My UK Year List - 2014

  • 117-118) GREAT WHITE EGRET and LONG-TAILED DUCKS at Mary's Lake, Earls Barton GP, 9 January
  • 116) Barnacle Goose, Emberton Park, 9 January
  • 114-115) SMEW and Cetti's Warbler at Great Hardmead Lake, Amwell, 7 January
  • 113) Reed Bunting, Tyttenhanger, 7 January
  • 112) Tree Sparrow (32 birds), Tyttenhanger, 7 January
  • 111) Sparrowhawk, West Hyde, 7 January
  • 110) Mandarin Duck, Burnham Beeches NNR, 7 January
  • 100-109) Curlew, Knot, Bar-tailed Godwit, Dunlin, Oystercatcher, Grey Plover, Sanderling, Common Shelduck, Kittiwake and Mediterranean Gull at Church Norton, 6 January
  • 99) RUDDY SHELDUCK, Sidlesham Ferry, 6 January
  • 96-98) Purple Sandpiper, Turnstone and Rock Pipit in Shoreham Harbour
  • 95) Red-breasted Merganser, Widewater, 6 January
  • 94) GREY PHALAROPE, Hove Lagoon, 6 January
  • 93) Grey Partridge, Broom, 5 January
  • 92) Goosander, Woburn Lakes, 5 January
  • 91) Skylark, Totternhoe, 5 January
  • 90) Yellowhammer, Totternhoe, 5 January
  • 89) Corn Bunting, Totternhoe, 5 January
  • 88) Water Pipit, Wilstone, 5 January
  • 87) SABINE'S GULL, Weston Turville, 5 January
  • 86) Common Scoter, Brogborough, 4 January
  • 85) GREAT NORTHERN DIVER, Stewartby Lake, 4 January
  • 84) Red-legged Partridge, Hatch, 4 January
  • 83) Common Kestrel, Langford, 4 January
  • 82) GLOSSY IBIS, Frensham, 4 January
  • 81) Goldcrest, Frensham, 4 January
  • 80) Green Sandpiper, Lynsters, 3 January
  • 79) Stock Dove, Lynster's, 3 January
  • 78) Egyptian Goose, Lynsters Farm, 3 January
  • 77) Common Chiffchaff, Stockers Lake
  • 76) SIBERIAN CHIFFCHAFF, Stockers Lake
  • 75) Siskin, Stockers Lake
  • 74) Dunnock, Stockers Lake
  • 73) Ring-necked Parakeet, Stockers Lake
  • 72) Lesser Redpoll, Stockers Lake
  • 71) Coal Tit, Chaffinch House
  • 40-70: Nuthatch, Greylag Goose, Pied Wagtail, Lapwing, Golden Plover, Great Crested Grebe, Cormorant, Common Redshank, Common Snipe, Teal, Wigeon, Shoveler, LITTLE STINT, Black-tailed Godwit, Grey Wagtail, Goldeneye, Meadow Pipit, Greenfinch, Marsh Tit, Dunnock, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Long-tailed Tit, Bullfinch, Jay, Red-crested Pochard, Wren, Collared Dove (all at Tring Reservoirs), Brambling (Ivinghoe), Herring & Great Black-backed Gull, CATTLE EGRET (Briarhill Farm, Calvert) & Green Woodpecker
  • 1-39 all local, Chess River Valley & Shardeloes Estate: 1 January 2014: Chaffinch, Common Starling, Woodpigeon, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Common Magpie, Mute Swan, Mallard, Moorhen, Carrion Crow, Jackdaw, Rook, Common Buzzard, Canada Goose, Coot, Black-headed Gull, Tufted Duck, Pochard, House Sparrow, Common Blackbird, Woodpigeon, Pheasant, Gadwall, Kingfisher, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Robin, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Little Grebe, Common Gull, Red Kite, Redwing, Fieldfare, Song Thrush, Goldfinch, Mistle Thrush, WOODCOCK, Treecreeper, Greenfinch and Water Rail

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Year Listing in the UK

Lee Evans has been Year-listing in the UK since 1977 and has achieved annual totals of over 300 species ever since. Although he has recorded in excess of 360 species on some nine occasions, his record stands at 386 species - achieved in 1996. Adrian Webb in Year 2000 recorded at least 378 species, making him by far the highest-listing individual to compare with Lee. In terms of Life Listing, Lee has recorded 577 species in Britain and Ireland and 853 species in the wider Western Palearctic region.

