Monday, 30 January 2012

Little change

Graham Stevens got these great shots of our SNOW BUNTING when he joined me the other day, the bird still present today along with the drake GOOSANDER and DARK-BELLIED BRENT (per Jeff Bailey)

Sunday, 29 January 2012


A drake PINTAIL was seen on Wilstone today, the first I have heard of this year

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Today's Highlights

This morning on Startops the Snow Bunting was still present and the male Goosander was also there briefly. At Wilstone the Water Pipit was on the bank between the car park and overflow. The Brent Goose was in the field by the cemetery track with Greylags and Canadas. Two Little Egrets were about and the male Goosander dropped in from Startops. The male Goosander is certainly mobile – I have seen it at College Lake, Wilstone and Startops and presumably the same bird was seen over Broughton (Roy Hargreaves)

John Foster's images from today in the vicinity

John got some nice new shots of our overwintering young DARK-BELLIED BRENT GEESE, along with a record of the Sinensis Cormorants in the sole remaining tree on the bund, one of the 40 or so Lapwings and a drake Northern Pochard of which there was a major influx of overnight

Finally caught up with the GOOSANDER


A rather grey start and very cold. The wind turned northerly, pegging temperatures right back but the light conditions improved later, with some bright periods. I spent most of the day birding Buckinghamshire........

First off, yet another dead Badger - this one on the A355 Amersham Road just north of Beaconsfield by Birchen Spring SU 952 922

(0800-1000 hours)

Put in a long stint at prime time and in calm conditions but no sight nor sound of the male Lesser Spotted Woodpecker seen here yesterday; in fact, no woodpeckers whatsoever....

I did see the following though - 2 Nuthatches, 3 Common Treecreepers, 15 Redwing, Great, Blue & Long-tailed Tits, Jay, Common Magpie, Carrion Crow, 2 Bullfinches, Greenfinch, 15 SISKINS, 2 singing male Song Thrushes and Grey Squirrels.


Highlight here was undoubtedly the COMMON CROSSBILL flock - 15 birds including 9 adult males in both deciduous and conifer trees to the west of the road. The flock were very vocal and easy to see, especially if walking along the public footpath that leads through the wood to the pines.

Also noted were 4 SISKINS, several LESSER REDPOLLS, 2 Jays, 8 Red Kites including a very confiding bird perched in a dead tree in the wood, Wren, Long-tailed, Blue & Great Tits, 2 Nuthatches, 2 Common Treecreepers, 2 Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Common Buzzard and 2 Ring-necked Parakeets.


No sign of any Firecrests this morning but Great Spotted Woodpecker, 90 Woodpigeons, Goldcrest, Coal Tit, 50 Redwings and Green Woodpecker


The pair of GREAT CRESTED GREBES on the smaller lake are the earliest back I have ever known in my Recording Area. Chris Pontin first recorded them over a week ago. The male is in full breeding plumage.

Coots numbered 16 and Tufted Duck 19, whilst a party of 20 SISKINS was feeding in the Alders. A Green Woodpecker was 'yaffling' from neighbouring trees


At Kiln Farm (SP 929 086), a Mistle Thrush flew across the road


Since my visit yesterday, overnight had seen a few changes: two LITTLE EGRETS were roosting with 4 Grey Herons on the Drayton Bank, 2 Little Grebes were present, Great Crested Grebes had increased to 13, 5 Mute Swans were present, Northern Pochard had increased to an impressive 164 and a Grey Wagtail flew over. Best of all though, I finally connected with the cracking adult drake GOOSANDER that has been present for a while.

On the nearby Dry Canal and Wendover Arm, I was quite surprised to see a pair of Mute Swans still accompanying 5 of their last year's young - all harmoniously feeding together as a kind couple walking their dog threw them a whole container worth of food pellets. Six Coots were also present on this stretch of the canal (by Bridge 5 at Drayton Beauchamp).

The farmland here also produced 2 Yellowhammers and 4 Eurasian Skylarks.


The pools hosted a single Great Crested Grebe and 4 Shovelers but the adjacent sedge beds were still very dry and consequently harboured no snipes of any species.

(permit access only)

Wildfowl numbers included 5 Mute Swans, 397 Atlantic Canada Geese, 4 Common Teal, 2 Gadwall, 9 Shoveler, 22 Tufted Duck, 10 Wigeon, 3 Northern Pochard and 11 GOOSANDERS (including three adult drakes).


Made two separate visits this afternoon. Viewing from the first hide, noted 4 Great Crested Grebe, 12 Cormorants, 2 Mute Swans, 1 Little Grebe and 28 Coots. Checking the late afternoon pre-roost with Steve Rodwell and Warren Claydon, counted 24 Great Black-backed Gulls from the second hide, along with 125 Herring Gulls (largely argentatus), just 35 Lesser Black-backed Gulls, 19 Common Gulls and about 300 Black-headed Gulls.

