Saturday, 30 April 2011


I finally managed to get out to visit nearby Rookery Pit in Bedfordshire this afternoon. The Purple Heron had been making very brief appearances over the last few days and I knew it would be a long shot, but hey if you don't buy a ticket, you can't win the raffle.
 I had never visited this site properly and it really is impressive, unfortunately being rapidly drained so the site can be developed.
 It was a very warm, sunny afternoon and most of Beds birding elite were on site, so a very pleasant afternoon was to be enjoyed.
 On arriving a Hobby was seen hawking over the pit and a drake Red-crested Pochard was in with some Mallards.
 It was however Waders that were the birds of the day. At present we are in the middle of an amazing inland Bar-tailed Godwit migration and there were five of these present. Also 3 Greenshanks, 2 Ruff, 2 Turnstones, a Whimbrel, several Redshanks, a Green sandpiper, some Little ringed Plovers and Ringed Plovers. Why is there nowhere as good as this in Buckinghamshire !?
 The Purple Heron unfortunately failed to make an appearance, but I did manage a new life-tick in the shape of a Dinghy Skipper Butterfly. I'll more than likely be back.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

The aaah factor

In the depths of winter, having to walk the dog when it's still dark, minus five, belting down with snow and you then have to clean her feet before she is allowed back into the house can be a bit of a chore. But this time of year and the weather how it has been lately more than makes up for all that.
 Living where we do out in the sticks I get to see all sorts. In the past week or so our wander in the area around the village has produced a splendid male Ring Ousel, a Wheatear, Yellow Wagtails, Grey Partridges, a Mistle Thrush sitting on a clutch of 3, Long-tailed Tits building a nest and a small Leveret in it's Form alongside a track.
 Today I happened to notice a movement in the undergrowth on the other side of a stream. A closer look revealed it to be the tiniest of Fox cubs. Further movement caught my eye and there were not one but actually four, not more than four or five yards in front of me. I ushered Millie away and left them to go about their business.
 This evening I had promised myself a visit to nearby Rookery Pits to try and see a Purple Heron that had dropped in, but as this had gone a bit quiet with no reports since lunchtime I decided to go back and have a look for the cubs.
 I found them with no problem, the Earth seems to be in the middle of an enormous Rabbit Warren and they disappeared down several of the holes as they played around the various tree trunks and vegetation. Most of the time they were out of sight, but I did manage a couple of pics in the fading light.

 You can see how young these animals are as their eyes are still blue. I guess they've only just left the safety of the nest chamber.
 Hopefully I can get back to get some more photos as they get older and a bit more adventurous.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Easter Twitch

 Paul and I finally got ourselves sorted on Sunday morning to visit Welney and twitch the White-spotted Bluethroat that had returned to the site for the second successive year.
 It was another early start and we arrived at the reserve for about 7:30, flushing a Barn Owl from one of the posts near the car-park.
 The Bluethroat has re-established territory down at the far end of the reserve and  the walk down provided us with an accompaniment of songs from Whitethroat, Reed and Sedge Warblers.
 Once we reached Lyle Hide we decided to have a look out across the marshes to see what was about..
Avocets were nesting, Shelduck loafed around as well as good numbers of Gadwall, some Mallard, Shoveler and Teal. There were lots of Mute Swans on the meadows and surprisingly 30 or 40 Whoopers still around Two Marsh Harriers were seen and a Pied Wagtail was building a nest in the hide itself.
 Suddenly something was going on outside and we were summoned out, the Bluethroat was about. We had studied the song of this bird  on a tape before arriving and were slightly underwhelmed, but in reality the song was wonderful, not as rich as a Nightingale but a real showpiece. At first he only sang from the bottom of a tree out of sight, but then jumped onto a fence with his back to us. Eventually we were treated to a full frontal of his brilliant blue chest with it's central white spot, while he performed for a minute or so, before flying off down the stream. We did get another decent view, before he disappeared again, apparently for the rest of the day.
 On site we bumped into Robin, who like us was paying his first visit to this magnificent bird. His photos can be seen at
 Back at the observatory  we watched House Martins visiting their nests under the eaves and about a dozen Ruff and a couple of Little-ringed Plover were out on the scrapes. Still 20 or so Wigeon were lingering.
 Before leaving we had  breakfast in the cafe, while we looked out over Lady Fen. Here Avocets, Lapwings and Redshanks paddled in the shallow water, a Yellow Wagtail flew over and Tree Sparrows fed on the feeders.
 Another great twitch and a 'life bird' for both of us.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Tuning in to the 'Channel' at Manor Fm.

