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.

Friday, 26 February 2010

Hertfordshire MARSH TIT at last - and HAWFINCHES still present



Brambling numbers are once again building up in Penn Wood (Mike Lawrence)

FRIDAY 26 FEBRUARY

A strong wind set in and consequently temperatures struggled to get higher than 7 degrees C. It did remain dry all day, and skies often cleared, but overall it was rather chilly.

My target today was MARSH TIT and on my second attempt, finally located two birds........

DANEMEAD NATURE RESERVE, BROXBOURNE WOODS (HERTS)
(1145-1245 hours)

Following up Alan Reynold's information of last week, scoured Danemead Reserve again for Marsh Tit but failed again. Not one was seen or heard in any of the suitable woodland where I have seen them previously.

A couple of Common Treecreepers and 1 Nuthatch were seen whilst searching, and both Great and Blue Tit.

On the perimeter of the reserve, along the muddy bridleway down from the Martin's Green car park (at TL 347 080), two male HAWFINCHES were again present, calling (ticking) frequently but very difficult to see in the low vegetation. They were favouring the east side of the track today and were again keeping to the forest floor. One of the male Hawfinches was the ringed bird.

AMWELL NATURE RESERVE (HERTS)
(with Bill Last)

Again, taking AR's advice, I staked out Amwell as my next port of call, and in a very short period of time indeed, 'pished' out and located 2 MARSH TITS on the west side of the canal around the picnic tables. These birds have apparently been commuting between the feeders by the two-storey hide and this plantation. Five SISKIN were also in the trees.

Just two SMEW were on the main reserve lake (male and female), along with a few Common Goldeneyes.

AMERSHAM BYPASS (BUCKS)

A dead Badger was on the A404 at SU 967 969

PENN WOOD (BUCKS)
(with Kevin Holt)

In very blustery conditions, most BRAMBLINGS roosted in the Holly trees with the Greenfinches and by 1700 hours, I had counted 36 flight in (Kevin had seen at least 45). Greenfinch numbers were well down with just 60 or so, whilst 1 Goldcrest was calling. A single RED KITE drifted over.

CHESS RIVER VALLEY (BUCKS)
(with Chris Pontin)

A third GREAT CRESTED GREBE has returned to Chesham Fishing Lakes - a male on the smaller of the two lakes - with the pair still on the larger, along with 21 Tufted Ducks and 7 Northern Pochards. Chris had earlier seen the 24 LESSER REDPOLL and 20+ SISKIN.

Mallard had increased to 18 on Bois Mill Pond, whilst 2 LITTLE EGRETS were showing very well at Chenies Bottom bridge. A further LITTLE EGRET was feeding in the river by the scrap yard in Chesham.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Mopping up in Norfolk - 7 target birds secured











WEDNESDAY 24 JANUARY

I decided to follow up last week's visit to Norfolk with another this week, with the aim of 'mopping up' those species I failed to connect with. The target species were Greater Snow Goose, Twite, Mealy Redpoll, Shore Lark, Black Redstart, Bearded Tit and Short-eared Owl and I am pleased to say that I was successful on all seven counts.

In stark contrast to recent weeks, the temperature climbed to a heady 9 degrees C, equalling the highest temperatures attained thus far in 2010. The reason for this was a warm front coming up from the Azores, bringing strengthening southerly winds. Although grey and overcast, the rain did not finally reach North Norfolk until mid afternoon, which gave us many hours of good birding conditions.

Alan Stewart drove, and Joan Thompson joined us, Chorleywood being departed at 0600 hours. First destination was Hunstanton Cliffs......

HUNSTANTON CLIFFS (NORTH NORFOLK)

Oystercatchers, Eurasian Curlews, Magpies and a single Red-legged Partridge were on the adjoining golf course, whilst offshore, some 45 FULMARS were sat on the sea, and a raft of 300 COMMON SCOTER were distant. A single female Common Goldeneye was on the sea, whilst waders on the beach included Dunlin, Grey Plover and Bar-tailed Godwit. Four Common Shelduck flew into the Wash.

THORNHAM STAITHE (NORTH NORFOLK)

The adult white morph GREATER SNOW GOOSE was feeding with 328+ Pink-footed Geese in grassy fields south of Holme Braodwater and could be easily 'scoped from the gate above the concrete slipway at Thornham Harbour. There was also a single leucistic Pink-footed Goose with the flock, and at one point, a walker flushed all of the flock allowing us to see the Snow Goose in flight. It represented my 181st species of the year and was a bird that had first arrived in Norfolk in November of last year.

BARN OWLS were the other talking point and from 0900-1000 hours, at least four individuals were hunting over the ditches and dykes to the west of the harbour. Whether or not they were day-hunting through lack of food was unknown but the lack of diurnal raptors such as Common Buzzard may paly its part. Some superb views were obtained.

One very confiding (and presumed lame or sick) Dark-bellied Brent Goose was present at the Staithe (add in Alan's photographs), along with 15 Common Teal, 35 Common Redshanks and a single Common Snipe. Two GREY PARTRIDGE showed briefly in the stubble, whilst in and around the barn and creek, 5 SCANDINAVIAN ROCK PIPIT were showing well, with a Meadow Pipit in with them for comparison (both species with pale legs).

There was no sign of any Twite but 9 Linnets commuted between the saltmarsh and the stubble, and 3 Reed Buntings were noted.

TITCHWELL MARSH RSPB (NORFOLK)
(1010-1230 hours)

Failing to locate either the Woodcock or Mealy Redpoll first time around, the Alders and feeders close to the Information Centre and Cafe yielded 6 Goldfinches, 10 Greenfinches, 12 Chaffinches, numerous Blue and Great Tits, a Song Thrush, a smart male Bullfinch and a very showy WATER RAIL.

The fields west of the main track produced Common Buzzard, Lapwing, 1 RUFF and 200 Dark-bellied Brent Geese, with a single LITTLE EGRET on the saltmarsh a little further on, and both Tufted Duck and Northern Pochard on the main pool.

My second target bird - BEARDED TIT - was located in the reeds just 100 yards north of the centre and just east of the main track, with at least four calling from the reeds but keeping primarily out of view (182).

Although much restoration work was being carried out on the new sea wall, the Freshwater Pool held large numbers of birds, particularly wildfowl and waders -:

Dark-bellied Brent Geese (200)
Common Shelduck (96)
Mallard, Gadwall, Eurasian Wigeon and NORTHERN PINTAIL (28)
Common Goldeneye (2 females)
PIED AVOCET (52)
Black-tailed Godwit (2)
Common Redshank
SPOTTED REDSHANK (1)

Meanwhile, the brackish pools further north revealed 35 more Black-tailed Godwits, 30 Turnstones, 4 more Common Goldeneyes and a tight-knit flock of 10 Little Grebes
.
Offshore, the calm sea was fairly devoid of variety, although the 2,000-strong COMMON SCOTER raft held at least 7 immature VELVET SCOTERS, although only detectable when the flock were flushed by piratising Herring Gulls. There were a few more Common Goldeneye, whilst waders on the beach included Grey Plover, Sanderling, Bar-tailed Godwit, Oystercatcher and 40 Black-tailed Godwits.

Some 65 Red Knot were roosting in the saltmarsh and as a very pale Peregrine whisked by (an escape with jesses), it flushed all of the waders and a small party of finches. As the latter came over the boardwalk, the twittering calls readily identified them as TWITE and as I walked back, I relocated them feeding on the mud of the brackish marsh. The flock consisted of exactly 40 TWITE and 2 Linnets and was a very welcome year-tick, considering how difficult and scarce this species is now (183)

Flushed by our success, we returned to the Alder trees, and in those by the picnic tables between the shop and the car park, this time I located the MEALY REDPOLL almost immediately. The Goldfinch flock had risen to 16 birds and although neck-stretching and rather arduous in its task, excellent views were eventually obtained of the lone flammea. It was a classic individual and one of a very few available this winter in Britain, being very grey in overall tone, rather white in the coverts, pale on the rump, whiter on the flanks and undertail-coverts, feathered on the tarsi and concave-billed (184). Titchwell had been a tremendous success.

BRANCASTER STAITHE (NORTH NORFOLK)

A quick stop for Red-breasted Merganser produced just one female, with 7 Common Goldeneye in the channel and our first Ringed Plover of the day.

BURNHAM OVERY STAITHE (NORTH NORFOLK)

Yet another day-flying BARN OWL - flying very close and parallel to the A149 just east of the mill. Two Egyptian Geese were in the field, but apart from 700 or so Dark-bellied Brent Geese feeding west of Gun Hill, we failed to locate the Barnacle Geese flock (I learnt later that 19 were being watched from the Joe Jordan Hide - ouch!).