Went away and in the meantime, SR and WC located an ICELAND GULL. I returned with Graham Smith towards dusk and quickly located two different immature ICELAND GULLS from the first hide within a mammoth roost (the gulls had been forced on to the BBOWT by shooting). One Iceland Gull was a quite pale, dark-eyed and blue-based billed 2nd-winter-type whilst the other was a dark biscuit coloured juvenile - so dark that it suggested kumlieni but without seeing detail in the primaries in poor light, not possible to ascertain with any degree of confidence

Nearby at EDGCOTT, Graham and I witnessed a superb murmuration of at least 5,000 Common Starlings - flying round and round prior to roosting.


Two COMMON RAVENS were seen in the usual hide field whilst at dusk (1700 hours), a SHORT-EARED OWL appeared over the field adjacent to the access road (thanks to Rod Scaife for directions).

Friday, 27 January 2012

No sign of the drake Goosander today


A glorious day weatherwise. Following an overnight frost, the day was dominated by clear blue skies and sunshine, with an increasingly biting NW wind and cold temperatures

I spent today locally with a few target birds but managed to miss most things.......


I returned to the stubble field first thing, mainly in the hope of connecting with a pair of Common Ravens that had been displaying in the vicinity. Despite prime conditions, they failed to turn up.

The YELLOWHAMMER flock was still going strong, with 124 still present and showing well on the 'deck'. Also mixed in with them were 8 Goldfinches and a few Chaffinches, whilst the flock of 60 Eurasian Skylark were still in the stubble. Two MEADOW PIPITS were new, whilst 8 Common Starlings, 3 Song Thrushes and 5 Stock Doves were also encountered.

Red Kites were very numerous, with at least 8 hunting the stubble, including an individual with wing-tags - a number 7 on both tags with the left one bright yellow with a bright red border and the right one pink. Several Common Buzzards were also in the vicinity.


My first visit in a while and not much change - 5 Little Grebes, just 1 adult and 1 of last year's young Mute Swans on view, 75 Atlantic Canada Geese, 11 Gadwall, 4 Tufted Duck (2 drakes), 61 Coot and an adult Grey Heron. The gull flock yielded 8 Argenteus Herring Gulls (an adult and 7 first-years) and 44 Rooks were back at the rookery.

A further 36 Rooks were back at the rookery at Winchmore Hill, whilst the Beech trees at Marrod's Bottom produced 60 Chaffinches, 5 BRAMBLINGS and a Nuthatch. Kevin Holt and I had pondered for years about where the Penn Wood Bramblings go by day and Dave Cleal came up with the answer. It seems that these Beeches west of Great Beard's Wood are attracting some of them.


Red Kites were everywhere today, including 3 circling low over Station Road in Tring.


My main aim for visiting the reservoirs was to see the drake Goosander that Roy, Mike C, Steve, Dave B and others had seen during the last week but despite searching hard, I could find no sign of it. With good weather, I fully censused the water birds present............

WILSTONE RESERVOIR held just 6 Great Crested Grebes, no Mute Swans, 70 Greylag Geese, 83 Atlantic Canada Geese, the first-winter DARK-BELLIED BRENT GOOSE (very mobile today, flying about a fair bit), 22 Mallard, 12 Gadwall, 257 Eurasian Wigeon, 320 Common Teal, no Shoveler, 66 Tufted Duck, 68 Northern Pochard and 728 Coot. I could only find 1 drake Common Goldeneye.

Otherwise, 4 Sinensis Cormorants were attending nests in the remaining bund tree, 38 Lapwings were at the edges, a Green Woodpecker was in the north hedgerow, the North Fields harboured 38 Fieldfare, 5 Redwing, 96 Common Starlings and a male Chaffinch and the hide area 2 Wrens and 2 Great Tits.

A male Muntjac and 2 Chinese Water Deer were also at the reed edge.

STARTOP'S END RESERVOIR was where all of the Mute Swans were lurking with 31 counted (including 9 first-years), along with 1 Little Grebe, 5 Great Crested Grebes, 313 Coot, 92 Mallard, 15 Wigeon, 9 Gadwall, 41 Tufted Duck and an impressive 98 Northern Pochards.

The first-year male SNOW BUNTING was putting on a particularly good show in the sunshine, showing down to just 10 feet on the stony beach - always in the vicinity of the steps at the NW end.

TRINGFORD harboured a further pair of Mute Swans with MARSWORTH yielding the only Shovelers - 35 of them - a further 3 Great Crested Grebes, 5 Pochard and my first Red Fox of the year; 3 Goldfinches too.


After the excitement of last Sunday, proceedings were back to normal today with little to see - and no sign of Wednesday's Egyptian Goose.

