Recording Area Annual Totals

97 Species in 2013, 99 in 2012, 94 in 2011, 108 species were recorded in 2010;

Wednesday, 29 February 2012


Two SONG THRUSHES currently (1530 hours) feeding together on fallen apples in garden - the first occurrence this year

Tuesday, 28 February 2012



Another overcast and very grey day with temperatures hovering around 11 degrees C. Not much wind to speak of and dry.


Two pairs of Mute Swan were in the vicinity, with 6 Little Egrets on the Chess, 2 Grey Wagtails, 2 Little Grebes and 6 COMMON TEAL


Joan Thompson and Anna Marrett stumbled upon an outstanding find today - the first nesting occurrence that I know of of COMMON CROSSBILL in the Chess Valley. The female was sitting somewhere within the high canopy of a tall conifer and was alarming loudly as a Jay passed closely by. I joined them late afternoon, the woodland also yielding two calling TAWNY OWLS, calling male Stock Dove, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Jay, Coal Tit, SISKIN, 5 Fieldfare, 36 Redwing, a pair of Common Kestrel and 3 singing male Goldcrests

Monday, 27 February 2012

GREAT CRESTED GREBES arrive in force and GADWALL reach almost record numbers


Perhaps not as warm as during the weekend but still mild for the time of year, with temperatures reaching 11 degrees C. Very grey and overcast throughout and as dusk approached, some light rain fell.

Most of today was spent birding the Three Counties, concentrating mainly on those waders that have returned in recent days. I added four species to my Bucks Year List and just two to my Beds. Also spent time surveying Rookeries......


A male Song Thrush was in full song whilst 16 LESSER REDPOLL were still in the vicinity. The Rookery at LOWER PYEBUSHES WOOD held 47 active nests (at SU 963 896)

The gull flock was not able to settle in the hour that I was there but included just 400 Black-headed, 170 predominantly juvenile Herring, just 5 Lesser Black-back and 1 adult Great Black-back. There was no sign of the two Iceland Gulls from yesterday.

Red Kites were conspicuous by their absence, just 5 lingering around.


A bumper showing of waterfowl, suggesting that many had moved in from surrounding waters.

Most notable were GREAT CRESTED GREBE and GADWALL. Two pairs of grebe had arrived and no less than 62 Gadwall - one of the highest counts I have ever had there. There were also 4 COMMON TEAL (2 pairs).

Other species noted included 4 Little Grebes, 5 Mute Swans (the resident pair now nest-building and three of last year's young), 24 Tufted Duck and 58 Coot, whilst large numbers of roosting/washing gulls included an adult GREAT BLACK-BACKED (first record this year in my Recording Area), a local record 22 HERRING (90% juvenile), 12 Common and 96+ Black-headed.

Three Red Kites were lingering, Grey Wagtail, a singing male Song Thrush, Long-tailed & Blue Tit, 3 Goldfinch, Common Kestrel, a male SISKIN, Mistle Thrush and 3 singing male COMMON TREECREEPERS.


The Shardeloes Rookery numbered 13 active nests whilst that by the railway in Holloway Lane, Chesham (at SU 973 998) held 17; the Chessbury colony (at SP 957 013) held 16 and that in Chesham Vale at SP 962 023 numbered 33.


The pair of GREAT CRESTED GREBES present since January had relocated to the east end of the larger lake, with 2 first-year Mute Swans, 7 Northern Pochard, 9 Tufted Duck and 8 Coots also present.

Chris Pontin had seen up to 6 Reed Buntings here in recent days but there was no sign today.

On neighbouring POW WOW LAKE, the adult pair of Mute Swans was present and a male BLACKCAP was in quiet subsong in some dense ivy.


A large flock of winter thrushes feeding east of Hastoe Lane, including 240 Redwings and 40 Fieldfares.


College Lake yielded both OYSTERCATCHER and COMMON REDSHANK, single pairs of both having just arrived after wintering on the coast. The 'Oycs' were piping and displaying on the main island of the deep lake whilst the Redshanks were on the main marsh. Up to 8 COMMON SNIPES were on the marsh, as well as 18 Mute Swans, 9 Teal, 2 drake Shoveler, 57 Tufted Duck, 25 Pochard, 13 Wigeon, 48 Lapwing and a pair of Stock Doves.


