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, 22 May 2013

MARSH HARRIER at Springfield

21 May: Following Frederick's post I decided to check out the Lapwings at Springfield Landfill site. Still 4 pairs with something to protect given their reaction to me and to any predator that dares to approach. This amazingly included a Marsh Harrier!!! Not wanting to aggravate the Lapwings any more than necessary I decided to return by skirting the site around the bund. As I approached the edge of Dipple Wood a raptor came from behind the wood and crossed into the Springfield site. Initially I just assumed it was a Red Kite but as I mentally was putting it into the Kite box, it didn't fit! It was fully 70 yds beyond me before I was convinced this was no Kite. Lighter in the air with wings shaped into a V and lilting side to side as it flew with deep wing beats on a steady northerly trajectory. What confused me most was there didn't appear to be any creamy colouring on the head or inner wings, it just appeared generally chocolaty brown but the jizz was unmistaka ble, especially the ay it jinked to avoid the attention shown by the Lapwings.

I've often thought about the possibility of encountering a Harrier at Springfield but I assumed it would be a Hen Harrier in winter, this was out of the 'far side'.

Last seen heading virtually due north so would have gone up the west side of Beaconsfield

Family party of 5 Ravens as well.   Dave Cleal

Monday, 20 May 2013



With a northerly wind blowing, temperatures pegged back a little today. The rain kept away, as did the sun.

With nothing happening other than in Northumberland and further north in Scotland, all my efforts concentrated solely on local birding. When Adam Bassett found 2 SANDERLING at Spade Oak, that's where I finally ended up..........

I spent most of the morning searching for Spotted Flycatcher but after checking three regular sites, it certainly seemed that they are yet to arrive....LITTLE MISSENDON producing just 3 Gadwall and a singing Song Thrush in the church area of the Misbourne, DROPMORE nothing of interest and ST MARY'S CHURCH, WENDOVER, similar.

Rather belatedly, my first Brown Rat of the year was an animal that ran across the A40 at the very west end of BEACONSFIELD at SU 923 898

Arriving at SPADE OAK GRAVEL PIT (LITTLE MARLOW) at the same time as Graham Smith, we both joined Adam moments later, with his 2 SANDERLINGS (one in pretty good nick and the other a step up from winter plumage) still showing well on the end of the spit. In fact, they seemed quite settled, and were still present 90 minutes later when I left at 1500 hours. In the meantime, a succession of observers came and went, including Mike & Rose, John Edwards and Dick Seekins. Although distant, I managed to get some identifiable images (see my Buckinghamshire Birding website).

Otherwise, 2 migrant TUNDRA RINGED PLOVER, a LITTLE RINGED PLOVER, 6 Common Shelducks, Common Kingfisher, 40+ Common Swifts and a nice HOBBY, as well as 2 Roe Deer feeding on Willow trees (see pix).

Along CHERRY LANE by FARTHINGS STABLES in WOODROW, 4 LAPWING were commuting between here and cereal fields the opposite side of Amersham Road.

Saturday, 18 May 2013

You just cannot afford to go to sleep these days

The TUNDRA RINGED PLOVER in the lower two shots


You just cannot afford to get any sleep with this game. After losing two night's sleep in succession, today due to a certain DUSKY THRUSH in Margate Cemetery, I returned home at 0900 hours to get some sleep. No sooner had I got under the sheets than Jason Ward texted with news of a Wood Sandpiper at Amwell Nature Reservoir, a species I still had not seen in Hertfordshire this year..

I jumped up, got dressed and drove over there, but after just half an hour, the Wood Sandpiper had departed and I dipped - solace being achieved in a singing male GARDEN WARBLER and a single male LITTLE RINGED PLOVER (other species on tap being 3 Common Redshanks, 40+ Black-headed Gulls on rafts, 8+ Common Terns, 100+ Common Swifts, Sedge Warbler and calling COMMON CUCKOO and CETTI'S WARBLER)

Feeling terribly knackered by this time, I again returned home to get some sleep. This time I recharged the phone downstairs which was a grave mistake. By 4pm, a succession of local birders had been frantically trying to contact me after Alan Stephens had discovered two TEMMINCK'S STINTS at Spade Oak Gravel Pits. My own fault of course.

