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, 27 February 2013

A Glutton for Punishment


Another cold and grey morning with an increasing easterly wind. Skies cleared later in the afternoon, giving way for an overnight frost.

Spurned on by Adam Bassett's success yesterday afternoon, I returned once more to STOKE COMMON today - not once, not twice but three times - and still no Stonechats. I could not find them anywhere

Most unusual sighting was a single LITTLE EGRET that flew around the entire common trying to find a suitable place to lane, before disappearing off SE. Otherwise, species similar to yesterday's visit, with 48 Carrion Crows, 2 Jays, female Common Kestrel, Common Buzzard, Common Blackbird, Wren, 8 Meadow Pipits and a procession of juvenile Herring Gulls flying south from Hedgerley Landfill.

Also returned to CHURCH WOOD RSPB, HEDGERLEY but again no sight nor sound of Lesser Spotted Woodpecker - a flock of 10 Redwings were making a cacophony of strange sounds, 2 Great Spotted Woodpecker, singing male Nuthatch, 6 Common Treecreepers, Jay, 10+ Great Tit and Common Buzzard being noted, as well as a pair of Roe Deer and a female Muntjac.

A further 3 Roe Deer were seen in a field north of Collum Green Road and west of HEDGERLEY PARK FARM at SU 975 863 and a male Muntjac west of HEDGERLEY HILL at SU 968 866

At CASTLEMAN'S FARM (WOOBURN COMMON), no less than 44 Egyptian Geese in the Chicken Coup Fields and at SPRINGFIELD QUARRY, 2 Red-legged Partridges, 16 Red Kites, 4 Common Buzzards and numerous Skylarks singing. The resident BARN OWLS performed well at dusk

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Back to Dipping


After enjoying glorious weather in Northern Scotland for the best part of a week, it was disappointing to come home to such dreary, grey weather down south. It was very, very cold still too (just 2.5 degrees C) with light drizzle.

I resorted to some Target Birding today, concentrating on Common Stonechat and Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, but failed on both counts.......

At STOKE COMMON (BUCKS), yet another visit failed to locate the wintering male Common Stonechat that Peter Stevens has seen several times - just 8 Carrion Crows, 2 Red Kites and 2 Green Woodpeckers - this bird must be incredibly elusive.

Not far away, at CHURCH WOOD RSPB, HEDGERLEY (BUCKS), yet another blank return on Lesser Spotted Woodpecker - no sight nor sound. Mammals included Grey Squirrel and a single Roe Deer, whilst birds recorded included 4 Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Nuthatch, 2 Wrens, Dunnock, 7 Song Thrushes (including 2 singing males), Coal Tit, 6 Common Blackbirds, 6 Common Treecreepers, 1 LESSER REDPOLL, Common Buzzard, Jay, 14 Great Tits, 11 Blue Tits and Chaffinch. Most noteworthy was a single MARSH TIT in the Glebe Field behind the pub - my first record at the site.

Disappointed with how my local birding was going, I abandoned it and headed for HAMPSHIRE...

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Is it cold or what?


I cannot believe how cold it is out in the field at the moment. Although the air temperature is hovering around freezing, the strong easterly wind is making it feel like minus 15 degrees - it is bitter. I could only take short dosages before having to give in.

Anyhow, I was not prepared to let MEDITERRANEAN GULL beat me and after three days-in-a-row, it was time to revisit SPADE OAK PIT (LITTLE MARLOW) in another attempt at the pre-roost.

Also braving the elements were Marlow regulars Malcolm and John Bowman and his two Norfolk Terriers Lollie & Flo.

The gulls started arriving from about 1520 hours and today were hanging about the closest part of the spit. As a result, they were much easier to work through - but boy was it cold. Common Gulls quickly increased to about 600 birds, with Black-headeds similar in number - large white-headed gulls were in very short supply. At 1610, John suddenly exclaimed ''Have a look at this gull in my 'scope Lee'' and there it was - an adult MEDITERRANEAN GULL in virtually full breeding plumage just right of the spit. It had a small amount of white on the forehead but other than that, had acquired a full black hood, striking white eye-lids and bright red bill - a classic - and such good views too. I was well pleased. It bathed and preened for several minutes before joining the main throng of Common Gulls to roost. It was the same bird that Adam Bassett had found late yesterday afternoon.