At MARSWORTH, a single BITTERN was in the reedbed, along with a COMMON SNIPE, with 6 Great Crested Grebes, 1 first-year Mute Swan, 19 Shoveler, Green Woodpecker, 2 Grey Wagtails and a singing male Common Treecreeper also being recorded.

College's pair of Red-crested Pochard had relocated to STARTOP'S END, where 3 Great Crested Grebes, 5 Mute Swans, 31 Tufted Duck and 17 Pochard remained.

The extensive vegetated fringe held 6 Linnets and 8 Pied Wagtails, the latter perhaps migrants.

The first-year DARK-BELLIED BRENT GOOSE was still feeding away on the grass field towards Cemetery Corner on WILSTONE, with 77 Greylag Geese in tow and 2 adult Mute Swans.

Duck numbers were well down on my last visit with just 22 Wigeon remaining, 3 Mute Swans, 220 Teal, 10 Gadwall, 26 Shoveler, 38 Tufted Duck and 42 Pochard. The redhead SMEW was on here, as well as adult drake and female Common Goldeneye; 16 Great Crested Grebes were counted and active Grey Heron nests on the Drayton Bank now numbered 9.


I stopped off in Aylesbury and was delighted to find the female PEREGRINE sitting right inside the chamber, perhaps indicating that she is about to breed for the first time; the male was perched nearby.


Three noted, with two close together in Woodham and another just east of Kingswood Lane (all in SP 69 18).


A flock of 25 EUROPEAN GOLDEN PLOVERS flew over heading NW whilst after a lot of effort, I finally tracked down a recently-arrived male EURASIAN CURLEW (in the horse field opposite the entrance to the reserve). Three Brown Hares were in the vicinity.


The Rookery alongside the A418 south of Rowsham held a total of 12 active nests.


I decided to spend the rest of the afternoon in Bedfordshire, again searching for waders. First off, I checked 100 Acre Meadow, where 400 yards east of the bridge were 105 BARNACLE GEESE, the single long-staying PINK-FOOTED GOOSE and 5 EGYPTIAN GEESE.

A Sparrowhawk and Grey Wagtail were also seen.


No less than 307 BARNACLE GEESE were on the meadow and with them showing well, I decided to take the opportunity and read the red plastic rings. Over half of the flock seem to be ringed and I can confirm the continued survival of UB and BA (a pair), JA, CV, UN, UV, DF, DE, PH, PZ, CC, CJ, PB, NK, NS, FT, NV, AL, KZ, KH, KP, CB, CE and JP (incidentally in the order of each ring I read).

Dovecote Lake held 4 Great Crested Grebes, 4 Mute Swans, 86 Wigeon, 8 Shoveler, 56 Tufted Duck and 3 COMMON SHELDUCKS, whilst waders included an OYSTERCATCHER (my first of the year) and 4 Common Redshanks. A group of 7 Pied Wagtails was feeding on one of the islands.

The Riverside Walk produced both Green & Great Spotted Woodpeckers, 4 singing male Song Thrushes, a charm of 27 Goldfinch and a very nasal and wheezing male Greenfinch.

At DEREK WHITE'S PIT, Steve Blain's Black-tailed Godwit was long gone - just 7 Little Grebes worthy of note from there. Nearby GYPSY LANE PITS at BROOM produced my first local pair of RINGED PLOVERS of the year.

The last hour of daylight was spent searching for Golden Plover and Barn Owl but as usual, I failed to find either

Friday, 24 February 2012

BEARDED TITS perform well in South Bucks whilst first migrant MEADOW PIPITS arrive


Following a phenomenal two days of warm summery weather where temperatures have reached an incredible 17 degrees C, the first migrants have started arriving into Britain, including a Stone Curlew, several Garganeys, Reed Buntings and the first Northern Wheatears........Today, even Bucks saw its first, with Curlews and Meadow Pipits arriving......


