Recording Area Annual Totals

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

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

BARN OWL still in Chesham

Saw the Chesham Barn Owl twice last week. Here's a very short clip of it on Friday taken as it perched in a tree above the stream which runs parallel to the Missenden Road. Just before this I watched it hunt the roadside verge at about 4-10pm, it then decided to start swooping around above the middle of the road before coming to rest on the top of the hedge and as I pulled up on the grass verge opposite, with only the road between us, I'm sure I had the best view of a Barn Owl I'm ever likely to get!! (Don Stone)

Thursday, 17 January 2013

GREAT WHITE visits Chesham

Most likely because of freezing conditions, the GREAT WHITE EGRET moved into Chesham today, feeding at literally yards range in the Chess as it runs past the Recycling Centre in Latimer Road; a pair of Gadwall were also present on Pow Wow Lake (per Chris Pontin).

On its previous visit, the GREAT WHITE EGRET departed the Amersham District on 21 January, presumably for pastures breeding in NW France

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Another local BARN OWL

Don Stone located a second BARN OWL in the Amersham Recording Area this evening, just west of Chesham hunting over the Pednor stream. This is in the area where Barn Owls have nested in recent years.

Overwintering BLACKCAP in Chesham garden


Seriously cold overnight, with temperatures in the Chilterns plunging to as low as minus 8 degrees C. Many of the smaller waterbodies froze over during the night and any lying snow survived the day. For a while, the area was covered in freezing mist, the sort of localised fogging that resulted in a twin-engined helicopter colliding with a 700' crane in Central London at 0800 hours...

A quick browse of the Bucks Bird Club bird news highlights an increasing number of overwintering BLACKCAPS in our region, presumably Blackcaps of German origin. And with this species in mind, I was overjoyed to be invited into a Chesham bungalow this morning to see one such individual

At Richard Ness' well-stocked garden in Crabbe Crescent, CHESHAM, I enjoyed excellent views of the male BLACKCAP as it repeatedly visited the feeding station to take food. A cracking adult male Pied Wagtail and Winter Wren were also enticed to within inches of the window by the attraction of mealworms, whilst a Jay stole 11 peanuts in one stash and other visitors in the hour that I was there included 10 Chaffinches, 4 Common Blackbirds, Collared Dove, 21 Starlings and 4 Goldfinches.

Down at BEACONSFIELD SERVICES early afternoon, no sign of the Waxwings (although Graham did see them later) - just 2 Fieldfares in the trees.

And then a return visit to the ROUNDWOOD DITCH, ETON WICK (on the Bucks/Berks border), where the SIBERIAN CHIFFCHAFF was showing well today, frequenting the ivy and riverine vegetation at the back of the houses. The same stretch also held 7 additional COMMON CHIFFCHAFFS, including one with characters of the SCANDINAVIAN form abietinus.

Some beautifully performing CETTI'S WARBLERS as usual, as well as an awful lot of activity around the warm water in the ditch, including 4 Robins, 2 Meadow Pipits, 17 Pied Wagtails, 13 Reed Buntings and 4 Grey Wagtails.

In the Berkshire section, the flood to the east of the ditch yielded 16 Common Snipe, 4 DUNLIN and a single RUFF, along with 7 Shoveler and 32 Gadwall.

SPADE OAK PIT at LITTLE MARLOW (SOUTH BUCKS) had seen its water level drop dramatically since my last visit with the spit appearing once more. Feeding there out in the open were 16 COMMON SNIPE. However, this number paled into insignificance when I reached the Thames Floodmeadows, with a further 49 probing the fringes - a whopping 65 in total - my highest number in the county in a very long time. The male COMMON SHELDUCK had also relocated to the meadows.

Unlike previous January visits, COMMON KINGFISHER proved easy, with one flying by almost the minute I looked over the pit. A Collybita COMMON CHIFFCHAFF was also moving in and out of the pitside vegetation, with 30 Redwing and a single Song Thrush in the 'wood' and a Grey Wagtail in flight. The numbers of Northern Shoveler had increased to 27, whilst Gadwall were holding up at 103.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Huge gull-feeding frenzy at Beaconsfield where WAXWING flock still present; GREAT WHITE EGRET performing well too


Yesterday's snow was still lying this morning, although more of it melted during the day as temperatures rose to just above freezing. It was a bright, clear day but extremely cold and by 1800 hours, temperatures in Little Chalfont had already fallen to minus 5 degrees C. Norfolk had been hardest hit by this latest slice of Arctic weather, with up to 6 inches of snow laying....

At CHENIES BOTTOM BRIDGE (BUCKS), the GREAT WHITE EGRET was performing extremely well, fishing in the Chess just 50 yards downstream.

I then met up with Graham Smith and spent a very cold 45 minutes studying and counting the GULLS at HEDGERLEY LANDFILL, BEACONSFIELD (SOUTH BUCKS). There were impressive numbers present, ducking and diving the various council vehicles attempting to flatten out the disposed refuse - a bare minimum of 5,300 birds...

Most impressive were the GREAT BLACK-BACKED GULL numbers - a diminishing species - 102 being my highest count, the vast majority full adults. Next off, Herring Gulls were in abundance, with at least 2,200 present, including no less than 178 Northern Argentatus on one sweep. Lesser Black-backed Gulls were noticeable by their absence - perhaps just 38 in all - with just 1 adult Common Gull (this species just does not like working tips) and the rest (2,900 or more) being Black-headed Gulls. There was one Caspian/Yellow-legged Gull present (an adult-type, seen only in flight) and an odd-looking Herring Gull hybrid that was very pale and had pale biscuit-brown/creamy upperwings which was strikingly white-winged gull-like as it flew around.

Otherwise, 42 Red Kites, 213 Common Starlings, 32 Pied Wagtails, a Meadow Pipit and 2 Song Thrushes.

