Today's weather has given me an ideal opportunity to try and catch up reading and writing emails......
Firstly, SUNDAY 7 NOVEMBER Diary Notes
A fairly pleasant day in terms of weather, with fairly fresh easterly winds, some light showers but mainly bright conditions.
CHESS VALLEY (BUCKS)
In the Chess Valley, 3 LITTLE EGRETS had returned by late afternoon, feeding together in the usual stream east of Bois Mill. There has been one bird present in the valley for nearly two months now.
WILSTONE RESERVOIR (HERTS)
Roy Hargreaves and David Bilcock had discovered a GREATER SCAUP from the Drayton Hide early morning. I got down there at about 1600 hours and after scanning the 90 or so Aythyas swimming and diving for food between the central bank and the tern rafts, soon located the bird. As usual, it was a first-winter female-type, with warm to dark brown brown overall body colouration, a darker head with a pale crescent below the lower ear covert and some restricted white at the base of the bill. There was a hint of some subtle grey tones coming through on the upperparts and alongside Tufted Ducks, the bird could be seen to be larger, with a much flatter head and thicker neck and a larger bill. The bill was grey with a slight black nail at the tip. When diving, it characteristically lifted its whole body out of the water and dived in, noticeably different to the diving action of the Tufted Ducks. David, as always, obtained images of the bird, two of which are displayed above. It represents the first in the county this year.
I then left the hide after carrying out an inventory of the birds in that quarter and walked back towards the car park, where I scrutinised the gull roost as well as counted the rest of the birds present.
Great Crested Grebe (18)
Little Grebe (3 tightly-knit together)
*BLACK-NECKED GREBE (the long-staying bird still present, favouring the section visible from the jetty)
Mute Swan (25 including the 5 first-winters)
Whooper Swan (the two tame adults, now resorting to being fed on bread)
Greylag Goose (67)
NORTHERN PINTAIL (only 3 drakes this evening)
Eurasian Wigeon (103 - very small number for this time of year)
Common Teal (347+)
Northern Pochard (189)
Tufted Duck (263)
COMMON GOLDENEYE (1 female in front of the hide - DB had seen two)
European Golden Plover (228)
Black-headed Gull (1,672 roosted - perhaps the first time they have actually done so this autumn)
Common Gull (just 13 with the above)
Lesser Black-backed Gull (14 adults)
SATURDAY 6 NOVEMBER
A beautiful day and surprisingly warm at times, despite the wind coming from the NW in the morning. Dry and sunny.
WILSTONE RESERVOIR (HERTS)
Joined Charlie, Francis and Ian on the jetty from where I eventually tracked down the WATER PIPIT present for its second day. I heard it uttering its metallic, sharp, short 'vieeet' flight note as it circled around the jetty but despite attempting to, it refused to land and disappeared strongly away towards Startop's End.
Also noted were the BLACK-NECKED GREBE (showing very well, close inshore to the bank), 1 LITTLE EGRET, 14 NORTHERN PINTAILS (mainly drakes), a female GOOSANDER (my first at the reservoirs this year), a single DUNLIN on the spit, 2 Common Snipe, 3 adult Common Gulls and a flyover LESSER REDPOLL.
WALTON LAKE, OUZEL VALLEY PARK (NORTH BUCKS)
My first visit to this small reedbed reserve - super site. Paul Moon had discovered four BEARDED TITS at this site yesterday whilst I was away in the Republic of Ireland and this was my first opportunity to visit. Mike Wallen had glimpsed a female in the last hour or so and after walking the boardwalk and perimeter path and hearing just 3 WATER RAILS, I concentrated my efforts in the area around the bench on the south side which soon reaped rewards. The BEARDED TITS were calling but not showing so I cheated. The distinctive contact calls were played from the mobile and out they all come - a single male particularly showing well as he sat aloft one of the swaying reeds. All four birds were very close - perhaps 25 yards away - but despite that, once down in the reeds, very hard to locate. The flock comprised of two adult males and two female-types - and in the warm sunshine, looked exquisite. A charming species indeed.
The Bearded Tit was not admitted to the County List until 1959, when one was seen at Claydon Brook, near Winslow. This was followed by a party of 4 which wintered at Marsworth Reservoir, Tring, from 2 November 1959, occasionally straying into the Bucks section of reedbed by the Grand Union Canal.