Following a timely tip-off from Pete Hutchins, I arrived at Dorney Wetlands at 1100 hours. Parking up in Lake End Road car park, I walked the 200 yards along the southern bridleway to the reedbed. The section of reedbed west of the two picnic tables is claimed by Buckinghamshire County Council and checking from the scrubby bank, the reedy water-filled ditch immediately produced a Water Rail, one very noisy CETTI'S WARBLER and 8 Reed Buntings. Pishing very softly, I soon coaxed out the two male BEARDED TITS and was able to get snatches of good views every now and then. The two birds were keeping to the ground, at the very base of the reeds, and were very elusive in general. They called only very occasionally and kept loyal to one small area of reedbed. I phoned the news out to RBA and within a short time was joined by local birder Jim Reid.

The birds moved further west into the slimmer section of reedbed and then returned back eastwards, being intercepted as they entered a section of sedges. I then enjoyed my best views in over an hour as the two males crept along the outside edge of the reeds in the bright sunlight, in the area of flattened reeds immediately north of the middle bench.

A flock of 26 Fieldfares was also noted, as well as 5 Linnets.


I met up with Dave Cleal and checked out MILL WOOD (SU 920 883) for Woodcock. Despite an exhausted search, none was found unfortunately. However, on walking back to Lillyfee Farm across a large grass field, we came across a flock of 6 Skylarks and 26 migrant Meadow Pipits. Red Kites were everywhere too, many in display mode in the warm conditions.

At Castleman's Farm, no less than 18 EGYPTIAN GEESE were present, with another pair nearby on the M40 BEACONSFIELD SERVICES LAKE.


A further 5 migrant Meadow Pipits were encountered but nothing else of interest


The fields to the west of Lodge Lane held 44 Jackdaws and a singing Skylark whilst the properties and gardens yielded 25 House Sparrows

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

A day of death and destruction


A touch milder today, with temperatures climbing to 8 degrees C. Dry throughout, although a little light drizzle in the WSW wind as nightfall approached

Another local day birding today, concentrating on repeat visits after the ice has melted. Sadly, death was the general theme of the day, with a number of dead creatures recorded. I finally added Lesser Redpoll too to my 2012 Hertfordshire List......

In LITTLE CHALFONT (BUCKS), a Sparrowhawk flew parallel with Stanley Hill first thing

Then, driving between Amersham and Beaconsfield on the A 355, firstly I saw a dead BADGER near Brentford Grange at SU 956 949 and then a dead COMMON BUZZARD by Birchen Spring Wood at SU 953 924 - both road casualties.


Around 2,000 gulls were present from 0900 hours involving mostly Black-headed Gulls. A single adult CASPIAN GULL alighted briefly but nothing else of interest was seen - the flock including 11 Common Gulls, still 300 or more Herring Gulls, just 15 Lesser Black-backed Gulls and 7 Great Black-backed Gulls.

I did a Carrion Crow count (261) just before the regular guy in his red Toyota Hi Lux released his Gyrfalcon x Saker on proceedings. The bird incredibly quickly singled a first-year Argenteus Herring Gull out from the flock and continuously harassed it. The young bird flew lower and lower into the empty pan adjacent and was completely isolated from the rest of the flock (which scattered in all directions incidentally). It made a number of desperate cries and repeatedly tried to outwit the falcon but by twisting and turning, the Gyr cross gradually forced the gull deeper and deeper into the pit and into trouble. Next minute the falcon had made contact, smashing the head of the gull and seemingly blinding it. The Herring then lost all sense of balance and was struck again several times before falling quickly to the ground. The powerful falcon followed and tussled on the ground, the two birds rolling over and over in contact. There was repeated blows to the head and neck but the gull just kept on struggling and attempting to escape. The attempt to relinquish its prey of life went on for nearly 10 minutes, eventually the bird of prey's owner racing down to retrieve it. I watched him humanely destroy the gull before rewarding the bird for its work. The Gyr then stood tall on its kill and plucked it, tearing away at the lifeless body.

I am not sure of the legality of this, considering Herring Gull is a protected species in Britain, but I guess as European Legislation demands such safeguards of vermin control at landfill sites, this will come under the Operations remit.


Needing to charge my battery up on a rarely used Vauxhall Corsa, I decided to drive the 22 miles to St Albans, where once again I visited this delightful reserve, close to the town centre. I met up with one local volunteer and she informed me of the tremendous cost feeding the birds on the reserve entailed. No less than £1,000 per year - a staggering cost - and no wonder the Nyger feeders were in need of a refill.