As is normally the case just lately, as soon as the Council guy saw us 'scoping across, he unleashed his hybrid Saker on the flock and almost immediately, every gull in the vicinity headed off. It was time to move on.

At nearby BEACONSFIELD SERVICES, 29 BOHEMIAN WAXWINGS were back in the adjacent trees, flying back and forth to drink on the roof of the Shell Service Station.

To the east of HILLMOTT'S END WOOD and south of HEDGERLEY LANE, the fields were full of Red-legged Partridges - 68 at least - presumably part of a local release by gamekeepers.

After a short meeting, I then spent the rest of the afternoon at MARSWORTH RESERVOIR, TRING (HERTS), in the great company of Richard Woodhead and Richard Ness. I had been spurned on to visit by Rob Andrews, after his fabulous CORN BUNTING counts of last night. I was also very surprised to see all of the reed cutting that had been performed since my last visit, one of two EURASIAN BITTERNS this evening immediately utilising the cut-channel closest to the causeway to feed briefly. WATER RAILS numbered at least 4, whilst the BARN OWL performed as usual but at the later time of 1643 hours; a Green Woodpecker was noted too.

However, it was the CORN BUNTINGS I had come to see, and following on from RDA's magnificent 204, that same tree on the far side of the reservoir eventually harboured an astonishing 229 birds this evening - presumably the result of this change in weather. This is by far my highest count in a long time.

Sunday, 13 January 2013


The GREAT WHITE EGRET was still showing well today in Mill Farm Water Meadows, with the BARN OWL on the opposite side of Chenies Bottom bridge (per David Bradnum)

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Playing with FIRECRESTS with WAXWINGS still nearby at Beaconsfield Services


A sharp decline in temperature today, the afternoon high never increasing to above 3 degrees C - Winter has returned. It was another dry day though, with no wind.

I had planned to do more duck counting today but an early call from close friend Chris Holt, had me returning to Beaconsfield where he wanted to see FIRECREST...


Chris was keen to see FIRECREST so I took him (and another Somerset birder who tagged along) to the most productive area - the extensive cluster of Holly bushes that eventually terminate in a 'tunnel' at the west end. We did cheat though and play the tape and in no time at all, all 4 beautiful, charming tiny sprites surrounded us, piping mournfully back to the MP3 player as it ran. As a consequence, the views were very good and at very close range - and for ten minutes or more, the tiny flock was engaged in aggressive behaviour, one of the males frequently raising its red crown. Years ago, Firecrest was believed to be a summer visitor to our part of the UK but such recent sightings have proved that most likely the majority of our breeders are resident rather than migrant birds. The population goes from strength to strength too - and analysing results from Warren, Steve Rodwell and I combined, it looks as though Buckinghamshire has as many as 74 singing males - and that's before I have surveyed a lot more suitable tetrads.

Other than the Firecrests, much the same species as on my other visits this week - Common Treecreeper, 8 Goldcrests, Coal Tit, Jay, 'singing' Stock Doves and displaying Red Kites.


Only 7 BOHEMIAN WAXWINGS remained - all lazing around in the trees. Hardly surprising, as the remaining berries all looked shrivelled up and unattractive.

At HICKNAHAM FARM, LITTLEWORTH COMMON (SOUTH BUCKS) (SU 942 876), the largest flock of Mallard you will ever see outside of Russia - a bare minimum 1,106 birds, and although free-flying, presumably unnaturally farmed and released.

LAKE END ROAD (JUBILEE RIVER) was equally devoid of Waxwings - just WATER RAIL and Mistle Thrush of interest.

Then, just as I was about to show Chris the Siberian Chiffchaff, I got word that the BUFF-BELLIED PIPITS had been relocated and I had to rush off and jog some 400 yards back to the car.


Despite getting there within ten minutes, I was staggered to see so many Berkshire birders already on site - Graham Jepson, Roger Stansfield and Peter Hutchins amongst them. It took about 11 minutes to run the three-quarter mile distance to the SW bank from the Yacht club car park but thankfully the quarry was still on view. Not just one but 2 BUFF-BELLIED PIPITS showing on the reservoir bank at virtually point-blank range. It was easy to pick out the original bird (initially found and identified by Mike McKee on 12 December 2012) but it was the second that really took my eye. Everything about it was different - it was far more buff on the underparts and had Scandinavian Rock Pipit-like dark-straw/orange-brown leg colour. It also had a much more obvious and flaring eye-stripe (back and behind the eye) and a very brightly (orange-pink) extensively coloured bill. The two birds were like chalk-and-cheese. Knowing that MM had found and photographed both birds, I 'phoned him immediately to talk features, and after consulting the literature, particularly Pipits & Wagtails, it just had to be 'individual variation'. I had been somewhat overly concerned that we were overlooking a japonicus, Siberian Buff-bellied Pipit and a further species in its own right (and a species I see most years in Israel). Separating the two is very difficult, particularly as features overlap, but the fact that these birds were equally as pale olive-grey on the upperparts and the underparts were basally white rather than buff, I had to agree that they must be rubescens (AMERICAN BUFF-BELLIED PIPIT).

Reviewing the photographs later in the comfort of my study, rubescens was the most likely identification of the second bird, despite the fact that it clearly had pale, rather than jet-black, legs. Mike had also managed to get both birds on call (and I hoped to do more with these later). In a nutshell, rubescens can be identified by its rather diffuse, buffish-white greater and median covert bars, paler, olive-grey upperparts, reasonably extensive white on the innermost outer tail feather (see Tim Daccus' photograph in Birding World 25: 491), basally buffish-white underparts and less striking and shorter streaking on underparts.

