Tuesday, 30 March 2010

A Handful of Smarties

I popped in to Tongwell this lunchtime. It was pretty standard fare with a few Mallards, Tufteds, Canada and Greylag Geese, Mute Swans, Coots, Moorhens, Great crested Grebes and a Cormorant.
I did however manage to catch up with my first Sand Martins of the year, a group of five that were flying around in the company of one Swallow.
A pair of Grey Wagtails were on the dam as was a single of both Black-headed and Common Gull.
From here I braved the traffic to take a look at the Gravel Works over the road, where there was still a minimum of 2 Green Sandpipers but very little else.

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Double Bar

A Twitch this morning to The Lodge at Sandy, with a lifer on offer.
On arriving on site I was met with the classic line 'Yes it was here 5 minutes ago showing very well'
I took up my place in the already almost full hide and waited. A Blue Tit then a Great Tit came down to the feeders outside. Half an hour passed. A Blackbird and a coupleof Chaffinches visited the drinking pools. A Great spotted Woodpecker flashed past. A pair of Crossbills landed close by, but this was not our target. Three quarters of an hour and  a Nuthatch stole a nut from a feeder.
 Then after about an hour the call went up 'They're there' and yes in a tree maybe 50 yards away were a flock of around 20 smallish birds. Crossbills everyone of them, but on closer inspection one bird a female was slightly smaller and stood out from the rest in that there were 2 white flashes on it's wings - a TWO-BARRED CROSSBILL !!. We all enjoyed views of this mega-rareity - apparently the first record for Bedfordshire since the 1890 s.
 The flock flew around for a bit and came and settled in another tree. They never did come down for a drink, maybe they could sense all the people in the hide.
 Not the longest wait for a bird I've had by a long shot, but as always quite tense until it actually shows, but more than worth it in the end.

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Quarry Birds

A six o'clock start at Gayhurst Quarry today.
As I walked up the track several Chiffchaffs were singing including one in the very tree where one was present all last summer- maybe the same bird ? Chiffchaff

Near to the wood a pair of Marsh Tits were getting very amorous.
On the Fishing Pit there were still a couple of hundred Wigeon, a few Teal and Mallard and still 4 drake Shoveler. A Redshank was patrolling the far shore and 2 Oystercatchers flew across, followed shortly afterwards by another. There then followed an incredibly noisy ariel battle between 2 of the birds before one of them flew off eastwards.
A Little Egret was on Spinney Pit and 3 duck and a drake Goosander were on the first river. On the northern side a pair of Sparrowhawks performed over the Poplar plantation and a Buzzard was over the spinney.
Back at the Stables a single Swallow had returned.

This afternoon a scan over the new gravel extraction site near Newport revealed 3 Green Sandpipers and a pair of Grey Wagtails. This site looks very promising and I plan to watch it more in the next few weeks

Friday, 26 March 2010

It Must be Summer then !

A wander around Manor Farm this afternoon.
It is drying out quite nicely and must surely attract some passage waders this spring. Already on site today were a Little Ringed Plover, a Redshank and 2 Green Sandpipers.
Not one but two Swallows flew around. There were 3 Little Egrets that flew out of the western arm, a pair of Goosanders were on the main water and 4 Teal were on site.

Thursday, 25 March 2010


Well I'm not going to swear on here am I !
A brief stop at Ravenstone STW tonight gave me my first Wheatear of the year. It was a smart male that was investigating the rabbit holes in the bank to the right of the track.
At the works there were a couple of Chiffchaffs, a pair of both Grey and Pied Wagtails, a couple of male Reed Buntings and a flyover Buzzard

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

An American Duck in M.K.

Drake Green Winged Teal (Digi-binned picture courtesy of Paul Moon)

A call from a breathless Paul Moon had me rushing out of work this afternoon. He had found a drake GREEN WINGED TEAL at the Linford Reserve.
I was there in minutes to see this handsome bird resting beneath some Willows just out from the Near Hide. It seemed very settled and in fact went to sleep and was still so when I left.
He was in the company of around 20 Eurasian Teal. Other Ducks present were a few Gadwall, Mallard, Shoveler and good numbers of Tufteds.
On the Bund itself were 14 Cormorants, 2 Oystercatchers, a Snipe, a Lapwing and a group of Common and Black headed Gulls.
2 Little Egrets flew around the Heronry and a couple of Chiffchaffs were singing around the Reserve.

Monday, 22 March 2010

Willen Tonight

A brief stop on the way home tonight to scan for Sand Martins. There were none, but there were 2 Little Egrets by the island, Pinky the Pinkfoot flew across and landed on the island as did a Kingfisher.