Anyway, after a little time, I eventually sighted a LESSER REDPOLL loosely associating with the 8 or so visiting SISKINS.

A COMMON KINGFISHER was an excellent record, whilst 2 Grey Wagtails, 2 Coots, Great Spotted Woodpecker, male Greenfinch. 6 Goldfinch, 8 Chaffinch, Dunnock, Robin, Woodpigeon, Grey Heron and Blue, Great, Coal and 6 Long-tailed Tits were seen.


The resident pair were settled in to nesting with the female busy sitting and the male occasionally making the odd foray to the hill slope.


All back to normal after the snow and ice with the main marsh in great demand. Large numbers of Lapwings were on site, with 91 on the bund and a further 43 all having a communal bathing session. A single Common Snipe was probing, with the COMMON SHELDUCK on one of the islands.

Gadwalls numbered an impressive 64, with 24 Wigeon, 6 Teal, 43 Tufted Duck, 16 Pochard, 14 Mute Swans and 78 Coot being click-counted. The usual RED-CRESTED POCHARD pair were on the deep lake, as well as a single Little Grebe. A Stock Dove was feeding on top of one of the islands.


No sign of any spring migrants as yet, although geese numbers have burgeoned in recent days

On MARSWORTH RESERVOIR, 22 Shoveler had returned following the ice, along with 3 Great Crested Grebes and 32 Pochards

The redhead SMEW was still present on STARTOP'S END RESERVOIR, with 7 Great Crested Grebes, 11 Mute Swans (a huge decrease), 82 Pochard and 174 Coot. The ever-present SNOW BUNTING was in the NW corner.

TRINGFORD RESERVOIR now had wildfowl after nearly two weeks without any, with 2 Mute Swans, 22 Coot, 26 Tufted Duck, 2 Pochard and 4 Gadwall.

As I approached WILSTONE RESERVOIR, the goose flock in the Cemetery Corner Fields had risen dramatically - the first-winter DARK-BELLIED BRENT GOOSE was now associating with 111 Greylags and 124 Atlantic Canadas - some 226 geese in all.

Not much happening on the main reservoir with 13 Great Crested Grebes, 8 Mute Swans, 22 roosting Cormorants, 298 Wigeon, just 350 Teal (massive decrease), 2 Goldeneye (pair) and 44 Lapwing.

Breeding was now on the minds of some resident birds with 6 Grey Herons now active on the lower bushes of the Drayton Bank and still the 5 active Sinensis nests in the sole remaining tree.

The field next to the car park held 4 Fieldfares and a Mistle Thrush, whilst a young male Sparrowhawk that zipped past JT, Anna and I was my first local bird of the year.


Thanks to a tip-off from Anna Marrett, I decided to walk the 400 yards downstream of Wharf Lane in Wendover. A cracking and very approachable (and therefore photogenic) drake MANDARIN DUCK was consorting with the 76 Mallard in the vicinity, with a single Little Grebe, surviving family party of 7 Mute Swans, 6 Coot, 8 Moorhen, male Greenfinch, 8 Redwing and a singing male Goldcrest also seen.

More carnage was then to follow, with a dead BADGER along the B485 at HYDE END (at SP 919 012) and then a dead BARN OWL near LOWER HUNDRIDGE FARM at SP 941 014. I have not seen a live Barn Owl in my Recording Area for three years so this finding was particularly gruelling.


No less than 22 LITTLE EGRETS flew to roost towards Stocker's Lake after 1700 hours, the same number Chris Pontin had witnessed in the valley on Sunday.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Egrets up to 17 and 'T2L' back on territory


A frosty start followed by a cold day, with temperatures struggling to reach 6 degrees C. A westerly wind increased during the day bringing in heavy cloud but it remained dry until darkness fell at 1742 hours

Not much happening today locally, although the first migrant Ringed Plovers were welcome; many Fieldfares moving back north too


No less than 17 LITTLE EGRETS present for their second day, including one single party of 8 birds at Church Covert. Also pleased to see the return of the nesting pair of Mute Swans at Chenies Bottom, one of them marked with a white plastic ring inscribed in black ''T2L''


Met up with a long-standing friend and now Somerset birder and all-round naturalist Jeff Hazell, who had just come from Church Wood watching the male Lesser Spotted Woodpecker do its thing in the same general area as yesterday and at the same time (0930-1000 hours).

