Thursday, 30 December 2010

Putting a Gloss on it

With seemingly the whole country being fogbound Paul and I decided not to risk going to Norfolk today. We instead decided to visit Berkshire, where there were 3 good birds on offer, all within 7 or 8 miles of each other.
I planned to meet up at Pauls house at 9, so on the way I decided to pop into Oldbrook estate to see if the recent Waxwing flock was still around. Eventually after checking most of the estate I found the flock roosting in a large tree in the middle of a roundabout on Century Avenue. A quick count gave me 47 birds. Hopefully this was a good omen for the rest of the day.

Our first stop was a place called Freemans Marsh, just outside Hungerford, where a Glossy Ibis had turned up a few days earlier.
Finding this bird proved to be no problem at all, just 250 yards walk from the car, paddling around in the river, at a range of a ridiculously close 20 yards.
The river also held a couple of Little Grebe and Water Rails often in the same vicinity as the Ibis.
During the week there had been reports of Jack Snipe in the area, so a check of all the nearby side-streams was called for. Unfortunately no Jacks but a couple of Common Snipe, 2 Green Sandpipers another Water Rail and a Little Egret.
We spotted some fish in the river and one half eaten specimen on the bank which I'm fairly sure were Greyling _ a first for me.

Glossy Ibis
 Our next stop was the nearby village of Great Shefford, where the instructions were to stop at the first bus stop and look across the sheep field towards the river.
 Another easy one, as we hardly had to get out of the car to see a Great White Egret consorting with 4 of it's smaller relatives, Little Egrets.
A distant shot shows the difference in size between the two species (click on the picture twice to bring it up bigger)
Great White Egret
Our final stop was just a mile down river where a Dipper had taken residence. Not such a rare bird but the first one in Berkshire for many years. We gave this an hour or so, but a couple of Grey Wagtails, a flyover flock of Siskins and some semi-tame Muscovy Ducks on the river were the best we could find.

Two out of three of our target birds added up to a very enjoyable day, and lunch at the pub at Whickham rounded it off nicely.

Monday, 27 December 2010

Attenborough Ducks

We were back in Nottingham today to take Mum-in-law home.
Time was a bit limited so I spent an hour or so around the visitor centre at Attenborough Nature Reserve.
The water around the centre was one of the only areas on the whole reserve that wasn't frozen, so it was absolutely packed with ducks, most of which were taking advantage of the grain that was being thrown in to feed them.
 Even normally shy species like Pochard and Tufted Ducks were showing as close as a couple of yards.
female Pochard
Drake Tufted Duck
One bird that was obviously an escape was this Bahama or White-cheeked Pintail.
Bahama Pintail

pair of Egyptian Geese on the roof of Nature Reserve Visitor Centre

Two female and one drake Red-crested Pochard are of unknown origin.
Drake Red-crested Pochard
female Red-crested Pochard

Drake Pochard
 Behind the Visitor Centre are several bird feeders and these played host to several Tree Sparrows, a large flock of Long-tailed Tits, a few Great and Blue and a single Willow Tit.

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Happy Christmas

Pied Wagtail in my garden today
Seasons Greetings to everyone who takes the time to visit my Blog.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Whoop, Whoop.

With lots of reports of wild geese being seen across the country, I thought it was time I checked out my local Greylag flock at Gayhurst Quarry.
 The walk down produced the usual variety of common birds, with a pair of Bullfinches looking very smart in the snowy conditions.
Fishing Pit, Spinney and Reedy Pits were all totally frozen over and totally birdless.
 The Goose flock was easily found though, feeding on the potatoes that had been scattered on the field between the rivers. And what a flock it was; around 350 Greylags, 150 Canadas and about 60 Swans.
I did my usual scan through, not finding any Whitefronts, Bean or Pinkfooted Geese, but a look through the Swans did produce one with a yellow beak - Result ! an adult Whooper.
This was my 4th type of Swan on 'the patch' this year, following Mute, Bewicks and Black ( 5th if I include Polish)
 Motorway Pit was partly unfrozen and absolutely packed with ducks. It wouldn't be an overestimate to say there were a thousand Wigeon, 500 Mallard, 100 Pochard, 20 Tufted Ducks and a few Teal. The drake Goldeneye was still present and 2 drakes and a female Goosander dropped in.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Blackwits on Ice

I had a bit of work snow clearing today at Great Linford.
This turned out to be one of my best local birding mornings in quite some time.
While actually working I looked up to see a flock of around 25 birds fly slowly over. Unbelievably yet more Waxwings.
 So when I had finished I decided to do a bit of a drive around to try and find them.
I had no luck there, but I did spy a flock of small birds feeding in a nearby Silver Birch. Going through them carefully, I identified around 20 Siskin, 10 Lesser Redpoll and one that was spot on for a Meally Redpoll.
Slightly larger, much 'icier' plumage, a very white wing-bar and what I consider clinched it for me, a very pale patch above the eye.