HOLKHAM FRESHMARSH (NORFOLK)

After failing in our quest to locate the wintering flock of SHORE LARKS last week, Alan and I were delighted to succeed this time in our first sweep. The birds were feeding in the Salicornia just east of the sandy cut-through 600 yards east of the Gap and were showing exceptionally well. Other observers had walked right past them as they were so well camouflaged. There were 16 in total - the same number Dave Holman had recorded the day before. All were in winter plumage, with the 'horns' fairly concealed and the lemon in the face still fairly subdued. They allowed very close approach but when two dogs started barking loudly, one bird (presumably the main scout) became alert and took flight, followed closely by the rest of the flock. They wheeled around for ages and it was wonderful listening to their soft, rippling calls as they flew overhead (185).

There was no sign of the reported Lapland Buntings, but 35 Eurasian Skylarks and several Meadow Pipits were in the Salicornia, and yet another BARN OWL was hunting over the dunes. A TAWNY OWL was calling from the Pine wood.

WELLS PITCH & PUTT COURSE AND BOATING LAKE (NORTH NORFOLK)

An adult BLACK BRANT and one of the hybrids was amongst 250+ Dark-bellied Brent Geese on the grass course. Nearby, the four GREATER SCAUPS (an adult drake, first-winter drake and two adult females) were still showing well on the boating lake.

SALTHOUSE BEACH CAR PARK (NORTH NORFOLK)

A swirling mass of black, brown and white heralded our arrival in the beach car park at Salthouse - belonging to a 135-strong flock of SNOW BUNTINGS. Some of the adult males were very well-marked and the birds were commuting between the shingle bank, the car park and the grassy fields inland of the car park. Ben Andrew obtained the superb images above.

Some 21 Turnstones were also feeding in the car park.

BEESTON REGIS (NORTH NORFOLK)

Some 175 Redwings were present in a grassy field just west of the town.

WEST RUNTON (NORTH NORFOLK)

The adult near-summer plumaged adult MEDITERRANEAN GULL was again showing very well in the car park, often sitting on the post. Its loud calls were very different to those of the Black-headed Gulls it was accompanying.

The first-winter BLACK REDSTART was eventually located on the undercliff about 100 yards east of the slipway. Once found, it afforded excellent views, but viewing was hampered by the heavy rain that then set in. It represented my 186th species of the year.

NORTH WALSHAM (NORFOLK)

The lone BOHEMIAN WAXWING was roosting in a large tree overlooking the Sainsbury's car park in North Walsham town, above the workshops of Griffin Automotive.

CHEDGRAVE MARSHES (SUFFOLK)

Fortunately, the rain stopped just as we arrived. Walking out to the mound, hopes were high.

The remaining wintering ROUGH-LEGGED BUZZARD was roosting on a distant gate post, with a ringtail HEN HARRIER drifting around and at least 4 MARSH HARRIERS traversing back and forth. At long last, I finally connected with SHORT-EARED OWL - 4 birds flying back and forth over the marsh (187), whilst a single BARN OWL was hunting over the far side. The number of birds wintering on Haddiscoe Island, including up to 10 Short-eared Owls in total, have been attracted to the area by the large number of Field Voles.

Three CHINESE WATER DEER appeared on the marsh, with several Egyptian Geese scattered about.

The rain returned towards dusk and a last-ditch attempt to find the Great White Egret and Spoonbill on North Warren RSPB, Aldeburgh, consequently failed. Darkness prevailed at 1750 hours.

Overall, an extremely successful day, with all seven target birds secured

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

A band of snow moves through the Chilterns














LESSER REDPOLLS were the highlight of the day, whilst Continental Cormorants were only the second record this year. Coot numbers had dropped, whilst just one female Northern Pochard was on the Fishing Lake (all images Mike Lawrence)

WEDNESDAY 23 FEBRUARY

Another very cold day with a band of prolonged snow falling, accumulating in a few inches on the Chiltern Hills (eg, Ivinghoe Beacon). The temperature failed to rise above 2 degrees C and the NE wind was quite severe and biting.

LITTLE EGRETS today included one in a small pool just NW of Higher Dehnam Sewage Works (TQ 016 879) and at least four in the Chess Valley (one in the stream by Watercress Cottage and 3 west of Chenies Bottom).

CHESHAM FISHING LAKES (BUCKS)

A pair of adult GREAT CRESTED GREBES returned to their breeding haunt at Chesham Fishing Lakes on Tuesday 22 February (per Chris Pontin) and were still present today and showing well. Both were in almost full breeding attire.

Wildfowl included 1 adult Mute Swan, 19 Tufted Duck and 9 Northern Pochard (1 female), along with 1 Grey Heron and 12 Coot. A Continental Cormorant flew east.

Most significant was a flock of 24 LESSER REDPOLLS, the party containing some beautiful rosy-pink adult males.

CHESHAM POW-WOW LAKE (BUCKS)

A pair of GADWALL was present, along with a single adult Mute Swan, 6 Tufted Ducks and 6 Coot.

BOIS MILL LAKE (BUCKS)

In addition to the resident pair of Mute Swans, 2 sub-adult Continental Cormorants were fishing.

WILSTONE RESERVOIR, TRING (HERTS)
(1630-1800 hours)

Once again, in constant sleet/snow ands a bitter wind, concentrated on the gull roost. Despite click-counting 2,480 Black-headed Gulls and 93 Common Gulls, there was no sign of either of the two recent adult Mediterranean Gulls. Four adult Lesser Black-backed Gulls were all that represented the large gulls.

Four COMMON GOLDENETE (2 drakes) were together

Monday, 22 February 2010

SHOVELER surprise - and LESSER REDPOLLS return with the snow




MONDAY 22 FEBRUARY

Snow returned with a vengeance today and fell for most of the daylight hours. A light covering resulted. The biting NE wind increased during the day and temperatures never reached more than 2 degrees C.

CHAFFINCH HOUSE, LITTLE CHALFONT

Most striking was the return of LESSER REDPOLLS today to my garden Nyger feeders. From when they arrived mid-morning, 1-3 birds were still visiting at 1415 and had almost been a permanent fixture throughout. A male Pied Wagtail was also present on the lawn all day, feeding on bread of all things. He was joined by two Woodpigeons, whilst up to 8 Chaffinches and 30 House Sparrows were constantly present.

SHARDELOES LAKE (BUCKS)
(1300-1400 hours)

The lake is still at the highest water level I have ever seen it and consequently attracting excellent numbers of wildfowl. The footpath is also considerably muddy. I was delighted to see my first SHOVELER of the year in the area, a species with less than 5 records per year. The following species were sighted -:

Little Grebe (1, but there was no sign of the Great Crested Grebe)
Grey Heron (1)
Mute Swan (the resident pair and two of their offspring; the young male was not to be seen)
Atlantic Canada Goose (1)
MANDARIN DUCK (the pair still present, both roosting on the island)
Mallard (10)
GADWALL (high count of 48 birds)
NORTHERN SHOVELER (adult pair showing well - my first of the year in the Recording Area; a pair was seen on the Chess River Valley in early January)
Tufted Duck (29)
NORTHERN POCHARD (12 present, including 3 females)
Coot (42)
Moorhen (12, including 10 on the cricket field)
HERRING GULL (3 immatures)
Red Kite (2)
Common Kestrel (pair)
Great Spotted Woodpecker (1)

Pied Wagtail in the garden

The heavy rain that was forecast today actually fell as heavy snow and by midday, there was a complete covering on my lawn. Two Woodpigeons and a male Pied Wagtail were constantly present, along with 8 Chaffinches and several Goldfinches.

Yesterday's CASPIAN GULL at Millbrook Pillinge
















Steve Blain obtained this excellent selection of images of yesterday's 2nd-winter CASPIAN GULL at Millbrook Pillinge Pit, as it performed for the best part of two hours.
This bird has only been seen on one previous occasion - at the Stewartby roost on 24th January:
For more images and other excellent shots of Steve Blain's, please browse his blog at:

Sunday, 21 February 2010

No Tree Sparrows but a bonus CASPIAN GULL, some nice Wild Geese and a PEREGRINE





Inset Images: Steve Blain's CASPIAN GULL and Richard Bashford's PINK-FOOTED GEESE

SUNDAY 21 FEBRUARY

The snow that fell overnight was followed by a light frost, making driving conditions hazardous first thing. Temperatures slowly increased during the day and by late afternoon had risen to 6 degrees C. It remained dry throughout, with some long clear periods. The wind was very light.

Much of my day was spent birding in Bedfordshire, where I concentrated on a number of target species. Apart from disappointment with Tree Sparrow, it was a very rewarding day.

