28 at Beaconsfield M40 Services

Trailblazing SOUTH BUCKS LGRE style


Despite a grey start and a little light drizzle, the day actually turned out quite nice weatherwise, with dry conditions, no wind to speak of and mild temperatures (9 degrees C)

I concentrated all of my efforts today in the South of the County, eventually adding TEN new species to my Year List, including a fair few 'quality' birds......



After a conversation with Andy Radford in the Chess Valley, I started my day in Penn Street, where Andy had seen a fair-sized finch flock yesterday. In the vicinity of the Farm Reservoir, I recorded 2 Mallard, 2 Moorhen, cock Pheasant, 90 Woodpigeons, 2 Mistle Thrush and a noisy congregation of Rooks inspecting their nests early. Then, walking the footpath that skirts the northern fringe of PRIESTLANDS WOOD. I located the finches, clearly attracted to the setaside game strip at SU 928 958. The flock were commuting back and forth between the strip and the wood and numbered 339 birds - 312 Chaffinches and 27 BRAMBLINGS. Long have Kevin Holt and I wondered about the location of Penn Wood finches during the day and at last I have found the answer - certainly for this winter. This location is barely a mile from the Rhododendron roost site at the Penna. Just 1 Greenfinch though, and a single Linnet, 2 Redwing and 2 Goldcrests.

PENN VILLAGE POND held 43 Mallard and 6 Moorhen

I then stopped off at BEACONSFIELD M40 SERVICES, where a flock of 28 BOHEMIAN WAXWINGS was showing very well at the back of the Lorry Parking Area and Shell Service Station in the ornamental berry shrubs adjacent; also 1 Pied Wagtail

HILLMOTTS FARM WOOD (SU 962 884) yielded 60 Redwing, Song Thrush (in full song), Common Buzzard (2), Nuthatch and Goldcrest (3) but no Common Crossbills, whilst neighbouring HEDGERLEY LANDFILL was relatively quiet despite working, with just 225 gulls present (including 2 Great Black-backed, 116 Herring and at least 107 Black-headed), 62 Red Kites and 80 Common Starlings.

Did my January count at BURNHAM BEECHES NNR where on the Upper Pond (SU 952 847), 23 MANDARIN DUCK were present (14 drakes, 9 females), as well as 15 Mallard and 5 Moorhen. Coal Tit and Wren were noted too.

The Berkshire boundary ditch at ROUNDMOOR, ETON WICK was my next destination and alongside Winchmore Bottom birder Dick Seekins, enjoyed some nice views of the wintering SIBERIAN CHIFFCHAFF. It was in exactly the same patch of reeds as last winter and seemed to be following exactly the same pattern of appearance, flitting about the bases of the reeds and the scrubby bush behind. This is a pale 'brown' tristis, and not a grey and white type, with jet-black bare part colour, some green fringing in the coverts and tail and somewhat beige-brown upperparts. It was seemingly hanging around with a typically green 'collybita', one of 6 individuals present. Remarkably, two of the latter were in full song, just west of the weir. There is also a single Scandinavian Chiffchaff wintering at the site, this bird frequenting further around by the weir.

CETTI'S WARBLERS were once again making their presence known and often showing well (this is by far one of the best sites for this species in the country, certainly in terms of seeing them), with 4 different individuals noted, whilst 8 Reed Buntings were present and 2 Grey Wagtails.

The floodwater on DORNEY COMMON had attracted 4 Atlantic Canada Geese, whilst 11 Meadow Pipits came over from the Berkshire flood and my first Eurasian Skylark of the year.

With the gates open at DORNEY ROWING LAKES, I took full advantage and drove in, DORNEY ARBORETUM POND (SU 927 785) producing 99 Tufted Ducks, 6 Mallard, 2 Coot, 1 Little Grebe and 8 Goldfinches. The DORNEY WETLANDS RESERVE AREA added 28 Atlantic Canada Geese and an incredible 475 roosting Common Gulls, predominantly adults.

Continuing in the counting vein, TAPLOW LAKE (SU 910 810) held 3 Great Crested Grebe, 1 Mute Swan, 6 Gadwall, 88 Tufted Duck and 54 Coot, with the JUBILEE RIVER north to Maidenhead adding just 3 Mallard and 2 Tufted Duck and that around AMERDEN SCRAPES just 3 Mute Swans, 4 Coot and 4 Moorhen. The river was still at an extremely high level.

