Tuesday, 31 January 2012

The releasing of the Shrew

I found this little fellow at work yesterday. He had fallen into a flowerpot and was unable to get out.
Common Shrew

Don't think he minded too much that I took his photo before setting him off on his way.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Gayhurst Update

Gayhurst Quarry has been quite disappointing just recently. This winter the birds just haven't really been around in the numbers and variety of previous years.
 The thing is you've got to keep checking though, just in case.
This afternoon I took one of my regular walks around.
The track up to the lakes produced all the usual stuff, Chaffinches,Greenfinches,Great and Blue Tits, Redwings and Fieldfares.
 Looking over the Fishing Pit I spied Mute Swans, Mallards, Tufted Ducks, a large flock of Wigeon and 20 or so Teal. A Buzzard kept vigil over the proceedings.
 Motorway Pit held the usual Mallards, with smaller numbers of Wigeon, 90 odd Mute Swans, a few Lapwings and a lone Little Egret, while a couple of drake Goosanders flew over.
 The river was quiet but did produce a Kingfisher that sped off downstream and a Marsh Tit in an Ivy covered tree.

 I still haven't managed to see the Great White Egret that remains in the area, yet this year, so I decided to head up to the Linford Reserve once more.
 Again there was no sign, but I found compensation in the form of another Heron, - a Bittern that was roosting high up in the reeds on the north side. I managed to get a few other people onto this bird before the mist rolled in and spoiled it for everyone.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

On the trail of the Auk

 When the wind blows strong there is always the chance that a stray seabird might turn up in an inland county like Buckinghamshire.
 The news that came through this afternoon though was totally unexpected, - LITTLE AUK at College Lake !! And what's more there was still time to get there before dark !
 So picking up Paul on the way, we were soon heading off that way.
Arriving on site we could see a crowd of birders staring across to the far side of the main lake at a tiny bird that seemed to be diving continuously. This looked like being hard work.
 But then all of a sudden it took off and flew low over the water and onto the front lake in front of the visitor centre. We were  just debating whether to head back to get a closer view when it decided to head back onto the main lake. From the far corner gradually it worked it's way back down towards us, eventually being  no more than 10 yards out from where we were standing allowing us to scrutinise a bird that is rarely seen at such close quarters, where it stayed until we left as it got dark. - Foolishly I didn't have my camera with me as I wasn't expecting such close views.
 A fantastic bird for the county and  the first ever twitchable one in Bucks.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

The Ghost of Newport Pits

Checking the Goose flock at Newport Pagnell Gravel Pits today, I spotted this very distinctive nearly all white Buzzard.
 I'm presuming it's just an aberrant Common Buzzard, but a very attractive bird all the same.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Ouse Washes and Welney

Sunday was our latest Bedford Group RSPB trip.
 We started off at the RSPB Reserve at the Ouse Washes in Cambridgeshire.
The water levels were as low as I've ever seen them and most was frozen over but this didn't prevent there being lots of birds present.
 Mallard, Wigeon, Pintail, Teal and Gadwall made up the quota of Ducks. Waders comprised of a large flock of Black-tailed Godwits and Lapwings with a few Ruff, Dunlin, Redshank and Snipe scattered around. Very few Swans were seen with less than a dozen Whoopers on site. A pair of Stonechats performed outside one of the hides and a female Merlin over the far side was a real treat.


Whooper Swan

 The afternoon was spent just down the road at Welney WWT, Norfolk.
In contrast to the previous site, here there were hundreds of Swans, mainly Whoopers, just outside the main Observatory and in nearby fields, with a couple of hundred Bewicks at the other end of the reserve.
 The local Greylag flock played host to 5 Whitefronts and a single Pinkfoot, while a further 26 Whitefronts landed  in front of the Friends Hide.
 Duck numbers were high especially Pochards and Mallard, with Pintail, Gadwall, Wigeon, Teal, Shoveler and Shelduck also present.
 A wander down to the Lyle Hide proved very fruitful as arguably the best bird of the day a 'ringtail' Hen Harrier approached from the North and gave great views as it flew slowly by.
 A cup of coffee in the restuarant at the end of the day gave us the opportunity to watch a Barn Owl as it hunted the roadside.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Sifting the Willow from the Marsh

I finally took the opportunity to go and look for the Willow Tit that has been seen at the Linford Reserve  for the last couple of months.
 The feeders in front of the Woodland were certainly alive with birds, Chaffinches, a couple of Robins, Blue and Great Tits.
Blue Tit

 There were also 3 candidates for the Willow Tit, but it was certainly difficult to determine which might be it as without hearing them sing it is  tricky to seperate Marsh Tit from Willow Tit.
 I was looking for a pale wing panel, whiter area around the neck and the lack of a light area on the upper mandible. But this was proving practically impossible as the birds were only making fleeting visits to the feeders, so I decided the best option was to take photos and then study them when I got home.
 I believe I did see both Marsh and Willow Tit and below are my pics. to back this up.
Marsh Tit
Willow Tit

 It was also a productive area for mammals with a Muntjac wandering through the undergrowth a couple of Squirrels feeding on the spilt seed under the feeders and a couple of Bank Voles that had set up home in the wood pile in front of the hide.
Grey Squirrel

Bank Vole

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Local Celebrity

Few North Bucks birders will not have bumped into Pinky. He or she is the presumed escaped Pinkfooted Goose that roams around with the local Greylags.

