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.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

First LESSER WHITETHROAT of the year but best of all - breeding and singing WATER RAILS

A beautiful male Northern Wheatear (Craig Holden)


With the wind still blowing from the Northeast, most of the day was fairly cool. From about midday onwards, the pressure started to build and the cloud cover dissipated, leaving clear blue skies and long spells of sunshine. Towards evening, the wind slackened right off, making it very pleasant.

I spent the day mopping up a few local year-ticks, the highlight being my first LESSER WHITETHROAT of the year, some nice adult LITTLE GULLS and more ARCTIC TERNS.........

(with Chris Pontin)

At last, my first WILLOW WARBLER of the year in the Amersham Recording Area - a singing male showing well in Willows at the west end of the larger lake. Chris had seen one last week which had sang briefly at the back of McMinn's whilst Kevin Holt had seen an equally brief songster in Penn Wood earlier this week.

A singing male Common Chiffchaff was still present, whilst Blackcaps had increased to two singing males, with at least one female present.

Most unusual was the sight of 4 COMMON RAVENS together at 1130 hours - all having a noisy argument and tussle high above the valley. Again, as other Ravens I have observed this week, they were in heavy wing moult, and eventually all four birds flew high NE towards Berkhamstead.

RED KITES were equally active and abundant with at least 7 in the valley skies, as well as 4 Common Buzzards.

Both pairs of Great Crested Grebe were still present, the nest on the smaller lake still intact, with a Coot now sat on another nest just three yards away. Five Tufted Duck were present (with an additional 13 on Bois Mill Pond).

EUROPEAN BARN SWALLOWS numbered 7, with two singing Wrens, 3 Goldfinch and a displaying male Greenfinch also noted.

(1200-1245 hours)

Joined Mick Frosdick and Geoff Lapworth on the Moor and finally added LESSER WHITETHROAT to my 2010 Year List - a fairly showy rattling male in a restricted area of bushes adjacent to the canal just north of the small concrete bridge over the river (248). I failed to find Geoff's Common Whitethroat though - the cold wind and grey conditions keeping the bird down and quiet.

Up to 6 Blackcaps were noted however, along with 3 singing male WILLOW WARBLERS, and a pair of GREY WAGTAILS were in the vicinity of the lock gates.

Also noted were 1 Mute Swan, 4 Coots, Green Woodpecker, 1 Barn Swallow, Robin (pair nesting), Long-tailed Tit (5), Greenfinch and Reed Bunting.


A pair of Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers have been seen at this site fairly frequently in recent times but this afternoon Mick and I could only locate the regular male Nuthatch.

Most impressive was the male WATER RAIL by the boardwalk - in full 'song' and rarely heard during the day.

Two pairs of Stock Dove were noted, 2 Jays, Mistle Thrush (singing male), Song Thrush, Common Blackbird (male in song), Ring-necked Parakeet (4), Wren (2 singing males), Long-tailed Tits (pair), Blue Tit (pair feeding young), Great Tit (singing male), Blackcap (singing male) and Common Chiffchaff (2 singing males).

Two SAND MARTINS flew quickly north at 1310.


I ventured north into Bedfordshire where, mid-afternoon, the juvenile GREAT NORTHERN DIVER was showing very well at the west end and three adult breeding-plumaged LITTLE GULLS were with 4 Black-headed Gulls. A congregation of 26 Great Crested Grebes was huddled together in the NW corner and two male Blackcaps were in full song by the Watchpoint.


The drake GARGANEY was still showing very well on Lagoon 9, loosely consorting with a pair of Gadwall, with my first Beds singing SEDGE WARBLER nearby and two singing male Willow Warblers in scrub near the main gate.


Although nesting Common Crossbills had been located at another site, none was seen in the Charle Wood or Buttermilk Wood areas. In fact, the woodlands were remarkably quiet, with no warblers singing and just Nuthatch, Common Treecreeper, Great Spotted and Green Woodpecker, 3 Goldfinch and 3 singing male Coal Tits noted. A new clearing inside Buttermilk yielded several Peacock butterflies in the afternoon sunshine.