COLNEY HEATH (HERTS)

My only foray into Hertfordshire today was first thing when I retraced my steps at Colney Heath. This time things went to plan, but most likely because I got the timing of my visit right.

In rather gloomy, grey conditions, a single LITTLE EGRET heavily contrasted, roosting at the side of the River Colne just upstream from the bridge.

The large SISKIN flock was quickly located and although highly mobile, were eventually pinned down in the long line of Alder trees running south from the bridge on Coursers Road. The flock consisted of a total of 76 birds, with just 2 LESSER REDPOLL amongst them. The latter represented my first in the county this year (111).

MARSTON VALE MILLENIUM PARK (BEDFORDSHIRE)

Fortuitously, driving north up the M1 close to the Brogborough turning, Steve Blain relocated the second-winter CASPIAN GULL that had been roosting intermittently at Stewartby Lake. I quickly contacted him, and he very kindly kept on it before I arrived.

Just pipping WeBS counter Bob Hook to the site, I was delighted to find the bird still present on the Millbrook Pillinge Pit at midday. It was showing very well and was a striking bird. Steve was busy making the most of it and taking image after image. It was craftily waiting for Tufted Ducks to emerge after diving with beakfuls of weed and was then 'stealing' it from them and eating it - the first time I had ever seen such piratical behaviour in this manner.

Once I realised that the bird was 'settled', I got much closer, and was eventually able to obtain views at just 80 yards. There was only one area of the pit that was ice-free and this was where all of the wildfowl and other species were congregating. The Caspian Gull was a large bird with a brutish appearance and a long neck and a long, sloping forehead. The bill was thick and clumsy looking, black and bitty at the base and pink towards the tip. The head was completely clean white, with strong brown streaking on the hindneck and a contrastingly apparent dark eye (surrounded by dark smudging). The mantle was solid pale grey, with grey of the same tone also on the median coverts, whilst much of the wing coverts were brown and cream, strongly barred on the flight feathers and predominantly dark brown with isolated internal markings on the tertials. The long primaries were very dark brown. The legs were pale pink. In fact, it was a classic individual, and Steve did excellently in locating it. It was my first in Bedfordshire this year and a bonus considering the poor roost at Stewartby this winter.

The other big bonus at the Pillinge Pit was the presence of at least two very vocal CETTI'S WARBLERS - thankfully both surviving the long cold spell and proving just how hardy these Mediterranean ditch-dwellers are.

At least 112 Tufted Ducks were on the Pillinge but I left Bob to count the other wildfowl present.

CROW HILL FARM AND WILDEN AREA (NORTH BEDFORDSHIRE) (TL 087 551)

Following up on Nigel's discovery of yesterday, Jim Gurney and I spent several hours searching in vain for the Tree Sparrows. I walked miles of farmland but they were just nowhere to be found. I located a very nice area of game crop but this harboured just 2 Yellowhammers and 12 Chaffinches. House Sparrows were fairly abundant in the area, with at least 35 noted, and Red-legged Partridge was commonplace, A single Eurasian Sparrowhawk was the only other species of note.

Bob and Lol visited later and they too drew a blank.

RADWELL A6 GP (NORTH BEDFORDSHIRE)

Retracing Richard Bashford's footsteps of earlier, the flock of 290+ Greylag Geese feeding to the west of the southernmost pits in the complex (and viewable from the Sewage Works compound adjacent to the A6) continued to contain the 2 PINK-FOOTED GEESE, two adult EURASIAN WHITE-FRONTED GEESE and a single BARNACLE GOOSE.

HARROLD COUNTRY PARK (NORTH BEDFORDSHIRE)

At long, long last, I finally connected with EGYPTIAN GOOSE - just the adult male begging for food in the SW corner closest to the restaurant and Information Centre (the female was nowhere to be seen, although RB had seen both birds on the main island earlier). Suspect origin or what!

The main lake also yielded 9 Great Crested Grebes, 12 Mute Swans (including four first-winters), 193 Wigeon, 45 Common Teal, 92 Tufted Duck, 24 Northern Pochard and 4 Common Goldeneye (2 adult drakes).

Nearby, west of the bridge, a single Greylag Goose was with 114 Atlantic Canada Geese.

STEWARTBY (BEDS)

At 1549 hours, the male PEREGRINE was sat on a lamp standard within the Stewartby Brick Company complex - a belated first for the year for me Beds-wise.

EVERSHOLT LAKE (BEDS)

(1600-1624) No sign of any Woodcock, Lesser Redpoll or Siskin, but 7 GOOSANDER showing very well on the part-frozen lake (3 adult drakes) and a Common Treecreeper in the Alders.

SOUTHCOTT VILLAGE, NEAR LINSLADE (BEDS)

The RING-NECKED PARAKEET of somewhat dubious origin flew in to roost at its favourite tree hole at 1645 hours.

STOCKGROVE COUNTRY PARK (BEDS)

Despite visiting the lake at dusk, not one Mandarin Duck was to be found.

Saturday, 20 February 2010

TWITE will still have to wait for another day but BARN OWL was a pleasure


Finally, a Herts BARN OWL - my first of the year in that county (Steve Arlow)






The three EURASIAN WHITE-FRONTS at Broughton today (Dave Bilcock)

SATURDAY 20 FEBRUARY

No change in the general weather, with continuing cold temperatures (4.5 degrees C). It was a clear bright day, with long periods of uninterrupted blue sky, but as darkness loomed, heavy snow started to affect the Chilterns, and by the time I got home in Little Chalfont, had settled considerably.

Although the day was spent relatively local, some main target species were once again missed, in particular the three long-staying Twites in Cambs, and Lesser Redpoll.

Sadly, in Buckinghamshire, single dead BADGERS were noted at Great Missenden (on the A 413 again, westbound, at SP 892 020) and another just NE of 'A World of Old' on the A418 just SW of Wing at SP 877 218.

BROUGHTON TROUT POOLS, NEAR AYLESBURY (BUCKS)

Thanks to Dave Bilcock, I was made alert this morning of 3 'White-fronted Geese' at Broughton, just east of Aylesbury. It transpired that they had been found yesterday by a local birder, but when talking to local walkers, it seems they have been present since Valentine's Day.

Anyway, acting immediately upon David's news, I drove straight over, and found all three birds (the two adult and single first-winter EURASIAN WHITE-FRONTED GEESE that I had seen at Wilstone Reservoir on 12 February) showing very well in the grassy meadow being grazed by horses north of the Aylesbury Arm of the Grand Union Canal 75 yards east of canal Bridge 13 at SU 854 143. They were consorting with 30 Atlantic Canada Geese and were affording views down to 55 yards - both Dave Bilcock and Ben Miller obtaining some excellent photographic results (see images above. Park by the main bridge and walk just 330 yards east to view.

A first-winter Mute Swan was begging for food by the main bridge after parts of the canal had frozen over, whilst just two COMMON SNIPE were located in the frozen rushes area. A RED KITE was circling overhead.

ROWSHAM (BUCKS)

Following up a report of 3 large owls on farmland to the north of Hulcott, I surprised and flushed a drake Common Teal from the Thistle Brook. Due to deep water, I could not reach the thicket where the owls were roosting and failed to locate them (I shall return when the water has receded).

DIDDINGTON AND PUMPHOUSE PITS, PAXTON COMPLEX (CAMBS)

After hearing that Jamie Wells had relocated the 3 Twites at Diddington, I decided to give these birds another go, even though I had little hope of connecting. My suspicions were confirmed when I met Jamie just finishing his morning rounds, as he had only seen the birds briefly at 1010 hours, when the trio perched in a Willow for a short time. I grilled Jamie on their exact whereabouts over the past month or so and had an exhaustive search of the area but reaping little other than a charm of 9 Goldfinches and 15 Linnets. The area is so huge, habitat favourable for so many acres and birds so mobile, that it really is a thankless task and sheer pot luck if you connect.

I spent about 90 minutes in the area, walking the entire Diddington Pit and checking Pumphouse Pit from the SW corner. I saw very much the same as Jamie, including the winter-plumaged BLACK-NECKED GREBE at the extreme north end of Pumphouse, at least 3 Common Shelducks, numerous Wigeon, Teal, Gadwall, Tufted Duck and Pochard (with a few Shoveler), 12 Common Goldeneye, 7 redhead SMEWS on Pumphouse (all in a tight feeding flock), a female RUDDY DUCK, several Common Buzzards, 2 Common Kestrels, my first migrant OYSTERCATCHER of the year, a GREEN SANDPIPER, several Meadow Pipits and 3 Greenfinches.

