Total Number of Species Recorded in 2011

2010 saw a total of 196 species recorded in Bedfordshire. Of this total, LGRE recorded 183, closely followed by Jim Gurney and Steve Blain on 181, Lol Carman on 180, Martin Palmer on 179 and Bob Chalkley on 177.

In 2011, a total of 452 species was recorded in Britain and Ireland of which I recorded just 69% (312); Bedfordshire recorded 204 species (of which I saw 94% at 191), Hertfordshire 192 (of which I saw 88.5% at 170) and Buckinghamshire 192 (of which I recorded just 86% at 165)

In 2012, I came fourth (on 168), following Steve Blain (177), Jim Gurney (174) and Martin Plamer (171).

Friday, 30 December 2011

Out in the drizzle

5.5 hours out in the field from just before10.15 this morning - well much from the car actually in the afternoon drizzle - lots of gaps but 66 species seen was a reasonable haul.

Leaving Kempston and heading down the A6, a Red Kite by Maulden Wood was my third raptor on my way to Wrest Park where alas I could not come up trumps with a Hawfinch at this old site for the species, a male Bullfinch and a Mistle Thrush were best here. 3 Corn Buntings were on the edge of Silsoe and the regular female Pintail was at Flitwick STW. Flitwick Moor was quiet but a small party of Siskin were found accompanied by a single Lesser Redpoll.

Lots of finches in suitable locations along my route but only a single Linnet, a few Yellowhammers and Greenfinches were surprisingly commonplace. Boughton End had 58+ Stock Doves in one flock.

The female Scaup was at Brogboro' Lake still along with 25 Goldeneye, 327 Pochard and 358 Tufted Ducks. Marston MVP had 3 Shoveler - my tenth duck sp of the day, and plenty of L T tits but no Cetti's Warbler gave itself up. I couldn't even find a Reed Bunting.

The Gt Northern Diver was still at Stewartby Lake mid afternoon and a Peregrine was sat on its box at Stewartby Brickworks. Quest was fairly devoid of birds tho' my only P Wagtail of the day was found here. A Short-eared Owl was at a regular site but there was nought much showing at either Chimney Corner South or North CLP's and no Mandarin at Kempston Mill (M J Palmer)

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Tuesday 27 December

With the Christmas Bird Hunt in full swing, a total of 99 species have now been recorded in the county since Christmas Eve. Highlights today included 2 BOHEMIAN WAXWINGS in the usual berry-bearing shrubs in Leighton Street, Woburn (per Barry Nightingale), a GREATER SCAUP at Brogborough Lake (per Neil Wright), 22 TREE SPARROWS in Southill village (Paul Donald) and 2 JACK SNIPES at Derek White's Pit (Steve Blain); also 7 GOOSANDERS on Eversholt Lake, 2 SHORT-EARED OWLS at The Wixams and several MERLINS scattered about.

Sunday, 25 December 2011

Christmas Day at Stewartby Lake

Neil Wright has had:

Juvenile GREAT NORTHERN DIVER, Grey Wagtail and Common Sandpiper (on sailing club jetty) at Stewartby Lake this morning and single Little Egret at Brogborough.

So far I have seen the following in my parent's garden: Redwing, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Collared Dove, Dunnock, Chaffinch, GS Woodpecker, Sparrowhawk, Greenfinch (Martin Green)

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Friday, 23 December 2011

The demise of the Stewartby gull roost

Well someone's got to be mad enough....... Keith Owen and I did Stew Lake roost this evening!

The juvenile GREAT NORTHERN DIVER was still present in the middle of the lake 3.45 pm but mobile, a Kingfisher flew in to land close to the gull watchpoint, 9 Dabchicks and c dozen G C Grebes bobbed about the waves as did several Coots and 8 Wigeon. A male Bullfinch showed well but briefly.

Gulls were huddled toward the west (Marston) corner though numbers were poor with perhaps 400 B H Gulls but more flying through, 59 Common Gulls, 1 Great Black-back, 2 L B Backs and 5 Herring Gulls - with the tip finished, Stew Lake roost like Brog Lake a few years back will quickly cease to bring in any good numbers and any scarcities except perhaps in passage periods. What'll I do now? - I know, count ducks!

Happy Christmas, Martin J Palmer

Tuesday, 20 December 2011


Keith Owen and I did the roost at Stewartby this evening with an eclectic variety of species.....

Gull numbers were distinctly poor and with a lack of local tipping, decent numbers may not occur very often nowadays....By our 4.25 departure there were only 10 G B Backs, 4 Herring Gulls and 7 L B Backs, under 100 Common Gulls and just a few B H Gulls. The big 3 species had "peaked" at a combined 47 - pathetically low but interestingly those departing were heading off in a north-westerly direction, 90 degrees at varience to e.g Brogborough Lake whereras the smaller species had been streaming out in a northerly direction - perhaps to roost on the big warehouses at Marsh Leys rather than going all the way to Grafham. When I arrived at 3.30 there were already stream of gulls departing though a good few hundred Common Gulls were present amongst a few thousand BHG's.

Other species included a Water Rail squeaking then dashing across the "beach" in front of the gull watchpoint, the regular Great Spotted Woodpecker flew in calling and there were a good few each of Wigeon and Gadwall but fewer Mallards. Coots tallied 35 and G C Grebes just 19, with just over 30 Mute Swans also present. No diving duck were noted but a few Cormorants were scattered over the lake.

The GREAT NORTHERN DIVER was still present and showing well in the middle of the lake albeit in the declining evening light so it continues to look quite a dark bird (tho' LGRE emailed yesterday evening to say that, from Martin Green's photos, he believes it isn't an adult bird as I had initially asssumed).

A huge swirl of thousands of Starlings were putting on an excellent show between the far side of Stewartby Lake toward Rookery North ClP and a Sparrowhawk was gliding around beneath them seeking out a late supper! No Peregrines were at the brickworks chimneys this evening though.

Perhaps the most intriguing bird was the "Common" Sandpiper I saw fly low across the middle of the lake toward the Millennium Park (south-west) shoreline on typically bowed wings with quivering beats at 4.15. The wing-bar wasn't particularly obvious but the light was beginning to decline and it was 400m+ away....... still it could be worth checking out in the next few days - bearing in mind a trio of recent Spotted Sandpipers at Lyme Regis, Chew Valley Lake and Plymouth!! However, this is Bedfordshire so it is likely a Common Sandpiper after all!!

Lastly, a pipistrelle sp. was a surprise flying rapidly about just right of the watchpoint and never far from the shore - to me a surprisinglt late date for a bat to be about (MJP)

DIVER still present

The GREAT NORTHERN DIVER (pictured by Martin Green above) was still present on Stewartby Lake at 2pm. Very mobile, usually nearer the centre of the lake than the edge and diving a lot, but readily viewable (Pete Cook)

WATER PIPITS near Priory

Two WATER PIPITS on Fenlake this morning plus 4 Common Snipe (Dave Kramer)

Eversholt Lake

Main interest this morning at Eversholt were two flocks of SISKINS, totalling about 250. Otherwise just 3 GOOSANDERS (2 drakes), a drake Mandarin, 18 Mallards and a Tufted Duck. Red Kite over Woburn village yesterday. (Barry Nightingale)

Monday, 19 December 2011

Martin J Palmer retires from work and GND still at Stewartby

in bleak conditions on my first day of retirement I was at Brogborough Lake from 2.00 - 2.30 and Stewartby Lake from 2.45 until 4.00 by when the cold and damp had well set in. No luck with any Gannets however.

25 Goldeneye (13 drakes) at Broggie

GREAT NORTHERN DIVER still present in middle of lake and showing particularly well on it's 11th day present; other species counts were 11 Gadwall, 13 Wigeon, 1f Goldeneye at Stew Lake and a poor tally of large gulls with just over 20 Herring Gulls, 17 G Backs and 14 L B Backs, 1m Bullfinch (Martin J Palmer)

Saturday, 17 December 2011

CURLEW over Southill

Just got back from my usual bird walk around the village. Highlight was a single very vocal EURASIAN CURLEW, coming from the direction of Broom and looked to be coming down towards Southill Lake.

Three Red Kites together over Southill Park (one of them missing a lot of primaries on the right wing) was a great sight. Also around 600 Golden Plovers in fields north of the village. Still lots of Meadow Pipits in the winter rape fields around here and quite a few Skylarks. At least 6 Bullfinches in Southill Millennium Woods (Paul Donald)

No sign of diver

The highlight this morning was seeing my first Goldeneye of the winter 3 splendid males, other wildfowl included 32 Wigeon, 15 Gadwall, 60 Coot, 9 Little Grebe, 32 Great-crested Grebe and 40 Mallard. Redwings were plentiful and 70 Fieldfare flew over Marston Corner. No sign of the GND (Pete Smith).

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Sunday, 11 December 2011


A GREAT NORTHERN DIVER is present for a fourth day at Stewartby Lake (MJP et al) and is a different bird to the juvenile that I found at Brogborough Lake last month and relocated later to Cakdecotte Lakes in North Bucks.

Monday, 5 December 2011


Bob Hook and Judith Knight had a BRENT GOOSE on Stewartby Lake briefly late morning before it flew off east

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Staurday Ramblings - MJP

Went out and about from mid morning yesterday..... starting off at Octagon Farm which I haven't visited for some months. The debris left by the travellers is a disgrace - an insult to the fellow human beings, dangerous for wildlife and an appalling state that having allowed this triangular wildlife haven to be used by traveller's, the Council can't be bothered to clear it up. Shocking!

Nonetheless, the birding beyond the bund was good - 56 Greylags were accompanied by a single Pinkfoot - unfortunately all flew off before I could get a record photo. Mute Swans totalled 33, Grey Herons 8 and Stock Doves 10+. A Green Sandpiper showed twice and, as I walked back to the car, a Common Snipe flushed up then a Grey Wagtail flew over Canvins abbatoir.

A covey of 8 Grey Partridges were south of Cardington and near Old Warden I found several Long-tailed Tits, Coal Tit, 2 Goldcrests and 1+ Nuthatch. 2 Common Buzzards flew out of the woodland squarking.

From the roadside at Southill Lake, I counted 205 Greylags but I suspect more were out of my view. From the track leading east from the bend between the lake and the village, I found just 10 Golden Plovers amongst well over 100 Lapwings - the hordes nearer Broom weren't about for me today. Also present were about 8 Stock Doves. Not much up the track opposite Southill Post Office but plenty of House Sparrow activity.

362 Greylags were counted on fields by Broom Lake accompanied by 2 or 3 Barnacles, a single Canada Goose and a "Granada" goose hybrid. Wildfowl on Broom Lake were poor though a drake Shoveler was my only one of the day. A G M Growers burger sufficed for lunch and was more interesting than the paucity of birds along Gypsy Lane - another party of Long-tailed Tits were my fourth such of the day.