With the weather clearing up and the cold NE wind starting to abate, I walked the entire escarpment from Aldbury Nowers, across Pitstone Hill, past Steps Hill and across the Beacon Hill slopes to Gallows Hill. It was virtually birdless and my only highlight was the 3 male NORTHERN WHEATEARS on Beacon Hill, just south of the trig point.

There was no sign of the two male Ring Ouzels present early morning, nor of the male that had been showing well in Inkombe Hole much earlier (per Dave Bilcock).


At 1800 hours, I stopped off at Wilstone, where Jeff Bailey and Steve Rodwell were chatting, and Ben Miller was just leaving. The main point of interest were yet another group of 4 ARCTIC TERNS - commuting between the algae bunds and the jetty - and consorting with 3 Common Terns. Interestingly, at least two of the Arctic Terns had a blackish tip to the bill, but overall the bills were slimmer, shorter and deeper red and when perched, the much shorter legs were apparent. The underparts of all four birds were also much greyer than on the accompanying Common Terns and in flight, the wings were much more rakish and particularly contrasting on the underwing. The tail streamers were only fully developed on one individual and in general, there were no discernible differences in this feature with the 3 Common Terns.

Duck included 18 Gadwall, 8 Shoveler and 11 Northern Pochard, whilst 35 Sand Martin were overhead.

A walk along the Dry Canal produced a flyover GREEN SANDPIPER and a single Yellowhammer but there was no sign of the Lesser Whitethroat that Roy Hargreaves had seen and heard earlier in the day

WHIMBREL and ARCTIC TERNS but no Gropper



A cool NE wind blew for most of the day.


This WHIMBREL, superbly captured on film by David Bilcock, spent most of the afternoon and evening on the bund at College Lake BBOWT. Fortunately I managed to get down in the evening and watched it take flight at 1900 hours, call several times and then fly off strongly east into Hertfordshire.


An evening visit with Steve Rodwell and others, mainly in the guise of searching for the Grasshopper Warbler that had been present earlier. We could not find the warbler despite staying until 2017 hours but did record 3 LITTLE EGRETS at roost, a drake MANDARIN DUCK that flew over the trees (my first reservoir record this year), 5 Common Terns, 4 ARCTIC TERNS, 42 Sand Martins, a singing CETTI’S WARBLER, a singing male WILLOW WARBLER and a singing male Goldcrest.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Still no Bucks Grey Partridge but RING OUZEL falls for Herts........


That cold Northeasterly wind keeps blowing, keeping migration to a minimum and preventing many small birds from singing. It remained dry but was grey and overcast up until early afternoon. For me, it was another day birding locally......


Dave Bilcock had seen a single Arctic Tern early morning but there was no sign of it several hours later when I visited - just 5 Common Terns still.

In fact, Wilstone was very quiet, with 8 Great Crested Grebes, 25 active Grey Heron nests, 3 Common Teal still, 18 Shoveler, 8 immature Black-headed Gulls, 15 European Barn Swallows and a migrant male YELLOW WAGTAIL.


A pair of Great Crested Grebes was building a nest on one of the green algae bunds, with 6 Mute Swans, 35 Tufted Ducks and 17 Coot counted. There was a total of 164 hirundines grounded by the grey conditions, including 151 SAND MARTINS and 13 Barn Swallows.

In windy conditions, I still failed to find any Sedge Warblers in the Marsworth reedbeds, even though at least one male is present.


In an attempt to nail Grey Partridge for my Bucks Year List, I spent some considerable time searching the farmland to the east of Wingrave, either side of the Leighton Road and east as far as the Mentmore Cross Roads (SP 890 205).

In the sheep fields to the west of Upper Wingbury Farm (SP 875 198), I located two COMMON RAVENS, both birds in wing moult, with one quite heavy. They were feeding in the fields and later flew off east calling loudly, in the direction of Mentmore Park.

