Thursday, 29 July 2010

Night-time visitor.

While walking the dog last night I had brief views of an Owl alongside the roadside hedge. I presumed it was a Barn Owl, but it was difficult to tell in the darkness.
 I had been home about half an hour though when I could hear my own Barnies going absolutely ballistic.
 I crept outside to see the wild Barn Owl cruising around my garden, as well as landing in a neighbours tree to screech loudly back at them.
 The noise carried on long after I'd gone to bed, so I shall be interested to see if it comes back again tonight.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Our Goosanders are thriving

I decided to go to Olney Mill today to see how the young Goosanders were getting on.
Mike Wallen had seen them from the main bridge over the A509 a couple of weeks ago, so I checked here first. Sure enough the mother and 3 youngsters were present all busily diving for fish. The young birds were now almost as big as mum, so have hopefully got a great chance of survival.
A Kingfisher flew down river as I stood on the bridge and 2 Common Terns were persued by their 2 hungry offspring.

At lunchtime I took a walk down to Ravenstone Sewage Works, to see if any autumn migrants were in yet. Unfortunately not, but a female and a juvenile Grey Wagtail, several Linnets and a small flock of Goldfinches were seen.

At work this afternoon I found this discarded Grass Snake skin. The silver object is a fifty pence piece to give some idea of scale.
I've added this last photo especially for Paul, who a couple of days ago said he hadn't seen a Red Admiral this year. Since then I seem to have seen loads.

Monday, 26 July 2010

Just 11 Spoons for me !

I had earmarked today as a birding day, hopefully to go and twitch something, but as most things within reasonable distance had done the off, I decided a day at Cley Marshes sounded like a good bet.
Now a month ago I hadn't even heard of a Polish Swan but on the dyke by the visitor centre a pair of Mutes with a brood of 7 had 2 of this type!
From the three main hides a variety of wading birds could be seen, including Black-tailed Godwits, Avocets, Dunlins, Golden Plovers,still in their summer plumage, Ruff, Lapwings and a few Green Sandpipers.
View from Dawkes Hide of  feeding Black-tailed Godwits.

A couple of Juvenile Marsh Harriers were hunting over the marshes.
 Walking around the reserve I ended up at the North Hide, where many waders could be seen on the scrape. These were mainly Black-tailed Godwits and Dunlin, with a few Redshanks, Ruff and Lapwings. There was apparently 2 Curlew Sandpipers in with the Dunlin , but the heat haze was so bad I was never going to pick them out.
 The best birds on show however were the group of 11 (yes eleven) Spoonbills that were standing on one of the mud islands at the back of the scrape. By far the most I've ever seen together.
 This Swallow had a nest right outside the door of the hide.
Moving on to Arnold's Marsh, more Blackwits and Avocets were seen, along with a lone Spotted Redshank. Then down the East Bank where I had several encounters with Bearded Tits and saw my first Painted Lady of the year.

                                            Painted Lady

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Just Bad Timing.

 I nipped over to Summerleys early this morning in the hope of seeing the Pectoral Sandpiper that had been around for the past couple of days.
 Alas it was not to be as despite a complete search of the site the only wading birds I could find were, a Ringed Plover, a Common Sandpiper, a couple of hundred Lapwings and a heard but not seen Oystercatcher.
 Lots of waterfowl, especially Coots, Mallards, Black-headed and Lesser black-backed Gulls, Common Terns, Mute Swans and Cormorants. Tufted Ducks look to have a good breeding season with at least 8 broods around the site.
 There were also many young smaller birds around the place, with Great, Blue and Long-tailed Tits, Garden Warblers, Whitethroats, Tree Sparrows, Robins, Dunnocks, Green Woodpeckers and Bullfinch all seen.
 Along the old railway line a Grasshopper Warbler reeled away strongly.

 I was not impressed later in the day when I heard that a Purple Heron had dropped into the reserve at lunchtime for a couple of hours - a species that still eludes me in this country.