The rollcall included 10 Mute Swans (1 first-year), 18 Wigeon, 1 drake Gadwall, 1 drake Pochard, 24 Tufted Duck, the usual pair of RED-CRESTED POCHARDS on the west bank of the deep lake, 44 Coot, 20 Lapwing and 2 COMMON SNIPE.

I then decided to move on to BEDFORDSHIRE where I had planned to add several species to that counties' year list of mine. That proved disastrous though and in the end, I managed to locate just 1 target bird.


the ageing RING-NECKED PARAKEET of unknown origin was sleeping in its usual tree hole at the westernmost of the 6 trackside trees 75 yards beyond the gate following the dogleg in the footpath. This area also held 6 Yellowhammers, Goldcrest, 30 Rooks and 4 Rabbits.

At STEWARTBY LAKE, it was as barren as I have seen it in July, with no sign of the wintering Common Sandpiper and just 12 Pied Wagtails on the Sailing Club green.

The BROOM GP/DEREK WHITE'S COMPLEX was little better, with no sign of the Common Shelduck at any of 5 locations and just drake Shoveler, 4 Pochard, 1 Little Grebe and 50 Lapwings of note at the latter. Likewise, not a sniff of a Golden Plover flock and no Barn Owls at several sites too. Most notable was a Common Starling roost of some 400 birds in tall Leylandii at TOP HOUSE FARM, BEADLOW (at TL 104 385).

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Little change at the resses

This morning the DARK-BELLIED BRENT GOOSE was in a field adjacent to the usual field – next to the farm shop. The WATER PIPIT was between the jetty and the north corner.

The water level is still rising to the point that the jetty spit has all but been submerged and the water is fairly close to the reed beds (Roy Hargreaves)

Monday, 23 January 2012

MEGA: LITTLE AUK at College Lake

Sarah, one of the BBOWT wardens, noticed this first-winter LITTLE AUK on the main lake at College Lake shortly after 1500 hours and immediately contacted Paul Reed. Paul immediately broadcast the news and over the next two hours of light, some 25 or so local birders managed to connect. I happened to be in Hampshire finishing off my Round Britain tour but thanks to Paul and the staff, arrived at 1640 hours and was able to get over 20 minutes worth of viewing at just 10 yards range ! What a bird and my first for the Tring Recording Area and Buckinghamshire. Roy Hargreaves obtained the shot above.

The bird was still present early Monday morning but quickly succumbed to the interest of a Carrion Crow. It was killed pretty rapidly.

Drake GOOSANDER on Wilstone - 15 January

15 January - WATER PIPIT showing well but flighty. Seen near jetty and car park bank. Dapper drake GOOSANDER also present…see image above (Dave Hutchinson).

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

SNOW BUNTING pics from today - Peter Brazier

SNOW BUNTING again present

Despite being missing for the past 3 days, Ryan Clark and others relocated the SNOW BUNTING today traversing both the Herts and Bucks side of Startop's End Reservoir........

Tuesday, 10 January 2012



Another very mild day with temperatures reaching 12 degrees C. Dry too, with some bright periods. Negligable wind.

Steve Blain's chiffchaff find was my main target bird of the day and Water Pipit......


Quickly responding to Roy's posting, I drove over to Startop's and checked the north bank. No sign of the Water Pipit nor of the Snow Bunting - the latter obviously now gone. The House Sparrow flock (13 birds) was back at Startop's Farm and a fortuitous meeting with Andy Grimsey provided me with an update on the pipit - it was back in its usual place on Wilstone......


Minutes later I was upon the east bank of Wilstone and after a couple of sweeps of the bank, caught the WATER PIPIT in flight as it was flushed by a dogwalker from the bay immediately north of the jetty. It flew a short way to Cemetery Corner, where it joined 3 Pied Wagtails and a Grey Wagtail. I got closer to it and then enjoyed excellent views as it walked further and further away from the mud and into the vegetation and much closer to the bank. I was very pleased indeed at finally catching up with it, as disturbance around the banks renders its appearances erratic at the very least.

Closeby, all 54 Linnets were feeding in the weeds, whilst 2 LITTLE EGRETS were roosting on Drayton Bank, the 6 COMMON GOLDENEYE were still present and the DARK-BELLIED BRENT was still with the Canadas.


Two Red Kites lingering

Monday, 9 January 2012

First SHELDUCK of year

I tried for the Marsworth Barn Owl this morning and had 20+ Corn Buntings leave the roost but no sign of Barn Owl. Couldn’t find any Jack Snipe either. Also I couldn’t find the Snow Bunting on the usual stretch of shore.

Wilstone the Brent was with the Canadas and there were two Little Egrets about and also a Shelduck on the mud to the right of the hide (Roy Hargreaves)

Sunday, 8 January 2012



Another dry day although heavy cloud late on produced a few spots of rain. Another mild day too, with some long bright periods.