ROXTON AREA (BEDFORDSHIRE)

Had a scout around for the 1-2 Egyptian Geese often seen in the area but failed to locate them - a pair of GOOSANDER were still present on the pit just north of the River Great Ouse.

COLNEY HEATH (HERTS)

Taking up Steve Blake's very helpful advice, I tried again to locate Lesser Redpoll. Steve had seen four birds in the week, feeding with Siskins along the River Colne between the two bridges. Afternoons are not the best times to look for such species, particularly when there are dogwalkers everywhere, and it came as no surprise that I failed to locate the flock anywhere in the Alders.

What I did see were Great Spotted Woodpecker, Moorhen, 13 Goldfinch, 12 Fieldfare, 5 Redwing and 2 Song Thrushes. I shall have to return another day.

WHIPSNADE WILDLIFE PARK (BEDS)

Two RED KITES were sat on a perch overlooking the three European Bisons and their shelter at Bison Hill - presumably hoping to share some food (quite what I really don't know).

Nearby at Dagnall, the resident pair of COMMON RAVENS were well underway with domestics. As I arrived, both birds were walking about on the ground gathering beakfuls of clumps of grass. I followed them as they flew and they landed in one of the pines. In the 'scope, I enjoyed great views as, first the male dropped his grass on top of the pile of sticks and then the female. The male then flew off, cronking once quite quietly. The female then sat and shuffled around on the nest for some minutes, gradually moulding the nest into a cup shape. I felt quite embarrassed watching this intimate behaviour from afar but it was quite enlightening being allowed to share the social delights of Raven nesting behaviour.

WILSTONE RESERVOIR, TRING (HERTS)

Arrived rather late and only really concentrated on the gull roost.

I was surprised to find 3 Grey Herons already nest-occupying on the central Drayton Bank, a single LITTLE EGRET was roosting there, and 2 adult Mute Swans had returned.

Wildfowl included 575 Eurasian Wigeon, a pair of Gadwall, 18 Shoveler, 27 Northern Pochard and a whopping 228 Tufted Ducks, along with 4 COMMON GOLDENEYES (including 2 adult drakes) and 18 Great Crested Grebes.

The regular adult MEDITERRANEAN GULL was part of the well-strung out roost tonight, with 2,646 Black-headed Gulls roosting by 1710, along with 82 Common Gulls. A juvenile British Herring Gull also put in an appearance.

MARSWORTH RESERVOIR (HERTS)

Delightfully, 83 CORN BUNTINGS flighted in to roost not far out from the causeway at Marsworth Reedbed at 1715 hours - my largest count at the site this winter.

A single CETTI'S WARBLER was singing, as well as a solitary male Song Thrush, with 8 Shoveler, 7 Common Teal and 6 Gadwall on the Sewage Farm.

Thanks to Steve Rodwell, I was finally able to add a new species to my Hertfordshire Year List today - a gorgeous BARN OWL performing eloquently at the back of the sewage farm from 1720 hours onwards. Steve had seen the bird last night and just as he had predicted, it appeared 20 minutes before it got pitch black and too dark to see. After it appeared from its roost-site, it hunted over the rough field for a short time before alighting on the sewage farm perimeter fence, where I was able to enjoy some outstanding views of this most charming of British birds. What a delight.

Friday, 19 February 2010

HAWFINCH delight







FRIDAY 19 FEBRUARY

Although still very cold (5-6 degrees C throughout the day), it was a much brighter than of late, with long clear periods and some pleasant sunshine. It was also very calm. I decided to make the most of the conditions and did some local 'target birding', concentrating on some species I was missing from both my Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire Year Lists. It was partly successful. Bird of the day was undoubtedly HAWFINCH.

BROXBOURNE WOODS (HERTFORDSHIRE)

My main target bird here was Marsh Tit but despite searching from 1100-1330 hours and walking acres of forest. I just could not locate one bird or territorial pair. I played the calls of male Marsh Tit in many different suitable areas, including those very kindly recommended by local observers, but failed.

I had concentrated my efforts on Danemead Nature Reserve, where I had seen 6 Marsh Tits on some occasions in previous years, and was absolutely delighted to find at least two very vocal male HAWFINCHES in this area. The birds were feeding on the ground between the sheep field of Danemead Reserve and the main muddy footpath that leads down from the Ermine Street (Martin's Green) Car Park and as I walked past them, they flew up into the vegetation and called loudly. The sharp 'ticc' enabled me to locate them, allowing me to enjoy some superb views. The vegetation and branch makeup in this area was very dense and it is possible, certainly from the calling, that more birds were involved. Certainly, two bright males were sat close together. They sat calling for about five minutes and then, after several Chaffinches returned to the ground, they did the same.

To reach this area, one needs to park on Cock Lane in the car park aforementioned. Follow the muddy bridlepath NW and as it inclines after 150 yards, the reserve entrance and information boards appear on the left. Between here and the large blue plastic barrel, to the left of the track, are where the Hawfinches are.

Whilst not locating either Marsh Tit or Lesser Redpoll, the following species were encountered: Jay, Great Spotted Woodpecker (2), Nuthatch (3), Great Tit (11), Blue Tit (16), Long-tailed Tit (9), Chaffinch (15) and SISKIN (4).

WATERFORD (TL 313 150) (HERTS)

A LITTLE EGRET was feeding in the River Beane

HERTFORDSHIRE

Just 2 LONG-EARED OWLS remained in their favourite roost-site and alarmingly, on my arrival, both birds were purposefully flushed by some moronic local observer. I gave him a piece of my mind, but he walked away unconcerned. Just one very good reason why Long-eared Owl roosts like this MUST be suppressed at all costs. All five birds can all be seen safely and clearly in a 'scope from the bank above, so there is absolutely no need to flush them. Long-eared Owls love sunshine, so it was really a great shame that their roost-site was upset in a way like this. Once I had seen the two birds fly out of the ivy, I had a look under the tree, and there were at least 50 pellets. I wonder if anybody can make a use of them?

I also recorded 2 GREY PARTRIDGES and a RED KITE at the owl site.

BEDFORD SEWAGE WORKS/OCTAGON FARM (BEDFORDSHIRE)

In an extensive sweep of the area, there was no sign of the Water Pipit seen recently, nor of any Peregrines nearby or in Bedford Town Centre.

FLITWICK SEWAGE TREATMENT WORKS (BEDS)

No sign of the Pintails - just 2 Little Grebes, a pair of Mute Swans and 22 Mallard.

BROGBOROUGH LAKE (BEDS)
(1630-1715 hours)

The juvenile GREAT NORTHERN DIVER was showing well, two-thirds of the way up towards the Sailing Club, with 16 Great Crested Grebes, 113 Tufted Duck and 25 Common Goldeneye noted.

A total of 2,523 gulls roosted by 1715, including an outstanding 803 COMMON GULLS, 53 Herring Gulls (mostly British), 66 Lesser Black-backed Gulls and 1,600 Black-headed Gulls. At 1705 hours, the partial breeding-plumaged MEDITERRANEAN GULL flew in, landing towards the east end of the flock. This was my first in Bedfordshire this year (97).

MOOR LANE, MAULDEN (BEDS)

The ever-faithful LITTLE OWL was showing very well on the barn at 1732 hours (98).

SANDY SMITH NATURE RESERVE, CLOPHILL (BEDS)

Waited until just after dark but sadly no sign of the resident pair of Barn Owls (they had been showing at 2000 hours last night) nor of any Common Stonechats. The Red Foxes were very rewarding, appearing from their den just before dusk.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Sussex in the rain and a COMMON CRANE for my efforts


THURSDAY 18 FEBRUARY

Well, this wintry weather goes on and on. With temperatures hovering between 4 and 6 degrees C today, the heavy rain which continued from dawn until dusk turned to sleet and snow on occasions.

East Sussex was my destination today, and battling with the inclement conditions and terribly wet and muddy conditions underfoot, I was delighted in adding COMMON CRANE to my Year List - the lingering adult in the Lewes Brooks valley.

PIDDINGHOE LEVELS (EAST SUSSEX)

From 1045-1115 hours, the adult COMMON CRANE was kept under observation as it fed at the edge of a flooded area in a sheep field SW of Southease village. From the raised bank of the Ouse river, I was able to enjoy good 'scope views as it fed. It represented my 179th species of the year.

I found that the area is best accessed from the main Newhaven-Lewes road (the A26) at Utford Farm railway station (see map above). After crossing the metal bridge, one can then walk south along the west bank of the Ouse to view the fields.

