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, 31 January 2010

GLAUCOUS GULL and FIRECREST top the list








SUNDAY 31 JANUARY

Well, the last day of January continued very much in the same vein as the entire month being another very cold day, with a sharp overnight frost followed by a clear, crisp day. I added just two new birds on this last day - Common Sandpiper and Firecrest.

STAINES RESERVOIRS (SURREY)

Thanks to Dave Morris, returned again today and finally secured the wintering COMMON SANDPIPER - feeding halfway along the causeway on the North Basin - my 159th species of the year. Just where it was yesterday, I really don't know....

Otherwise, very much as on yesterday's visit, but with the addition of 2 redhead SMEW (in the SW corner of the South Basin) and 3 RUDDY DUCKS, and many more wildfowl in general, including 29 Common Goldeneyes.

TYTTENHANGER GP (HERTS)

(1340 hours) Just a brief check of the main birding pit revealed the presence of 18 Greylag Geese and the 3 continuing (and early returning) COMMON SHELDUCKS - a drake and two females.

PRYOR'S WOOD, STEVENAGE (HERTS)

(1430-1500 hours) Just inside the third gate along Gresley Way. the extensive Holly bordering the road just yards inside Pryor's Wood quickly yielded the superb male FIRECREST discovered yesterday. By gently 'pishing', I was quickly able to make contact with the bird and as it came forward to investigate, enjoyed some outstanding views of what is undoubtedly one of the most charming birds there is. It kept mainly very low in the holly foliage, as well as occasionally in the leaf litter, but also moved higher into the canopy, particularly when a mixed flock of Coal, Blue, Great and Long-tailed Tits arrived. I phoned local birder Darrel Bryant who had struggled with the bird earlier in the afternoon and he rushed down to join me. Fortunately, I was able to keep with the bird and the two of us enjoyed outstanding views as it continued to flit from branch to branch, softly uttering its high-pitched 'zi-zi' notes. It was kept in view for half hour.

AMWELL NR (HERTS)

Thanks to a swift call from Jan Hein Steenis, and consequently Joan Thompson, I was able to react immediately to the juvenile GLAUCOUS GULL that Mike Ilett discovered as it flew in with pre-roosting gulls mid-afternoon.

Eighteen minutes later, I was at the Watchpoint - and at the site of the largest county gathering in a long time. There was a star-studded presence, with Mike and Jan alongside Barry Reed, Bill Last, Alan Stewart, Dan Forder, Alan Reynolds, Ian Bennell, Phil Ball, Graham Knight and many of the Amwell regulars - in fact, 28 persons in all.........

And the reason for this mass gathering - the juvenile GLAUCOUS GULL - showing very well, still standing on the ice when I first arrived. At 1540, it suddenly took flight and headed north pursued by a single Black-headed Gull. It gained height over the valley and then started to glide around before returning south and then decided to fly back down to the main lake. It landed again just north of the main island, this time on the water, but then returned to the ice, where it eventually sat down and remained until dusk. It was a fairly typical example of this northern species, being similar in size to the 7 Great Black-backed Gulls present, with coffee-brown spangled mantle, tertial and upperwing covert feathers, darker coffee head and breast feathering and contrasting pale creamier primary and outer flight feathers. The large, thick bill was distinctly pale pink-based, with a black 'blob-ended' tip, and the legs and feet comparatively long and dark pink.

As Barry Reed commented on site, the bird is most likely one of the four different individuals that have recently found Rainham Landfill to their liking. With the landfill closed on Sundays, this is the premier day for rare gulls to appear at Amwell, as individuals venture far and wide in search of food.

Amwell has repeatedly laid claim to being the best site for large white-headed gulls in the county, this being yet another example of Glaucous Gull I have for this site. There are few records elsewhere.

With so many eyes cast out over the reserve, it was unsurprising that the late afternoon period was so eventful. The list of sightings was as follows -:

Great Crested Grebe (8)
Continental Cormorant (32, many in full breeding attire)
*EURASIAN BITTERN (an outstanding showing, involving four different individuals - all at the reedbed fringe of the northern part of the main lake, some walking along the edge and out in the open and others climbing to the tops of the reeds before clumsily flying - and all eventually ending up in the reeds close to the boardwalk between hides.
LITTLE EGRET (4 in to roost)
Mute Swan (13 including four first-winters)
Mallard (77)
Gadwall (166)
Shovler (41)
Eurasian Wigeon (59)
Common Teal (12)
Northern Pochard (28)
RED-CRESTED POCHARD (2 females)
Tufted Duck (84)
COMMON GOLDENEYE (17 including 5 adult drakes)
*SMEW (4 present including an adult drake - all on main lake)
WATER RAIL (2)
Moorhen (27)
Coot (167)
Lapwing (238)
Common Snipe (1)
Black-headed Gull (200+)
Common Gull (94)
Argenteus and Argentatus Herring Gulls
Lesser Black-backed Gull (32)
Great Black-backed Gull (just 7)

CETTI'S WARBLER (1-2 by Watchpoint)
Reed Buntings (8)

Remaining very cold

SATURDAY 30 JANUARY

Another hard frost and another very cold day.

AYLESBURY (BUCKS)

Spent half an hour in Buckingham Road where Andrew Moon had watched a male Black Redstart feeding behind his dental surgery. There was nothing to be found in the rear of the buildings looking from 'Lucky Lane', although 15 Fieldfares flew over.

DEEP MILL POND (BUCKS)

No sign of the Great White Egret but 6 Little Grebes, 1 Grey Heron, 4 Coot and two female Tufted Ducks in situ.

STAINES MOOR (MIDDLESEX)

After a lengthy search, eventually located just 1 WATER PIPIT on the frozen flooded meadow just north of the river - my first of the year (158)

STAINES RESERVOIRS (SURREY)

I failed in my quest to locate the wintering Common Sandpiper but a GREEN SANDPIPER was showing well in the NW corner of the South Basin.

A single BLACK-NECKED GREBE was on the South Basin, along with 17 Great Crested Grebes and 26 Northern Pochard. On the North Basin adjacent, were 38 Shoveler, Gadwall, Wigeon, 18 Common Goldeneye and 3 Common Redshank.

STEPPINGLEY (BEDFORDSHIRE)

A covey of 7 Red-legged Partridges was feeding west of the Flitwick-Millbrook road at TL 017 365

JACKDAW HILL, LIDLINGTON (BEDFORDSHIRE) (at SP 997 380)

There was much Crossbill activity with a flock of 16 perched at one stage on top of the coniferous trees of Blackhafields Plantation. The vast majority were typical COMMON CROSSBILLS but two birds - both female types - were particularly interesting. The call was very low and gutteral, not jipping in any way, and very Parrot Crossbill in tone, and the birds were thick-headed and had no overlap in the bill. Both birds were photographed. It seems likely that they were of 'eastern' origin.

SISKIN were also much in evidence, with some good views obtained - a Great Spotted Woodpecker flew by.

ROOKERY PIT SOUTH (BEDFORDSHIRE)

Following Roy Nye's instruction, located 6 redhead SMEW on the reedbed edge at the west side of the flooded pit. There were also 27 Mute Swans present, along with good numbers of dabbling duck and an impressive 434 Common Gulls, mostly breeding-plumaged adults.

STEWARTBY LAKE (BEDFORDSHIRE)

The long-staying juvenile GREAT NORTHERN DIVER was up by the gull watchpoint and roll-preening, whilst Great Crested Grebe numbered just 57 (massive decrease), 5 Little Grebe were noted and 2 Gadwall.

A large gull roost included 3.500 Black-headed, 300 Common, 400 Herring and just 35 Great Black-backed, and a single adult YELLOW-LEGGED GULL (but no Meds).

Two COMMON KINGFISHERS showed well.

BROGBOROUGH LAKE (BEDFORDSHIRE)
(with Neil Wright) (1610-1700 hours)

The adult drake SMEW was close to the east end and Windsurfing Centre, along with 22 Great Crested Grebes, 6 Little Grebe, 33 Common Goldeneye and the continuing juvenile GREAT NORTHERN DIVER (the latter showing very well from the watchpoint).

Black-headed Gulls picked up towards dusk but again failed to contain either of the two adult Mediterranean Gulls Roy Nye had discovered during the week; 173 Common Gulls and just 3 Great Black-backed Gulls roosted.