There were two Common Buzzards in this area, as well as 1 RED KITE, whilst Common Kestrel, Great Spotted Woodpecker and 14 Common Starlings were also noted.

Very pleasing was the locating of four nesting pairs of LAPWING in the fields, although disconcerting was an obvious Carrion Crow nest at the top of an isolated tree (most likely designed to fledge at the same time as the baby Lapwings).

Chaffinches were quite numerous, whilst a pair of Long-tailed Tits were nesting in the roadside hedgerow just NE of Wingrave.

Alas, no Grey Partridge were located.....


I took advantage of my visit to fully survey the breeding birds of Wingrave village, with the following results -:

Moorhen (pair on the tiny village pond)
Eurasian Collared Dove (8+ birds noted)
Dunnock (1 singing male)
European Robin (a bare minimum of 7 breeding pairs)
Common Blackbird (7 nesting pairs)
Common Starling (3+ pairs, with a singing male at 119 Winslow Road)
COMMON CHIFFCHAFF (a singing male in Willows in Lower End at the south end of the village)
*HOUSE SPARROWS (the real success story, with 5 pairs at the north end and a further 3 at the south end and two more in the ivy on the Rose & Crown public house)
Greenfinch (2 displaying males)
Jackdaw (3 pairs nesting on chimneys, with 2 on Winslow Road and another on Nup End Lane)


Next off, I surveyed the ROOKERIES between Wingrave and Long Marston, with 10 active nests opposite Boarscroft (at SP 882 175) and 68 active nests in the Common Alder trees opposite Betlow Farm entrance at SP 885 165.

A dead Badger was just south of Whitwell Farm (SP 881 170) at SP 883 168, whilst the farmhouse itself held 2 further pairs of breeding HOUSE SPARROWS and 2 Red-legged Partridges and a male Pied Wagtail on the plough opposite.

Just south of Beeching House, Green Woodpecker, Song Thrush and Great Tit were all recorded.

In Long Marston village, another 8 pairs of HOUSE SPARROW was located, including pairs by the Primary School and several on houses 9-15, and 5 pairs of Eurasian Collared Doves.


Utilising the information kindly provided by John Hale, I then tried the Oving area for Grey Partridge but despite following John's detailed notes to the line, I completely failed in my quest to locate any. Hearing of a Herts Ring Ouzel on site then diverted my attention..........


It was 43 miles between Oving and Norton Green and I finally arrived on site mid afternoon. Just four birders were on site and most were leaving, having had brief flight views of the bird. Fortunately, Alan Reynolds was on site, and kindly helped out with further searching, whilst Tony Heuking was to join us a short time later. When Alan had seen it earlier, it had been favouring the thick scrub and hedgerow along the eastern flank of the former landfill and had disappeared deep within. All three of us spread out and carried out a sweep of the site north to the traveller's site.

Apart from four Common Blackbirds, 2 Red-legged Partridges and a Small Tortoiseshell butterfly, nothing was found. Just as we were about to finish the sweep however, Alan and Tony flushed the RING OUZEL as it was hiding in a small bramble literally by one of the main tracks. It flew a few yards and landed again and then flew in a wide arc, back over us and landed in a fallen tree, some 150 yards away. At last, we were able to get good views of the bird, albeit it through the 'scope. It was a first-summer male and sat 'chacking' in the branches for the next 25 minutes, acting extremely wary throughout and refusing to move. All three of us hid behind a flowering bush and eventually the bird flew to the open plateau in the middle of the terrain and fed on the ground. These afforded the best and most closest views. Within a short while though, it was on the move again, and flew back to the area it seems to favour, the valley scrub about 75 yards in from the southern entrance (TL 228 235). This is only the second Ring Ouzel recorded in the county this year and after I left at 1645 hours, Darrell Bryant saw it later feeding with Fieldfares in the evening.

