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, 26 March 2014

An early MARSH HARRIER, with GARGANEYS up to 3

Feeling like winter again with temperatures struggling to reach 7 degrees C and a biting NW wind blowing........
In the CHESS VALLEY at BOIS MILL POND, the immature Sinensis Cormorant was still present, perched on top of the island, while at CHESHAM FISHING LAKES, a lot of migrant activity with the return of at least 18 Black-headed Gulls and at least 3 COMMON CHIFFCHAFFS singing (two on the South Lake and 1 on the North). Nuthatch and Coal Tit were in song, with Long-tailed Tits (pair), Robin (4), Wren (4),  Goldcrest, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Dunnock, Song Thrush, Common Starling and GREY WAGTAIL all noted. The GREAT CRESTED GREBE pair were still on territory, with 8 Coot and 21 Tufted Duck also present. Across the road, LATIMER ROAD NUMBERS 1-49 held Common Starling (pair), Jackdaw (18), Common Blackbird, Chaffinch and House Sparrow (male chirping from guttering).
Another pair of GREAT CRESTED GREBE were at SHARDELOES LAKE, where also to be found were 10+ Little Grebe (several whinnying), the 3 Mute Swans (the male busily chasing last year's offspring around and the female incubating), 44 Atlantic Canada Geese, a pair of MANDARIN DUCKS, 12 Gadwall, 13 Tufted Duck and 54+ Coot. A noticeable passage of gulls with 7 Argenteus Herring present, 2 adult Lesser Black-backed and a single Black-headed, while a WATER RAIL was squealing from last year's nesting area. The 2 Grey Heron were still lingering, as were 34 Fieldfare and 26 Redwing, while new in were 3 singing COMMON CHIFFCHAFFS. Other species noted included Wren (4), Common Blackbird, Mistle Thrush (2 singing males), Robin (2), Great Tit (2), Stock Dove (4), Red Kite (5), Grey Wagtail, Green Woodpecker, Nuthatch, Common Buzzard and Common Magpie (6).
Leaving the local patch, I then headed north to BEDFORDSHIRE - the Rookery on the A1 roundabout at BIGGLESWADE NORTH now containing 24 active nests. Nearby, at GYPSY LANE WEST PIT (BROOM GP), the undoubted highlight was a migrant first-winter drake RUDDY DUCK - one of only 71 now left in the UK. It was showing very well at the north end of the pit, diving continuously at first before resting with one of the 2 Great Crested Grebes present.
This pit also held 4 Greylag Geese, 12 Tufted Duck, 4 Gadwall and 10 Coot, with the scrape to the north yielding Ringed Plover, 4 Stock Dove and 45 Woodpigeon. Across the road on GYPSY LANE EAST, waders were well represented with 3 Ringed Plovers, a LITTLE RINGED PLOVER (my first of the year), a pair of Common Redshank, a pair of Oystercatchers (one of them ringed) and a winter-plumaged migrant DUNLIN, while 12 COMMON SHELDUCK was a large gathering for inland.
In addition, a single Little Grebe, 26 Greylag Geese, 26 Gadwall, 18 Shoveler, 2 Red-legged Partridge, 8 Coot, 84 Black-headed Gull, 20 Common Gull, 3 Lesser Black-backed Gull, Mistle Thrush, Wren and Goldfinch.
I then returned to SOUTH BUCKINGHAMSHIRE with an evening visit to SPADE OAK PIT (LITTLE MARLOW) hoping for a sighting of Mediterranean Gull. Despite a large roost, I could not locate the adult of recent days, but there were at least 430 Common Gulls (predominantly adult), 15 Herring and at least 5 Lesser Black-backed. All 3 GARGANEY (2 drakes) were showing well, feeding along the closest vegetative edge of the spit (see pix below), along with a Little Grebe (scarce here), 4 Common Shelduck, 4 Egyptian Geese, 115 Common Teal, 44 Shoveler, 3 Wigeon and 34 Gadwall. A COMMON CHIFFCHAFF was in song, as was a Mistle Thrush, while Green & Great Spotted Woodpecker, Ring-necked Parakeet (2), Red Kite (5), Stock Dove, 5 Pied Wagtail and 2 Song Thrush were all noted. A Red Fox was out on the spit.