Saturday, 30 January 2010

The List so far

2010 UK Year List - LGRE

1) Little Grebe, Great Water, Bucks, 1 January;
2) Atlantic Great Cormorant (Sinensis), Staines Moor, Middlesex, 1 January;
3) Grey Heron, Chesham Fishing Lakes, Bucks, 1 January
4) Little Egret, Chess River Valley, Bucks, 1 January;
5) Mute Swan, Chesham, Bucks, 1 January;
6) Atlantic Canada Goose, Latimer, Bucks, 1 January;
7) Mallard, Chesham, Bucks, 1 January;
8) Gadwall, Shardeloes Lake, Bucks, 1 January;
9) Northern Pochard, Great Water, Bucks, 1 January;
10) Tufted Duck, Great Water, Bucks, 1 January;
11) Red Kite, Chesham, Bucks, 1 January;
12) Common Buzzard, M25 Junction 17, Herts, 1 January;
13) Common Kestrel, M25 Junction 17, Herts, 1 January;
14) Common Pheasant, Old Amersham, Bucks, 1 January;
15) Moorhen, Chenies Bottom, Bucks, 1 January;
16) Eurasian Coot, Great Water, Bucks, 1 January;
17) Lapwing, Staines Moor, Middlesex, 1 January;
18) Common Redshank, Staines Moor, Middlesex, 1 January;
19) Common Snipe, Staines Moor, Middlesex, 1 January;
20) Black-headed Gull, Staines Moor, Middlesex, 1 January;
21) Common Gull, Shardeloes Lake, Bucks, 1 January;
22) Woodpigeon, Staines Moor, Middlesex, 1 January;
23) Stock Dove, Latimer Hall, Bucks, 1 January;
24) Eurasian Collared Dove, Staines Moor, Middlesex, 1 January;
25) Tawny Owl, Brook Wood Penn, Bucks, 1 January;
26) Common Kingfisher, Chenies Bottom, Bucks, 1 January;
27) Ring-necked Parakeet, Stanwell Moor, Middlesex, 1 January;
28) Green Woodpecker, Staines Moor, Middlesex, 1 January;
29) Meadow Pipit, Staines Moor, Middlesex, 1 January;
30) Pied Wagtail, Stanwell Moor, Middlesex, 1 January;
31) Dunnock, Chenies Bottom, Bucks, 1 January;
32) European Robin, Staines Moor, Middlesex, 1 January;
33) Common Stonechat, Staines Moor, Middlesex, 1 January;
34) Song Thrush, Staines Moor, Middlesex, 1 January;
35) Redwing, Staines Moor, Middlesex, 1 January;
36) Mistle Thrush, Latimer Hall, Bucks, 1 January;
37) Fieldfare, Staines Moor, Middlesex, 1 January;
38) Common Blackbird, Staines Moor, Middlesex, 1 January;
39) Goldcrest, Penn Wood, Bucks, 1 January;
40) Great Tit, Staines Moor, Middlesex, 1 January;
41) Coal Tit, Latimer Hall, Bucks, 1 January;
42) Blue Tit, Staines Moor, Middlesex, 1 January;
43) Long-tailed Tit, Brook Wood Penn, Bucks, 1 January;
44) Nuthatch, Latimer Hall, Bucks, 1 January;
45) ASIATIC BROWN SHRIKE, Staines Moor, Middlesex, 1 January;
46) Common Magpie, Staines Moor, Middlesex, 1 January;
47) Jay, Staines Moor, Middlesex, 1 January;
48) Jackdaw, Chenies, Bucks, 1 January;
49) Rook, Chesham, Bucks, 1 January;
50) Carrion Crow, Staines Moor, Middlesex, 1 January;
51) Common Starling, Staines Moor, Middlesex, 1 January;
52) House Sparrow, Chesham, Bucks, 1 January;
53) Chaffinch, Staines Moor, Middlesex, 1 January;
54) Goldfinch, Staines Moor, Middlesex, 1 January;
55) Greenfinch, Latimer, Bucks, 1 January;
56) Bullfinch, Old Amersham, Bucks, 1 January
57) Green Sandpiper, East Hyde, Beds, 2 January
58) Common Teal, East Hyde, Beds, 2 January
59) Eurasian Sparrowhawk, East Hyde, Beds, 2 January;
60) Wren, East Hyde, Beds, 2 January;
61) Grey Wagtail, East Hyde, Beds, 2 January;
62) Great Northern Diver (2), Brogborough Lake, Beds, 2 January;
63) Great Crested Grebe, Brogborough Lake, Beds, 2 January;
64) Red-crested Pochard, Brogborough Lake, Beds, 2 January;
65) Greater Scaup, Brogborough Lake, Beds, 2 January;
66) Common Goldeneye, Brogborough Lake, Beds, 2 January;
67) Lesser Black-backed Gull, Brogborough Lake, Beds, 2 January;
68) Greylag Goose, Newport Pagnell, Bucks, 2 January;
69) Goosander, River Ouse at Newport Pagnell, Bucks, 2 January;
70) Wigeon, Newport Pagnell GP, Bucks, 2 January;
71) Yellowhammer, Little Linford Wood, Bucks, 2 January;
72) Common Treecreeper, Little Linford Wood, Bucks, 2 January;
73) Marsh Tit, Little Linford Wood, Bucks, 2 January;
74) RING-NECKED DUCK, Foxcote Reservoir, Bucks, 2 January;
75) Shoveler, Foxcote Reservoir, Bucks, 2 January;
76) European Herring Gull, Wilstone Reservoir, Herts, 2 January;
77) Cetti’s Warbler, Marsworth Reservoir, Herts, 2 January;
78) Reed Bunting, Marsworth Reservoir, Herts, 2 January;
79) Corn Bunting, Marsworth Reservoir, Herts, 2 January;
80) Water Rail, Marsworth Reservoir, Herts, 2 January;
81) European Golden Plover, Marsworth Reservoir, Herts, 2 January;
82) Eurasian Bittern, Marsworth Reservoir, Herts, 2 January
83) Peregrine, Aylesbury County Hall, Bucks, 3 January;
84) Whooper Swan, Nlackthorn Water Meadows, Oxon, 3 January;
85) Bewick’s Swan, Blackthorn Water Meadows, Oxon, 3 January;
86) Ruff (2), Blackthorn Water Meadows, Oxon, 3 January;
87) Great Black-backed Gull, Blackthorn Meadows, Oxon, 3 January;
88) Little Owl, A12 Billericay, Essex, 3 January;
89) Linnet, Abberton Reservoir, Essex, 3 January;
90) Smew (3 drakes), Abberton Reservoir, Essex, 3 January;
91) Woodcock, Marks Tey, Essex, 3 January;
92) Eurasian White-fronted Goose, Newport Pagnell, North Bucks, 4 January;
93) GREAT WHITE EGRET (2 birds), Pitsford Reservoir, Northamptonshire, 4 January;
94) Barn Owl, Linford NR, North Bucks, 4 January;
95) Pintail, Ibsley Water, Hampshire, 5 January;
96) Black-tailed Godwit, Ibsley Water, Hampshire, 5 January;
97) Dark-bellied Brent Goose, Stanpit Marsh, Dorset, 5 January;
98) Common Shelduck, Stanpit Marsh, Dorset, 5 January;
99) Oystercatcher, Stanpit Marsh, Dorset, 5 January;
100) Pied Avocet, Stanpit Marsh, Dorset, 5 January;
101) Spotted Redshank, Stanpit Marsh, Dorset, 5 January;
102) Eurasian Curlew, Stanpit Marsh, Dorset, 5 January;
103) Bar-tailed Godwit, Stanpit Marsh, Dorset, 5 January;
104) Grey Plover, Stanpit Marsh, Dorset, 5 January;
105) Dunlin, Stanpit Marsh, Dorset, 5 January;
106) Rock Pipit, Stanpit Marsh, Dorset, 5 January;
107) Eurasian Skylark, Wallingford, Oxon, 6 January;
108) Jack Snipe, East Hyde, Herts, 8 January;
109) Grey Partridge, Lilley Manor Farm, Herts, 8 January;
110) Great Spotted Woodpecker, Penn Wood, Bucks, 9 January;
111) Common Crossbill, Penn Wood, Bucks, 9 January;
112) Lesser Redpoll, Penn Wood, Bucks, 9 January;
113) Brambling (83), Penn Wood, Bucks, 9 January;
114) Ruddy Duck, Stocker’s Lake, Herts, 10 January;
115) Grey Partridge, Hatch, Bedfordshire, 10 January;
116) Mandarin Duck, Flitwick Sewage Treatment Works, Beds, 10 January;
117) Glaucous Gull (juvenile), Calvert Sailing Lake, Bucks, 10 January;
118) Caspian Gull (adult), Calvert Sailing Lake, Bucks, 10 January;
119) Yellow-legged Gull, Calvert Sailing Lake, Bucks, 10 January;
120) Common Chiffchaff, River Colne at Broadwater Sailing Club, Herts, 11 January;
121) Siberian Chiffchaff, River Colne at Broadwater Sailing Club, Herts, 11 January;
122) Siskin, Stockers Lake, Herts, 11 January;
123) Tree Sparrow, Tyttenhanger Farm, Herts, 11 January;
124) Red-legged Partridge, Tyttenhanger Farm, Herts, 11 January;
125) Egyptian Goose, Burnham Beeches NNR, Bucks, 13 January;
126) Pink-footed Goose, Radwell GP, Beds, 17 January;
127) Taiga Bean Goose (3), Radwell GP, Beds, 17 January;
128) Velvet Scoter (2 immature drakes), Grafham Water, Cambridgeshire, 17 January;
129) Red-breasted Merganser, William Girling Reservoir, London, 18 January;
130) Black-necked Grebe (24), William Girling Reservoir, London, 18 January
131) Black-throated Diver, William Girling Reservoir, London, 18 January;
132) Common Raven, Lewes, East Sussex, 21 January;
133) Tundra Bean Goose (7), Aston, Oxfordshire, 22 January;
134) ROSE-COLOURED STARLING, Forest Hill, Oxfordshire, 23 January;
135) BLACK-THROATED THRUSH, Newholm village, North Yorkshire, 24 January;
136) Red-throated Diver, Scalby Mills, North Yorkshire, 24 January;
137) Northern Gannet, Scalby Mills, North Yorkshire, 24 January;
138) Northern Fulmar, Scalby Mills, North Yorkshire, 24 January;
139) Common Guillemot, Scalby Mills, North Yorkshire, 24 January;
140) European Shag, Scalby Mills, North Yorkshire, 24 January;
141) Turnstone, Scalby Mills, North Yorkshire, 24 January;
142) Common Eider, Filey Brigg, North Yorkshire, 24 January;
143) Long-tailed Duck (3), Filey Brigg, North Yorkshire, 24 January;
144) Common Scoter, Filey Brigg, North Yorkshire, 24 January;
145) Purple Sandpiper (24), Filey Brigg, North Yorkshire, 24 January;
146) Ringed Plover, Filey Brigg, North Yorkshire, 24 January;
147) Red Knot, Filey Brigg, North Yorkshire, 24 January;
148) Razorbill, Filey Brigg, North Yorkshire, 24 January;
149) Pale-bellied Brent Goose (22), Flamborough Head, East Yorkshire, 24 January;
150) Long-eared Owl (5), Bedfordshire, 25 January;
151) Slavonian Grebe, Rainham Marsh RSPB, London, 25 January;
152) RED-BREASTED GOOSE, Wallasea Island Wetland, Essex, 25 January;
153) Black Brant, Wallasea Island Wetland, Essex, 25 January;
154) Common Greenshank, Wallasea Island Wetland, Essex, 25 January;
155) Mediterranean Gull (3), Wilstone Reservoir, Tring, Herts, 26 January;
156) RING-BILLED GULL, Westcliffe-on-Sea, Essex, 29 January;
157) Northern Grey Shrike, Chislehampton, Oxfordshire, 29 January;

