Recording Area Annual Totals

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

Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Spring is here - birds are nesting


The last day of April proved to be a fortuitous one, with warmer temperatures (13 degrees C), lighter winds (NW) and largely clear skies. Buckinghamshire was my domain throughout the day, with 6 County Year Ticks (CYT) for my efforts...

Following a mid-morning call from Adam Bassett, MARLOW proved to be my first destination, where in the PUMP LANE VINEFIELDS, I soon located the two NORTHERN WHEATEARS (male and female) and the single WHINCHAT (see images below).

I then joined Adam and Dave Cleal at the MARLOW LOW GROUNDS where almost at the end of LOWER POUND LANE, the WOOD WARBLER was still trilling from the Willow and Alder Carr every five minutes or so. Unfortunately, it was frequenting the back garden of a large property and we were only to get rather distant views as the bird sang and flitted through the Willow branches. It was nothing like as bright as yesterday's Wilstone bird. With this being such a late spring and many of the woodlands three weeks behind in flowering, exceptional numbers of passage Wood Warblers have been recorded this spring, many in locations close to water, perhaps 75 in total. Exceptional too has been the fact that Adam has found three separate singers, all within the Marlow area.

Whilst standing listening and searching for the Wood Warbler, 3 HOBBIES glided overhead in the heat of the early afternoon sun, several Common Buzzards and Red Kites, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, food-carrying Common Treecreepers and two Goldcrests also seen. The water meadows themselves held a pair of Egyptian Geese tending 5 small young (see picture below). Butterflies emerging in the sun included Brimstone and Green-veined White.

Neighbouring SPADE OAK NATURE RESERVE (LITTLE MARLOW) very quickly yielded me GARDEN WARBLER, with 4 singing males in the south hedgerow, with 13+ Blackcaps and 5 Common Chiffchaffs singing. Not much on the pit apart from 12 Coot, 6 Lapwing, 7 Gadwall, 1 Egyptian Goose, 1 COMMON SNIPE, 44 Argenteus Herring Gulls, 2 Mute Swans and 5 Common Terns.

Checking the SCHOOL LANE cereal fields in OLD AMERSHAM, I was surprised to find a single LAPWING feeding. It also provided me with an opportunity to get some nice Rook shots as they busily filled their crops to feed the young birds in the rookery across the road. A male Muntjac crossed the field too.

The Lapwing......

2 of 3 Stock Doves.....

the Muntjac Deer.......

And the Rooks - my best shots to date of this species (just look at that full crop)

Thanks to some guidance from Graham Smith, I soon connected with both COMMON CUCKOO and LESSER WHITETHROAT at COLLEGE LAKE BBOWT - the former calling from the railway embankment in the NE corner of the reserve and the latter rattling and warbling from the scrub in the far NW corner. Both were new for me.

Also a Site Tick for me was FIRECREST at WESTON TURVILLE RESERVOIR: a pair showing very well in ivy-clad trees, Holly and Birch scrub just beyond the last outbuilding in the grounds of Perch Cottage, perhaps 45 yards in from the road. I managed a few images but the birds were particularly mobile (see below). A COMMON SHREW that ran across the path was also my first of the year.

The view across the cricket pavilion under gloomy skies

I finished off my day with a visit to SHARDELOES LAKE where I was surprised to see breeding in full swing. No less than three broods of Mallard were on the water, with two well grown young and groups of 4 and 7 ducklings. Coot nests numbered 12, with one pair already feeding a single tiny youngster (adults numbered 42 in total). The Mute Swans were also nesting (see pix below).

One of 12 Coot nests, the Mute Swan nest on the island and first broods of Mallard

The male GREAT CRESTED GREBE was busy feeding, with 4 Little Grebes, 13 Tufted Duck, 3 pairs of GADWALL and 3 MANDARIN DUCKS (2 drakes) present on the lake.

Other species noted included COMMON KINGFISHER, Great Spotted and Green Woodpecker, 2 Red Kite, 3 Stock Dove, a singing male Song Thrush, single singing males of both Blackcap and Common Chiffchaff, Wren, Robin (feeding young), 3 Goldfinch and 2 Barn Swallows.

Two broods of Mallard - totalling 11 ducklings

Monday, 15 April 2013

WILLOW WARBLERS, HIRUNDINES - birds arriving in force


HOOPOE at TYTTENHANGER - unexpected bonus of the day

An early morning call from Lol Carman sent me scurrying in the direction of BLOWS DOWNS, DUNSTABLE (BEDFORDSHIRE), where it soon became apparent that a fall had occurred......

The wind was fairly strong SW, with occasional spots of rain and a lot of cloud - but very warm - 15 degrees C on several occasions.

