Monday, 31 January 2011

Some Snipe at Last!

I had a look in at Willen today.
Most of the lakes were frozen, but the open water areas were absolutely ram-packed with waterfowl. On North Lake, Wigeon were the dominant species with several hundred present, also many Mallard and lesser numbers of Coot, Tufted Duck, Pochard, Gadwall, Teal and Shoveler.
 On the island, the Herons are in well into their breeding, with several sitting atop of their huge nests in the Pine trees. Thirty five Cormorants sat in the tallest tree on the east side and a hundred or so Lapwings stood out on the ice.
 Looking in the reeds just left of the hide I located 4 Snipe, - the first I have seen this year !

On South Lake, there were even more birds, the same mix as on the North, but Tufted being the most numerous. Also 22 Goldeneye and 4 Goosander with a good number of Great-crested  Grebes.

Around the lake, Stock Doves were prospecting nest holes, lots of Reed Buntings fed in the reeds and several Siskins were seen.

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Big Garden Birdwatch

I did my RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch today.
Results were as follows:

Wren, 1
 Dunnock, 3.

Robin, 1.

Pied Wagtail, 1.

Chaffinch, 1

Collared Dove, 2.

Starling, 9.

Blackbird, 5.

Long-tailed Tit, 2.

Great Tit, 2.

Blue Tit, 3

Blue Tit

House Sparrow, only 8 today.

Tree Sparrow, 1.  Yes Trevor is still around !

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Another 'odd' Canada Goose

A look in at Olney Mill today.
In 'Barwit Bay' a flock of 60 or so Black-headed Gulls loafed on the mudbank with a couple of Commons mixed in. A few Moorhens, a single Coot, a dozen Mallards and a Heron were seen, but it was the flock of 80 or so Canada Geese that took my attention.
 While looking through these, one odd bird stood out. It was slightly smaller, with no white on the breast, the, white on it's face being slightly smaller than the others present.
 This is not the small race Canada Goose that was around for most of last year and years previous ( photos on post of January 30th last year), as that seems to have disappeared with the Barnacle flock that is off on it's winter vacation at present.
I did wonder if this Goose is a hybrid between the small race bird and a standard Canada, but the smaller bird seems to pair up with a Barnacle Goose in the summer months, so have my doubts.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Brickhills Today

A wander around the Brickhills and Backwood this morning.
Lots of the expected species, like Great-spotted Woodpeckers, Nuthatches, Great, Blue, Coal and Long-tailed Tits, Goldcrests and Treecreeper.Three Redpolls were all of the Lesser variety and a group of 8 Siskins were seen.
 Down at the Backwood Pond, half a dozen Mallard kept the company of a smashing drake Mandarin, also a Moorhen and more surprising a couple of Coot here.

Mandarin ( I know it's not close, but we don't get that many in North Bucks)
  At least 4 Buzzards patrolled the area along with a couple of Sparrowhawks. Best Raptor though was a fantastic male Peregrine that cruised over the edge of the Wood.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Kronk !

It was down to Gayhurst Quarry again this morning as I'm determined to find some wild geese amongst our enormous  Greylag/Canada throng.

 Arriving at Motorway Pit all was strangely quiet, as apart from a single Great-crested Grebe and a few Black-headed Gulls there wasn't a bird to be seen. I couldn't see or hear any shooters, but I guess they had been here the day before.
 Spinney Pit held a few Tufted Ducks, Coots and Mallards, but it seemed everything had re-located to Motorway Pit.
 All the Swans, 111 Mutes and the lone Whooper, at least 300 Greylags, 100 Canadas, 300 Wigeon, 200 Mallard and 3 Great-crested Grebe, but all as jittery as anything.
 A very large Corvid flock hung around and an obvious influx of Common Gulls hung around the fields with a few hundred Fieldfares.

I walked around the marshy stream area on my way up to Quarryhall as I was hoping to find a Snipe or even Jack Snipe as strangely enough I still haven't seen either this year - they seemed to vanish in the cold snap and so far haven't returned.
As I approached Quarryhall I could hear quite a few Tree Sparrows in the Maize strip, but they never did come out. Around 30 Yellowhammers along with a few Reed Buntings were also around.
A coarse 'Kronking' sound then had me looking up, - Raven !! and sure enough one and then another flew steadily over northwards. Only my second and third ever birds here.
 The Red-legged Partridge cage today contained 6 birds, I'm now thinking they must be able to get in and out themselves, although I'm not really sure how.

 A few signs of spring today with a pair of Great-spotted Woodpeckers chasing each other around a tree and a male Chaffinch in full song.