Friday, 29 January 2010

RING-BILLED GULL and NORTHERN GREY SHRIKE added in freezing northerly winds


























Steve Arlow took the Westcliffe Ring-billed Gull images above and Adam Hartley those of today's Northern Grey Shrike and Portmeadow Red Knot in Oxfordshire


FRIDAY 29 JANUARY

I had limited time today so target birding was the order. Just as well in some respects, as the northerly wind was bitingly cold. Although the temperature reached 6 degrees C, it felt more like minus 3. It was mainly dry and clear, with the odd wintry shower.

WESTCLIFF-ON-SEA (ESSEX)

Timed my visit to coincide with high tide and at midday was very pleased to see an old faithful - the adult winter RING-BILLED GULL which I now believe is back for its 11th winter. The bird was showing fabulously well, down to 20 yards on the groynes, and was in fine fettle, very easily picked out from an assortment of Common Gulls by its thicker yellow bill with strong black band, larger size and structure, paler grey mantle and striking pale, pearl-coloured eye. It also lacked the prominent white primary windows of Common Gull (being largely uniform black on the outer feathers) and had much paler leg colour.

Wembley birder John Fordham was delighted, as it was a new bird for him. I was delighted too - it representing my 156th species of 2010. However, 'Rossi' seemed relatively uninterested in my prestige Orange & Lemon Chequers but they were snapped up by the flock of 37 Turnstones on the ramp !

As usual, the bird was favouring the beach and groynes 50 yards west of the Rossi's Ice Cream Parlour and restaurant on the esplanade. Three adult MEDITERRANEAN GULLS were also present and showing well, one bird already acquiring much of its summer hood.

Just offshore, a BLACK-THROATED DIVER was showing well.

Parking on the esplanade costs 80p per hour.

Driving back, a LITTLE EGRET was standing by a small pool on the south side of the A12, just west of the M25 junction.

CHISELHAMPTON (OXFORDSHIRE)

At approximately SU 582 988, north of the B4015 and half a mile west of Chislehampton village, a NORTHERN GREY SHRIKE was favouring a line of Hawthorns and hedgerow for a second day. From 1445-1515 hours, the bird was showing well in the afternoon sunshine at 80 yards range from the road. I sat and joined Adam Hartley in the freezing wind and he both videoed and photographed the bird (see his images above). At one stage, the bird dropped down on to the ground and reappeared with a Bank Vole (Clethrionomys glareolus) in its beak, which it then carried 30 yards along the hedgerow and after several pecks, impaled it on a branch. It then started to eat it.

PORT MEADOW FLOODS, OXFORD (OXON)

My last port of call was Adam Hartley's local patch which was in full winter flood. There were large numbers of birds present, including 560 Wigeon, 220 Teal and 280 Greylag Geese, as well as 3,000 or more Black-headed Gulls, 450 Lesser Black-backed Gulls and smaller numbers of Common, Herring and Great Black-backed Gulls (28).

Most noteworthy were a single Great Crested Grebe, 3 PINTAIL (two drakes), 8 Coot, 200 Lapwing, 3 European Golden Plover, a single Common Redshank and best of all - 4 RED KNOTS (present for their second day).

Small birds were represented by 5 Meadow Pipits and 12 Pied Wagtails

South Coast rambling


THURSDAY 28 JANUARY

Another cold day and another very grey day

MANSFIELD FARM, UXBRIDGE (BUCKS)

A RED KITE was being harassed by a Carrion Crow just west of the M25 at 0807 hours.

Single LITTLE EGRETS were seen in Sussex just north of Burgess Hill at 0913 and in fields with cattle south of the A281 just west of Clappers Lane in Poynings.

SEVEN SISTERS COUNTRY PARK (EAST SUSSEX)

The solitary female GREATER SCAUP was showing very well on the easternmost of the two small lagoons 100 yards SE of the Golden Galleon restaurant/pub and just east of the river, easily visible from the footpath that leads south alongside the river from the pub car park.

IVY LAKE AND WESTHAMPNETT LAKES COMPLEX (WEST SUSSEX)

The most significant event was the huge numbers of Common Coots on these lakes, presumably birds which dispersed from sites further north and east during the freeze. Sample counts included 796 on Ivy Lake, Chichester, and 522 on Westhampnett Sailing Lake.

LANGSTONE HARBOUR/BUDDS FARM (HAMPSHIRE)

Spent 45 minutes 'scoping the harbour from the Budds Farm mound, with the following species encountered -:

Great Crested Grebes (14)
Little Grebe (11)
*BLACK-NECKED GREBE (a tightly-knit flock of 19 birds, all diving simultaneously, west of Hayling Oyster Beds)
Dark-bellied Brent Geese (86)
Common Shelducks (330)
Eurasian Wigeon, Common Teal, Gadwall and Shoveler but no sign of the North American Green-winged Teal, particularly on Budds Farm
Common Goldeneye (24)
Red-breasted Merganser (33)
*VELVET SCOTER (first-winter drake in the main channel west of Hayling Oyster Beds)

Large numbers of waders feeding on the ebbing tide, including Oystercatchers, Eurasian Curlews, Common Redshank, 55 Grey Plover, 35 Black-tailed Godwits, 15 Bar-tailed Godwits, a few Red Knot and 2,700+ Dunlin.

HASLAR CREEK AND WALPOLE PARK LAKE, GOSPORT (HAMPSHIRE)

No sign of the adult Ring-billed Gull late afternoon but 9 Common Gulls, 5 argenteus Herring Gulls and 18 Dark-bellied Brent Geese.

HMS SULTAN PLAYING FIELDS

The adult BLACK BRANT was showing very well with 288 Dark-bellied Brent Geese just north of the roundabout on the south end of the playing fields.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

43 county MANDARIN DUCKS accounted for....and a bumper crop of COMMON CROSSBILLS




WEDNESDAY 27 JANUARY

Up until early afternoon, it was freezing, with a raw wind keeping temperatures below 3 degrees C. Then, as the afternoon progressed, a 'warm front' crossed the region bringing overcast conditions and light rain, and a rise of four degrees.

I spent the day local, primarily with the aim of censusing the Mandarin Duck population in South Bucks.

BURNHAM BEECHES NR (BUCKS)

The woodland held Nuthatch, 2 Coal Tits, Jay and Long-tailed Tits, with the Upper Lake harbouring an excellent count of 30 MANDARIN DUCKS (exactly 15 pairs), now that the ice has melted.

BLACK PARK COUNTRY PARK (SOUTH BUCKS)

The main lake held a total of 13 MANDARIN DUCKS (7 drakes), along with 2 adult Mute Swans, 66 Mallard, 9 Northern Pochard, 11 Tufted Duck and 36 Coots.

Just NW of the car park, in the Larches and Conifers, Geoff Young, his brother and I enjoyed fabulous views of a marvellous flock of finches, including 29 COMMON CROSSBILLS (including 16 males), 37 SISKIN, 12 LESSER REDPOLL and 3 Goldfinch. A Eurasian Sparrowhawk shot through the canopy and panicked the birds in all directions.

Two GOLDCREST were also encountered, as well as 2 Jays, 2 Fieldfares and Great Spotted Woodpecker.

FULMER LAKE (SOUTH BUCKS)

An excellent crop of wildfowl on the main lake just SW of Low Farm, including 14 Atlantic Canada Geese, 4 Gadwall (2 pairs), 30 Eurasian Wigeon, 12 Shoveler, 1 Common Teal and 4 Tufted Ducks, along with 1 Moorhen and 2 Coot, whilst the gull roost held a single adult Great Black-backed Gull, a single adult argenteus Herring Gull and 57 Common Gulls. There was also a flock of 30 Redwing present.

CHESS RIVER VALLEY (BUCKS)

Again, no sign of the Great White Egret in a very extensive search but 7 LITTLE EGRETS seen, with 1 in the stream by Bois Mill Lake, 2 around Latimer Bridge, 2 by Chenies Bottom Bridge with one fishing on the river inside Mill Farm House garden and a 7th at the Crestyl Watercress Beds.

A GREEN SANDPIPER was also showing well for a second day at the Watercress Beds, the first COMMON SNIPE of the year also being seen by JT yesterday.

Mute Swans (6 adults on the river at Chenies Bottom, with another adult at Latimer Bridge, a territorial pair on Bois Mill Lake and a further adult close to the cressbed)
Grey Heron (2)
COMMON TEAL (2 at Church Covert LNR - the only reliable site for this species in the valley)
Mallard (4 at Church Covert LNR)
Red Kite (1)
Common Kestrel (1 hunting over Mill Farm Meadow)
Moorhen (8 at the Watercress Bed)
WATER RAIL (1 in Church Covert)
Great Spotted Woodpecker (2 at the orchid reserve)
Green Woodpecker (1 at Church Covert)
Wren (2)
Common Blackbird (6 in the hedgerow bordering the cressbed)
Redwing (just 1 noted - in Church Covert)
Common Magpie (9 together at Church Covert)
Long-tailed Tit (7)

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

An impressive gull roost at Wilstone




TUESDAY 26 JANUARY

With a raw easterly wind blowing, temperatures dropped considerably this afternoon, and by dusk had decreased from 5 degrees to just 1.5 degrees C. Blue skies predominated, along with prolonged winter sunshine.