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

BLACK-WINGED STILT - species 241

Male Black-winged Stilt, Rainham Marshes RSPB (Simon West)


High pressure is now firmly in charge and with it came the warmest day of the year so far. Clear blue skies predominated, along with warm sunshine, with afternoon temperatures reaching just under 60 degrees fahrenheit. Winds were very light with a touch of southwesterly.

As is often the case with clear conditions, visible migration was stifled and in stark contrast to yesterday, few birds of note appeared. Bird of the day was undoubtedly the male BLACK-WINGED STILT which had relocated from the Isle of Wight to Essex.....

(1050 hours)

The RSPB's flagship reserve at Rainham continues to attract rare birds and proved once again today that it is one of the most productive locations that there is and after Alpine Swift, Hoopoe and Ring Ouzel last week, Peter Hale this morning pulled a cracking adult male BLACK-WINGED STILT out of the hat. The bird was showing exceptionally well in the closest corner of Purfleet Scrape to the information centre and performed all day, delighting several hundred admirers.

I managed to get down late morning, about two hours after Peter first identified it, and thanks to Joan Thompson and Mick Frosdick, enjoyed excellent 'scope views of it as it fed actively in the shallow water. It was an adult male, with a slight pink flush to the underparts, extensive black on its crown and jet-black upperwings and mantle. The hindneck was mainly white but was peppered lightly with black flecking, whilst the forehead was extensively white. The red in the eye was particularly noticeable.

It was presumably the same male that had spent the day at Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight two days ago on 6 April.

Many birders were arriving whilst I was on site and I noticed Howard Joliffe and Nick Green amongst them. As I was leaving, the crowd had swelled to 40 or more. Of course, Howard Vaughan was on site and being extremely helpful and informative. Another great day for Rainham.


In surprisingly warm conditions, a circuit of this site of Special Scientific Interest yielded two singing male WILLOW WARBLERS, a singing Common Chiffchaff, a pair of BLACKCAPS, Green Woodpecker and 3 Greenfinches. No Common Whitethroat though.


Again, no sign of the singing Common Whitethroat seen earlier. The tiny reserve held a singing Common Chiffchaff, a singing male Nuthatch, a singing male Bullfinch, Great Tit, Song Thrush and nesting pairs of Ring-necked Parakeet and Jay, as well as my first butterflies of the year - 3 Commas, a Small Tortoiseshell and a Peacock.

Sadly, a dead BARN OWL was lying on the central reservation of the westbound A41, just SW of Berkhamstead.


Marsworth Reedbed Wood held Great Spotted Woodpecker, a pair of Bullfinch, two singing male BLACKCAPS and an increase to at least 5 COMMON CHIFFCHAFFS. Both adult pair Mistle Thrushes were busy gathering food in the main field, and the male WILLOW WARBLER was still singing along the causeway. A single Song Thrush was also seen.

Up to 5 COMMON TERNS were on the reservoir, whilst the horse paddocks revealed the presence of no less than 8 YELLOW WAGTAILS (SR later had 9) and 2 adult male WHITE WAGTAILS.


Three RING OUZEL remained from much earlier in the day - two males and a female - moving between the southern flank of Inkombe Hole and the Steps Hill slope in line with the stile. Typically, they were very elusive, and repeatedly disturbed by dogwalkers, joggers and walkers.

WILLOW WARBLERS had increased to 5 singing males in the area, with 2 Red Kites and 2 Song Thrushes also noted. A late REDWING arrived late evening.

As dusk approached, the fields around Down Farm attracted at least 107 FALLOW DEER out to feed, as well as several Red Foxes.


The Rookery at the south end of the Vale wood held at least 35 active nests, with 130 Jackdaws roosting.