Anyway, waking at 1830 hours, I checked the mobile and learnt of my mistakes. Graham Smith kindly filled me in. I was at SPADE OAK within 17 minutes and to my horror, the gathered crowd had just lost the two birds. Nightmare! I continued on to the east side of the pit and by a miracle, relocated both birds after they had been disturbed by a Red Fox. They then flew back towards the spit and continued to show reasonably well until at least 1930 hours, enabling me to get a series of record shots of the two birds. Both were in full breeding plumage and were accompanying a single TUNDRA RINGED PLOVER. Also noted were 6 Common Shelducks, 27 Egyptian Geese, 73 Argenteus Herring Gulls and 8 Lesser Black-backed Gulls.

On the way home, driving through BEACONSFIELD (on the A355), I was saddened to see a dead Badger by the entrance to ROSECOPSE BARN.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

MARSH HARRIER this evening

15/5 16:30 : Marsh Harrier : Little Marlow GP.

Cream crown bird flew low north over the lake and then watched circling north of the pit before flying on NW (towards my house!) with Graham Smith.

Adam Bassett

Monday, 13 May 2013

SANDERLING at Manor Farm - 11 May


Another cold night with a lot of overnight rain and followed by a day of WNW winds and temperatures no higher than 9 degrees C - well under par for the second week of May. I concentrated in the local area as nationally, rarities were few and far between.....

Following an early morning call from Ian Williams, met him and Mike Campbell along the DRY CANAL 200 yards east of DRAYTON BEAUCHAMP (BUCKS) at 0800 hours, where a cracking male WHINCHAT was showing well in the early morning sunshine along the hedgerow running perpendicular to the canal, frustratingly 100 yards into Buckinghamshire. Both Ian and I obtained a series of images of this gorgeous migrant (see both my Tring and Bucks blogs). Also noted in the short stretch of canal hedgerow were Mistle Thrush (singing from trees in the churchyard), 2 Yellowhammer, 4 Linnets and 2 Common Whitethroats.

Simon Nichols then texted with a SANDERLING in North Bucks and, just 23 minutes later, I was with Martin Yapp watching it ! Once again, it was MANOR FARM WORKINGS that had attracted this scarce passage migrant, far and away the best site for waders in the county at the moment. The SANDERLING was in transitional plumage and favouring the eastern set of islands but was too far away to get anything more than a poor record shot.

The wader flock at Manor Farm - 9 Dunlin and 4 Tundra Ringed Plover

The Sanderling....

......and the Greenshank

Also present were a nice breeding-plumaged COMMON GREENSHANK, 9 DUNLINS, 12 Ringed Plover including a party of 4 Arctic-bound TUNDRAE, 6 Little Ringed Plover, Lapwing and Common Redshank. The middle island held 32 Common Terns (seemingly nesting) whilst overhead, 85 Common Swifts, 8 House Martins and 120 Sand Martins were noted.

A male Song Thrush was singing loudly from the hedgerow by the car park.

At STEWARTBY LAKE (BEDS) late morning, no sign of Andy Grimsey's two Turtle Doves but a singing male GARDEN WARBLER and at least 8 WILLOW WARBLERS in the Scrapyard Corner area. In AMPTHILL, no sight nor sound of the Nightingale.

Relocating to TYTTENHANGER GP (HERTS), I finally added Ringed Plover to my Herts Year List - a single feeding on the sand (see pic on my Herts blog). Little else seen though, apart from 2 Little Ringed Plovers. Dipped Tree Sparrows for the umpteenth time this year.

SYMONDSHYDE GP nearby proved more worthwhile, with a drake MANDARIN DUCK and 2 HOBBIES on the usual pit (plus a pair of Mute Swans) and singing GARDEN WARBLER and Common Chiffchaff in the surrounding scrub

Friday, 10 May 2013

Flush of waders at College Lake


Another day of strong WSW winds, although not as strong as yesterday. It remained dry throughout with some bright interludes - temperatures hovering around 14 degrees C.

Spent a few hours at COLLEGE LAKE BBOWT RESERVE this afternoon where waders were the order of the day. In addition to the breeding pair of OYSTERCATCHERS (see pic), 5 pairs of Lapwing and 8 Common Redshanks, were 3 LITTLE RINGED PLOVERS, a single RINGED PLOVER (my first in the area this year and I still haven't seen one in Herts), a COMMON SANDPIPER and two summer-plumaged DUNLINS.