 I paid a return visit to Manor Farm late this afternoon, with the intention of finding the Wagtail that had originally been identified as a Blue-headed, but now confirmed as a 'Channel' thanks to Chris's excellent photos( see )
 When I arrived I could only find 5 Yellow Wagtails in the Sheep field and another 6 around the pits, so I took a look around. Waterfowl was sparse with just a couple of Mutes, a few Canadas, 3 Gadwall, a handful of Tufteds and about a dozen Mallards. Waders comprised of 2 Little-ringed Plovers and a couple of Lapwings. A single Little Egret and a Grey Heron paddled in the shallows.
 The Jackdaws in the tree above the pond were making quite a row today and this sparked off the local Little Owl. This gave me the opportunity to creep up  and get this dodgy pic of it.

I then moved back up to the top of the field, where as Chris had predicted the Yellow Wagtail numbers had started to build up, within in excess of 25 birds, and eventually I found the 'Channel in amongst them. A very smart bird and well worth the time put in to find it.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Winter/Spring overlap

 As it would happen I was working at Hardmead Rectory this morning. Unfortunately there was no sign of yesterdays Hoopoe, but lots of other goodies were around.
 A pair of both Grey and Red-legged Partridges in the field outside, the usual Little Owl in the nest tree, a Raven that called as it thermalled overhead. Stock Doves are nesting in the log-pile, Goldcrests called from the conifers along with Coal Tits, Mistle Thrushes and Blackcaps.
 Now it seems that Nik Maynard was out and about today as a succession of texts came through of him seeing Osprey, Black Tern, Waxwings and a Ring Ousel.
 My lunchtime was limited, but I figured I had time to at least look in at Willen. Parking opposite the BMX track, I met Nik just as he was leaving and he advised that the Black Tern was still present. Indeed it was, and a full summer plumaged adult at that. It was dip-feeding over the lake keeping company of 4 or 5 Common Terns.
 Having seen the Tern so easily I decided to push on to Tongwell, where Nik had given me exact directions to the tree the Waxwings were in. Just as well as I could easily have overlooked them..At least 6 of them ( Nik had seen 8) were sitting in a Poplar tree absolutely silent. Strange to see them in sitting in amongst the foliage.
 An odd day today Waxwings and a Black Tern within five minutes of each other. What will tomorrow bring ?

Monday, 18 April 2011

Oh How Annoying !

Well not quite my words tonight.
I had been working at Calverton today, so I thought I would stop off at Manor Farm on my way home.
I had just about got to the main pit and started to scan around, but other than a solitary Lapwing in the way of wader type birds and no sign of any Yellow Wagtails I had seen nothing, when my phone rang. It was Angela to say that Paul Nye who lives 7 houses away from us had just found a HOOPOE in  our next door but ones garden ! and it was now on the roof of their house.
 Well it was one of those occaisions when every traffic light is against you and there are traffic jams in places where there aren't usually, but I managed to get home by five to 6, although a text had come through at a quarter to, to say the bird had flown up towards the churchyard.
 I spoke to Paul who said he wasn't sure if it had landed or not, but I spent the next half an hour or so looking around the rectory with no success.
 This has to be THE one that got away ! If only I hadn't decided to stop at Manor Farm ! More annoying was the fact that Chris saw the Blue-headed Wagtail there again tonight, a sub-species I have yet to see in the county.
 Even more annoying was the fact that Birdguides reported that the Hoopoe was present in the rectory garden prior to 6:30 when I'm pretty sure it wasn't!