Scandinavian Rock (littoralis) and Water Pipit could be safely ruled out on a number of characters - contrastingly dark tertials, a complete pale eye-ring, unmarked pale lores, a fairly prominent moustachial stripe, a slenderer, more extensively-coloured and more Meadow Pipit in structure bill shape, extensive gleaming white outer-tail feathers, distinct rear-supercilium, concolorous rump colour, uniformly-coloured upperparts and generally more Meadow Pipit-like appearance.

American Buff-bellied Pipit is increasingly being identified in the UK and Ireland, these two now forwarding the audit to no less than 56 birds. However, just one has previously been identified at an inland reservoir - that at Farmoor Reservoirs (Oxfordshire) from 8-10 October 2007 (photograph in British Birds 100: 555, plate 281).. The species breeds in West Greenland, North and NW Canada and in Alaska and winters in western and southern USA, Mexico and in Central South America.

Both birds were still showing very well on the reservoir bank when I departed mid-afternoon, whilst other species noted included the long-staying juvenile LONG-TAILED DUCK (consorting with Tufted Ducks on the North Shore), a SLAVONIAN GREBE (along the west shore), a female Common Goldeneye, Grey Wagtail and 4 Meadow Pipits.

At STAINES RESERVOIRS (SURREY), I was really pleased to see a single drake RED PLANET, along with a drake GREATER SCAUP and a single BLACK-NECKED GREBE. The South Basin held 2 Mute Swans, 2 Egyptian Geese, 12 Gadwall, 26 Common Goldeneye and a GREEN SANDPIPER whilst the North supported 3 Little Grebes, a Common Shelduck, 36 Wigeon, 12 Shoveler and a further 18 Common Goldeneye; in total, 327 Tufted Ducks were counted.

THORNEY COUNTRY PARK (SOUTH BUCKS) at SU 050 790 held 6 Great Crested Grebes, 6 Cormorants, 5 Mute Swans (including a first-year), 7 Mallard, 10 Gadwall, 53 Tufted Duck, 3 Northern Pochard and 51 Coot, with Ring-necked Parakeet, SISKIN and 22 Chaffinches noted in the woodland scrub north of the river.

Neighbouring OLD SLADE GP (SOUTH BUCKS) (at SU 040 770) added 17 Gadwall, 48 Tufted Duck, 10 Northern Pochard, a single drake Wigeon and 8 Coot and a pair of Common Buzzard overhead.

The lake at BLACK PARK COUNTRY PARK (SOUTH BUCKS) (TQ 006 831) harboured 2 Atlantic Canada Geese, 52 Mallard, 25 MANDARIN DUCKS (16 drakes), 5 Tufted Duck, 6 Pochard, 1 Great Crested Grebe, 30 Coot and 6 Moorhen, with both Common Treecreeper and Green Woodpecker in the wood.

The LEA QUARRY PIT along Denham Court Drive (in Denham at TQ 048 862) housed 2 Mallard, a drake Gadwall, 28 Tufted Duck and 16 Coot, whilst the DENHAM GOLF COURSE LAKE just to the North (at TQ 048 865) still held 2 Gadwall, 7 Tufted Duck and 4 Coot. At DENHAM PLACE POND (TQ 039 871), just 9 Mallard, 1 Coot and 6 Moorhen remaining.

A very productive day

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Roosting at Neptunes Falls

Andrew Moon managed to get these exceptionally good shots of the GREAT WHITE EGRET as it was roosting and preening on the Neptunes Falls, 200 yards upstream of Latimer Bridge. The bird has taken to roosting here most mornings of late

Yippee! A KINGFISHER at last


After a very damp start, it then turned out very pleasant with clear blue skies prevailing. Although it was mild to start with, by dusk it was almost freezing

As Paul Keene wanted to photograph the GWE, I wandered down to the CHESS VALLEY to try and locate it. As is often usual in the mornings, it was standing on the pillars of Neptune's Falls, down below Latimer Conference Centre, before quickly relocating to Chenies Bottom. It then wandered about the tall weedy field west of the bridge for the next two hours or more - Martin Parr also turning up in the hope of photographing it.

For me, the highlight was finally connecting with COMMON KINGFISHER - one showing well on the Chess by Mill Farm. A Grey Wagtail was also about, as well as the resident LITTLE OWLS.

A male Sparrowhawk flew across the Chesham Road at LITTLE HAY (HERTS) whilst yet another dead BADGER was besides the westbound A41 near WEST LEITH FARM at SP 912 107.

I was then off in hot pursuit of Jack Snipe but despite trying several reliable previous haunts for this species, I completely drew a blank...

At BROUGHTON TROUT POOLS (BUCKS), east of Aylesbury (at SP 845 143), little to be seen other than 35 Atlantic Canada Geese, 8 Mallard and 2 Moorhens - and a Yellowhammer thrown in for good luck. At the neighbouring BEAR BROOK FLOOD STORAGE LAKES (at SP 842 139), not much different, with 4 adult Mute Swans, 4 Mallard, 2 Coot, 6 Moorhen and a Grey Heron. Three Redwings and a pair of BULLFINCH added some variety.

WESTON TURVILLE RESERVOIR was deadly with just 1 Great Crested Grebe present, whilst RAF HALTON added 35 ground-feeding Redwing.

I thought my luck was in with Golden Plover when I found a large flock of plovers in the large ploughed field just east of ASTON CLINTON (BUCKS) at SP 895 123 but all I could see were 462 Lapwings - an impressive wintering flock though.