Dipped again on the Wilstone Water Pipit then returned to Bedfordshire for the afternoon..........


Just the 2 wintering LITTLE EGRETS again - today in trees just east of Bois Mill


Spent about an hour with Steve Rodwell, birding from the East Bank. Met both Lucy and Sheena.

Far and away the highlight were 3 GREAT BLACK-BACKED GULLS - a very scarce species at the reservoirs. Firstly an adult flew NE, before two immatures, probably both third-winters, flew east shortly later. What was presumably the same adult then flew back west into Bucks. I generally see less than 5 GBBG's at Tring per year.

Despite searching, no sign yet again of the wintering Water Pipit

The first-winter DARK-BELLIED BRENT GOOSE was with 30 Atlantic Canada Geese as usual in the East Fields, whilst the Greylag Geese flock has very slightly increased to 72 birds. Mute Swans are now down to just 1 adult, whilst 4 Grey Herons were standing forlornly by their fallen nesting tree and just 7 Great Crested Grebes were present.

Still 6 COMMON GOLDENEYES present, including the splendid adult drake, whilst Stock Dove, the 54 Linnet flock and 24 Jackdaws were noted.


The geese flock had moved from just west of Grovebury Sandpit to Grove Lock on the Grand Union Canal, north of Grove at SP 918 227. The first-winter EURASIAN WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE was present for its second day with 17 Greylag Geese (one with a damaged wing) and 175 Atlantic Canada Geese.


Very, very busy with visiting families, dogwalkers, ramblers, etc and consequently no sign whatever of any Mandarin Ducks - just 25 Mallard and 2 Moorhens on the lake.

The fenceline and woodland produced at least 15 very confiding Grey Squirrels, Chaffinch, 10 Great Tits, 6 Blue Tits, Nuthatch and 3 Goldcrests


Met up with Darren Thomas and birded the general area of the 6th tee, just 2-300 yards north of the parking spot by the border post at SP 923 327. A flock of 7 COMMON CROSSBILLS was in this vicinity (including 3 red males) but proved difficult, just fleeting flight views being obtained.

Nuthatch, Common Treecreeper, Coal Tit, Jay, 3 Goldfinch, female SISKIN, Great Tit, 7 Long-tailed Tits and Goldcrest were noted.


In stark contrast to yesterday when I visited, the lake was brightened up by the presence of GOOSANDERS. In fact, no less than 17 present, including 9 fabulous adult drakes. They afforded excellent views but once they realised they were being watched, all saw, strongly towards the east end and behind the island.

A single adult Mute Swan was present, whilst 3 SISKINS flew over and a male Mistle Thrush was in song.


Returned to Brogborough Lake to study the Aythya flock. Bizarrely, today the GREATER SCAUP numbers had increased to THREE, with yesterday's 2nd-winter drake and juvenile female still present and an additional first-year drake with them. The small 'scaup' was also still present but when seen well appeared to show characters more prevalent of a retarded juvenile female Tufted Duck and I guess that is what it is. The bill pattern was that of a juvenile Tufted Duck, as was the head pattern. The flock of 27 Common Goldeneye was still present, whilst 11 Herring Gulls were loafing.


No sight nor sound again of the 4 Bearded Tits, but 8 Reed Buntings roosted and CETTI'S WARBLERS were active. A Chinese Water Deer also crashed out of the reedbed.

At a neighbouring site, 2 SHORT-EARED OWLS were watched towards dusk but there was no sign of either of the Barn Owls seen in December.

Confiding KINGFISHER on Marsworth

Finally able to get out today, only the second time this year. I met up with a friend (Sheena) and we went round Marsworth, Startops and, briefly, Wilstone Reservoirs. The highlight was found by Sheena at Marsworth - a beautiful COMMON KINGFISHER perched in the reeds on the water's edge, no more than 20 metres from the main path, SW corner (record shot attached). Also present, a Common Snipe. A handful of Fieldfare were in the area. A pair of Great Crested Grebe were beginning courtship displays! SNOW BUNTING still present and confiding on Startops. DARK-BELLIED BRENT GOOSE with Canadas in field NE of Wilstone Reservoir. Distant and probable Linnet flock (30+) mobile around reeds/mud right of the hide (didn't have my scope to confirm species) (Lucy Flower birding)

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Wendover Woods this morning

Wendover Woods Saturday morning. Flock of 6+ COMMON CROSSBILLS, including a stunning male pictured above, at the lorry turning site.

Also a pair of COMMON RAVENS tumbling and calling above this area and 3 buzzards.

John Mason found a stunning little Marsh Tit which showed well nearthe main track crossroads (Sally Douglas).

