Sunday, 30 December 2012

New Patch Tick

Just lately birding around Gayhurst Quarry has been rather hard work.
  What with the incredible amount of rain we've had recently the water level has raised considerably meaning most of the islands and muddy shoreline has disappeared, making it unsuitable for any wading birds.
Not to mention that it's almost impossible to walk around the bottom end of the lakes
 We are also smack bang in the middle of the shooting season so any birds that are there are spooked very easily.
 Today didn't look as though it would be any different.
Of course there were the usual large flocks of Mallards and Wigeon, 50 or so Tufted Ducks, only 5 Gadwall and a solitary drake Pochard.
Three Little Egrets and three Herons stood in the flooded field between the rivers.
It was on Motorway Pit where most of the birds were gathered as this is where the feed is put down for them. Some 400 Greylags and about 50 Canada Geese were taking advantage of this and I counted 86 Mute Swans on the Pit. While checking through for any rarer winter visitors I noticed two smaller birds - a pair of Shelduck. While not a scarce species nationally, we do get very few in the county and these were the first I had seen at Gayhurst in almost 10 years of watching regularly. My 129th species for the site.
 They did go for a fly around at one point but dropped back down in to what they obviously felt was the safety of the large Swan flock.
 I make no apologies for the record shot below.

 A flock of 31 Golden Plover was a bonus flying over along with 60 odd Lapwing.

Monday, 17 December 2012

The Queen Mother....God Bless Her !

I was in twitch mode this weekend.
On Saturday afternoon, a Grey Phalarope at Dunstable Sewage works was a bit to good to be ignored. This bird should have long since departed for Africa but obviously the warmish sewage water held enough insect life to keep this frenetic little wader happy.
 Although it never actually moved very far, good views were had even though at some 100 yards range.

On Sunday morning I set my sights even higher with a trip to the Queen Mother Reservoir in Berkshire.
For a couple of days a very rare American vagrant a Buff-bellied Pipit had been present.
Normally entry to this site is by permit only but fortunately Berkshire Ornitholological Society had managed to get access for the huge number of people who wanted to see this bird.
 On arrival it was easy to see which way to go as a steady stream of birders wandered down  towards it's favoured area just beyond the pier.
 Unfortunately the only Pipits seen around this area were Meadow Pipits, but a bit further along our target bird had been located.
 To say this little fellow had no fear of Humans is a bit of an understatement as it fed happily just feet from the hordes of admirers.

Buff-bellied Pipit

Buff-bellied Pipit
When eventually I'd had my fill of this mega rarity, I decided to complete the lap of the 3 mile circumference of the reservoir to try and see a couple of the other good birds that were also on site.
 While I managed to find the long staying Long-tailed Duck, the Red-necked Grebe seemed to have chosen that day to depart.
the bird in the centre is a Long-tailed Duck(honestly)
I thought I might have seen a few Ring -necked Parakeets as this is their heartland but 3 flyovers were the only ones I managed.


Friday, 14 December 2012

From the Hide at Willen

Just to let you know that I'm still around.
Here are some pictures taken recently at Willen, before the floods and subsequent cold snap.


just three of the eighteen Snipe that have been present

three of the eleven Little Grebe (plus a Tuftie)

Sleepy Mute


Tuesday, 13 November 2012

New for the garden

In what has been an unbelievable Autumn for the number of Jays arriving on these shores from the Continent, I am very pleased to say that my small garden in Hardmead has not missed out.
 I have seen this particular bird around the village for over a month now and finally he has discovered my birdtable.
 O.K. he doesn't hang around long, just enough time to fill his beak with seed, bread, whatever and off he goes, returning ten minutes or so later after presumably burying his haul.

First one I've ever had in the garden although there have been several flyovers.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Back Wood Funghi

A stroll around Back Wood on Friday failed to produce any of the hoped for Bramblings that seem to be arriving everywhere else in good numbers just recently. The Chaffinch flock is still quite small at the moment but the food is there, so plenty of time yet.
 In fact birding wise it was pretty disappointing, with a few Siskins, a Buzzard   and the usual Goldcrests and Coal Tits being the highlights.
 What I did notice though was that there were lots of Funghi around including a few interesting ones, so this post is dedicated to them.
Everyone's favourite the Fly Agaric
Think this might be Honey Fungus

Shaggy Ink Cap
Puff Ball

The more than a bit rude Stinkhorn.  Note the flies on the cap

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Wilstone Grebe

It's always embarrassing to make a wrong call on a bird. You don't want people to travel to see a potential rare only to find out that it's a more common species that you have misidentified. I think most birders will have done this at least once.
 My attitude is though, better to put the news out because if it is that rareity you would feel even more stupid if someone else found it later and you tried to say 'oh yes I found that last week!'
 Well as of now I won't feel half as bad.
A certain well known, nationally acclaimed local birder, when told that a Black-necked Grebe had turned up at nearby Wilstone Reservoir, rushed out to see it and posted pictures on his blog naming it as a a Black-necked Grebe.
 A couple of days later after many people had been out to see it, stories started coming out that it was actually a Slavonian Grebe.
 Hence a return visit by the aforementioned 'celebrity' and the reversing lights started coming on followed by lots of excuses.
 O.K. Black-necked Grebe is a very good bird to see but in my book Slavonian is a good deal better. So this morning I took  a trip out to see this wonderful bird especially as reports suggested it had been showing at ridiculously close range.
 Sure enough although it wasn't exactly in the place it had been for the rest of the week  the delightful little chap performed really well about 10 yards offshore, unfazed by people constantly walking past.