I then found myself once again at MARSWORTH RESERVOIR, in the company of Mic & Jan Wells, Mike Campbell, Samuel Perfect and several others. For the second night running, a complete no-show by Bitterns. Getting there much earlier tonight gave me a better opportunity to accurately assess the CORN BUNTING population and by 1630 hours, exactly 140 had dropped into the reedbed to roost. The first 22 arrived at 1550, with the cumulative totals adding up thus: 22-37-41-42-60-97-102-140. Just 1 Common Starling was seen, with 5 roosting Reed Buntings, Grey Wagtail, 2 Coot, 2 Mute Swans, 2 Shovelers and 5 Great Crested Grebes recorded. Some 4 WATER RAIL squealed from the reedbed, whilst a flock of 52 Lapwing flew overhead. The BARN OWL performed from 1625 hours onwards, quartering back and forth over the rough field east of the sewage works.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

BARN OWL again

Nick Foxton connected with the BARN OWL again tonight - flying over the meadows to the west of Mill Farm and SE of Church Covert from 1615 hours onwards

RAVENS particularly active; GREEN SAND on Chess; GWE still and FIRECRESTS at Hogback Wood


Even milder today, with temperatures reaching a heady 10 degrees C. In fact, very pleasant to be out, with virtually no wind - just very dull and cloudy.

More Target Birding today, treading over much of the same ground as recent days......


After numerous attempts already this year, I was pleasantly surprised to find both LITTLE OWLS on view this morning, peering out from the gnarled branches of the Pollarded Willows west of Chenies Bottom bridge

My heart skipped a beat too when I thought one of my Goshawks had returned. It was a very large accipiter and seemingly displaying but when I got the 'scope on to it, all I could make it into was a very large female Eurasian Sparrowhawk. Quite why she was displaying I don't know but as more and more blue sky became apparent, several Common Buzzards took to the air and thermalled.

The resident pair of Mute Swans were by the bridge, whilst the male of the Crestyl pair flew downriver towards Great Water.

Both COMMON RAVENS were highly active again, flying backwards and forwards with full crops of what appeared to be grass and other vegetation, seemingly lining and repairing the nest of 2011. Interestingly, they are no longer vocal and follow each other silently between the two plantations.

A male Common Kestrel was also seen, plus Wren and a 'brand new' MARSH TIT in Limeshill Wood at TQ 022 992.

The GREAT WHITE EGRET was showing very well on the Chess to the east of Frogmore Meadows Orchid Reserve at TQ 023 988, with at least 7 Little Egrets in the same area too. The wintering GREEN SANDPIPER was also in this vicinity, as well as 2 Common Buzzards, a Song Thrush and a Green Woodpecker.

At Crestyl Cress Beds, 9 Moorhens were present, along with a Little Egret and Grey Wagtail.

Steve Carter and Paul Lewis had been keen to photograph the Great White so via JT I contacted them but typically, no sooner had I rang than the bird took flight and went all the way back down to Church Covert, where Jeff Bailey and I were later to get excellent views as it stood in a roadside stream. Thankfully, SC and PL connected.

At CHESHAM FISHING LAKES, SISKIN was the target and after a full circuit of both lakes, I eventually found 6 birds feeding high in the Alders at the extreme east end of the larger lake. The GREAT CRESTED GREBE was back again, with Grey Heron, 14 Tufted Duck, 2 Mute Swans, a drake Pochard and 18 Coot also seen (8 of the latter on the small lake). A Little Egret was feeding in a ditch at the far side of the small lake, whilst a Sparrowhawk circled overhead, a Green Woodpecker fed on the grass and 6 Goldcrests moved through in one flock.

It was then back to HOGBACK WOOD in BEACONSFIELD (SU 928 913). This time I had better luck but I did have to broaden my horizons somewhat. Not just 1 FIRECREST was found but FOUR - all noisily moving about together in the Holly - the somewhat piercing contact call giving their location away. They afforded some nice views, often dropping down in the canopy to almost head height - what fabulous little sprites these birds are - absolutely gorgeous.

From the end of Woodside Road, enter the wood. Turn immediately right up the muddy slope and follow the footpath for just under 100 yards to where it starts to drop down again and the track approaches the rear gardens of the houses. A track then leads away to the left into the woodland - it is an obvious track - and it leads you through some very extensive and thick tracts of Holly scrub. Continue 80 yards or so to where the fallen tree has almost blocked the track and then on to just before the Holly tract finishes - this is the area that the noisy Firecrests were frequenting (all Firecrests with no Goldcrests amongst them). Goldcrests on the other hand were easily located, with 4 in the tall conifers as you immediately enter the wood and 5 or so further along in the scrub that backs on to the gardens. A male Song Thrush was in full song and a male Stock Dove was repeatedly 'cooing' from a tall Beech; Jay being noted also.

I then returned to SPRINGFIELD FARM QUARRY but this time did not have any luck. Despite wandering far and wide across suitable terrain, no sign of the male Common Stonechat. The GREEN SANDPIPER was in the same place again and Common Blackbird, Song Thrush, Meadow Pipit (5) and Red Kite (40) were noted.

Common Kingfisher was next on my menu of requirements but despite a 2-hour vigil at Buckinghamshire's premier site for the species, I dipped again - Dave Horton literally gripping me off with one less than 5 minutes after I departed !

Anyway, it was not all bad news - SPADE OAK PIT, LITTLE MARLOW (SOUTH BUCKS) producing some noteworthy avian highlights. On the wildfowl theme, the drake COMMON SHELDUCK was still present and GADWALL numbered an exceptional 108 - my highest total ever for this location. There were also 7 Mute Swans present, of which two adults were respectively WHITE ringed and numbered 'V2S and V2T' . Also 9 Greylag Geese, Egyptian Goose pair (the male being particularly vocal), 8 Mallard, 58 Eurasian Wigeon, 10 Shoveler, 158 Tufted Duck and 24 Pochard. All 21 Great Crested Grebes were accounted for, with 8 Grey Herons (5 of which were already attending island nests), 44 Sinensis Cormorants, 799 click-counted Lapwings and a WATER RAIL also encountered.

