TUESDAY 14 JANUARY
A sharp frost overnight leading to some dangerous driving conditions early on, followed by a glorious day, with sunshine and clear blue skies.
A little bit of a recovery in the garden (CHAFFINCH HOUSE) with the first male House Sparrow in a while, 1 Common Starling, Robin, 2 Great Tits and a succession of Blue Tits at the feeders.
Following a call from Adam Bassett, I drove down to meet him at SPADE OAK PIT, LITTLE MARLOW; he had discovered a wintering flock of CHIFFCHAFFS. Getting to him was the first hurdle - I had never seen Little Marlow so flooded - at one stage I was wading through over a foot of water - it was incredible. The footpath between the car park and the railway was totally submerged. Anyhow, eventually managed to get to him (and Graham Smith), albeit rather wet, where the small flock of Phylloscopus warblers (5 in total) was frequenting the trackside vegetation, 100 yards either way of the railway crossing. The birds were highly mobile and difficult to photograph in the correct lighting but included one very obvious 'green toned' Common Chiffchaff, two darker individuals of perhaps an abietinus persuasion and two very pale, black-billed and black-legged individuals clearly tristis (Siberian). These latter two were calling quite frequently - a subdued, very short, piping 'pieu' note - mono in tone and repeated at regular intervals - and very different to the disyllabic notes being given by the other three birds. They were very beige in colouration, with greenish remiges in the upper wing coverts and in the upper tail. I obtained a lot of images in the couple of hours I was present, a selection of which are reproduced here. A further colybitta was seen from the usual watchpoint. This immediate vicinity also held 8 Long-tailed Tits, several Blue and Great Tits and Grey Wagtail.
It was very difficult to actually observe the main pit but both Grey Heron and Sinensis Cormorant were back rebuilding nests on the island, 4 Egyptian Geese, 60+ Wigeon, 22 Gadwall and 11 Great Crested Grebe all noted. A pair of Australian Black Swans were at the north end - the first time I have seen these birds which arrived at the site last autumn. Quite a few Red Kites overhead and at least one KINGFISHER flying about.
Hoping to find Linnet, I stopped off at SPRINGFIELD FARM SAND QUARRY at BEACONSFIELD. Despite a lot of tramping about, failed to locate any but did witness a flock of 115 STOCK DOVE - my largest gathering of the year so far. Also 42 Red Kites in attendance, 6 Common Buzzard, 60 Mallard, 4 Red-legged Partridge, 2 wintering Song Thrush, 175+ Fieldfare, 3 Meadow Pipit and 2 Jay. A stag Roe Deer showed well - my first at this location.
43 of a 115-strong flock of Stock Dove today
At neighbouring CASTLEMAN'S FARM POULTRY FIELDS, 5 Egyptian Geese were accompanying the white hens, with Common Kestrel, 6 Skylark, Common Blackbird, 2 more Meadow Pipit and 18 House Sparrows noted, the latter in their usual hedgerow just east of the farm. At OVERS FARM, just to the NW, a nice feeding flock of 47 Fieldfare, 11 Redwing and 8 Common Magpie, with Carrion Crow, Dunnock, Chaffinch and Common Blackbird around the houses.
I then returned to the CHESS VALLEY hoping to find Little Owl but despite trying four different sites, failed badly in my quest. A GREEN SANDPIPER that flew from Mill Farm Meadows to Church Covert was the biggest surprise, CHENIES BOTTOM producing 2 Little Egret, Grey Wagtail and Goldcrest.
I spent the last hour of daylight at CRESTYL CRESSBEDS at SARRATT BOTTOM, where some 15 Moorhen were feeding, a COMMON KINGFISHER, a single Little Egret and 2 Grey Wagtail. A WATER RAIL crossed the road in front of me as daylight faded, with 5 Little Egrets flighting to roost from the Chess to Stockers Lake from 1636 hours (3 at 1636 and further singles at 1640 & 1644). Other species noted included Common Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, Robin, Song Thrush and Redwing (2), with singles of both Common Buzzard and Red Kite roosting in Mount Wood.