A beautiful spring day was the setting of our latest RSPB trip to the Brecks on Sunday.
First port of call was Santon Downham. Within minutes of arriving we discovered a party of Crossbills feeding in some Pine trees just up from the car park. Other birds in the area included some very vociferous Nuthatches, Goldcrests, a smart male Siskin that performed a diplay flight right around our heads and a noisy Jay. Two Muntjacs were seen close to the road near here.

Next stop was Mayday Farm. We arrived here about eleven o'clock just as the day was warming up, so after finding a clearing in the forest a Raptor Watch was called for.
First off three soaring Buzzards were seen, then another two. Several brief far off sightings of Sparrowhawks were had, before a then larger bird right in the distance was identified as a Goshawk.
Wandering further down the track, where Long tailed and Coal Tits were everywhere we found another clearing and were fortunate in flushing two birds that turned out to be Woodlarks. A male Crossbill posed nicely at the top of a leafless tree.
The spring sunshine obviously suited some early Butterflies as we saw, Brimstone, Red Amiral, Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell and Comma.

The rest of the day was spent at Lynford Arboretum. Walking down towards the paddocks where we hoped to see some Hawfinches, more Crossbills, Goldcrests, Siskins showed well.
Down at the Paddocks we set up a vigil watching the group of trees in the middle of the field where both Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers were seen, also a very striking pure white with a few black spots, Cock Pheasant.
Then a bird suddenly appeared at the top of one of the Hornbeams - a stunning Hawfinch, which stayed just long enough for everyone to get a decent view before it flew off.
Back at the other side of the car park two new lakes have been created and these held several Ducks including Tufteds, Pochard, Mallard and Gadwall. Also an Egyptian Goose, Little Egret and a Curlew.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Some pictures from this week

This fella made a raid on my garden this week. Unsuccessfully I'm glad to say. Sparrowhawk

One of my regular Collared Doves

Robin at Attenborough

Chaffinch also at Attenborough

Another picture of the delightful Ruddy Shelduck at Attenborough

I know it's not a bird but I liked the look of this fungus at Attenborough. No idea what it's called though !

An Afternoon Ramble

A walk across the fields from Hardmead to North Crawley this afternoon was largely uneventful. I was hoping I might stumble upon a Wheatear or two, but no luck there.
Best birds were 2 Buzzards, 3 Golden Plover, a few Yellowhammers, Skylarks and a Kestrel. Large flocks of Woodpigeons, Corvids and around 500 Fieldfares were being constantly moved around by several Gasguns

Two Hares chased each other around and a Chinese Water Deer watched from a distance.

Friday, 19 March 2010

Down at the Quarry

A trip down to Gayhurst Quarry tonight in the drizzle.
On the Fishing Pit, still masses of Wigeon, in excess of 250, a few Tufteds, Mallard, 4 drake Shoveler, a pair of Teal and a female Goosander. While watching these 3 Chiffchaff flitted about in the trees overhead.
In the fields behind the Pit the monster Mute Swan flock again contained the one Black individual.
On Motorway Pit, another couple of hundred Wigeon,more Tufteds, several Pochard, 3 Little Grebe, 2 Oystercatchers, a Snipe and a Little Egret.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Ouse Valley

I took a walk around some waterside meadows - most local birders will know where I mean - this morning. It was a glorious spring morning and many birds were singing, including several Skylarks and a few Reed Buntings. Nineteen Barnacle Geese were present as was a Kestrel. Best birds seen however were 2 Curlews that were foraging in the long grass. One or two MeadowPipits made themselves known as I walked around the site.

At lunchtime I stopped off at Ravenstone Sewage Works to see if any migrants had dropped in. Again Skylarks were in full song and a flock of 17 Stock Doves were on the fields.
Down at the works 3 Grey Wagtails were present, along with 4 Pieds and 7 Reed Buntings. I then heard my first Chiffchaff of the year, which eventually showed itself in the company of 2 Long tailed Tits.
Further down the road I stopped to look over the floods near to Ravenstone Mill. The only bird of note here amongst the Black-headed Gulls was a lone Little Egret.
Near to to Gayhurst I stopped to examine some interesting road-kill, which I'm fairly sure was a Polecat.

Sunday, 14 March 2010


I never complain about having to visit my Mother-in-law, as this means I get a chance to visit Attenborough Nature Reserve in Nottinghamshire which is conveniently right next door. (you're alright really Chris)

Walking around the pits, a lot of common Ducks - Shoveler,Gadwall, Teal,Mallard and Tufteds Tufted Duck
Tufted Duck
At various points around the reserve, there are bird tables that are regularly topped up. Visitors to these included Great, Blue, Coal and Long-tailed Tits but not the hoped for Willow Tits that are usually seen.
Egyptian Geese are usually quite numerous around the place, but I could only find one today.
I hadn't realised it was ringed until I looked at the photo. If you click on the picture it is even possible to read most of the numbers on it.

