WEDNESDAY 28 APRIL
Another glorious day and with freshening SSW/SSE winds, superb for scarcities arriving, particularly on the coasts. The southerly element in the wind rather than yesterday's westerly really made it feel warm and very pleasant and with long spells of sunshine following a particularly grey morning, it was a particularly rewarding day.
I concentrated on local survey work for much of the morning before venturing north into North Bucks and later Bedfordshire. The highlight of the day was the locating of a TREE SPARROW colony, as well as finally nailing COMMON CUCKOO and some mega-views of reeling GRASSHOPPER WARBLER..........
CHAFFINCH HOUSE, LITTLE CHALFONT (BUCKS)
House Sparrows are now feeding nestlings whilst the early nesting pair of Common Blackbirds is feeding its sole surviving youngster. Green-veined White butterflies in the garden, as well as 2 Goldfinches still visiting the Nyger.
Nearby, House Sparrows are also nesting at three other households in my road and another pair is utilising the ivy at 102 Elizabeth Avenue.
In Chenies Avenue, nesting birds included a pair of Goldfinches and a pair of Long-tailed Tits.
At dusk, two adult Lesser Black-backed Gulls flew south to roost at 2015 hours.
WEST WOOD, LITTLE CHALFONT (from SU 996 982 to TQ 004 983)
This section of mainly coniferous woodland held three pairs of nesting Common Blackbirds and two singing male Chaffinches, as well as 3 pair of Wren and two of European Robin.
WALK WOOD, STONY LANE, LITTLE CHALFONT (BUCKS) (TQ 007 984)
More deciduous than coniferous trees and therefore more productive for breeding species - highlight was the finding of a COMMON BUZZARD active nest, with two different singing male BLACKCAPS, 2 pairs of Long-tailed Tit (a pair by the Stony Lane car park and another by the clearing further east), a singing male SONG THRUSH, single singing male Chaffinch and Wren and nesting Common Blackbird (2 pairs), Blue Tit (1 pair) and Common Magpie. The sunlit glades in the wood were carpeted with large numbers of flowering Bluebells.
In the grass field adjacent (east of Stony Lane), two different singing male EURASIAN SKYLARKS were present, whilst in the clearing between Walk Wood and Coney Wood, firstly a female and then a singing male YELLOWHAMMER were recorded.
CONEY WOOD, CHENIES MANOR HOUSE (BUCKS) (TQ 013 985)
Breeding birds included Common Blackbird (1 pair), Wren (3 pairs), Great Tit (1 pair), Long-tailed Tit (1 pair) and European Robin (1 pair).
CHENIES BOTTOM, CHESS RIVER VALLEY (BUCKS) (TQ 014 987)
A total of 5 Coots was present on the wider section of Chess west of the village bridge whilst the pair of Greenfinch were still present around Mill Farm House. One pair of GOLDCRESTS remain in the tall firs in the garden immediately west of Chenies Place.
FROGMORE MEADOWS NR AREA, CHESS RIVER VALLEY (BUCKS) (TQ 021 988)
A pair of SONG THRUSHES was busy feeding young at the extreme south end of Limeshill Wood, with a pair of STOCK DOVE and a single Jay also noted in the wood. Again, the wood was heavily carpeted in flowering Bluebells.
A singing male COMMON CHIFFCHAFF was in the scrub bordering the footpath, as was a male Blackcap, whilst the Recording Area's first COMMON WHITETHROAT of the year was a displaying male in the hedgerow that borders the reserve.
THE BOARDWALK AREA, CHESS RIVER VALLEY (BUCKS)
From the Water Vole Viewpoint (TQ 023 988) to Valley Farm (TQ 027 992) and the Crestyl Watercress Farm (TQ 028 989), the highlight was a crippling LITTLE OWL that Carmel located. The bird sat just 15 yards away in a Willow beside the boardwalk and afforded outstanding views for several minutes before it undulated away and landed in a neighbouring pollarded Willow.