The gulls were only being intermittently disturbed off of the tip at lunchtime allowing observation and study to take place. The 2nd-winter ICELAND GULL was present again, as well as 75 Herring and a handful of Lesser & Greater Black-backs. Two YELLOW-LEGGED GULLS were identified - a 4th-winter and a first-winter, whilst star of the show for me was a lovely adult MEDITERRANEAN GULL sporting a blood red bill and extensive black on the hood apart from the forehead. This bird stayed around for some time and rather than hang around with the Black-headed Gulls, it was keeping company with Herring Gulls. It was my first for the year in Bucks and as such, my 114th species.

Despite only relatively small numbers of large gulls present, a number of them were ringed, including an apparent Herring Gull with a white ring. A number of Herring Gulls were also bearing bright red plastic rings.

The Meadow Pipit was in the long grass again, and the 16 LESSER REDPOLLS in the trees, whilst a male BULLFINCH was nice and the Common Starling flock on the tip numbered 120.


Following a call from local guy Steve Blake, I drove over to Tyttenhanger where the first pair of (GREATER) RINGED PLOVER of the year were running about on the sandy spit of the main pit. The drake COMMON SHELDUCK was still there, along with 4 Great Crested Grebes, 15 Tufted Duck, 60 Common Gulls and 3 adult Lesser Black-backed Gulls. Garden Wood held Green Woodpecker, 3 Jays and 5 Long-tailed Tits whilst the Fishing Lake at the far west end of the complex harboured two corking adult drake GOOSANDERS - hauled out on the bank preening. What an outstandingly handsome duck this species is.


Another new site for me and what a well-managed and well-kept reserve it is, situated in the centre of St Albans. It backs on to the River Ver and has a main lake and smaller tributaries - a major haven for wildlife.

Well, the reason I had pitched up here was for its Lesser Redpolls - apparently up to 6 of them frequently visiting the feeder in front of the information centre. Well not this afternoon, as the sunhearts and its feeder were being hijacked by an army of 6 noisy Ring-necked Parakeets - and nobody else was allowed a look-in. I saw 3 Greenfinches, 7 Chaffinches and a continual procession of Blue and Great Tits but no redpoll. Highlights were a Grey Wagtail and a RED KITE drifting overhead.


A flock of 70 smart Fieldfares feeding in one of the horse paddocks, most likely heralding a major push northwards this week by this winter visitor.

Friday, 17 February 2012

WATER RAILS back at Millfields


With temperatures reaching 14 degrees C today, it was hardly surprising that many bird species felt that spring had arrived. It was very cloudy generally but brightened up this afternoon, with light SW winds.

The first part of the day was spent twitching the 8th ever COMMON YELLOWTHROAT in Britain in Gwent in South Wales, whilst the afternoon was spent locally.....


Chris Pontin and I enjoyed excellent views of 2 WATER RAILS and a GREY WAGTAIL this evening on the allotment cressbeds.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012


I thought you might like to know that I am seeing large numbers of SKYLARKS (60+) and YELLOWHAMMERS (40+) in the stubble field next to the cemetery in Stanley Hill. Also saw Linnet and Chaffinch with them. In the paddocks behind Willow Wood I saw Mistle Thrush (4), Redwing (20), a Greenfinch, Kestrel and 2 Red Kites. Willow Wood itself had a large tit flock (only saw Blues and Greats though). It is a good site for some local birding at the moment (Neil Gallagher, Amersham)

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

BRAMBLING numbers on the up


The thaw continued with a vengeance today as temperatures climbed to 8 degrees C. It did remain murky and grey but was dry.

At CHENIES BOTTOM first thing, 8 LITTLE EGRETS were lined up along the edge of the new lake

I put in a good innings at HEDGERLEY LANDFILL this afternoon, with up to 4,000 gulls on site. No less than 95 Red kites were counted on one occasion, and of 1,750 corvids present, about 900 were Jackdaw and 400 Rook

Other than 2300 Black-headed Gulls, Herring Gulls were the dominant species with 575 present at the peak. The vast majority of these were juveniles. Not one Great Black-back was noted, just 13 Lesser Black-backs and 4 Common Gulls. There was no sign of yesterday's juvenile Glaucous Gull, which incidentally is a different bird to that at Knowl Hill, west of Maidenhead.