Slavonian Grebe

Slavonian Grebe

 Elsewhere on the reservoir there were good numbers of waterfowl with lots of Wigeon, Teal, Gadwall and Mallard especially, with Shoveler, Tufted Ducks and Pochard all present. Near to the hide 3 Little Egrets and a single Black-tailed Godwit paddled in the mud.

 Slavonian Grebe is a bird that has eluded me in my home county of Bucks. I've just worked out that I have now seen it in all of the surrounding counties:

Bedfordshire: 1 bird, Northants: 3, Cambridgeshire: 1, Hertfordshire: 1, Leicestershire: 3, Warwickshire: 1.
Bucks really is a birdless county !

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Surprise on the marsh

While on a bit of a stomp around Olney Meadows this lunchtime, mainly hoping to find a Jack Snipe - I did see one Common Snipe -, I had one of them moments when you find yourself in mid-step and have to stop putting your foot down.
 I have a phobia of Snakes and there just under my foot was this sunbathing two foot long Grass Snake.
Even though I am scared of them, I can't help but watch them and managed a few photos before it slithered off into the grass. Unfortunately it's head is partially obscured  but other than that you can see it pretty well.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Sacred Sunday

Having decided I didn't have time this morning to nip up to Rainham Marshes to try and see the Baillon's Crake that has pitched up there recently, I decided to go for it's less rare cousin the Spotted Crake at a shade closer Stanwick Lakes.
 These birds can be very elusive, and on arrival two guys were already on site. They said they had not seen it, so we spent the next hour carefully scanning across the cut reedbed in the hope it would pop out.
 After this time another guy turned up and said he would try around the corner as looking from another angle would give us more chance. I joined him and we carried on the vigil. Shortly afterwards there was movement in the reeds - not the Crake, but one, and then two Muntjac Deer showed themselves. I hoped they had not scared the Crake further into the reeds, but I need not have worried as suddenly there it was right at the edge of the water pecking away quite happily. Here it remained for five or so minutes giving everyone the chance to admire it before slipping back into the reeds. This is only the third one I've ever seen so I was more than pleased.
 A short time later it repeated the performance so I thought I would go and check out the Sacred Ibis that has been frequenting the site for a month or so.
 Prior to this, this bird had been touring the country and we caught up with it in Norfolk back in June on one of our RSPB trips. It is unringed so is possibly part of the feral population from Southern France.
Sacred Ibis (click on the picture)
 A very enjoyable morning with two very good birds seen. Who knows I may get the chance to go for the Baillon's Crake next week.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Water Harrier

With a few hours to spare Monday afternoon I nipped up to the Ouse Washes RSPB reserve as there were a few good birds around including the long staying Purple Heron and a White rumped Sandpiper.
 I didn't expect to see the Heron and indeed I didn't, nor the Glossy Ibis that has been loitering for a couple of weeks now or indeed the White rumped Sandpiper.
 Despite this there were other good birds to be seen; a juvenile Spoonbill amongst the numerous Little Egrets, at least two Curlew Sandpipers, ten Spotted Redshanks, ten to fifteen Greenshanks, many Ruff, Dunlin and Snipe and also a very entertaining Kingfisher in a bush in front of the hide.
 The White rumped Sandpiper was on site as it was seen shortly after I left. The reason I didn't see it I suspect was the flock of small waders it was amongst was constantly beeing spooked by a couple of Marsh Harriers that kept flying over the washes.
 On one such fly through we were suddenly aware that the Harrier was hovering low over the shallow  water.
The reason for this was suddenly clear as a bird kept surfacing directly underneath and hastily diving.
The Harrier obviously knew what it was doing as suddenly it just dropped down and locked on to the helpless victim - a juvenile Coot.

 It was strange to see a Harrier seemingly sitting on the water. In reality it was standing on top of the Coot. (click on the picture for a better look)
Initially all the Ducks flew off but gradually they moved in closer as their curiosity got the better of them.
For around ten minutes the Harrier sat on top of the Coot until it was satisfied it's victim had been drowned. Occaisionally it would raise it's wings and the wind would catch it and float it across the water. I feared it would end up in deeper water and then be in trouble itself

Eventually though it summoned up it's strength and hauled it's meal up out of the water and out onto a drier area.

Suddenly all the ducks scattered as they realised who the strange waterbird was.