Anyhow, within 37 minutes I was at BLOWS - too late however to see the 2 male Whinchats that Lol had seen earlier. Lol had estimated too the presence of 25 NORTHERN WHEATEARS in the Paddocks, but the best I could muster was 17. The main attraction though was the fall of COMMON REDSTARTS - no less than 5 individuals brightening up the Paddocks and showing well (see my pix above). Four were males, with a single female in the eastern paddock. A single WILLOW WARBLER was in the main hedgerow, with up to 9 Common Chiffchaffs in the area, 2 singing male BLACKCAPS and the odd SWALLOW flying through. Two LESSER REDPOLL and a pair of BULLFINCH were also in the vicinity and 4 Yellowhammers.

Three RING OUZELS (two males and a female) were on the Kingsbury Slope above Tesco's, whilst an additional 5 (four males and a female) were on the Caddington Slope before being flushed east within a short while (the latter seen with MJP). Three trilling BOHEMIAN WAXWINGS spent a short time in a taller tree halfway between the Paddocks and the Quarry, coming hard on the heels of the 40 Barry Squires and I saw in Shefford High Street on Saturday.

Whilst watching the Common Redstarts, Darrel Bryant phoned with news of the first fall at NORTON GREEN this spring, and with Black Red still missing from my 2013 Herts List, I started to head that way. Incredibly, as I was driving along the A414, a very excited Steve Blake 'phoned with news of a HOOPOE and being less than a few miles away, I immediately diverted.......

Picking up a lost notebook as I ran from Lawson's Woodyard (it transpired it belonged to Alan Gardiner), I met up with Steve just a few minutes later and there before us was the quarry - a fabulous HOOPOE - a pretty rare visitor to Hertfordshire. The bird was happily feeding in the sheep field immediately east of the main 'birding pit' and was keeping to the fence edge. I crept to within 100 yards of the bird and fired off over a 100 images (a selection to be found above). It continued probing the damp soil for the next 20 minutes, Ricky Flesher arriving from a work break in the meantime, and was seen to take a few grubs. It was very, very alert and repeatedly froze on several occasions. Then, just as it raised its head and glanced all around, it flew and headed off north across the fields to the far hedge. It landed in a tall Oak tree briefly but as Steve Murray approached from the Pumping Station footpath, it flew back towards us and landed in the sheep field adjacent. The grass here was longer, making the bird much more difficult to see, and after 8 minutes it flew again and returned to its original spot down by the edge of the main pit. It then resumed a better showing and continued to do so for the next 20 minutes but then flew strongly at 1315, alighting briefly in a Willow at the far south end of the pit. It quickly flew again and continued west towards Willows Farm and was lost.

Although I failed to find the male Common Redstart that Ricky chanced upon as he walked back towards his car, an impressive 22 NORTHERN WHEATEARS was encountered and a single male YELLOW WAGTAIL. Hirundines included 8 Sand Martins.

With confirmation from Tony Hukin that Darrel's Black Redstart was still present at NORTON GREEN, I headed that way, but despite searching in the increasingly strong wind for over an hour, I failed to relocate it - 4 NORTHERN WHEATEARS, a male YELLOW WAGTAIL and 2 Barn Swallows being my highlight.

MACKERYE END (HERTS) was my next destination and after a bit of searching, I finally relocated Darin Stanley's male COMMON REDSTART by the spoil heap at the road junction at TL 155 155, about 150 yards further to the north of where DS initially found it. It was calling frequently and zipping in and out of the hedgerow and I was pleased at getting a fairly decent shot of it (see above).

I then decided to check the IVINGHOE HILLS (BUCKS) but other than 27 NORTHERN WHEATEARS, it was hard work (others had seen the likes of Short-eared Owl, Marsh Harrier, 4 Ring Ouzels and 2 Common Redstarts, whilst further to the west, Ring Ouzels numbered 5 at both Ellesborough and Great Kimble).

Returning to the CHESS VALLEY in CHESHAM (BUCKS), BOIS MILL POND held 2 Grey Herons and a single immature Sinensis Cormorant. Walking the WATERCRESS COTTAGE LOOP TRAIL yielded Little Egret, Wren and 4 different singing male Common Chiffchaffs, with 10 GADWALLS, GREY WAGTAIL and 2 Pied Wagtails on POW WOW LAKE and an excellent selection of birds on CHESHAM FISHING LAKES including no less than 7 WILLOW WARBLERS (the largest congregation of this species in the Chess Valley for several years), a male BLACKCAP, a pair of COMMON KINGFISHERS, 14 BARN SWALLOWS, 3 HOUSE MARTINS and 2 SAND MARTINS. Another pair of GADWALL and 12 Tufted Ducks were also noted, as well as Chaffinch, Long-tailed Tit and 2 Song Thrushes.