PENN WOOD was very quiet other than the roosting finches: the Holly Greenfinch roost was paltry at just 66 (although Kevin Holt saw an additional 200 elsewhere in the wood) but this was more than made up for with the BRAMBLING roost count - no less than 148 birds pitched down into the Penna Rhododendron scrub - easily my highest count of the winter. The birds gathered pretty late and dropped down into cover at 1700 hours.

Nearby, 17 Red Kites roosted in BROOK WOOD

Monday, 13 February 2012


The northerly wind increased today with afternoon temperatures reaching 7 degrees. The wind also bought some rain, much of the lying snow being washed away.


No sign of any Water Rails but a single Little Egret, 3 Moorhens, 60 Redwings and a superb perched COMMON KINGFISHER by the stream

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Freezing conditions continue to produce birds


With a northeasterly wind increasing, the weather got even colder today. It was absolutely freezing out in the field, and encrusted ice suggests that bird populations are really struggling to survive the harsh conditions.


The Fieldfare flock increased to 14 this morning, feasting on the fallen apples.


No sign of the 3 Water Rails but a COMMON SNIPE was unexpected, with 3 Moorhens also seen. A Blue Tit was visiting the unfrozen greenery by the river, as were 4 Long-tailed Tits.


Marsworth and Tringford Reservoirs are completely frozen over, with an increasing section of Startop's End now open and three separate ice-free patches on Wilstone. Numbers of birds in general were well down because of the ice but a redhead SMEW was a nice bonus and the first of the year.......

A COMMON TREECREEPER was in full song as I entered the MARSWORTH WOOD but there was no sign of the Bittern others had seen earlier. All 5 Grey Herons were absent also

The increasingly open patch on STARTOP'S END RESERVOIR was heaving with activity and at the extreme east end of the water, I was pleased to find a redhead SMEW.

No less than 41 Mute Swans were counted, the most this winter, with 10 first-years among them - 5 Great Crested Grebes, 134 Mallard, 1 drake Gadwall, 18 Teal, 10 Wigeon, 25 Tufted Duck, 103 Pochard, 233 Coot and 14 Moorhens.

Three Robins allowed themselves to be handfed on seeds by the hide and in a sheltered area of weeds on the south bank, 9 Common Blackbirds and 8 Fieldfares were feeding.

For the first time in weeks, I was unable to locate the Snow Bunting on the north shore

The first-winter DARK-BELLIED BRENT GOOSE was with 70 Greylags in the Cemetery Corner field on WILSTONE, whilst the three ice-free patches on the reservoir harboured 13 Great Crested Grebes, 2 Mute Swans, 18 Mallard, 149 Wigeon, 135 Teal, 22 Tufted Duck, 47 Pochard and 322 Coot. No Shoveler were seen today.


Not an ounce of ice on the main lake and consequently lots of waterbirds - 7 Mute Swans (including 3 first-years), 194 Wigeon, 64 Teal, 46 Gadwall, the usual pair of RED-CRESTED POCHARDS, 54 Tufted Duck, 62 Pochard, 2 female Common Goldeneye and 92 Coot. 13 Lapwing were also present.


A covey of 6 GREY PARTRIDGE (3 pairs) was in a crop field half a mile NE of Stockwell Lane along Kimblewick Road at SP 797 071.


A site literally on the county boundary with Berkshire and accessed from the B 3026 at the east end of Dorney Common at SU 943 786. A stream runs north to the Jubilee River and is a known haunt of wintering chiffchaffs. In fact on Sunday, Dave Carter located a Siberian Chiffchaff at the site, with Chris Heard locating a second individual yesterday

It was probably too late in the day by the time I arrived at 1600 hours. Although I easily located 6 COMMON CHIFFCHAFFS in the Phragmites 110 yards north along the stream, I could not find the two Siberians. I was amazed at the hive of activity in the short reeds, with 2 CETTI'S WARBLERS putting on a good show, 8 Reed Buntings, 3 Wrens, 3 Grey Wagtails, 3 Pied Wagtails and 6 Long-tailed Tits all taking advantage of the conditions created by the warmer water. A Grey Heron was also fishing and 5 Common Teal were particularly approachable.