On my way out of the reserve I bumped into Alan Davies and Ruth Miller who had just come from Titchwell, where Alan had discovered a Baird's Sandpiper. I have no doubt he would have been the one to have refound the White rumped.


Monday, 10 September 2012

Village Whinchats

This really has been an exceptional autumn for passage Redstarts and Whinchats in Bucks.
Although I haven't managed to find any of the former, Whinchats seem to be popping up everywhere before my eyes. Since finding my first at Ravenstone Sewage Works on 19th July, I have since seen up to as many as seven or eight  individuals there, with three together on one occaision.

 Better still though I have now managed a further four birds in the area local to my home village of Hardmead. The early morning dog walk can be very rewarding at this time of year!

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Willen Herons

On my latest visit to Willen Lake I was very pleased to see that the Parks Trust have finally cut down the reeds in front of the hide.
I know the excuse is that they can't do it during the breeding season but surely they can be kept in check before the nesting season starts and then a bit of careful cutting back during it it.
I guess it's all or nothing with these guys.
After all why bother putting a hide there in the first place if no-one can see out of it.

Anyway rant over, the place is looking pretty good at the moment.
There were no waders in front of the hide but over on the spit a flock of twenty or so Lapwings played host to a fine Black-tailed Godwit.
Ducks are starting to build up with a few Gadwall and Shoveler joining the regular Mallards and Tufties.
 Although lacking waders the area in front of the hide seems to be a good hunting area for Little Egrets -4 birds on site - and Herons.

Little Egret
Grey Heron
Little Egret

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Beauty on the Gallows

Torrential rain this morning allowed me time for a trip up to Gallows Farm Reserve. A Wood Sandpiper had been found here last night and it was still present first thing.

Initially I thought I had missed out - a bit of a common theme recently after missing out on 2 Spotted Crakes and yet another Purple Heron (now officially my bogey bird I think)-, but after a while sat in the hide in the company of Dave Cleal, a bird flew out of the undergrowth and after a while settled on one of the islands - it was the Wood Sand.
 After hiding away for all that time it then made up for it by showing really well out in the open for the next hour and a half that I stayed. A Whinchat and a couple of Snipe were the best of the other birds on site

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Returning migrants and local breeders

A visit to Ravenstone Sewage Treatment Works today to check for migrants came up trumps.
I had found an early returning Whinchat on the 19th of July and this had been present since then along with another on the 30th.
 One of these greeted me on the fence on arrival and the other was soon located on the top of the corn. I thought I had found another when another similar bird flew  across the top of the crop, but this one had big white patches on it's wings - a Stonechat - now very hard to find in the county and my first here this year.
 A bird on the track ahead of me turned out to be my third chat in about a hundred yards,- a female type Wheatear.


Working in Lathbury in the afternoon a real treat was a family group of Spotted Flycatchers in and around the allotments, 2 adults and 4 youngsters. These really are a scarce bird in North Bucks nowdays. I am presuming they have come from the nest I discovered over the road in the village at the end of June and as far as I'm aware are the only ones around locally this year.

juvenile Spotted Flycatcher
Juvenile Spotted Flycatcher

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Chicheley Polecat

A piece of roadkill near to Chicheley village looks very much like a Polecat.

Interesting to know that are about so close to home.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

A bit of action...but not birds !

Not too much action on the birding front just recently, although a few waders are starting to move through in the last few days.
Of interest though were this pair of Dragonflies I found the other day at Gayhurst Quarry. Emperors possibly. Graeme....?

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

She's done it again.

After reports of a Goosander with young at Olney Mill, I finally got the chance to go and take a look today.
 Goosanders breeding in Buckinghamshire is a very rare occurrence but this is the third known time it has happened in the last five  years on the nearby River Ouse. It is possible that it is the same female that just doesn't want to or can't return Northwards come the spring.
 Originally there were six young ducklings but today there were only four although all looked fit and healthy. Another surprise though was the presence of an additional female loitering close by. I wonder if this is possibly one of the young from a couple of years back.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

The not so Ugly Duckling

A walk around Olney Meadows revealed this healthy brood of seven Mute Swan cygnets. It's always pleasing to find a Polish Swan amongst them and as this lot were very confiding I've put a couple of photos up for you to see.

Friday, 6 July 2012

Four Days in Wales

Three weeks ago I was fortunate enough to spend four days in South-West Wales, with some birding friends from Bedfordshire.
Despite a day and a half of heavy rain we did manage to see some great birds including Glossy Ibis, Manx Shearwaters, Dippers, Pied Flycatchers, Wood Warbler, Tree Pipits and some others that managed to get in the way of my camera.
Puffin on Skomer

Razorbill on Skomer

Guillemot on Skomer

Grey Seals on Skomer

so nearly a good photo of a recently fledged Redstart at Gwenffryd Dinas

Chough at Wooltack Point
Raven at Wooltack Point
Stonechat at St Davids Head

Lesser black-backed Gull on Skomer