SATURDAY 5 JANUARY
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......
All Sites relate to SOUTH BUCKINGHAMSHIRE
PENN STREET FARM (BUCKS)
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.