Buckinghamshire is proving to be one of the strongholds of Firecrest in Britain and I am locating up to 50 singing males per summer in recent years. Mike McKee took these splendid images
BANK HOLIDAY MONDAY 3 MAY (WEEK 18)
Well, it certainly does not feel like the first week in May. I had to resort again to winter gloves today and throughout, the fresh Northeasterly wind was biting. Temperatures struggled to make double figures but at least it remained largely dry, with just the odd light shower.
With so many rares being 1 or 2 dayers of late, I decided to spend the day locally, catching up on vital survey work. It was a very rewarding day, climaxed with a new colony of FIRECRESTS and at the end by a purring EUROPEAN TURTLE DOVE - a very rare sight indeed locally these days........
CHESHAM FISHING LAKES (BUCKS)
Despite the torrential rain of Sunday, the two early fledged GREAT CRESTED GREBE chicks on the smaller of the two lakes survived and were both huddled snugly on mum's back under the overhanging Willow branches. Four of the Coot nests had also survived with the birds still sitting tight.
The most impressive sight, as with most water bodies inland at the moment, was of the large numbers of EUROPEAN BARN SWALLOWS hawking over the water - a total of 45 - one of the largest spring gatherings in my area. A total of 5 HOUSE MARTINS was also consorting with them.
Both the singing male WESTERN REED WARBLER and REED BUNTING were still present, in the small reedbeds on the north shore of the larger lake.
The single Mute Swan was still present, whilst a pair of Atlantic Canada Geese were accompanied by a brood of 12 goslings.
LATIMER HOUSE AND GREAT WATER (BUCKS)
Singing male Blackcaps included one by the parking area at the entrance to the Conference Centre and another in the wood just west of the complex, whilst a pair of Common Starlings was busy gathering food and flying to a nest hole in trees near Neptune Falls.
Just downstream of Neptune Falls, the female Mute Swan was still sitting on eggs, whilst on the main Great Water, 11 birds were present. There were also 22 Tufted Ducks present but no sign of any Little Grebes.
A Red Kite in heavy wing moult glided over whilst a pair of Common Buzzards were nesting in Lane Wood. A pair of LINNETS flew over.
PENN STREET AND WINCHMORE HILL (Tetrad work)
I surveyed the area from Pennstreet Farm, through Priestlands Wood and Tragoe's Plantation east to Coleshill Larches and West Wood and back through Winchmore Hill village.
At the tiny farm reservoir just NE of Pennstreet Farm, 3 EUROPEAN BARN SWALLOWS were perched on the wires and 'singing', whilst the trees bordering the road held 23 active Rook nests.
Priestlands Wood (SU 928 957) held 1 singing COMMON CHIFFCHAFF, 2 singing male Chaffinches and a nesting pair of Mistle Thrush, whilst Tragoe's Plantation (SU 933 957) held an additional singing male COMMON CHIFFCHAFF, a male Blackcap, a male Greenfinch, a pair of Great and Blue Tits and 2 Long-tailed Tits. The Chiltern Heritage Trail runs through these two woodlands and there was a healthy spread of flowering Bluebells. There were also 4 free-ranging Vulterine Guineafowl in the wood.
On the opposite side of the road, Coleshill Larches, Turner's Wood and West Wood (SU 930 955) held breeding Blue Tit (1 pair), European Robin (2 pairs), Common Blackbird (2 pairs) and Chaffinch (3 pairs), along with a singing male SONG THRUSH and a male Blackcap.
Winchmore Bottom itself yielded two displaying male Greenfinch, a pair of Goldfinch, 3 Wrens and Common Blackbird (5 breeding pairs), whilst the allotments across the road held a nesting pair of Robins and Long-tailed Tits.
PENN WOOD SSSI (BUCKS) (SU 915 960)
A detailed survey of all species present was undertaken with Common Chiffchaff, GARDEN WARBLER and FIRECREST being of prime importance. A total of 19 species was recorded -:
TAWNY OWL (4 nestboxes occupied, all with young)
Green Woodpecker (1 yaffling bird)
Great Spotted Woodpecker (1 nest found in Birches - pair busily feeding young)
Jay (1-2 pairs)
Common Blackbird (3 pairs)
European Robin (5+ pairs)
Wren (5 pairs)
Blackcap (singing male by main drove to Penna, with another in Rhododendron scrub and two further males in southern section)
GARDEN WARBLER (my first in the Recording Area this year, a single well-showing singing male in scrub by a cleared area to the west of the paddock area)
COMMON CHIFFCHAFF (a total of 7 singing males, with one up at the Goose Pond Gate end, two near the Penna, one 200 yards further west and two more in the Tyler Green Gate area, and another pair breeding)
WILLOW WARBLER (two singing males within yards of each other in Birches along the SE ride - only the 2nd-3rd birds in the Recording Area this spring)
GOLDCREST (3 singing males)
**FIRECREST (a new colony discovered, involving 5 singing males - all along the main ride west of the Penna with three in the Rhododendron tunnel and two more in tall conifers where the tracks all meet and it gets particularly muddy at the west end of the main ride. The birds were very low down in the foliage and showing exceptionally well and in full song and territorial display - fantastic. My first in the Recording Area this year but following the two wintering birds in Beaconsfield and another briefly at Shardeloes Lake)
Long-tailed Tit (2 pairs)
Great Tit (5= pairs)
Blue Tit (8+ pairs)
Coal Tit (at least 1 pair)
Nuthatch (not recorded today but usually present)
Chaffinch (6 pairs)
BULLFINCH (pair nesting in Birches along drove on southern flank)
Nearby, a pair of Pied Wagtails were breeding at the Industrial Estate in Penn Street.
BOXMOOR BRICKWORKS DISUSED PITS (HERTS) (TL 006 028)
In an attempt to add Common Cuckoo and European Turtle Dove to this year's Recording Area list, I made my annual pilgrimage to Bovingdon Green, but neither species was present yet. As usual, COMMON WHITETHROAT was present, with just 1 displaying male.
There were also 3 singing male Blackcaps and 2 singing male Common Chiffchaffs, whilst other species noted included Song Thrush (2 singing males), Common Blackbird, Long-tailed Tit and Great Tit.
Whilst I was failing to find Turtle Dove, Steve Rodwell was watching one..........
TOP SCRUB, IVINGHOE BEACON (BUCKS)
Joining Steve and Vicky and David Bilcock, all four of us listened intently to the sweet soft purring of a EUROPEAN TURTLE DOVE from dense Hawthorn scrub in the Top Scrub at Ivinghoe, 200 yards from the main car park. In the fierce NE wind and above the constant whine of aircraft after aircraft taxi-ing into Luton Airport, it was difficult to hear this distinctive sound of summer and after much searching, we all eventually obtained flight views of the bird.
Top Scrub also held 6 singing male GARDEN WARBLERS and 3 COMMON SWIFTS flew east.
CHAFFINCH HOUSE, LITTLE CHALFONT (BUCKS)
The first COMMON SWIFT of the year arrived this evening - circling the house and road at 2030 hours