Did my late January counts of the Chess Valley and Tring Reservoirs, with the Wilstone gull roost highlighting..........

BROCKWELL PARK (LONDON SE24)

At least 200 REDWINGS were feeding together on the east side of the park adjacent to Norwood Road.

CHESS RIVER VALLEY (BUCKS)

There was no sign of the Great White Egret again but LITTLE EGRETS numbered 5, including one showing well in the roadside stream by Bois Mill Lake and two in ditches close to the road just east of Latimer Bridge.

Sadly, yet another BADGER was run over last night on Latimer Road, one from the regular sett, killed at SU 993 987.

At Chesham Fishing Lakes along Waterside, 2 adult Mute Swans have moved in, with 8 Mallard, 10 Tufted Ducks and 28 Coot for company and an impressive 7 adult drake NORTHERN POCHARDS. A stolen Astra has been driven on to the site and burned out.

THE TRING RESERVOIRS (HERTS)

There was no sign of yesterday's drake Goosander on Tringford nor could I locate the three Pintail on Wilstone. In fact, duck numbers were well down in general, especially Shoveler.

STARTOP'S END RESERVOIR: of note were 1 Great Crested Grebe, 5 Mute Swans (including 1 first-winter), 24 Teal, 4 Shoveler, 43 Pochards and 76 Coot.

TRINGFORD RESERVOIR: a further 2 adult Mute Swans and another Great Crested Grebe.

MARSWORTH RESERVOIR: a post-roost gathering of 54 CORN BUNTINGS in the tall tree on the south side. Two Great Crested Grebes back now that the ice has melted but no Shoveler.

WILSTONE RESERVOIR

Wildfowl numbers were well down on recent visits with just 257 Eurasian Wigeon, 184 Common Teal and 8 Shoveler, whilst Great Crested Grebes had declined to just 8. The two Little Grebes were still present, whilst roosting Cormorants numbered a high 63 and 5 COMMON GOLDENEYES included 5 adult drakes.

It was the gull roost that took my main attention and carefully 'scoping them one-by-one and click-counting between 1630 and 1700 hours revealed the presence of an outstanding 4,398 birds.

Black-headed Gulls totalled 4,222, including several already moulted into breeding plumage, along with 173 COMMON GULLS (51 immatures) and 3 MEDITERRANEAN GULLS (including an adult with some black coming through on the forehead and two second-winters). The latter constituted my first of the year. Two of the birds have been photographed by David Bilcock and are published above.

Monday, 25 January 2010

An owl and goose fest






















MONDAY 25 JANUARY

A very gloomy day, with ashen skies, low cloud, poor visibility and a cold wind. Temperatures struggled to get above 5 degrees C.

HERTFORDSHIRE

No less than 5 wintering LONG-EARED OWLS were roosting in one ivy-clad tree. Three of us enjoyed fabulous views of two of the birds as they sat out in full view in the scrub and what gorgeous birds these special owls are. One pair bred in the neighbouring wood last summer and I am guessing this party includes the sole surviving youngster. Sadly, Long-eared Owls are susceptible to disturbance, and the location of these five must remain a secret.

A single cronking COMMON RAVEN was also welcome, whilst 3 BULLFINCH and 3 RED KITES were also noted.

Thanks to Paul Anness, I was also finally able to add Red-legged Partridge to my 2010 Bedfordshire List with two coveys of 58 and 20 feeding in the large crop fields either side of the Hexton-Lilley road north of Mortgrove Farm at TL 107 285. Two Common Buzzards were hunting the partridges but were unsuccessful - the birds all running at breakneck speed into the safety of the hedgerow.

......The Latter part of the day was spent in ESSEX

RAINHAM MARSH (ESSEX/LONDON)

Prime target bird here was the SLAVONIAN GREBE, which was showing impeccably well in the main narrow dyke that runs parallel with the cycleway/footpath, adjacent to the reclaimed landfill hump, about a mile west of the RSPB centre and 350 yards west of the 'Serin Mound'. The bird was incredibly photogenic and represented my 152nd species of the year.

A juvenile GLAUCOUS GULL (with surprisingly white primary tips and the fourth individual in three weeks at the reserve) was roosting with the large number of gulls on the fields west of Aveley Pools, whilst the two TUNDRA BEAN GEESE and a single BARNACLE GOOSE were with 140 Greylag Geese in the grass fields 300 yards north of the 'Serin Mound'.

There was no sign of either Serin or of the Goldfinches, but 55 Linnet were in the vicinity. On the main pools, Common Shelducks were in surprising number.

WALLASEA ISLAND WETLANDS (ESSEX)

Arrived mid afternoon in the car park and after a FOUR mile hike east then southeast along the seawall eventually tracked down the geese flock in the grass fields inland of the raised bank. Talk about mobile and restless - a week of being chased around by a concerned farmer protecting his crop has really taken a toll and boy were they wary.

As dusk was approaching, and the light conditions were appalling, I managed to conceal myself on the bank and click-counted a massive 1,706 geese in the flock - including 1,702 Dark-bellied Brent, 2 Pale-bellied Brent, an adult BLACK BRANT and an adult RED-BREASTED GOOSE. There were also 7 adult BEWICK'S SWANS in the fields and a COMMON GREENSHANK flew up noisily from one of the scrapes as I walked back to the car. Three well-earned year-ticks.
Jeff Delve and Steve Arlow obtained the goose images above.

BLACK-THROATED THRUSH - a YORKSHIRE tick



First-winter female Black-throated Thrush, Mires Road, Newholm Village, Whitby, North Yorkshire, January 2010 (Craig Shaw)

SUNDAY 24 JANUARY

For the first time this year, a day of ‘target birding’ – with a visit to North Yorkshire, primarily to see the long-staying first-winter female Black-throated Thrush. Alan Stewart was driving, and Joan Thompson was joining us. We departed at 0400 hours from Chorleywood, and after visiting a host of coastal sites, it was a very productive day with the addition of 15 species to my 2010 Year List.

CHORLEYWOOD (HERTS)

At 0400 hours, a Robin was in full song in the artificial street lights.

NEWHOLM, WHITBY (NORTH YORKSHIRE)

Newholm was 267 miles from Chorleywood and after departing at 0400 hours, we eventually arrived in the village just west of Whitby at 0835. My first ever Yorkshire BLACK-THROATED THRUSH was seen within 15 minutes of arrival in the village, flying in to the tree in the front garden of No.3 Mires Road (Danesfield). It afforded extremely good views at just 20 yards range and sat there for 7 minutes before being chased off by a House Sparrow.

Twenty minutes later, it reappeared in the same tree and after a few minutes, dropped down on to the lawn and started feeding on the apples and dried mealworms placed out for it by the householders. The neighbouring garden of no. 5 (Glen View) was also stocked full of food and over the next two hours, the bird repeatedly returned to take full advantage, and treated the crowd (made up of around 25 persons, including Justin Lansdell from Norfolk) to some exceptional views.

The pointed shape of the tail feathers indicated that this bird was a first-winter female, the bird in general being very pale grey on the upperparts, with very black lores, white underparts and a heavily streaked breast and flanks. The bill was dull yellow towards the base.

On two occasions, it uttered a rather Fieldfare-like ‘chuckle’ as it flew.

It was a rather bold individual, brazenly taking up territory in the gardens despite the presence of up to 4 Common Blackbirds including an adult male, and frequently perched on the fence and sat for several minutes at a time in the shrubs. In this manner, it was very photogenic, and every time it appeared, the sound of clattering shutters could be heard.

Previous Yorkshire records:

1) A first-winter in Sheffield Botanical Gardens on 9, 19 and 20 January 1987;
2) A first-winter at Knaresborough from 1-8 January 1989;
3) A male at Kellington from 28 January to 4 February 1990;
4) A first-winter at Redmires Reservoir, Sheffield, on 13 November 1995;
5) A first-winter female remained in Buckton from 25-27 March 2007 (fully documented by Mark Thomas & Dave Wardby in Yorkshire Birding 16: 25-27.

Gracing the gardens of Mires Road with the star performer above were a MARSH TIT, a Coal Tit, several Blue Tits, 4 Common Blackbirds, 3 Dunnocks and 20 House Sparrows.

A badly oiled Little Auk was lying at the roadside of Mires Road, apparently picked up initially on Monday.

SCALBY MILLS (NORTH YORKSHIRE)

(1050 hours) The bay at Scalby Mills yielded 6 year-ticks – Red-throated Diver, Gannet, Fulmar, Common Guillemot, European Shag and Turnstone.

At least 5 RED-THROATED DIVERS were close inshore, with 7 adult Northern Gannets streaming south, 6 Northern Fulmars (and a further 10+ pairs on the cliffs along the Promenade), a mass of wildfowl on the sea including 500+ Eurasian Wigeon, Common Teal and 2 drake Northern Pintail, a Common Guillemot, 15+ Atlantic Great Cormorants, a single European Shag, 49 Lapwing and 4 Turnstones. A Harbour Porpoise swan north.

FILEY BRIGG (NORTH YORKSHIRE)

Another 7 year-ticks afforded by this prestige coastal site – Common Eider, Long-tailed Duck, Common Scoter, Purple Sandpiper, Ringed Plover, Red Knot and Razorbill.