Friday, 23 July 2010

Thats why theyre called Common Sandpipers

A lunchtime visit to Gayhurst Quarry today.
 On Fishing Pit Common Sandpipers seemed to be everywhere. I  would start counting and then another one or two would fly across and land. Now had I already counted these or not. Then a Buzzard and shortly afterwards a Kestrel put everything up into the air...Start again!   After a lot of recounts I am confident there were a minimum of six, probably more, and to confuse it even more there was a single Green Sandpiper in amongst them. Two Oystercatchers and several Lapwings made up the wader numbers.

 On Motorway Pit a lot of the Terns have moved away, although there were some new fluffy chicks, possibly from birds that had failed earlier on the main island. Two Little Egrets stood on the island and one was in the stream, where a Kingfisher shot by.
 Both broods of Swans were present including the two 'Polish' youngsters
 A smart Little Grebe was the only other noteworthy bird.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Migration over Lathbury

 Working at Lathbury today, I had to take cover from the rather heavy showers every now and then. So standing in a Greenhouse I had the chance to survey the skies. Quite a bit went over today so autumn migration has obviously started, but also some obvious local movement.
 First up a Cormorant, then a Little Egret, 3 Common Terns a few Black-headed and Lesser-Black-backed Gulls and then at lunchtime a group of 8 waders had me scrambling for my bins - these turned out to be Black-tailed Godwits on their way south. I put out the news in case they had gone down at Willen, but nothing came back, so I guess they kept going.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Looking for Ratty

A trip down to the South of the county tonight with Paul on a quest to add Water Vole to his mammal list.
 Starting off at Latimer bridge we walked along the crystal clear River Chess in the direction of Chenies.
Birds encountered along the way included Little Grebe, Kingfisher, Red Kite, Sparrowhawk and Hobby.
 Finally stopping to scan from the road bridge near to Mill Farm a fine Water Vole posed right in the middle of the river for a brief few moments. This was to be our only sighting despite stopping off at several points including the designated Water Vole Watchpoint.
 The walk back as dusk fell gave us 4 seperate Little Owls on fenceposts, 2 calling Tawny Owls in the nearby woods and a screaming young Sparrowhawk in nearby trees.

A brief stop at Sarrat Waterworks with the torch again failed to find any voles, but several bats were detected, including Soprano Pipistrelles.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010


I found this little beauty today, a Hummingbird Hawk Moth. They certainly don't sit still !

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Radio-active Redstarts ?

Our latest RSPB trip took us to Minsmere.
Not as bird filled as normal, as the scrape water levels are very low. Black-tailed Godwit, Greenshank, only 4 or 5 Avocets, 2 Dunlin, a Sanderling, a couple of Knot, 2 Little-ringed Plover, a few Ringed Plover a family of Redshanks and a flock of Lapwing were the only waders around. A handful of Sandwich Terns, a few Common and a single Little Tern were seen from the hides.
Over the Reedbeds several Bitterns were seen and a couple of Hobbies as well as 2 or 3 Marsh Harriers.

We decided to undertake the long walk down to Sizewell where Black Redstarts had been seen the day before. Our trek was well rewarded as probably as many as 5 of the Red tailed beauties were seen around the site mainly feeding from the perimeter wall.
The metal structures around the outfalls were covered in nesting Gulls, mainly Herring and Lesser Black-backed and lots of Kittiwakes. A couple of Little Gulls were also seen around this area.
Back near the visitor centre a Sparrowhawk was seen loitering around the large Sand Martin colony, but was seen off, when they gathered in sufficient numbers.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

'Polish Swans'

I nipped down to Gayhurst Quarry during one of the heavy showers this afternoon.
The two broods of Mute Swans with the white individuals were still present.
Apparently these white birds are known as 'Polish Swans' as they were once thought to be a seperate species. They are just a leucistic form of Mute Swan though, with white plumage and pink or grey feet. young 'Polish Swan'
'Caution Swan crossing.' Note the pale feet of the 'Polish Swan'

' Polish Swan' with siblings
The drake Wigeon was still present and a female Tufted Duck was accompanied by 2 small ducklings. 3 Little Egrets were on Motorway Pit, as were 2 Common Sandpipers, an Oystercatcher and around 120 Lapwings. The young Common Terns can now fly and I counted at least 15. 2 Kingfishers and a Grey Wagtail were also seen.