Monday, 17 January 2011

There's Mandarins at Mill

I had an errand to run this morning, so on the way back I thought I'd take a  look on the river at Kempston Mill. It was  running pretty quick and reasonably high after all the recent rains, so I wasn't too optimistic about seeing much .However quite a few Mallards seemed to be coping reasonably well with the added flow. A couple of Mute Swans and a few Moorhens were also coping well, but it was down by the first island that I found the birds I had come looking for, - 2 Drake Mandarins. In the past I have seen double figures of these attractive birds, but just recently there doesn't seem to be as many here.
At lunchtime I popped up to Milton Keynes Centre again. I parked just out of the City and walked in past John Lewis' where I could already hear some Waxwings. About 50 of the little beauties were feeding on rosehips in the carpark of the retail giant. I carried on down to Lloyds court where I had seen the giant flock yesterday. Sure enough there were still masses here too, so whether the JL birds were different I'm not sure. It could be that they just range  right around the area.
Later on I took a walk along the river at Bury Fields in Newport, where again there were lots of Mallard and several Moorhens. A single Greylag looked lost as it swam amongst the tree branches, and then another bird thought that I couldn't see it as it tried to camoflague itself in amongst the bare twigs - a redhead Goosander.

Barn Owl
Reaching the far end of the Bury Field, I noticed a white shape floating around the rough grass area. A hunting Barn Owl. This was great to see as it flew up and down the field, a couple of times coming to within a few yards of me, before eventually drifting off over the river towards Lathbury. I've been reading some dreadful stories recently of many Barn Owls being picked up dead, having starved in the recent snowy weather, but this is the second one I've seen locally this year,so fingers crossed they're hanging on.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Dreary Sunday

The weather dictated my birding this morning. The wind was strong and gusting and the light rain meant it didn't really get light. With this in mind I decided a trip to Willen Lake was probably the best option.
Both lakes were  completely packed with birds, most numerous being Coot, Tufted Ducks, Pochard, Gadwall, Mallard, Wigeon and Teal. There were smaller numbers of Shoveler, Great-crested and Little Grebe.
From the hide a Buzzard could be seen on the island, about 120 Lapwings stood on the spit and amongst these a lone Redshank.
On South Lake, a gathering of about a hundred Mute Swans, 23 Goosanders, a pair of Goosanders and a few Great black-backed and Herring Gulls were additional to the North Lake tally. 
Rather sadly near the bridge between the two lakes a young Great black-backed Gull didn't look as though it was long for this world and a smart male Goldeneye had already passed on. 

I then nipped up to Central Milton Keynes to look for the large flock of Waxwings that had been present for the last few days. 
I couldn't see any sign as I drove up, but the minute I lowered the window, an incredible sound filled the air - Waxwings and lots of them ! 
A huge flock was easily located in a tree over the road. This shot shows the majority of the flock. I have counted 223, and there was probably 20 to 30 more.                                                                                                                                                
As you can see it was a really dark horrible wet morning so I didn't bother taking any more photos.

Friday, 14 January 2011

I'll take a Bittern instead then.

As a few people had reported that the Bearded Tits were still at Walton Balancing Lakes and I was working nearby I decided to pop in at lunchtime.
The place was very quiet apart from the odd squealing Water Rail and a few flyover Siskins and most  of  the time was spent trying to turn a few Reed Buntings that flew over the reeds into the aforementioned Beardies.

 I have to say the new screens that have been erected on the end of the boardwalk are in theory a great idea. But please Mr Parks trust the idea of screens and hides is you are supposed to be able to see out of them ( this includes Willen and Stony Stratford ) If I was four foot diddly I would be able to see fine, but as I'm not, my neck still aches. from bending down to see out.

While I was there 3 other birders arrived and an exclamation from the lady among them had me looking across to the middle of the reed bed where a large brown bird was just pitching down into the reeds - A Bittern ! Unfortunately the two other gentlemen there missed it as it was so brief.