Plenty of Lapwings were settled at Derek White's Eggs pit and 10 Gadwall and 4 Stock Doves were present. Between Beeston and the turn off to Hatch, I found a huge covey of 27 Grey Partridges. From Moggerhanger village hall car park, I 'scoped 22+ Corn Buntings distantly on a bush.

South of Bedford mid afternoon, another Buzzard - I had half a dozen during the day, 4 Kestrels and a Short-eared Owl showed and as dusk fell I picked out a Peregrine on one of the Stewartby brickworks chimneys and a first-winter Yellow-legged Gull in a poor Stewartby Lake gull roost. A possible adult Caspian Gull was also present - wing-tip pattern looked ok, as was head pattern and mantle colour, but there was not enough clarity of light and the distance too great to "nail it". All in all almost 70 species in an enjoyable half day out (Martin J Palmer)

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

A short walk Woburn towards Potsgrove this pm (SP945327 to 942313), male Peregrine, initially perched on tree before flying towards Potsgrove, a Raven, four Buzzards, inc 2 very grey and white individuals, and then just to remind me that I was still in Beds, 14 Chinese Water Deer including one group of 12.

This morning the 3 TUNDRA BEANS at Cainhoe were in the field immediately west of the pits, with Canadas, seen from the footpath. A bunch of Greylags flew in to join them, then they all took off and landed on the eastern most pit where they showed extremely well. Around 10 o'clock they all took off , flew towards Clophill and landed out of sight beyond a hedge. A very showy Water Rail on the same pit (Barry Nightingale)

Monday, 28 November 2011

SHORT-EARED OWLS in record numbers


The day dawned with a ground frost, only the second so far this autumn. This was followed by a beautiful day, although the wind soon freshened up from the west and cloud rolled in. By dusk, temperatures had recovered to an unseasonal 13 degrees C.......


The reservoirs are at the lowest end of November levels that I can ever remember, with even all three smaller reservoirs incredibly low (Startop's End in particular). I took the opportunity of undertaking a full wildfowl census with the calm conditions, with most noticeable the massive increase in Northern Pochard numbers. The full inventory is listed below - 55 species -:

Great Crested Grebe (31 including 11 on Wilstone, 5 on Tringford, 12 on Startop's and 3 on Marsworth)
Little Grebe (3 still on Wilstone and 1 on Startop's)
Cormorant (20 roosting on Wilstone, with 8 on Tringford and 11 on Startop's; ringed 'CAU' Carbo was roosting on Tringford)
Grey Heron (just 2 on Wilstone, 2 on Tringford and 2 on Marsworth)
Mute Swan (just 38 birds - all adult type - including 34 on Wilstone, 2 on Tringford and 2 on Startop's; additionally, an adult was freshly dead on the spit, perhaps killed by Fox)
Whooper Swan (both adults present but one bird appeared to be in distress and reluctant to move - both sitting on the mud by the jetty)
**BEWICK'S SWAN (the Wilstone family party of 4 birds still present but particularly mobile today - flying east from the Drayton Lagoon at 1003 only to return shortly later and then landed near to the hide)
Greylag Goose (67 in the fields to the east of Wilstone Reservoir)
Atlantic Canada Goose (7)
**DARK-BELLIED BRENT GOOSE (the long-staying juvenile was on the bund mid-morning and drinking from the edge of Wilstone Reservoir)
*COMMON SHELDUCK (a drake was by the hide on Wilstone) *Interestingly, David Kramer had one at Priory Country Park, Bedford, this morning.
Mallard (162 including 57 on Wilstone, 93 on Startop's and 12 on Marsworth)
GADWALL (major increase with 66 birds counted, including 24 on Wilstone, 6 on Tringford and 36 on Startop's)
*NORTHERN PINTAIL (just 1 drake on Wilstone)
Northern Shoveler (total of 118 counted, including 86 on Wilstone, 10 on Startop's and 22 on Wilstone)
Eurasian Wigeon (nothing like the numbers that once wintered at the reservoirs but 233 on Wilstone and 22 on Startop's)
Common Teal (327 counted: 216 on Wilstone, with 34 on Tringford, 73 on Startop's and 4 on Marsworth)
Northern Pochard (249 birds, mostly drakes: major increase with 137 on Wilstone and 112 on Startop's)
RED-CRESTED POCHARD (the female remains on Wilstone and 4 birds - a female, a first-winter and 2 adult drakes - on Startop's)
Tufted Duck (very poor numbers noted at 104 comprising just 36 on Wilstone, with 16 on Tringford and 52 on Startop's)
COMMON GOLDENEYE (two female-types on Wilstone)
Smew (no sign of yesterday's redhead on Wilstone)
Red Kite (1 west of Wilstone)
Common Kestrel (1 by Tringford Reservoir)
Common Pheasant (6 males walking out on the vegetation at Wilstone)
Moorhen (full census undertaken with 66 birds recorded: 32 on Wilstone, 14 on Tringford, 14 on Startop's and 6 on Tringford)
Common Coot (all click-counted revealing a total of 950 including a decrease to 622 on Wilstone, 52 on Tringford and 276 on Startop's)
EUROPEAN GOLDEN PLOVER (just 6 present on Wilstone)
Lapwing (17 on Wilstone and 3 on Startop's)
*DUNLIN (a full winter-plumaged bird on the mud at Startop's)
*GREEN SANDPIPER (the wintering singleton still present on the mud at Tringford)
Black-headed Gull (114 on Wilstone, 76 on Startop's and 51 on Marsworth)
Common Gull (7 on Wilstone)
Lesser Black-backed Gull (adult on Tringford)

Woodpigeon (massive decrease in numbers with a flock of 200 in cereal crops near Marsworth village)
Collared Dove (2 in Wilstone village and 16 in Marsworth)
**WATER PIPIT (the wintering bird on Wilstone showing very well today in the small bay north of the jetty)
Meadow Pipit (8 on the vegetated fringes of Wilstone)
Pied Wagtail (good numbers around including 21 on Wilstone, 2 on Tringford and 4 on Startop's)
Grey Wagtail (singles on Wilstone and Marsworth)
Wren (Marsworth Wood and Wilstone)
Dunnock (3 birds noted along Watery Lane)
Robin (5 noted - on Wilstone and Marsworth)
Song Thrush (a number of singing males including singles by the hide and in the East Poplars on Wilstone and 2 at Startop's/Marsworth)
Fieldfare (about 40 on the eastern flank of Wilstone)
Common Blackbird (5 present in the former orchard adjacent to the Black Poplars on Wilstone's East Bank)
Blue Tit (3 in Marsworth Reedbed)
Long-tailed Tit (party of 11 birds on Wilstone)
Common Magpie, Carrion Crow, Rook and Jackdaw all noted
Common Starling (34 in fields around Wilstone)
House Sparrow (as usual, only birds a flock of 16 by Startop Farm)
Chaffinch (1 in Marsworth Wood)
LINNET (a flock of 17 feeding on the Wilstone mud with the Meadow Pipits and Pied Wagtails by the jetty)
BULLFINCH (1 in Watery Lane, Marsworth)
Reed Bunting (1 in Marsworth Reedbed)


The female PEREGRINE was sat on the platform at midday


Present from 1230-1300 hours, joined Ken & Sally Earnshaw, Mike Habberfield and his wife and Dave Parmenter in the main car park at Gallows Bridge and enjoyed some real quality birding.....

The two regular HEN HARRIERS - the initial adult female and the small bright juvenile - were both present and showing well - the juvenile on view virtually all of the time. The latter was patrolling the rough field to the west of the main reserve field, as well as the right hand hedgerow, and approached to within 75 yards at one stage whilst the adult kept to the cereal field on the north side of the hedgerow. The second-winter male showed up briefly just after I left (per KE)

Other raptors present included Red Kite, Common Buzzard, Sparrowhawk and 5 Common Kestrels whilst up to 12 COMMON RAVEN present in the main field was bizarre. They all eventually flew off towards Waddesdon. The increase in this species in our region is nothing short of remarkable.

A flock of 35 Linnets and 7 Skylarks was also to be seen and a male Bullfinch on teasels by the entrance track

Nearby, 2 SHORT-EARED OWLS were showing well near Westcott

Talking of the latter, I returned early afternoon to a site in central Bedfordshire where I and another local observer were treated once more to an incredible display by up to 10 hunting SHORT-EARED OWLS. These birds have been present for just over a week now but are wintering on land earmarked for an astonishing 5,000 new homes ! A further 4 individuals are also present in the Brogborough area - by far the most I have ever seen in the county at one time and testament to the numbers currently wintering in Britain following the exceptional breeding season. The two female-type MERLINS were also still around.

A single Little Egret was south of the Kempston Bypass on the larger pit

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Weekend Highlights

At least 10 SHORT-EARED OWLS and 2 MERLINS remain at The Wixams, with up to 5 of the former in the Brogborough Landfill area. All 3 TUNDRA BEAN GEESE remain at Cainhoe GP and the juvenile OSPREY at Manor Farm Fisheries

Saturday, 26 November 2011

OSPREY still

The OSPREY was over Manor Farm fisheries north of Biggleswade at about 12.30. Also a single rolling Common Raven, and an adult male Merlin flashed south too.

Two Crossbills came down to a road-side puddle to drink at the western end of Keepers Warren at 13.25 (Steve Blain)

Friday, 25 November 2011

OSPREY still lingering

Melissa and I parked on New Road Sandy and walked down the east bank of the Ivel (The Kingfisher Way) until you have to turn east to skirt Warren Villas. Standing at cTL181475 we picked up the Osprey hovering over the fishery to our south west and it kept disappearing behind the trees - this was around 15:25. At around 15:35 it appeared from behind the trees to the immediate west of us, flew nearly over us carrying a smallish fish and disappeared low over the railway line towards The Lodge.About 3 or so minutes later we picked it up again over Stratford Road area being mobbed by a corvid and it eventually dropped down and perched in a conifer cTL184477 facing us and around 1/4 mile away giving a good view. It didn't stay there more than a couple of minutes before a pair of corvids dive-bombed it and kept on harrying it after it took off and it headed off north and got higher to get away from them, eventually dropping height and we lost it as it flew north east over the Pinnacle around 15:45-15:50. Excellent and a county tick to boot (Andy Banthorpe)

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

TUNDRA BEAN GEESE at Clophill - and still present today


Another glorious day with warm sunshine and clear blue skies after a foggy start. I spent the day in Bedfordshire, notching up one of my latest ever Ospreys in the UK......