A Red Letter Day - weather grounds a number of rare birds in the Three Counties Region


Phew - what a day ! I struggled to keep up. It really was one of those exceptional days and migrating birds kept grounding all through the day. After the wind swung round from SE to northerly early morning, I just knew it was going to be good. Add to that the fact that it was murky, with poor visibility, and then later with intermittent rain, it was typical fall conditions. Whilst organising my gear, I heard both a singing male EURASIAN SKYLARK and GOLDCREST - both new for the garden this year.

Deciding to set out early, mainly with two target birds in mind - Sedge Warbler and Common Whitethroat - I had barely set foot on Croxley Common Moor than Steve Rodwell rang to say that he was watching a DARTFORD WARBLER on Steps Hill. I could barely believe it and having only ever seen one in the Tring Recording Area before (also at Ivinghoe) and not seeing one in the county since the small breeding population became extinct two years ago, I immediately ran back for the car. Steve not surprisingly was very excited and as I ran back, I asked him to stick with it until I arrived..............


It took me 27 minutes to get from Croxley to Steps and a further three minutes to find Steve. He was still gazing at the hedgerow that borders the main footpath at the top of Inkombe Hole and had literally only just heard the bird again, after losing it for over 15 minutes. I walked slowly towards him and as I did, the DARTFORD WARBLER made its diagnostic and scolding churr. It had moved to the end of the hedgerow and then flown out. I crossed the stile and then walked parallel with the hedgerow, lightly 'churring' back to the bird. It immediately responded and sat up in full view in some very low bramble 25 yards out from the hedge. I carried on lightly 'pishing' and this kept the bird preoccupied and it carried on showing at just a few feet range. It was a crippling bird and a beautiful adult male to boot. It was in fresh spring plumage and although the upperwings had a brownish hue to them, the underparts were very deeply marked vinous-red and this extended from the rear flanks to the chin and throat, the latter lightly specked with white. The orbital eye ring was bright red and not orange as in first-year males, whilst the forehead, crown, nape, mantle, rump and uppertail were uniform bluish-grey. The fine bill was distinctly pale on the lower mandible and the legs and feet orange-straw. Responding back to me, it intermittently burst into a quiet, scratchy, sub-song, and when out of view, would utter its harsh 'churr' enabling us to keep on it.

It then flew back into the hedgerow and after I had completed writing my field-notes, Stuart Wilson arrived on site. I lightly 'pished' again and the bird flew to the top of the hedge and just perched there for several minutes in full unobscured view. This was such a stunning bird.

It then got bored of me and sank deep down into the thick vegetation and started to skulk away. It flew to the far end of the hedge and then entered the top plantation at the top of Steps Hill. It quickly moved along the edge of this wood and then found the impenetrable patch of dense gorse, partly in flower. It was still calling occasionally and just prior to Mike Campbell racing up, the three of us enjoyed our last prolonged good view of the bird as it jerkily bobbed and cocked its long tail in the gorse and then fluttered away in weak flight.

It then disappeared into the thick gorse and made its way further down the slope. All in all I had enjoyed views over a period of just under an hour and as Mike was joined by Ian Williams, the two of them and Steve had a couple more glimpses before the bird flew much further down the side of Steps Hill slope and disappeared (to the north of Inkombe Hole).

This was a truly exceptional find and an outstanding one. The only previous record in the area was 12 years ago and Buckinghamshire's second - a first-winter which remained on Steps Hill from 25 November until 6 December 1998 and was seen again on 9 January 1999.

Whilst watching the Dartford, a noisy COMMON RAVEN flew low across Inkombe Hole, whilst Top Scrub held a pair of Bullfinch, 3 singing male BLACKCAPS, 3 singing male COMMON CHIFFCHAFFS and a Song Thrush. Several Linnets also flew over, whilst a singing male WILLOW WARBLER was on the lower slope.

As I reached the car park, I heard the familiar 'jipping' sound of COMMON CROSSBILL - and three birds (two males and a female) flew over heading directly north.


At least 6 Yellowhammers were gathered in the field north of the farm, with 7 or more Eurasian Skylarks present in the cereal field on the opposite side of the road - 4 males in song display. A small group of 4 CORN BUNTINGS was in an adjoining stubble field, with both Meadow Pipit and Linnet also present, 3 Stock Doves and a Red Kite over Pitstone Hill.


