Tuesday, 30 November 2010

The Waxwings of Woburn

I had spent part of the morning trying to find some Waxwings around Milton Keynes - we have lots of Rowan trees laden with berries so surely its only a matter of time.
When news that the flock at nearby Woburn had risen to 105 it proved too tempting to ignore. 
The whole of Leighton Road seems to be planted up with pink berried Rowans and these are obviously a big favourite with our Scandinavian visitors.
I only found 18 birds but Hey with quality like this quantity is unimportant.                                                                                                   

Snowy Tongwell

Canada Goose


For the first time ever I was snowed off in November, so I decided to drive around some known areas with berry laden Rowan trees to see if any Waxwings had decided to grace Bucks with their presence. The answer was of course no, so I decided to take a wander around Tongwell Lake.                                 
drake Pochard

 Most of the lake was frozen over, so the open area of water held quite a high concentration of waterfowl, which included Great-crested Grebes, Gadwall, Wigeon, Mallard, Tufted Duck, Pochard and a whopping 103 Shoveler.A lone Snipe was flushed from the bank side

Walking around the wooded area on the far side I discovered a group of 4 Siskin feeding amongst a small flock of Goldfinches and a bunch of 14 Redpoll that contained 2 slightly larger greyer birds, which after a bit of research I am convinced were Meally Redpolls


Sunday, 28 November 2010

Boy It was cold this morning !.

Are we mad ? was the thought that entered my head as I scraped the ice off the car at 6:30 this morning.
The temperature was around minus 9, but Paul and I had arranged to meet Mike Wallen at Steps Hill, mainly to try and see an unusually late Ring Ousel that had been around a few days, but also to see what other migrants might be around.
 It was absolutely perishing so there was no standing around. Incredibly there was a lot of birds around in the berry laden bushes, mainly Blackbirds, Fieldfares and Redwings, but smaller numbers of Skylarks and Meadow Pipits, Goldfinches, Chaffinches, Bullfinches and  assorted Tits.
A herd of 14 black Fallow Deer on the North slope were good to see as they effortlessly leapt a 4 foot fence as if it wasn't there and a Fox was seen to narrowly miss catching one of the many Rabbits that were present.
 Unfortunately we didn't find the Ring Ousel, but if it has any sense it will have pushed off southwards.

 Next stop was Wilstone Reservoir, where we hoped to see the wintering Water Pipit.
Again we missed out, but compensated with 2 Whooper Swans, 30 odd Golden Plover, male Goldeneye, Redshank and Kingfisher amongst the many Coot, Wigeon, Shoveler, Tufted Duck and Gadwall.

 While on the Hills, Paul had received a text from Keith 'Holding Moments' O'Hagen that he had found a bird he was unsure of at Caldecotte. So we decided to call in to check it out.
 After a brief search we located a beautiful Redhead Smew close to the Cormorant island and after checking with Keith, this was indeed his bird.
 Finally I had seen Smew in the county this year after several attempts.Thanks Keith.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Gayhurst and Swans Way

My first visit to Gayhurst Quarry in a month.
Two Jays in the large Oak near the stables  escorted me all the way down the hedgerow to the wood.
 At Fishing Pit I met up with Gen and we scanned the lake to see 2 male and 1 female Goosander, several Great-crested Grebe, a whole lot of Wigeon, half a dozen Teal and a few Tufted Ducks.
The fields over towards Quarryhall contained a large number of Lapwings, 30 to 40 Golden Plover and a few Fieldfare.
 On Spinney  Pit the Swan family are still present with the Polish youngster now looking like an adult, compared to it's still grey siblings.
 A large flock of mixed Greylag and Canada Geese was present beside the footpath, but didn't contain anything different other than a Hybrid between the two species.
 Motorway Pit was relatively quiet, a drake Goldeneye being the best on offer. Less a hundred Mallard now remain, so whether they have been all shot or have just moved away only time will tell.
 A quick look at the pollarded Willow in between the two rivers produced a Little Owl trying to absorb a bit of sunlight while tucking itself in away from the cold wind.

 At dusk I took a walk from Linford Reserve down to the old ruined church to see if I could find any Owls.
No such luck but I did see predators in the form of a Kestrel, a Sparrowhawk, 4 Herons over on their way to roost on the reserve and 2 Foxes.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Frampton and Freiston

Our latest RSPB group trip was the Lincolnshire Reserves Frampton Marsh and Freiston Shore.

