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

Monday, 27 January 2014

Local Mega: RING-BILLED GULL at Spade Oak

I found an adult RING-BILLED GULL on the main lake at Little Marlow GP, Bucks this afternoon.  Although only seen on the lake, it was seen to fly over to the river side flood meadows at least twice – I last saw it about 2pm.  The Little Marlow flood meadows are extensively flooded but receding and hold a lot of BHG and some Commons, but the river is flooded in many areas, including Cock Marsh, Berks, so it could get on there.  I would also suggest that QMR roost might be worth a look (Adam Bassett)

Tuesday, 14 January 2014


A sharp frost overnight leading to some dangerous driving conditions early on, followed by a glorious day, with sunshine and clear blue skies.

A little bit of a recovery in the garden (CHAFFINCH HOUSE) with the first male House Sparrow in a while, 1 Common Starling, Robin, 2 Great Tits and a succession of Blue Tits at the feeders.

Following a call from Adam Bassett, I drove down to meet him at SPADE OAK PIT, LITTLE MARLOW; he had discovered a wintering flock of CHIFFCHAFFS. Getting to him was the first hurdle - I had never seen Little Marlow so flooded - at one stage I was wading through over a foot of water - it was incredible. The footpath between the car park and the railway was totally submerged. Anyhow, eventually managed to get to him (and Graham Smith), albeit rather wet, where the small flock of Phylloscopus warblers (5 in total) was frequenting the trackside vegetation, 100 yards either way of the railway crossing. The birds were highly mobile and difficult to photograph in the correct lighting but included one very obvious 'green toned' Common Chiffchaff, two darker individuals of perhaps an abietinus persuasion and two very pale, black-billed and black-legged individuals clearly tristis (Siberian). These latter two were calling quite frequently - a subdued, very short, piping 'pieu' note - mono in tone and repeated at regular intervals - and very different to the disyllabic notes being given by the other three birds. They were very beige in colouration, with greenish remiges in the upper wing coverts and in the upper tail. I obtained a lot of images in the couple of hours I was present, a selection of which are reproduced here. A further colybitta was seen from the usual watchpoint. This immediate vicinity also held 8 Long-tailed Tits, several Blue and Great Tits and Grey Wagtail.

These two shots above give a more realistic idea of plumage colouration - very pale and washed out, almost fawn

It was very difficult to actually observe the main pit but both Grey Heron and Sinensis Cormorant were back rebuilding nests on the island, 4 Egyptian Geese, 60+ Wigeon, 22 Gadwall and 11 Great Crested Grebe all noted. A pair of Australian Black Swans were at the north end - the first time I have seen these birds which arrived at the site last autumn. Quite a few Red Kites overhead and at least one KINGFISHER flying about.

Hoping to find Linnet, I stopped off at SPRINGFIELD FARM SAND QUARRY at BEACONSFIELD. Despite a lot of trampsing about, failed to locate any but did witness a flock of 115 STOCK DOVE - my largest gathering of the year so far. Also 42 Red Kites in attendance, 6 Common Buzzard, 60 Mallard, 4 Red-legged Partridge, 2 wintering Song Thrush, 175+ Fieldfare, 3 Meadow Pipit and 2 Jay.

43 of a 115-strong flock of Stock Doves today

At neighbouring CASTLEMAN'S FARM POULTRY FIELDS, 5 Egyptian Geese were accompanying the white hens, with Common Kestrel, 6 Skylark, Common Blackbird, 2 more Meadow Pipit and 18 House Sparrows noted, the latter in their usual hedgerow just east of the farm. At OVERS FARM, just to the NW, a nice feeding flock of 47 Fieldfare, 11 Redwing and 8 Common Magpie, with Carrion Crow, Dunnock, Chaffinch and Common Blackbird around the houses.

I then returned to the CHESS VALLEY hoping to find Little Owl but despite trying four different sites, failed badly in my quest. A GREEN SANDPIPER that flew from Mill Farm Meadows to Church Covert was the biggest surprise, CHENIES BOTTOM producing 2 Little Egret, Grey Wagtail and Goldcrest.

