FRIDAY 21 FEBRUARY
My earliest-ever 'spring migrant' GARGANEYS in the UK
A mild slipstream running up from the south brought temperatures of up to 12 degrees C but also long periods of rain. It also brought with it a number of spring migrants, including Oystercatchers and the first Sand Martins of the year......
At CHAFFINCH HOUSE (LITTLE CHALFONT), a female SISKIN on the Nyger was the first of the year in the garden - accompanying 3 Goldfinches
At CHESHAM FISHING LAKES, also new-in were a pair of GREAT CRESTED GREBES - local birder Chris Pontin finding them earlier. Also there were 14 Atlantic Canada Geese (already paired up and claiming territory on the islands), 8 Mallard, 13 Tufted Duck, 4 Moorhen, 8 Coot and 73 Black-headed Gulls, whilst along the riverside walk, COMMON KINGFISHER, 2 Long-tailed Tits, 2 singing male Robins, 6 singing male Wrens, 6 Dunnock, 4 Great Tit, 2 Blue Tit, 2 Stock Dove, 1 Woodpigeon, Carrion Crow, 2 singing male Goldcrest, 1 Chaffinch and Red Kite were all encountered.
In CHESHAM LOWNDES PARK, the February inventory included 1 Mute Swan, 22 Atlantic Canada Geese, 18 Mallard, the 8 resident Muscovy Ducks and 2 Moorhen, whilst the 44 Black-headed Gulls included 4 ringed individuals amongst them, including last year's ST220111 from Finland (ringed as anestling in Vaasa on 25th June 2003) and 3727833 from The Netherlands (ringed as a nestling in Friesland on 3rd June 2011). A Goldcrest was singing from a Yew tree.
BURY LAKE in CHESHAM was the deepest I have seen it in a very long time and consequently held waterbirds, including 6 Coot, 2 Moorhen, 12 Mallard, 9 Atlantic Canada Geese and 4 Tufted Ducks (3 drakes and a female) - the latter my first-ever at the site. Across the road, the cereal crop already held a pair of displaying LAPWING, as well as 85+ Woodpigeon, 6 Rook, 45 Jackdaw and 28 Rabbits. A pair of Long-tailed Tits were in the hedgerow, while a female Common Kestrel was hovering above the road.
Continuing along the PEDNOR ROAD, the HORSE PADDOCKS held 2 Red Kite, a further 160 Woodpigeons, numerous Jackdaws, 8 Common Magpies, 18 Rook and a pair of Mistle Thrushes, with both Robin and Great Tit by the farm buildings.
At the far end of PEDNOR BOTTOM, where the road bends sharply to the left, a lot of Red Kite activity, with sticks being picked up as well as grass tufts, presumably indicating nest building. A couple of Common Buzzards were loudly displaying, whilst a Dunnock was in full song and a male Linnet flew over - my first in the Recording Area this year.
In the grounds of DRYDELL HOUSE, 2 Mallard, Dunnock, Robin and a tight-knit flock of 8 Great Tits were all noted, whilst around LITTLE PEDNOR FARM, 2 Common Kestrels and a Carrion Crow were sighted. At PEDNOR CHASE, 8 Woodpigeon, 8 Goldfinch and another Robin in full song and at PEDNOR RIDGE, another Common Kestrel, more Red Kites, Common Blackbird and another Robin. The horse paddocks opposite CHERRY TREE FARM held 2 Common Magpies and 2 Pied Wagtails, with a further singing Robin at the entrance gates.
In the grass fields opposite ANNIE BAILEY'S RESTAURANT near HYDE END, a cock Common Pheasant, 40 Black-headed Gulls and 25 Common Gulls, while DEEP MILL LANE POND held 2 Little Grebes, 5 Moorhen, 4 Coot, 3 Woodpigeon and a Song Thrush. The MISBOURNE by LITTLE MISSENDEN held 6 Mallard, 6 Moorhen and 4 Coot, with the hamlet itself adding 15 Jackdaw, 6 Robin, several Woodpigeon, Common Blackbird and Chaffinch.
SHARDELOES LAKE was fairly quiet, although another birdwatcher had seen the Shoveler pair I had found on my last visit. The rollcall included 8 Little Grebe, just 44 Coot, 4 Moorhen, 34 Atlantic Canada Geese, the 3 resident Mute Swans, 6 Gadwall and 15 Tufted Duck, as well as cock Common Pheasant, 3 Blue Tit, Great Tit (in full song), 2 Long-tailed Tit, Wren, Green Woodpecker, 4 Red Kite, 2 Common Buzzard, just 2 Black-headed Gulls, Grey Wagtail, Common Blackbird and 4 Fieldfares.
A Song Thrush crossed the road in WINCHMORE HILL, whilst PENN VILLAGE POND yielded counts of 38 Mallard, 2 Moorhen and 4 Black-headed Gulls.
Arriving in PENN WOOD at around 1500 hours, I was immediately greeted by a stag Reeve's Muntjac and a singing male Great Tit. Walking up towards the Holly Roost Site added Green Woodpecker, Wren and Coal Tit, with the Greenfinch gathering in better fettle than of late and totalling 56 birds. At least 12 BRAMBLING were with them also. Up at the Penna monument, 2 Bullfinches and a singing male Mistle Thrush were noted, while the eventual peak of BRAMBLINGS in the Larch pre-roost trees was 72 birds, along with around 55 Chaffinch.
Just as I was counting the Bramblings, I got a delayed text message from David Bilcock informing me of 2 GARGANEY at COLLEGE LAKE BBOWT. It related to a message some two hours ago and after confirming with Dave, I immediately rushed over to the reserve arriving just prior to 5pm! Luckily, quite a few BBOWT staff were still on site, thus I rushed down to the west end and located the GARGANEY PAIR roosting in the tall sedge at the far left hand end of the left island. These were the earliest migrant Garganey I have seen in Britain by a long shot - the previous earliest Bucks Garganey being on 9th March - a mega record and proof of how mild this winter has been. The main marsh held quite a few wildfowl as well as a party of 23 COMMON SNIPE. A brilliant end to the day.
Record shot in poor light of the Garganey Pair