Other species noted included 4 Common Snipe, a very showy male COMMON KINGFISHER, all 8 NORTHERN PINTAILS (on the main island), 144 Gadwall, 211 Wigeon, just 1 Common Shelduck and 275 Lapwing.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

From no JACK SNIPE to two


Today was one of those days when it felt good to be alive. From dawn until dusk, it was a glorious day - virtually spring-like. Despite an overnight frost, temperatures recovered to a pleasant 8 degrees C, with no wind whatsoever and wall-to-wall sunshine.

For no apparent reason, I had decided to target JACK SNIPE today and donning my wellington boots, trudged over to BROUGHTON POOLS, NEAR AYLESBURY (BUCKS), once upon a time a guaranteed stake-out for the species. The fields and sedge-beds were really, really wet and it took some walking before I finally found an area where Snipes were feeding. It turned out to be the big field immediately east of the trout ponds and in a half-hour period, I flushed 9 COMMON SNIPES and 1 JACK SNIPE.

Heading back towards Tring, one of Weston Turville's 14 or so Little Egrets was feeding in the marsh besides the A41, whilst at WILSTONE RESERVOIR (HERTS), the WATER PIPIT was putting on an excellent performance along the concrete edge just north of the jetty, albeit still in complete winter plumage. No Pintail again though, but a walk around the back past the orchard and onto the Dry Canal yielded Jay, both Blue and Great Tits, BULLFINCH, 8 Chaffinch and 45 Fieldfare. A WATER RAIL and 2 Pied Wagtails were also noted (the wildfowl being very much the same as yesterday).

At TRINGFORD RESERVOIR (HERTS), all 5 RED-CRESTED POCHARDS were still present (the 3 drakes and 2 females), thus confirming the presence of 8 birds at the moment in the Tring Area. The female SMEW was still present (hiding beneath the vegetation on the south bank), along with 58 Common Teal. A male Song Thrush was in full song, whilst numerous Rooks were re-building their nests in the wood; a charm of 12 Goldfinches was in the gardens.

Adam Bassett then contacted me with news of a JACK SNIPE on the deck and showing, which was too good to miss. I drove down to SPADE OAK PIT (LITTLE MARLOW) (SOUTH BUCKS) to join him and Dave Cleal still watching the bird, feeding along the back edge of the spit just in front of the reedbed.

Somehow I managed to dip out on an adult Mediterranean Gull in the pre-roost gathering, despite Adam trying to get me onto it in his 'scope and then on to it as it flew west towards Marlow to roost. It was a large gathering of gulls, predominantly passage Commons, of which there were at least 750.

But back to the snipe, it was this species that was headlining the news - a whopping 101 COMMON SNIPE counted within just a 70-yard section of spit - Incredible.

Still lots of wildfowl to be seen (and counted), including all 8 NORTHERN PINTAIL by the island.

Monday, 18 February 2013

ICELAND GULL at last - and a returning WHOOPER

Adult Whooper Swan as it flew across Marsworth (Michael Casey)


Another nice day, with lots of blue sky, little cloud and not too much of a wind. The latter, however, was still in a Southeasterly direction, making it feel pretty cold.

Mostly Buckinghamshire Target Birding today and at very long last, finally connected with an ICELAND GULL today..........