Friday, 6 January 2012

WOODCOCK and just 78 CORN BUNTINGS in to roost at Marsworth

I decided to take advantage of the clear, calm conditions and try Marsworth for the bunting roost. A quick scan of the tree tops revealed a group 12 Corn Buntings in one tree. As small groups of Buntings flew into the reeds at one stage there were 47 in the same tree. In the end Lynne, Jeff and I counted 78 going to roost. Jeff and I stayed to see if Barn Owl or anything else would appear. We managed to see several Common Snipe, possibly five, in the dark as they got distinctly active in the dark. As we walked back to our cars the ironic moment kicked in as a Woodcock flew out from the trees, over the reeds and reservoir to cross the causeway and presumably over Startops. Why couldn’t it have done that last week!!!

Roy Hargreaves

SNOW BUNT and BRENT still present but winter storm brings down trees all around

StartopStartop's End Friday morning, SNOW BUNTING still showing well and pair of Grey Wagtails flew across same area calling.

On Marsworth , tree blown across main path (see pic), pair of Kingfishers perched together on far reeds and Water Rail flew along edge and into reed bed. No sign of Jack Snipe (Sally Douglas)

On Wilstone, the DBBG was still present.

Thursday, 5 January 2012


This morning: 5th January 2012

Bullfinches along Wendover Arm twixt New Mill and Bulbourne, group of at least three males outnumbered by females.

Solitary male near Toll House garden on Wendover Arm at Bulbourne

Howard Clarke

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

CROSSBILL flock still at The Hale

Still up to 14 COMMON CROSSBILLS in Wendover Forest today (per Mike Campbell) - Dave Hutchinson obtaining this image of one of the females

Birding the Watford and TRING area - 4 January 2012 (LGRE)


The day started off dry but fairly windy, with temperatures hovering around 9 degrees C. Thick cloud then moved in from the west leaving a dull and largely wet afternoon

Today I concentrated my efforts in the Watford and Tring areas of Hertfordshire, eventually adding just 6 new species to my 2012 list.........There were a few highlights, not least the terrific number of wildfowl wintering on Aldenham Country Park...............


Although I visited here with the sole intention of finding MANDARIN DUCK, I could not believe the number of wildfowl wintering on the reservoir. It was mightily impressive

After quickly securing the target bird - MANDARIN DUCK (of which 6 were present under the eaves, including 4 drakes), I set upon click-counting the remaining waterbirds......

Great Crested Grebe (3)
Little Grebe (3)
Grey Heron (2)
Mute Swan (15 including 4 first-years)
Atlantic Canada Goose (97)
Mallard (66)
GADWALL* (184 present - an internationally important figure, considering that just 25,000 winter in Britain)
Eurasian Wigeon (322)
Common Teal (just 1)
Northern Shoveler (7
Tufted Duck (47)
Northern Pochard (3)
RED-CRESTED POCHARD (2 adult drakes at west end)
Coot (488)
Moorhen (16)
Lesser Black-backed Gull (1 adult)

Also noted were 2 Ring-necked Parakeets, 2 Carrion Crows, 5 Redwing and a SISKIN.


Despite an exhaustive search, there was no sign of the recent long-staying first-winter Little Gull - perhaps it only roosts here?

What was notable however was the large number of Great Crested Grebes wintering - no less than 57 birds, by far the largest congregation in the county.

Also counted were 2 Little Grebes, 26 Cormorants, 2 adult Mute Swans, 35 Tufted Duck, ****************************** and 284 Coots. An adult argenteus Herring Gull was also present.


And on to a spot of woodland birding in the hope of finding Woodcock, Marsh Tit, Coal Tit, Common Treecreeper, Lesser Redpoll and the like. You'll be lucky......

What I did find in an hour stomp around a very muddy trail was 2 Green Woodpeckers, 5 Common Buzzards, 5 Carrion Crows, 150 Redwing, 2 male Chaffinches, Wren and a mixed feeding flock containing Nuthatch (my first of the year), 3 Great Tits, 6 Blue Tits and 12 Long-tailed Tits.


In the town centre, the Grand Union Canal held 1 first-winter Mute Swan and 54 Mallards.


Very damp, muddy and blustery but I did a full circuit of TRINGFORD RESERVOIR logging everything avian - the reservoir held 2 adult Mute Swans, 53 Coot, 9 Tufted Duck, 3 Northern Pochards, 5 Teal, 195 resting Black-headed Gulls and a single adult Lesser Black-backed Gull whilst the surrounding woodland tracts produced 1 Greenfinch (flyover), 3 Robins, 7 Common Blackbirds, 1 Redwing, 4 Fieldfare, 5 Rook, 15 Western Jackdaws, 5 Long-tailed Tits, 2 Blue Tits and best of all, 3 SISKINS in the largest row of Alder trees at the west end. A female Grey Wagtail was also seen.

At STARTOP'S END RESERVOIR, the first-winter male SNOW BUNTING was still showing very well on the foreshore adjacent to the steps in the NW corner (see the superb new shots above), whilst the reservoir held 13 Mute Swans (3 first-years), just 3 Great Crested Grebes, 249 Coot, 29 Gadwall, 22 Pochard, 31 Tufted Duck, 18 Wigeon and 12 Moorhen.