Note: access the location from Bessemer Drive

(1730-1900 hours)

It was a very pleasant evening at Amwell, with clearing skies and the cool NE wind abating somewhat. Despite that, the male Grasshopper Warbler present for three days did not start reeling prior to 1930 hours.

The following species were recorded -:

Great Crested Grebe (6)
Continental Cormorant (9 active nests on the smaller island)
Mute Swan (3)
Gadwall (48)
Common Teal (10)
Shoveler (12)
Tufted Duck (52)
Northern Pochard (5)
LITTLE RINGED PLOVER (1 on the muddy spit in front of the watchpoint)
Common Redshank (4)
Argenteus Herring Gull (2 adults south)
European Barn Swallow (1)
*WESTERN REED WARBLER (2 singing males in the reedbed close to the boardwalk near the White Hide, my first of the year)
SEDGE WARBLER (6 singing males in all, including one on the pit to the west of the railway)
CETTI'S WARBLERS (4 singing birds including excellent views of a showy individual best viewed from the upper deck of James Hide)
Blackcap (2 singing males)
Common Chiffchaff (1 singing male)
Common Treecreeper (singing male)
Linnet (1 flew north)

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Another great day with more migrant RING OUZELS, BLACK REDSTARTS and an adult KITTIWAKE


The biting NE wind continues, pegging temperatures right back and making birding extremely unpleasant at times. Great once in the shelter but freshening towards evening and bringing increased cloud cover.

Once again, more birds were deposited on the highest hills by the conditions, particularly RING OUZELS, but 2 BLACK REDSTARTS made for a change and a (BLACK-LEGGED) KITTIWAKE was the main prize..........

(0900-1230 hours)

More RING OUZELS arrived overnight so my first port of call was once again the Ivinghoe complex. Viewing from the shelter of the scrub just east of the S-bend and close to the kissing gate, I soon located 5 different male RING OUZELS which were flying out from a dense area of scrub to feed out in the open literally yards out from the wire fence and just 150 yards south of the trig point at Ivinghoe Beacon. One male in particular was very confiding and repeatedly came out whilst the others were more elusive and skulking and eventually flew up further to feed on the grass much closer to the trig point.

After a while I was joined by Eaton Bray birder Richard Woodhead, and after he had enjoyed good views of the single male through my 'scope, we decided to explore further. As we searched either side of the ridge, I watched all of the ouzels fly east, 'chakking' loudly as they went, and appearing to alight on the main slope SE of the peak and above the sheep pens and fields.

A male COMMON WHITETHROAT was singing from scrub just 100 yards east of the peak and after enjoying a good view of that and of more migrant WILLOW WARBLERS (there had been a major fall of this species today involving at least 17 individuals), I suddenly came upon another small passerine hopping on and off the wire fence as the track heads east towards Gallows Hill. I quickly intercepted it in the 'scope and was delighted to find that it was a female BLACK REDSTART - my first in the county this year. It was showing very well, just flitting to and fro from the fenceline on to the main track. I quickly contacted RBA and Dave Bilcock, and finally raised Steve Rodwell.

Beacon Hill was then found to be housing two different BLACK REDSTARTS, as shortly later Richard and I located a second bird - this time a first-summer male - just 80 yards further east along the footpath. The five male RING OUZELS had also chosen to relocate to the south-facing slope above the sheep pens but due to the constant pressure of walkers, eventually flew further east and disappeared, leaving just one bird in the area of the 'Mushroom Hawthorn'. Both BLACK REDSTARTS were very similar in appearance, although the young male had much more warmth (brown) in the upperwings and was deeper grey on the upperparts. Neither bird had any white panel in the wing. Dave Bilcock obtained an excellent selection of images of the female (see above).

With news on the pager, birders took no delay in arriving, and after Mike Campbell and Steve Rodwell pitched up, quite a crowd gathered - and within 20 minutes, twice as many than had turned up for last week's Dartford Warbler ! Ring Ouzels really do have that special attraction.