Following a conversation with Lol Carman, I drove north to Bedfordshire, initially in search of Garganey. However, just as I got to the Stewartby area, my attention was diverted to an OSPREY, which John Temple had seen carrying a fish over Rookery Pit and Lol and Bob Chalkley had intercepted in a field to the south of the minor road between Millbrook and How End. Lol had last seen it flying east across the B 530 and had had to leave to drive back to Luton. Fortuitously, the bird, still carrying a huge Pike (Esox lucius) landed on a telegraph pole just 100 yards east of the B 530 and just 100 yards SE of the Chequers Public House at TL 032 402 and remained there. I pulled up minutes later and joined Clive Harris, already on site and 'scoping through a gap in the hedgerow. The bird was standing on its prized fish and was being hounded by a gang of marauding Rooks. The views were exceptional and I could clearly see that the feathered tarsi were unringed and that the bird was an adult. It seemed very settled and after a while I departed, informing all and sundry that it was still present and twitchable. It represented my first of the year (239). I drove away at 1225, the bird apparently flying less than half an hour later.


On one of the brick pits, highlights included a pair of roosting NORTHERN PINTAIL, a pair of Common Teal, 16 Tufted Duck, 3 Northern Pochard, 5 Little Grebe, 5 pairs of nesting Lapwing, 4 Common Redshanks, single pairs of both Ringed and LITTLE RINGED PLOVER, 1 European Barn Swallow and 3 Linnet.

In Stewartby village, one tree held 6 ROOK nests, whilst a census of the A 421 ROOKERIES found 63 NE of Green Lane (at cTL 010 434), 66 around the Stewartby Lake layby at TL 003 427 and a further 23 nests in Brogborough at SP 962 380.


At 1230 hours, the pair of COMMON SCOTER were sleeping in the vicinity of orange buoy 'C' (MJP and TP arrived shortly later and joined me)


The drake GARGANEY was with 6 Gadwall on the reed-fringed lake close to the entrance, whilst an EGYPTIAN GOOSE (presumably that from Wilstone Reservoir) was on the long, thin lake adjacent to the access road. A single WILLOW WARBLER was singing from the Willows adjacent.


The adult WHOOPER SWAN was still present and showing well with Mute Swans in fields east of the A 6001, whilst the main lake held a further drake GARGANEY (showing well, feeding on its own in the SW corner), 4 Common Teal, 5 Northern Shoveler, 2 Oystercatchers, a single COMMON TERN (my first in Beds this year), 85 Black-headed Gulls, 48 Sand Martins and 11 European Barn Swallows.


At the northern 'Sainsbury's' A1 roundabout, a further 23 ROOK nests were counted (at TL 183 452).


Spent a couple of hours mid-afternoon on the 'new' heath, where a very noisy flock of 46 COMMON CROSSBILLS was ever-present, but in light rain and heavy cloud there was no sign of my target bird. Neither was there any sign whatsoever of the female Two-barred Crossbill.

At least two male LESSER REDPOLLS were in display flight near the pond, and a male Common Chiffchaff was in full song.


Two GREEN SANDPIPERS accompanied a pair of Common Redshanks, whilst migrants included a male YELLOW WAGTAIL and two male WHITE WAGTAILS (1545 hours)


The two adult Icelandic Black-tailed Godwits that Mick Frosdick discovered earlier had departed to the north at 1320 and represented the first of the Herts year. During my late afternoon visit, the pool held the drake Common Shelduck, 7 Gadwall, the pair of Oystercatchers and male Pied Wagtail.


A return visit at 1800 hours soon yielded the three male RING OUZELS discovered earlier by Don Otter. They were showing well on the grassy slope at the north end of Steps, close to the footpath leading down from the S-bend at cSP 958 162.


Mid-evening, Roy Hargreaves and I located the two adult ARCTIC TERNS that SR and others had seen earlier, feeding amongst 6 COMMON TERNS mainly in the area of water out from the jetty. They represented my first of the year and were earlier than average.