15 Oystercatchers and a group of 5 Common Redshank were feeding in the pools in the clifftop car park. Viewing from the eastern tip of the Brigg footpath, a calm sea yielded 1 Great Crested Grebe, 15 RED-THROATED DIVERS, 30 European Shags, 15 Northern Gannets, Northern Fulmars, 2 drake Eurasian Wigeon, 2 female Red-breasted Mergansers, a female Common Goldeneye, 45 Northern Eiders, 7 LONG-TAILED DUCKS (including a fine drake), 90 Common Scoters and 2 female-type VELVET SCOTERS. There were also 60+ Common Guillemots and at least 2 Razorbills.

The Brigg itself and its rocky pools produced 5 Seals, 15 Oystercatchers, 70 Red Knot, up to 24 PURPLE SANDPIPERS, 1 Grey Plover, 60 Dunlin, 3 Ringed Plovers and several Turnstones.

The clifftop grass held 5 Rock Pipits and 7 Meadow Pipits.

BUCKTON CLIFFTOP FIELDS (EAST YORKSHIRE)

We trudged around the clifftop stubble fields for over an hour but there was just no sign of the large flock of 170 Corn, 22 Lapland and 30 Snow Bunting that Mark Thomas and others had seen in early January before the snow. We could only muster up 7 CORN BUNTINGS, 7 Yellowhammers, 25 Skylark, 15 Rock Pipits and 40 Linnets, although a WOODCOCK was a pleasant surprise, 10 GREY PARTRIDGE were welcome and a PEREGRINE skimmed by. A single Brown Hare was also seen.

Offshore, well over 100 Northern Gannets were loafing, as well as large numbers of Fulmars, with 150 or more Common Gulls in the fields.

FLAMBOROUGH HEAD (EAST YORKSHIRE)

Just west of Old Fall Hedgerow and in the second field down, a single TUNDRA BEAN GOOSE was showing well with 37 Greylag Geese. Just under half a mile further west, and south of the Head road, a further TUNDRA BEAN GOOSE was seen with 28 Greylag Geese and a superb flock of 22 PALE-BELLIED BRENT GEESE present for their third week and representing my 15th new bird of the day.

At the Head itself, offshore were 15 Common Scoter, a single drake Common Eider, 200+ Common Guillemots and large numbers of Northern Gannets.

HEMEL HEMPSTEAD (HERTFORDSHIRE)

On the way home, we stopped off at the ‘Magic Roundabout’ in Hemel town centre, where at 2000 hours, the adult female PEREGRINE was to be easily located, roosting on its usual pillar.

An extremely enjoyable day, forwarding my year-list for 2010 to 150 species.

Saturday, 23 January 2010

WATER RAILS feature high, whilst Oxon yields 49 White-fronts and a wintering ROSY PASTOR
















SATURDAY 23 JANUARY

A dry day, but overcast and still rather cold - temperatures in the afternoon struggling to a high of 7 degrees centigrade. Light winds.

A relatively local day, with a morning search for the Chess Valley GWE, a visit to Forest Hill for the Rosy Pastor and a failed attempt at the regular Merlin. Water Rail was the bird of the day, with no less than 8 seen.

CHESS RIVER VALLEY (BUCKS/HERTS)

At Latimer Bridge, LITTLE EGRETS tallied 4 (with 8 in the valley all told - per Ben Miller, Mike Ilett), with 11 Mute Swans including an adult and two first-winters just west of Latimer Bridge, an adult and first-winter and two adults in the Church Covert area and four adults east of Chenies Bottom Bridge. My visit at the latter site coincided with a shoot, with most birds flying out, but Grey Wagtail and 2 Greenfinch were encountered.

At Sarratt Mill House, 9 Moorhens were on the lawn, with Stock Dove and Nuthatch within the grounds, with 1+ RING-NECKED PARAKEET in the area.

A WATER RAIL was seen in the shallow stream just east of the bridge - my first of the day.

SCOTSBRIDGE MILL (HERTS)

Joan Thompson and I decided to have a search for the Jack and Common Snipe that Paul Lewis and Steve Carter had flushed at Scotsbridge a week ago. We did not find the Jack Snipes but did find an exceptional number of wintering WATER RAILS - 8 in total - all frequenting shallow chalk-based streams with adequate reed cover. This is the largest number of birds that I have recorded at a single locality and in a very small surface area for a very long time.

Two LITTLE EGRETS were also seen - one adult with aigrettes particularly confiding - along with single Grey Heron, 1 female Common Teal, 3 COMMON SNIPE, female Grey Wagtail, Jay and Great Spotted Woodpecker.

Two LITTLE OWLS were calling - one either side of the playing fields - with a male Song Thrush, Chaffinch, European Robin and Wren in full song.

A flock of 62 Lapwings flew north.

MICKLE WAY, FOREST HILL (OXFORDSHIRE)

My 134th species of the new year was set aside for this winter's Oxfordshire garden vagrant - a first-year ROSE-COLOURED STARLING. The bird I first set eyes on in November 2009 was still frequenting the same road - Mickle Way - and this afternoon at 1300 hours was favouring the chimney stack and back garden of number 21. It has now moulted into first-winter plumage and apart from its distinctive yellowish bill, is now quite difficult to pick out from its commoner congeners. Adam Hartley obtained the photograph above.

OTMOOR RSPB

Situated less than four miles away just east of Noke village, a party of 49 EURASIAN WHITE-FRONTED GEESE were frequenting the pool and grass fields of the SW corner of Otmoor reserve. Adam Hartley obtained the images above.

I also enjoyed very good views of a COMMON TREECREEPER.

STOTFOLD (BEDFORDSHIRE)

I decided to try once more for the Merlin being frequently seen hunting the bonanza of small birds feeding in the winter stubble just south of Stotfold village. Although it was seen mid-afternoon just briefly, Martin Palmer, Darren Thomas and I failed to locate it between 1500 and 1700 hours.

The CORN BUNTING mass were still present (my best count today was 688 when all roosting in the Poplar trees), along with 29 Yellowhammers and 17 Chaffinch, whilst a pack of 32 Common Magpies were feeding together in the field just north of the A 507.

Friday, 22 January 2010

TUNDRA BEAN GOOSE added to Year List on a very wet day indeed





FRIDAY 22 JANUARY

It rained all day, resulting in localised flooding. As such, I managed just one small bit of birding today - in Oxfordshire - securing my first TUNDRA BEAN GEESE of the year.

ASTON AREA, WSW OF WITNEY (OXFORDSHIRE)

A small party of 7 TUNDRA BEAN GEESE were discovered south of Alton yesterday afternoon and at 1130 hours today were still showing well when Justin Taylor, Terry Tossell and I visited. They were in a field just north of the Buckland road and the Great Brook at approximately SP 338 025 (accessed by heading south from Chimney Road in Aston village - see map adjacent). Parking is very difficult in these narrow lanes but fortunately traffic is slight. Adam Hartley obtained the two images above.

Tundra Bean Goose is a rare visitor to Oxfordshire with only a handful of records listed by John Brucker prior to 1970 and just five records between 1979 and 1989 -

1-3) An adult 'Bean Goose' of unknown origin with Canada Geese at Stanton Harcourt GP on 25 February 1979, with further birds of unknown provenance on the River Thames at Northmoor in December 1980 and at Farmoor Reservoirs on 17 April 1983;

4) A party of 13 Tundra Beans was on water meadows near Little Wittenham from 24-31 December 1987 before flying over Farmoor Reservoirs on 2 January 1988;

5) Three Tundra Beans appeared at Warborough on 4 November 1989.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

GREAT WHITE EGRET reappears on the Chess

THURSDAY 21 JANUARY

A reasonable day by recent standards with some long spells of sunshine and clear spells

The Chess Valley GREAT WHITE EGRET reappeared today in the Hertfordshire section of the river and was standing in deep water not far from the Water Vole watchpoint. Interestingly, the bird has a small metal ring on its left leg but no colour rings. It also has very dark (black) legs with just a slight amount of paleness to the tibia but is very skittish, so most likely just a winter-plumaged European bird rather than a Nearctic visitor. This is the same individual that spent three weeks in the Recording Area just before Christmas, which frequented the Chess and Misbourne Valleys from 27 November to 18 December and was also seen in Berkshire.

The three LITTLE EGRETS were still present, along with the resident pair of COMMON RAVENS (the male in full display), whilst the wintering GREEN SANDPIPER and 20 SISKINS were again just east of Chesham Fishing Pits (per Chris Pontin)

The valley also saw a severe car accident at the Stoney Lane junction (the 18th accident on these crossroads since 18 December) with two vehicles colliding, the van rolling over on to its roof. Paramedics were attending one seriously injured driver, with four road traffic cars attending.

LEWES (EAST SUSSEX)

Had to survey a chalk quarry where I was delighted to see last year's successful breeding COMMON RAVEN still present. Initially, he was perched in a spindly bush overlooking the quarry but then partook in active display for several minutes. At least 37 pairs of Western Jackdaw were on territory but no sign yet of the Peregrine pair.

SHARDELOES LAKE (BUCKS)

Still partly frozen but a dusk visit revealed the return of all 5 Mute Swans (including the three surviving first-winters), 6 Mallard, 21 Gadwall, 44 Coot, 8 Moorhen and a hefty increase of 27 Tufted Duck and 9 Northern Pochard. A Song Thrush was also seen.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

A CORN BUNTING bonanza



Mike Lawrence's excellent portrayal of a Corn Bunting and Richard Bashford's record shot of 499 of the Stotfold flock

WEDNESDAY 20 JANUARY

A band of heavy rain moved through the region throughout the morning bringing some localised flooding. Temperatures dropped for a while too (to 3 degrees C) before picking up during the afternoon. A cold SE wind was blowing.