I spent the last hour of daylight at CRESTYL CRESSBEDS at SARRATT BOTTOM, where some 15 Moorhen were feeding, a COMMON KINGFISHER, a single Little Egret and 2 Grey Wagtail. A WATER RAIL crossed the road in front of me as daylight faded, with 5 Little Egrets flighting to roost from the Chess to Stockers Lake from 1636 hours (3 at 1636 and further singles at 1640 & 1644). Other species noted included Common Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, Robin, Song Thrush and Redwing (2), with singles of both Common Buzzard and Red Kite roosting in Mount Wood

Friday, 10 January 2014

In search of that GLOSSY IBIS........

Being probably the only keen Buckinghamshire lister that still hasn't seen a Glossy Ibis in the county, I returned again to the west of the county in the hope of relocating the Bicester juvenile in the Upper Ray Meadows. Alas, I had no joy......
It was a nice day, with no rain until 4pm, pretty mild and a moderate wind.
At WHITEHOUSE FARM (SP 653 198), the resident House Sparrow population remained healthy at 28 individuals, with Common Magpie, Robin and Great Tit also in the vicinity.
At UPPER RAY MEADOWS WEST, where the river was in very full flood, masses of birds were present, including a whopping 3,300 LAPWING (my highest count locally in over 10 years), 298 EUROPEAN GOLDEN PLOVER and vast numbers of gulls, both small and large white-headeds (for example, 272 Lesser Black-backs, 156 Herring, 31 Great Black-backed). There were also a lot of winter thrushes in the area - at least 280 Fieldfare and 240 Redwing feeding in the wet field immediately NNE of Whitehouse Farm. A lot of Common Starlings too - 190 - as well as a pair of GREY PARTRIDGE, 2 Reed Bunting and 80 Common Teal. Despite a lot of searching, I could not locate any Ruff (at least 33 having been seen in this area recently, perhaps commuting back and forth to Otmoor).

Lapwings in profusion - the largest numbers I have seen in Bucks for over 10 years

and a large flock of Golden Plovers

I searched the floods as far west as the county border at PIDDINGTON, but apart from hundreds of gulls and Rooks rebuilding their nests, nothing was found. At OAKAPPLE FARM near MARSH GIBBON (SP 65 22), another 350 Common Starlings, 200 Fieldfare and 100 Redwing and near GRENDON UNDERWOOD at DUNMEAD FARM (SP 67 21), a single flock of 1,300 Common Starlings, 2 Common Magpies and another large flock of Fieldfare and Redwing. A further 110 Fieldfare was counted at THREE BRIDGE MILL.
The CATTLE EGRET was showing very well at BRIARHILL FARM and I managed to better my previous images of the bird (see below) mainly by cheating and enticing it over.........

I tried to entice the Cattle Egret over with some earthworms but although quite curious

...he never quite plucked up the courage to come down...

......and eventually flew back to rejoin the cattle

Sitting in the hide at FOXCOTE RESERVOIR from 1245-1350 hours yielded the redhead SMEW (frustratingly feeding on the far side underneath the vegetated eaves and very distant), an impressive 13 Common Goldeneye (6 drakes), 12 Cormorant, 3 Mute Swans, 11 Common Teal, 16 Gadwall, 305 Wigeon, 12 Pochard, 31 Tufted Duck, 8 Great Crested Grebe and 215 Coot.

This redhead SMEW was very distant, hugging the far edge of the reservoir and fishing the shallows

A good number of Common Goldeneye (13)

....and an adult Sinensis Cormorant

House Sparrows numbered 14 in BUCKLAND COMMON (SP 91 07), with numerous Robins singing in the area and 1 Song Thrush, with a gathering of 23 Carrion Crows at WICK FARM, HASLOE (HERTS) and a Common Buzzard (but again no Linnets).

Back in the CHESS VALLEY late afternoon, both pairs of Mute Swans at BOIS MILL LAKE and CHURCH COVERT respectively and 5 LITTLE EGRETS in the CHENIES BOTTOM area fishing.