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, 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.