Spurned on by Richard Bashford and Francis Tusa, I checked out the Stotfold bunting feast today and was overwhelmed by the sheer number of birds - a truly wonderful experience. Also checked out the Little Egret roosts at dusk, and caught up with a few missing Bedfordshire Year-ticks.

CHENIES BOTTOM (BUCKS)

Still no sign of December's Common Stonechats, but 3 LITTLE EGRETS again (including two feeding in the Chess just east of the bridge), a Grey Heron and 2 Little Grebes.

RIVER BULBOURNE AT FISHERY INN, BOXMOOR (HERTS)

Following a report of a Dipper seen on 1 and 17 January, I went over and checked the Bulbourne in both directions either side of the inn. A Green Sandpiper was the only bird noted, although the habitat is perfect for a vagrant Black-bellied Dipper.

HEMEL HEMPSTEAD (HERTS)

Two RED KITES circling together at 1133 hours over Junction 8 of the M1 just east of Hemel at TL 097 076.

STOTFOLD (BEDFORDSHIRE)

Well, what a spectacular. I arrived on site shortly after midday and after following the footpath to just beyond the Poplar plantation, came upon the three stubble fields harbouring an impressive number of wintering farmland species. A guy was walking four dogs in the fields and was scattering birds everywhere. Consequently, the 'clicking' mass of CORN BUNTINGS erupted, moving from the east field to the west and landing in the shorter stubble just short of the houses. Now, I had a chance to click-count them, and carefully panning the 'scope from left to right, amassed an enormous total of 738 birds (five counts in total, registering 611, 696, 738, 722 and 704 whilst in the stubble). Later, the flocks dispersed into two main groups, and on one occasion all flew up into the tall Poplars - this resulted in even higher counts, with the peak reaching 859 birds - a flock of Spanish steppe proportions and truly awesome. This is the largest single flock of Corn Buntings I have ever recorded in Britain and a truly significant find. Corn Buntings have become seriously depleted in numbers in recent years so a flock of this proportion is truly outstanding. The birds were quite wide-ranging during my stay, smaller parties branching off and flying south across the A 507.

In addition to the Corn Buntings, there were also 220 EURASIAN SKYLARKS, 38 Chaffinch, 25 Reed Buntings, 50 Yellowhammers and several Linnets, as well as 34 Stock Doves (in one feeding flock), 87 Common Starlings, 106 Redwings and a few Fieldfares. Two Common Kestrels were in the vicinity but I did not see the Merlin (despite returning towards dusk).

DIRECTIONS

See map opposite. Leave the A1 at the A 507 Shefford turning and continue west on the new bypass to beyond the second roundabout parking in the layby on the south side, often utilised by a 'bus' cafe. Walk back east towards the A1 and after 150 yards, walk north past the 6-bar metal gate and take the track off to the right. Continue 120 yards through the small plantation and this brings you out into the large stubble fields, where the central footpath provides you with ample opportunities for viewing. The fields are just SW of Stotfold village.

BROOM GP (BEDFORDSHIRE) (1330 hours)

The winter-plumaged BLACK-NECKED GREBE was showing very close inshore to the NW corner of Peacock's Lake. The site also held 2 Great Crested Grebes, 3 Little Grebes, 6 Mute Swans (including two first-winters), 12 Gadwall, 28 Eurasian Wigeon, 40 Northern Pochard, an adult drake RED-CRESTED POCHARD and 114 Coot.

HATCH (BEDFORDSHIRE)

A LITTLE EGRET was showing very well standing adjacent to a small ditch just west of the B 658 at SP 159 479, yards south of the Hatch turning.

RIDGWAY BUSINESS PARK FIELDS, GIRTFORD (BEDS) (SP 153 498)

And still no Beds Red-legged Partridge! The fields where I normally see them, and both Corn Bunting and Yellowhammer, held just 52 Redwing, 14 Fieldfare, 29 Common Starling and a male Common Kestrel.

BLUNHAM LAKE (BEDS)

Highlight here was the continuing first-winter drake GREATER SCAUP, showing well just to the west of the island - and still quite brown on the flanks but now boasting a complete bright green head.

A good selection of wildfowl included 2 adult Mute Swans (plus a dead first-winter), 74 Wigeon, 11 Teal, 52 Gadwall, 8 Shoveler, 51 Tufted Duck, 62 Pochard and 4 Common Goldeneye (1 drake).

TEMPSFORD (BEDS)

In the tall trees bordering the east side of the A1 at Tempsford, 18 Rook nests were being attended to in the rookery.

ROXTON LAKES (BEDS)

Again, no sign of the two Egyptian Geese but 6 Great Crested Grebes, 6 Mute Swans (2 first-winters), 106 Greylag Geese, 92 Wigeon, 68 Gadwall and a pair of Common Goldeneye. On Tempsford Lake immediately south (at SP 158 634), 4 GOOSANDER were showing well, including 2 adult drakes. A Green Woodpecker fed on the grass verge as I departed.

WILLINGTON GP (BEDS)

I decided to check the non-naturalised flock of BARNACLE GEESE at Willington, of which there were 337 of them and 2 Greylag Geese feeding on beet in the sheep field. Some 33 individuals bore red plastic rings with white letters, including inscriptions BA, LC, IP, BS, DP, IC, FS, CI, II, LS, AC, AL, FA, AH, CA, BD, NU, DU, ZI and EV.

ELSTOW PIT (BEDS)

All 27 RED-CRESTED POCHARDS were still feeding voraciously on the pit, dredging weed up from the bottom, including 18 adult drakes.

RADWELL LAKE (HERTS/BEDS BORDER) (SP 230 358)

A late afternoon visit at 1613 hours revealed the presence of 1 adult Mute Swan and 12 LITTLE EGRETS standing on the east wooded shore pre-roost.

STANBOROUGH LAKES NORTH, WELWYN (HERTS) (TL 229 113)

At dusk/dark at 1647 hours, a total of 8 LITTLE EGRETS was roosting on the south island, along with 4 Grey Herons (including a pair busily repairing a nest). The lake also held 8 adult Mute Swans

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

The urban predator - 'new' PEREGRINE wintering site





























TUESDAY 19 JANUARY

Temperatures took a slide again and dropped by a couple of degrees (to 7 degrees C). It was also very misty again, although a cold and freshening SE wind started to set in. It remained dry. Once again, I spent my day birding locally, with just a few highlights, primarily three JACK SNIPE and a very showy 'urban' PEREGRINE.

IVY HOUSE FARM, CHESS RIVER VALLEY (BUCKS) (SU 979 995)

Rooks have returned in reasonable numbers, with 42 probing the soft grassy field to the north of the rookery this morning, with 110 Black-headed Gulls loafing nearby.

LOWNES PARK, CHESHAM (BUCKS) (SP 958 015)

Four adult Mute Swans now present on the main lake, along with 11 Embden Geese, 3 Muscovy Ducks, 22 Atlantic Canada Geese and 68 Mallards.

CHESHAM VALE (BUCKS)

The North Chesham flock of Jackdaws numbered 36 today.

WILSTONE RESERVOIR, TRING (HERTS)

There was no sign of the Ruff and two Common Redshanks that Roy Hargreaves had seen standing on the ice from the Drayton Bank Hide about an hour earlier - the only waders on view being 45 Lapwing.

There was a major increase in waterfowl on the reservoir since my last visit, with much of the ice now restricted to the west shoreline in the NW corner. Counts included 13 Great Crested Grebes, 3 Little Grebe, an increase to 9 Mute Swans (including 2 first-winters which flew north and an adult and first-winter which flew in), 40 Greylag Geese, 615 Eurasian Wigeon (my highest count of the winter), 10 Gadwall, just 9 Shoveler, 302 Common Teal, 67 Tufted Ducks, 18 Northern Pochard and 5 COMMON GOLDENEYE (2 adult drakes and three females).

A single juvenile Argenteus HERRING GULL and adult Lesser Black-backed Gull were among 211 Black-headed Gulls roosting on the ice.

Nearby, 382 Woodpigeons was in the crop field opposite the Cemetery.

BROUGHTON TROUT POOLS (BUCKS)

Shooting was in progress scattering the 70 Atlantic Canada Geese and 48 Mallard present on the lakes and the 4 Common Teal on one of the field pools. A single COMMON SNIPE and 3 JACK SNIPE provided excellent views as they flew up, whilst passerines were represented by Green Woodpecker, 5 Fieldfares and a pair of Bullfinch. A superb male Eurasian Sparrowhawk was sat nearby in a tree.

On the A41 floodmeadows just as you leave the Aston Clinton roundabout held a pair of Mute Swans.

TRINGFORD RESERVOIR (HERTS)

Very quiet with 5 Grey Heron, 2 adult Mute Swans, 8 Common Teal, 2 Gadwall, 3 Shoveler and 15 Tufted Duck counted, and 17 Greylag Geese feeding in the field opposite the sewage farm.

STARTOP'S END RESERVOIR

Just 3 Mute Swans, 6 Common Teal, 6 Gadwall and 26 Pochard of interest

COLLEGE LAKE BBOWT RESERVE (BUCKS)

The main marsh was still largely frozen and fairly birdless, whilst the lake held 1 Little Grebe, the 3 Great Crested Grebes, 6 Common Teal, 38 Gadwall, the female Red-crested Pochard of suspect origin and 166 Coot (sharp decrease in numbers). A party of 28 Lapwings was present on the island.

PITSTONE QUARRY

Still largely iced over with 4 Common Teal feeding and a flock of ice-roosting gulls consisting of 194 Black-headed, 8 Common and a single adult Lesser Black-backed.

