SATURDAY 2 JANUARY
Another very hard frost, leaving atrocious conditions on the side and back roads and very slow to clear. Another clear, sunny day, but temperatures struggled to get above freezing all day.
I spent another day local, targeting a few species but with mixed results. After starting the day on 56 species, I ended on 84.
EAST HYDE (BEDFORDSHIRE)
With daily reports of Jack Snipe, thought I would give it a go, but despite searching hard, along the minor stream, along the main river, at the outflow and at the reserve, could only frustratingly locate 3 COMMON SNIPES.
Of course, 1 wintering GREEN SANDPIPER was on constant view (favouring the main stream; an unringed adult) and other species noted included 5 Little Grebes, 1 Grey Heron, 15 Atlantic Canada Geese, 6 Common Teal, 26 Gadwall, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, 126 Woodpigeons, COMMON KINGFISHER, Wren and female GREY WAGTAIL.
BROGBOROUGH LAKE (BEDFORDSHIRE)
Along with Steve Blain, Neil Wright and others, viewed from the Watchpoint at the west end from midday to 1240 hours. The site was ice-free and held a staggering flock of wintering Aythya ducks, including one of my largest-ever single flocks of Tufted Duck in Bedfordshire.
*GREAT NORTHERN DIVERS (the two birds still present but both very difficult and extremely mobile. One is a typical juvenile but the other bird - the original bird - is obviously very much darker overall) (photographs taken above by Dave Bilcock and Lol Carman)
Great Crested Grebes (18)
Little Grebe (2)
Continental Cormorant (6)
Mute Swan (3, including a first-winter)
RED-CRESTED POCHARD (2 females)
Tufted Duck* (an incredible 1,056 birds click-counted, one of my largest flocks ever in the county)
GREATER SCAUP (two female-types in with the massive Aythya melee)
Northern Pochard (278)
COMMON GOLDENEYE (44 present)
Coot (374 in total)
Black-headed Gull (35)
Common Gull (17)
Lesser Black-backed Gull (1 adult)
Common Buzzard (flew north)
Common Blackbird (3)
BROUGHTON GROUNDS (NORTH BUCKS)
NEWPORT PAGNELL FLOOD MEADOWS (NORTH BUCKS)
During the last three days, an adult EURASIAN WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE has been consorting with Greylag Geese west of the main B526 just north of the main bridge (at SP 876 445). I spent over an hour searching the flock today and there was no sign of it despite it being reported on RBA - just 112 Greylag Geese, 52 Atlantic Canada Geese and a hybrid Canada-type. The iced-over meadows also attracted a Grey Heron, a Common Kestrel, numerous Jackdaws and 5 Pied Wagtails, but the best birds were the two gorgeous adult drake GOOSANDERS consorting with Mallard on the River Ouse just 100 yards west of the bridge.
NEWPORT PAGNELL GP (NORTH BUCKS)
Again, impressive numbers of wildfowl on the pits at SP 885 445 but nothing rare - 29 Mute Swans, an injured Greylag Goose, 313 Tufted Ducks, 108 Northern Pochards, 162 Eurasian Wigeon, 53 Gadwall and 39 Mallard.
Just NE of neighbouring Lathbury, 38 Mute Swans were feeding east of the B526
QUARRYHALL FARM AND LITTLE LINFORD WOOD AREAS (NORTH BUCKS)
Widening my search for more geese flocks, I located a large group feeding on beet north of Gayhurst Pit but alas no White-front feeding with them.
Little Linford Wood and environs was ridiculously quiet, with just 8 Yellowhammers feeding in the Kale game strip, just 1 Fieldfare, a dark morph Common Buzzard and Common Treecreeper, Goldcrest and 2 MARSH TITS in the car park turn-around at the nature reserve. There were no Hawfinches to be found in the Hornbeam trees around Gayhurst House either.
FOXCOTE RESERVOIR (NORTH BUCKS) (1410-1439)
Giving up on Milton Keynes, I made my way SW to Buckingham and Foxcote Reservoir. My arrival coincided with that of an organised shoot - and shotgun blasts were firing off every few minutes (the main target seemed to be Muntjac and Woodpigeon).
As a result of the disturbance, all of the birds had been forced to flee to the SE side of the reservoir and were close to the hide. The adult drake RING-NECKED DUCK was showing very well, consorting with the only 8 Pochards on the lake - and wide awake! Eurasian Wigeon numbered 332, with 4 Mute Swans, 87 Common Teal, 8 Shoveler, 15 Gadwall, 73 Tufted Duck and 8 COMMON GOLDENEYE (including 4 adult drakes)
Just north of Maids Moreton, a field held 25 feeding Fieldfares.
WILSTONE RESERVOIR, TRING (HERTS)
Late afternoon at Wilstone was disappointingly quiet - there was no sign of the 3 Little Egrets present earlier. The bird of the day there was an adult drake PINTAIL
Counts at Wilstone included 18 Great Crested Grebe, 3 Little Grebe, 22 'Cormorant', Grey Heron, just 6 Mute Swan, Mallard, 15 Gadwall, 430 Eurasian Wigeon, 320 Common Teal, 55 Shoveler, 93 Tufted Duck and 27 Northern Pochard, as well as 2 adult drake COMMON GOLDENEYES.
The gull roost was poor but did include 500 Black-headed, 83 Common, a juvenile British Herring and two adult Lesser Black-backed, whilst waders were represented by 43 Lapwing and the continuing COMMON REDSHANK.
STARTOP'S END RESERVOIR
No sign of the presumed escape female Red-crested Pochard but 5 Great Crested Grebes, 6 adult Mute Swans, 109 Mallard, 2 Gadwall, 8 Shoveler, 73 Tufted Duck and 12 Pochard.
The 45 minutes or so of daylight was spent over-viewing the reedbed at Marsworth. The reservoir itself held just 2 Great Crested Grebe and 29 Shoveler, whilst the resident CETTI'S WARBLER burst into song at 1538 and Wren, Reed Bunting (just 2) and WATER RAIL (2 squealing) were added.
Most depressing was the dramatic decline in wintering numbers of the highly endangered CORN BUNTING - with just 47 flighting in between 1530 and 1620 to roost - a pathetic number and incredibly worryingly down on last winter's peak of 164 on 14 December (LGRE, see page 127 of 'The Birds of Tring Reservoirs and Environs 2008').
After three flocks of EUROPEAN GOLDEN PLOVER flew north at 1610 presumably to roost (105 birds in total), the undoubted highlight was when Roy Hargreaves located the wintering EURASIAN BITTERN high in the reeds on the far side of the reservoir in line with the heavily ivy-clad tree at 1615. The bird showed reasonably well for a period, clambering awkwardly about the reed stems, but eventually got bored and flew off to roost in its usual area in the smaller reedbed at the east (Bucks) end at 1627 hours. It was enjoyed by a hefty gathering of some 20 hardly souls, including Dave Bilcock, Steve Rodwell, Martin Platt and others.