SATURDAY 1 JANUARY (NEW YEARS DAY 2011)
Virtually all of the lying snow has now melted but on the lakes, gravel pits and reservoirs, thick ice is still prevalent and many sites are still not ice-free. It was another reasonably mild day though (temperatures reaching 7 degrees C) but very dreary and grey, with rain moving in during the afternoon.
The undoubted highlight of the day was a RED-THROATED DIVER in Bedfordshire, found by Roy Nye.
CHAFFINCH HOUSE, LITTLE CHALFONT (BUCKS)
At 0400 hours, two TAWNY OWLS were calling to each other in the tall trees opposite the house, whilst later at 0800 hours, the lawn and feeders yielded Woodpigeon (4), Collared Dove, the continuing Song Thrush, Common Blackbird, Common Starling, Jackdaw, House Sparrow (34), Blue Tit, Robin, Dunnock, Pied Wagtail (adult male), Goldfinch (1) and Common Magpie.
CHESHAM TOWN CENTRE (BUCKS)
A total of 82 BOHEMIAN WAXWINGS was still present in Chesham Broadway, continuously commuting between the tall trees behind the Station car park and the Rowan trees in front of Waterstones book shop. On occasions, the birds showed very well and were constantly entertaining the general public as they were walking by. Both Red Kite and Black-headed Gull were overhead.
CHESHAM FISHING LAKES (BUCKS)
The large lake was still completely frozen but the smaller had just one restricted area of open water. As I scanned its contents, I was amazed to see a redhead GOOSANDER present in amongst the 8 Northern Pochard and 3 Tufted Ducks. This is a very rare bird in the Recording Area and the first for several years. It was showing very well and diving frequently. I telephoned Chris Pontin who lives just across the road from the site and he managed to see it before it was flushed inadvertently by dogwalkers. It lasted all of ten minutes !
A single LITTLE EGRET was also noted (fishing in the shallow stream behind the houses), along with 5 Mute Swans (family party of two adults and three surviving young), 28 Mallard, just 4 Coot, Moorhen, 18 Black-headed Gulls, Wren, Robin, Great Tit and Coal Tit.
A GREY WAGTAIL was feeding on the stream by the entrance whilst the Birches held 46 SISKINS and a few Goldfinches.
CHESHAM SEWAGE FARM (BUCKS)
Up to 184 Black-headed Gulls were present, whilst opposite 75 Rooks were gathered on the grass fields. It is interesting to see how many Rooks are already attending the nests.
Nearby, an adult Mute Swan was surviving at Bois Mill Lake.
LATIMER AREA AND GREAT WATER (BUCKS)
A second LITTLE EGRET was feeding in shallow water just east of Latimer Bridge, with Common Kestrel and Chaffinch noted nearby.
A Great Spotted Woodpecker was in Latimer Village, as were the resident flock of 20 Fan-tailed Doves.
The section of River Chess between Neptune Falls and Latimer Bridge held 2 Mute Swans, 10 Tufted Duck, 10 Northern Pochard, 8 Coot and 2 Wrens, whilst the fully ice-free Great Water held 86 Atlantic Canada Geese, a single GREYLAG GOOSE, a further 13 Mute Swans, 17 GADWALL (a high count for this site), 7 Tufted Duck, 6 Northern Pochard, 34 Coots, Grey Heron, 68 Black-headed Gulls and an adult Common Gull.
The slopes held a pair of Stock Dove and 7 Mistle Thrushes, whilst other species noted included Green Woodpecker, Nuthatch and 2 Carrion Crows.
CHESS VALLEY AT CHENIES BOTTOM (BUCKS)
A third wintering LITTLE EGRET was present in its usual area of river by Church Covert whilst the wide section of water just west of the hamlet produced an excellent 4 COMMON TEAL (3 drakes) (another very scarce bird in the locale), a Little Grebe and a Grey Heron. Two Robins were present at Mill Farm Barns but there was no sign of the two Common Stonechats present before the freeze.