Once again the gull roost on the mud was numerous and included 182 Black-headed Gulls and 9 Common Gulls (including 2 first-winters).

The perimeter banking held 8 Pied Wagtails

At MARSWORTH RESERVOIR, just 1 Great Crested Grebe was present, along with 25 Shovelers. A flock of just 17 Common Starlings was in Marsworth and Church Lane once again yielded a BULLFINCH.

A brief detour to COLLEGE LAKE BBOWT (BUCKS) to see the 4 RED-CRESTED POCHARDS (drake and 3 female-types) (my first in the county this year) before moving on to WILSTONE RESERVOIR, where the East Fields geese flock held 70 Greylag, 29 Atlantic Canada and the continuing single first-winter DARK-BELLIED BRENT GOOSE.

Birding at the reservoir was difficult because of the rain and wind so a full count was not possible, although just 8 Great Crested Grebes was pitiful (and with the other 4, 12 is the lowest winter total for this species I have ever registered - perhaps they have all moved to Hilfield Park!). Just 2 female Common Goldeneye could be seen.

A single check of the gull roost yielded a minimum 3,300 Black-headed and 84 Common Gulls but not one large white-headed gull species.

For the last hour of daylight, I returned to MARSWORTH where the reedbed bunting roost was pathetic - just 9 CORN BUNTINGS flew in and 4 REED BUNTINGS (perhaps, because of the foul weather, they had all roosted prior to 1500 hours this afternoon - I hope so). A single Goldcrest in the wood was also of note.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

BITTERN roosts as gale force winds batter region


Gale force winds and torrential rain associated with a very deep depression tracked quickly east across the country and swept through our region all morning. It typically wreaked havoc bringing down a large number of trees and chimney stacks, with winds gusting at 70 miles per hour at times. Then, at around 1300 hours, the rain stopped and the wind dropped substantially, leaving a clear and bright middle part of the afternoon, although hail and rain returned later.

I finally managed to brave the conditions after 1300 hours and made my way to Stevenage, where Tony Hukin had discovered a GREAT GREY SHRIKE yesterday afternoon and both Mike and darrel had confirmed its presence today in the rain and wind...........


I arrived at Norton Green at 1325 hours, only to be told by those three present that the bird had just captured a Field Vole and flown with it to the far side of the traveller camp. Like an idiot, I marched round there, only to be accosted by a marauding gang of 7 yapping guard dogs! There was no sign of the shrike and I had to make a quick and hasty retreat.

Returning back to the other observers about 20 minutes later, I was pleased to see that the bird had returned and was showing well. It was perched up just 35 yards away and was an adult and was favouring the scrub and isolated clumps of Hawthorn just 50 yards away from the camp at the extreme north end of the site. It remained on view for about 7 minutes before disappearing again. Alan Reynolds, Tony Hukin, Darrel Bryant and others turned up and after a while, the shrike reappeared and showed very, very well on top of the bushes. Alan obtained some excellent images (see above).

As Darrel stated, this is the first record of Great Grey Shrike for Norton Green and the fact that it seems to have a larder perhaps indicates that it has been around for some time. It is certainly a lot easier to see than the adult in the east of the county at Therfield Heath.

Other species noted included 48 Eurasian Skylarks (in the large stubble field adjacent), 1 Red-legged Partridge, 1 Common Kestrel, 5 Common Blackbirds, 2 Common Magpie and a male Greenfinch.


Two GREEN SANDPIPERS were present (both unringed) as well as 1 Little Egret, 1 Grey Heron and 10 Moorhens (up to 5 Green Sandpipers have been present at the site this winter).


The pair of EGYPTIAN GEESE was present with 8 Canada Geese and 3 Mute Swans (1 first-winter) by the river Lea west of the B653, whilst 17 Gadwalls, 4 Common Teal (2 drakes) and 2 Little Grebes were seen from the bridge.


The adult female PEREGRINE FALCON was sat on her usual perch at 1540 hours


A covey of 8 Red-legged Partridges was west of Tring and south of the B 488 at SP 929 112


I pitched up at WTR at 1600 hours to find the hide virtually full (John Gearing, Richard Billyard, Nick Mariner already in situ). The wind was still strong and it was clear that conditions were not overly conducive. A Water Rail screamed, 1 Little Egret flew in to roost, a male Sparrowhawk did its last circuit and 4 Reed Buntings flew in to roost in the reedbed. What appeared to be a Cetti's Warbler scolded and a single lost Black-headed Gull attempted to roost.

