WEDNESDAY 15 FEBRUARY (LGRE DIARY NOTES)
The warmest day in a long time with afternoon temperatures reaching a sultry 10 degrees C. There was quite a strong NW wind blowing but it remained dry and quite sunny at times
Apart from a brief sojourn in the Tring Area, I spent most of the day in North Bucklinghamshire, adding a total of three new species to my local Year List - WATER PIPIT, TREE SPARROW and MERLIN. I also checked out the GOOSANDERS in the county, recording a total of 61 birds including a single flock of 32....
STARTOP'S END RESERVOIR (HERTS)
The WATER PIPIT was still showing well in the far NE (Bucks) corner of the reservoir this morning, whilst the redhead SMEW was standing on the ice with 12 Shoveler. A mammoth 182 Pochards were present, along with 40 Mute Swans, 8 Great Crested Grebes, 12 Gadwall, 25 Wigeon, 106 Tufted Duck, 237 Coot and 3 Grey Herons. A much larger section of the reservoir was now ice-free
MARSWORTH RESERVOIR was still completely icebound but male Reed Buntings were singing from the reedbed
WILSTONE RESERVOIR, TRING (HERTS)
Met up with Mike Campbell on the bank, with whom I saw the cracking adult male white-headed RUFF, the continuing BLACK-TAILED GODWIT and the DUNLIN - all feeding along the emergent vegetation on the NW shore. A flock of 16 Lapwings flew over
The DARK-BELLIED BRENT GOOSE was alternating between the Cemetery Corner Fields and the NW corner of the reservoir, with 6 Great Crested Grebes, 25 Pochards and Grey Wagtail also noted
The adult male PEREGRINE was sunning itself on the SE corner of the Council Offices mid morning, with a Sparrowhawk shooting across the A41 by the Cotton Wheel public house.
WOTTON UNDERWOOD LAKE (BUCKS)
A total of 8 GOOSANDERS present
GALLOWS BRIDGE (BUCKS)
Birdless, with no sign of the recent Tree Sparrows
Huge numbers of large gulls were loafing about the sheepfields just north of Edgecott at SP 681 230, including 1,235 Lesser Black-backed Gulls (mostly adults), 97 Herring Gulls and 1,500 Black-headed Gulls.
CALVERT SAILING LAKE & BBOWT (BUCKS)
No sign of the 8 Red-crested Pochards present earlier in the week but 11 Great Crested Grebes, 2 Atlantic Canada Geese, 14 Wigeon, 18 Tufted Duck and 23 Pochard
STOWE PARK LAKES (NORTH BUCKS) (SP 675 369)
A new site for me - and a site full of potential. The main reason for the visit was to see the GOOSANDER flock and lo and behold 7 birds (4 adult drakes) were showing exceptionally well on the main lake.
Otherwise, an inventory count of the lakes totalled 2 Mute Swans, 8 Canada Geese, 1 Chinese Goose, 26 Mallard and 38 Coot, with small birds represented by Jackdaw, Robin, Blue Tit and 2 Common Treecreepers.
FOXCOTE RESERVOIR (NORTH BUCKS)
Not a great deal at Foxcote apart from 3 Great Crested Grebes, 2 Mute Swans, 131 Common Teal, 13 Pochard, 38 Tufted Duck, 2 drake Goldeneyes, 112 Coot and 15 Lapwings.
CALDECOTTE LAKE SOUTH (NORTH BUCKS)
13 GOOSANDERS present, some of which were roosting on the wooded islands
WILLEN LAKE SOUTH BASIN (NORTH BUCKS)
A single drake GOOSANDER was the highlight
LINFORD NR (NORTH BUCKS)
Very quiet with just 6 Grey Herons nesting being of note
LITTLE LINFORD WOOD was equally birdless with a bonfire blowing across the maize strip; a male BULLFINCH was the best I could muster
However, STOKE GOLDINGTON VILLAGE changed fortunes, with the garden at the top of Dag Lane finally reaping rewards. I was beckoned over by the house owner and at the feeders enjoyed fabulous views of a pair of TREE SPARROWS and most astonishingly, a pristine WILLOW TIT. The latter has apparently been visiting the feeders since December 2011. Five Greenfinches were present, as well as a Great Spotted Woodpecker, whilst I was shown a nestbox already housing a pair of Common Kestrels. Last year, three pairs of Tree Sparrows fledged young from the nestboxes.
WESTON UNDERWOOD (NORTH BUCKS)
As I drove towards Weston Underwood, I noticed a small falcon sitting on the short roadside hedgerow bordering the road. I screeched to a halt and was thrilled to find that the bird was a female MERLIN. It was 30 yards beyond the entrance of Field Barns (SP 856 493) and sat there glaring at me for several minutes. Then, as a car approached from the Olney direction, it shot off the perch and darted over the hedge, before persuing and startling a large flock of Fieldfares. Still parked off the verge, I walked over to the other side of the road and relocated the bird sat on a fencepost, one of a row leading out across the water meadows. I 'scoped it for several minutes before it raced off again. A special treat!
OLNEY WATER MEADOWS (NORTH BUCKS)
No sign yet again of any of the Barnacle Geese but a huge flock of 340 Fieldfares in the fields
EMBERTON LAKES (NORTH BUCKS)
On the main part of the lake were 24 GOOSANDERS (14 adult drakes, 9 redheads, 1 immature drake), with another 8 (5 adult drakes) on the smaller lake with the hide overlooking it - 32 in all and making a grand total of 61 birds......
HEARTWOOD FOREST, SANDRIDGE (HERTS)
There was no sign of the 3 wintering Short-eared Owls at dusk but I did find a nice male GREY PARTRIDGE.
The owls are wintering in an area of rough grass to the south of West Wood, accessed from Sandridge Lane at TL 165 108. Walk west along the main track for just under half a mile to view,