Birding at it's Peak

Sunday was our latest RSPB outing. This time to the wonderful Peak District.
 Our first stop was at the extremely picturesque Goyt Valley in North Derbyshire. Here Willow Warbler song filled the air as there seemed to be one in every other tree. Another song however stood out just yards from the mini-bus - a stunning male Redstart almost glowing in the bright sunshine.
 Siskins, Redpolls and Coal Tits flitted around the tops of the many conifer trees and a couple of Buzzards and  a pair of Kestrels drifted around. Nuthatches were very vocal and several were seen including one pair that were putting a lining into their mud adapted nest hole.
 The water level of the reservoir in the bottom of the valley was very low and thus held very few birds but 2 or 3 Common Sandpipers flitted about.
 We continued up the valley where another songster had us peering up into the trees. A Tree Pipit which was eventually located and gave good views before it flew off.
 The bird we were hoping to see at this location was Pied Flycatcher and we were not to be disappointed when first a male bird was located, then another and then a very obliging pair flycatching in a tree over our heads.
 A look across the valley to the moorland on the other side gave us a distant view of a Red Grouse that posed briefly on the top of a derelict wall.

 Next stop was a site just over the Cheshire border that we had visited a couple of years ago and seen Ring Ouzels feeding young. This time it took a while but a female bird was seen to fly into an area of rushes. After a brief wait a bird emerged but this time a male which showed pretty well until disturbed by a couple of walkers. Several Wheatears were present here as well as Meadow Pipits, a pair of Mistle Thrushes and some more distant Red Grouse. Over the road on the hillside above, a Mountain Hare gave an all too brief view until it disappeared into the Heather.

 Finally we parked up at Axe Edge and took a wander along the road. Here many Red Grouse were seen, some of which were very close to the road. Displaying Curlews were heard and seen over the moors and several Butterflies that flew rapidly by appeared to be some kind of Fritillary.

 I didn't manage any bird photos this time, but for the second post running I'm putting on a reptile. This time a Common Lizard that was sunbathing on a wall at the Goyt Valley.
Common Lizard

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Newton Tiddly

A most unexpected find while working in Newton Blossomville today was this baby Slow Worm. The first I've ever seen in Bucks. It was only 2 to 3 inches long and after initially thrashing around, it resorted to playing dead which enabled me to get this shot of it.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

What a Mouthful.

This Blackbird was very confiding as I dug over a vegetable patch in an Olney garden today. It must have fairly well developed young, judging by the size of the worms it was collecting.

Monday, 11 April 2011

A Trip to the Manor

With everyone saying how good Manor Farm was looking lately, I took a look in this afternoon. It is starting to look good, but I was quite dismayed to see 5 people working on site. There has been a lot of tree planting going on recently so I'm not sure if that's what they were up to.
 I needn't really have worried as there were still a few good birds on site. Definitely 4 Little Ringed Plovers, possibly 6, 2 Green Sandpipers, an Oystercatcher and 4 Lapwings were the waders on offer. Asingle Little Egret, 3 Gadwall, a few Mallards and a couple of Canada Geese  made up the bigger stuff.
 Spring migrants were well represented by Chiffchaffs, Blackcap, at least 5 handsome Yellow Wagtails, 30 or 40 Sand Martins, a dozen Swallows and a single House Martin.
 Finally a Little Owl was calling from one of the pollarded Willows along the south shore

Thursday, 7 April 2011

A Work of Art

On one of my brief visits to Tongwell Lake last week I noticed a pair of Long-tailed Tits starting to build a nest. When I went back today it looks like it is finished. Click on the photo to see what a fantastic construction it is.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Dawn Raid