And then, at 1628 hours, a solitary EURASIAN BITTERN flew from the reeds at the closest edge and flew to the far side. It was a regularly returning wintering bird and roosted in the usual area of reeds opposite the Susan Cowdy Hide. Despite the strong wind, it successfully made one platform of reeds but then fell off of it into the water. It gathered its composure, then climbed back up a few yards away and tried again. Eventually, after several attempts, it realised it was fighting a losing battle and as darkness approached, dropped further down into the reeds, presumably to roost close to the base.

Six new species for the Year List and particularly pleased with the shrike

Monday, 2 January 2012


Our wintering WATER PIPIT (photographed above by Chris Holtby) was still present this morning, along with the SNOW BUNTING, DARK-BELLIED BRENT GOOSE and 1 JACK SNIPE

Nearby, at least 18 COMMON CROSSBILLS were seen at Wendover Hale and 2 BITTERNS roosted again at Weston Turville Reservoir

Sunday, 1 January 2012



A considerably mild start to the year with temperatures reaching 13 degrees C. The day was mainly overcast with light rain for a time.

A total of 234 species was recorded in Britain and Ireland today, following last year's record total of 453 - a New Forest Dark-eyed Junco of 24 & 30 December being a belated addition.

As I had been partying for most of the night, my birding today was restricted to just local. I didn't start until 0930 hours so reaching 72 species by nightfall was reasonable I suppose (including 64 species in Bucks and 55 in Herts)..........


In the vicinity of the garden first thing noted House Sparrow (30), Common Magpie (2), Carrion Crow, Common Blackbird, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove and Blue Tit


All 4 COMMON TEAL were still present on the lake (3 drakes), along with the Little Grebe and 2 Mute Swans. A pair of GREY WAGTAILS was on the river, whilst Mallard, Robin, Wren, Moorhen and Jackdaw were also seen. The first of several singing male Song Thrushes of the day was noted whilst a further pair of Mute Swans was on the Chess by Church Covert.

At LATIMER, a flock of 116 Atlantic Canada Geese was in the fields

BOIS MILL POND added a further pair of Mute Swans, as well as the regular adult Continental Cormorant (sinensis) perched aloft the island tree; Long-tailed Tits were by the brook

A quick circuit from WATERCRESS COTTAGE around to CHESHAM FISHING LAKES yielded 3 more singing male Song Thrushes, Dunnock, Wren, 4 Robins, Rooks (inspecting the nests), 14 Redwing, Grey Heron and 3 Red Kites. The lakes held 4 Mute Swans (2 first-years), 1 Canada Goose, 37 Mallard, 16 Tufted Ducks, 10 Coot, 6 Moorhens and 73 Black-headed Gulls, the latter commuting to the sewage works.


I had a quick check of the large stubble field in School Lane where the flock of wintering YELLOWHAMMERS were still present - 70 seen with little effort; also Chaffinch, Goldfinch and Common Pheasant

SHARDELOES LAKE was pretty dire, mainly because of serious disturbance from New Year ramblers, but it was nice to see all 8 Mute Swans together, before the cob clears them all off this spring. Up to 50 Fieldfares were also still in the area.


No New Years Day is complete for me without a visit to my main local patch and it gave me an excuse to do my first January count of the year as well as connecting with the major rares still left over from yesterday. Other than the wintering Water Pipit and a visiting Peregrine, it was a clean sheet.

I met up with my very good friend Darrel Bryant at Startop's and we birded the reservoirs together; I also saw both Roy and Ian as well as over 25 other regulars and visitors.

At STARTOP'S END RESERVOIR, the most celebrated local bird of 2011 was still present - the first-winter male SNOW BUNTING. Today it was showing as well as ever and was frequenting the north shoreline by the steps in the NW corner. Three Pied Wagtails were also in this vicinity.

Waterbird-wise we had 1 Little Grebe, 5 Great Crested Grebes, 11 Mute Swans (3 first-years), 27 Atlantic Canada Geese (marked arrival of this species), 93 Mallard, 17 Wigeon, 15 Common Teal, 42 Gadwall, 53 Tufted Duck, 11 Pochard, 289 Coot and 13 Moorhens.

A scan of the roosting Black-headed Gull flock on the mud and islands produced the wintering adult MEDITERRANEAN GULL (just before it flew off west at 1030 hours) and 3 adult Common Gulls.

TRINGFORD RESERVOIR was pretty scant - the usual 2 Mute Swans, 54 Coot and a few ducks. By the fisherman's car park, 35 Fieldfares were flying down to the field to feed.

A small crowd of observers were standing on the causeway overlooking MARSWORTH RESERVOIR reedbed and thanks to Roy, I was able to see both JACK and COMMON SNIPE huddled in a roost up against the reedbed (the mud is rapidly disappearing). Most unexpectedly, 2 JACK SNIPES was present - both violently 'bobbing' - as well as 3 COMMON SNIPES (see photographs of both the Med Gull and Jack Snipes by Dave Bilcock above)

The reservoir held 5 Great Crested Grebes and 33 Shoveler, with both Great Spotted and Green Woodpecker and 2 Grey Wagtails in the area.

