TUESDAY 8 JANUARY
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......
CHESS VALLEY (BUCKS)
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.