As dusk approached, it was clear I was beneath the flight line of RING-NECKED PARAKEETS - no less than 165 flying east towards Staines to roost.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

WATER RAILS in Chesham

Water Rails (Martin Parr)

Yesterday three WATER RAILS were on view at the allotments behind the swimming pool on Chesham Moor. Two feeding a few yards apart and viewable from Millfields,the other was in a channel near the car park.
Today I struggled to find only one, which again was seen from Millfields,partially hidden under over hanging vegetation (Don Stone)

LESSER REDPOLLS in Little Chalfont

Up to 20 LESSER REDPOLLS are regularly visiting Stuart and Lesley Wilson's nyger seed feeders in Little Chalfont. They have been present for at least a month

LITTLE EGRETS rise in number

No less than 15 LITTLE EGRETS were on the River Chess this afternoon, as well as 19 Moorhens, all taking advantage of the greenery and running water in a sea of ice

Monday, 6 February 2012

Chorleywood garden BLACKCAP

A few Chorleywood observations over the weekend and Monday from my garden in Shire Lane near to the shops. Cold weather and snow drove more birds than I have ever seen into the garden

Highlights on Saturday included 10 plus Redwings in garden together, 2 Nuthatches on feeder together, 2 Dunnock and 2 Goldcrests

Sunday More of the same plus Sparrowhawk

Monday: First male BLACKCAP of the winter feeding on the patio

Simon Colbeck

A red letter day in the Recording Area


Following Saturday night's heavy snow, a rapid thaw is now in process and throughout the day, the four to six inches of lying snow has been turning to slush. In fact, it felt quite mild, with temperatures at one point climbing to 4 degrees. It was very misty and for a while, it rained a little. Towards nightfall, the skies cleared and it does now look as though a frost will form.

With so much snow about, I took the opportunity to have a good look around my immediate Recording Area, the first time I have put such effort in this year. It turned out to be very rewarding, amongst the many highlights being a Common Crossbill, flock of Lesser Redpolls, big flock of Mandarins, 3 Green Sandpipers, 3 Common Snipe and so on. A red letter day in other words.........


Shardeloes lake was virtually completely frozen over with just one tiny patch of ice-free water. Despite that, a mass of birds were packed in on it, including 82 Coots, 5 first-year Mute Swans, a drake Northern Pochard, 5 Gadwall, 2 Mallard, 3 Little Grebes and best of all, 11 MANDARIN DUCKS. The latter comprised of 6 drakes and 5 females. Several gulls were roosting on the ice including an adult Lesser Black-backed and 5 adult, 2 first-winter Common Gulls.

Also noted were Green Woodpecker, a hooting Tawny Owl, Coal Tit, Red Kite, Song Thrush and 2 Common Treecreepers.

In OLD AMERSHAM nearby, over 100 Fieldfares were in hedgerows along School Lane


Had a concerted effort in the snow to locate Woodcock but failed in my quest. A big bonus however was a nice adult male COMMON CROSSBILL - a rare species locally - whilst a party of 20 LESSER REDPOLLS showed very well in a stand of Silver Birches. One of them was a very brightly plumaged pink male.

More ordinary fare noted included 2 Jays, Coal Tit, 5 Great Tits, 4 Blue Tits, 4 Nuthatches, Wren, 4 Great Spotted Woodpeckers (a lot of drumming activity going on), 12 Redwing and 3 Chaffinches.


Walked a major portion of the valley, west as far as Bois Mill and east to Crestyl Cressbeds. The heavy snow had certainly forced a lot of birds into the valley.

On the Chess just east of Chenies Bottom bridge, no less than 8 LITTLE EGRETS were feeding together with a Grey Heron, whilst a female Grey Wagtail flew overhead.

LATIMER GREAT WATER was largely frozen but within the ice-free area was 9 Mute Swans (2 first-years), 165 Atlantic Canada Geese, 10 Tufted Duck, 5 Pochard, 47 Coot and 11 Moorhen. To the south of the lake, 4 LAPWINGS were walking bewildered about a snow white field. A single sub-adult Sinensis Cormorant was perched at the top of a tree to the west.

In trees by the hall were 4 Mistle Thrushes, 8 Fieldfares, 4 Redwings and a Song Thrush.