Although we (and everybody else it seems) failed to locate the wintering Water Pipit, it was pleasing to find that the first-winter DARK-BELLIED BRENT GOOSE had survived into the New Year - still mixing with the 73 Greylag Geese and 29 Atlantic Canada Geese in the roadside fields to the east of the reservoir.

A half-hearted check of the water harboured 8 Great Crested Grebes, the continuing Little Grebe, just 5 Mute Swans, 240 Wigeon, 330 Common Teal, 53 Shoveler, 77 Tufted Duck, 97 Pochard and best of all, the 7 COMMON GOLDENEYES in one group (two adult drakes).

Additional fare included a single LITTLE EGRET, Great Spotted Woodpecker, 11 Common Blackbirds in the Orchard area and the flock of 54 Linnets by the Drayton Hide


Moving on to Wendover Hale, it was very nice to bump into Simon Gardner's wife Lynsey and her friend and putting a face to those that kindly tipped me off about the COMMON CROSSBILL flock. Being limited in time today, I stayed around just long enough to see a single flock of 16 birds - all still favouring the cone crop in the stand of conifers by the turnaround, seemingly 700 yards from the access gate at Forestry Cottages. An adult male put on a great show for us, perched out in the open at the top of the tree for 15 minutes or more. John Foster got some nice shots (see above).

I was also very pleased to find a MARSH TIT by the Forestry Cottages, whilst Great Spotted Woodpecker, Song Thrush, 9 Coal Tits, Great Tit and 7 Goldcrests were also noted.


Following up from Mike Wallen's post, both resident pair of PEREGRINES were showing well at the Council Buildings and displaying.


At least 25 House Sparrows counted in the hamlet, with 2 Collared Doves and 6 Red Kites also.


Spent over 90 minutes searching for both Hen Harrier and Merlin but to no avail - only raptors being seen were Common Kestrel, 3 Common Buzzards and 8 Red Kites.

COMMON RAVENS were good value as usual with at least 8 individuals seen, as well as 12 Stock Doves in one flock, a flyover flock of 125 European Golden Plovers, numerous Common Starling and Fieldfare and 23 Eurasian Skylarks.

LINNETS were fairly abundant with a single flock numbering 190 birds.


Being a Sunday and the landfill closed, gull numbers were pretty low. Despite that, there was still a good variety, including a probable adult CASPIAN GULL, 2 adult YELLOW-LEGGED GULLS, 5 Great Black-backed Gulls, 132 Lesser Black-backed Gulls, 31 Herring Gulls (predominantly Argentatus) and an adult Common Gull. Most surprising was the number of laridophiles on site including Ian Lewington, Warren Claydon, Steve Rodwell and Jon Holt.

In addition to the pre-roosting gulls, 2 Great Crested Grebes, 12 Cormorant, 26 Mallard, 27 Tufted Duck, 2 Teal, 3 Pochard and 32 Coot were counted.


Continuing north and east, I eventually reached Caldecotte Lakes. The long-staying juvenile GREAT NORTHERN DIVER that I had initially found at Stewartby Lake in November was still present and showing well from the bypass. It was at the northern end of the South Lake.

There was an impressive gull roost here, including 7 adult YELLOW-LEGGED GULLS, whilst waterbirds counted included 28 Great Crested Grebes (largest number in Bucks?), 23 Mute Swans, 18 Canada Geese and 54 roosting Cormorants; also 128 Coot and 22 Tufted Ducks.


Thanks to Simon Nichols, I was able to make a hasty retreat to Willen North Basin where I quickly connected with the beautiful adult drake SMEW - presumably the bird from Caldecotte and present for five days. It was swimming with dabbling ducks to the east of the spit.

With light fading fast, I undertook a full count of both the North and South Basins resulting in totals of just 21 Great Crested Grebes, 58 roosting Cormorants, an impressive 144 Mute Swans (including 133 on the South Basin), 70 Canada Geese, 28 Greylag Geese, 86 Mallard, 40 Gadwall, 66 Teal, 193 Wigeon, 16 Shoveler, just 38 Tufted Duck, 17 Pochard, 8 Common Goldeneye, NO Goosander, 517 Coot and 397 Lapwings.


As dusk approached, I visited Linford in the hope of counting the egrets roosting. As it was, I arrived too late and they had all disappeared into thick cover. Interestingly, Linford's Great White Egret was intercepted by Neil Wright at Brogborough Lake this morning, constituting the very FIRST record for Bedfordshire. It remained on view for just 3 minutes before heading back in the direction of Milton Keynes.

I counted 54 Mute Swans on Linford but did not see a single Barn or Short-eared Owl along Swans Way as darkness fell......