Gadwalls and Tufted Ducks - at least 5 pairs of the former displaying right now

The Holloway Lane Rookery

The view across the larger of the two Fishing Lakes

Rabbit feeding early evening - numbers have plummeted in the area

Nive male Blackcap in the ivy

Pair of Tufted Ducks

Willow Warblers proving difficult to photograph - a fall of at least 7 birds

WIGEON migrating in the dark

At 2300 hours on Friday evening (12 April), an unknown number of EURASIAN WIGEON flew over my house whistling as they went

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Rookeries in full swing and LAPWINGS back but little sign of migrant activity yet


A beautiful day weatherwise, if not a little hazy, with light southerly winds and largely clear conditions. The forecast rain did not materialise.

I was expecting more from today, especially following yesterday's excitement, but some birds did get through, noticeably the odd Marsh Harrier and Osprey...

RING OUZELS remaining from yesterday's fall included 3 at BISON HILL, WHIPSNADE (BEDS) and 2 in INKOMBE HOLE, STEPS HILL (BUCKS) whilst Rook nest numbers in the Beech trees north of DAGNALL at SP 995 176 now total 33 active nests.

Over at TRING RESERVOIRS (HERTS), a little change from yesterday, with more hirundine passage...

At STARTOP'S END RESERVOIR, Common Redshank numbers had increased to four birds, with one pair showing an interest in one of the rafts. Both WATER PIPITS were on the west shoreline once again, as well as the two GREY WAGTAILS, whilst migrants included 8 SAND MARTINS and 2 BARN SWALLOWS. All 5 Great Crested Grebes were on view, whilst Wigeon numbers had dwindled down to 7; a Mistle Thrush was in the paddock.

*Others I met had heard Willow Warbler (on the West Bank) and Cetti's Warbler in the Marsworth Reedbed

A long vigil in excellent conditions at WILSTONE RESERVOIR failed to reap much in the way of reward - a single flyover YELLOW WAGTAIL being the best of the bunch (and my first of the year).

A singing male Common Chiffchaff in the East Bank Poplar trees was a new arrival, as was a Willow Warbler by the old cress beds. SAND MARTINS numbered up to 28 (some passage evident), with 3 or more BARN SWALLOWS coming through.

Clear skies and light winds meant lots of raptors in the sky, including up to 12 Red Kites, 8 Common Buzzards, 3 Common Kestrels and a single Sparrowhawk, whilst late evening saw the first Osprey of the year appear - over Weston Turville Reservoir (per Stephen Richards).

Usual fare included 2 Mute Swans, 27 Greylag Geese, 70 Wigeon, 88 Shoveler, 116 Tufted Duck, just 9 Pochard, 12 Great Crested Grebe and 11 active Sinensis nests, whilst 90+ Black-headed Gulls, 25 Common Gulls and 7 Lesser Black-backed Gulls took advantage of the increase in flying insect matter high above the reservoir.

A male Song Thrush was singing from the Black Poplars in the SE corner, 4 Linnets passed by and Yellowhammers finally gave themselves up for me, performing along the Dry Canal.

Steve Blake then phoned with news of Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Tree Sparrow, Firecrest and Black-tailed Godwit from his home patch of TYTTENHANGER GP, which sounded too good to refuse. I soon met up with him but failed to locate ANY of these birds - just 4 yaffling Green Woodpeckers, 3 Nuthatches and a singing Common Chiffchaff as compensation.

It was then time to do some ROOKERY SURVEYING, particularly as many were now active with the recent weather change. AT CHESSBURY ESTATE, CHESHAM (BUCKS) (SP 957 012), 39 nests were active, whilst at PEDNOR BOTTOM (BUCKS), numbers totalled 34. The CHESHAM VALE Rookery (SP 963 033) was a respectable 44 active nests, with just 6 left by the railway in HOLLOWAY LANE and 9 at the new site by BOIS MILL FARM. Lastly, 52 active nests at LATIMER PARKFIELD, including quite a few in the conifers.

In addition, CHESHAM'S BURY LAKE held the two first-summer Mute Swans, with 5 pairs of LAPWINGS in the grass field opposite.

The Lapwing Field at Bury Pond

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Yet another BARN OWL

Found another Barn Owl at a new location in Chesham
 , while at Deep Mill the first brood of Coots are being fed by their parents

Lapwings back and displaying where they bred last year at Hyde End , Pednor & Kings Ash/The Lee also a pair in the field by the barn at Deep Mill (per Don Stone)

Saturday, 6 April 2013


At least 22 this evening in field adjacent to Wycombe road - first in the area this year

Also several BARN OWLS still being seen in area, and at least 1 Little Egret still in Chess Valley