As the afternoon progressed, the gull roost steadily built up, with 65 Herring Gulls attending (mostly juvenile birds and only just 3 adult Argentatus), 3 adult Great Black-backed Gulls and 17 Lesser Black-backed Gulls. The large first-winter CASPIAN GULL flew in at 1529 hours but stayed just ten minutes, being spooked just at the moment Dave Horton looked at it in my 'scope.

Very closeby, at WILTON FARM (SU 875 883), a flock of 140 Greenfinches was gathering to roost in the Leylandii.

I finished the day at MARSWORTH RESERVOIR, TRING (HERTS), where I joined Mic & Jan Wells and Mike Campbell on the causeway. Despite standing there and watching until pitch dark, not a single Bittern roosted, and neither did the Barn Owl show up. In fact it was dire - the only birds of note being a pair of LITTLE GREBE. A small Bat, possibly a Pipistrelle, was also flying around.

Saturday, 5 January 2013

BRAMBLINGS at Penn Bottom; WAXWINGS at Beaconsfield Services and of course the GWE


Despite a grey start and a little light drizzle, the day actually turned out quite nice weatherwise, with dry conditions, no wind to speak of and mild temperatures (9 degrees C)

I concentrated all of my efforts today in the South of the County, eventually adding TEN new species to my Year List, including a fair few 'quality' birds......



After a conversation with Andy Radford in the Chess Valley, I started my day in Penn Street, where Andy had seen a fair-sized finch flock yesterday. In the vicinity of the Farm Reservoir, I recorded 2 Mallard, 2 Moorhen, cock Pheasant, 90 Woodpigeons, 2 Mistle Thrush and a noisy congregation of Rooks inspecting their nests early. Then, walking the footpath that skirts the northern fringe of PRIESTLANDS WOOD. I located the finches, clearly attracted to the setaside game strip at SU 928 958. The flock were commuting back and forth between the strip and the wood and numbered 339 birds - 312 Chaffinches and 27 BRAMBLINGS. Long have Kevin Holt and I wondered about the location of Penn Wood finches during the day and at last I have found the answer - certainly for this winter. This location is barely a mile from the Rhododendron roost site at the Penna. Just 1 Greenfinch though, and a single Linnet, 2 Redwing and 2 Goldcrests.

PENN VILLAGE POND held 43 Mallard and 6 Moorhen

I then stopped off at BEACONSFIELD M40 SERVICES, where a flock of 28 BOHEMIAN WAXWINGS was showing very well at the back of the Lorry Parking Area and Shell Service Station in the ornamental berry shrubs adjacent; also 1 Pied Wagtail

HILLMOTTS FARM WOOD (SU 962 884) yielded 60 Redwing, Song Thrush (in full song), Common Buzzard (2), Nuthatch and Goldcrest (3) but no Common Crossbills, whilst neighbouring HEDGERLEY LANDFILL was relatively quiet despite working, with just 225 gulls present (including 2 Great Black-backed, 116 Herring and at least 107 Black-headed), 62 Red Kites and 80 Common Starlings.

Did my January count at BURNHAM BEECHES NNR where on the Upper Pond (SU 952 847), 23 MANDARIN DUCK were present (14 drakes, 9 females), as well as 15 Mallard and 5 Moorhen. Coal Tit and Wren were noted too.

The Berkshire boundary ditch at ROUNDMOOR, ETON WICK was my next destination and alongside Winchmore Bottom birder Dick Seekins, enjoyed some nice views of the wintering SIBERIAN CHIFFCHAFF. It was in exactly the same patch of reeds as last winter and seemed to be following exactly the same pattern of appearance, flitting about the bases of the reeds and the scrubby bush behind. This is a pale 'brown' tristis, and not a grey and white type, with jet-black bare part colour, some green fringing in the coverts and tail and somewhat beige-brown upperparts. It was seemingly hanging around with a typically green 'collybita', one of 6 individuals present. Remarkably, two of the latter were in full song, just west of the weir. There is also a single Scandinavian Chiffchaff wintering at the site, this bird frequenting further around by the weir.

CETTI'S WARBLERS were once again making their presence known and often showing well (this is by far one of the best sites for this species in the country, certainly in terms of seeing them), with 4 different individuals noted, whilst 8 Reed Buntings were present and 2 Grey Wagtails.

The floodwater on DORNEY COMMON had attracted 4 Atlantic Canada Geese, whilst 11 Meadow Pipits came over from the Berkshire flood and my first Eurasian Skylark of the year.

With the gates open at DORNEY ROWING LAKES, I took full advantage and drove in, DORNEY ARBORETUM POND (SU 927 785) producing 99 Tufted Ducks, 6 Mallard, 2 Coot, 1 Little Grebe and 8 Goldfinches. The DORNEY WETLANDS RESERVE AREA added 28 Atlantic Canada Geese and an incredible 475 roosting Common Gulls, predominantly adults.

Continuing in the counting vein, TAPLOW LAKE (SU 910 810) held 3 Great Crested Grebe, 1 Mute Swan, 6 Gadwall, 88 Tufted Duck and 54 Coot, with the JUBILEE RIVER north to Maidenhead adding just 3 Mallard and 2 Tufted Duck and that around AMERDEN SCRAPES just 3 Mute Swans, 4 Coot and 4 Moorhen. The river was still at an extremely high level.

Just north of the Thames and COOKHAM VILLAGE and in a flooded field at SU 899 858), 2 Mute Swans were standing, with 330 Black-headed Gulls and 38 Common Gulls feeding.

SPADE OAK GRAVEL PIT at Little Marlow was the wettest I had ever seen it - the southern footpath bordering the railway was under at least a foot of water!