Taking Steve Blain's advice, I parked up by the Meccano Bridge just as you enter Biggleswade from the Sainsbury's A1 roundabout and followed the public footpath northwards alongside the River Ivel. This quickly brings you out on to Biggleswade Common, where one can obtain an excellent panoramic view north and east to The Lodge and escarpment. As soon as I got parallel with Derek White's Eggs Pit, I could see the OSPREY - a juvenile that has remained in the area for at least three weeks and is the latest one ever in the county. It was busy circling about 30 feet above Manor Farm Fisheries before suddenly plunging down and resurfacing with a fair-sized Trout. It then slowly drifted north along the Ivel to Warren Villas before veering off east towards the ridge at The Lodge. All in all it was on view for about 22 minutes, affording excellent 'scope views. Photographs taken by fishermen reveal that the bird is unringed. Other than a juvenile that remained in the Chess Valley by my house into late Nivember, this is the latest I have ever seen an Osprey in Britain.

I also saw a COMMON KINGFISHER on the River Ivel and 5 Gadwall were on Derek White's.


Directly opposite Broom Peacocks Lake at cTL 164 433, a large recently ploughed field held a huge number of wintering plovers. I parked up and click-counted the flocks and there were no less than a staggering 2,197 EUROPEAN GOLDEN PLOVERS and 711 LAPWINGS present.


Whilst counting the plovers, I fortuitously got a text from Andy Plumb informing me of 3 TUNDRA BEAN GEESE nearby at Cainhoe.- found by Peter Jones on his WeBS count. Being just ten minutes away, I was quickly on site - soon joining SCB on top of the viewing Motte & Bailey mounds at TL 097 375, just north of the A507 just over a mile east of the Clophill roundabout.

There, in amongst the 104 Greylags and 99 Atlantic Canada Geese were the 3 TUNDRA BEANS - an adult pair and a single surviving youngster. Talking to Steve, it transpired that they had actually been present since Thursday - initially being seen by Laurence Jarrett. The three birds afforded excellent views - the juvenile having obvious white-tipped upperwing coverts and fringing and a much plainer brown mantle and back with weak crescentic pale fringing to the feathers as well as duller orange bare part colouration. All three birds did have quite extensive amounts of orange on the bill but had short, dark necks typical of rossicus.

The pits also held a Great Crested Grebe, 4 Little Grebes, 24 Gadwall, a single drake Eurasian Wigeon and 24 Lapwings, with several Linnets flying over.


No sign of the Northern Wheatear seen earlier in the day most likely because of the number of people around.


The adult female PEREGRINE FALCON was sat as usual on its perch on the BT building in the town centre at 1530 hours

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Weekend Highlights

On Saturday, many of us enjoyed views of Peter Jones' 3 TUNDRA BEAN GEESE at Cainhoe GP east of Clophill (a pair with a single juvenile) - all three being birds having been present since Thursday - whilst I also watched the juvenile OSPREY successfully catch a Trout at Manor Farm Fisheries, north of Biggleswade, during the morning......

A NORTHERN WHEATEAR by the Information Centre at Dunstable Downs was exceptionally late, whilst singletons EURASIAN WHITE-FRONTED GEESE on Sunday were seen at Grovebury Sand Pit and Bigglewade Common.

MJP and others had 3 CASPIAN GULLS in the roost at Stewartby Lake on Saturday afternoon

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Juvenile OSPREY still lingers on

The OSPREY was on show for a good half-hour (before we had to leave) from about 12:45 - easily viewable from the open access of Biggleswade Common at roughly TL185467. It didn't even seem perturbed by wildfowlers shooting all round it as it flew over the ex-Warren Villas nature reserve lake! (Steve Blain)


A RED-BREASTED MERGANSER made a short visit and departed at 0913 after staying for only a few minutes.

Also: 145 Fieldfares S; 64 Herring Gulls south (the biggest movement by far for us this year); 34 Gadwalls; 38 Cormorants; 44 Lapwings over; 1 Lesser Redpoll; 1 Grey Wagtail, 20 Common Gulls; two Goldcrests and five Wigeon. (Four Little Egrets, 9 Corn Buntings and a Water Rail yesterday evening.) (David Kramer)

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Monday, 14 November 2011

Today's GANNET

Andy Grimsey managed these two images of the Priory NORTHERN GANNET today; it is in juvenile plumage

OSPREY still lingering

Osprey over John O'Gaunts Golf Course, Sandy, yesterday afternoon making it the latest county occurrence ever, whilst a Small Copper butterfly there on 6 November making it the latest Small Copper in Bedfordshire ever (per Steve Thompson).

NORTHERN GANNET loses its way in the fog


Here in South Bucks, a layer of thick fog carpeted the area until mid-morning and when cleared, was replaced by light drizzle and very poor light conditions. Temperatures were a lot cooler than of late and the wind had dropped away to nothing.....

I was working away on the science behind Black Redstarts, emailing Lars Svensson back and forth in Oman, when Beds birder Tony Gill interrupted proceedings. A juvenile NORTHERN GANNET had got lost in the fog and found Priory Country Park to its liking. Within seconds of Tony's message at 1210 hours, I was in the car and on the road. A Beds Gannet is far too good an opportunity to miss, even if the chances of it staying more than half an hour are very slim.....


As it was, the poor visibility kept the GANNET at bay and as I approached Junction 13 of the M1, Jim Gurney 'phoned to say that it was still present and again on the 'deck'. This followed an update from Dave Odell, informing me that it was ''flying round and round'' - after which I was far from optimistic. So, 10 minutes later I pulled up in the Cardington Lock car park, at the very same time as Lol and Bob. Within a minute of 'landing', I was at the eastern bank of Priory, with the bird 'under the belt'. And what a motley beast it was - a full juvenile in very dark plumage. It was sat on the water looking very sorry for itself, mainly just SE of the main island. SCB, JG, MJP, RAN, JL and others were watching from the main Information Centre but our little group remained at the east end. After a short while, the bird took flight again and did several circuits of the lake before coming down again. It attracted a lot of interest from Black-headed Gulls once in the air and they casually mobbed it; a couple of Grey Herons took an interest in it too and circled several times with it. It did look as though it was searching the lake for potential fish prey.


This was a large, very dark bird with a very characteristic, almost archaic profile in flight. It had a heavy dagger-shaped bill which was dark grey in colour, with long wings and tail. In terms of plumage, it was almost entirely dark greyish-brown, with the upperparts dominated by the presence of fine white speckles. The underparts were entirely saturated greyish-brown fine streaking whilst in flight, the outer hand of the wing was darker and the whitish axillaries contrasted with the rest of the underwing. The upper tail did have an obscured white band across it but it was not particularly clear-cut. It also had an obvious paler forecrown, a feature attained by second-year Gannets.

Lol, Bob, Jim and I continued to observe it for 25 minutes or so and as I left the site at 1320 hours, it seemed quite settled sat close to the island. A few resident Mute Swans were taking a little interest in it.

This represents my 190th species in the county this year and continues an unbelievable run of additions in November. Northern Gannet is a rare vagrant to Bedfordshire with just 13 recorded since 1946 -:

Steele-Elliott (1904) mentioned two records, including two at Langford during the first week of February 1895. David Kramer and Paul Trodd mentioned a further six or seven records between 1946 and 1987 -:

1) A juvenile was picked up exhausted in early January 1946 on Dunstable Downs and was taken to Whipsnade Zoo for rehabilitation (taken from Sunday Express, 6 January 1946);

2) A storm-blown juvenile was picked up emaciated and injured at College Farm, Keysoe, on 7 or 8 September 1948;

3) One was picked up exhausted at Renhold on 20 September 1951 and taken in and fed and was later released on the Norfolk coast at Hunstanton;

4) An adult in poor condition was picked up at Cople on 20 April 1955 but died shortly later;

5) A juvenile was found dead at Elstow on 9 October 1966;

6) An adult flew west over Renhold on 27 April 1981 and was followed by another (or the same) at Brogborough Lake on 28-19 April 1981. This occurrence coincided with a large inland displacement of seabirds in southern Britain and represented the first twitchable bird for many of the county listers (me included).

Since 1987, the following Northern Gannets have occurred -:

7) An adult found at Stewartby Lake on the morning of 13 November 1996 remained until 15 November, also visiting Brogborough Lake on 14 but returning to Stewartby to roost (Roy Nye et al);

8) One was found in a field at Highlands Farm near Northill on 23 October 2002. It was photographed and then released;

9) On 5 October 2003, a juvenile first seen over Hexton Estate Woods was independently sighted flying SW over Sharpenhoe Clappers minutes later;

10) An adult was seen over Cockayne Hadley on 30 December 2003;

11) An sub-adult was at Stewartby Lake on the unusual date of 3 July 2004. It remained for less than two hours before flying off but was superbly photographed by Steve Blain (see page 64 of 2004 county bird report);

12) A further adult was seen flying west over Whipsnade Wild Animal Park on 6 September 2004 (Cliff Tack);

13) A grounded juvenile was found in a field near Beeston on 9 October 2005 by 11 year-old Emily Cooper. It was placed in a cat box, photographed and taken to the RSPCA for recuperation

Other than the displaced Gannet, Priory Country Park yielded 17 Great Crested Grebes, 21 Mute Swans, 15 Gadwall and a Common Kingfisher


Birding the Pillinge Pit until 1500 hours, Johnny Lynch and I enjoyed views of both the juvenile GREAT NORTHERN DIVER (the relocating Brogborough bird) and the first-winter female RED-BREASTED MERGANSER, whilst 6 Little Grebe, 2 Wigeon, 11 Tufted Duck, 2 Common Snipe and 10 Fieldfares were also noted. There were a large number of loafing gulls present, including 15 Great Black-backed Gulls.


The two SHORT-EARED OWLS appeared over the extensive rough rolling meadows at 1540 hours and put on a good performance and were best viewed from the public footpath leading parallel to North Common Farm and skirting the reclaimed landfill site.

Sunday, 13 November 2011


a late 10'ish start for Di and I and first we headed over from Kempston to the first field east of G M Growers - all 10 Eurasian White-fronted Geese were present - 3 adults and 7 juveniles, so likely two broods involved. 10 Grey Partridges were in the same field and we'd already seen 6 more along the lane north-west of Hatch.

A scan from Grizzley's then a drive along Stratford Road, Sandy scanning for the recent Osprey was unsuccessful, best hereabouts was a Jay and a Green Woodpecker.

A tour round Broom via Gypsy Lane then the main road was uneventful and we scanned the main lake from a convenient pull in - the grebe was on view with head sat back a la G C Grebe but in minature. It then awoke and was clearly a Slavonian Grebe with white cheeks and flat black cap, not the Black-necked reported earlier which would have looked narrower headed and "shabbier". This would have been around 11.30 and we could see that 7 of the Whitefront flock were now on view at the left end of the island and we also distantly identified a Martin Stevens and a Matt Burgess (+ bike)!