The 3 Garganeys, present for some time now

Huge passage of predominantly adult Common Gulls

Egyptian Geese

As I walked back to my car, I picked up a raptor flying purposefully east at 1755 hours - pretty high in the sky. It turned out to be an immature male MARSH HARRIER - the first I have ever seen at Little Marlow.

Very poor record shot of the Marsh Harrier

Friday, 21 March 2014

One of two wintering EUROPEAN TURTLE DOVES in North Bucks this year

This bird was in my garden late afternoon
on 6th March. When I first saw the bird, it was hunched up and not moving. After 15 minutes
it flew about 20yds up into the trees nearby and then went lower down; never seen again (Bob Fowles)

RED-NECKED GREBE over the border; WILLOW TIT performing

Although the temperatures reached a high of 13 degrees C, the near gale-force WNW wind made it feel much cooler - and difficult to bird at some localities. It remained dry though until a wet front arrived just before dark and continued for several hours in the evening.
With news of a RED-NECKED GREBE, I headed north to NORTHAMPTONSHIRE.....on route, logging the 78 active Rook nests besides the Northbound M1 near SALFORD (SP 7568)
Arriving at the dam at PITSFORD RESERVOIR, I could barely stand let alone birdwatch - the wind was so strong and blowing hard from the west. There was seemingly no shelter but as I approached the Valve Tower about 250 yards along the dam, the RED-NECKED GREBE was taking advantage of the structure and showing pretty well about 90 yards out. It was in transitional plumage but had quite a lot of bright yellow at the base of the bill and a fair amount of russet-brown on the neck and breast. Although a struggle, I did eventually manage to get a few decent shots (see below). It represented my first in the UK this year.

A pair of Common Goldeneye was also sheltering from the wind by the dam, while 4 Great Crested Grebes, 14 Coot, 6 Tufted Duck and a male Common Kestrel were also noted; a Wren was singing from scrub by the sailing club.

Just north of BOUGHTON (NORTHAMPTON), the estate there adjacent to the A508 held 27 active Rook nests.
I then revisited LINFORD NATURE RESERVE with the sole aim of photographing the WILLOW TIT at the Woodland Hide. I took along my own food but it took a long while before I finally managed to get any shots - the visits to the birdtable being so fleeting. At least 2 MARSH TITS were also coming to the feeders, along with the usual selection of Blue, Great and Long-tailed Tits, Chaffinch, Robin and Dunnock. The WILLOW TIT was in full song on a couple of occasions, as were two freshly-arrived COMMON CHIFFCHAFFS.

Two different Marsh Tits above.....

...and the sole surviving Willow Tit

The wood held at least 6 Winter Wren territories, with 2 Song Thrushes belting out and a gang of 10 Common Magpies around the access road.

The heronry was in full flow with 14 active Grey Heron nests occupied and at least 3 of Little Egret.

Otherwise, not too much to see - 6 Great Crested Grebe, 23 Mute Swan, 30 Greylag Geese, 15 Common Teal, 22 Coot, 12 Sinensis Cormorant and a pair of Oystercatcher on the bund.
This pair of Carrion Crow were busy building and relining their nest.

Nearby, WILLEN LAKE NORTH BASIN held 7 Cormorant, 2 Grey Heron, Little Egret, 3 Greylag Geese, 18 Canada Geese, 27 Tufted Duck, 8 Great Crested Grebe, 28 Common Teal, 8 Gadwall, a drake Pochard, 7 Mute Swans, 6 Lapwing, Common Redshank, Greenfinch and a singing male Reed Bunting, while the SOUTH BASIN yielded a further 43 Mute Swan.

Following a text from Steve Blake, I diverted to TYTTENHANGER GP (HERTS) on my way home, connecting with my first 6 SAND MARTINS of the year; also 4 Lapwing, 5 Shoveler and a pair of Oystercatcher