As such, it was mainly waterfowl to be seen - 21 Great Crested Grebes, 39 Sinensis Cormorants, 8 Grey Herons (including an adult already sitting on a nest), 18 Atlantic Canada Geese, an adult Bar-headed Goose, 88 Greylag Geese (including 3 leucistic birds), an adult drake COMMON SHELDUCK, 15 mallard, 38 Gadwall, 17 Shoveler, 8 Common Teal, 97 Eurasian Wigeon, an impressive 204 Tufted Duck, 54 Northern Pochard, just 8 Coot, 2 Moorhen, 838 Lapwing (commuting between the pit and the flooded fields south of the railway), a GREEN SANDPIPER, and a handful of gulls present with just 7 Argenteus Herring of interest. Once again, I failed to find Common Kingfisher, although Alan & co saw at least 2.

Away from waterbirds, I also saw 4 Ring-necked Parakeets, 6 Red Kite, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Woodpigeon, Common Magpie, Carrion Crow, 12 Goldfinch, Chaffinch, 6 Long-tailed Tit and 6 Goldcrest. Both Robin and Song Thrush were in full song, whilst 46 Redwings flew out of scrub behind the flooded spit. I also counted 15 Rabbits on the floodwater, feeding on the only remaining grass at the edge.

I was also pleased to fully count the LITTLE MARLOW WESTHORPE FARM PITS (SU 872 872), although there was very little to count - just 19 Atlantic Canadas, 8 Mallard and 26 Coot. A beautiful male BULLFINCH made the visit worthwhile though being my first in Bucks this year.

On the MARLOW ROACH PIT at SU 864 871, the first-winter female GREATER SCAUP was still to be seen, along with 13 Tufted Ducks, a pair of Gadwall, 10 Coot, a single Cormorant and a single Great Crested Grebe, whilst on the neighbouring CROWNE PLAZA PIT (at SU 864 867), 3 Mute Swans were present (1 first-year), along with 4 Great Crested Grebes, 4 Cormorants, 2 Mallard, 9 Tufted Duck, a drake Pochard and 72 Coot.

LODGE HILL FARM: After traipsing across acres of stubble fields, eventually came across some farmland birds. A covey of 5 Red-legged Partridges was welcomed, with 22 Eurasian Skylarks, 4 Meadow Pipits, an impressive 300 Fieldfares and 15 Common Magpies also located. Highlight however was a mixed flock of buntings, commuting between fields either side of the farm, constituting 13 Yellowhammers and 38 CORN BUNTINGS. Result.

The very last place I checked in that area was the extreme east end of WEST WYCOMBE PARK, where I viewed from the A4010 bridge at 843 939. Not a lot to be seen other than 2 Little Grebes, 47 Mallard, 4 Coot and 4 Moorhen.

Back in the CHESS VALLEY towards dusk, I watched the GREAT WHITE EGRET flight to its roosting tree in CHURCH COVERT NR at 1640 hours. There was no sign of the Barn Owl - perhaps this has something to do with the Common Buzzards.

Friday, 4 January 2013


Nick Foxton obtained these lovely atmospheric shots of the Chess Valley BARN OWL last night. Ian Williams also emailed me to say that his son David saw a Barn Owl here in April of last year.

Nesting RAVENS

A pair of COMMON RAVENS was once again busy flying backwards and forwards between two different nests in the valley, presumably the female deciding which one to use this year.

I also checked out a report of 2 Merlins at Pednor End but failed in my quest - just 8 Red Kites, 2 Common Buzzards, prospecting Rooks and 400+ Woodpigeons

Bury Lake has water once more and today yielded the 2 first-year Mute Swans from Pow Wow; also 4 Mallards.

The GREAT WHITE EGRET roosted again in Church Covert NR but the Barn Owl failed to show up. I also saw 9 Little Egrets earlier whilst searching for the GWE.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

A cracking evening in the Valley


Not a bad day overall, dry throughout, very light winds and temperatures recovering to 9 degrees C

Only managed the last hour of daylight in the CHESS VALLEY but what an evening......

I discovered a brand new COMMON MAGPIE roost along the Watercress House Loop Trail, holding no less than 59 birds.

I then joined Nick Foxton, Graham Smith, Joan and Anna down at Church Covert and from 1530 hours, Nick's BARN OWL performed. Present for its third day, this is the first record in the Valley for a very long time. Nick and Graham had watched it in flight for about 20 minutes before it caught a Field Vole and then I relocated it as it was getting dark, perched low down in a tree. This is an absolutely superb record and talking to Scott who owns the land, he has put up a Barn Owl nest box and is about to put up a second.

At 1630 hours, the GREAT WHITE EGRET flew east from Mill Farm Meadow to roost in Church Covert NR

Wednesday, 2 January 2013


Short videoclip of the CHESS Great White Egret kindly provided by Don Stone

Click here -

WAXWINGS in Hazlemere

The WAXWINGS today in Rose Avenue (Graham Smith)


A predominantly typical grey winter's day with temperatures no more than 6 degrees C and light drizzle from time to time; not much wind either

Spent another day locally, mainly catching up on common birds....

Spent some time in the CHESS VALLEY first thing, but despite trying most of it's regular spots, failed to locate the Great White Egret. Also failed to find RN's Common Crossbills in BALDWIN'S WOOD (which, incidentally, is now all claimed by Hertfordshire), but did find both Song Thrush and MARSH TIT (2 birds), along with Common Treecreeper, 7 Goldcrests, Coal Tit, Great Tit, LESSER REDPOLL, Carrion Crow and Grey Squirrel.

MILL FARM's best offerings were 2 Stock Doves, 3 Carrion Crows and a Grey Wagtail, whilst 9 Herring Gulls flew high south over the valley.

I then moved off to Tring to carry out the first of this month's wildfowl counts.....