'OK Rob, here's our plan', Paul said to me on the phone last night. 'We both need Crane for our Buckinghamshire list, so we're off to Gallows Bridge Nature Reserve.'
 'Be at mine for about quarter past  five in the morning (this meant leaving home at five to ) We can be  there at six o'clock and be in the hide for sun up. We'll find the Crane and watch it for half an hour or so and get back in time for work.'
 Amazingly this was exactly how it went. Sitting in the hide as the darkness turned to green outside, with the sound of Lapwings, Curlews, Skylarks and Meadow Pipits all around. Gradually shapes turned into birds, several Hares and a Fox that scampered across the field in front of us. Finally it was light enough for Paul to pick out the smart adult Common Crane standing in the pool a couple of hundred yards right out in front of us. We did indeed watch it for half an hour or so, before setting off back towards Milton Keynes and Hardmead. I was back home by just after half seven, very pleased with my 200th bird for Bucks.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Hills and Ressies

With some free time today,  I decided to explore the middle of the county.

I started off at Ivinghoe Beacon in the hope of seeing some migrants. A male Ring Ousel had been around for a week or so and I had hopes of seeing it. Walking down from the car park I was sure I could see my target bird in the distance and decided to get to a better vantage point. Only to find when I got there two idiot 'cameramen' stomping right up the area with absolutely no idea whatsoever that the bird had been there if they had just stood and looked.
 It was another twenty minutes or so after they had wandered off up the hill, that I spotted the  Ousel on the side of a bush, although the view was brief as it flew back into the scrub. Continuing my watch there were a few false alarms when a couple of Blackbirds came out, and then a brown bird that I first assumed was a female Blackbird, until it turned to face me showing a faded white necklace - a female Ring Ousel. So two for the price of one.
 Other migrants in the surrounding bushes included Chiffchaffs, Willow Warblers and Blackcaps. As usual there were lots of Skylarks, Linnets and Meadow Pipits about and a couple of Buzzards.

 Next stop was Startops and Marsworth Reservoirs where Mallards and Tufteds were the major inhabitants. I decided to have a look over the other side of the canal to see if there were any Yellow Wagtails fresh in. There were Wagtails but only about eight and all were Pied. There was a small flock of Jackdaws in the field, but one stood out from the rest. It had white patches on its shoulders - a 'Nordic' Jackdaw no less, pretty uncommon in these parts.

nordic jackdaw (click on the picture)

nordic jackdaw (click on the picture)
I then met Francis Buckle and while pointing out the Jackdaw to him he informed me of a Whitefronted Goose that had just arrived at nearby College Lake.
 This was my next destination. I hadn't visited here since the site was redeveloped and I have to say it really is quite an impressive place.
 There were at least half a dozen Redshanks, a pair of Oystercatchers and several Lapwings flying around and calling, most unlike Buckinghamshire.
The Whitefront was present, keeping the company of a single Greylag and it seemed they were in fact a pair. I don't know if it's origins are supect but it was certainly unringed.

white-fronted goose

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Mothers Day Migrants

 We were back up in Nottinghamshire to visit Angela's mum today. As usual I snuck out in the afternoon to look around Attenborough Nature Reserve.
 Winter visitors had mainly disappeared, but there were still 5 female Goosanders on the Main Pit and about 8 Goldeneye around the site. Duck numbers were very much down, with Mallard the most numerous, followed by Tufted Duck. There were a pair of Shelduck and Red-crested Pochard, the female of which was the leucistic bird I had seen here last year, a few Shoveler, Teal and Gadwall.

Leucistic female Red-crested Pochard

 There were also a few Egyptian Geese around including a partially leucistic individual.

Egyptian Goose with leucistic head feathers

Continuing the theme was this Canada Goose.

Canada Goose with partially leucistic neck feathers

  Good birds seen around the reserve were a pair of Willow Tits, 2 Oystercatchers and 10 or so Tree Sparrows, while 2 Cettis Warblers were heard but not seen.

 It was however summer migrants that were here in force today, with many singing Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs, 20 or 30 Sand Martins, a dozen Swallows and 4 Common Terns.

 Early nesters included Coots, Moorhens, and a pair of Kestrels in the nestbox in Wheatear Field.