WRAYSBURY (SURREY)

A flock of 40 Ring-necked Parakeets flew east over the M25 towards dusk.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

EGYPTIAN GOOSE finally added to 2010 Herts List

WEDNESDAY 17 JANUARY

In stark contrast to yesterday, when it sleeted all day long, causing localised flooding, today was glorious, with blue sky throughout, winter sunshine and light southerly winds. Temperatures reached 8 degrees C.

LYNSTER'S FARM, MAPLE CROSS (HERTS) (TQ 033 921)

At long last, finally connected with the resident pair of EGYPTIAN GEESE at Lynster's Farm, both birds waddling away from the manure pile when the farmer drove his tractor into the shed. This represented my 108th species in Hertfordshire this year.

A GREEN SANDPIPER was feeding on the farm pool, with 31 Atlantic Canada and 2 Greylag Geese also in the field.

Large numbers of birds were feeding in the field including 78 Woodpigeons, 1 Stock Dove, 64 Jackdaws and 22 Common Magpies.

A RED KITE was soaring above Maple Cross.

CHESS RIVER VALLEY (BUCKS)

Still at least 5 LITTLE EGRETS present, including 4 at Chenies Bottom, along with 2 Grey Herons and a Common Buzzard.

Great Water, Latimer, and Latimer Bridge yielded 1 Little Grebe, 10 Mute Swans, 3 Atlantic Canada Geese, 2 Mallard, 22 Tufted Duck, 5 Northern Pochard, 35 Moorhen, 78 Coot, both Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Mistle Thrush (singing male) and Greenfinch.

My first venture into Norfolk this year yields EIGHT new species




TUESDAY 16 FEBRUARY

A band of very heavy rain and sleet traversed the southern half of the country and for the best part of the day kept its northern border just south of Norwich across to Waxham. It remained very cold throughout, with temperatures hovering around 4 degrees C and very little brightness was seen, apart from at dusk at Holkham.

Reaching Week 7 of 2010, I had finally got round to visiting East Anglia, and had a list of specific birds I wanted to target, including Golden Pheasant, Willow Tit, Hawfinch, Twite, Short-eared Owl, Rough-legged Buzzard, Snow Bunting, Shore Lark, Greater Snow Goose, Bohemian Waxwing, Red-necked Grebe, Kittiwake, Dartford Warbler, Bearded Tit, Black Redstart and Mealy Redpoll. Of these 16 species, I was eventually able to connect with 7, so a reasonably successful mission. Weather played a major part in the failure to locate some species.

Alan Stewart and I departed Chorleywood at 0530 hours and reached Suffolk Breckland at 0700 hours

SUFFOLK BRECKLAND
(0700-0750)

At a traditional site, I was very pleased to find 10 GOLDEN PHEASANTS surviving, all of the adult males still being completely 'pure'. A flock of 9 birds (7 adult drakes and two females) was found, along with an additional adult male which was unusually seen in flight. The birds were typically elusive, shy and retiring, and ran at great speed away when startled. It was my 171st species of the year.

The mixed woodland also yielded 3 Red Deer stags, several Brown Hares, numerous Muntjac and 40+ Rabbits, along with 15 Common Pheasants, Jay, LESSER REDPOLL, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, MARSH TIT (3), Long-tailed Tit and Great Tit.

NORFOLK BRECKLAND
(0800-0840)

At another traditional site, I was equally delighted to find the continued presence of WILLOW TITS, especially considering the stark decline this species is going through in Britain. No less than four birds (two pairs) was located, consorting with a large flock of other tit species. One male was in full song. The birds afforded excellent views, allowing the salient characteristics such as the bull-necked appearance, rich orange-buff flanks and sides and striking pale 'wing panel' to be noted, as well as the all-dark bill. The frequently heard call was a very nasal sound, repeated several times (172).

It was nice to compare the Willow Tits with a MARSH TIT seen in its usual location close to the bridge, this bird announcing itself with the loud, sneezing 'pitchou' notes familiar with this species. The pale cutting edge to the bill was also diagnostic but rather difficult to see as it flitted from branch-to-branch.

Again, 3 Red Deer were seen, along with GREY WAGTAIL, Carrion Crow, Great Spotted Woodpecker (2), Green Woodpecker, Common Treecreeper (3), Jay, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Long-tailed Tit and 2 GOLDCRESTS.

LYNFORD ARBORETUM (NORFOLK)
(0900-0930)

On to Lynford where we were rewarded with fabulous views of an immature NORTHERN GOSHAWK that we fortuitously chanced upon. The bird appeared from the direction of the pits, flew low along the line of the trees and was pursued by two Carrion Crows. It landed in a tall Larch tree and sat there, constantly being mobbed by corvids, for about ten minutes before sloping off low over the trees eastwards (173).

In the Arboretum itself, the first of five HAWFINCHES was located - a beautiful male - feeding on buds at the top of a fruiting tree. It sat there in full 'scope view for about 15 minutes before being overflown by four others, all 5 then disappearing into the main area of woodland (174). At least 6 COMMON CROSSBILLS were in the firs, along with a flock of 50 SISKIN, whilst the paddock area produced Chaffinch, 52 Redwing, Green Woodpecker, Coal Tit, Goldfinch, Stock Dove and a single Roe Deer.

WHITLINGHAM GREAT BROAD, TROWSE BOTTOM (NORWICH, NORFOLK)
(1015-1100 hours)

Alan and I walked the entire southern perimeter of the Wherryman's Way and were extremely pleased with our results - Red-necked Grebe being my first of the year (175).

Great Crested Grebe (17)
RED-NECKED GREBE (superb views were obtained of a first-winter at the western end of the broad, visible from the second car park)
Continental Cormorants (66)
Grey Heron (1)
Mute Swans (22)
Egyptian Geese (8)
Mallard, Common Teal (3), Gadwall, Tufted Duck (221) and Northern Pochard
*RING-NECKED DUCK (the adult female was showing well, loosely associating with a group of Northern Pochard, about half way down the broad)
GREATER SCAUP (immature drake with Tufted Ducks)
SMEW (2 redheads showing well)
GOOSANDERS (7 noted, including 4 adult drakes, a first-winter drake and two redheads)
RUDDY DUCK (1 female)
SISKINS

DUSSINDALE DRIVE ESTATE, THORPE ST ANDREW (NORFOLK)

After a lengthy search of the estate, I was just chatting to one of my long-standing birding companions Baz Harding when a flock of 18 BOHEMIAN WAXWINGS suddenly alighted in a tall tree adjacent to the drive at 1155. The birds afforded exceptional views as they waited in turn to feed on the berry-bearing shrubs bordering the road, were all unringed and were part of a late arrival from Scandinavia, the prolonged heavy snow and the exhaustion of their food crop forcing them to move further west. They were a very welcolm addition to the Year List, particularly considering their scarcity all winter (176). It was at this point that the heavier rain caught up with us, curtailing our birding somewhat.

THORPE MARSHES, BETWEEN HADDISCOE AND ST OLAVES (NORFOLK)

A MARSH HARRIER flew across the A146 at 1218 at Hales, near Loddon. Despite the conditions, we were very lucky in that the wintering juvenile ROUGH-LEGGED BUZZARD was showing very well from the first pull-in as you drive towards Yarmouth, perched on top of the gate (177). Excellent views were obtained in the 'scope, the bird just sitting there unconcerned by the rain (until 1230 hours at least).

There were also large numbers of Pink-footed Geese grazing on the fields, and several more Egyptian Geese.

CHEDGRAVE MARSHES (SUFFOLK)

The rain got heavier and heavier here and really dampened our spirits. Despite the shelter of the trees at the 'mound', no self-respecting Short-eared Owl was going to fly in these conditions and after half an hour of scanning, we decided to give up. Neither of the two wintering Rough-legged Buzzards was on view, Marsh Harrier and 3 Egyptian Geese being the only birds of note.

GREAT YARMOUTH BEACH (NORFOLK)

Just north of the Sealife Centre, the sandy beaches were dominated by roosting MEDITERRANEAN GULLS - 62 at least, including many multi colour-ringed individuals.

THE HORSEY AREA (NORFOLK)

Our next dip of the day was Common Crane, with not one to be found in any of their traditional areas. Where have they gone? Scanning from West Somerton over Heigham Holmes produced 44 Red-legged Partridges, whilst the road north to the windmill yielded 500+ European Golden Plovers, a single RUFF, a single Dunlin, 1,000+ Lapwings, 76 Greylag Geese and another MARSH HARRIER.

A BARN OWL was a pleasant surprise, hunting by day (1420) at the entrance to the Waxham Sands Holiday Camp, with another just 14 minutes later, perched on a post just north of Hickling village.

Driving down to Eastfield Farm produced a further MARSH HARRIER.