That time again when I have to count the wildfowl and no shortage today on the main marsh -:

Little Grebe (3 on the deep lake)

Sinensis Cormorant (6)

Grey Heron (4)

Mute Swan (down to 29 from 41 - still 4 first-years)

Atlantic Canada Geese (34)

Mallard (28)

Gadwall (46)

Eurasian Wigeon (164 but interestingly no Teal)

Tufted Duck (89)

Northern Pochard (16)


Coot (46 with just 1 on the marsh)

Moorhen (4)

Black-headed & Common Gulls (6 of the latter)

COMMON SNIPE (16 roosting)


Exceptionally high water levels all round with lots of birds scattered widely

MARSWORTH held just 4 Great Crested Grebes, 23 Mallard, just 7 Shoveler, 6 Moorhens and only 1 Coot, with 29 Black-headed Gulls roosting on the bunds.

A lot more on STARTOP'S END, including 5 Great Crested Grebe, 2 Mute Swans, 22 Mallard, 8 Wigeon, a drake Shoveler, 63 Tufted Duck and 324 Coot (far and away the largest concentration in the area).

At TRINGFORD RESERVOIR, the adult female SMEW was showing well close to the hide, with 1 Great Crested Grebe, 3 Grey Herons, 24 roosting Cormorants, 2 Mute Swans, 4 Mallard, 12 Gadwall, 78 Common Teal, 63 Tufted Duck, 52 Pochard, 3 COMMON GOLDENEYE (2 drakes) and 96 Coot. Common Blackbirds had increased in the wooded areas to at least 8 individuals but there was no sign of the recent Song Thrush; 8 Woodpigeons and a nice male BULLFINCH too.

I met up with young Ephraim Perfect and showed him the Smew and then took him on a tour of the woodland. Species such as Great Spotted Woodpecker, Wren, Jackdaw (48), Great Tit, Goldcrest, Chaffinch, Blue Tit, Long-tailed Tit (16) and Green Woodpecker were quickly racked up, along with several SISKINS (15 in all including a flock of 10).

Best bird however was a male BOHEMIAN WAXWING that I heard calling (trilling). It landed in an isolated hawthorn by the canal and moved between there and a flowering Rose Hip bush for a short time before flying off towards Tring town centre at 1208 hours. Ephraim got it in his 'scope and we enjoyed some nice views of it before it flew.

The horse paddocks also held 4 Mistle Thrushes, Common Kestrel and 2 Pied Wagtails, whilst a flock of large gulls flew west and overhead, containing 2 GREAT BLACK-HEADED GULLS (an adult and 2nd-winter, rare birds at Tring), 13 Lesser Black-backed and 6 Herring.

TRING SEWAGE FARM held 8 Gadwall and 12 Wigeon.

There was no sign of yesterday's 3 Bewick's Swans on WILSTONE, nor the 2 Pintails, but the WATER PIPIT was performing well, commuting between the car park steps and the jetty.

A large number of waterbirds was present although Coot numbers were disappointingly low - 1 Little Grebe, just 5 Great Crested Grebes (that makes just 15 wintering birds in all), just 4 Mute Swans, 321 Teal, 101 Shoveler, 10 Gadwall, 348 Wigeon, 153 Tufted Duck, 132 Northern Pochard and just 174 Coot. A single Grey Heron was already repairing its nest, one of 13 from last year on the Drayton Bank.

At the Angler's Retreat, 10 House Sparrows were in residence, with several Common Starlings at Wilstone Great Farm.

Once finished, I drove over to HAZLEMERE (BUCKS) to join Graham Smith. All 6 BOHEMIAN WAXWINGS were showing very well feeding on Rosehips directly opposite the Youth Centre in Rose Avenue. A flock of 23 Common Starlings in the area too.

It was then off on a tour of the Northwest of the County....

DEEP MILL POND held 4 Coot, 2 Moorhen and unusually 4 Gadwall (2 pairs), with 4 Long-tailed Tits in the hedgerow, whilst at the Council building in AYLESBURY, both adult PEREGRINES were in residence beneath the platform.

South of the A41 and in fields NNE of CRANWELL FARM, FLEET MARSTON (BUCKS) (SP 765 164), 2 CHINESE WATER DEER were feeding out in the open, along with 2 male Common Pheasants. Nearby, at the WADDESDON DAIRY POND, I showed Graham the resident drake Common Eider, now joined by a pair of Hooded Mergansers, pair of Common Shelduck and two pairs of Eurasian Wigeon - all pinioned I am thankful to say.

Five Redwings flew over the A41 by the WESTCOTT VENTURE PARK (BUCKS) - my first of the year.

I could only find the single adult drake GOOSANDER at WOTTON UNDERWOOD, along with 1 Great Crested Grebe, 19 Mute Swans, 22 Mallard, 6 Wigeon, 9 Shoveler, 41 Tufted Duck, 23 Pochard, a pair of Common Goldeneye and 59 Coot.

Also managed to overlook the single Ruff at GALLOWS BRIDGE BBOWT (BUCKS) (seen earlier by Tim Watts) but did count 300 Lapwing in the adjoining ploughed field to the car park and 15 Linnets.

At CALVERT, could not see any Caspian Gulls in either of the pre-roosts, the BBOWT LAKE housing just 1 Great Crested Grebe, 8 Mallard and 54 Coot and the SAILING LAKE just an additional Great Crested Grebe, 3 Mute Swans (including a first-year), 12 Tufted Duck, 2 Northern Pochard and 18 Coot.

Eventually, at 1530 hours, we ended up at FOXCOTE RESERVOIR, NE of Buckingham (NORTH BUCKS). Just two observers were sat in the hide - Matt Slaymaker and another Bucks birder whose name escapes me. Although 139 Lesser Black-backed Gulls, 22 Argenteus Herring Gulls and 300 or so Black-headed Gulls were already in, there was no sign of the adult white-winger.

I moved on to waterbirds and counted: 1 Great Crested Grebe, 3 Mute Swans, just 8 Coot, 126 Wigeon, 74 Teal and 7 COMMON GOLDENEYE (including 3 adult drakes).

