TUESDAY 1 FEBRUARY
An odd day weatherwise; initially an overnight frost followed by damp, drizzly conditions but then clearing to give way to a cold, clear evening.
Today, I concentrated on South Buckinghamshire - eventually tracking down three local Year-ticks - LESSER REDPOLL, BRAMBLING and ICELAND GULL..........
HYDE HEATH (BUCKS)
Thanks to a tip-off from Paul Keene, I was quickly able to locate LESSER REDPOLL. At least three birds, including a brightly-marked adult male, was visiting Paul's nyger feeders and when spooked, sat up in full view in the trees bordering Brays Green Lane.
More exciting was a very impressive wintering flock of YELLOWHAMMER - 53 in all - in the stubble field immediately north of Bray's Wood and bordering Keeper's Lane at SU 933 997 - the highest recorded flock in my Recording Area this winter. Associating with them were 41 Chaffinches, whilst 8 Greenfinch were also noted.
Paul's garden also yielded Nuthatch, 3 Siskins and Blue Tits, whilst 80 Woodpigeons were roosting in Bray's Wood.
PENN WOOD WOODLAND TRUST RESERVE (BUCKS)
Comprehensively surveyed the entire reserve and no sign whatsoever of the 3 Hawfinches Chris Hazell and I saw at the end of last year. I did manage to locate the LESSER REDPOLL flock though - enjoying great views of a feeding flock of 16 in Birches and then 3 brief flyovers (no sign of the huge flock though).
At least 70 Redwings were in the wood, as well as 15 Fieldfares, with 3 Coal Tits, Blue Tit, Great Tit, 4 Long-tailed Tits, Wren and 10 Goldcrests recorded. I also saw a single Common Buzzard, 6 Jays, Great Spotted Woodpecker and Carrion Crow.
From about 1500 hours, the Greenfinch roost in the Holly started gathering pace and I was highly delighted to count 84 birds over the next half hour, clearly indicating that this Penn Wood population is holding up well despite the serious disease which is affecting this species in Britain and causing alarming declines. A total of 8 BRAMBLINGS roosted with them.
PENN VILLAGE POND (SU 907 937) AND TYLERS GREEN FIELDS (SU 908 942)
Two Brown Hares were gracing the field just west of Pugh's Wood (Tylers Green) whilst the Village Pond held 2 Moorhens and 43 Mallard (27 drakes and 16 females).
SPADE OAK GRAVEL PIT, LITTLE MARLOW GP (SOUTH BUCKS) (SU 880 875)
John Gaites and an Ealing birder whose name escapes me had seen the immature ICELAND GULL on at least three occasions before I pitched up (from 1515 hours) but it had been flushed along with all of the other large gulls just before Chris Heard and I arrived and had flown east. Anyway, I kept eagerly 'scoping as large gulls began returning from the direction of Springfield Quarry and eventually picked it up at very long range at around 1645 hours. It was soon lost in the melee as large numbers of birds began to return but John Edwards latched on to it and we were then able to watch it on the deck as it roosted in the roost on the ice. It remained there until at least 1725 hours (CDRH).
From what we could ascertain on plumage, it was a 2nd-winter bird and was an easy bird to pick out. It retained a primarily dark eye and the extensive dark tip to the pale 'greenish' bill but was quite extensively grey on the mantle. The flight feathers were still largely immature, with creamy-biscuit primaries and darker biscuit-brown chequered tertials and coverts. It was a small individual, identical in size to the numerous argenteus Herring Gulls standing alongside it, and had a rounded head, a short tail, long wings and relatively short pink legs emphasising the deep-breasted profile and tapered appearance.
A quick survey of the gull roost revealed the presence of 15 Great Black-backed Gulls, just 19 Lesser Black-backed Gulls, 149 Herring Gulls (including at least 25 Scandinavian argentatus), 213 Common Gulls and 437 Black-headed Gulls.
And the rest..........
Great Crested Grebe (21)
Continental Sinensis Cormorant (84 present on island with a minimum 18 nests now occupied)
Grey Heron (4 nests occupied on island)
LITTLE EGRET (2)
Mute Swan (2)
Egyptian Goose (3)
COMMON SHELDUCK (pair)
Common Teal (23)
Eurasian Wigeon (157)
Tufted Duck (76)
Northern Pochard (14)
Red Kite (2)
Lapwing (37 on spit)
Ring-necked Parakeet (3)
Grey Wagtail (2)