For at least 10 years this rather cute fellow has been seen at Willen, Caldecotte, Gayhurst Quarry and Manor Farm to name a few sites often causing a flutter of excitement that this is a genuine wild bird.

Some summers he is seen in the company of a single Greylag but no hybrid youngsters have as yet been seen.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

It's meant to be winter !

January 7th. Surely it should be cold, but not this year.
The Herons at Willen are attending their nests and plants don't seem to know what time of year it is.
Hazel Catkins are out....

Bulbs are coming up everywhere, but the most bizarre thing I spotted yesterday where these Orchids coming up on the Bandstand Peninsular at Willen.
 There must be thirty or more in a spot where I have never seen them before. No idea what sort they are, but they must be 3, 4 or even 5 months early.

It will be interesting to see if they get to flower but unfortunately they are in a high traffic area of the park and somewhere the grass is mown short, so it's unlikely they will.

Friday, 6 January 2012

Briefly at Broughton and a while at Willen

I decided to explore the weedy wastelands of Broughton Grounds this morning.
The Linnet flock was still around although it had shrunk to around a hundred birds. Skylarks were still plentiful, getting up in 4 s and 5 s all over the place. Goldfinches galore and smaller numbers of Reed Bunting, Meadow Pipit and Pied wagtails.
 Glad to see a good number of Grey Partridge around, coveys of 17 and 6, along with 8 of their Red-legged cousins.
 Also a dozen or so Stock Doves and singles of Buzzard and Kestrel kept their eye on proceedings.

 Later on I paid my third visit of the week to Willen Lakes.
The water was covered in wildfowl, but mostly the same stuff I had seen on my previous visits.
On North Lake a Cettis Warbler was in good voice, but try as I might I couldn't get sight of him.
From the Hide a single Little Egret was in the company of a group of Grey Herons, a good few of whom were attending the nests on the island. The 3-400 strong Lapwing flock still contained the lone Redshank, a Water Rail screamed as it ran across the scrape and 6 Snipe tried to hide in the reeds.

 Onto the South Lake where again many water birds were present, including the drake Goosander still and now 5 Goldeneye including a couple of smart drakes.



female Mallard

 While wandering through the Geese, I suddenly realised that' Pinkie' the Pinkfoot was standing right in front of me - I hadn't seen him for ages.
 On around past the Bandstand and near to the duck feeding station, some people were feeding some bread to the hordes. I noticed a large Gull that obviously couldn't fly properly. It was too dark for a Herring and too light for a Lesser-black back, it's legs were yellowish-white. My guess is a near adult Yellow-legged Gull, though I'm not 100% on that.

Yellow-legged Gull ?

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

New Year Birding

New Year, New Lists

January 1st saw me on my now annual walk around Gayhurst Quarry.
Nothing out of the ordinary. In fact it was rather quiet, I think the shooting has scared off a lot of  the regular stuff - roll on the end of the month !
Of course the Greylag and Canada Geese are still around, lured here by the free food on offer. likewise the many Mallards and Wigeon, but other types of wildfowl were notable for their absence.
A couple of Little Egrets stalked the river and a couple of hundred Lapwings covered the islands.
At the far end of the Fishing Pit a couple of Buzzards were squabbling over something one of them had caught.
A pair of Bullfinches and a couple of Yellowhammers added a bit of colour to the hedgerows.

Before going home I nipped back up to Caldecotte to try and see if the Great Northern Diver and Smew were still there.
 The Diver proved easy as he was just out from the pub car park but a walk down to the far end of south lake proved fruitless, as apparently the drake Smew had flown off when some idiot had driven a speedboat into the duck flock.

Later that day news came through that the Smew had relocated to Willen Lake, so this was where I headed first thing Monday morning.
 Sure there were lots of Ducks Tufted, Pochard, Wigeon, Gadwall, Teal, and Shoveler, but alas no sign of the Smew.
On the south lake there were lots of Great crested Grebes and one each of drake Goosander and Goldeneye. A very confiding Kingfisher sat in the bushes near the adventure centre.

Tuesday should have been my first day back at work but the weather was absolutely atrocious so I popped back to Willen to see if anything new had been blown in.
 Seven Little Grebes  and a Redshank seemed to be the only things that differed from the previous days tally.

A change of tack on Wednesday saw me wandering around Brickhill woods.
Lots of birds were feeding amongst the Beechmast, mainly Tits, Great and Blue with a few Coal. Several noisy Nuthatches and a couple of Great spotted Woodpeckers pecked around the trees.
 Walking down the track towards the Golf Club several flocks of Long-tailed Tits were encountered  and with a bit of scrutiny a Goldcrest and a couple of Treecreepers were found among them.
 Yesterdays rain had produced a few puddles on the track and down by the Clubhouse I flushed a couple of birds off of them - Crossbills ! These two took to the air and where they were immediately joined by 10 others and all of these settled in a nearby group of Larches where they set about attacking the cones on them.

                                             male Crossbill (you need to click on the picture)