I didn't get any sign of the Bearded Tits, but was more than satisfied with the Bittern, my first in the Milton Keynes area for a few years.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Around the Manor

There hasn't been any reports coming from Manor Farm recently, so I decided to check it out today.
I parked at the viaduct end and had hardly left the car when a Little Egret came out of nowhere to land on the river bank. Another was on the settling lagoon, where there was also a redhead Goosander, which was constantly diving for food, - this pit must be quite deep as the bird was down for very long periods.
 Some pretty large numbers of Fieldfares and Redwings absolutely covered the grassy fields around the pits and a flock of around 50 Goldfinch fed in the longer grass.
 On the landscaped pit at least 100 Wigeon were scattered around and a small bird feeding in amongst them turned out to be a Green Sandpiper, while looking at this another Green Sand called as it flew  over towards the inlet area. A third Little Egret was paddling around this pit.A further 2 redhead goosander flew in and shortly afterwards a group of 6, 2 of them males flew over the site.
 I disturbed a Buzzard from one of the trees near the river and this in turn disturbed practically everything else that was around.
 Across the river on Cosgrove Lakes lots of Canada Geese, Tufted Ducks, Pochard and the odd Great-crested Grebe could be seen, and other than a Green Woodpecker probing in the grass that was about it.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Today at the Quarry

I visited Gayhurst Quarry early today.
Lots of small birds around especially in the wood area. The local Tit flock consisting of mainly Greats and Blues, but a few Long-taileds and a couple of Marsh. The Nuthatch is still hanging around as well.
 On Fishing Pit there were 2 redhead Goosanders and the Swan flock were having a wash and brush up before returning to the fields to feed.
The Whooper is still present and below is a record shot, as I'm probably not going to be able to get any closer. As always click it up to see better.

The huge Goose flock is still around and today contained a single Barnacle Goose - probably the one
that was at Caldecotte Lake around Christmas time.
While looking at the Geese I heard a 'peuw' call and looked up to see a V-formation of about 120 Golden Plovers heading up the valley towards Linford.                   
Motorway Pit was as usual packed with Ducks, mainly Mallard and Wigeon, but a few Tufteds, Teal some Coots and a few Great-crested Grebes. Three Little Egrets sat on the bushes on the south side of the lake.

At Quarryhall, the flock of Yellowhammers and Greenfinch is still there.
The Red-legged Partridge cage was empty today, but there were still a few birds hanging around.

Saturday, 8 January 2011

A Trip to Rutland

Paul and I took a trip up to Rutland Water this afternoon, mainly on a quest to see a drake American Wigeon that had been around since early last month.
 The journey up produced a few raptors in the shape of a few Kestrels, a couple of Buzzards and a splendid Red Kite
 Our first port of call was Whitwell Harbour where the Yankie had been spending it's time over the last week.
 It took no time at all to find the Wigeon flock, 300 or so of them, but despite the two of us going over it several times we just couldn't locate the transatlantic visitor.
 Out in the bay there were Mallards, Gadwall, Tufted Ducks,Pochard, Coots and Little Grebes  present.
 While looking around the car park, we happened to notice a flock of about 20 Siskins in the Alder trees above us. A scan through them showed there to be 3 Redpolls among them and whats more further scrutiny revealed them all to be Mealy Redpolls. So a lifer for Paul after all, just not the one he expected.
 We then moved onto Barnsdale, where there were lots of birds on the water including quite a few Goldeneye and Great-crested Grebes.
 A tight group of three small Grebes were spotted  out in the middle of the reservoir and through the scope were found to be all Slavonian Grebes.
 The bay around the corner also held lots of birds including quite a few Little Grebes, a Shelduck and a drake Red-crested Pochard. On the far side a Buzzard stood on the grass tucking into something unseen, flanked by a couple of Crows who were hoping for any left-overs.

Friday, 7 January 2011

Thrilled to be Trilled

Despite having seen lots of Waxwings at the back end of last year, I was starting to think that they had all moved on, as so far this year I always seemed to be one step behind and had missed out several times.
 When I got a message about there being some at B and Q Bletchley for the second day, I thought 'You Can Do It', ( I know that's Terrible) so I headed over.
 Right outside the store entrance was the only Rowan Tree in the car park with any berries on, so I guessed this was where they should be. Unfortunately there was no sign, but two stonking great Mistle Thrushes were sat right in the middle, obviously on guard, ready to see of any Scandinavian invaders.
 I hung around for quite a while hoping that the Waxers would fly in. After about 20 minutes a superb trilling sound filled the air and a group of 21 circled the car park. They circled three times but never landed but gave some fairly decent views before flying off towards Asda. Three more birds flew around, but again didn't land.
 I found out later that if I had just moved a hundred yards down the road there were over 150 birds feeding in Tescos car park.

 I then decided to visit Caldecotte North Lake as I was close by.
Lots of birds on the now mainly thawed out water. Mallard, Wigeon, Gadwall, Tufteds, Pochard, Mute Swans Canada Geese, Cormorants, Coots, Moorhens, Great and Little Grebes and a Grey Wagtail on the dam.
 Probably the outstanding sighting of the day though was Keith of the 'Holding Moments' website. This is his 'Patch' after all, and we had a good old chat about all the 'stuff' he'd seen lately including a Black-tailed Godwit the previous day

Monday, 3 January 2011

Willen,Caldecotte and Linford.