The gloomy conditions (overcast skies with intermittent rain and fresh northerly winds) also grounded large numbers of hirundines, including 186+ SAND MARTINS and 33 European Barn Swallows. There were also 12 Shoveler close to the Drayton Hide, whilst 5 late FIELDFARES were in the tall Poplars.


The paddock wagtail flock numbered 38, including 35 Pieds, a well-marked adult male WHITE and two gaudy male YELLOWS. A high count of 15 Great Crested Grebes was on Marsworth, with a pair of Carrion Crows nesting in the main car park.

All in all, a very enjoyable and highly productive day, but did I get Sedge Warbler and Common Whitethroat? - No! Tomorrow maybe.

Sunday, 27 June 2010


The yellow variant Land's End Mexican House Finch has relocated to South Devon, where it has been singing from the roof of a house by the village green in East Prawle (from 0730-1230 hours at least). Whether the bird is an escape or a ship-assisted vagrant is still open to conjecture

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Some real jewels in the crown - BOHEMIAN WAXWINGS, a cracking male COMMON REDSTART and an unseasonal BEWICK'S SWAN


A bright and breezy day with some warm spells of sunshine pushing temperatures up to 57 degrees F. Although the wind was initially SW, it veered during the day to a cooler SE.

It was an excellent day for incoming migrants, with good numbers of Osprey, Tree Pipit, Common Redstart, Common Tern, Garganey and Yellow Wagtails arriving, along with the odd male Pied Flycatcher and Common Cuckoo, as well as some 'new' vagrants, most notably a Black-winged Stilt on the Isle of Wight. On a local basis, it was also a very productive day, a flock of WAXWINGS being the main highlight............

(0800-1000 hours)

A full inventory of resident and migrant birds was carried out with 38 species recorded. No Blackcaps or Willow Warblers noted, although Chris Pontin recorded the first of the latter in the Recording Area this year at McMinn's Yard in Chesham today -:

CONTINENTAL CORMORANT (a subadult roosting on the 'Osprey branch' by Crestyl Watercress Beds)
Grey Heron (1 on the Chess by the cressbeds)
LITTLE EGRET (1 still present, feeding on the Chess in front of Chenies Place)
Mute Swan (4 non-breeding subadults by Mill Farm House, with a pair nearby in front of Chenies Place - the cob still frequenting the back garden of Woodside House)
Australian Black Swan (a pinioned bird just outside of the Chess in front of Sarratt Bottom village - recently released)
Atlantic Canada Goose (3 separate pairs on the Chess adjacent to Sarratt Bottom village, with one pair actively nest-building)
Mallard (5 pairs)
Red Kite (1 lingering over Wallace's Wood Larch plantation)
Common Buzzard (1 in Mount Wood)
RED-LEGGED PARTRIDGE (pair just west of Valley Farm)
Common Pheasant (2 males in paddocks west of Valley Farm)
Moorhen (4 pairs)
Eurasian Coot (3 pairs on Chess)
Black-headed Gull (2 flew west along valley)
Woodpigeon (40+ noted)
European Green Woodpecker (3 yaffling birds noted, with one by Chenies Place and two in Mount Wood)
European Barn Swallow (pair by Valley Farm)
Wren (2 singing males in Chenies Bottom gardens, with two more by the boardwalk near Valley Farm, 3 in Sarratt Bottom and a male along Holloway Lane)
Dunnock (2 singing males in Sarratt Bottom)
European Robin (2+ pairs in Chenies Bottom, another opposite Frogmore Meadows, 2 pairs near Valley Farm, at least 3 pairs in Sarratt Bottom and 2+ pairs in Mount Wood)
Song Thrush (singing males in Wallace's Wood, opposite Frogmore Meadows, in Sarratt Bottom (3), 2 within 30 yards of each other in Mount Wood and 2 more along Holloway Lane)
*REDWING (6 late migrants in trees and scrub by the Crestyl Watercress Beds - flew off east)
Mistle Thrush (1 flew across valley towards Chenies village)
Common Blackbird (3 nesting pairs in Chenies Bottom, with another pair near the Water Vole watchpoint and another by the cressbed, at least 4 pairs in Sarratt Bottom, 1+ pairs in Mount Wood and two further birds along Holloway Lane)
*COMMON CHIFFCHAFF (6: singing males in scrub opposite Frogmore Meadows, by the Water Vole watchpoint [also female here, by the boardwalk], by the river on the south flank of Frogmore Meadows and two different birds either end of Sarratt Bottom)
GOLDCREST (pair nesting in tall evergreens in garden of Woodside House)
Great Tit (a pair prospecting a nest-site by Mill Farm House, with a pair in Limeshill Wood, 3 pairs in Mount Wood and another near Holloway Lane)
Blue Tit (a party of 3 birds by the cressbeds, with another pair in Mount Wood and in the top wood by Holloway Lane)
Long-tailed Tit (single pairs in Sarratt Bottom and near the buildings of the cressbeds)
Nuthatch (singing birds by the decoy lake in Mount Wood and at the west end of that wood)
Common Treecreeper (a pair in Mount Wood)
Common Magpie (3 pairs)
Jay (1 in the bushes and trees alongside the Crestyl Watercress Bed)
Jackdaw (15+, including a pair breeding in a dead tree in Mount Wood)
Carrion Crow (8+)
House Sparrow (a pair in Chenies Bottom)
Chaffinch (3 pairs in Chenies Bottom, with the same in Sarratt Bottom and another in Mount Wood)
Goldfinch (pair around Mill Farm House and party of 5 birds in Valley Farm area)
Greenfinch (2 singing males in Chenies Bottom)