By 12.10 we had arrived at Houghton House car park for a walk round Kings Wood. We met Pip Housden returning along the track who told us that he'd failed to connect with the recent Firecrests (again) and that when he'd arrived SCB was leaving after equal lack of success. We told him of our Slav Grebe i.d. at Broom then walked on for our stroll around the wood, however our Firecrest sightings didn't improve on the others' score! Some nice L T Tits, Treecreepers and a Nuthatch were amongst the generally rather meagre fare about.

I stopped off at Quest ClP on the way home, c2.10pm, but there was only one gull present - a f.w. Gt Black-back - certainly no sign of the adult Caspian Gull reported by Steve Blain c1.30 - ta for the txt Steve - I guess someone or something had caused all the gulls to fly off.

31 Common Teal were present though and a good-sized flock of Lapwings.After dropping Di off, I set out for a late afternoon look at Brogborough and Stewartby. First though I went to North Common Farm and here, with mobile calls with Neil Wright (who was atop the hill whereas I was along the public footpath bordering the old tip) I eventually had some great if a tad distant views of a Short-eared Owl. In fact Neil saw two birds over this undulating rough grass field on the hillside. A fox was hunting the rough grass field alongside and a flock of 32 Greenfinches were by the tall line of the farm entrance.

I only looked a Brogboro' Lake for a few minutes but Keith Owen was able to confirm (when I joined him at Stewartby Lake) that the juv Great N Diver was still present on Broggie late afternoon.

Only 15 minutes viewing at Stewartby Lake was possible before dusk fell, nonetheless we both saw the adult Caspian Gull and a couple of adult Yellow-legged Gulls in a rather smaller roost than of late.Not a bad day all in all with almost 60 species seen.

M J Palmer

Today's Highlights

A SLAVONIAN GREBE was new in this morning at Broom GP, whilst one herd of 10 wild swans, probably Bewick's, flew southeast over Southill and Shefford. Nearby, all 10 EURASIAN WHITE-FRONTED GEESE (3 adults) remain in the grass field east of G & M Growers.

The juvenile GREAT NORTHERN DIVER remains on Brogborough Lake, with the female RED-BREASTED MERGANSER still on Millbrook Pillinge

Late afternoon saw 2 SHORT-EARED OWLS hunting over the rough field NW of Brogborough Landfill

Saturday, 12 November 2011

What an excellent day in Beds

The Osprey was again seen over Manor Farm fisheries mid-afternoon, before flying up to The Lodge with a fish around 15:45. Also four Ravens and two Kingfishers there too, per Mark Brandon.

A Firecrest and two Woodcocks were again in Kings Wood, Ampthill this afternoon, per Neil Wright.

A Short-eared Owl was at Reynolds Wood, next to Holcot Wood near Brogborough by Lol Carman, again mid-afternoon.

The White-fronted Geese were still in their field east of G&M Growers, Upper Caldecote at around 15:30.

In this evenings gull roost at Stewartby Lake a probable adult Caspian and at least two adult Yellow-legged Gulls.

Steve Blain

SHORT-EARED OWL at Willington

A Short-eared Owl was seen circling above Willington at 16.10 this Saturday evening.I checked some of the scrubby fields along the A603 but did not relocate it by nightfall (Nigel Willitts)

Stotfold CORN BUNTINGS flocking already

a flock of CORN BUNTINGS some 350-400 strong in field and hedgerows opposite Fox and Duck in Stotfold; Also 10 GREY PARTRIDGES

Another highly productive day of local birding


At first thing this morning, the Chiltern area was bathed in a blanket of dense fog. This has followed some intense rain overnight. Winds were once again in the SE, fairly light and warm. At around 0930 hours, the fog started to lift and giving way to bright periods.

It was another eventful day on the local birding front with some excellent birds being found. Before I had even left the house, Steve Heath had watched 4 Common Cranes fly NE over Southill, and whilst mapping out my route for the day, Roy Hargreaves did it for me by finding a DARK-BELLIED BRENT GOOSE.......


A single LITTLE EGRET was present as I drove past

(0945-1300 hours)

I parked up at Drayton Beauchamp bridge at 0945 hours and walked eastwards along the canal towpath. I could see the Brent almost immediately but obtained the best views after walking 250 yards along. The bird, a rather tired-looking juvenile DARK-BELLIED BRENT GOOSE, was feeding on the grass in the large field adjacent to Rushy Meadow, two fields north of the Dry Canal. It was less than 40 yards from Buckinghamshire! For some of the time, it stood up and fed, but in the main, sat down and munched voraciously on the blades of grass. It was very alert though, always keeping an eye on people, dogwalkers and the odd Common Buzzard flying over. It also got quite spooked when a Black-headed Gull landed next to it and snatched some grubs from the ground. With its indistinct off-white neckring, pale mantle and clear-cut wing-bars, it could easily be aged as a juvenile.

In the 90 minutes that I stood there watching it from the canal (and beckoning it over the border), just 6 birders came and went - RH, Chaz Jackson, Mike Campbell, Francis Buckle, Ian Williams and David Bilcock - Dave of course obtaining the two images published above. A welcome Herts Yeartick considering how many have passed through the London Area this past week.

The fields either side of the Dry Canal were surprisingly plentiful in farmland species, with a flock of 60 Fieldfare noted, 3 Mistle Thrush, 4 Bullfinch, 8 Yellowhammer, 25 Meadow Pipit, 9 Linnet, 30 Goldfinch and 27 Skylark. A Sparrowhawk also whizzed through.

A comprehensive check of WILSTONE RESERVOIR failed once again to yield any sign of Steve Blake's Thursday Twite. The rollcall included 30 Mute Swans, the 2 adult Whooper Swans, 65 Greylag Geese, 4 Gadwall, 238 Eurasian Wigeon, 90 Common Teal, 65 Shoveler and 92 Northern Pochard and highlighted in 5 NORTHERN PINTAILS (2 adult drakes, a first-winter drake and 2 females), a RED-CRESTED POCHARD, 5 female COMMON GOLDENEYE, 411 European Golden Plovers, a single DUNLIN, 2 Common Snipe and the wintering WATER PIPIT.

The neighbouring reservoirs were at the lowest water levels in decades, with Marsworth even now falling dramatically. TRINGFORD RESERVOIR held 2 Great Crested Grebes, 2 Mute Swans, several Teal and Shoveler and 28 Tufted Duck, whilst STARTOP'S END RESERVOIR produced 14 Great Crested Grebes, 4 Mute Swans, 14 Canada Geese, 5 Gadwall, 65 Teal, 15 Pochard, 11 Shoveler and 3 RED-CRESTED POCHARDS (1 adult drake, 1 adult female and a first-winter female).

MARSWORTH RESERVOIR added 4 Great Crested Grebes, a single Mute Swan, 27 Shoveler and 4 WATER RAILS feeding in the open on the mud; a Wren was in full song.


Although frustratingly unbeknown to me I drove past a flock of 15 Pintail at Grovebury Pit (perhaps the largest county flock in over two decades), Brogborough Lake did not disappoint. Joining Bob Chalkley on the bank in front of the windsurfing centre at the east end, the two of us very quickly latched on to the 3 BLACK-NECKED GREBES found earlier by Neil Wright. They were in amongst a large raft of Coot. Somewhat surprisingly, they constituted the first in the county this year and represented my 188th county species of 2011. Initially, they were visible about half way down the lake but as a shooting party arrived on the north shore and started blasting Mallards on the water to death, virtually every bird on the lake became unsettled.

Minutes earlier, as I started to count the Coot flock, I was somewhat surprised to see a juvenile GREAT NORTHERN DIVER surface in my 'scope view - another first for the year. This bird proceeded to swim towards the east end of the pit, affording both Bob and I some excellent views. Unlike some individuals, it dived and surfaced after a relatively short space of time and was initially easy to keep on. Literally seconds before the shooting began, Lol Carman waltzed up and managed a couple of views in my 'scope but then we lost it for some time, BC eventually relocating it down the southern flank of the lake. It was then seen on and off throughout the afternoon and was still there when I left the site at 1445 hours.

After eventually finishing the Coot count (256 birds incidentally), I concentrated on counting the other wildfowl present on the lake, including 13 Great Crested Grebes, 117 Tufted Duck, 198 Northern Pochard, a pair of RED-CRESTED POCHARD and 9 COMMON GOLDENEYE (including 3 drakes).


Gypsy Lane Pits yielded 230 Greylag Geese and a single Barnacle Goose but it wasn't until I spoke with SCB that I realised that the geese I had driven over to see were not with them. In fact, the party of 10 EUROPEAN WHITE-FRONTED GEESE were sitting in the large grassy field immediately east of the G & M Growers site to the north of the main road. They comprised a family party of 2 adults and 8 juveniles - the largest single brood of White-fronts I have ever seen in the UK. The same field also harboured a covey of 10 GREY PARTRIDGES

Large flock of PINTAIL at Grovebury

15 Pintail (Inc 7 males) at Grovebury SP, Leighton Buzzard this afternoon. Per John Lynch.

A busy day !

Pink-footed Goose on pools near Kempston bypass, and Osprey over Old Warden watchpoint this morning, per Roy Nye.

Three Black-necked Grebes on Brogborough Lake, Red-breasted Merganser still on The Pillinge, MVCP, along with Short-eared Owl and Curlew over there this morning, per Neil Wright.

The ten White-fronted Geese were also on the main lake, Broom GP at 12:00, per Martin Stevens.

ps the Black Redstart has been around Devon Drive and Dartmoor Way, Biggleswade - TL201457

Per Steve Blain


First-year Black Redstart bouncing round new houses on the Maythorns estate off the Potton Road, Biggleswade, throughout most of the afternoon (Steve Blain)

Mid-morning CRANES

A party of 4 COMMON CRANES flew low over Southill mid-morning, heading NE (Steve Heath)

Friday, 11 November 2011


A juvenile along Gypsy Lane, Broom, this lunchtime, last seen over the golf driving range (Mark Ward); also 12 WHITE-FRONTED GEESE nearby

Thursday, 10 November 2011

MERGANSER still present

Immature/female RED-BREASTED MERGANSER still present on the pillinge this morning. Also Common Sandpiper (Tony Gill)


Nick Cook reports the ten White-fronted Geese still present in fields north of Broom GP. He says they are now in fields north of the first Broom turn (presumably Gypsy Lane) coming from the A1 - 14:10. I think that means the field at grid ref TL178452

Wednesday, 9 November 2011


Two BARN OWLS seen yesterday and 1 today just outside Guilden Morden on Beds/Cambs border near Wrestlingworth. Both about 6.45 am (per Stephen Thompson)

Another Red-Letter Day Locally


Yet another unseasonally mild day, with temperatures reaching 13 degrees C. Although very grey and misty throughout much of the morning, the freshening southerly winds cleared the skies during the afternoon, allowing blue sky and sunny periods to prevail......