Egyptian Goose
Nearer to the visitor centre 2 pairs of Red-crested Pochard were mixing with the local Mallards.

Red-crested pochard

Red-crested Pochard.
At the Visitor Centre it is possible to buy grain to feed the waterfowl. This has resulted in a lot of the birds becoming very human tolerant, including this female Ruddy Shelduck that moved in during last Autumn.

Ruddy Shelduck
I then spent some time in the hides overlooking Clifton Pit.
From the giant hide 2 Oystercatchers, 2 Shelduck, 10 Ruddy Ducks and a few Goldeneye were seen. We were then treated to the sight of a Bittern that flew right across the pit before plopping down into a patch of reeds.
Walking back down the side of the river, which skirts the reserve, around 30 Goosanders were on the main lake, with a few more Goldeneye.

This cheeky chappy seemed quite happy pretending to be a bird.

Another Smew near miss !

A dawn trip to Linford failed to find the redhead Smew that had been around all day yesterday. I had been in Northampton doing my mothers day duty, so was unable to get there.
Not a total non event though as walking down the track I had an eyeball to eyeball encounter with a Buck Muntjac, with neither of us wanting to move first. He could obviously see me but couldn't pick up my scent, so stood his ground. In the end it was me who yielded as my time was limited and I wanted to get down to near hide.
From the hide there were lots of Duck, including, Teal, Tufteds, Pochard, Mallard, Gadwall and a few Wigeon. Several Great crested Grebe were present including a pair doing their 'weed dance'. Two Oystercatchers made a fly through appearance, but showed no sign of stopping.

Monday, 8 March 2010

Yoiks !

I managed a late afternoon visit to Gayhurst Quarry today.
Again the fields seemed to be full of Fieldfares, this time with quite a few Redwings mixed in with them.
The track down to the Pits was very active with bird life too, a flock of around 20 Reed Buntings being noteworthy.
Scanning the Fishing Pit I could see there were still large numbers of Wigeon, - I estimated over 500 - also around 50 Teal.
I then noticed a pair of Oystercatchers, amazingly my first of the year, and then another 3 appeared and settled quite close by.
A Little Egret was near the river, and in the field on the other side the Goose flock comprised of 250 Greylags, 50 Canadas and a single Egyptian.
Other Ducks present were around 50 Mallard, 50 Tufteds, 30 Pochard a few Gadwall and a female Pintail, which may well be a bird that was present in the autumn which I couldn't decide whether it was a young male or a female.
On the walk back up Marsh Tit was 'pitchou'ing just up from the wood.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Tree Sparrows

Following up on some information from Rob Hill and Richard Billyard I went for a look around some farmland around the Castlethorpe/Bullington End area.

A lot of typical farmland species were present with both types of Partridge, Yellowhammers, Skylarks, Mistle Thrush, Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers.

Rooks were very active in the small Rookery behind the Hatton Court Hotel and the fields were covered in Fieldfares.

Hares were very much in evidence, chasing each other across the fields and through hedges.

Taking the track down to the New Buildings Farm I was delighted to hear the chirping of a territorial Tree Sparrow which I managed to locate in a Poplar tree. Further up the track several more were singing in the hedge but these failed to come out and show themselves.

It later transpired that I was looking in the wrong place for Robs Tree Sparrows - he had 19 at a site some 4 kms away the previous day so it looks like we have 2 seperate flocks in the area. Good News and my 100th species in North Bucks this year.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Bucks' own Svalbard

......or Emberton Park as it is known.
A visit this morning showed that around 65 Barnacle Geese have returned to breed as they do each year. We have no idea where they disappear to in the winter. They are believed to be naturalised birds that derived from birds that escaped/were released when Weston Underwood Bird Gardens closed down in the early nineties.
Also present were 11 Goosanders of which only 3 were drakes, 5 Goldeneye which were all drakes, 3 Buzzards and a Kingfisher.

Monday, 1 March 2010


Having heard that the drake Ring-necked Duck had once again returned to Foxcote Reservoir, I thought I ought to pay him a visit before he disappeared for the summer.
A complete scan around the Reservoir failed to find him amongst the many Wigeon, Pochard and a few Tufted Duck and Gadwall. Although 13 Goldeneye were noted.
However a second sweep around and all of a sudden there he was, in with a group of Pochards, trying to get amorous with one particular female.
This very handsome bird has visited Foxcote for at least the past six winters and has had many admirers in that time.
On the way out a Grey Wagtail was walking around on the dam.