Just north of the Thames and COOKHAM VILLAGE and in a flooded field at SU 899 858), 2 Mute Swans were standing, with 330 Black-headed Gulls and 38 Common Gulls feeding.

SPADE OAK GRAVEL PIT at Little Marlow was the wettest I had ever seen it - the southern footpath bordering the railway was under at least a foot of water!

As such, it was mainly waterfowl to be seen - 21 Great Crested Grebes, 39 Sinensis Cormorants, 8 Grey Herons (including an adult already sitting on a nest), 18 Atlantic Canada Geese, an adult Bar-headed Goose, 88 Greylag Geese (including 3 leucistic birds), an adult drake COMMON SHELDUCK, 15 mallard, 38 Gadwall, 17 Shoveler, 8 Common Teal, 97 Eurasian Wigeon, an impressive 204 Tufted Duck, 54 Northern Pochard, just 8 Coot, 2 Moorhen, 838 Lapwing (commuting between the pit and the flooded fields south of the railway), a GREEN SANDPIPER, and a handful of gulls present with just 7 Argenteus Herring of interest. Once again, I failed to find Common Kingfisher, although Alan & co saw at least 2.

Away from waterbirds, I also saw 4 Ring-necked Parakeets, 6 Red Kite, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Woodpigeon, Common Magpie, Carrion Crow, 12 Goldfinch, Chaffinch, 6 Long-tailed Tit and 6 Goldcrest. Both Robin and Song Thrush were in full song, whilst 46 Redwings flew out of scrub behind the flooded spit. I also counted 15 Rabbits on the floodwater, feeding on the only remaining grass at the edge.

I was also pleased to fully count the LITTLE MARLOW WESTHORPE FARM PITS (SU 872 872), although there was very little to count - just 19 Atlantic Canadas, 8 Mallard and 26 Coot. A beautiful male BULLFINCH made the visit worthwhile though being my first in Bucks this year.

On the MARLOW ROACH PIT at SU 864 871, the first-winter female GREATER SCAUP was still to be seen, along with 13 Tufted Ducks, a pair of Gadwall, 10 Coot, a single Cormorant and a single Great Crested Grebe, whilst on the neighbouring CROWNE PLAZA PIT (at SU 864 867), 3 Mute Swans were present (1 first-year), along with 4 Great Crested Grebes, 4 Cormorants, 2 Mallard, 9 Tufted Duck, a drake Pochard and 72 Coot.

LODGE HILL FARM: After traipsing across acres of stubble fields, eventually came across some farmland birds. A covey of 5 Red-legged Partridges was welcomed, with 22 Eurasian Skylarks, 4 Meadow Pipits, an impressive 300 Fieldfares and 15 Common Magpies also located. Highlight however was a mixed flock of buntings, commuting between fields either side of the farm, constituting 13 Yellowhammers and 38 CORN BUNTINGS. Result.

The very last place I checked in that area was the extreme east end of WEST WYCOMBE PARK, where I viewed from the A4010 bridge at 843 939. Not a lot to be seen other than 2 Little Grebes, 47 Mallard, 4 Coot and 4 Moorhen.

Back in the CHESS VALLEY towards dusk, I watched the GREAT WHITE EGRET flight to its roosting tree in CHURCH COVERT NR at 1640 hours. There was no sign of the Barn Owl - perhaps this has something to do with the Common Buzzards.

Friday, 4 January 2013


The adult GLAUCOUS GULL roosted again this evening at Foxcote Reservoir, but flew in when it was almost dark at 1635 hours, whilst WAXWING numbers increased again, with 70+ in Central Milton Keynes, 28 at Beaconsfield M40 Services, 21 at the Jubilee River and several others elsewhere

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Perplexing Arctic Gull at Foxcote


A predominantly typical grey winter's day with temperatures no more than 6 degrees C and light drizzle from time to time; not much wind either

Spent another day locally, mainly catching up on common birds....