Joan and I did the wildfowl counts with all 16 Mute Swans in situ (including orange-ringed adult '4AFA'), at least 1 Greylag Goose pair still sitting, 2 drake Mallard, 2 drake Gadwall, a pair of SHOVELER and 17 Tufted Duck; also 6 active Coot nests still. A pair of Common Terns was prospecting on the westernmost island, whilst a LITTLE EGRET dropped in and fished in front of Octagon Hide for 5 minutes before flying off.

Migrantwise, little to be found, other than 35 Common Swifts, 5 House Martins and singles of both singing Sedge Warbler and Willow Warbler

Whilst there, Paul Reed rang to say that his partner Nancy had seen the SHORT-EARED OWL again hunting by the vergeside to the north of IVINGHOE BEACON. Joan and I, Mike Campbell and Graham Smith rushed up there but there was no further sign. In fact, I spent from 1500 through 1830 hours there and yielded nothing more than 4 Common Kestrels, 3 Common Whitethroats and a trickle of Common Swifts moving west.

The display of BLUEBELLS in DOCKEY WOOD (ASHRIDGE FOREST) at SP 965 157 is resplendent and well worth a look (see my images below) whilst Rook activity was in full swing at the 15-strong colony in FLAUNDEN'S HOGPITS BOTTOM PLANTATION at TL 018 013

MARSH HARRIER for second day and SHORT-EARED OWL again

A creamcrown MARSH HARRIER caught and killed a duckling at Calvert Sailing Lake last night (per Warren Claydon) and was still present this morning until early afternoon.

Meanwhile, at Ivinghoe Beacon, the SHORT-EARED OWL appeared again hunting the roadside verge of the main road early afternoon (Nancy Reed)

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

MONK PARAKEET - a County Tick


Overnight and into morning saw a band of rain cross the region but by 0900 hours, it had cleared away to the east. It was replaced by cooler, fresher conditions, with a freshening SW wind and occasional spells of warm sunshine. Temperatures peaked at around 14 degrees C.

This was my first opportunity in a week to do a full day's local birding, the undoubted highlight being a purring TURTLE DOVE........

I started my day at TRING RESERVOIRS (HERTS) where both Greylag and Atlantic Canada Geese were now accompanying young on WILSTONE. A single LITTLE EGRET was roosting on the west shore, whilst migrants included 140 Common Swifts and 60 House Martins. Not much else of note other than a singing male Mistle Thrush. No sign of any nesting Common Terns - in fact just 2 were on the bunds.

STARTOP'S END RESERVOIR also held large numbers of Common Swift (130 at least), along with 33 Tufted Duck, 13 Greylag Geese, 16 Coot, 4 Great Crested Grebes, 30 Common Terns and the pair of Red-crested Pochard, the female acting as though she had a nest on one of the rafts.

A single breeding-plumaged BLACK TERN was showing well on MARSWORTH RESERVOIR, often roosting for long periods on the bunds (see pictures below); it was associating with up to 33 Common Terns. Several Western Reed Warblers were singing from the reedbed at the west end (Af Nasir had yet another Osprey fly over mid afternoon).

Retreating to the IVINGHOE HILLS, I searched high and low for the Tree Pipit seen by Rob Andrews a few evenings ago but no joy - Top Scrub yielding 2 singing male GARDEN WARBLERS, 2 Common Chiffchaffs, 2 singing male WILLOW WARBLERS, 3 male Common Whitethroats and a single male Song Thrush.

I then made a brief incursion into BEDFORDSHIRE where a jangling male CORN BUNTING was along WELLHEAD ROAD in TOTTERNHOE and the KNOLLS produced a 'purring' male EUROPEAN TURTLE DOVE - my first of the year. The dove was showing well in scrub just beyond the Lime Kiln perimeter fencing and perched long enough for me to get some shots (see below). The area also held several Common Blackbird, 2 Common Whitethroat, 2 singing male WILLOW WARBLER and my first Speckled Wood butterfly of the year.

Joining Francis Buckle at COLLEGE LAKE BBOWT (who incidentally had seen the Turtle Dove yesterday afternoon), we enjoyed perched views of one of the two HOBBIES present on the main marsh (see pic). Otherwise, usual fare, including 16 Mute Swans, Greylag Goose still incubating, the drake COMMON SHELDUCK, both OYSTERCATCHERS (with one now sat on a nest on the lefternmost island) and a singing male Western Reed Warbler.