I spent much of the morning at HEDGERLEY LANDFILL (BUCKS), where I had to do my best up against the Gyrfalcon hybrid and its owner. The two earned their money this morning, barely letting the gulls settle for long. There were probably in excess of 3,000 birds loitering, mostly Black-headed and immature Herring, with just 5 Great Black-backed now visiting the scrum. Eventually I located the ICELAND GULL, an immature bird bleaching heavily with spring approaching. I am assuming it is a juvenile moulting into first-summer plumage, as the eye was wholly dark, the bill extensively pale-based and the upper wings mainly just bleached out juvenile feathers. There were quite a few pale grey feathers starting to come through on the mantle but this is to be expected in the second half of February. Chris Heard had also seen this same individual in Berkshire in recent days.

Iceland Gulls have been surprisingly rare this winter, being equal in number to Glaucous (it is generally a 5:1 ration in favour of glaucoides). This is the first one I have managed to see anywhere in the UK this year, despite having visited the Shetland Islands and north of Scotland.

I then did an hour at CHURCH WOOD RSPB, HEDGERLEY (BUCKS), but no sign of any Lesser Spots, before moving on to STOKE COMMON (BUCKS) where once again I failed to locate Peter Stevens' male Common Stonechat. The Common was pretty birdless - just 3 Goldcrests and 9 Carrion Crows seen.

Late afternoon found me at COLLEGE LAKE BBOWT (BUCKS) and just as I arrived at the Bat barn on the east shore, an adult WHOOPER SWAN flew in loudly announcing its arrival. It was covered in iron ore deposits, with a rusty-orange glint to its crown, face and neck, and was instantly disliked by two cob Mute Swans on the main marsh. They followed it around for some time before it was left be, in the far NW corner, up against the bund. It looked very unsettled and nervous and probably touched-down for less than half an hour in total, allowing a few BBOWT staff, Mike Campbell and Graham Smith to connect. I phoned Johnny Lynch to see what was happening in Bedfordshire as regards our Wardown Park Whooper Swans and he confirmed that the resident pair were both at Dunstable Sewage Farm and acting territorial on the island of one of the pans. This winter, there have only been these two birds around, although 3 Whooper Swans were seen together at Wilstone last autumn.

Graham and others watched the adult Whooper Swan fly west over Marsworth Reservoir at around 1710 hours but it must have circled back as at 1745 hours, Johnny phoned to say that it had flown into Dunstable Sewage Works, joining the local pair (but choosing a different pan to settle). Whilst in flight, it was calling loudly.

Other species seen at College Lake included the 3 RED-CRESTED POCHARDS (drake and two females), the drake COMMON SHELDUCK present for its third day, 5 Shoveler, 44 Gadwall, 232 Wigeon, 17 Mute Swans and 32 Coot.

Over at WILSTONE RESERVOIR (HERTS), the elusive redhead GOOSANDER was sticking close to the Drayton Bank, with 5 female Common Goldeneye scattered widely and 53 Shoveler. Mike Campbell and I could not locate the pair of Pintail seen earlier by Ian Williams, whilst after we both departed, Steve Rodwell and Dave Bilcock located a 'new' adult MEDITERRANEAN GULL near enough in full breeding plumage bar a white forehead.

We all then ended up on MARSWORTH RESERVOIR (HERTS) where it was very cold. The COMMON KINGFISHER was by the sluice, whilst a total of 118 CORN BUNTINGS came into roost. The water held 8 Great Crested Grebes, 1 Little Grebe and 22 Northern Pochard, with up to 5 WATER RAILS squealing and the BARN OWL hunting over the back field east of the sewage works. Eagle-eyed Steve then picked up the BITTERN as the light faded, climbing to the top of the reeds in the Bucks section of the reservoir.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

ICELAND GULL at Hedgerley

Steve Rodwell and Adam Bassett had a 2nd-winter ICELAND GULL at Hedgerley Landfill today, as well as an adult MEDITERRANEAN GULL.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Influx of SCAUP

Just what exactly is going on in North Bucks as regards GREATER SCAUP. Numbers at Caldecotte South lake have been fluctuating daily of late, from the 8 that Steve Rodwell found several weeks back to just two females a week ago and back to 7. Two additional drakes have arrived in that time indicating that at least 10 individuals have been involved in the influx, perhaps reflecting movement between Brogborough Lake and the site, where 5 additional Greater Scaups were recorded to the original 8.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Local Birding 14/2


Valentine's Day 2013 saw a gradual improvement in weather conditions. The last of the snow washed away overnight and was replaced by a warm Atlantic front raising temperatures to 9 degrees C, the warmest day in several weeks.