The pair of COMMON CHIFFCHAFFS were still present around the Watchpoint, along with a singing male Blackcap, a Dunnock and two singing male Wrens, whilst nearby a pair of Long-tailed Tits was nesting.
At Valley Farm, a pair of EUROPEAN BARN SWALLOWS was on territory.
MOUNT WOOD (WESTERN SECTION) (BUCKS) (TQ 025 985)
A party of 6 Common Magpies was feeding together on the grassy sloping field above Holloway Lane, with a NUTHATCH calling from the laneside trees.
CHENIES VILLAGE (BUCKS) (TQ 017 983)
The village held a singing male Mistle Thrush and Blackcap and male GOLDCREST at 'The Lodge' by the green. Two different male Dunnocks were in song, with two pairs of Eurasian Collared Dove and a pair of Goldfinch by the horse paddocks.
HALSEY'S WOOD AND FOOTPATH DOWN FROM AMERSHAM ROAD (BUCKS) (TQ 017 973)
Halsey's Wood held Green Woodpecker, Common Blackbird (1 pair), Great Tit (1 pair), Long-tailed Tit (nesting pair), Dunnock (nesting pair) and a singing male Blackcap whilst the hedgerow bordering the footpath yielded a singing male YELLOWHAMMER.
THE WHITELANDS, HILLAS AND CARPENTER'S WOOD COMPLEX (BUCKS) (TQ 016 965)
A full inventory revealed the presence of 38 birds of just eight different species and a substantial active Badger's sett in Hillas Wood. Most impressive were 5 singing male SONG THRUSHES, with a nesting pair of Stock Dove. Present were Green Woodpecker (yaffling male), Great Spotted Woodpecker (nesting pair), Wren (4 pairs), European Robin (3 pairs), Great Tit (1 pair) and Blue Tit (6 pairs). Not one warbler was recorded, nor Nuthatch or Common Blackbird, and considering the size of the woodland, a very poor overall yield..
OLD HANGING WOOD (BUCKS) (TQ 010 975)
This wood is situated immediately north of the Metropolitan railway and lies to the south of the Amersham road and is half a mile east of Little Chalfont village. A full inventory today revealed a nesting pair of COMMON BUZZARDS along with European Robin (2 pairs), Common Blackbird (1 pair), Long-tailed Tit (2 pairs), Great Tit (3 pairs), Blue Tit (5 pairs) and Wren (4 pairs).
A pair of YELLOWHAMMER was in the hedgerow bordering the Amersham road, with a further singing male in the scattered trees in the hedgerow running north on the north side of the road.
CHESHAM FISHING LAKES (BUCKS)
The pair of GREAT CRESTED GREBES on the smaller of the two lakes has two fledged, small stripy young, sheltering on the back of the mother. They fledged on Saturday and are one of the earliest nesting pairs I have known. The other pair were still present on the larger lake whilst nearby, a pair of European Barn Swallows have returned to McMinn's Yard.
LINFORD NR (NORTH BUCKS)
After finishing off local survey work, I decided to drive north to explore the far north of the county and to try and fill in a few missing gaps in my 2010 Bucks Year List. Linford is renown for its variety of warblers and today was no exception. In the warm sunshine of the early afternoon, 10 species of warbler were recorded including a reeling male GRASSHOPPER WARBLER showing well at the edge of the field bordering the hedgerow 100 yards from the main car park, a rattling male LESSER WHITETHROAT close to the car park, at least 9 singing male WESTERN REED WARBLERS, 7 singing male SEDGE WARBLERS, 4 Blackcaps, 6 singing male GARDEN WARBLERS, a single male COMMON WHITETHROAT, 2 male WILLOW WARBLERS and 3 singing male Common Chiffchaffs.
There were also a male Song Thrush, male Greenfinch, pair of Long-tailed Tits and several Reed Buntings, whilst the lake yielded 4 Common Terns, 8 House Martins, several Barn Swallows and 5 active LITTLE EGRET nests.