Grey Squirrels (18+)


The grounds held 5 Woodpigeons, Common Magpie, singing male Great Tit and Greenfinch and a Mistle Thrush, with a singing male COMMON CHIFFCHAFF nearby in bushes alongside the track to Neptune Falls, with a young male Common Kestrel in the same area and Great Water yielding 13 Mute Swans, 35 Tufted Ducks (including 18 drakes) and 12 Coot.

(1230-1310 hours)

The singing male COMMON CHIFFCHAFF was still in the tall Poplars of Reedbed Wood, with the two different CETTI'S WARBLERS in the reedbed, the male BLACKCAP still and the singing male WILLOW WARBLER first found by Chaz Jackson still in trees and ivy just at the start of the causeway. Two male REED BUNTINGS were singing and in parachute display in the reedbed.

Twelve Great Crested Grebes were on the reservoir, with just 4 Pied Wagtails in the horse paddocks and a male Grey Wagtail by the lock.

The neighbouring Grand Union Canal held 10 Mute Swans, including 3 first-summers, whilst Startop's End Reservoir held just 35 Tufted Ducks of note.

My proposed visit to Wilstone Reservoir was immediately interrupted by a very important call from Dave Cleal. He had just discovered 6 BOHEMIAN WAXWINGS.................


After being away in Highland Scotland when two birds gave themselves up in Milton Keynes, I was delighted to get another chance at connecting with BOHEMIAN WAXWING in Bucks. But in April, this was unchartered territory......

I raced over to Cliveden, where DC had very kindly agreed to keep with the migrant flock of birds. By 1340 hours I had joined him and there feeding on the Mistletoe berries were all six birds - five adults and a first-winter. Dave had done exceptionally well in locating them, feeding high in the canopy and often out of view in the tall trees situated at the junction of the Green Drive and the Dukes Statue at SU 913 845. Excellent 'scope views were obtained, with Dave firing off a number of record shots (see above). They remained present until at least 1443 hours and were particularly rewarding, often pairing up and feeding each other and clearly thinking of spring in Scandinavia. Quite where they had migrated from to get here is unknown, but possibly from Spain or France where they had spent the winter.

Cliveden Estate of course is reknown for its FIRECRESTS and today Dave and I saw additional birds, one pair already nesting and busily carrying nest material. At least 9 singing males have now been located this spring, including 3 in the usual area along Green Drive, and along with these, three additional birds afforded Dave, I and numerous other interested members of public some exceptionally close views. The latter trio were feeding in low introduced Laurel and nesting in an exotic species of Fir.

Newly arrived were at least 4 singing male BLACKCAPS and 1 singing Common Chiffchaff, whilst residents noted included Great Spotted Woodpecker, Nuthatch, Common Treecreeper, Red Kite and Coal Tit.


