WEDNESDAY 19 DECEMBER
Although completely overcast, it was not until early afternoon that the forecast rain eventually arrived. It remained cold too, with temperatures never improving on 5 degrees C.
A Jay was back in my garden at CHAFFINCH HOUSE and as I drove past CHENIES BOTTOM closeby, Graham Smith was looking down at the GREAT WHITE EGRET on the kink in the River Chess, 150 yards downstream of the bridge. Mike Campbell then joined us, to be replaced later in the afternoon by Dave Cleal. A flock of 24 Redwings flew down valley.
Talking with Adam Bassett, reminded me of the necessity to visit MARLOW (SOUTH BUCKS) and do some more counting - and a good excuse to look at the GREATER SCAUP that had reappeared on the Roach Pit. On route were 4 Red-legged Partridges in the field adjacent to AMERSHAM HILL - the first I have seen in a while in the Recording Area.
Anyway, on to the Marlow complex of pits......
The CROWNE PLAZA LAKE, adjacent to the A404 (at SU 863 865) held 2 Great Crested Grebes, 1 Little Grebe, 2 Mute Swans, 36 Coot and 14 Tufted Ducks
The ROACH PIT (at SU 864 872) and accessed from the footbridge at the bottom end of Wiltshire Road was where the action was. Graham Smith and I enjoyed excellent views of the juvenile female GREATER SCAUP (now devoid of any pink neck-ring) as it dived consecutively about 75 yards away. It was a fairly typical individual, being very pale brown in general plumage, thick-necked, flat-headed, with pale feathering on the ear-coverts, some creamish-white on the forehead and a large spatulate bill, the black restricted to the nail. Significantly, and always characteristic of the species, when diving, it leapt out of the water. Much more concerning however, and bewildering, was an Aythya closely associating with it. This too had a large bill and white above the bill base, but it was much darker in the head, not so pronounced in head shape and markedly smaller - an oddball. But strangely, the two birds seemed related. Diving however, the darker individual mirrored Tufted Duck, just diving without jumping out of the water. Knowing that CDRH had seen two juvenile Scaups recently in the region, I phoned him and discussed the individual. It transpired that it was most likely one of three birds he had seen and he kindly agreed to come over and have a browse of it. We concluded that it was either a Greater Scaup x Tufted Duck hybrid or a late brooded juvenile Tufted Duck, some of which occasionally look like this. Interestingly, the resident Coots took a disliking to the two birds, and constantly badgered them whenever they surfaced.
The Roach Pit also held 1 Mute Swan, 8 Coots and a drake Tufted Duck
I then made my way to SPADE OAK PIT where I joined Alan Stevens. The pit was well deep, with water still lapping over the banks and concealing most of the spit, wildfowl being the main beneficiaries......
26 Great Crested Grebes (nice to get a few more of these, as wintering numbers in the county seem well down), 2 Mute Swans (down from 5), 16 Greylag Geese, 1 COMMON SHELDUCK (the sole wintering bird in the county), 17 Mallard, 37 Gadwall, 103 Wigeon, 14 Shoveler, 98 Teal, 142 Tufted Ducks and 30 Northern Pochards (down from 51); also 19 Coot, 11 Grey Heron, 11 Moorhen, 18 Common Snipe, at least 600 Lapwing and 3 COMMON KINGFISHERS