Stayed  my side of the border today.

A walk around Willen North this morning. Still almost entirely frozen even though the thaw set in  almost a week ago.
 A short vigil by in the inflow produced the anticipated Water Rail scurrying around, but other than the small unfrozen areas of the lake very few birds were around.
 A flock of 30 odd Lapwings stood on the ice, while on the water, Mallard, Wigeon, Tufteds, Pochard, Teal, Gadwall, a single drake Goldeneye, Coot, Great and Little Grebes filled what water was available.

Reports of a Scaup at Caldecotte gave me an excuse to get out this afternoon.
A drive through the Oldbrook estate proved fruitless as the Waxwings seem to have moved on.
 At Caldecotte, as at Willen most of the lake is frozen, other than an area in front of the houses which was absolutely packed with Mallards, Tufteds and Pochard, some Canada Geese, Mute Swans and a single Black Swan also a few Wigeon, Teal and Shoveler. Two female Goosander were present, as were a pair of Goldeneye, a few Little Grebe and their Great-crested cousins.
 I couldn't see any sign of a Scaup, but there was a female Tufted Duck with a very large white face mask, which could well be the bird in question.
 While the Mute Swans walked on the ice, I noticed one was wearing a BTO metal ring, so with the use of my camera I took a photo and blew it up big so I was able to read the number. I have sent the details off so if you're interested Keith I'll let you know the details when they get back to me.

For the last half hour of daylight I decided on an Owl watch at the Linford reserve.
I had only got half way down the drive when a Barn Owl got up from one of the posts and began hunting the long grass in the field just yards away. I should have turned around then as that was as good as it got, a Sparrowhawk being the only other bird of prey spotted before darkness set in.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Hopping over the Border

I haven't had a good look around Stewartby Lake in ages. Although it's in Bedfordshire, as the crow flies it's only about 5 miles from home.
 As it hasn't frozen over during the recent cold snap, a lot of water birds have relocated there.
 I parked in Marston Moretain and walked down to have a look in at the Sewage Works first. Here around a dozen Pied Wagtails picked around the rotating carousels, along with one Grey Wagtail and three Meadow Pipits.
 Scanning over the Lake I could see many Tufted Ducks, scores of Goldeneye, a few dozen Great-crested  and at least ten Little Grebe.
 Failing to see anything more interesting I decided to do a lap of the lake seeing Bullfinch, 4 Lesser Redpoll, Kingfisher  and Great-spotted Woodpecker on the way round.
 Almost reaching the North-West corner, I met another birder who asked if I'd seen the Smew. I said not and he pointed me in the direction of a 'redhead' that was sitting on the bank near to the Water-ski hut. I then asked him if he'd seen the Red-throated Diver that had been around the day before. 'Oh yes' was his reply, 'It's out there' and sure enough it was, right near to where I'd been standing on the other side of the lake, just a short time before.
 Carrying on to the west shore I encountered a huge flock of Tufted Ducks and on scanning through these I managed to pick out at least three Scaup, two females and a first winter male.

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Kicking off the new year

 I started off my new year birding in the same fashion as I have the previous few with a visit to my 'local' patch Gayhurst Quarry.
 The walk down didn't produce anything much out of the ordinary and arriving at Fishing Pit it was totally birdless as it was still totally frozen over.
 The same was true of Spinney and Reedy Pit, however the huge Goose and Swan flock was still present in the field betwen the two rivers. Masses of Greylags and Canadas, around 50 Mute Swans and after a thorough search, the adult Whooper still present.
 A flock of 5 Siskins fed in the Alders by the pits and a Little Egret was disturbed from the side of the small river.
 As of my previous visit, a section of Motorway Pit was unfrozen and this is where all the ducks were found.
300 plus Wigeon and lesser numbers of Mallard, Tufteds, Pochard and Teal.

 I took the walk up to Quarryhall, where a flock of around 40 Skylarks fed in the cereal field. At the Quarry itself a mixed flock of around 30 Yellowhammers, several Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch and a single Tree Sparrow adorned the hedgerow.
 At the maize strip a cage contains about 50 Red-legged Partridges. I can't really understand what this is about, as usually Gamebirds are reared in the summer and released just before the shooting season starts.
The season ends in a month, so what will they do. Surely they don't let them out of the cage just to fly into the guns. Asolutely f***ing pathetic!!!!