Following up on Darin Stanley's text message, I was delighted to connect at 1540 hours with the stunning male COMMON REDSTART that he had once again discovered earlier in the afternoon during his lunch hour - his 5th individual in fact. The bird was showing well in the 'usual hedgerow' visible from the layby, and was darting out for insects and frequently perching out in full view on the wire fence. It represented my first for the year both nationally and locally. It was virtually in pristine spring plumage and may well be an individual male that annually stops off here as it stages its return migration. Alan Reynolds, Jim Rudland, Dave Calder and Simon West were also present, Simon obtaining the image published above. A male Sparrowhawk also drifted over.

Nearby, 5 LITTLE EGRETS were showing well on the stream at East Hyde at 1600 hours.


As I had not had the opportunity in the interim period to visit Gayhurst Quarry and Rob Norris' BEWICK'S SWAN, I made a special effort and arrived early evening. With directive help from Rob and later Simon Nichols, I searched in vain the fields to the north of the river, clocking eventually 118 non-breeding Mute Swans. The target bird was just nowhere to be seen and with one last call to SN, I made one last scan of the main fishing pit to the east of the main track. I noticed a single swan shuffling around INSIDE a so-called camouflaged hide close to the pit edge and incredibly (as well as bizarrely) it was it - a rather odd-plumaged first-summer BEWICK'S SWAN.

I guess it was inside the hide as grain had been liberally scattered about but as I approached, it walked out, went to the pit, swam out from the edge and then flew to the neighbouring field. What struck me was its incredibly Whooper Swan-like bill, with a long sloping bill and extensive dull yellow at the base. I was confused, but its relatively short neck and small size alongside Mute confirmed bewickii, and on enquiries with Slimbridge WWT, discovered that first-years can look surprisingly long-billed and yellow (Killian Mullarney also confirmed this with his fine artwork in the Collins Bird Guide, page 39). The bird had extensive grey on the neck and head, dark smoky patches on the upperparts and wings and dark on the breast. It was my third Bewick's Swan of the year in Bucks but my first ever April sighting.

The pit also held a female GOOSANDER and 30 lingering EURASIAN WIGEON, whilst the small wood yielded a single singing male COMMON CHIFFCHAFF.


I always get excited at this time of year when the BRAMBLING numbers at Penn Wood reach a spring peak as birds from across Iberia and southern Britain migrate back north and stage for up to two weeks at this site. Kevin Holt has been daily censusing the roost since Friday, with respective counts of 253 on 3rd, 69 on 4th, 63 on 5th and 165+ this evening. Frustratingly, I arrived just a little too late but still managed 119 birds before they dropped out of view in the Holly to roost. The birds were 'wheezing' loudly and many were adult males in full breeding attire. Simply awesome.

The Greenfinch roost numbered about 60 in total, with Great Spotted Woodpecker and Nuthatch also noted. Kevin had also recorded 6 singing male COMMON CHIFFCHAFFS on territory.

Nearby, 7 Red Kites were assembling in a communal roost at dusk.

Monday, 14 June 2010

Bank Holiday Monday dip-out

Truly gripping shots of the Chafford Hundred Alpine Swift - by the time I got my act into gear, the bird was for the off - wind direction changed and increased and a front approached......


A day of strong SW winds and temperatures of 13 degrees C


Excellent numbers of Rook and Red Kite, as well as a Nuthatch calling.


An Alpine Swift (photographed supremely by Steven Arlow above) had been present all weekend and today. I arrived on site shortly after 1600 hours to be told that the bird had just flown off and lo and behold was intercepted by Howard Vaughan and others as it paused briefly over Rainham Marshes RSPB reserve, about 5 miles as the swift flies to the west. I joined Adrian Webb, wifey and baby but despite a long vigil at the gorge, the bird never returned. Trust me to wait so long before going...

There was little to compensate - Common Kestrel, Green Woodpecker and Common Chiffchaff




After failing in my quest at Chew Valley Lake in March 2010, I was more than pleased to get this much closer opportunity of adding FERRUGINOUS DUCK to my year list. The bird – a female – was showing well at the back of the shallow pool late afternoon, although spent most of its time asleep and did not stray away from the cover of the overhanging vegetation at the back. It was present for just this one afternoon only and was not reported again. The site also hosted 6 Shovelers and a few Gadwall and Tufted Ducks. It represented my 237th species of the year.