Downriver of GREAT WATER, the GREYLAG GOOSE was present with 24 Atlantic Canada Geese, whilst in the vicinity of the Da Vere Hotel, 14 Jackdaw and Greenfinch were seen.

GREAT WATER held 9 Mute Swans (with 3 more below Neptune's Falls and two pairs near Church Covert), 66 Atlantic Canada Geese, 6 Mallard, 9 Tufted Duck, 22 Coot and 12 Moorhen, whilst a flock of 9 Mistle Thrushes was feeding on the slope, 11 Stock Doves, a Little Egret and 2 Wrens.

Over at CHENIES BOTTOM, an additional 4 Little Egrets were seen, with the LITTLE OWLS in the Willow, 5 Redwings and a RING-NECKED PARAKEET flying east, the latter my first in the Recording Area this year.

The GREAT WHITE EGRET was apparently seen at Neptune's Falls early morning but in recent days, it has been well within Hertfordshire, on the Chess SE of Crestyl Cress Beds.

Rather disconcerting, Chenies Place has put in an application to have 8 Cypress trees cut down, as well as other trees in the vicinity. These trees have been subject to a Preservation Order for some years and harbour a number of breeding species of bird including Goldcrest and Coal Tit.

Down at SPADE OAK GRAVEL PIT (LITTLE MARLOW) (SOUTH BUCKS), I met up with Marlow birder Neil Wragg and accompanied him on a full circuit of the pit. I gave him a lesson in bird song and sounds and I was impressed by his keenness to learn - and more impressed by his possession of a notebook.

Wildfowl were the order of the day with 4 COMMON SHELDUCK present (down from the 7 of yesterday), a highly impressive 192 Gadwall, 55 Shoveler, 156 Wigeon, 66 Tufted Duck and 47 Northern Pochard. At least 15 Grey Herons were on the island, along with 13 pairs of Sinensis Cormorant already in occupation. A Little Egret was also present, along with 8 Great Crested Grebes, 2 Little Grebes and 9 Coot.

The PINTAIL proved to be the hardest birds to find, all 8 birds hiding in thick vegetation to the north and east of the spit. They could only be seen from the east shore.

Two different Song Thrushes were in song, along with 3 male Great Tits.

A check of a few other sites for Jack Snipe once more drew a blank, with Gallows Bridge deserted by all accounts (no Curlew back yet).

I then held out for the roost at CALVERT (NORTH BUCKS) but a workman put paid to that, unsettling the gulls on the Sailing Lake. Graham Smith joined me, and other than getting disgustingly muddy and wet, we had very little to show for our efforts. Steve Rodwell arrived independently and had similar success.

About 2,900 Black-headed Gulls roosted on the Sailing Lake, and 90 Common Gulls - COMMON KINGFISHER, WATER RAIL and 4 BULLFINCH also noted.

All of the large white-headed gulls roosted on the BBOWT Lake, including 9 YELLOW-LEGGED GULLS, 2,700 Lesser Black-backed Gulls and 73 Great Black-backed Gulls; 38 Coot and 11 Cormorants were present also.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Latest News

Warren Claydon had a juvenile ICELAND GULL, adult MEDITERRANEAN GULL and the two regular CASPIAN GULLS (adult and first-winter) in the CALVERT SAILING LAKE roost this evening, whilst Steve Rodwell had yet another adult MEDITERRANEAN GULL in the Willen Lake South Basin roost. CALDECOTTE LAKE continues to hold at least 5 GREATER SCAUPS, with the first-year female still on the ROACH PIT at MARLOW and 8 PINTAILS on SPADE OAK.