There was an excellent crop of butterflies including Small and Green-veined Whites, 9 Orange-Tips, 17 Peacock and 33 Speckled Woods.
STOKE GOLDINGTON VILLAGE (NORTH BUCKS) (SP 835 490)
Following up recent sightings, I was absolutely delighted to find a colony of TREE SPARROWS in the village, lying just south of the county boundary with Northamptonshire. These birds were my first in the county this year and were on territory along Dag Lane. Eight birds were noted in total with a pair territorial in an ivy-covered tree 60 yards south of the church and the remainder in and around the garden of number 6 that borders the village (utilising the peanut feeder and the nestboxes) at SP 834 491.
The footpath south of Church Lane and the church also yielded several European Barn Swallows and supported Common Starling (1 pair), Goldfinch and Greenfinch. House Sparrows were nesting at Church Farm.
CASTLETHORPE AREA (NORTH BUCKS)
Flushed with success, I decided to explore the Castlethorpe area in the hope of locating more Tree Sparrows but despite an exhaustive search, failed in my quest. The only birds of note were Yellowhammers, several singing male COMMON WHITETHROATS and a pair of Red-legged Partridges at New Buildings Farm.
Sadly, a dead Badger was near Longland's Wood at SP 830 469.
HAVERSHAM WEIR AND LINFORD RESERVE (NORTH BUCKS)
I returned to Linford after receiving a call from Paul Moon that he had heard a COMMON CUCKOO - a species I was really struggling with this year. Following his directions, I quickly located the bird - a calling male - in Willows and trees bordering the north side of the reserve.
At Haversham Weir (SP 839 437), two COMMON SANDPIPERS were present, whilst in this vicinity and the north side of the reserve, 36 Mute Swans, COMMON SWIFT, 9 House Martins, 3 further male WESTERN REED WARBLERS, 2 SEDGE and 2 CETTI'S WARBLERS.
STEWARTBY LAKE (BEDS)
In 'Scrapyard Corner', Jim Gurney's EUROPEAN TURTLE DOVES were still present today, with the beautiful purring male affording excellent views as it perched on the telegraph wires viewable from the raised mounds. The area in which this pair has once again taken up territory is fully protected from disturbance and an extremely suitable site for breeding.
A male LESSER WHITETHROAT was 'rattling' nearby.
MARSTON VALE MILLENIUM PARK (BEDFORDSHIRE)
The drake GARGANEY remains present on Lagoon 9 whilst up to 11 HOBBIES were overflying the Poplars and railway of Rookery Pit and a male COMMON CUCKOO flew from the allotments to Lagoon 4. A few COMMON SWIFTS were overhead, along with an overall increase in HOUSE MARTINS, whilst one of the 9 reeling GRASSHOPPER WARBLERS on the reserve afforded exceptional views to Neil Wright and myself in the vicinity of the pylon. A wealth of other warblers present included 2 of the 8 CETTI'S WARBLERS and Western Reed, Sedge and Willow.
BROGBOROUGH LAKE (BEDS)
Neil and I visited Brogborough late afternoon and were surprised to see how well the juvenile GREAT NORTHERN DIVER was showing at the west end of the lake from the viewpoint. The reason soon became apparent - the bird was in serious distress. It had somehow swallowed a fishing line and had it entangled around its beak, green weed hanging from it. It repeatedly attempted to wash it off but obviously failed and after dipping its head in the water for a long period, eventually settled down and tried to rest. It closed its eyes and rested for 45 minutes or more whilst Darren Oakley-Martin very kindly tried to raise the RSPCA for a rescue. The RSPCA could not command a rescue boat unfortunately, certainly not until tomorrow morning, and we had to reluctantly leave the bird. It did perk up later and started fishing and diving but was always unsuccessful. It did seem quite strong.
The non-breeding flock of 21 Great Crested Grebes was still present and another calling male COMMON CUCKOO was recorded.
As I drove back towards home, a dead BARN OWL was lying in the central carriageway of the southbound M1 at Junction 10 - the Luton Airport turnoff.