 I continued on to Tongwell Lake, where very few birds were present as only a very small unfrozen patch remained.
Coots, Mallards, a few Wigeon, just the one Shoveler, a Little Grebe and an assortment of Black-headed and Common Gulls.
 But I was then forced to do a double-take.
Surely they weren't Black-tailed Godwits standing on the ice! An unusual bird in Buckinghamshire at the best of times, but in December !, at Tongwell Lake !, standing on the ice !
 Sure enough there they were , 2 of them, not more than 30 yards away.

Black-tailed Godwits
All too soon they realised their mistake and were off in the direction of Blakelands. The photo is another one of them, there record shots, but click on it twice to see that they were there.
 I continued my Waxwing hunt around Giffard Park, not finding Waxwings, but another Redpoll flock, this time about 50 birds, but they were spooked before I got the chance to look through them.

Monday, 20 December 2010

More Waxers

I wasn't expecting to do any birding today as we took a trip to Nottingham to fetch the Mother-in-Law down to ours for Christmas.
 The bad road conditions meant I had to concentrate more than usual, but 3 Buzzards and a Kestrel were noted on the way up.
 On arrival in Notts we decided to stop at a retail park in Chilwell, conveniently a place where there had been some sizeable flocks of Waxwings reported in recent days.
 While Angela was in the shops I decided to take a walk around. However, while I located several likely looking Rowan trees, no Waxwings were found.
 So it was back in the car and on our way.
We had only travelled a couple of hundred yards down the road when I could see quite a large group of birds sitting in a roadside tree. As we neared , all of them - I estimated about 60 - flew across the road right in front of us. Yes they were Waxwings !

Friday, 17 December 2010

Reward for doing my Duty 2

I nipped  in to Tongwell at lunchtime to see what was about. The answer was the usual Mallards, Wigeon, Shovelers,Gadwall, Pochards and Tufteds. Plus Canada Geese, Mute Swans and a few Coots, Great-crested Grebes, Moorhens and Black-headed and Common Gulls.
Just as I was leaving, I noticed this Mallard with some rather natty headgear.
 Somehow it had managed to get a piece of plastic - the sort that holds 4 cans together - stuck on it's head.
 Luckily a Lady came along with  some bread to feed the ducks, so I managed cadge some off of her and entice it close enough to catch it.
 I was able to remove it luckily as a strip of plastic was keeping it's beak open and stopping it swallowing anything other than small fragments. He was able to fly off none the worse for his experience other than the loss of a few feathers when I grabbed hold of him.
 My reward for my 'good deed' was almost instant as I decided to check the White-berried Sorbus trees around the corner in Bessemer Court.
 Six birds flew in and started feeding up, all of them Waxwings. Magic !
4 of the 6 Waxwings

Tuesday, 14 December 2010


When I realised I had  a missed call followed by a voicemail from Paul I realised there must be something pretty good around.
 It turned out he had found a Short-eared Owl at Linford in the field that a couple of years ago hosted 5 of these beauties and 6 Barn Owls.
I've been feeling really rough lately so I didn't need much of an excuse to leave work to go and see it for myself.
Paul was just leaving as I arrived, but told me where he had last seen the bird, and that Ray Stroud was up ahead looking for it.
 I walked down Swans way as far as the river, but there was no sign so I started walking back.
I could see Ray across the other side of the field, but it didn't seem as though he could find it either, but then after about an hour, all of a sudden there it was, right in the middle of the field quartering away busily. I watched this fabulous creature for about half an hour, the orange in it's wings standing out so well on such a dull day. At one point the bird was heading straight at me - surely no finer sight in birding -but saw me when it got to within 10 yards or so and veered off.
 I saw it pounce on Prey 7 or 8 times but each time it came up empty clawed, so there obviously is food for him there, it's just he isn't that good at catching it.
 The Kestrel is still around and I could hear Siskins on the reserve, but other than that, there wasn't really much around.

Monday, 13 December 2010

No Fire but plenty of Ice.

A lunchtime visit to Caldecotte Lake today. A Firecrest had been seen a couple of times in the last week near the Monellan Drive car park, but despite a good hours search there was no sign. There were however a good variety of other small birds around, as the small stream was unfrozen and a lot of them were bathing in it. Chaffinches, Goldfinches,Greenfinches, some quite confiding Bullfinches, Great, Blue and Long-tailed Tits. Fallen Crab Apples were being gorged on by Blackbirds, Song Thrushes and Redwings.
 Round on the mostly frozen North Lake the Scaup was again present after having been seen at Willen Lake yesterday afternoon.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Rewarded for 'Doing my Duty'