Friday, 9 July 2010

Tree Sparrows and White Admirals

I decided to check out a site today where I know Tree Sparrows have bred in the past.
I was not disappointed, as a minimum of 7 pairs plus a couple of pairs of House Sparrows were seen to be feeding young within the old falling down farm building. This photo is rubbish but click on it a couple of times to see it is a Tree Sparrow. I then moved to nearby Little Linford Wood, where I could hear young birds of several species, and did manage to see Coal and Marsh tits, Nuthatch and Treecreeper.

The main action though was Butterflies. Meadow Browns, Ringlets, Gatekeepers, Large and Small Skippers, Common Blues, Comma, Large and Small White, Marbled White and best of all at least 3 White Admirals ( this photo needs clicking on to see one of them better)
I did see a couple of small dark butterflies flying around the top of an Oak tree that I suspect may have been Purple Hairstreaks, but I will never know.

This morning at the Manor

A walk around Manor Farm this morning produced a few good birds, but unfortunately yesterdays Black-tailed Godwit had departed.
 There isn't a lot of water around at these pits at the moment, but what there is held 3 Green Sandpipers and half a dozen Lapwing, plus a small flock of Black-headed Gulls. About 50 Sand Martins were flying around and these are obviously nesting nearby - whether in Bucks or over the river in Northants I'm not sure.
 4 Oystercatchers flew over calling loudly and I disturbed a Little Owl from one of the Pollarded Willows.
A Weasel that ran across the path in front of me was quite a surprise.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

A Brief look at Gayhurst

 A quick look in at Gayhurst Quarry after work tonight.
Lapwing numbers are starting to build up around the site, but the pair with at least one youngster are still on Fishing Pit. Drakey Wigeon is still around, a single Oystercatcher flew over and 2 Little Egrets were in the stream. A Hobby flew through to disturb a few Swifts.
 On Motorway Pit I counted 11 Common Tern chicks and it looked like some adults were sitting again.
 An amusing moment involved a female Tufted Duck on the island that had found an abandoned Swan or Goose egg and was trying to tuck it under her feathers to sit on it - how she thought she had laid it I don't know.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Local Farmland

I wasn't inspired enough to visit any of the local birding hotspots (rarely more than lukewarm )  today, so I thought I'd  take a walk around the parish farmland.
 I got off to a great start, I'd hardly left the house when a Kingfisher flashed across the front garden- a garden tick no less.
 The Moorhens on the village pond have now hatched their second brood and with the the first lot still around it's starting to get crowded.
 Taking the footpath towards North Crawley I encountered Red-legged Partridge,several Skylarks and Reed Buntings feeding young in the Oilseed Rape. Whitethroats and Yellowhammers called from the hedgerows and a big surprise was a Hobby sat in a ploughed field amongst the Rooks and Jackdaws.
 Walking back through the Wheat towards the village, at least 4 pairs of Yellow Wagtails were feeding young and Skylarks were in abundance. A Kestrel and the local pair of Buzzards were seen.

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Goosanders breeding in Bucks !

Having not seen the Goosanders that had bred near Gayhurst Quarry a couple of years ago, I thought I had better make the effort when a female with three young were reported near Olney Mill.
Having missed them on Wednesday I was more than pleased to find them this lunchtime not 50 yards down from the Mill itself. I didn't have the camera with me then so I popped back tonight. Apparently there were originally six young, but three have disappeared. These other three seemed to be in good health and were fishing actively.
I believe this is only the second reported breeding of Goosanders in the county after the Gayhurst birds. Also around the site a family party of 4 Grey Wagtails, also adult Pied Wagtails with 2 young, 11 Barnacle Geese, a Lapwing, a Common Tern, a Stock Dove and a pair of Mute Swan with three small young.
Earlier in the day I saw a Red Kite over Newton Blossomville