DAGNALL (BEDS)

Despite a lengthy vigil, the resident pair of Common Raven failed to put in an appearance, and all that was noted was a Great Spotted Woodpecker and a Bullfinch.

NORTHCHURCH PLAYING FIELDS

Another fruitless search. A male Common Stonechat - the only individual currently surviving in the area - has been present since just before Christmas but I could not find it today.

HEMEL HEMPSTEAD (HERTS)

Following a call from local birder Dan Forder, I drove down to Hemel town centre, where he had discovered an adult PEREGRINE roosting on a building. I got there at about 1530 hours and the bird was still there and showing very well, roosting on the lower roof of the building to the SE of the town centre roundabout at TQ 055 063. It was clear from the visible droppings that this was a regular roost site for this beautiful bird and yet another example of the urban preferences this species has now acquired. The bird was very easy to see with the naked eye and many shoppers took an interest as I looked up at it. Dan was able to obtain an excellent selection of images, which I have reproduced above.

Monday, 18 January 2010

131 species thus far

2010 UK Year List - LGRE

1) Little Grebe, Great Water, Bucks, 1 January;
2) Atlantic Great Cormorant (Sinensis), Staines Moor, Middlesex, 1 January;
3) Grey Heron, Chesham Fishing Lakes, Bucks, 1 January
4) Little Egret, Chess River Valley, Bucks, 1 January;
5) Mute Swan, Chesham, Bucks, 1 January;
6) Atlantic Canada Goose, Latimer, Bucks, 1 January;
7) Mallard, Chesham, Bucks, 1 January;
8) Gadwall, Shardeloes Lake, Bucks, 1 January;
9) Northern Pochard, Great Water, Bucks, 1 January;
10) Tufted Duck, Great Water, Bucks, 1 January;
11) Red Kite, Chesham, Bucks, 1 January;
12) Common Buzzard, M25 Junction 17, Herts, 1 January;
13) Common Kestrel, M25 Junction 17, Herts, 1 January;
14) Common Pheasant, Old Amersham, Bucks, 1 January;
15) Moorhen, Chenies Bottom, Bucks, 1 January;
16) Eurasian Coot, Great Water, Bucks, 1 January;
17) Lapwing, Staines Moor, Middlesex, 1 January;
18) Common Redshank, Staines Moor, Middlesex, 1 January;
19) Common Snipe, Staines Moor, Middlesex, 1 January;
20) Black-headed Gull, Staines Moor, Middlesex, 1 January;
21) Common Gull, Shardeloes Lake, Bucks, 1 January;
22) Woodpigeon, Staines Moor, Middlesex, 1 January;
23) Stock Dove, Latimer Hall, Bucks, 1 January;
24) Eurasian Collared Dove, Staines Moor, Middlesex, 1 January;
25) Tawny Owl, Brook Wood Penn, Bucks, 1 January;
26) Common Kingfisher, Chenies Bottom, Bucks, 1 January;
27) Ring-necked Parakeet, Stanwell Moor, Middlesex, 1 January;
28) Green Woodpecker, Staines Moor, Middlesex, 1 January;
29) Meadow Pipit, Staines Moor, Middlesex, 1 January;
30) Pied Wagtail, Stanwell Moor, Middlesex, 1 January;
31) Dunnock, Chenies Bottom, Bucks, 1 January;
32) European Robin, Staines Moor, Middlesex, 1 January;
33) Common Stonechat, Staines Moor, Middlesex, 1 January;
34) Song Thrush, Staines Moor, Middlesex, 1 January;
35) Redwing, Staines Moor, Middlesex, 1 January;
36) Mistle Thrush, Latimer Hall, Bucks, 1 January;
37) Fieldfare, Staines Moor, Middlesex, 1 January;
38) Common Blackbird, Staines Moor, Middlesex, 1 January;
39) Goldcrest, Penn Wood, Bucks, 1 January;
40) Great Tit, Staines Moor, Middlesex, 1 January;
41) Coal Tit, Latimer Hall, Bucks, 1 January;
42) Blue Tit, Staines Moor, Middlesex, 1 January;
43) Long-tailed Tit, Brook Wood Penn, Bucks, 1 January;
44) Nuthatch, Latimer Hall, Bucks, 1 January;
45) ASIATIC BROWN SHRIKE, Staines Moor, Middlesex, 1 January;
46) Common Magpie, Staines Moor, Middlesex, 1 January;
47) Jay, Staines Moor, Middlesex, 1 January;
48) Jackdaw, Chenies, Bucks, 1 January;
49) Rook, Chesham, Bucks, 1 January;
50) Carrion Crow, Staines Moor, Middlesex, 1 January;
51) Common Starling, Staines Moor, Middlesex, 1 January;
52) House Sparrow, Chesham, Bucks, 1 January;
53) Chaffinch, Staines Moor, Middlesex, 1 January;
54) Goldfinch, Staines Moor, Middlesex, 1 January;
55) Greenfinch, Latimer, Bucks, 1 January;
56) Bullfinch, Old Amersham, Bucks, 1 January
57) Green Sandpiper, East Hyde, Beds, 2 January
58) Common Teal, East Hyde, Beds, 2 January
59) Eurasian Sparrowhawk, East Hyde, Beds, 2 January;
60) Wren, East Hyde, Beds, 2 January;
61) Grey Wagtail, East Hyde, Beds, 2 January;
62) Great Northern Diver (2), Brogborough Lake, Beds, 2 January;
63) Great Crested Grebe, Brogborough Lake, Beds, 2 January;
64) Red-crested Pochard, Brogborough Lake, Beds, 2 January;
65) Greater Scaup, Brogborough Lake, Beds, 2 January;
66) Common Goldeneye, Brogborough Lake, Beds, 2 January;
67) Lesser Black-backed Gull, Brogborough Lake, Beds, 2 January;
68) Greylag Goose, Newport Pagnell, Bucks, 2 January;
69) Goosander, River Ouse at Newport Pagnell, Bucks, 2 January;
70) Wigeon, Newport Pagnell GP, Bucks, 2 January;
71) Yellowhammer, Little Linford Wood, Bucks, 2 January;
72) Common Treecreeper, Little Linford Wood, Bucks, 2 January;
73) Marsh Tit, Little Linford Wood, Bucks, 2 January;
74) RING-NECKED DUCK, Foxcote Reservoir, Bucks, 2 January;
75) Shoveler, Foxcote Reservoir, Bucks, 2 January;
76) European Herring Gull, Wilstone Reservoir, Herts, 2 January;
77) Cetti’s Warbler, Marsworth Reservoir, Herts, 2 January;
78) Reed Bunting, Marsworth Reservoir, Herts, 2 January;
79) Corn Bunting, Marsworth Reservoir, Herts, 2 January;
80) Water Rail, Marsworth Reservoir, Herts, 2 January;
81) European Golden Plover, Marsworth Reservoir, Herts, 2 January;
82) Eurasian Bittern, Marsworth Reservoir, Herts, 2 January
83) Peregrine, Aylesbury County Hall, Bucks, 3 January;
84) Whooper Swan, Nlackthorn Water Meadows, Oxon, 3 January;
85) Bewick’s Swan, Blackthorn Water Meadows, Oxon, 3 January;
86) Ruff (2), Blackthorn Water Meadows, Oxon, 3 January;
87) Great Black-backed Gull, Blackthorn Meadows, Oxon, 3 January;
88) Little Owl, A12 Billericay, Essex, 3 January;
89) Linnet, Abberton Reservoir, Essex, 3 January;
90) Smew (3 drakes), Abberton Reservoir, Essex, 3 January;
91) Woodcock, Marks Tey, Essex, 3 January;
92) Eurasian White-fronted Goose, Newport Pagnell, North Bucks, 4 January;
93) GREAT WHITE EGRET (2 birds), Pitsford Reservoir, Northamptonshire, 4 January;
94) Barn Owl, Linford NR, North Bucks, 4 January;
95) Pintail, Ibsley Water, Hampshire, 5 January;
96) Black-tailed Godwit, Ibsley Water, Hampshire, 5 January;
97) Dark-bellied Brent Goose, Stanpit Marsh, Dorset, 5 January;
98) Common Shelduck, Stanpit Marsh, Dorset, 5 January;
99) Oystercatcher, Stanpit Marsh, Dorset, 5 January;
100) Pied Avocet, Stanpit Marsh, Dorset, 5 January;
101) Spotted Redshank, Stanpit Marsh, Dorset, 5 January;
102) Eurasian Curlew, Stanpit Marsh, Dorset, 5 January;
103) Bar-tailed Godwit, Stanpit Marsh, Dorset, 5 January;
104) Grey Plover, Stanpit Marsh, Dorset, 5 January;
105) Dunlin, Stanpit Marsh, Dorset, 5 January;
106) Rock Pipit, Stanpit Marsh, Dorset, 5 January;
107) Eurasian Skylark, Wallingford, Oxon, 6 January;
108) Jack Snipe, East Hyde, Herts, 8 January;
109) Grey Partridge, Lilley Manor Farm, Herts, 8 January;
110) Great Spotted Woodpecker, Penn Wood, Bucks, 9 January;
111) Common Crossbill, Penn Wood, Bucks, 9 January;
112) Lesser Redpoll, Penn Wood, Bucks, 9 January;
113) Brambling (83), Penn Wood, Bucks, 9 January;
114) Ruddy Duck, Stocker’s Lake, Herts, 10 January;
115) Grey Partridge, Hatch, Bedfordshire, 10 January;
116) Mandarin Duck, Flitwick Sewage Treatment Works, Beds, 10 January;
117) Glaucous Gull (juvenile), Calvert Sailing Lake, Bucks, 10 January;
118) Caspian Gull (adult), Calvert Sailing Lake, Bucks, 10 January;
119) Yellow-legged Gull, Calvert Sailing Lake, Bucks, 10 January;
120) Common Chiffchaff, River Colne at Broadwater Sailing Club, Herts, 11 January;
121) Siberian Chiffchaff, River Colne at Broadwater Sailing Club, Herts, 11 January;
122) Siskin, Stockers Lake, Herts, 11 January;
123) Tree Sparrow, Tyttenhanger Farm, Herts, 11 January;
124) Red-legged Partridge, Tyttenhanger Farm, Herts, 11 January;
125) Egyptian Goose, Burnham Beeches NNR, Bucks, 13 January;
126) Pink-footed Goose, Radwell GP, Beds, 17 January;
127) Taiga Bean Goose (3), Radwell GP, Beds, 17 January;
128) Velvet Scoter (2 immature drakes), Grafham Water, Cambridgeshire, 17 January;
129) Red-breasted Merganser, William Girling Reservoir, London, 18 January;
130) Black-necked Grebe (24), William Girling Reservoir, London, 18 January
131) Black-throated Diver, William Girling Reservoir, London, 18 January