BETWEEN HICKLING AND STALHAM VILLAGES (NORFOLK)

Where Stalham Road meets Hall Road, north of Hickling village, a herd of 60 wild swans was feeding in a roadside field including 51 BEWICK'S SWANS and 9 WHOOPER SWANS (including a family party of 6 birds, with four first-winters).

WEST RUNTON (NORFOLK)

Finally escaping the heavy rain, we pitched up at West Runton beach car park. Walking east to the highest point just west of the holiday village some 600 yards, there was no sign whatsoever of the Black Redstart seen recently. The farmer was busily ploughing the coastal fields enticing flocks of both 65 Linnet and 70 Eurasian Skylark to feed, as well as 4 Pied Wagtails.

Most unusual was a very confiding partially summer-hooded adult MEDITERRANEAN GULL in the main car park, showing down to just yards as it sat on a post.

SALTHOUSE BEACH CAR PARK (NORFOLK)

Outstanding views were obtained of 6 SNOW BUNTINGS feeding in and around the shingle beach car park, my first of the year (178); 8 Turnstones were also feeding at point-blank range.

WELLS HARBOUR AND BOATING LAKE (NORTH HORFOLK)

A large flock of 600 Dark-bellied Brent Geese was feeding in fields immediately west of the pitch & putt course, whilst 4 GREATER SCAUP (two adult drakes, a first-winter drake and an adult female) were showing very well on the lake.

HOLKHAM SALTMARSH AND FIELDS (NORTH HORFOLK)

With just twenty minutes of birdable light left of the day, we ventured out from Holkham Gap eastwards, in the vain hope of locating the 17 Shore Larks that are wintering there. Despite marching out for over a mile and widely sweeping the area, they were not to be found, and our efforts were rewarded with just 3 Skylark, 18 Meadow Pipits and a noisy flock of creek-feeding Common Redshanks.

A further BARN OWL was hunting Lady Anne's Drive towards dusk, with a single WOODCOCK appearing as light started to fade. A TAWNY OWL hooted from the pines, whilst just 300 Pink-footed Geese flew in to join the 300 or so Eurasian Wigeon just east of the drive.

Monday, 15 February 2010

The first DUSKY WARBLER for London - and a very showy Bedfordshire border FIRECREST







Roy Woodward did brilliantly well obtaining these fabulous shots of the highly mobile DUSKY WARBLER - the first ever record for the London area









Today's dazzling FIRECREST captured on film by Luke Massey - superb!

MONDAY 15 FEBRUARY

Still continuing very cold with temperatures once again struggling to reach much more than 4 degrees C. Occasional heavy rain gave way to a dull, grey and overcast afternoon.

Following Andy Tweed and others finding of a Penduline Tit at Rainham Marsh RSPB, I set forth yet again for another attempt to add this elusive species to my 2010 British year-list. No sooner had I started driving east around the M25, I was informed that the bird had flown, disappearing high over the railway towards Dagenham. It had lasted all of 20 minutes !

I then diverted north into Bedfordshire, where I was delighted to connect with a very showy FIRECREST.......

EAST HYDE (BEDS/HERTS BORDER)

Favouring the ivy-clad hedgerow bordering Thrales End Lane at East Hyde bridge (at TL 128 172, in Bedfordshire), the male FIRECREST was showing very well, flitting slowly through the branches 15-60 yards west of the bridge. Lol Carman and Luke Massey were also present, the latter photographer obtaining some excellent shots, despite the poor light conditions. The bird called occasionally, but only as a result of light pishing, and was quite orange at the leading edge and sides of the yellow crown-stripe.

A single JACK SNIPE was feeding by the sedgebed at the convergence of the streams, and my first Herts LITTLE OWL of the year was showing very well in its favoured tree behind the farm, close to its nesting hole. The hedgerow also held Song Thrush and Wren.

LOCKWOOD RESERVOIR (LONDON RECORDING AREA)
(1330-1646 hours)

Local patchworker Lol Boldini had impressively located a DUSKY WARBLER in scrub behind the houses and allotments NE of Lockwood Reservoir Sunday morning and after releasing news of his find to other locals, Roy Woodward relocated it late morning today. It represented the FIRST record for the London Recording Area.

On hearing of Roy's relocation, I made my way straight there, and after negotiating the A10 and North Circular, eventually arrived in Black Horse Road at 1330. I was greeted by a beaming Joan Thompson and Mick Frosdick, who along with 7 others, had just seen the bird flicking between scrubby patches at the west side of the Flood Relief Channel. It had disappeared north and had been lost from view.

Lawrence knew the area well and took me and Andrew Self around on to the Walthamstow Marsh proper, where we searched the area well but failed to locate it. It did look good though, with much scrubby understorey, and 8 Long-tailed Tits, 4 Blue Tits, 3 Great Tits and 3 Reed Buntings were noted. We all returned to the original site and in a study of the area, I felt that the only place it could be was in the small scrubby patches bordering the Flood Relief Channel slightly further north. Paul Whiteman arrived, and I informed him of my senses, and in no time at all, he had managed to scale the fences and was in - soon to be followed by eight others. No sooner had they climbed in than Andrew Self declared he had heard it - and seen it flicking its way into some more dense vegetation.

Being a first for London, I clambered after Jonathan Lethbridge, Lol and others, and eventually got to where they were standing. The DUSKY WARBLER was calling constantly - a hard clicking ''tuckk'' - but was near impossible to see, as it was hugging the ground on the opposite side of a concrete wall. Andrew Self had worked out a way of 'scoping it at distance and that was where all of us (13 observers in total) eventually enjoyed good views, as it slowly made its way along the edge of the Relief Channel towards us, often in the company of a single Wren.

I must have seen it on 20 occasions over a period of 50 minutes, with it often flitting higher into the vegetation and occasionally perching on the top of the concrete fence. It was a typically dingy warbler, with an olive tone to its brown upperparts, and a marked and quite broad buff-brown supercilium. It was often rather Chiffchaff-like but had characteristic orange-brown legs with brighter feet, light buff undertail-coverts and darker flanks and sides. It was constantly flicking its wings, particularly when calling, and was highly mobile at all times. Roy Woodward managed to get several images of the bird as it flew closer, three of which are published above. Both Franko Marievic and Adam Wilson arrived late and saw the bird. I am indebted to both Jonathan and Lol for their kind help.

Four GOOSANDERS were also seen.

DIRECTIONS: The bird is moving between the allotments and the relief channel to the NE of Lockwood Reservoir. If at the former location, follow the public footpath directly opposite Worcester Road north for 220 yards to view. If it is in the channel, you will need to park on Ferry Lane (the A503), purchase a day permit for £1 and walk north along the entire length of Lockwood Reservoir to view.

No Penduline Tit or Short-eared Owl but did add Marsh and Hen Harrier and Sanderling !


At last ! Finally added Sanderling to the Year List with this charming individual lured by crisps - captured on film by Barry Wright
SUNDAY 14 FEBRUARY (VALENTINE'S DAY)

Another very cold day, with frequent snow flurries and temperatures hovering at about 3 degrees C. In fact, weather identical to yesterdays. Having had to do an 18th birthday party bash until late in the night, failed to surface before 10 o'clock. As a result, little daylight left for birding, so Alan Stewart and I headed for east Kent, where we searched in vain for the female Penduline Tit present most of the week at Grove Ferry.

CHAFFINCH HOUSE, LITTLE CHALFONT (BUCKS)

A single FIELDFARE and SONG THRUSH visited the garden.

HIGHFIELD AREA, NEAR HERNE BAT (NORTH KENT)

There was still a fair amount of lying drifting snow left over from Thursday's fall, with large numbers of Fieldfares feeding in roadside fields where the snow had melted.

GROVE FERRY NNR (KENT)
(1145-1500 hours)

There was no sign of the female Penduline Tit seen and photographed during the past three days in and around the David Feast Hide. In fact, some people had been there since dawn!

The highlight for me was my first MARSH HARRIER of the year - flying high over Stodmarsh NNR

Also noted were 1 full breeding plumaged Continental Cormorant (roosting on a raft in front of the hide), 225 Common Teal, 8 Gadwall, 5 Northern Pochard, 2 WATER RAILS (including 1 showing well to the left of the hide), 1 Common Redshank, 1 Common Snipe, a single WATER PIPIT and 2 CETTI'S WARBLERS.

THE ISLE OF SHEPPEY (NORTH KENT)

Staggering numbers of COMMON BLACKBIRDS were present on Sheppey, including 31 in just one small area of grass verge along the B2237 on the Eastchurch Bypass. There were also at least 150 Fieldfares in a field just west of Eastchurch.