November has proved to be particularly exciting in the Home Counties with new birds turning up almost daily. Today was no exception......


The adult female PEREGRINE was roosting on the BT building this morning, whilst the Feral Pigeon population numbered at least 370 birds


Barry Nightingale discovered a first-year RED-BREASTED MERGANSER late morning on the Pillinge Pit and within the hour, MJP, Lol, Bob Chalkley and others had connected. Due to commitments, I was not able to get to the site until 1400 hours, but thankfully it was still present - and showing well roughly about half way down the pit. It was diving continuously and with its spiky crest and relatively dull bare part colouration was most likely a bird of the year (the upperwing pattern was not seen to be sure of its ageing).. The bird was still present at 1500 hours.

Large numbers of roosting gulls were present on the pit, including several Common and Great Black-backed Gulls, whilst other species noted included Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, 6 Mute Swans, 6 Gadwall, 7 Wigeon and 11 Tufted Ducks.


Again, thanks to Roy Nye, I 'gripped back' SLAVONIAN GREBE, after being away in spring when the dapper summer-plumaged adult visited Priory Country Park. The bird was showing very well at the SE end of the lake and could easily be viewed from the Windsurfing Centre and represented my 187th species in the county this year - far and away my best personal year.

Also present at 1540 hours were 4 Little Grebes, 11 Great Crested Grebes, 222 Tufted Ducks, 74 Northern Pochards and the two female COMMON GOLDENEYES


Making a hasty retreat from Brogborough, I retraced my steps back down the roadwork-ridden M1 and made my way down to Hilfield Park Reservoir, where another county Year-Tick was lying in wait. Thankfully, it was a well-lit and clear evening, and dodging both JT and Derek Turner on the dam, I was able to enjoy great views of the female-type COMMON SCOTER at the aerodrome end of the reservoir. It remained until dusk and represented my 165th species in the county this year. There has been just one brief record at Wilstone Reservoir this year.

It is interesting to compare the fortunes of the Home Counties in 2011 - Bedfordshire is leagues ahead on 200 species, with Buckinghamshire on 189 and Hertfordshire just 1 behind on 188.

OSPREY still lingering

The OSPREY has been seen again today around The Lodge by visitors to the reserve. Apparently it was photographed being mobbed by two Ravens as it came in to land in a tree too! Thanks to Mark Brandon for the update.


10 Eurasian White-fronted Geese north of Broom GP, in field to east of G&M Growers with 8 Canada Geese. 12.15-1.15 at least (Steve Blain)

Monday, 7 November 2011



Well I felt pretty depressed last night. After showing well for about four hours yesterday, the Ivinghoe Beacon Snow Bunting decided to go awol just as I rolled up on site yesterday afternoon, and despite searching for the next 90 minutes with the two young Perfect brothers, the bird was nowhere to be found - it had presumably moved on due to the pressure of dogwalkers and Sunday strollers. Two drab first-winter RING OUZELS in neighbouring scrub were scant compensation.......

Well today dawned grey and drizzly and with the wind still in the east (it had veered from NE to SSE) I returned first thing to the Hills.....


I was faced with thick fog early morning but despite that, there was enough visibility at the Beacon trig point to see that the Snow Bunting was not there. In fact it was dead, just 1 Song Thrush and 3 Goldcrests


Very little change since my last visit of about a week ago, although the water level had risen slightly...

The EUROPEAN GOLDEN PLOVER flock had risen dramatically - from around 180 to 411 - but otherwise it was standard fare.......

The 4 Little Grebes, 7 Great Crested Grebes, 36 Mute Swans, the 2 adult Whooper Swans, 62 Greylag Geese, just 78 Wigeon, 113 Common Teal, 42 Shoveler, 10 Gadwall, 1 drake PINTAIL, 44 Pochard, just 27 Tufted Duck and 10 Meadow Pipits


Following up on Warren's message, I arrived at Gallows Bridge reserve at 1000 hours and departed at just after 1100 hours. In that hour, Warren's HEN HARRIER was intermittently in view, occasionally sitting on top of the hedgerow but generally hunting up and down over the large weedy fields that border the northern perimeter of the reserve. It was constantly harassed by Carrion Crows and to escape their attacks, repeatedly had to resort to sitting on the ground or hedgerow. In flight, it showed five splayed primary 'fingers' and not four and hence quickly eliminated Pallid Harrier, of which there is an unprecedented influx at present. It was also very pale on the underparts, with the saturated breast streaking on a whitish background, and exhibited clear pale covert patches on each upperwing. It appeared to be an adult female. The broad white rump was clearly seen and the strongly barred uppertail. It was also a heavy bird in flight, with broad-based wings.

A single COMMON RAVEN was also in the vicinity, as well as Common Kestrel, Sparrowhawk and Common Buzzard, whilst a flock of 125 European Golden Plover wheeled overhead and spooked farmland birds included 36 Skylarks and 260 Common Starlings.

The Hen Harrier could be seen from either the first hide or the main car park


The long-staying juvenile COMMON SCOTER was still present, closely hugging the NW bank of reeds


Thanks to Steve Blain, I drove as far north as I could go in Bedfordshire and spent the entire afternoon in a damp and bleak landscape of Knotting Green. Light conditions were very poor as mizzle drifted in and out of the valley, whilst underfoot was wet and muddy. I stood at the derelict barn about half a mile south of the road from 1300 hours but it was not until three hours later that I succeeded in my goal - the ringtail HEN HARRIER finally appearing at 1605 hours. The bird appeared high from the south and dropped down into the valley and began hunting over the densely scattered small bushes behind the line of taller trees. At one point, it flushed a female Common Pheasant, and chased it briefly, before dropping down presumably to roost after about ten minutes of flight. It was a very dark chocolate-brown individual on the upperparts and was boldly and very heavily streaked on the underparts. There was little contrast in the wing coverts, with the white rump patch broad and conspicuous and the ringtail characteristically rimmed buff. These features all suggested a juvenile.........I was delighted, after dipping Neil Wright's bird on three occasions, I had at last connected and the long trip and stakeout had been well worthwhile

In all of the time that I was present at the site, there was little else to keep one occupied - no Great Grey Shrike, Short-eared or Barn Owls just 4 Bullfinch, 18 Greenfinch, 3 Reed Buntings, male Common Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, 5 Song Thrush, 30 Redwing and about 100 Fieldfare

Latest Bedfordshire OSPREY ever

Sunday: Tim Robson's just seen the Ivel Valley OSPREY over Warren Villas at 13:40. It was also seen this morning around 09:30 over the mill at Sandy by Graham Inwood.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Today's Highlights

Stuart Warren, now back from his brief life in Australia, discovered an immature/female BLACK REDSTART today in his home town Stanford, showing intermittently on house roofs, gardens, sheds and waste bins between 47 and 55 East Road

Thursday, 3 November 2011

I was pleased to see the OSPREY over Warren Villas about 12.45. Steve in the passenger seat wasn't so fortunate despite our subsequent searching from Grizzly layby.

Earlier at Derek's - 3 Little Egrets, 2 Snipe, 15 Little Grebe, 15Shoveler

Richard Bashford

FIRECREST in Bedford

FIRECREST seen on South side of the A428 (Bedford side of Goldington Tescos roundabout) in ivy covered trees surrounding the small sluice there (Steve Williams)

Tuesday, 1 November 2011


Both male FIRECRESTS remain in King's Wood, Ampthill, along with 4 Marsh Tits (Paul Wright)

Sunday, 30 October 2011


Much of morning spent at Kings Wood, Ampthill in company initially with SCB and NC, later PH. Tit flock proving elusive but usual suspects eventually all seen well, especially a nice Marsh Tit. Both Steve and Nick got a brief view of a FIRECREST some 300m along the central path from top end but it wasn't associating with the mixed flock. I twice saw a female Muntjac here.

On walk back to the car, a chunky finch flying low south at 12.40 just a little ahead of me as I approached the farm was calling chip chip chip and proved to be a nice "green" juv or female Crossbill.

Super gull views of some 200+ feeding on Stewartby Tip but I didn't connect with Steve's f.w. Caspian Gull which I'd seen yesterday. Steve and Nick saw it before I got there this morning and it wasn't about when I re-visited from c12.50 to c1.10. 98 Herring Gulls, 52 L B Backs and 49 Gt Black-backs were counted (MJP)

OSPREY still present

Martin Stevens had the OSPREY south over Broom GP at around 10:00 this morning, whilst a MERLIN was seen in Southill (Paul Donald).
Late morning Di and I walked all round the Lodge - old and new heaths - nothing exciting but a cronking Raven SE of the car park, 4 mewing Common Buzzards from the hill fort, a few Siskins here and there - no Common Crossbills or Woodlarks today.

Mid-afternoon at Kings Wood, Ampthill with JG and PH, - I eventually located a small tit flock within the top end of the wood - Nuthatch and Treecreeper and, for me but alas not for Jim or Pip, the persistant shrill calls of a Firecrest high up in ivy clad trunks; another Buzzard and a distant Sparrowhawk

Quest Pit brought a departing Steve Blain but I made counts of 112 Great Black-backs, only 18 Herring Gulls, just 12 Common Gulls but a fine adult Yellow-legged Gull. 227 Lapwings were counted, 20 Linnets, 18 Skylarks flew over, 20 Wigeon, 14 Teal, 2 Gadwall

Stewartby Tip: Keith Owen and I enjoyed brief but good views of the first-winter Caspian Gull found by Steve Blain just minutes after he'd 'phoned me with the news.Stewartby Lake: the Common Scoter looks to have departed. A poor roost ~ an adult Yellow-legged Gull, but only 92 Herring Gulls and lowish numbers of the other common species. 3 Gadwall and 7 Dabchicks, a Goldcrest heard

Rookery North: a quick dusk visit with KRO and SCB produced a roost at least as big as that on Stewartby Lake tonight - perhaps because of the westerly wind direction. I located another single adult Yellow-legged Gull (MJP)

FIRECRESTS at Ampthill



Following a conversation with Neil Wright, I decided to travel north to Bedfordshire, just on the offchance that the recent Hen Harrier might still be around. Neil had found a FIRECREST so I decided to follow his directions and have a look. As it was, the flock of birds contained two FIRECRESTS - both birds showing very well in the ivy scrub fairly low down in the canopy. They were amongst a group of 8 Goldcrests, a Common Treecreeper, a Nuthatch and 10 Blue Tits - the flock being fairly mobile. The area also produced quite a few Fieldfares.

DIRECTIONS: From Ampthill town centre, drive north on the Bedford road and as you leave the town at the top of the hill, turn right on to the concrete drive to Houghton House. Drive to the end of the road and park by the houses and then continue past the pumping station and aerials to the last house and pond. Continue to the entrance to the wood and take the right hand footpath leading north and parallel to the edge of the wood. Continue for a further 300 yards and just 70 yards before the metal gate - the flock is in this area

Friday, 28 October 2011

COMMON SCOTER still on Stewartby

The juvenile COMMON SCOTER still at Stewartby at 12.30 today.