I don' really enjoy doing bird surveys, but I felt I had to do my bit towards the B.T.O. Bird Atlas so have put my name down for a couple of squares.
 I had a couple of spare hours this afternoon so I decided to walk around my Lathbury Tetrad.
Thrushes were abundant, especially Fieldfares, with Blackbirds, Song Thrushes and Redwings in smaller numbers.
Down on the river, there were lots of Mute Swans, a few Mallard and surprisingly a fair few Teal and Wigeon and a couple of Snipe flew up noisily.
Raptors  in the form of two Buzzards, a Kestrel and a noisy Little Owl were encountered on the circuit.
 Heading back towards the village a large flock of Goldfinches perched high on a Hawthorn hedge. While counting them (52 and 1 Linnet) I heard what I initially assumed was a Great Spotted Woodpecker, but then to my great surprise and delight a smaller bird flew out and over my head. It's bouncing flight and black and white barred wings leaving me in no doubt that it was in fact a LESSER- spotted Woodpecker. This is an extremely rare bird in the county these days and my first in Bucks for several years.

            I love Bird Surveys!

Monday, 6 December 2010

Caldecotte revisited and Broughton Grounds

With the ground frozen solid I didn't work this morning.
No-one had seen the Scaup at Caldecotte since Friday so as I suspected it was still around I decided to take another look as I was nearby.
 Sure enough in almost exactly the same place, there it was. I wonder where it had been over the weekend ?
On the South Lake there were now 14 Goosanders amongst the throng of Tufteds, Pochard, Mallards, Wigeon, Coots and Great-crested Grebes.

 I then took a walk around Broughton Grounds mainly because I hadn't been for quite a while. I didn't actually see that many birds here, but a couple of flocks of roving Siskins and a flushed Woodcock were definite highlights.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Goosanders Galore at Gayhurst

An interesting walk around Gayhurst Quarry and Quarryhall today.
 The track down to the pits provided the usual fare, with Finches of the Green, Gold, Chaff and Bull variety,a few Reed Buntings are now back at the feeders in the garden of the last house, where a Treecreeper scaled the side of an old Silver Birch.
 At the Wood an unusual call for these parts had me looking around the treetops to see a Nuthatch, - a site first for me.
 Fishing Pit was largely frozen except for a section in the middle where seven Goosanders were the only birds on the water. This was a site record as far as I was concerned - my previous best being five-, but only for a matter of minutes as another nine flew in and landed. They seemed to be actually fishing under the ice, but got bored quickly and all sixteen flew off together.
 A dead Swan on the ice of Spinney pit had me concerned for a while as I thought it may have been the Polish youngster, but it's black feet confirmed it wasn't, and I in fact found this family were fine and had relocated to Motorway Pit which was ice-free.
 Motorway Pit was rammed with Ducks, around 300 Wigeon, a similar number of Mallard and about a hundred Teal. The only diving Duck was a male Goldeneye, possibly the same one that was here last week.
 A very large flock of Greylag and Canada Geese were feeding on the potatoes that have been spread onto the fields between the rivers - an imminent shoot ?
 At Quarryhall, the Yellowhammer flock is building up with about 30 birds present, also a similar number of Chaffinch and Goldfinch. Three Tree Sparrows graced the hedgerow and a few Meadow Pipits were around.
 The Mute Swan flock were found just below the farm, but as yet there are no 'guests' within the herd.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Cold Caldecotte

There have been some good birds turning up at Caldecotte Lake lately, including a Sanderling and a possible Scaup yesterday, so I thought I would have a look around today.
The North Lake was largely frozen, but did hold reasonable numbers of Tufted Duck, Pochard, Wigeon, Coot, Great-crested Grebes, a female Shoveler and two female Goosander.
While walking around the eastern side I noticed a larger looking 'Tuftie' that completely left the water on it's dives. This was indeed a Scaup, my initial thought being that it was a female, but on looking at my photos I am now thinking that it is a first winter bird.

 Moving round to South Lake, where there were literally hundreds of Tufted Ducks (630 counted by Bob F later today) lots of Pochard, Wigeon and Gadwall, 3 Little Grebe, 10 Goosander a male Goldeneye and male Shoveler. 2 Kingfishers and a Grey Wagtail were seen and a gang of around 20 Siskin were in the Alders right down  the far end.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Arctic Willen

With the big freeze continuing I took a walk around Willen today. Most of the 2 lakes were frozen over, with just a few areas of open water.
At the inlet stream a Water Rail ran around just a few feet away . 
 The North Lake held masses of Coot, Wigeon, Gadwall, a few Teal and Great-crested Grebe, 5 Little Grebe and singles of Little Egret, Snipe and Kingfisher. 
An odd sight was this Chinese Water Deer walking around on the ice before it wandered off onto the island.                                                                                                                    

Chinese Water Deer
 On South Lake the water birds were much the same as the North, with the addition of 12 Goosander , 3 Goldeneye and a few Shoveler. 15 Siskins were feeding in some bank side Alders.