Spent some time in the CHESS VALLEY first thing, but despite trying most of it's regular spots, failed to locate the Great White Egret. Also failed to find RN's Common Crossbills in BALDWIN'S WOOD (which, incidentally, is now all claimed by Hertfordshire), but did find both Song Thrush and MARSH TIT (2 birds), along with Common Treecreeper, 7 Goldcrests, Coal Tit, Great Tit, LESSER REDPOLL, Carrion Crow and Grey Squirrel.

MILL FARM's best offerings were 2 Stock Doves, 3 Carrion Crows and a Grey Wagtail, whilst 9 Herring Gulls flew high south over the valley.

I then moved off to Tring to carry out the first of this month's wildfowl counts.....


That time again when I have to count the wildfowl and no shortage today on the main marsh -:

Little Grebe (3 on the deep lake)

Sinensis Cormorant (6)

Grey Heron (4)

Mute Swan (down to 29 from 41 - still 4 first-years)

Atlantic Canada Geese (34)

Mallard (28)

Gadwall (46)

Eurasian Wigeon (164 but interestingly no Teal)

Tufted Duck (89)

Northern Pochard (16)


Coot (46 with just 1 on the marsh)

Moorhen (4)

Black-headed & Common Gulls (6 of the latter)

COMMON SNIPE (16 roosting)


Exceptionally high water levels all round with lots of birds scattered widely

MARSWORTH held just 4 Great Crested Grebes, 23 Mallard, just 7 Shoveler, 6 Moorhens and only 1 Coot, with 29 Black-headed Gulls roosting on the bunds.

A lot more on STARTOP'S END, including 5 Great Crested Grebe, 2 Mute Swans, 22 Mallard, 8 Wigeon, a drake Shoveler, 63 Tufted Duck and 324 Coot (far and away the largest concentration in the area).

At TRINGFORD RESERVOIR, the adult female SMEW was showing well close to the hide, with 1 Great Crested Grebe, 3 Grey Herons, 24 roosting Cormorants, 2 Mute Swans, 4 Mallard, 12 Gadwall, 78 Common Teal, 63 Tufted Duck, 52 Pochard, 3 COMMON GOLDENEYE (2 drakes) and 96 Coot. Common Blackbirds had increased in the wooded areas to at least 8 individuals but there was no sign of the recent Song Thrush; 8 Woodpigeons and a nice male BULLFINCH too.

I met up with young Ephraim Perfect and showed him the Smew and then took him on a tour of the woodland. Species such as Great Spotted Woodpecker, Wren, Jackdaw (48), Great Tit, Goldcrest, Chaffinch, Blue Tit, Long-tailed Tit (16) and Green Woodpecker were quickly racked up, along with several SISKINS (15 in all including a flock of 10).

Best bird however was a male BOHEMIAN WAXWING that I heard calling (trilling). It landed in an isolated hawthorn by the canal and moved between there and a flowering Rose Hip bush for a short time before flying off towards Tring town centre at 1208 hours. Ephraim got it in his 'scope and we enjoyed some nice views of it before it flew.

The horse paddocks also held 4 Mistle Thrushes, Common Kestrel and 2 Pied Wagtails, whilst a flock of large gulls flew west and overhead, containing 2 GREAT BLACK-HEADED GULLS (an adult and 2nd-winter, rare birds at Tring), 13 Lesser Black-backed and 6 Herring.

TRING SEWAGE FARM held 8 Gadwall and 12 Wigeon.

There was no sign of yesterday's 3 Bewick's Swans on WILSTONE, nor the 2 Pintails, but the WATER PIPIT was performing well, commuting between the car park steps and the jetty.

A large number of waterbirds was present although Coot numbers were disappointingly low - 1 Little Grebe, just 5 Great Crested Grebes (that makes just 15 wintering birds in all), just 4 Mute Swans, 321 Teal, 101 Shoveler, 10 Gadwall, 348 Wigeon, 153 Tufted Duck, 132 Northern Pochard and just 174 Coot. A single Grey Heron was already repairing its nest, one of 13 from last year on the Drayton Bank.

At the Angler's Retreat, 10 House Sparrows were in residence, with several Common Starlings at Wilstone Great Farm.

Once finished, I drove over to HAZLEMERE (BUCKS) to join Graham Smith. All 6 BOHEMIAN WAXWINGS were showing very well feeding on Rosehips directly opposite the Youth Centre in Rose Avenue. A flock of 23 Common Starlings in the area too.