Rookery South is pretty dry now apart from the pools in the southeast corner and a few small wet bits at the north end. Still a few birds of interest though: 3 Little Egret, 4 Grey Heron, 65 Teal, 2 Buzzard, 10 Siskin and quite a few Common Darters still on the wing, including several pairs in cop, making the most of the warm autumn sunshine.

What a lovely day (David Fisher - Sandy)

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

I sipped again on the Holcot Hen Harrier

Dave Odell 'phoned me early afternoon to say that the ringtail Hen Harrier was flying above his car over the road at the west end of Cranfield Aerodrome (at SP 946 415) - about a mile north of where Neil Wright had first discovered the bird at Holcot Wood.. I was watching a Pied Wheatear at the time but decided to give it another go later in the afternoon.

I arrived at Cranfield Aerodrome at about 1500 hours and remained in the area until dusk, checking out both the east and west suitable ends of the airfield, all of the farmland between there and Holcot Wood and the 'new' Brogborough forest reclamation project as well as back at the original site. No luck whatsoever - just Common Buzzards, Common Kestrels, Common Pheasants, lots of corvids and 25 Lapwings

The OSPREY was still present today in the Biggleswade area, fishing at the Manor Farm Fisheries east of the A1 (Mark Ward) and roosting up at The Lodge again

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Neil's ringtail HEN HARRIER

This ringtail HEN HARRIER lingered for a couple of days over a rough field NW of Brogborough Landfill. Neil Wright managed these excellent flight images of his find

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Stewartby Roost this evening

Unpleasant viewing at the roost between c5.35 and 6.08 this evening with wind toward me and gulls diagonally facing away.....nonetheless, I was pleased to find a winter-adult Mediterranean Gull, 2 adult Yellow-legged Gulls, 50+ Herring Gulls, a few hundred each of L B Backs and B H Gulls but only a few Gt Black-backs. Also present were a Kingfisher and the juvenile Common Scoter was still present.,,,,,,MJP

Two CASPIAN GULLS roosted last night

Additional information on the Brogborough HEN HARRIER

Thanks to some excellent directions from Neil Wright, Di and I were able to obtain cracking views of the HEN HARRIER hunting over a rolling rough grass field between 1.00 and 1.20 today. Neil was watching from the ridge but a quicker access for the casual visitor is to take the old A421 to the western end of Brogborough Lake then turn under the by-pass signed North Common Farm. Turn right immediately afterwards and park on the verge then take the public footpath for 600m roughly north with the tip fence on your right and some mature lleyllandii trees on your left. Eventually you'll see a brick barn in the distance. Continue to the end of the footpath and view the field to the left of the barn. Good luck if you go - super bird and a great find by Neil (Martin Palmer).

FIRECREST at The Lodge

FIRECREST ringed at 1pm today, to the joy of the ringers and many Feed The Birds Day event visitors. (per Richard Bashford)

Ringtail HEN HARRIER still in Brogborough area

Ringtail HEN HARRIER again in fields south-east of Holcot Wood, and south of Brogborough tip SP958398 at 12.00 today, per Neil Wright. Neil first found this bird yesterday afternoon


BLACK REDSTART on roof of Avocet building (new building) at end of staff car park (per Richard Bashford)

Vizmig at Potsgrove today - WOODLARK

Here as they say on the European Song Contest are the results for Potsgrove.

Best of all was a single WOODLARK moving south-east at 07.31, I saw it well as it was giving its distinctive call and flying at a height of only 200metres or so.

The highest scorers were; Wood Pigeon 255, Chaffinch 89, Redwing 32, Starling 25, Goldfinch 15, Sky Lark 8, Greenfinch 8, Fieldfare 7, Pied Wagtail 6 and Meadow Pipit 3.

Peter Smith

OSPREY at The Lodge

Col Campbell just called to say the OSPREY was again in a dead tree eating a fish on the new heath at The Lodge this morning. If flew off towards Warren Villas at around 11am. Also Woodlarks still present too (per Steve Blain)

Friday, 21 October 2011


An OSPREY flew over Brogborough Lake this afternoon (Roy Nye) with another reported over the hill fort at The Lodge, Sandy

COMMON SCOTER still present


It was very cold overnight, with temperatures dropping down to almost freezing. The light Northwesterly wind continued today, with bright conditions and predominantly clear skies......


Noticeable vizmig first thing, with 4 Skylarks and a Siskin flying west over my garden, as well as one flock of 55 Woodpigeons


Thanks to an early morning call via Pip H, I made my way up to Stewartby Lake, where Keith Owen's find of last night was still present. The juvenile COMMON SCOTER was straight out from the gull watchpoint, roughly in the middle of the lake, diving infrequently and in brief flight on one occasion. It constituted my 184th species of the year and thus taking me to my highest annual score ever in the county (a long way off Andy Plumb's record count of 200 though). MJP, Lol and Bob C were also present.


A dead Badger was at the side of the road by the main car park.

I walked the entire circuit but in the slack NW conditions, virtually nothing was on the move. The highlight was 2 NORTHERN WHEATEARS on the fenceline by the sheep pens, whilst 27 Skylarks and 80 Linnets were in the rough field adjacent.


The highlight was two COMMON RAVENS that were actually lingering in the area. Both very vocal, they were first seen over the Cemetery Corner Poplars before flying east towards Startop's. They then remained in the air for over half an hour, mainly flying over the NW corner of Startop's and over the adjacent horse fields.

Wilstone held 3 Little Grebes, 34 Mute Swans (including the family party, the cygnets being banded with orange rings), the 2 adult Whooper Swans, 134 Wigeon, Teal, 52 Shoveler, 92 Pochard, a pair of RED-CRESTED POCHARD and 147 European Golden Plovers on the bund.


This reservoir is now very low and suitable for waders, etc. There were 3 Great Crested Grebes, 1 Little Egret, 2 Mute Swans and 28 Common Teal.......


Very, very low water level with two emerging gravel islands. No less than 5 RED-CRESTED POCHARDS were present (4 adult drakes), along with 15 Great Crested Grebes, 4 Mute Swans, 55 Wigeon, 16 Teal, 5 Shoveler and 29 Pochard

Thursday, 20 October 2011

First live COMMON SCOTER of year

Keith Owen located a juvenile COMMON SCOTER on Stewartby Lake this evening, the first this year other than one hit by a car on the Leighton Buzzard bypasss...

Meanwhile, a cream-crown Marsh Harrier flew south over The Lodge at 12:00, per Andy Schofield and Andy Grimsey, and the 6 Woodlarks remain around the hill fort

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

CROSSBILL at last - and WOODLARKS to boot


The day dawned clear and cold, with a light Northwesterly wind blowing. Until early afternoon at least, the sky remained clear, with wintry sunshine shining through. As the afternoon progressed, the wind increased and cloud moved in, with a sharp short rain shower mid afternoon......

(0900-1145 hours)

Third time lucky. After an abortive trip on Monday, I returned again to The Lodge this morning, joining up with Barry and Wendy Nightingale and another chap from Bedford on the heath. It was a gorgeous morning with some vizmig still going on, including a single LESSER REDPOLL, 8 SISKINS, a few Meadow Pipits, 3 Skylarks, several Chaffinches, 4 Fieldfare and 33 Redwing.

A party of 4 COMMON RAVENS afforded excellent views at the Hill Fort area, tossing and turning in the sky above the pine trees there. Monday had seen my first-ever Raven at this site.

Great Spotted Woodpecker, Green Woodpecker, Jay, Carrion Crow, Nuthatch, Goldcrest and Coal Tit were also noted and most pleasing for me, two COMMON CROSSBILLS flew over Hill Fort calling - my first of the year in the county.

But it was the WOODLARK flock I had returned for. A work party was busy putting up a new Muntjac-proof fence around the 'new heath' and it was inadvertently one of their guys that did Barry and I a favour. As he wandered from the gatehouse car park to join the other workers on the heath, he flushed up a single WOODLARK, allowing Barry and I to follow its course in flight. It disappeared over the isolated clump of Hill Fort pines inevitably returning to where MJP had seen them yesterday. The four of us ambled over to the fort area and scanned the cleared bracken area adjacent to the footpath. Within seconds of our arrival, all 6 WOODLARKS took flight and immediately disappeared over the top of the trees and out of view. Drat we thought! However, no less than a few minutes later, four birds returned and landed again. We carefully made our way to a better vantage point and after a lot of scanning, Barry eventually located one - heavily camouflaged on the ground. Once one was located, we could see all four and over the next half an hour, enjoyed some fabulous views as they picked their way through the heath understorey at about 20 yards range. They were quite vocal, even when feeding on the ground, uttering liquid notes in contact calling. They were also into 'sunbathing' - sitting still and absorbing the sun for long periods. All individuals were unringed.

I was delighted at finally connecting with these difficult county birds and 6 is possibly the largest single congregation I have ever seen (my memory of the flock on the opposite side of the road fails me at present). The two species (and this week's female RUDDY DUCK) now move me forward to 183 species - equalling my previous highest annual Beds tally of last year.

A memorable morning

Tuesday, 18 October 2011


The flock of 6 WOODLARKS was still present on the main heath at The Lodge RSPB today, although mobile and elusive; there were also 4 COMMON RAVENS still in the area

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Another eventful morning at The Lodge - RING OUZEL, WOODLARK and HEN HARRIER

RING OUZEL, 2 WOODLARKS, 3+Raven, 1 Crossbill, 3+...but best of all, Steve and I got onto a ring-tail HEN HARRIER north over the new heath at 09:55, briefly mobbed by the Raven. (Pallid ruled out!)

Steve Blain/ Darren Oakley-Martin/ Jim Gurney/ Pip Housden

WOODLARKS remain at The Lodge

Five WOODLARKS on the new heath this morning (15 October), c.07:30, per Mark Gurney

14 October: Vizmig on Pegsdon Hills

Unfortunately I was unable to get out early today to make best use of the excellent vismig conditions. A cup of tea on the patio at home revealed plenty of Redwing moving west or southwest through around 8am, with around 200 in six groups over a ten minute spell, also a small group of Fieldfare, some Skylark also.I arrived at Pegsdon around 9:15 and climbing the hill, a group of 3 COMMON CROSSBILL and then 45 Fieldfare flew over with a few small parties of Redwings, some Mipits and more Skylarks but generally dribs and drabs of passage going through for the rest of the morning.

On the hills in addition to the BLACK REDSTART reported earlier (had slightly paler panel in the wing so maybe immature male), just a selection of Mipits, Skylarks, usual finches and tits, with a noticeable increase in Chaffinch around the site, and a few feeding Redwings. A few Chiffchaff remain and Marsh Tits were particularly vocal this morning. Did not see any hirundines today though.