UK & IRELAND combined 2010 totals: 243 (18 January)

William Girling Reservoir supports three new birds for year

MONDAY 18 JANUARY (Week 3)

A dreary day weatherwise, with misty conditions lingering into the afternoon. Temperatures climbed to 9 degrees C.

LITTLE CHALFONT (BUCKS)

A Mistle Thrush was feeding on the green adjacent to the main A 404 opposite Elizabeth Avenue.

WILLIAM GIRLING RESERVOIR (LONDON E4)

William Girling Reservoir is strictly permit access only but can be viewed with a 'scope from Mansfield Park to the east (best accessed from Silverthorn Gardens, where please park sensibly and courteously). Importantly, it is just 5 miles from Waltham Abbey and the M25. During the WeBS count yesterday, an excellent selection of birds had been seen, so this morning I ventured down that way and enjoyed the following sightings -:

GREAT NORTHERN DIVER (two juveniles present but very mobile)
BLACK-THROATED DIVER* (a scarce bird in London and favouring the south end; diving continuously) (129)
Great Crested Grebe (94)
BLACK-NECKED GREBE (excellent count of 24 winter-plumaged birds, including a single party of 13) (130)

Gadwall (1 drake)
Northern Shoveler (4)
Tufted Duck (34)
Common Goldeneye (3 females)
RED-BREASTED MERGANSER (1 female-type on west bank) (131)
GOOSANDER (1 female)

Redwing (30 in Mansfield Park)

KING'S MEADS (HERTFORDSHIRE)

Did a full circuit of the site and was most impressed with number of wintering wildfowl, especially Gadwall, and added several new species to my 2010 Hertfordshire List including the long-staying RUFF and COMMON STONECHAT.

Mute Swan (1 on West Marsh, with an adult and first-winter on the Navigation Canal)
Grey Heron (2)
GADWALL (84, mainly on the West Marsh)
Eurasian Wigeon (76)
Common Teal (67)
Shoveler (9)
Lapwing (7 on the ice of West Marsh and a further 93 on Stockade Mead)
COMMON REDSHANK (1 on pools at Stockade Mead)
RUFF (the adult was showing well on Stockade Marsh, 200 yards west of the A10 flyover, consorting with the Lapwings - obvious bright orange legs and bright orange base to black-tipped bill and extensively white below. Limping slightly on left leg)

Argenteus Herring Gull (adult and two juveniles roosting on ice)

COMMON KINGFISHER (1 along the Navigation Canal)
Eurasian Skylark (1 flew north)
COMMON STONECHATS (pair on wire fences in fields to the north of the main reserve)
Reed Bunting (2 on wires)

CHESS RIVER VALLEY (BUCKS)

Three LITTLE EGRETS back on the Chess, all feeding between Latimer and Chenies Bridges.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

TAIGA BEAN GEESE in BEDFORDSHIRE - a new county tick


SUNDAY 17 JANUARY

Following the recent wintry weather, today was glorious - with fairly light winds, all-day sunshine and clear blue skies and temperatures nudging 9 degrees C for the first time this year.

Late in the morning, I was alerted to the presence of a small party of 'Bean Geese' in North Bedfordshire (Richard Bashford had discovered them during work on the second anniversary of the Great Beds Duck Count). I took an interest in them immediately, not least because I had not seen either species this year, and when MJP phoned to say that they were in fact 'TAIGA BEAN GEESE' then my adrenalin started pumping.

Frustrated by an accident on the northbound M1 adjacent to Toddington Services, I had to divert through Luton and the A6, which of course took an age..

ELSTOW PIT (BEDFORDSHIRE)

As I was driving right past Elstow Pit on the new bypass, I quickly stopped off there and scanned from the access road. My first Beds SMEW of the year - a gorgeous adult drake - was keeping to the northern edge of the pit, whilst RED-CRESTED POCHARDS numbered 27 and Northern Pochard an impressive 180.

RADWELL PITS (NORTH BEDFORDSHIRE)
(1145 hours onwards)

I arrived to find Roy Nye and Tim Robson on site, scanning from the sheep field adjacent to the A6 just north of the Pumping Station. After an anxious few minutes, I quickly located the three birds, sat sleeping on the grass field to the west of the pit complex in amongst the 278-strong Greylag Goose flock. I beckoned the other two over and quickly got them on to the birds and after a short while, we were lucky that they started to feed once more. Even more fortuitous was the fact that the single adult PINK-FOOTED GOOSE was also with them, allowing us a unique opportunity to compare the two species.

What was immediately striking was the sheer bulk and size of the three TAIGA BEAN GEESE - much larger, more powerful and longer-necked that the Pinkfoot and approaching Greylag in size (Tundra Bean is a shorter-necked and overall smaller bird). Furthermore, what was presumably the gander (the larger bird) had a long, sloping bill, which was virtually entirely deep orange. The other two equally shared the bill shape and structure but had less orange and a whitish rim at the base - a further feature I have often noted on Clyde and Yare Valley Taigas. The garishness of the bill colour was matched by that of the colour of the legs and feet and on many occasions when they were hunkered down in the Greylag flock, the deep orange legs were the best way of picking them out.

Compared to Western Greylag Goose (anser), the three Taiga Beans were very dark-necked, and longer and slimmer-necked, and browner in tone, particularly on the sides and flanks. They had conspicuous white fringes to the flight feathers and paler barring to the mantle and also shared the glaring white vent and undertail-coverts of all of the larger grey geese.

Richard Bashford managed to obtain at least one good image (see that published above) and the occurrence represented my 254th Bedfordshire species and my 127th species of 2010. The only previous Taiga Bean Geese recorded in Bedfordshire were a party of 6 flying over Brogborough Lake on 12 January 1985, although there is an earlier record from the Ouse Valley which I cannot find details of.

The Greylag flock also harboured 3 DARK-BELLIED BRENT GEESE - another scarce species in the county, whilst the Mute Swan herd numbered 55 and other wildfowl included 96 Eurasian Wigeon and 23 Tufted Ducks. At least 109 Lapwing were in the fields.

A party of 8 Yellowhammers was feeding in the sheep field.

GRAFHAM WATER (CAMBRIDGESHIRE)

I took advantage of my trip to North Bedfordshire by visiting Grafham Water in neighbouring Cambridgeshire, just 17 miles away. The number of diving duck on their quite spectacular, presumably displaced by the recent freeze.

Pride of place went to two juvenile drake VELVET SCOTERS - sleeping together at the edge of an Aythya flock present off of the south end of the dam. One bird was slightly better marked than the other (the recent new arrival as one drake has been present for over a month). It was another new species for the year (128).

In the dam area alone there were 498 Tufted Duck, 169 Great Crested Grebes, 5 Little Grebe, numerous Gadwall and Pochard and a lone RUDDY DUCK.

Moving off to Mander Car Park and joining Richard Webb, I could not locate the Slavonian Grebe, two Greater Scaup and 3 Common Scoters seen earlier by local watchers. Three juvenile GREAT NORTHERN DIVERS were offshore (a fourth had earlier been seen off the dam by RW) and showing reasonably well, along with 7 RED-CRESTED POCHARDS, 4 GOOSANDER (2 pairs, the drakes in active display) and an excellent number of RUDDY DUCKS. Common Goldeneye numbered at least 30, whilst Tufted Duck and Northern Pochard both exceeded 1,500 in the bays on view at the west end. A single Common Redshank was feeding along the shoreline west of the Yacht club.

ROXTON PIT (BEDFORDSHIRE)

Ice-free, with a pair of RED-CRESTED POCHARD in the NE corner and 3 Great Crested Grebes, 10 Mute Swans, 11 Atlantic Canada Geese, 5 Greylag Geese, 32 Gadwall and 68 Eurasian Wigeon counted.

BROOM GP (BEDFORDSHIRE)

On the shallow G & M Growers Pit, I was delighted to find 2 JACK SNIPES, a Common Snipe and a covey of 8 GREY PARTRIDGES. A charm of 86 Goldfinches was feeding on weeds in the field just east of the farm.

KEMPSTON HARDWICKE NORTH PITS (BEDFORDSHIRE)

A total of 274 Tufted Duck, 52 Northern Pochard, 18 Gadwall and 42 Mallard, along with a rather mobile and wary flock of 18 RED-CRESTED POCHARDS. In terms of the latter, I recorded 47 (27 + 2 + 18) today, by far the largest number I have ever seen in the county on one day. These birds were frozen out of Lincolnshire and Gloucestershire, where over 350 'non-naturalised' birds now survive.