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

Sunday, 3 March 2013

OTTERS having a splashing time - and a County Tick to boot


That chill easterly wind was still blowing today although temperatures recovered slightly to a warmer 6.5 degrees C. It was grey and overcast for most of the time

Most of my birding day was spent in Buckinghamshire (both South and North), with a brief visit to Tring. Major talking point of the day were the two pup OTTERS at Willen - the first ever twitchable in the Region and my first in Bucks.........

A Sparrowhawk flew across the A355 (Amersham Road) near RED BARN FARM, a mile North of BEACONSFIELD, whilst at HEDGERLEY LANDFILL (SOUTH BUCKS) at 1100 hours, no fewer than 4,000 gulls were present and loafing, a large proportion roosting on the plastic sheeting of the new dugout. Despite painstakingly poring over the flock, I must have overlooked an adult Iceland Gull, as Steve Rodwell picked one out (his 5th individual in Bucks this year incredibly) later in the afternoon.

The most numerous species present was Black-headed Gull, with 2,700 counted, followed by Herring Gull (mainly juvenile Argenteus) of which there were at least 700, and Lesser Black-backed at around 600. Only 7 Great Black-backed Gulls were identified among the throng. My first Skylarks of the year at the site were also noted, as well as 240 Rooks, 42 Red Kite and 66 Common Starlings.

At SPADE OAK PIT, LITTLE MARLOW (SOUTH BUCKS), highlights included 13 NORTHERN PINTAIL (11 drakes) and 66 COMMON SNIPES, whilst 34 Shoveler, 82 Gadwall, 35 Pochard, 112 Tufted Duck, 2 Common Shelduck, 6 Great Crested Grebe, 251 Lapwing and an assortment of gulls complemented the bird list. A single Grey Wagtail was also seen.

Nearby, at the CROWNE PLAZA PIT (SU 863 868), the first-winter female GREATER SCAUP remained, along with 4 Great Crested Grebe, 1 Little Grebe, 7 Mute Swans, 2 Atlantic Canada Geese, 5 Gadwall, 60 Tufted Duck, 17 Pochard and 62 Coot; 8 Redwing and 4 Goldfinch were in adjoining scrubland.

Whilst there, I received a call via Mike Collard, that 2 OTTERS were showing at WILLEN LAKE NORTH BASIN (NORTH BUCKS) and as this was a county (and regional) mammal tick for me, I made my way straight there. With the M1 roadworks between Junctions 10 and 12 now completed, I was on site within the hour, and joining Mike Campbell and 5 others in the hide on the south shore at SP 880 405, it only took eight minutes to connect. The two animals, seemingly a couple of pups, were playfully tussling to the right of the hide, ranging perhaps 10 yards or so from the edge of the reeds. The views were excellent and they remained on view for up to five minutes at a time, often jumping out of the water and laying on the water's surface. It was an awesome sight and proof of how well this species is faring in our wetlands, the population apparently expanding by up to 16% year-on-year. The two animals rarely disappeared for more than five minutes at a time and seemed very, very settled. A fantastic 'County Tick'.

Although the 2 Oystercatchers and Common Redshank from earlier had gone, a single drake GOOSANDER was still visible from the hide - and a CETTI'S WARBLER was calling.

Checking nearby GAYHURST PIT (NORTH BUCKS) soon added OYSTERCATCHER to the County Year List, the pit to the east of the footpath also yielding 10 Mute Swans, 15 Common Teal, 23 Wigeon, 12 Tufted Duck and a Song Thrush, whilst the fields in the Ouse Valley east of LATHBURY (NORTH BUCKS) held a total of 153 Mute Swans (102+4+16+31).

In STOKE GOLDINGTON VILLAGE (NORTH BUCKS), a whopping 44 TREE SPARROWS was visiting the favoured Dags Lane garden, whilst in EMBERTON PARK (NORTH BUCKS), the Barnacle Goose with a damaged wing had been joined by a second bird in perfect health and condition.

Just south of NEWPORT STABLES on the A509 at SP 890 424, yet another dead Badger to add to the surge in recent weeks.

Nearing the end of the day, I stopped off at TRING RESERVOIRS (HERTS), where on TRINGFORD 6 RED-CRESTED POCHARD and the redhead SMEW were present and on WILSTONE, the gull roost held 1 adult Lesser Black-backed, just 14 Common and just over 3,000 Black-headed.