Black-tailed Godwit
Our first destination was Frampton. Before we had even left the car park a flock of a dozen or so Tree Sparrows greeted us as they flew to the feeders by the visitor Centre.
 From the centre around a hundred Black-tailed Godwits fed around the shallow scrapes, along with a few Ruff and a good few Wigeon, Gadwall and Teal. Three Corn Buntingswere a good sighting by the side of the track.
 Walking around to the 360* Hide a flock of 30 plus Twite bathed in the pools.Around 50 Curlews were on the surrounding fields and a large mixed Lapwing/Golden Plover flock flew around. Dunlin, Snipe and a Turnstone made up the wader contingent.
 Some smart drake Pintails and several Shelducks were scattered around.
Brent Geese were everywhere and one flock numbered several hundred. 8 Pinkfeet were brief visitors.


 After lunch we moved on to Freiston, where again several Tree Sparrows met us in the car park.
The Lagoon held much the same as at Frampton, but also 5 or 6 Little Grebe, a lone Oystercatcher, a couple of hundred Feral Pigeons.
Two Barn Owls hunting the far bank were a good sighting as were 3 Whooper Swans that dropped in briefly.
 A walk around the sea bank produced several Little Egrets and a a very distant Peregrine perched on a post out on the salt marsh. 

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Garden Treat

A real surprise in the garden today in the form of a Tree Sparrow.

Now a scarce bird in Buckinghamshire so I feel very privileged

  Surprisingly not my first garden record, the last bird 3 or 4 years ago stayed for 18 months.                                                                                 

Friday, 19 November 2010

A pleasant lunchtime in the Brickhills

 With all the reports of large numbers of Redpolls including several Mealies being seen nearby in Bedfordshire, I spent my lunchtime at Bow Brickhill to see if I could locate any of my own.
It really was a nice place to be with the bright sunshine on the carpet of still colourful fallen leaves.
The birds were quite noisy and Nuthatch, Great-spotted Woodpecker and Chaffinches could be heard. Siskins were plentiful as they flew over and several could be seen feeding in Silver Birch  trees.
 Every now and then a Tit flock was encountered and these were scanned to find Great, Blue, Coal and Long-tailed, also a few Goldcrests and on one occasion a lone Lesser Redpoll.
 A large flock of small finches that flew over were suspected of being Redpolls, but they were silent so I couldn't be sure. I think I will have to come back when I have a bit more time.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Fourth Time Lucky

 I had planned to check out Gayhurst Quarry this morning, but woke to find quite a dense fog so a change of plan was required.
 I decided to have another try for the Bearded Tits at Walton. Today I was not pushed for time so planned to stick it out as long as it took to see them.
 Arriving at 7:30ish I planted myself at the end of the boardwalk and decided to make a list of all the birds seen while I waited.
Mallard and Moorhen flew off as I walked down and  Great, Blue and Long-tailed Tit,Blackbird, Mistle Thrush, Fieldfare, Robin and Starling were seen. Corvids were represented by Carrion Crow, Jackdaw, Magpie and Jay. Woodpigeons were plentiful and a constant stream of Lesser-black backed , Herring and Black-headed Gulls leaving their overnight roost at Willen passed over. 2 or 3 Water Rails squealed from deep cover and a Cormorant passed by. A flock of 5 Siskins became 12 and then finally 22, Thirty Goldfinches and a few Chaffinch were present.
 An hour had passed very quickly with no sight or sound of the 'quarry birds', so I was pleased when extra help arrived in the form of Kenny Kramer.
 Half an hour later we were delighted to finally hear the 'pinging' of a group of Bearded Tits not too far off into the reeds. It took us a while to actually see them, but it seemed  once I had it was as though they thought 'Oh well he's finally seen us we better put on a decent show' and for the next 15 minutes or so all 4 ( 2 male, 2 female) birds flew around the reeds, perched up in the nearby saplings and flew above the reedbed. At one point 3 of them flew off to the other side, but the remaining female called them back to us.
 A very welcome Bucks tick for me and a 'Lifer' for Kenny.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Another episode of the Waltons

