THURSDAY 14 FEBRUARY
Valentine's Day 2013 saw a gradual improvement in weather conditions. The last of the snow washed away overnight and was replaced by a warm Atlantic front raising temperatures to 9 degrees C, the warmest day in several weeks.
THE CHESS VALLEY (BUCKS)
Downriver of GREAT WATER, the GREYLAG GOOSE was present with 24 Atlantic Canada Geese, whilst in the vicinity of the Da Vere Hotel, 14 Jackdaw and Greenfinch were seen.
GREAT WATER held 9 Mute Swans (with 3 more below Neptune's Falls and two pairs near Church Covert), 66 Atlantic Canada Geese, 6 Mallard, 9 Tufted Duck, 22 Coot and 12 Moorhen, whilst a flock of 9 Mistle Thrushes was feeding on the slope, 11 Stock Doves, a Little Egret and 2 Wrens.
Over at CHENIES BOTTOM, an additional 4 Little Egrets were seen, with the LITTLE OWLS in the Willow, 5 Redwings and a RING-NECKED PARAKEET flying east, the latter my first in the Recording Area this year.
The GREAT WHITE EGRET was apparently seen at Neptune's Falls early morning but in recent days, it has been well within Hertfordshire, on the Chess SE of Crestyl Cress Beds.
Rather disconcerting, Chenies Place has put in an application to have 8 Cypress trees cut down, as well as other trees in the vicinity. These trees have been subject to a Preservation Order for some years and harbour a number of breeding species of bird including Goldcrest and Coal Tit.
Down at SPADE OAK GRAVEL PIT (LITTLE MARLOW) (SOUTH BUCKS), I met up with Marlow birder Neil Wragg and accompanied him on a full circuit of the pit. I gave him a lesson in bird song and sounds and I was impressed by his keenness to learn - and more impressed by his possession of a notebook.
Wildfowl were the order of the day with 4 COMMON SHELDUCK present (down from the 7 of yesterday), a highly impressive 192 Gadwall, 55 Shoveler, 156 Wigeon, 66 Tufted Duck and 47 Northern Pochard. At least 15 Grey Herons were on the island, along with 13 pairs of Sinensis Cormorant already in occupation. A Little Egret was also present, along with 8 Great Crested Grebes, 2 Little Grebes and 9 Coot.
The PINTAIL proved to be the hardest birds to find, all 8 birds hiding in thick vegetation to the north and east of the spit. They could only be seen from the east shore.
Two different Song Thrushes were in song, along with 3 male Great Tits.
A check of a few other sites for Jack Snipe once more drew a blank, with Gallows Bridge deserted by all accounts (no Curlew back yet).
I then held out for the roost at CALVERT (NORTH BUCKS) but a workman put paid to that, unsettling the gulls on the Sailing Lake. Graham Smith joined me, and other than getting disgustingly muddy and wet, we had very little to show for our efforts. Steve Rodwell arrived independently and had similar success.
About 2,900 Black-headed Gulls roosted on the Sailing Lake, and 90 Common Gulls - COMMON KINGFISHER, WATER RAIL and 4 BULLFINCH also noted.
All of the large white-headed gulls roosted on the BBOWT Lake, including 9 YELLOW-LEGGED GULLS, 2,700 Lesser Black-backed Gulls and 73 Great Black-backed Gulls; 38 Coot and 11 Cormorants were present also.