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, 28 April 2014

Tim Watts finds yet another BLACK-NECKED GREBE

The warmest day of the year so far with afternoon temperatures in the sun reaching 21 degrees C. Dry throughout with a switch from east to SW winds....
First off, a couple of ROOKERY COUNTS for Roger - 36 active nests at COTTON END (TL 08 44) and 16 in BROGBOROUGH VILLAGE
I then spent much of the morning at MARSTON VALE COUNTRY PARK where the first-summer male MARSH HARRIER was busy gathering sticks and other vegetation, presumably in the hope of building a nest and attracting a mate. Also, lots and lots of other summer migrants on site, including COMMON CUCKOO, 15+ Western Reed Warblers, 8+ Sedge Warblers, 3 different Cetti's Warblers, 2 singing male Garden Warblers, 3 rattling Lesser Whitethroats, 3 Common Whitethroats, at least 9 Willow Warblers and 3 Common Chiffchaffs, as well as 8 House Martins.
More regular fare included Oystercatcher, Little Grebe, Goldfinch (4), Common Magpie, Barn Swallow, Dunnock, Blue Tit, Carrion Crow (4 separate nests occupied), Moorhen, Coot (1 pair with fledged young), Reed Bunting (4), Common Starling (8), Blackcap, Green Woodpecker, Greenfinch, Mistle Thrush, Northern Pochard (7) and Tufted Duck, while Orange Tip butterflies were numerous.
I then visited the WILLINGTON CYCLE TRACK COMPLEX where highlights included two reeling GRASSHOPPER WARBLERS and a 'freshly arrived' COMMON NIGHTINGALE (in the usual area of Blackthorn, 300 yds south of the bridge) as well as COMMON CUCKOO, 3+ Lesser Whitethroat, 2 Common Whitethroat, Garden Warbler, 2 Cetti's Warblers, 3 Common Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Jay, Reed Bunting, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Long-tailed Tit, Common Kestrel and Common Buzzard. The small lake held single pairs of both Great Crested and Little Grebe while the 'Great Reed Warbler Pit' held at least 8 Western Reed Warblers, 3 Sedge Warblers and several House Martins.
At BLUNHAM LAKE at 1600 hours, 8 Common Tern and 2 ARCTIC TERN flew back and forth over the eastern side of the lake, with 24 Mute Swans, 2 Greylag Geese, a female Mallard with chicks, 12 Tufted Duck and 5 Black-headed Gull noted.
Over in WEST BUCKS, the first-winter CATTLE EGRET was still present in the STEEPLE CLAYDON area, a little buff coming through in the crown, with nearby a cracking breeding-plumaged BLACK-NECKED GREBE on CALVERT SAILING LAKE, present until dusk with Tufted Duck on the north shore. A lot of Great Crested Grebes too (14), as well as 6 Mute Swan, 2 Gadwall, 6 Tufted Duck, 24 Coot, 8 Western Reed Warbler, Cetti's Warbler, Blackcap, Lesser Whitethroat and Common Chiffchaff.

Across the road at CALVERT BBOWT LAKE, a further 6 Great Crested Grebes, a drake Gadwall, 4 Common Tern, Song Thrush and Willow Warbler, with seemingly the hide being used as a rubbish bin!!

Highlight yesterday was this breeding-plumaged BLACK TERN at SPADE OAK PIT, LITTLE MARLOW