Local birder Graham James obtained the selection of record shots of the bird that I have published on the following page – page 273 (above in the case of this blogsite).


A roost-time visit yielded just 2 female BRAMBLINGS in the Holly at 1910 hours, and 60 Greenfinches (Kevin Holt had counted 253 yesterday evening and 67+ earlier tonight). At Pennstreet Farm nearby, 17 Rook nests were active.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010


Female or first-summer Kentish Plover, Shellness Point, Sheppey, North Kent, 3 April 2010 (Simon Knight)


A day of SW winds and heavy cloud which cleared later to give way to clear skies.


Highlight of the day was a SANDWICH TERN which was flying back and forth between the east (Bucks) end of the reservoir and the reedbed end. The bird was showing very well and was under constant observation from 1300-1335 hours. The yellow tip to the bill was obvious, whilst the white trailing edge to the secondaries was apparent, a white rump and a single dark feather in the upper tail.

Whilst observing, a flock of 43 COMMON GULLS flew east, with other birds of note including 12 Great Crested Grebes, 8 Common Buzzards, Sparrowhawk, Grey Wagtail, Common Chiffchaff and two different singing CETTI’S WARBLERS.

On neighbouring STARTOP’S END RESERVOIR, the drake Red-crested Pochard was still present, whilst by the sewage works, a male Eurasian Skylark was in song and a male Blackcap.


The EGYPTIAN GOOSE was still present with Canada and Greylag Geese in the fields in Cemetery Corner, with a pair of Eurasian Wigeon still present on the reservoir, a drake Common Teal, 20 Gadwall, 154 Tufted Ducks, 5 Northern Pochard, 2 Mute Swans, 7 Black-headed Gulls, a first-summer COMMON GULL, 15 Sand Martins, a male and female YELLOW WAGTAIL and a singing Common Chiffchaff in the Poplar Wood on the East Bank.


I met up with Grovebury patchworker Johnny Lynch who had seen a cracking male Common Redstart not long before I arrived. We both had an extensive search of the hedgerow but it appeared that the bird had moved straight through.

The main pit held 5 remaining GOOSANDER (including 2 adult drakes) and a pair of Common Teal, whilst in the damp field adjoining, a pair of EURASIAN CURLEW were showing well – my first in Beds this year. A YELLOW WAGTAIL flew over calling, whilst European barn Swallow and Common Chiffchaff were also noted.


During late afternoon, a female KENTISH PLOVER was discovered in North Kent and knowing how difficult this species is to connect with in Britain on an annual basis, I decided that this bird was worth the effort, being only 96 miles away. I met up with Joan Thompson at Chorleywood and drove down to Sheppey to coincide with the evening high tide.

I had not visited Shellness Point since the fine Terek Sandpiper there but the rough access track had changed little since that time. I eventually managed to dodge all of the deep craters and arrived in the car park with my exhaust still intact. It was a fairly muddy walk out to the blockhouse watchpoint but on arrival at 1730 hours, the female KP was still present and showing well in the high tide roost of birds all pitched up high on the shingle ridge – including over 350 Oystercatchers, 15 Ringed Plover, 18 Dunlin and a single Sanderling.

The KENTISH PLOVER was a female or first-summer, being typically much smaller than the accompanying Ringed Plovers, very white on the underparts, paler sandy-brown upperparts and with a broken, narrow breast-band. It also had a shorter tail, longer wings, a somewhat squat appearance and a slim, all-dark bill.

The Kentish Plover was rudely awoken from its roost by a Ringed Plover and shortly later, a proportion of the smaller waders flew a short way north to feed on the first mud being uncovered by the receding tide. This enabled us (JT and myself, photographer Geoff Cox and eight other Kent local birders) to obtain some excellent views of the bird and for the next half an hour, it fed busily on the receding tideline and affording views down to 30 yards. On closer inspection, the bird was seen to be ringed on its right leg. We departed at 1810 hours.