SUNDAY 3 JANUARY (continued)
Yet another heavy frost overnight, taking some time to clear from the roads, followed by another glorious clear, crisp, sunny day.
An adult male PEREGRINE was sat in the sun on the flat roof on the SW side of the County Hall buildings glancing around, my first of the new year (species 83). Both birds have been present for several weeks now and vary their roosting positions depending on the wind direction. The site is at SP 819 135 but parking is restrictive.
A41 WEST THROUGH WADDESDON
Three different Common Buzzards roosting in trees by roadside, with a male BULLFINCH seen, and 5 European Golden Plovers and 38 Lapwings in the Grendon Underwood area.
BLACKTHORN MEADOWS (OXFORDSHIRE)
(midday, with Tim Watts, Ewan Urquhart and others)
Situated just 200 yards across the county border into Oxfordshire, the remaining (frozen) floodmeadows of the River Ray south of the A41 between the railway and the minor road to Piddington (at SP 633 197) were still harbouring the two separate pairs of wild swan - 2 WHOOPER and 2 BEWICK'S - all four birds feeding on the grass and drinking the melting iced water. All four birds were adult and unringed - Tim Watts obtaining these excellent images of the Whoopers as they fed just 75 yards in from the minor road.
The same fields also held 2 adult RUFF and 65 Lapwing, whilst roosting gulls included 2 Herring, 95 Lesser Black-backed and 3 Great Black-backed. A small party of Redwing and Fieldfare were also apparent, as well as Pied Wagtail and Long-tailed Tit
M40 EASTBOUND ON TO THE M25
Driving back east towards London from the Bicester junction, RED KITES were a typically familiar sight, with 6 in the Tetsworth vicinity (Oxon) and a further 15 in the Stokenchurch area (Bucks).
One of my very best friends, Darin Stanley, had a rare opportunity to do some birding and as he had never seen a Spotted Sandpiper, I decided to drive over to Abberton Reservoir in Essex for the afternoon, where a first-winter had been present since November. The route from London Colney took us east along the M25, where a freshly dead and perfect Common Buzzard was on the hard shoulder just west of the A121 Epping junction, as well as along the northbound A12, where a LITTLE OWL was sat on a stump to the east of the carriageways just south of Hall Lane and the B1002 turning.
ABBERTON RESERVOIR (ESSEX)
Disaster struck. As we arrived at the permit-access dam, we were told by Colin and other birders just leaving that the Spotted Sandpiper was feeding along the edge of the reservoir just beyond the north end of the dam. We made our way to this area but after a two hour vigil which involved eventually walking the best part of a three mile perimeter of the reservoir, Darin and I (and two other late arrivals) drew a complete blank. The bird was nowhere to be found.
Four Common Redshank and a single GREEN SANDPIPER were seen, along with 18 GOOSANDER, 30 Common Goldeneye, an assortment of dabbling duck such as Wigeon, Gadwall, Teal and Shoveler, Grey Wagtail, Meadow Pipit and 29 LINNETS - the latter my first of the year (species 89).
Just prior to dusk, I made a visit to the Layer Breton Causeway, where 3 splendid drake SMEWS (90) and an adult WHOOPER SWAN were seen to the west.
At dusk, two WOODCOCK were seen near School Lane (91).