Thanks to Richie Moores, I then added a new species to my BUCKINGHAMSHIRE LIST - albeit one of an introduced nature. A pair of MONK PARAKEETS was busily nest-building in the grounds of HARTWELL HOUSE, on the western outskirts of AYLESBURY, a species never recorded in the county before in a wild capacity. I took a lot of photographs (see selection below), the Monk Parakeet population in Britain now weighing in at a minimum 73 birds.

I then checked the southern end of BALDWIN'S WOOD in the Hertfordshire section of the CHESS VALLEY. Anna and JT had seen a Common Crossbill here recently (a species which bred here in 2012) but this afternoon all I could find was 1 singing male FIRECREST, 3 Goldcrests, 1 male Coal Tit, 5 territorial Wrens and a single singing male Blackcap.

Moving into HERTFORDSHIRE again, the KIMPTON area yielded the usual pair of EGYPTIAN GEESE near the cressbeds and a family party of COMMON RAVENS. The usual Cedar tree nest played host to four noisy youngsters this year, furthering the success of this rapidly increasing and east-expanding Corvid.

At the end of the day, I spent a couple of hours searching for RDA's Short-eared Owl around the BEACON but by 2100 hours, it had failed to appear - I gave up as another band of heavy rain crossed the Chilterns

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Wader Bonus at MANOR FARM

Got back from a Scottish jaunt late last night but just in time to 'bag' the WOOD SANDPIPER and LITTLE STINT found earlier in the day at MANOR FARM - the former flying off high to the east at 2015 hours.......

Also 5 Yellow Wagtails, 2 adult summer DUNLIN, 6 Little Ringed Plovers, 6 Ringed Plovers, 15 Common Terns and my first Lapwing chicks of the year

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Another glorious day - FIRECREST treat

An impressive day for FIRECRESTS.......


Another glorious day, with sunshine and blue skies prevailing, a light SE breeze and temperatures as high as 18 degrees C. Beautiful....

Following an early morning call from Graham Smith, my first destination of the day was WESTON TURVILLE RESERVOIR, where eventually (early afternoon), Mike Collard and I heard the GRASSHOPPER WARBLER reeling from Willows 50 yards to the left of the Susan Cowdy Hide.

Also here was a single showy singing male SEDGE WARBLER and a more secretive WESTERN REED WARBLER, as well as the striking partially albino male Reed Bunting. A Sparrowhawk circled.

An amazing looking emberiza - white rump and uppertail coverts, white head, white in the wing - stunning

Around by PERCH COTTAGE, the pair of FIRECRESTS were again showing well, with Nuthatch, Coal Tits (pair displaying with the male doing his quivering flight action), Stock Dove and Jackdaw noted.

In the sunshine, an excellent array of butterflies on the wing with HOLLY BLUE, 3 Orange-Tips, 4 Peacock, COMMA, Large Whites and Green-veined Whites.

Nearby, a Little Grebe was sat on a nest (see below).

Between WINCHMORE BOTTOM and PENN STREET at LAUREL LODGE, the Rookery was now in full swing with 26 active nests.

Several hours spent in PENN WOOD, instigated by an earlier visit by Pete Stevens, produced COMMON CUCKOO and 5 singing male FIRECRESTS, the latter all within a relatively small area - within a 100 yard stretch at the south end of the cattle paddock along the avenue that runs south to north towards the Penna Monument track. Furthermore, just 1 singing Goldcrest was located.

Other warblers present included just 1 Common Chiffchaff and 4 male Blackcaps but I failed to find Pete's Garden Warbler, nor was there any sight nor sound of Willow Warbler. Also noted were Woodpigeon (a pair nesting in Rhododendron scrub), Wren (6 territories), Robin, Common Blackbird (4), Song Thrush (pair), Chaffinch (4 singing males), Common Treecreeper (2), Great Spotted and Green Woodpecker, BULLFINCH (2 pairs), Blue Tit (4), Great Tit (2), Coal Tit (3) and singing male Mistle Thrush.

Again, butterflies were very much in evidence, with 3+ COMMAS seen and a number of Peacocks.

Back in the CHESS VALLEY, 3 LITTLE EGRETS were present (at Latimer Bridge, Church Covert NR and at Mill Farm Water Meadows), with 3 COMMON WHITETHROATS in the latter meadow, 3 singing Blackcaps, Great Spotted Woodpecker and a female Common Kestrel at her nest hole.

A single Common Chiffchaff was singing within the 'Bluebell Wood', which incidentally was in full bloom (see pix below), with large numbers of Small Tortoiseshell and Green-veined White butterflies nearby