HARTY FERRY ROAD, CAPEL FLEET MARSHES (NORTH KENT)

Mute Swans (50+)
Greylag Geese (250+)
EURASIAN WHITE-FRONTED GEESE (231)
Common Shelducks (38)
Wigeon, Teal, Gadwall and Shoveler
MARSH HARRIERS (9 noted)
HEN HARRIER (1 ringtail seen perched and in flight - my first of the year and one of four birds present)
Common Buzzard (1)
Red-legged Partridge (6)
Lapwing (5,000+)
European Golden Plovers (200+)
BARN OWLS (4 individuals hunting over fields late afternoon, including a very pale individual)
COMMON STONECHAT (1 male)
Fieldfares (500+)
Common Starlings (flock of 400)

MUSWELL MANOR, LEYSDOWN=ON-SEA, SHEPPEY

A flock of over 2,000 Dark-bellied Brent Geese harboured a single adult BLACK BRANT and 3 PALE-BELLIED BRENT GEESE, with 13 RUFF on an adjacent pool and 2 further BARN OWLS hunting..

Nearby, the ebbing tide at Leysdown Beach yielded my first 16 SANDERLING of the year, including an exceptionally confiding first-winter by the car park (see Barry Wright's images), as well as just under 1,000 Red Knot, 18 Grey Plovers and large numbers of Common Redshank, Dunlin, Oystercatcher and a few Turnstone.

No Firecrests and still no Red-necked Grebe

SATURDAY 13 FEBRUARY

Another very cold day, with frequent snow flurries and temperatures hovering at about 3 degrees C.

CLIVEDEN PARK (BUCKS)

Spent a total of three hours searching for Firecrest in the usual areas behind the new exclusive housing estate but with no success......

The following species were noted -:

Red Kite (1 inspecting one of last summer's nests in a tall pine)
Common Buzzard (1)
Song Thrush (1)
Mistle Thrush (2)
Jay (1)
Great Spotted Woodpecker (2)
Great Tit (6)
Coal Tit (4)
Blue Tit (10)
Long-tailed Tit (8)
Robin
Wren (2)
Chaffinch (7)
GOLDCREST (1 female)
Common Treecreeper (2)

There was also a good spread of Snowdrops carpeting the woodland floor

KING GEORGE VI RESERVOIR (SURREY)

Followed up a report of a Red-necked Grebe seen by the pier but could only find 6 Great Crested Grebes, a Little Grebe and a SLAVONIAN GREBE. Four juvenile GREAT NORTHERN DIVERS were still present, and a selection of wildfowl including Teal, Wigeon, Gadwall and Shoveler.

Friday, 12 February 2010

BRAMBLING, BLACK-NECKED GREBE, WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE - all added to the Herts Year List


FRIDAY 12 FEBRUARY

Another very cold day, with temperatures not rising to more than 5 degrees C. Some heavy sleet showers fell, especially during the morning.

The day was spent in Hertfordshire, attempting to mop up on a few species that I was still missing locally. Egyptian Goose was the only disappointment.......

DRAYTON BEAUCHAMP (BUCKS)

A single RED KITE was sat in a tree close to the churchyard in the village.

WILSTONE RESERVOIR (HERTS)
(1000-1047 hours; with Peter Leigh)

My first opportunity this week to get to the reservoirs. Fortunately, the three EURASIAN WHITE-FRONTED GEESE found by Roy Hargreaves yesterday morning were still present and showing very well with just 2 Canada Geese in the first field west of the main car park. It was an adult pair with a single youngster (in full first-winter plumage). As Mic and Jan Wells walked along the bank, the three birds spooked and flew on to the main reservoir, landing in front of the Drayton Bank Hide and still present when I left at 1247. They represented my 104th Hertfordshire species of the year. Steve Blake obtained the excellent photograph above.

Also still present and showing well was the adult drake SMEW found by Roy much earlier - feeding just to the right of the shooting butts on the central bank - the second drake I have seen on Wilstone in recent times.

This also gave me the opportunity to count the wildfowl, overall much depleted in number. The reservoir was still very high in terms of water level. Once again, I could not find the resident Little Owls.

Great Crested Grebe (high count of 22 birds)
Little Grebes (3 together)
Continental Cormorant (21)
Grey Heron (1 pair at the nest in the central bank)
Mute Swan (none)
Greylag Geese (67)
Eurasian Wigeon (556)
Common Teal (33; marked decrease)
Shoveler (28)
Tufted Duck (73)
Northern Pochard (56)
COMMON GOLDENEYE (2 adult drakes, 3 females)
Coot (537)
Lapwing (83 in flight)

A female Eurasian Sparrowhawk was plucking a dead Woodpigeon in the crop field opposite the Cemetery, with two Carrion Crows looking on.

STARTOP'S END RESERVOIR

Around the Angler's Retreat car park and Startop Farm, 22 HOUSE SPARROWS were present, along with 3 Chaffinches and a male Song Thrush in full song. A flock of 27 FIELDFARES flew east.

A Great Crested Grebe, 43 Tufted Duck, 64 Northern Pochard and 118 Coot were on the reservoir.

TRINGFORD RESERVOIR

Very quiet, with just 2 Mute Swans (the only ones noted), 22 Tufted Duck, 2 Pochards and 8 Coot noted.

MARSWORTH RESERVOIR

Great Crested Grebe (6), Shoveler (35) and Tufted Duck (5).

COLLEGE LAKE BBOWT (BUCKS)

Very poor, with few wildfowl present - Little Grebe (1), Wigeon (4 - 2 pairs), Common Teal (19), Tufted Duck (8) and Pochard (1). 66 Coot.

PITSTONE QUARRY

A pair of Wigeon were the unusual sight here, with 17 Common Teal, 35 Tufted Duck and 8 Coot. Roosting gulls included 143 Black-headed and 8 Commons.

COW ROAST (HERTS)

A covey of 8 Red-legged Partridges north of the A41.

HILFIELD PARK RESERVOIR (HERTS)

Attempted to make it to the public viewpoint but as on previous visits, was hounded and attacked by the horses loose in the field. The white horse was particularly frisky and kept kicking out. They did not like my tripod and it may well frighten them.

A single BLACK-NECKED GREBE was showing very well at the extreme north end of the reservoir - my first of the year (105). It was in transitional plumage and had already acquired its bright golden ear coverts and had much black coming through on the head and breast.

Little of note otherwise, just 6 Great Crested Grebes, 29 Gadwall and 32 Tufted Ducks.

EAST HYDE (HERTS)

At the north end of Cootes End Lane (at TL 128 166), the highly mobile passerine flock eventually yielded 8 BRAMBLINGS (my first of the year - 106), 22 Chaffinches, 18 Yellowhammers and 3 Reed Buntings - all frequenting the tall Oaks and scrub opposite the first layby (and suitable for just 2 cars parking). A Skylark was also in adjoining fields.

I flushed up 5 GREY PARTRIDGE from the field (scarce here) and also noted Sparrowhawk (patrolling the hedgerow), 1 Song Thrush, 2 Redwings and 8 Fieldfares.

At the bridge site (with DS), a WATER RAIL was showing well feeding along the main river bank, with 2 Mute Swans, 32 Gadwall, 4 Common Teal and Mallard noted. There was no sign of any Green Sandpipers or Jack Snipe in the stream, although Darin Stanley returned at dusk and recorded at least 5.

There was no sign of the Little Owls in their favoured tree.

KIMPTON AREA (HERTS)

Yet again, I failed in my quest to locate any Egyptian Geese. A total of 15 Gadwall were west of the mill on the flood meadows. Also 13 Moorhens, and 48 Rooks nearby.

The resident pair of COMMON RAVENS were very active and showing extremely well, the male being very vocal and repeatedly calling from a manure heap adjacent to the nesting tree. A single RED KITE was also in the area.

WHITWELL CRESS BEDS (HERTS) (TL 183 212)

Seven LITTLE EGRETS were present today and showing very well from the road; also 8 Moorhens. A single ROE DEER was feeding with Sheep out of their buckets.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

GREEN-WINGED TEAL added









North American Green-winged Teal, Budds Farm Sewage Works, Hants, February 2010 (Richard Ford; Bernie Forbes; Nick Bond and Alan Lewis)

THURSDAY 11 FEBRUARY

There was a light snow covering at dawn and later, as I drove to the South Coast, West and East Sussex from East Grinstead and Polegate east to at least Hastings was covered in at least four inches of lying snow.

All 3 LITTLE EGRETS were by Church Covert early morning.

EAST SUSSEX: Driving west along the A27 between Drusillas Zoo at Arlington and Charlestone Farmhouse, the fields were covered in both Lapwing and Fieldfare - in fact, the number of the latter were at least 1,000.