A further 8 LAPWINGS were in a field with horses to the north of Mill Farm Water Meadow, taking advantage of the soil exposed by the feeding animals. A Green Woodpecker took advantage too.

At FROGMORE MEADOW, I was very surprised to locate 2 GREEN SANDPIPERS on the Chess, both flying around noisily as I inadvertently flushed them. A further 2 LITTLE EGRETS were seen from the Water Vole Watchpoint, as well as 19 Mallard, 9 COMMON TEAL, 2 Little Grebes and a Great Spotted Woodpecker.

CRESTYL WATERCRESS BEDS were unfrozen and full of birds with the aforementioned TEAL coming and going, 2 Mute Swans, 14 Moorhens, a single LAPWING, yet another GREEN SANDPIPER, 3 COMMON SNIPES, a Grey Wagtail, 2 MEADOW PIPITS and a male Yellowhammer.

A deep guttural cronking call overhead immediately alerted me to a COMMON RAVEN, the bird flying across from Chenies village direction and heading off toward Limeshill Wood. Although JT had seen this bird twice since November 2011, this was the first time I had connected - the possibility being that it was one of the surviving pair that bred in the valley in 2009.

A Grey Heron landed in a tree east of VALLEY FARM and immediately sparked off panic amongst the LITTLE OWL colony. Once the resident pair in the heron's chosen roost tree started complaining loudly, it set off the rest, with eventually 5 different individuals alarming.

Limeshill Wood also produced 2 Nuthatches and 2 Jays.

Just as I was walking back on the boardwalk, I was alerted to a local pager message........


Just under 20 minutes later, I had joined Hilfield patch worker Steve Murray. Steve had discovered two GREATER SCAUP - a species I had failed to see in the county in 2011. Once by the jetty, I located them immediately - a fine adult pair, the drake with his resplendent green head, golden-orange eye, gleaming white flanks, lightly vermiculated grey mantle and black-nailed sky-blue bill and the female with her extensive white forehead blaze, fat rounded head, dark brown head and breast, pale cheek patch, subtly grey vermiculated back and grey sides. There was also a hint of a pale ring around the neck base and a fat spatulate bill, greyer in colour.

They were a spotless pair and a delight to watch, both Steve and I being treated to good views as they gradually swam closer inshore. Once fully 'scauped', I started to pan round and incredibly soon realised that there were actually SIX GREATER SCAUPS on the reservoir and not just two - four adult drakes, a first-winter drake and the adult female. A real treat and tantamount proof of what the weather is doing with the movements of waterbirds.

At around the same time, I watched 4 NORTHERN PINTAILS arrive (three drakes and a female), with the duck logcall also including 107 Pochard, 81 Tufted Duck, 5 Rufous Daniels, 6 Gadwall and 11 Wigeon.

The dusk gull roost was very impressive with well over 4,500 Black-headed Gulls present, as well as 150+ Herring Gulls, 350 Common Gulls, 33 Lesser Black-backed Gulls and a single adult Great Black-backed Gull. Other birds taking advantage of the ice-free water included 35 Great Crested Grebe and 6 Little Grebe

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Significant snow arrives overnight - garden BLACKCAP


Well the snow finally arrived. It started light at around 1700 hours on Saturday evening and then continued until 0300 hours on Sunday morning, the latter three hours producing the heaviest falls. No less than six inches fell in the Chilterns area and as a consequence, I was called in to work from 2100 hours. The M40 and M25 were complete no-go areas and by 2200 hours, both ground to a complete standstill as numerous lorries jacknifed. It took literally all night to clear the motorways, many Saturday night revellers being forced to spend eight hours in their vehicles. I personally helped over 250 vehicles to get on their way, generally automatic top-of-the-range Mercedes and BMW's.

I managed to get home at 0800 hours, in time to top up the birdtables. I then got some sleep. After that, I returned to Bedfordshire.


Very busy in the garden with 34 House Sparrows, 5 Common Blackbirds, 6 Redwings, 12 Fieldfares, 8 Goldfinches, 3 Dunnocks, 4 Chaffinches and the resident Robin feeding.

In Chesham, Chris Pontin had a female BLACKCAP in his garden


A Ring-necked Parakeet in a tree opposite the Red Lion public house was the first in the Recording Area this year.