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

A blinder of a day locally

A band of rain moved slowly across the Chiltern region overnight and continued well into the morning, only clearing at around 1100 hours. Winds remained in the east for a while before veering more southerly. Such conditions ensured an interesting day locally........
During the rain, up to 16 Common Starlings were feeding on the cricket ground in HYDE HEATH, while a male Blackcap sang from shrubs in my CHAFFINCH HOUSE garden.
Following several calls, I then made my way to NORTON GREEN (HERTS), where Darrell Bryant had found a female RING OUZEL. The bird was showing very well in the open areas to the west of the site allowing me an opportunity to get some images. Other migrants present included 4 NORTHERN WHEATEARS and two singing male COMMON WHITETHROATS while a pair of GREY PARTRIDGE flushed up from the ground. A single Canada Goose, Red Kite, Robin, 2 Common Magpie, 2 Common Starling, 8 Common Blackbird, Song Thrush, Greenfinch, 8 Chaffinch, Blue Tit, 4 Skylarks and an impressive 16 Linnet were also recorded.
I then moved on to PEGSDON HILLS (BEDS) but failed in my quest there to locate the 4 Ring Ouzels; a small group of 4 NORTHERN WHEATEAR were around the terraces of Deacon Hill but little else and only 1 Meadow Pipit was encountered.
At STEWARTBY LAKE, a blank was drawn on the singing Nightingale but migrants were otherwise well represented with no less than 26 singing male WILLOW WARBLERS, 15 Blackcaps, a few Common Chiffchaff and 2 rattling male LESSER WHITETHROATS; a pair of Bullfinch too and a party of 8 first-year Common Gulls on the water.
I had similar results at BROGBOROUGH LAKE (again no Nightingale) with just 2 Mute Swans, 10 Great Crested Grebe, Swallow, Green Woodpecker, Willow Warbler, Blackcap and Lesser Whitethroat noted.
Moving into North Bucks following Simon Nichols' circuit, both the summer-plumaged BLACK TERN and ARCTIC TERN were present on WILLEN LAKE SOUTH BASIN at 1643, along with 8 Common Terns. Plenty of hirundines present too, including 40 House Martin and 30 Sand Martin, as well as 21 Tufted Duck, 35 Mute Swan, 6 Great Crested Grebe and 2 immature Sinensis Cormorant. The temperature had now recovered to 12.5 degrees C.
OLD WOLVERTON'S MANOR FARM was in better shape now than it was a few weeks ago with an excellent selection of migrants taking advantage of the habitat. The BLACK-TAILED GODWIT was showing well, along with 6 Little Ringed Plovers, a Ringed Plover and two summer-plumaged DUNLINS, while WHITE WAGTAILS peaked at 6 males, with 2 male YELLOW WAGTAILS and 9 presumed migrant Pied Wagtails, as well as a single female NORTHERN WHEATEAR on one of the shingle islands. There were a few lingering wildfowl, including 4 Common Teal, a pair of Shoveler and 4 Gadwall, with just 2 Common Tern present and 1 adult Black-headed Gull.

Black-tailed Godwit...

The 2 Dunlin

With news from Simon at 1730 that the COMMON SCOTER were still there, I arrived at CALDECOTT SOUTH LAKE five minutes later. The flock of ten birds consisted of 5 pairs, doubling my Bucks total for the year following the flock of 7 drakes and 3 females at College Lake BBOWT on 4 April. Like elsewhere, good numbers of hirundines, with 35 House Martins and 65 Sand Martins. Whilst photographing the Scoter, Steve Rodwell 'phoned to say that he had just watched a White Stork drift slowly SSE from Cemetery Corner at Wilstone towards the ridge at Aldbury Nowers. It had been on view for about five minutes, long enough for another Tring regular - Stuart Wilson - to connect. It was presumably the bird that had drifted over Otmoor RSPB (Oxon) mid afternoon.

I joined Stuart and Steve at WILSTONE RESERVOIR at around 1820 hours - the highlight for me being the flock of 150 or so Sand Martin present. No sign of a Common Swift though - another species that will have to wait for another day. Little else of note and just 2 Common Terns, although the increased activity of Little Egrets suggested that the eggs may have hatched.
STARTOP'S END RESERVOIR was far more rewarding with a noisy flock of 5 WHIMBREL greeting my arrival at 1915. The flock even tried to touch down on the green bales but after failing, flew off strongly to the east and into Bucks at 1917. Both the Common Redshanks and Oystercatcher were still present while new for the year was a single COMMON SANDPIPER. The female Red-crested Pochard left the nest to feed by the bank towards dusk, while a WHITE WAGTAIL and Grey Wagtails were on the bank. For the second night running, Common Tern numbers peaked at 52.