We were all treated to an excellent display by both species and a further search of the area yielded nothing more than a flyover LESSER REDPOLL - it was time for me to retreat and after a follow-up call from Mark Thomas, it was Peacocks Lake at Broom that was to be my next destination......

(1220-1235 hours)

Joining Mark Thomas at 1220 hours, I was very pleased to find that the summer-plumaged adult (BLACK-LEGGED) KITTIWAKE was still present, sat on the water just west of one of the smaller islands. It was a graceful, sleek gull with a pure white rounded head, tiny beady black eye and lime-green bill. It sat for a while, occasionally stretching its wings, before being 'mobbed' by the nesting Black-headed Gulls and forcing it to take flight. Again a very graceful bird, with neat, well-defined and strikingly contrasting jet-black outer primary tips, a pure white tail and rump and short, dark legs. For a brief period we lost it, but then Mark relocated it much closer and again it sat on the water. MT had seen an adult Kittiwake earlier in the morning at Broom, along with a single Arctic Tern, but both birds had flown off strongly northeast. It is unknown whether the original bird returned or if this was a second bird but in any event, it was still present when Mark and I departed at 1235.

The adult WHOOPER SWAN was still consorting with 15 Mute Swans to the west of the main lake in the cereal crop whilst the only other bird of note was a singing male WILLOW WARBLER.


To the west of Ampthill Park and NW of Westminster Fishing Lake, the three male RING OUZELS were still present in the fields and paddocks north of Warren Farm and the Alpaca Farm at approximately TL 017 385. They were still favouring the hedgerow bordering the fields and were commuting between there and the evergreen trees surrounding the farm buildings. As on my previous visit on Sunday (when four males were present), the trio were very elusive, disappearing for long periods, but occasionally showed well, in the retreat of the hedgerow, feeding in the leaf litter. The west end of the park also held several singing male Blackcaps.


There was no sign of David Booth's single Black-tailed Godwit at 1500 hours, the main sand workings yielding 10 Shoveler, 8 Common Teal, a Common Redshank, 5 Common Gulls (adult and 4 first-summers), 2 adult Lesser Black-backed Gulls, 8 Sand Martins and 2 TREE SPARROWS (by the Feeding Station).

Nearby, Willows Farm Pool at 1522 hours held the female Ruddy Shelduck, the pair of OYSTERCATCHERS and a cracking adult male WHITE WAGTAIL

Tuesday, 13 July 2010


Today's Little Gulls at Wilstone (Dave Bilcock) and Ring Ouzels on the Hills (Dave Bilcock/Sally Douglas)


Well, spring 2010 was certainly short-lived, with cold winds blasting in from the Northeast making it feel freezing. It remained dry though, and fairly bright. Temperatures reached a high of just 11 degrees C, in stark contrast to Scotland, where Aviemore continues to bask in up to 20 degrees C, and even Wick reached 17 degrees. As expected, the biting winds misplaced LITTLE GULLS and RING OUZELS..........

(0830-1100 hours; with Steve Rodwell, Peter Leigh & Chris, and later with Francis Buckle & Dave Cleal)

The two male RING OUZELS first found yesterday morning (Mike Wallen et al) were showing very well this morning and keeping very faithful to one particular area, just SW of the Ivinghoe Beacon trig point. They were actually feeding just east of the Beacon Road at SP 957 167 but were best observed from the penultimate peak just north, and sitting in the lee of the SW slope, it was actually quite pleasant and settled. The two birds were showing very well at sporadic intervals, appearing from the scrub to perch in the open on the leafless trees and the Hawthorn, as well as feeding on the sward of grassy slope (in fact, the 'Duke of Burgundy Cutting' in reality. One was a fabulous adult male, with gleaming white half moon, black upperparts and bright yellow bill, whilst the other was a much drabber and noisier first-summer male - Dave Bilcock obtaining at least one good image of the former - see above). Although they were disturbed fairly frequently by cyclists and walkers alike, the two birds did remain faithful to this one area, but the presence of a nesting pair of Common Blackbirds eventually took its toll. When I returned later in the afternoon to show Francis, just one male was seen in flight and they were no longer visiting the grass to feed. There has been a minimum of 7 Ring Ouzels at the site in the past week but these have been the most reliable and easiest to see by far.