BUDDS FARM, LANGSTONE HARBOUR (HAMPSHIRE)

The drake NORTH AMERICAN GREEN-WINGED TEAL was showing well at 1615 hours, feeding on one of the circular filter beds, just north of the main pools. There were also 38 Common Teal, 15 Shoveler, 40 Gadwall and the odd Tufted Duck and Northern Pochard. The GWT represented my 162nd bird in Britain this year.

WATERLOOVILLE

A pair of Eurasian Sparrowhawks was in circular display over woods just east of the A3

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

WAXWING dip

WEDNESDAY 10 FEBRUARY

There was a light frost overnight, followed by another cold day, temperatures peaking at 2 degrees C. Kent saw some substantial snow during the day (up to 32 cms) and the Chilterns also had a light covering by nightfall.

CHESS RIVER VALLEY

All 5 LITTLE EGRETS were still present, with two at Chesham Sewage Works and the three by Church Covert.

STRETHAM (CAMBRIDGESHIRE)

Driving through a snow blizzard on the A11, I eventually reached Stretham mid afternoon. Frustratingly, the two Bohemian Waxwings that had been present since Tuesday had been last seen at 12.30pm. They had been feeding on the Rowan trees by Hazel Court. Two Mistle Thrushes were guarding the two trees and chasing everything out that landed in them, including Collared Doves. I assume that is why the Waxwings had moved on.

The last two days have seen a widespread arrival of Waxwings into the country, so hopefully I will get another opportunity to see one in the coming days.......

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

First local GREAT CRESTED GREBE of year











TUESDAY 9 FEBRUARY

The wind veered from NE to northerly during the day and in doing so raised the temperature a bit, to 6 degrees C. It remained dry throughout and during the afternoon, the cloud melted away, leaving a clear blue sky. By nightfall, a frost was in prospect

CHESS RIVER VALLEY (SOUTH BUCKS)

Still 4 LITTLE EGRETS present, all just west of Chenies Bottom, with 3 Common Buzzards in display over Lane Wood (SU 990 987)

COLESHILL (SOUTH BUCKS)

Yet another dead Badger, lying in the middle of the A404 just west of New Road at SU 944 962

A Common Kestrel was sat on the wire by Whielden Gate.

PENN WOOD (SOUTH BUCKS)

Checked out Penn Wood, particularly the Penna Monument ride, but with scant results - no Lesser Redpoll located and just 2 Goldcrests, 1 Wren, 8 Long-tailed Tits and 3 Muntjac Deer encountered. The Chaffinch roost at the west end numbered 48.

Most activity centred around the Holly roost at SU 916 957, where 147 GREENFINCHES were joined by 32 BRAMBLINGS, a few males now in nice attire.

SHARDELOES LAKE (SOUTH BUCKS)
(Dusk visit)

A noticeable arrival of water birds, with the first GREAT CRESTED GREBE of the year, 2 Little Grebes, 70 Coots, all 5 Mute Swans again (including three of last year's brood), 52 Atlantic Canada Geese, 8 Mallard, 20 Gadwall, 24 Tufted Duck and 16 Northern Pochard.

I also located a REED BUNTING roost at the far west end of the lake, numbering 5 birds.

Monday, 8 February 2010

Abortive visit to Thames Basin

MONDAY 8 FEBRUARY

Returned from Ireland to find Britain once again taking the full brunt of wintry weather. Temperatures had plummeted to just 2 degrees C and snow was again falling but not settling. A moderate North-easterly wind meant that it was bitterly cold in exposed areas.

COALHOUSE FORT, EAST TILBURY (ESSEX)

I was hoping to connect with my first Shore Larks of the year but on talking to Graham Ekins on the phone, realised that the three birds I had been looking for had flown back south over the River Thames to Cliffe Pools RSPB in North Kent. There was also no sign of the Slavonian Grebe reported earlier.

The Fort pools held 4 Little Grebes, whilst the adjacent estuary on the ebbing tide had just 15 Dark-bellied Brent Geese, 68 Dunlin and a few Common Redshank and Eurasian Curlew.

A single Little Egret, Green and Great Spotted Woodpecker, Mistle Thrush, 8 Chaffinch and 2 Reed Bunting were also noted but best of all was the flock of 37 CORN BUNTINGS in the long grass just inside the sea wall.

My first-ever NORTH AMERICAN EIDER (dresseri)



Drake North American Eider, Glasagh Bay, Fanad Head, County Donegal, Decembver 2009 (Wilton Farelly)

SUNDAY 7 FEBRUARY

Temperatures dropped to 3 degrees overnight but cloud moved in from very early morning. This cloud was accompanied by very cold North-easterly winds, which made viewing birds difficult as the day progressed. It did remain dry however.

It was a 90 minute drive north to the Fanad peninsula in northern Donegal. Ballybofey afforded us with more Hooded Crows and Common Starlings, whilst Broad Water, at the north end of Mulroy Bay, alongside the R246 north of Carrowkeel, yielded PALE-BELLIED BRENT GOOSE and 2 drake Red-breasted Mergansers.

FANAD HEAD (COUNTY DONEGAL)

Fanad Head, in the vicinity of the lighthouse, added numerous Hooded Crows,15 Redwing, several Common Blackbirds and my first RED-BILLED CHOUGHS of 2010 (a pair feeding in a field alongside the road and showing well) (165). Two BARNACLE GEESE flew north.

Glasagh Bay was our main destination and eventually we found the narrow road which lead down to the tiny beach car park. Derek Charles and Wilton Farelly had discovered this bird in early January and had been particularly instructive and helpful in providing details and photographs.

A total of 314 COMMON EIDERS was present in the bay, in two main clusters, and after walking east along the beach to the east end of the bay, the birds could be satisfactorily 'scoped, as they fed 65-200 yards offshore. The flocks contained a minimum of five brighter-billed 'northern' birds or variants, along with the much more obvious and paler-billed 'dresseri' - NORTH AMERICAN EIDER.

Although difficult to locate, mainly due to the fact that the flock were so closely packed, were often in diving mode for extended periods and the sea swell was quite high, the key features enabling differentiation were thus -:

1) Slightly smaller in size, with a different head profile and a fine black line between the bill and the crown on a side-view;

2) A paler bill, with bulbous lobes at the top of the bill extending well up the crown and in line with the eye;

3) Pale green on head much more extensive and obvious;

4) White 'sails' often noticeable.

The bird was often part of a displaying group of adult drakes and it was when partaking in such activity that it was most easily located; otherwise it was very difficult. It was the first North American Eider that both Chris Heard and I had ever seen.

In addition to the Eider flock, three hours of scanning yielded 1 GREAT NORTHERN DIVER, at least 15 RED-THROATED DIVERS (including several adults already in breeding plumage), 5 Northern Gannets, numerous European Shags, 2 vocal WHOOPER SWANS (an adult and first-winter), a few LONG-TAILED DUCKS (including a dapper winter drake) and an immature VELVET SCOTER.

Waders on the rocky coastline included Common Redshank, Oystercatcher, Eurasian Curlew and Turnstone, whilst 2 Common Buzzards, COMMON RAVEN, up to 15 HOODED CROWS and several more RED-BILLED CHOUGH were also encountered.

THE RAGHLEY, BALLINTEMPLE AND LISSADELL AREAS (COUNTY SLIGO)

Having spent so much time in Donegal, birding opportunities for the rest of Sunday were somewhat minimal. We decided to target the geese flocks NW of Sligo.

A herd of 8 WHOOPER SWANS (three first-winters) were feeding close to the road near Ardtermon House, whilst the bulk of 2,300 BARNACLE GEESE were just NE of Raghley, in the fields south of Ballintemple. We managed to locate a single pale RICHARDSON'S CANADA GOOSE feeding within the flock but not the larger individual (166).

Searching unsuccessfully for Twite at Raghley Point did provide further excellent views of PALE-BELLIED BRENT GEESE (25 birds).

Driving further north and viewing the 'Red Barn' area of fields, 350 or more BARNACLE GEESE were encountered, 15 Fieldfares and a wing-tagged introduction immature WHITE-TAILED SEA EAGLE.

SLIGO TOWN (COUNTY SLIGO)

Prior to returning to Knock Airport, we stopped off at Quay Street car park in Sligo, where a GREAT NORTHERN DIVER was affording crippling views in the harbour.

And that was it - a very enjoyable and rewarding weekend spent in western and NW Ireland. I am indebted to the kind help of those Irish birders that rang and texted, particularly Dermot Breen, Tom Cuffe, Ronan McLaughlin and Sean Cronin.