Monday, 4 February 2013

North Bucks today

In the North of the County today, the SLAVONIAN GREBE was still present in the NW corner of Tongwell Lake, the WILLOW TIT was again on the feeders at the Woodland Hide, Linford NR and in Stoke Goldington Village, an astonishing 43 TREE SPARROWS in the usual garden (per Graham White, Chris Holt & Tim Daccus). A female GREATER SCAUP was also reported at Tongwell Lake.

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Third time lucky


Despite a light overnight frost, the wind quickly freshened from the West bringing cloudy, damp and dreary conditions. Temperatures were originally in the region of 3.5 degrees C but later recovered to about 7 degrees C.

Just Target Birding today - initially in North Bucks and then back to East Sussex...........

After Alan Nelson's find yesterday, I headed up the M1 to TONGWELL LAKE (NORTH BUCKS), where 7 of us enjoyed some superb views of the first-winter SLAVONIAN GREBE in the NW corner mid-morning (accessed from Wedgewood Avenue). The bird was preening a fair bit and had obvious pale lores and a pale tip to the bill. Usual wildfowl fare there, including Gadwall, Wigeon, Tufted Duck and Mallard, as well as a Green Woodpecker.

Not far away at LINFORD NATURE RESERVE (NORTH BUCKS), the WILLOW TIT was very quickly locating, mobbing with other small birds a resting Sparrowhawk close to the Woodland Hide. Its nasal scolding was highly distinctive and far-carrying. I was then treated to excellent views of it as it repeatedly visited the feeders, often in accompaniment with up to 4 MARSH TITS and several Great and Blue Tits. I also saw LESSER REDPOLL and SISKIN, whilst the Lake itself held 6 Grey Heron, 1 Little Egret, 1 Great Crested Grebe, 10 Mute Swans, 48 Teal, 138 Wigeon, 43 Tufted Duck and 6 Pochard. There was no sign of the recent Pintails.

Driving back down the M1 into BEDFORDSHIRE, a RED KITE was floating NW of STEPPINGLY.

After two costly dips, I finally connected with the adult BONAPARTE'S GULL today on Princes Park Lake, Eastbourne - the bird being present from 1000 hours until dusk. It was performing admirably, often down to just a few yards, and attracted some 20 or so observers throughout the afternoon, several of whom were obtaining excellent photographs. Princes Park ticks for me included an adult MEDITERRANEAN GULL and an adult KITTIWAKE, whilst 1 of the Turnstones was there again.

John King, Richard Fairbank, Jake Everitt, Pete Brown and myself then visited SOUTHEASE BRIDGE where the DARK-BREASTED TYPE BARN OWL afforded an excellent performance from 1635 hours; also 1 ordinary BARN OWL and over 100 Fieldfares.

Saturday, 2 February 2013

SLAV 'Up North'

A SLAVONIAN GREBE was discovered today at Tongwell Lake (North Bucks) - almost certainly one of the two present recently in the Brogborough area (Beds). It was present until dusk, showing well at the north end (Rob Norris). Also in North Bucks, a WILLOW TIT is once again being seen at Linford Nature Reserve, where also up to 4 PINTAILS have been seen in the past week.

In the South, both EURASIAN WHITE-FRONTED GEESE are still on Dorney Common/Eton Wick Floods, with 5 PINTAILS at Spade Oak and at least 1 first-winter CASPIAN GULL roosting there (Kevin Duncan/Alan Stephens)

Friday, 1 February 2013

Gulls play ball at HEDGERLEY for a change


Another new month and temperatures sliding back a little (5 degrees C) as a freshening Northerly wind sets in. Not a bad day though, with long clear spells.

Eventually got out into the field early afternoon and just did some local birding, including my first visit to Tring Reservoirs in over two weeks......