The male COMMON CUCKOO was calling frequently again on MARSWORTH RESERVOIR while 11 CORN BUNTINGS gathered pre-roost. The horse paddocks yielded a minimum 9 YELLOW WAGTAILS, while hirundines were represented by at least 260 Sand Martin and 57 House Martin. Sedge Warbler numbers in the reedbed had now increased to at least 4, with 3 male Reed Buntings in song and a drake Northern Pochard.

Monday, 21 April 2014

Manor Farm this evening

A whistle stop tour of Willen Lake north and south + Manor Farm this evening turned up a few surprises but not quite the flood gates opening yet.

Willen South

Best was the COMMON SWIFT wheeling around with 15 House Martins , 2 Common Terns were on the raft with a 3rd bird commuting to the north lake , not much else on the spit other than 4 Teal

Manor Farm

Andy Morris BLACK TAILED GODWIT was still roosting in the shallows just out from the Gate - almost full Summer Plumage - cracking bird. Also on site were 7 LRP's ( I managed to miss the DUNLIN that Rob had 20 mins later, unless it dropped in ) 2 YELLOW WAGTAILS and 3 WHITE WAGTAILS were great to see as well

Simon Nichols

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Recent Exploits

Catch up with my latest Buckinghamshire exploits at my Web Diary -

and remember, if you find a good local bird, text me on 07881 906629

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

SPOT RED still present

The transitional plumaged SPOTTED REDSHANK is still present at Manor Farm this morning, one of the longest stayers ever in the county in spring (per Bob Fowles)