Then, at 1555 hours, I picked up the Arctic vagrant flying in. It landed almost immediately and struck me as mighty odd. The other three observers quickly got on to it and we kept it under observation until almost dark. I had NEVER seen an adult GLAUCOUS GULL looking like this - it was just so small. Not only that, it barely had any head streaking (just reddish-brown dappling streaks on the hindneck and greyer streaks on the crown) and had a remarkably small bill (even-keeled in shape, broader than that of Herring but greenish in colour with a richly-coloured gonys spot). Everything about it suggested adult Kumlien's Gull but the tertial-stepping, shortened primary projection and flattish crown did not fit in with that prognosis - these were all features more related to hyperboreus. In flight, the wings did not appear that broad, and had a broad white secondary bar contrasting with the grey. There was no evidence of any dark in the primary tips. As it got darker, the bird became more active and flew towards us, eventually settling on the tern raft. Although the light conditions were pretty ropey, views were quite good through the 'scope, but I really struggled to see anything other than a dark eye. The head shape was noticeably flattened at close range, and the bulk in the breast became more apparent, but the bill still failed to impress. A seriously bewildering and perplexing individual.

But yes, full marks to the finders - a brilliant find.

Two different YELLOW-LEGGED GULLS were also identified in the gloom.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

New Years Day (or part of it) in the Valley


It was lunchtime by the time I raised my ugly head into the wilds of rural Buckinghamshire, Carmel and Jade keeping me out partying until 0600 hours. That was a great shame, as it was a beautiful day outside, with no rain, clear skies, light winds and a temperature of 6 degrees C.

Anyway, I reserved the afternoon for New Year Birding and ended up with a pathetic total of 56 species...

The CHAFFINCH HOUSE feeders yielded 2 male House Sparrows, 4 Goldfinches and a Common Starling of note before I entered the neighbouring CHESS VALLEY...

I had never before seen so many people in the valley - literally hundreds of ramblers everywhere. Cars littered every available space and it was mayhem as people squelched and barged their way along the heavily sodden Chess Valley Walk. Lots of birders were about too and seemingly seeing little..

CHENIES PLACE added Little Egret (9 were to be quickly found, including 6 together at Church Covert and the usual bird at Blackwell Farm), Goldcrest, Blue Tit, Long-tailed Tit (6), Jackdaw (35 by Mill Farm), Woodpigeon (65 by Mill Farm), Common Magpie (4), Common Buzzard (2), Red Kite (4), Common Kestrel and Stock Dove, but no Little Owl, Common Raven, Marsh Tit or Common Crossbill (all usually easy to locate).

BOIS MILL POND held the Mute Swan pair and the single Coot whilst CHESHAM FISHING LAKES added Black-headed Gull (4), Wren, Robin, Chaffinch (2), Mallard (22), Mute Swan (2), Coot (16), Moorhen (4), Dunnock, Atlantic Canada Goose (2), Tufted Duck (30) and an adult drake Northern Pochard. There was no sign of the Great Crested Grebe nor Siskin, Common Kingfisher or Grey Wagtail.

The neighbouring POW WOW LAKE held a Little Grebe, 16 Mallard, 3 Coot and 2 Great Tits, whilst CHESHAM SEWAGE WORKS produced Common Kestrel (female), Rook (3), Tufted Duck (14), Gadwall (8), Moorhen (4), Coot (4), Mallard (22) and Black-headed Gull (36).

I then moved up to LATIMER GREAT WATER where it was very difficult to park - people were everywhere. Two Nuthatches were in the Hall Grounds whilst the GREAT WHITE EGRET was forced to find refuge on the North side of the lake where it could preen in relative peace. Numerous birdwatchers present included RDA, Roy Hargreaves, Lucy Flower, JT and Anna, whilst supporting cast on the lake included 11 Mute Swans, 113 Atlantic Canada Geese, 25 Tufted Duck, a single female Northern Pochard, 60 Coot and another Little Grebe (downstream of Neptune's Falls). A Great Spotted Woodpecker flew over.

SHARDELOES LAKE was equally manic with an astonishing 26 cars parked by the entrance. Lots of waterbirds had departed, particularly Coot at just 115, but pleasingly, two of the 4 SHOVELER remained and were a very welcome Recording Area Year-tick. Not much else to note - the 2 Mute Swans, 8 Little Grebes and a Grey Heron.

I then decided to head south down to the JUBILEE RIVER, checking out Lake End Bridge and its environs. All 37 Bohemian Waxwings had flown off east at 1300 hours and were nowhere to be found whilst the water level was so high on the Thames that most duck had moved to pastures new.......4 Little Grebes, 1 Great Crested Grebe, 9 Mute Swans (6 first-years), 29 Atlantic Canada Geese, Cormorant, Sparrowhawk, 4 Ring-necked Parakeets, Lesser Black-backed Gull and Reed Bunting being the only birds of note.

I relocated to the 'ditch' at ETON WICK but the area was largely under flood water. Highlights included 2 CETTI'S WARBLERS (performing well) and no less than 6 wintering COMMON CHIFFCHAFFS, one of which was a Scandinavian abietinus.

Other species encountered included 2 Mute Swans, 18 Mallard, 62 Lapwings, 3 WATER RAILS, 8 Meadow Pipits, 18 Pied Wagtails, 2 Grey Wagtails, Goldcrest, Collared Dove (my only one of the day), Common Blackbird, Jay, male Greenfinch, 3 Fieldfare and 15 Long-tailed Tits.

CASTLEMAN'S FARM chicken fields supported 108 Egyptian Geese late afternoon, with 5 Common Pheasants nearby, with PENN WOOD producing just 8 Goldcrests (the finch flocks had all gone to roost).

A minimum 18 Red Kites and 4 Common Buzzards flew in to BROOK WOOD, PENN BOTTOM, to roost.