HOCKERIDGE WOOD (BUCKS/HERTS)
Sadly, a very freshly killed Badger was lying beside the A 416 almost opposite the entrance to Haresfoot School at SP 882 064.
WILSTONE RESERVOIR, TRING (HERTS)
Met up with my good friend Colin Oram on the jetty and censused the wildfowl present on the four patches of open water. Frustratingly, we could see no sign of the wintering Water Pipit.
Three gorgeous adult drake GOOSANDERS were the highlight, all hauled out of the water and roosting on the Drayton Bank.
The complete roll-call was as follows -:
Great Crested Grebe (just 7 - and no sign of the Little Grebes)
Grey Heron (1)
LITTLE EGRET (1 feeding along the central bank opposite the jetty)
Mute Swan (15 in total, with just 1 first-winter)
Common Teal (213)
Eurasian Wigeon (202)
NORTHERN PINTAIL (2 drakes and 2 females in patch by hide)
Tufted Duck (27)
Northern Pochard (84)
Common Goldeneye (1 drake and two females)
GOOSANDER (the 3 drakes)
Black-headed and Common Gulls
Woodpigeon (66 in adjoining crop fields)
COMMON KINGFISHER (1 fishing from the Drayton Bank)
Pied Wagtail (1)
Common Starling (23 flew over)
Wren (1 in car park)
Yellowhammer (male flew over)
At Wilstone Great Farm nearby, 4 House Sparrows were seen, with 10 more in conifers by the Anglers Retreat in Marsworth.
STARTOP'S END RESERVOIR (HERTS)
Still largely frozen but packed into the one open area of water were 28 Mute Swans (1 first-year), 268 Coot, 11 Moorhen, 22 Tufted Ducks and 18 Northern Pochard.
GROVEBURY PIT (BEDFORDSHIRE)
Following a text from Johnny Lynch, I stopped off at Grovebury where I eventually located both flocks of Atlantic Canada Goose feeding in grass fields between the sand quarry and the Grand Union Canal. A single Greylag Goose was found amongst the 310 birds but I could find no trace of the very wary PINK-FOOTED GOOSE that John had seen earlier. The fields also yielded 2 Common Kestrels.
STEWARTBY LAKE (BEDFORDSHIRE)
The last hour or so of daylight (1520-1615 hours) was spent at Stewartby Lake in intermittent rain, partly in accompaniament with Tim Robson and Martin Stevens.
The RED-THROATED DIVER was still present and favouring the sailing club end. It was very mobile and diving constantly and appeared to have somewhat scaly-fringed upperparts indicating a juvenile.
Being ice-free unlike neighbouring Brogborough Lake, large numbers of waterfowl were present at the site, including exceptional numbers of diving duck.......
Great Crested Grebes (127)
Little Grebes (9)
EURASIAN BITTERN (although up to 6 birds were seen during the ice, Tim and I obtained awesome views of a very pale individual wandering out in the open and on top of the Phragmites in the reedbed in the NW corner)
Mute Swan (1)
Mallard, Coot & Moorhen
Eurasian Wigeon (18)
Common Teal (44)
Tufted Duck (772)
*GREATER SCAUP (a first-winter drake with Tufted Ducks to the east of the watchpoint and two adult females in the NW arm to the right)
Northern Pochard (98)
Common Goldeneye (32)
WATER RAIL (2 heard)
A total of 800 gulls roosting, predominantly Black-headed, but including 55 Common, 18 Argenteus Herring, 90+ Scandinavian Herring, 44 Lesser Black-backed and 21 Great Black-backed; also 1 adult YELLOW-LEGGED GULL in with them too.
Common Kingfisher (1 by the stream)
Common Pheasant (1 male), Great Spotted Woodpecker, Rook, Fieldfare, Redwing, Chaffinch, Goldcrest, Wren, Robin, Long-tailed Tit and Blue Tit
At dusk, 1 PEREGRINE was roosting on top of one of the chimneys.