Tuesday, 1 April 2014


Click here for the fully illustrated version -
A return to much warmer weather as a ridge of high pressure intensifies over Southern Britain. In fact, this was the warmest day of the year so far with temperatures reaching 18 degrees C during the afternoon
Undoubted highlight of the day was a PIED AVOCET that graced TYTTENHANGER MAIN PIT from mid morning 'til dusk - the third individual in that area this year. It was favouring the sandy spit and shallows thereabouts and was discovered shortly after a flock of Pintails and 2 Mandarin Ducks had passed through. I connected with the bird at 1650 hours, along with a few Common Snipe, 2 Lapwing, 5 Common Teal and 9 SAND MARTINS.
An adult Little Gull that moved from Weston Turville Reservoir to WILSTONE RESERVOIR at 10am was still there when I left Tyttenhanger (per Steve Rodwell) but when Ian Williams, David Bilcock and I arrived 40 minutes later, it had disappeared.....
WILSTONE proffered 7 Little Grebe (all together in one tightly knit flock), 7 Mute Swan, 34 Greylag Geese, 8 Shoveler, 2 Gadwall, drake Wigeon, 96 Tufted Duck, 52 Coot, 7 Pochard and a Stock Dove while a pair of Little Egrets was nesting again along the Drayton Bank.
STARTOP'S END yielded 28 Black-headed Gulls but no Little Gull, 3 Mute Swans (including a first-summer), 66 Tufted Duck, 16 Coot and 4 Great Crested Grebe, with Greenfinch, 4 Common Blackbird, 6 Common Starling, a Common Kestrel and 2 Pied Wagtails around the periphery.
A fair bit of activity over at TRINGFORD RESERVOIR with the Great Crested Grebe pair, Mute Swan pair and Red-crested Pochard pair, drake Teal, 28 Tufted Duck and 10 Coot, 3 singing male Common Chiffchaff and a party of 35 SAND MARTIN. The Rookery was at full speed with no less than 32 active nests this year, the woodland also supporting 3 Goldfinch, 6 Robin, 9 Wren, 3 male Dunnock, 2 Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush and 70 Jackdaw.
I stopped off at WESTON TURVILLE RESERVOIR at dusk, just in case the Little Gull had flown back, but there was pretty much nothing - 2 Great Crested Grebe, 2 Mute Swan, 8 Coot and 2 Moorhen.
The last day of March was another very warm one with temperatures once again reaching 18 degrees C and Saharan dust even making the Chilterns. It proved to be an excellent day for rare passage waders.....
After counting 15 active nests in OLD WOLVERTON ROOKERY, my first visit of the day was to MANOR FARM WORKINGS in OLD WOLVERTON, where both the transitional plumaged SPOTTED REDSHANK and winter-plumaged GREY PLOVER were still present, albeit rather distantly (see pix below). This chain of gravel workings really are looking superb this spring and should yield some excellent results, today's wader haul including Oystercatcher (pair), Lapwing (22), Ringed Plover, LITTLE RINGED PLOVER (4), GREEN SANDPIPER and Common Redshank (4). Also present were a splendid pair of GOOSANDER, 3 lingering Wigeon, 8 Teal, 2 Shoveler, 28 Tufted Duck, 2 Mute Swan and 2 Great Crested Grebe, as well as a first-summer Common Gull, Green Woodpecker and a Peacock butterfly.
More Rook counting followed with 5 active nests by the CHILDS WAY ROUNDABOUT, M1 JUNCTION 14 and 105 at SALFORD and a further 67 at MEADOW LANE (BEDS).
Once in CAMBRIDGESHIRE, Brimstone butterflies became apparent, with 3 along a short stretch of the A428 just east of ST NEOTS and active Rookeries including 8 nests at WINTRINGHAM HALL, 19 at ELTISLEY MANOR, 35 close to the ABBOTSLEY ROAD JUNCTION and 13 just east of CROXTON; a further 4 were by the A14 at FENSTANTON.
FENDRAYTON GP as I once knew them were barely recognisable from the changes undertaken in the last 3 years by the RSPB, the reserve being so extensive and large now that you need either a bicycle or a taxi to get round!! I parked up at the entrance and walked the muddy mile distance to the Couch Hide overlooking the westernmost MOORE LAKE where within seconds I had espied the breeding-plumaged drake BAIKAL TEAL that had been gracing the site since early in the month. It was very loosely associating with Wigeon and Teal but largely kept to itself, feeding at the west end of the lake. Not sure of its merits as a genuine vagrant from the Orient but certainly as good as the majority of recent drakes in Britain, including those in Essex and Oxon. This is now one superb reserve, full of potential and birds - highlights of my visit today including a dapper drake SMEW (displaying to some of the 28 Common Goldeneye present), 3 GARGANEY (2 drakes and a female), a LITTLE RINGED PLOVER, single Black-tailed Godwit and a party of 9 LITTLE GULLS (including 2 first-years).
An impressive list of species included Great Crested Grebe (12), Little Grebe (3), Sinensis Cormorant (28 nests), Grey Heron, Mute Swan (4), both Greylag & Canada Geese, Common Shelduck (pair), Egyptian Goose (pair), Wigeon (28), Gadwall (42), Teal (70), Shoveler (20), Tufted Duck, Pochard, Coot, Moorhen, Oystercatcher (pair), Lapwing, Common Snipe (25), Common Redshank (6), Black-headed, Common and Lesser Black-backed Gulls, Jay, Reed Bunting, 8 Cetti's Warblers, 9 singing Common Chiffchaffs and 3 singing male Blackcaps. A Fox was also seen as well as a dead American Mink on the tramway.
Driving back down the A10 in Hertfordshire, Rookeries in HARSTON yielded 27 active nests and SHEPRETH POPLARS 43, while a Red Kite was seen over HAMELS PARK.
I finished my day off with a visit to AMWELL NATURE RESERVE where it was a full house at GREAT HARDMEAD LAKE to see the SPOTTED REDSHANK that had arrived mid-morning. All the hard hitters were there including Ron Cousins, Barry Reed, Graham White, Mike Ilett, Paul Hackett and Jason Ward and the bird put in an outstanding performance, commuting between the new cut up towards the hides and the shallow vegetation in front of the watchpoint.

In addition to the 'Spot-shank' were 22 Wigeon, 8 Gadwall, 12 Teal, 8 Shoveler, 10 Pochard, 3 Goldeneye (1 drake), 2 Redhank, Common Snipe and 2+ Little Egret, with a Marsh Tit scolding from the woodland on the opposite side of the canal