In the CHESS VALLEY (BUCKS), my first Sinensis Cormorant of the year, drying its wings out on one of the fishing pontoons 100 yards west of the Chenies Bottom bridge. No sign of the Great White Egret again - just 4 Little Egrets. Both the LITTLE OWLS and BARN OWL were showing well.

SHARDELOES LAKE (BUCKS) was pretty much devoid of wildfowl (apart from the pair of Mute Swans, already nesting, and a couple of COMMON TEAL), but the Coot flock was still holding up at 127 birds. Still 6 Little Grebes present, two males of which were whinnying, whilst roosting gulls included 8 adult Common, an adult Lesser Black-backed and 13 Argenteus Herring Gulls. A single adult Argentatus Herring Gull was also present.

Green Woodpecker, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Common Treecreeper, 2 Mistle Thrush, SISKIN, 3 Goldfinch, 3 Common Buzzard, 5 Red Kite, 2 Wrens, 2 singing male Great Tits, 2 Carrion Crow and a Common Magpie were also seen, as well as a nice stag Muntjac.

The first of a trio of dead BADGERS found today was seen on the Amersham Road (the A355), with one on Gore Hill at SU 959 962 and another near Red Barn Farm at SU 956 935, and a further one on the Great Missenden bypass at SP 902 002.

As luck would have it, virtually all of the gulls at HEDGERLEY LANDFILL (BUCKS) this afternoon were roosting on the grassy slope behind the Recycling Centre, enabling some really nice 'scope views to be had. All in all there were about 680 gulls present, including 278 Black-headed, 302 Herring and just 5 adult Lesser Black-backed. At least 7 of the Herring Gulls bore red North Thames Gull Ringing Group rings, as did two of the 91 GREAT BLACK-BACKED GULLS present. I was able to pick out 5 different CASPIAN GULLS on the slope, including an adult of 3 bearing a distinctive green ring and two different first-winters (both different to the regular male at Spade Oak).

Large numbers of Corvids also present, 41 Red Kites and 200 Common Starlings.

I then moved on to the TRING RESERVOIRS (HERTS) to carry out my first thorough counts of the month; I had not been there in over 20 days but little seemed to have changed.

In the MARSWORTH WOODED BELT, 2 Blue Tits, a singing Robin and a Common Blackbird, and on the reservoir proper, 1 Little Grebe, 8 Great Crested Grebes, 2 Coot, 4 Moorhen, a drake Pochard and all 5 RED-CRESTED POCHARDS from neighbouring College Lake, showing very well from the causeway and displaying.

STARTOP'S END RESERVOIR yielded 54 Greylag Geese, 1 Great Crested Grebe, Grey Heron, 11 Mallard, 73 Tufted Duck, 15 Pochard and 193 Coot, whilst TRINGFORD RESERVOIR (surprisingly with water level now dropping) producing 8 Sinensis Cormorants, 2 Mute Swans, 1 Great Crested Grebe, 8 Common Teal, 6 Gadwall, 12 Mallard, 9 Tufted Duck, 8 Moorhen and 86 Coot. The long-staying female SMEW was showing well from the screen.

WILSTONE RESERVOIR held a lot of wildfowl including 5 Great Crested Grebes, just 2 Mute Swans, 8 Greylag Geese, 19 Mallard, 213 Wigeon, 52 Teal, 14 Gadwall, 66 Shoveler, 173 Tufted Duck, 191 Pochard and 5 COMMON GOLDENEYES (1 adult drake), as well as a single Little Grebe and 215 Coot (just 496 overall).

David Bilcock was just leaving as I entered the Drayton Bank Hide but it was a healthy gull roost, with just over 3,000 well-spread Black-headeds, 76 Commons, a single adult Lesser Black-backed and the regular first-winter MEDITTERANEAN.

Returning back to MARSWORTH, all 3 EURASIAN BITTERNS showed before dusk, including the regular bird close to the causeway climbing up to its reedy'platform'. The BARN OWL also appeared on cue over the Sewage Farm Field, with 4 WATER RAILS in the Cut Reeds.