It was then off on a tour of the Northwest of the County....

DEEP MILL POND held 4 Coot, 2 Moorhen and unusually 4 Gadwall (2 pairs), with 4 Long-tailed Tits in the hedgerow, whilst at the Council building in AYLESBURY, both adult PEREGRINES were in residence beneath the platform.

South of the A41 and in fields NNE of CRANWELL FARM, FLEET MARSTON (BUCKS) (SP 765 164), 2 CHINESE WATER DEER were feeding out in the open, along with 2 male Common Pheasants. Nearby, at the WADDESDON DAIRY POND, I showed Graham the resident drake Common Eider, now joined by a pair of Hooded Mergansers, pair of Common Shelduck and two pairs of Eurasian Wigeon - all pinioned I am thankful to say.

Five Redwings flew over the A41 by the WESTCOTT VENTURE PARK (BUCKS) - my first of the year.

I could only find the single adult drake GOOSANDER at WOTTON UNDERWOOD, along with 1 Great Crested Grebe, 19 Mute Swans, 22 Mallard, 6 Wigeon, 9 Shoveler, 41 Tufted Duck, 23 Pochard, a pair of Common Goldeneye and 59 Coot.

Also managed to overlook the single Ruff at GALLOWS BRIDGE BBOWT (BUCKS) (seen earlier by Tim Watts) but did count 300 Lapwing in the adjoining ploughed field to the car park and 15 Linnets.

At CALVERT, could not see any Caspian Gulls in either of the pre-roosts, the BBOWT LAKE housing just 1 Great Crested Grebe, 8 Mallard and 54 Coot and the SAILING LAKE just an additional Great Crested Grebe, 3 Mute Swans (including a first-year), 12 Tufted Duck, 2 Northern Pochard and 18 Coot.

Eventually, at 1530 hours, we ended up at FOXCOTE RESERVOIR, NE of Buckingham (NORTH BUCKS). Just two observers were sat in the hide - Matt Slaymaker and another Bucks birder whose name escapes me. Although 139 Lesser Black-backed Gulls, 22 Argenteus Herring Gulls and 300 or so Black-headed Gulls were already in, there was no sign of the adult white-winger.

I moved on to waterbirds and counted: 1 Great Crested Grebe, 3 Mute Swans, just 8 Coot, 126 Wigeon, 74 Teal and 7 COMMON GOLDENEYE (including 3 adult drakes).

Then, at 1555 hours, I picked up the Arctic vagrant flying in. It landed almost immediately and struck me as mighty odd. The other three observers quickly got on to it and we kept it under observation until almost dark. I had NEVER seen an adult GLAUCOUS GULL looking like this - it was just so small. Not only that, it barely had any head streaking (just reddish-brown dappling streaks on the hindneck and greyer streaks on the crown) and had a remarkably small bill (even-keeled in shape, broader than that of Herring but greenish in colour with a richly-coloured gonys spot). Everything about it suggested adult Kumlien's Gull but the tertial-stepping, shortened primary projection and flattish crown did not fit in with that prognosis - these were all features more related to hyperboreus. In flight, the wings did not appear that broad, and had a broad white secondary bar contrasting with the grey. There was no evidence of any dark in the primary tips. As it got darker, the bird became more active and flew towards us, eventually settling on the tern raft. Although the light conditions were pretty ropey, views were quite good through the 'scope, but I really struggled to see anything other than a dark eye. The head shape was noticeably flattened at close range, and the bulk in the breast became more apparent, but the bill still failed to impress. A seriously bewildering and perplexing individual.

But yes, full marks to the finders - a brilliant find.

Two different YELLOW-LEGGED GULLS were also identified in the gloom.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Apparent adult GLAUCOUS GULL at Foxcote

What appears to be a small adult GLAUCOUS GULL roosted for a third night at Foxcote Reservoir this evening (per Warren Claydon) - an exceptionally rare event in the county

A pathetic score from a New Years Day outing


It was lunchtime by the time I raised my ugly head into the wilds of rural Buckinghamshire, Carmel and Jade keeping me out partying until 0600 hours. That was a great shame, as it was a beautiful day outside, with no rain, clear skies, light winds and a temperature of 6 degrees C.