The walk up to the Beacon also produced 2 singing male WILLOW WARBLERS and a singing male Common Chiffchaff, whilst there was also a singing male COMMON WHITETHROAT (Dave Cleal) and two male NORTHERN WHEATEARS (Steve Rodwell). Meadow Pipits were fairly numerous, along with Linnets, and a male Bullfinch was in bushes by the main car park.


The resident pair of COMMON RAVENS were showing very well, the male calling loudly from an exposed branch in the vicinity of the nest and the female (now fairly heavily worn) visiting nearby fields and returning with large crops of food for the growing four youngsters.

A Peacock butterfly was also seen but the pair of resident Little Owls were sheltering out of view from the cold wind.


Both pairs of RINGED and LITTLE RINGED PLOVERS were present, both now nesting.


There were no small plovers, Common Sandpiper or Dunlin present but waders were represented by up to 8 Common Redshank and 9 nesting pairs of Lapwing (1 on the west island, 5 on the east, 1 on the NE and two to the north of the main lake).

One Little Grebe was present, a pair of Shoveler, 18 Tufted Duck and at least 8 Atlantic Canada Geese, whilst migrants included a singing male WILLOW WARBLER and my first COMMON WHITETHROAT of the year - a singing male to the north of the main lake (244).


There was a fall of BLACKCAPS in the NW corner, involving up to 6 individuals - mostly singing males, with a singing male Common Chiffchaff nearby.

The quarry lake was fairly quiet, with 6 Little Grebes present, pair of Tufted Duck, 4 Coots, the pair of OYSTERCATCHERS (still not nesting) and two adult Lesser Black-backed Gulls.


With a fierce and freezing NE wind, birdlife was scant and poorly represented, with 3 Shoveler on Marsworth and 8 European Barn Swallows on Startop's End being the highlights (the weekend had seen the first calling male Common Cuckoo - per Lynne Lambert).


(midday-1230 hours) With Steve Rodwell, Mike Campbell, Peter Leigh, Chris and Francis Buckle, recorded my first (and that of the reservoirs') LITTLE GULLS of the year - a winter-plumaged adult, a transitional adult and a well-marked second-summer - all drifting around between the jetty and the Drayton Bank with 9 Black-headed Gulls and 4 Common Terns (245).
Wildfowl included 3 Common Teal (including 1 drake), 19 Gadwall, 18 Shoveler, a drake Pochard and 172 Tufted Ducks, whilst 10 Great Crested Grebes were noted (some pairs in active dancing display). A Coot killed by fishing line at least four days ago lie just off of the car park steps.

Aerial migrants were few and far between, with just a handful of Sand Martins and 3 European Barn Swallows.


Surveying both Roundhill Wood and The Flats (SP 94 08), an area of extensive firwoods, new plantations and scrub, the following species were encountered -:

Although no Woodlarks were found (a pair bred successfully here in 2006), the area produced Moorhen (on the pond at SP 939 085), Great Spotted Woodpecker, Green Woodpecker, Mistle Thrush (singing male), Song Thrush (singing male), Wren (3 singing males), European Robin (nesting pair), BLACKCAP (2 singing males), COMMON CHIFFCHAFF (4 singing males, plus a female), GOLDCREST (2+ pairs), Blue Tit and COAL TIT (5 singing males).


More survey work but with little to be found in this extensive coniferous wood and area of barren farmland - 1 singing Eurasian Skylark, singing Song Thrush and male Blackcap and a pair of Chaffinch.


Five Lesser Black-backed Gulls flew north, all bar one adult immatures.


After being flooded out a couple of weeks back, the pair of Waterside Mute Swans have relocated and the female is now sitting on a new nest. There is still a pair on Lowndes Park Lake and another on Bois Mill Pond. GREY WAGTAILS are now nesting at McMinn's.