Larger bird count was 3 Red Kite, 2 Raven, 4 Buzzard, 1 Sparrowhawk, 2 Kestrel and 1 Little Owl. Nice day to be out, will be two hours earlier tomorrow so to get the main expecting vismig passing by, and wearing an extra layer...Andy Grimsey

Vizmigging 14 October

A storming morning on The Pinnacle at The Lodge (Sandy)! An excellent movement of Redwings with 4877 counted before 09:35, with backup numbers of 464 Fieldfares, 287 Chaffinches, and 541 Woodpigeons. Other odd bits include 48 Song Thrushes, 97 Linnets, 11 Great Tits, and 3 Bramblings. 6 highflying Bullfinches were giving an odd call which I'll have to do some more research on, and I also picked up two single Woodlarks – one at 09:20, and another as I was leaving at 09:35. All in all, just brilliant.

Everything's on Trek:

Steve Blain/Matt Burgess

And another BLACK REDSTART (19 October)

19 October: And I just found a male BLACK REDSTART along Mill Lane to the west of Potton. It was in the Cypress hedge at the western end of the big winter rape field to the north of the track. Masses of Skylarks in this area, 2 Crossbills calling near the transmitter and masses of Redwings and Fieldfares in the tree nursery, along with a nice big mixed flock of Lesser Redpolls and Siskins. Two Corn Buntings in the field behind our house in Southill this morning (Paul Donald)

BLACK REDSTART on Pegsdon Hills

14 October: Andy Grimsey has just found a female type/imm BLACK REDSTART on Pegsdon Hills. It's on the fence line at the base of the hills - roughly grid ref TL121298.

A mini influx of WOODLARKS

14 October: Mark Gurney and I had two WOODLARKS over the new heath at 07:50 thismorning and Guy Anderson has just 'phoned to say he and Mark have three more, currently perched in a silver birch on the new heath now. (08:50) (Darren Oakley-Martin)

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Another ROCK PIPIT at Broom

A ROCK PIPIT around islands on west side of main lake, Broom GP, 18.15 (Steve Blain)

Redwings on the move

Priory Country Park this morning -:

100 Redwings W (+21 local) flocks: 48, 38, 10 plus 4 singles)
227 Fieldfares WSW (4; 116; 47; 60).
3 Mipits S
4 Skylarks W & SW
6 Siskins W (plus one over heard)

The Redwing and Fieldfare passage didn't start until 0920 with most passing over between then and 0940. Finished at 1000.

Others: 6 Wigeons, 2 Kingfishers, 6 Gadwalls, 33 GCG, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Little Egret, etc.

Dave Kramer.


The great vismig potential from The Pinnacle this morning was hampered by low cloud and drizzle from the off. However five hardy souls braved the conditions and were rewarded with a flyover Woodlark!

Also a dribble of Redwings with 264 west, 4 Bullfinches were a surprise, and good numbers of Skylarks moved south too.

All the mornings results can be found here:

Steve Blain, Nick Cook, Jim Gurney, Will George, and Matt Burgess

Thursday, 6 October 2011

A single Common Tern was roosting on a buoy at a chilly and windy Stewartby Lake this evening. Only a couple each of Common Gull and G B Back noticed amongst a few hundred B H Gulls, an estimate of c2000 L B Backs with 62+ Herring Gulls and c13 Yellow-legged Gulls inc 1f.w.

Other species noted were 11 G C Grebes, 8 Dabchicks, 10 Mallards, 40 Mute Swans inc 1f.w., pair Gadwall, around 150+ Jackdaws through to roost, a few C Crows, 1 Wood Pigeon, 1 Green Woodpecker, 8+ Long-tailed Tits, 1 Robin heard, 1 Oystercatcher still on the sailing club lawn (MJP)

ROCK PIPITS just north of Biggleswade

Two ROCK PIPITS, female Pintail, three Snipe, and a Little Egret at Derek White's Eggs pit this evening. Please view only from the metal gate off the A1, or across the river from Biggleswade Common (Steve Blain)

Chris Deary reports the Whinchat and three Green Sandpipers still present around the pools between Toddington Services and the railway this afternoon.

Monday, 3 October 2011

PALLID HARRIER - more meat on the record

A little bit more detail on the Pallid Harrier sighting. Thanks Steve for putting out the news after I'd phoned you.

Laura (my girlfriend) was driving us to work at The Lodge this morning and we were coming down the hill on the road between Little Barford and Tempsford that runs roughly parallel with the A1. I was looking at the images of the Pallid Harrier at Gamlingay Wood on the internet, and getting texts from Steve about that bird - including the fact that it had been seen there early this morning. You couldn't have scripted it better...

Suddenly Laura said, "What's that big bird?" I glanced up from my phone to the right to get an eye level view of a juvenile Pallid Harrier coasting alongside the car, over the edge of the big undulating field between the road and the A1. She was understandably alarmed at my reaction, but soon got the message that we needed to slow down fast, so I could pick up as much detail as possible. Fortunately, its course continued to take it directly alongside us and the road, allowing me to run through the features, which were there in glorious detail at such close range. My `search engine' was also well and truly tuned in having just been looking at photos of Pallid Harrier - so that was handy!

This is approximately where it was: TL 16727 54739 and it was heading W/SW from there at approximately 08.45. Quite likely to be the bird from Gamlingay, but it is quite some influx we are having this autumn.

I always knew I didn't need a girlfriend who was a birder...

Mark Ward

PALLID HARRIER in Bedfordshire - first county record

Mark Wark and Laura Stevens have just seen a juvenile PALLID HARRIER fly south-west over the road between Little Barford power station and Tempsford. 08:45 It was last seen heading towards the Roxton area and the A1. Roughly in this grid square - TL1755. An amazing Beds first! (per Steve Blain)

What was presumably the same bird was seen earlier by Stuart Elsom in Cambridgeshire

Wednesday, 28 September 2011


Keith Owen's LITTLE STINT was still present today in Rookery Pit - a juvenile at closer range.....

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Another LITTLE STINT in Rookery

Little Stint, 2 Ringed Plovers, 2 Greenshank, Green Sand, Hobby, and Little Egret in Rookery South ClP, 18:00, per Keith Owen.


MJP, Graham Ryland, Ted & Evelyn Reed and others watched the adult AZOREAN ATLANTIC GULL fly in to roost at Stewartby Lake shortly after 1900 hours........

Elsewhere, Darin Stanley has had up to 3 WHINCHATS in the weedy field adjacent to Luton Airport perimeter fence

This morning, Johnny Lynch had a juvenile MARSH HARRIER in Rookery Pit

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Apparent AZOREAN ATLANTIC GULL roosts again

I arrived at the Stewartby Lake gull watchpoint at c6.20pm, to join a couple visiting en route from Sussex to Doncaster. SCB also arrived just a few minutes after I did. But it was a much disturbed roost this evening due to a water-skiing combo regularly passing along the south-west and south-east shores, i.e. away from their usual route, and disturbing the gulls by their proximity and their bow waves.There was no show by yesterday's adult Caspian Gull but I did count 27+ Herring Gulls and 22+ Yellow-legged Gulls before the other three left c7.10pm. I started clicker-counting Lesser Black-backs in the gathering gloom and was very pleased to discover the adult AZOREAN GULL had come into the roost again, giving clear views at the front centre of the roost. I immediately rang RBA to put the news on the pagers just in case any of the trio could return but they didn't. Before I left, around 7.25, I concluded my count of L B Backs reaching just over 1,500. There were only a few Great Black-backs and a single Common Gull but a good few B H Gulls were also on view this evening (MJP)

Friday, 23 September 2011

AZOREAN GULL roosted this evening



After obtaining reasonable views of the Atlantis-type gull in ploughed fields north of the new bypass this afternoon, I returned this evening to see it roosting.....

Just 14 observers turned out this evening - mostly Beds locals but also including Howard Joliffe from Essex and John Lees from Sussex. The bird was located by Allan Stewart at 1855 hours and roosted until dusk - part of an assembled group of about 1,700 large gulls, which included at least 22 YELLOW-LEGGED GULLS (13 adults, 4 2nd-winters and 4 first-winters), 27 Great Black-backed Gulls (mostly adults) and 56 Herring-types; just 2 Common Gulls were amongst the throng. There was also an adult Lesser Black-backed Gull with a very heavily streaked head.

The subject bird was almost certainly the bird that visited Oxfordshire two years ago, now in full adult plumage. It is as distinctive now as it was then, typified by its very noticeable hood (darkest in saturation on the ear-coverts and crown-sides), the prominent pearly-white iris, the distinct bluish cast to the grey upperparts, gleaming white underparts, thick bill and short washed-out creamy-yellow legs. Interestingly, despite now being adult, the bill pattern is largely the same - insepid greyish-green at the base and pale orange at the tip and blackish in the middle. It is also a particularly sturdy and large individual.

In every respect the bird appears to be an AZOREAN ATLANTIC GULL but recent correspondence I have received from Daniel Velasco, a good birding friend from Spain, has placed grave doubts about the authenticity of these type individuals. Daniel has spent a lot of time in recent years studying the large white-headed gulls that occur in the Cantabric and Northwest Atlantic coasts of Spain and his findings make very interesting reading. The presence of Yellow-legged Gulls with extensive dark grey hoods are not that unusual and begs the question of what is actually occurring in this region. Although there are several key features that do separate the Oxon/Beds individual from those that Dani has highlighted below, it really does raise the prospect of confident identification - a few links to images below
The propensity of so many birds of this appearance on the west coast of Iberia is truly perplexing, not least because winter-plumaged Yellow-legged Gulls on Madeira and the Canary Islands do not show such dark head streaking but white heads like most michahellis. The majority of Cantabric gulls relate to Yellow-leggeds of the form lusitanicus, which are darker, smaller and slightly more streaked on the head in winter and also importantly, frequently have a single white mirror on p10 (see montage at
Dani informs me that hybridisation between Yellow-legged Gull and Lesser Black-backed Gull in Galicia is commonplace, making him ponder about the appearance of these 'atlantis lookalikes', but it also seems likely that a cline exists between atlantis and lusitanicus and that perhaps explains the anomalies. Pure Azorean Atlantic Gull is essentially a saltwater gull and preliminary studies in the Azores of birds of all ages have shown little evidence of northward migration or displacement.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

AZOREAN GULL again present in roost

A good sized roost enjoyed by several local birders this evening - star bird was the AZOREAN GULL found by SCB yesterday evening and showing again this evening from 6.15pm. This is the first county record of this species and had been seen earlier today by DHB and me in a private access pit a couple of miles away to the east briefly at 10.10am. Bizarrely, Caspian Gulls (1fw 1sw) outnumbered Common Gulls (none) and there were several (20+) Yellow-legged Gulls present as well - they were mostly adults but included two juv cum first-winter birds too.