There then followed another migrating party of 4 at Old Slade Gravel Pits on 1 January 1966 and it was this very same site that hosted a wintering bird in February and March 1967. Again, this was the favoured haunt of a wintering flock of up to 8 birds from 17 November 1971 to 14 March 1972, a male of which had been colour-ringed at Minsmere RSPB reserve on the Suffolk coast.
The Autumn of 1972 really did see an invasion of this species and was the first time that I had seen Bearded Tits in the area, with a huge flock of up to 33 birds in the Newport Pagnell Gravel Pits locale from 29 October onwards and a party of 4 at Weston Turville Reservoir reedbed from 15 November until at least 8 December. Four remained at Newport Pagnell until 4 February 1973.
Later in 1973, one was seen at Padbury on 28 October and a pair were again at Weston Turville on 31 October, and in 1974, one was at Thornborough throughout January and a pair were at a suitable breeding locality throughout April but were never proved breeding. That autumn saw more again at Weston Turville reedbed, with 2 on 19 October, increasing to 6 by 30 and to as many as 10 from 2 November when I visited. They remained until the year end, with 6 more (including 4 males) at Little Marlow Gravel Pits on 9-10 November.
Over that 1974/75 winter, a total of 12 Bearded Tits was ringed at Weston Turville reedbed, with 5 birds still being seen as late as 4 March and in 1976, birds returned again, with at least 5 present on 18 October, remaining until 6 November.
Henry Mayer-Gross heard one flying over near his home in Worlds End, Wendover, on 18 October 1977 and again, a female inhabited the Turville reedbed on 25-26 November. A party of 4 arrived at Old Slade NR on 29 November 1977, all staying until 1 December and then a lone female until Boxing Day. She was seen again on 1 & 10 January 1978. On 14 October 1978, Bob Tunnicliffe observed a pair near Bletchley.
The next party involved 5 at Weston Turville Reservoir on 15 October 1980 followed by another invasion of up to 24 at Old Slade from 16-22 February 1981. A pair was seen at Spade Oak Pit, Little Marlow, on 30 October and 13 November 1983 and a female on 8 January and 11 February 1984., with a further cluster of sightings in 1986 - when four females were at Willen Lake on 19 October (with subsequent sightings of a male there on 3 November and a female next day) and two pairs were at Weston Turville from 30 October until at least Christmas Eve.
Bearded Tit occurrences then started to wane in the county and it was a species difficult-to-catch-up-with. 1988 saw 3 males at Willen lake on 23 October and a male at Calvert on 6 November, with two pairs at Weston Turville on 31 October to 1 November. This same site also hosted an adult male from 22 January to 20 February 1989 and a further 3 from 10-31 December 1992. On 30 October 1992, three flew high west over Linford NR.
The Turville three remained in the reedbed on and off until 6 March 1993, with a further pair being discovered by Rob Andrews at Hedgerley Tip on 4 December 1993. There then followed a male at Turville reedbed on 1 & 15 January 1994 and a very confiding male at Walton Balancing Lakes from 19-26 February 1994.
From then on, the status of this species in the county went pear-shaped, and in the New Millenium, the only sighting was of a female photographed at Wotton on 18 October 2002.
LINFORD NATURE RESERVE (NORTH BUCKS)
The three adult WHOOPER SWANS were asleep on the bund mid-afternoon, whilst otherwise just 28 Mute Swans, 11 Pochard, 16 Gadwall and a few Eurasian Wigeon were noted; plus a juvenile Great Crested Grebe still beinga ttended by the parent.
FOXCOTE RESERVOIR (NORTH BUCKS)
Andy Harding and I coincided our visit with an unfortunate afternoon shoot and consequently wildfowl were scattered everywhere. In a rush to beat them, I lost my beloved 30x wide angle lens, but miraculously relocated it after a lengthy search. The reason for my visit - Adam Bassett's SCAUP - did not realise, and after an exhaustive search of all wildfowl present, noted were 45 Mute Swans, 2 Common Teal, 228+ Eurasian Wigeon (nearer 300 in reality), 24 Gadwall, 8 Shoveler, 33 Tufted Duck, 13 Pochard, 3 COMMON GOLDENEYE (1 adult drake), 1 Dabchick, 6 Great Crested Grebes and 4 GREEN SANDPIPERS.
AYLESBURY COUNTY HALL (BUCKS)
One of the adult PEREGRINES chased and killed a Feral Pigeon and proceeded to pluck and eat it on one of the window ledges.