Once again, Kevin Holt and I surveyed the roosting BRAMBLINGS, of which numbers are now dwindling. A total of just 63 birds flew in to roost in the Holly this evening, with the first 5 arriving at 1812 and 25 or more still waiting to drop down at 1915. Although none of the males was in full breeding plumage, several were not far off and in beautiful attire.

Greenfinches numbered 44, whilst Coal Tit and Great Spotted Woodpecker were noted. A TAWNY OWL was showing well at the entrance to its nestbox.

Nearby, 5 RED KITES roosted again

Our LADY AMHERST just clings on


A rather grey day with fresh Northeasterly winds

(with Dave Bilcock and Steve Rodwell)

Highlight of a brief visit was a pair of COMMON SHELDUCK feeding over the far side close to the reedbed - they represented my first at the reservoirs this year.

Otherwise, pretty uneventful, with a drake Common Teal, two pairs of Shoveler, 19 Gadwall, 4 Black-headed Gulls, a juvenile Lesser Black-backed Gull, 5 Common Terns and 150+ Sand Martins.


Martin Palmer and Steve Blain had just departed the site happy with their views but when arrived, the afternoon sun was setting and the hedgerow all four male RING OUZELS had been showing was now in shadow. With a little bit of searching, I eventually tracked all four birds down - they had moved a short way north to the garden of Warren Farm and were hopping down from the conifers to feed on the grass.


I took the opportunity to visit the last remaining stronghold of the LADY AMHERST'S PHEASANT and was very pleased to find the continuing existence of 3 adult males - the same number (and same birds presumably) as I had recorded in April 2009. They started their echoing calls across the valley from 1930 hours and continued for the next half hour. My first bat of the year - a Pipistrelle - was also seen.

Just three adult males survive in Britain, remnants of the once flourishing non-naturalised population in Bedfordshire. Gary Thoburn obtained these magnificent images of what is a truly beautiful bird. It really is a sad tale – and soon the species will be no more.

One of my favourite all-time birds and a species very close to my heart. I have such dear memories of when this species was common and flocks of 21 or more were in fields by my Flitwick home of that time. My eyes water at the thoughts of how much joy this species bought to the 800 or so people I took to my special feeding station visits in the 1980’s and early 1990’s – I will cherish them forever.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

A majestic bird but a reintroduction

The female Great Bustard at Otmoor - R28 from Salisbury Plain - photographed by Roger Wyatt


High pressure still firmly in charge and again another warm day, the warmest this year to date (64 degrees F). Mostly clear skies but towards evening, an easterly breeze set in, bringing patchy cloud.

Due to a snapped cam belt, was out of action for the majority of the day, but this evening ventured over to Otmoor RSPB, where the Salisbury Plain GREAT BUSTARD was still present and showing very well.......

(1600-1800 hours)

Although the bird had visited the 'Big Otmoor Field' much earlier in the day and had flown north and had then been seen again early afternoon, I relocated the GREAT BUSTARD this evening to the SSE of Oddington village, at SP 555 145. It was associating with a single Australian Black Swan and up to 18 Mute Swans and was showing very well from the footpath that runs SSW along the New River Ray cut (from Oddington village, take the footpath out to the concrete bridge after 120 yards and then turn right for 250 yards to view from the gate). It sat down for a while and rested, and was very aware of dangers around it, cowering when an aircraft went over. It was a third year and appeared to be a female and was wing-tagged - a RED tag with the numerics '87' if placed on upside down, or '28' if read from the side (perhaps David Waters would be kind enough to send me the history of this individual, first released in 2008). It was finding plenty to eat in the field, taking numerous grubs, as well as eating blades of fresh grass like the swans.

The reserve itself held Garganey, reeling Grasshopper Warbler, male Common Redstart, Black-tailed Godwit and other migrants (per Roger Wyatt) whilst I personally saw 3+ singing male Willow Warblers, a European Barn Swallow and 2-3 pairs of displaying Eurasian Curlew.