A calling Green Sandpiper flying over this evening is unusual here and early afternoon DHB and I saw a Turtle Dove perched in a large willow along the south-west shore.A gulltastic day!


Wednesday, 21 September 2011

At this evenings (21st) Stewartby roost was a(nother) candidate for an Azorean Yellow-legged Gull. This bird looks very similar to the Didcot bird in 2009 (perhaps the same?).

It has a very dark streaked hood, with a pale eye. The mantle is darker than any normal Yellow-legged Gull, but lighter than an LBB's. It's still growing P10 and P9, and it only has a small mirror on P10 (I couldn't see a mirror on P9, or anything on P4, but I couldn't get critical detail at the distance it was at). Also a strong, short, multi-coloured bill. A very striking bird!

It is certainly worthy of another look, so I'll be back at the roost tomorrow night. I would welcome some company and a second-opinion!

I've put some poor pics (and there will be some video) on my blog:

Steve Blain

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Another WHINCHAT at Luton Airport

A beautiful autumn-plumaged Whinchat was showing very well on the barbed wire fence at the airport from 13.30 to 14.00 today, with a supporting cast of 2 Yellowhammers and 5 Mipits (Jason Chapman)

Sunday, 18 September 2011


Popped over to to Chimney Corner South pit to do my WeBS count this evening - very few water birds on the pit, but the highlight were four high-flying, long-tailed, brown passerines - BEARDED TITS amazingly! I picked them up over the centre of the lake circling before they headed strongly west towards Kempston. Most unexpected.

Later at the Stewartby Lake roost a juvenile CASPIAN GULL showed well along with a handful of Yellow-legged Gulls (Steve Blain)

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Very Quiet

Hi all, nothing much of interest during afternoon visits yesterday to Rookery South ClP then Quest ClP.....

Rookery inc 2 Greenshanks, 1 Little Egret, 10 Dabchicks, 1 Wigeon, 1 Teal, 1 Pochard, 4a 5j Mute Swans, 1 Lapwing, 14 Tufted Ducks, no gulls, tractor cutting grass in the pit, an acre or so already ploughed up! 1 Treble Bar moth by "Jackdaw Bridge" near car parking area, 1 Muntjac near other railway bridge.

Quest inc 1 Little Egret, c350 B H Gulls counted, c450 L B Backs counted, 30 Gt B Backs, at least 8 Herring Gulls, c19 Yellow-legged Gulls, no Common Gulls, c15 Dabchicks, at least 22 Teal, 3 Pochards, a few Tufted Ducks, numerous Lapwings, 2 G C GrebesJust 23 species between the two sites - very poor.


Biggleswade Common Chats

A male COMMON STONECHAT and up to 7 WHINCHATS remain for a third day on Biggleswade Common (per Steve Blain)

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Recent Days

In the gale force winds of Tuesday, a MANX SHEARWATER was picked up exhausted in Renhold. The 3 juvenile BLACK TERNS remained until Wednesday, with 4 WHINCHATS at Southill (Steve Heath), 8 at Ridgeway Wood (Dave Odell) and 2 with a male COMMON STONECHAT on Biggleswade Common (Steve Blain)

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

BLACK TERNS at Stewartby

Three juvenile BLACK TERNS remain on Stewartby Lake today (Monday) - these outstanding images taken by Neil Wright

Monday, 12 September 2011


Neil Wright obtained these outstanding images as the SPOONBILL flew over him at Stewartby on Sunday. The presence of black tips on the primaries indicates that this is an immature bird and not an adult as originally thought. Spoonbills take up to four years to reach maturity. This bird was unringed.

SPOONBILL grip back

On Saturday 10th, Steve Blain located an adult EURASIAN SPOONBILL in Quest Pit late afternoon, sparking a major county twitch - both LGRE and Andy Plumb being the only ones of the 16 observers gathered to get a County Tick. The bird remained until Sunday and also commuted to nearby Rookery Pit that day.

All 4 BLACK TERNS remained on Stewartby Lake, whilst Marston Vale had 2 WHINCHATS and Warden Hills a COMMON REDSTART..

Priory Country Park Passage - Saturday morning

Steady stream of House Martins south totalled 236 plus 29 Sand Martins and five Swallows.
3 Common Snipe south (first of the autumn)
1 Swift South
5 Siskins SE (first of the autumn)
3 Meadow Pipits south (first of the autumn for us)
22 Chiffchaffs, 21 Blackcaps, 2 Common Whitethroats, 1 Garden Warbler, 4 Reed Warblers, one Willow Warbler, one Spotted Flycatcher. 55 Long-tailed Tits included a single party of 32 (Dave Kramer + Dave Barnes + Dave Anderson + Ed Green)

Thursday, 8 September 2011

WRYNECK at Tebworth

A WRYNECK was present briefly in a Tebworth garden this morning, whilst a WHINCHAT was still in Southill today.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Two WHINCHATS on Sandy Heath this lunchtime, along with c.120 Greenfinches, and c.30 Mistle Thrushes on Sandy Ridge. Thanks to Jim Gurney for finding the Whinchats - they are species number 134 for BTO v RSPB challenge (per Steve Blain)

Three juvenile BLACK TERNS remain at Stewartby Lake (MJP)

Monday, 5 September 2011

No sign of the Little Stint at Broom GP this morning, but Ruff and Wheatear there, per Martin Stevens.

Some bits from the weekend:

Rookery South: Little Stint present on both Saturday and Sunday per Roy Nye

Quest ClP: Pink-footed Goose present on Sunday, per Keith Owen

Broom GP:Greylag – the flock was a min of 1368 on Sunday, along with single Barnacle, Egyptian, c.30 Canadas, and two Canada x Greylag hybrids. Recent WeBS counts have put this site in the top twenty in the country, with a mean of 815 during 2009/2010 (and a previous max of 1232). The 1% threshold for sites of national importance is a mean count of 1400, so a little way to go yet.

Steve Blain

Friday, 2 September 2011

Plenty of migration going on


Today was one of those great days to be out and about. The weather was excellent and very good for diurnal migration. The winds were light - ESE early on, then southerly, then switching right round to NW by evening. Glorious sunshine throughout but then clouding over somewhat by dusk with a few spots of rain.

Laurence Drummond sent me a text early on informing me of another Common Redstart he had found. Although having had a record year for this species in Buckinghamshire, I was still missing one from my annual Hertfordshire list, so I set off in hot pursuit........


I met up with Laurence mid-morning and he took me to where he had discovered the bird. After locating a juvenile Robin, the next bird to appear from the hedgerow was the COMMON REDSTART - a nice juvenile male. It was favouring a fruiting Elder some 50 yards east of the former gates and showed very well for a while, flitting in and out of the hedge and occasionally on to the ground. A great start!

The hedgerow was in fact alive with migrant birds, with two different LESSER WHITETHROATS, 3 Common Whitethroats, at least 4 Blackcaps and a single SPOTTED FLYCATCHER. Just SE of the hedgerow, in weedy vegetation by the 'new' earth mound, a party of 5 juvenile WHINCHATS were located.

As we both walked back to the cars at Notcutts, we got chatting to one of the council workers on site - responsible for maintaining and planting the trees about the recently landscaped site. At 1140 hours, I noticed a large raptor flying relatively low towards us over the fields - it was a juvenile MARSH HARRIER. It afforded some great views as it approached but then banked and then gained height. It then worked its way slowly SSE and eventually disappeared to a dot. Minutes later it was followed by tow more raptors - this time a Red Kite and yet another juvenile MARSH HARRIER. The two tussled mid-air for a while before parting ways and the harrier also drifting off high to the SE. Incredibly, just minutes later, a third juvenile MARSH HARRIER came through with 3 juvenile Common Buzzards - all four birds eventually following the same line of movement. I can only assume that all 3 juvenile Marsh Harriers were related and were migrating as one family group (interestingly, I had witnessed a similar event at Wilstone Reservoir just over a week ago - in similar weather conditions). A couple of Eurasian Sparrowhawks were also noted.

Spurned on by such a movement of raptors, I said my goodbyes to Laurence and headed for the nearest hill escarpment........


I wound up at Pegsdon Hills, where the wind had switched more to the south, and ended up walking the Icknield Way Path from Telegraph Hill to the Knocking Hoe valley. Raptor migration was in full swing but sadly consisted of just Common Buzzards - a total of 25 eventually being seen, almost exclusively fresh juveniles. One particular juvenile hanging around the Knocking Hoe valley was amazingly plumaged, having an all-white head, all white underparts and a Rough-legged Buzzard-patterned uppertail. A total of at least 6 Red Kites were also seen, as well as 2 Sparrowhawks.

Migrant passerines however were thin on the ground - particularly warblers. Three different COMMON REDSTARTS were located - a female in scrub at the extreme southern end of the main valley and a male and an immature in the small plantation lining the top of the valley along the Icknield Way. Three separate TREE PIPITS flew over south calling, whilst a solitary juvenile NORTHERN WHEATEAR was by the trig point at Deacon Hill. Just 3 Common Chiffchaffs were encountered, whilst the only other birds noted during the 1230-1500 hours stint were a pair of MARSH TITS.

At SANDY SMITH NATURE RESERVE east of Clophill, just 2 Stock Doves were seen, whilst ROOKERY PIT mid-afternoon held just a single COMMON GREENSHANK, LITTLE STINT and Little Egret. Much digging work was in progress inside the pit. Neighbouring STEWARTBY LAKE held 4 BLACK TERNS but nothing much else.


Joining Steve Rodwell, Mike Hirst, Ian Williams and others at Wilstone, we did the evening shift from 1700-1930 hours. By now, the wind had veered northwesterly and cloud cover had encroached from the east. It was frustratingly quiet.

Both Dave and Roy had seen 3 juvenile CURLEW SANDPIPERS briefly early morning but none had lingered. New in this evening were a single COMMON SNIPE and another new juvenile RUFF. One juvenile RUFF from earlier lingered, along with the juvenile LITTLE STINT on the main spit, whilst 8 RINGED PLOVERS (4 juveniles), 2 Common Sandpipers and a single COMMON GREENSHANK remained.

Otherwise, Great Crested Grebes numbered 17, Coot 386, Little Egret 19, Mute Swan 16, Common Teal 135, Shoveler 67, Northern Pochard 69 and Tufted Duck 26.

The family party of 3 HOBBIES were still in the area, whilst just 3 Common Terns remained. A single YELLOW WAGTAIL flew over, with 143 Barn Swallows in the area and at least 115 House Martins.

WORD OF CAUTION: the main road has been tarmacced today but is very slippery in places; there was one accident this evening just west of the car park