WEDNESDAY 16 JANUARY
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.