Young male BADGERS seem to be getting run over and killed all over the roads at the moment and I saw yet another one today on the eastbound M40 just adjacent to Sundage Wood at SU 821 920.

Disaster strikes for BLACK-NECKED GREBE

Martin Parr obtained these images of Tyttenhanger's BLACK-NECKED GREBE. You can clearly see the damage. Sadly, the bird died a couple of days later.


Another beautiful, warm spring day, continuing the theme of yesterday. Little in the way of visible passage but more and more summer visitors arriving, particularly warblers. Temperatures again reached 59 degrees F, with long spells of sunshine and clear blue skies.


Thanks to JT, finally connected with my first SEDGE WARBLER of the year (243). It was a very skulking individual, and quite mobile, and was working its way through the reed sections on the south side of the causeway. It was singing quite frequently.

There were also 3 RED-CRESTED POCHARDS on show (a pair on the boating lake and an adult drake on the main lake) and 83 Tufted Duck.

A male Blackcap was showing well by the footbridge and two different Common Chiffchaffs


Joan prompted me to get over to Tyttenhanger as soon as possible. Martin Parr had just phoned with some very concerning news. The summer-plumaged BLACK-NECKED GREBE that Steve Blake had relocated this morning on the Fishing Lake appeared to be badly injured and concern for its welfare was being aired. It took me about 15 minutes to be on site, and a further 20 minutes to find the bird. It had been roosting out of the water on the bank but a flurry of kind-hearted fishermen directed me to where they had seen it go and after a few brief glimpses, I eventually tracked it down 75 yards east of the causeway on the north bank.

It was in a sorry state indeed, with one of its wings completely ripped from its socket and twisted back round and left hanging. It had presumably collided with the overhead pylons whilst trying to depart overnight and then crash-landed either on the lake or in surrounding vegetation. Nevertheless, it seemed very perky and alert, was diving frequently, catching numerous small fish and taking insects from the surface. With the aid of the fishermen on the bank, I borrowed a landing net and attempted to catch the bird. I scooped it into the net, had a quick look at its wing injury and was very pleased to see the bird dive swiftly and escape underwater. It was certainly not on its last legs but its injury was very serious and beyond any sensible repair. I phoned several people I knew that cared for wild birds, including staff at the RSPB, and it was generally agreed that it was a lost cause, and best left to nature.

Being such a gorgeous bird in full breeding plumage, I felt naturally devastated, but seeing it diving and successfully eeking out a living, I felt it best to let it live out its remaining days in the wild, rather than having to be put to sleep by the RSPCA. A tragic ending but the first time I have ever been so close to this tiny and most delicate species - and a species I am particularly fond of, which share many similarities, habits and breeding locations of my other favourite - the outlawed North American Ruddy Duck.

The grebe was also in very close company with an early brood of 10 duckling Mallards, whilst the only other species of note were a singing male WILLOW WARBLER and 6 Linnets.

(1500-1700 hours)

In remarkably warm conditions, Steve Rodwell and I spent a long period studying and listening to a singing male COMMON CHIFFCHAFF in Willows and shrubs close to the Buddleia clearing. This was no ordinary chiffchaff however in terms of vocalisation as it repeatedly threw into its repertoire, one note which I only associate with Iberian Chiffchaff (brehmii/ibericus). In fact, when Steve and Vicky first found it, it gave all four loud notes that ibericus frequently finishes its song off with. Later, it reverted to more typical collybita conversation, and showed field characteristics akin to that species.

The woodland yielded three further singing male Common Chiffchaffs, 1-2 male WILLOW WARBLERS, 2 male Blackcaps, 5+ Goldcrests, a LESSER REDPOLL and several Coal Tits, as well as several Peacock butterflies (Steve had also seen a TREE PIPIT briefly, two pairs of MARSH TITS and two singing FIRECRESTS).