Anyway, I reserved the afternoon for New Year Birding and ended up with a pathetic total of 56 species...

The CHAFFINCH HOUSE feeders yielded 2 male House Sparrows, 4 Goldfinches and a Common Starling of note before I entered the neighbouring CHESS VALLEY...

I had never before seen so many people in the valley - literally hundreds of ramblers everywhere. Cars littered every available space and it was mayhem as people squelched and barged their way along the heavily sodden Chess Valley Walk. Lots of birders were about too and seemingly seeing little..

CHENIES PLACE added Little Egret (9 were to be quickly found, including 6 together at Church Covert and the usual bird at Blackwell Farm), Goldcrest, Blue Tit, Long-tailed Tit (6), Jackdaw (35 by Mill Farm), Woodpigeon (65 by Mill Farm), Common Magpie (4), Common Buzzard (2), Red Kite (4), Common Kestrel and Stock Dove, but no Little Owl, Common Raven, Marsh Tit or Common Crossbill (all usually easy to locate).

BOIS MILL POND held the Mute Swan pair and the single Coot whilst CHESHAM FISHING LAKES added Black-headed Gull (4), Wren, Robin, Chaffinch (2), Mallard (22), Mute Swan (2), Coot (16), Moorhen (4), Dunnock, Atlantic Canada Goose (2), Tufted Duck (30) and an adult drake Northern Pochard. There was no sign of the Great Crested Grebe nor Siskin, Common Kingfisher or Grey Wagtail.

The neighbouring POW WOW LAKE held a Little Grebe, 16 Mallard, 3 Coot and 2 Great Tits, whilst CHESHAM SEWAGE WORKS produced Common Kestrel (female), Rook (3), Tufted Duck (14), Gadwall (8), Moorhen (4), Coot (4), Mallard (22) and Black-headed Gull (36).

I then moved up to LATIMER GREAT WATER where it was very difficult to park - people were everywhere. Two Nuthatches were in the Hall Grounds whilst the GREAT WHITE EGRET was forced to find refuge on the North side of the lake where it could preen in relative peace. Numerous birdwatchers present included RDA, Roy Hargreaves, Lucy Flower, JT and Anna, whilst supporting cast on the lake included 11 Mute Swans, 113 Atlantic Canada Geese, 25 Tufted Duck, a single female Northern Pochard, 60 Coot and another Little Grebe (downstream of Neptune's Falls). A Great Spotted Woodpecker flew over.

SHARDELOES LAKE was equally manic with an astonishing 26 cars parked by the entrance. Lots of waterbirds had departed, particularly Coot at just 115, but pleasingly, two of the 4 SHOVELER remained and were a very welcome Recording Area Year-tick. Not much else to note - the 2 Mute Swans, 8 Little Grebes and a Grey Heron.

I then decided to head south down to the JUBILEE RIVER, checking out Lake End Bridge and its environs. All 37 Bohemian Waxwings had flown off east at 1300 hours and were nowhere to be found whilst the water level was so high on the Thames that most duck had moved to pastures new.......4 Little Grebes, 1 Great Crested Grebe, 9 Mute Swans (6 first-years), 29 Atlantic Canada Geese, Cormorant, Sparrowhawk, 4 Ring-necked Parakeets, Lesser Black-backed Gull and Reed Bunting being the only birds of note.

I relocated to the 'ditch' at ETON WICK but the area was largely under flood water. Highlights included 2 CETTI'S WARBLERS (performing well) and no less than 6 wintering COMMON CHIFFCHAFFS, one of which was a Scandinavian abietinus.

Other species encountered included 2 Mute Swans, 18 Mallard, 62 Lapwings, 3 WATER RAILS, 8 Meadow Pipits, 18 Pied Wagtails, 2 Grey Wagtails, Goldcrest, Collared Dove (my only one of the day), Common Blackbird, Jay, male Greenfinch, 3 Fieldfare and 15 Long-tailed Tits.

CASTLEMAN'S FARM chicken fields supported 108 Egyptian Geese late afternoon, with 5 Common Pheasants nearby, with PENN WOOD producing just 8 Goldcrests (the finch flocks had all gone to roost).

A minimum 18 Red Kites and 4 Common Buzzards flew in to BROOK WOOD, PENN BOTTOM, to roost.