SUNDAY 2 JANUARY
A much brighter day than of late but several degrees cooler. In fact, there was a slight frost overnight. It remained bright all day, with very light winds - in fact very pleasant all round.
I spent today 'mopping up' on a few local Year-ticks and checking out some late December 2010 rarities......Undoubted highlight was a flock of BARNACLE GEESE....
JUBILEE RIVER, TAPLOW (Bucks section between Amerden Lane and Marsh Lane) (park at SU 915 803)
I first checked the grass field SSW of Amerden Lane, where grazing in the field were 25 Mute Swans, 2 Greylag Geese and 120 Atlantic Canada Geese; the 8 Egyptian Geese had all moved on.
The field also held 372 Woodpigeons.
The Amerden Scrapes and river held 6 Little Grebe, 3 Great Crested Grebes, 2 Grey Heron, several Sinensis Cormorants, 2 Gadwall, 9 Eurasian Wigeon, 130 Tufted Ducks and numerous Coot, with Ring-necked Parakeet recorded, as well as Jay, Great Tit and 2 Eurasian Skylarks that flew over.
Driving around to Marsh Lane Weir, I soon found the geese. As luck would have it, 15 of the EURASIAN WHITE-FRONTED GEESE had flown from the field to drink on the river and were affording some exceptional views. This 15 held 5 adults and 10 juveniles.
The other three birds (a pair with a single juvenile) were still feeding amongst the 186-strong Greylag Geese flock SW of the car park in the field. A single adult Bar-headed Goose was also with them.
Checking the Jubilee River from here added 8 Mute Swans (including 5 first-winters), 6 Gadwall, 2 Northern Pochards and a few Moorhens, along with a Grey Wagtail at the weir, 5 more flyover Skylarks, several Fieldfare and 9 Lapwings.
At 1135 hours, a flock of 15 BARNACLE GEESE appeared from the east and attempted to land with the Greylags. They circled the field twice but then headed off SSE towards Dorney Rowing Lakes before veering east and following the Jubilee River course along. They circled Dorney Wetlands briefly before eventually flying off SW over Dorney Common. I am assuming that they are part of the huge displacement of Continental Barnacle Geese currently being undertaken in Southern England, with flocks of over 100 birds appearing at various localities along the South Coast, from East Sussex to Dorset and South Devon. They were calling constantly as they were flying around. The only non-naturalised birds in the area is the flock at Eversley GP.
DORNEY WETLANDS (BUCKS/BERKS)
A further 460 Tufted Ducks were click-counted on the section of Jubilee River between Marsh Lane and the weir to the west of Moores Lane, along with 6 Shoveler, 50+ Eurasian Wigeon, a single Common Teal, 25 Mute Swans and an island filled with 104 Lapwing. Meadow Pipit and Redwing were both new for the year.
East and west of Moores Lane, i recorded 3 female SMEWS but no drake.
BURNHAM BEECHES NNR (BUCKS)
Although largely frozen, I was most surprised to find all of the resident MANDARIN DUCKS present on the Upper Pond - a total of 25 birds (15 adult drakes).
The adjacent woodland yielded Great Spotted Woodpecker, Nuthatch, Jay, Wren, Robin, Great Tit and Blue Tit.
BURTLEY WOOD (BUCKS) (A355) (SU 950 884)
A Red Kite was repeatedly swooping down to feed on a dead cock Common Pheasant on the southbound verge of the A355.
SPRINGFIELD QUARRY, BEACONSFIELD (BUCKS)
(permit access only)
All of the water was frozen and much of the rubbish largely covered. Not one gull was to be seen so I made to by click-counting the corvids - a staggering 334 Carrion Crows present, either feeding on the rubbish or roosting in the trees surrounding the pits. A total of 13 Red Kites were seen, along with Skylark, Pied Wagtail and Song Thrush.
BEACONSFIELD HOUSEHOLD WASTE AND RECYCLING CENTRE (BUCKS) (SU 967 893)
I was surprised to see tipping being carried out on a Sunday and from the entrance to the site, careful scrutiny could be made of the large number of birds taking advantage.
Again, corvid numbers were impressive, with a further 424 Carrion Crows click-counted, along with 44 Red Kites scavenging and 100 Common Starlings.
The gull flock comprised at least 2,400 individuals - the bulk of them Black-headed. Not a single Common Gull to be seen but 430 Herring Gulls (including a surprising number of Argenteus - perhaps 50%), 73 Lesser Black-backed Gulls and 53 Great Black-backed Gulls (including a few first-winters).
PENN WOOD (BUCKS)
Well what a difference a few days make. Penn Wood today was very unproductive - no Woodcock, Bullfinch, redpolls or Hawfinch - in fact very little and hardly worth the effort - 7 Jays, Nuthatch, 4 Goldcrests and a Muntjac.
Nearby, where the Penn Bottom lane joins the main A413 east of Hazlemere, 2 Redwings were feeding on the verge - the first I have seen locally this year (since the snow, numbers of this species have diminished in the Amersham District).
MOP END (BUCKS)
More Corvid counting - this time Jackdaws - 302 of them feeding in a field 300 yards east of Mop End Farm.
SHARDELOES LAKE (BUCKS)
Still virtually frozen over apart from a small section at the west end. Remarkably though, worth the visit, as two adult drake MANDARIN DUCKS were present - a scarce species in the locale. Just 8 Coots remained, with the gull roost on the ice harbouring 76 Black-headed Gulls and 8 adult Common Gulls. An adult Mute Swan was standing isolated in one of the neighbouring fields with 2 Red Kites roosting in a dead tree by the access roundabout.
FULLER'S HILL, CHESHAM (BUCKS) - 3 Long-tailed Tits in a roadside hedgerow
SILK MILL WAY PARK, TRING (HERTS) (SP 926 926)
A group of 4 Moorhens were feeding on the grass by the stream.
WILSTONE RESERVOIR, TRING (HERTS)
(with David Bilcock & Roy Hargreaves)
A late afternoon visit. Not much change from yesterday although wildfowl click-counting revealed the presence of 317 Common Teal, 239 Wigeon and 134 Northern Pochard; 12 Mute Swans remain as do a single Little Grebe, just 4 Great Crested Grebes and 8 NORTHERN PINTAILS (4 adult drakes).
A redhead GOOSANDER was on the ice-free section by the hide (Ian Williams had seen two earlier in the day) and the gull roost produced over 1,600 Black-headed, 96+ Common and 4 Lesser Black-backs. David did superb in picking out a standing roosting adult winter MEDITERRANEAN GULL - presumably the same bird last seen in early December.
MARSWORTH RESERVOIR, TRING (HERTS)
(with David & Roy, as well as Mike Campbell and Stuart Wilson; at least 12 others were also present)
For the second night running, one of the wintering EURASIAN BITTERNS chose to roost halfway up the hedgerow at the back of the reedbed - almost directly opposite the hide -allowing everybody present an opportunity to see it It remained there into darkness. We also saw the second bird - flying from left to right at the back of the reedbed at 1630 hours.
The resident BARN OWL also put in an appearance - hunting over the rank vegetation east of the sewage farm - and as dusk approached, TAWNY OWLS became very active in the tall trees bordering the compound - two birds at least calling.
Only a single WATER RAIL squealed and there was no sound of any Cetti's Warblers (although Ian had earlier seen the Wilstone individual as well as 54 roosting Corn Buntings).