I finally got back to Walton Lakes today to see if I could see the Bearded Tits that were still present and been seen by the world and his wife since Paul had found them last week.
 An early visit before work saw me disturbing a Water Rail from under the boardwalk and a Snipe from the front of the Platform, also a  flock of around a dozen Siskins from the top of the nearby Alders.
 I did hear the Beardies at one point but they never came out into the open.
This meant a return visit at lunchtime. Gen was already there and hadn't seen them and  in short time I was there there was no sight nor sound. Looks like I'll have to go back.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Dipping Out in Norfolk

Paul and I spent the day in Norfolk mainly missing out on everything we went for. An enjoyable day but extremely frustrating.

First stop was Welney where a routine stop would see us grab a lifer for Paul in the shape of the Glossy Ibis.
..Wrong! Arriving at first light there was no sign..this was to be the day it chose to have a lie-in. We stayed until 9 without seeing it and decided we had to move on.( the inevitable text came through that it appeared at 9:55)

Cley was next where there had been all sorts of good birds around all week including an American Golden Plover, which I was desperate to see. We started off at the beach hoping if someone else located the bird they would put out the news, meanwhile we could go and find some of the other goodies that might be around.
 There was an obvious passage of Kittiwakes going on, a very late Arctic Tern hung around the Coastguards, a Red-throated Diver was close in and a reasonable flock of Common Scoter was seen, but other than that the sea was quiet.

 Popping in to North Hide, the obvious highlight was not 1, not 2, but three Grey Phalaropes on the marsh. Other than that it was pretty standard fare, a large number of Pintail being notable.
Disappointingly no Snow or Lapland Buntings or Shore Larks were found.

                                                                                     Brent Geese at Cley

 With no word on the Plover we moved on to Holkham which the previous day had hosted  a flock of some 65 Lapland Buntings, surely we would find them !
 I can honestly say I've never Known Holkham so bird-dead and we didn't see anything worthy of note.

 The day was turning into a bit of a washout, so a trip to reliable old Titchwell was called for - surely that wouldn't let us down.
 A flock of Twite near the New Parrinder Hide was good and a flock of 11 Shore Lark on the beach was even better. A Yellow-legged Gull in the gathering Gull roost failed to raise the spirits and we set off for home feeling a day that had promised so much had failed to come up with the goods - I don't think I've ever felt that way about Norfolk, maybe familiarity is breeding contempt !

Friday, 5 November 2010

Elusive Beardies

I took a call from Paul this lunchtime who excitedly told me he'd just found one maybe two Bearded Tits at Walton Balancing Lakes.
 As this is a very rare bird in Bucks, I just had to go. It was starting to rain so I wouldn't have been able to work anyway.
 Arriving on site Paul said the bird had just disappeared into the vast reedbed, so it was just a question of waiting, looking and listening. I did a lap of the wetland before returning to the boardwalk and after about an hour there was the unmistakeable 'chink' of a Beardie right out in front followed the answering call of another off to the right. I could see the reeds moving but not any birds, then a movement through the foliage but nothing definite. They then drifted off again and despite a couple of odd calls that was it. Hopefully they will stick around so I get the chance to get a proper look.
 Great find by Paul.
Other birds seen on site were a couple of Shoveler, Coot, Moorhen, Water Rail and Reed Buntings.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

A visit to Stockgrove Park

I had the opportunity to pop into Stockgrove Park today, just over the county boundary in Beds.

As usual someone had put some seed on the fenceposts and the regular Nuthatches, Great, Blue, Coal and Marsh Tits came down steal some.
                                            A rather scraggy looking Nuthatch

                                                Coal Tit

Jays were plentiful and there seemed to be several reasonable sized flocks of Siskins around.

 Down on the lake about 30 Mandarins were present hiding amongst the bankside Rhododendron bushes, along with an equal number of Mallards.
                                              Drake Mandarin

 I later took a look at Back Wood to see the large Finch flock that is feeding in the Game Strip there. These were increbibly mobile and it was difficult to scrutinise what was in there, but I would hazard a rough guess of 50 Greenfinch, 30 Chaffinch and 20 Bramblings.
Looking over the woods a Buzzard was soaring and better still a Peregrine zoomed over.