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).

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

REDPOLLS put on a great show despite the gloomy weather


Rain moved in very quickly this morning and continued all day. Fortunately, it was combined with unseasonably high temperatures (14 degrees C) and was more drizzle than heavy rain. Regardless, it was still a problem birding in it and required constant drying of lenses. There was little wind so conditions for studying redpolls was surprisingly good.....

And that was my task of the day - scrutinising redpolls - and by the end of the day, I had seen at least two SCANDINAVIAN ARCTIC REDPOLLS in Bedfordshire - perhaps more.........

It must be stressed that the Redpoll species identified today were made using the strict Guidelines that I have laid down in my two recent identification papers on the subject respectively located at and

Had I have been using criteria utilised by BBRC members Martin Garner and Andrew Stoddart, the number of birds claimed would be more.


In light but fairly constant rain, I met up with MJP and Pip Housden this morning, along with Clive Harris, Tony P and Jim Gurney, at the extreme NE end of Coronation Pit. A group of 43 redpolls had been repeatedly visiting the 7-8 tall Silver Birches in that location and were showing well on occasions, albeit somewhat flighty. We spent some considerable time on site but frustratingly views were often fragmented and the skittish behaviour of the birds meant that prolonged viewing was not possible.

Of the 43 birds present, the vast majority were larger, cloaked-feathered MEALY-types but primarily brown in plumage. As discussed in my paper, only well-marked paler MEALY REDPOLLS can be identified with any certainty and of the flock, FIVE individuals easily met this criteria, with two very well-marked adult males, one very well-marked first-winter and two typical grey first-winters. Whether any of the flock were actually Lesser Redpolls was debateable, certainly on wing-length, hindneck and tibia feathering and leg length.

One bird however was very stand-out and easily picked out. It was substantially larger than the rest of the flock, very white, long-tailed and markedly cloaked on the tarsi and on the rump and hindneck. It was a bird of the year (first-winter) but crucially exhibited ALL of the following characters -:

1) It was substantial in size, with the cloaked feathering giving it more bulk, particularly on its hindneck and on its raised/rather bulging rump feathers and on its tibia;

2) It had a distinctive short, pinched-in bill, giving it a characteristic appearance;

3) The mantle was basally pure white with dark feathering, rather than just showing two mantle braces like the greyer Mealies;

4) The wing-bars were striking and extensive and pure, gleaming white, with a much broader greater covert bar and a less obvious median bar;

5) The crimson poll was rich and contrasting, with streaking behind on the head and contrasting ear-coverts;

6) The tail was noticeably long with a deep cleft;

7) The flanks and sides were sparsely marked, predominantly gleaming white;

8) The undertail-coverts appeared to be pure white and unmarked;

9) The rump was gleaming white, unstreaked and extensive

Sadly, whilst attempting to get better and more rewarding views, we were approached by Derek Hyde, the employed Security Manager of the site. He had been instructed by the owners of the site (O & H Property Developers based in Watford) to find out what was going on and why all of the interest. I knew Derek from previous encounters at Brogborough Lake and Rookery Pit and an interesting discussion followed. Derek explained to us that the site was STRICTLY PRIVATE and that we were trespassing and that no public footpath ran through the site. Martin, Clive and I tried to work out an amicable outcome but Derek was just not interested in listening. I telephoned Matthew Carter at the security headquarters but despite pleading with O & H to allow temporary access, it could not be secured. Derek then escorted all of us off site and I agreed with Matthew to comply with the requests of the company regarding news dissemination from the site. Derek was very forceful in his view that if he caught further observers on site that he would fire off flares at the redpoll flock in an attempt to frighten them away.

So, in essence, Coronation Pit is absolutely out of bounds for birdwatchers and all access is denied. Anyone trespassing will be escorted away from the land.

Whilst on the phone to Steve Blain, the Beds County Recorder, he informed me of the presence of up to 300 redpolls at The Lodge, so I rushed straight over there......


In just over 20 minutes I was on site. The flock had been favouring a cluster of Silver Birch trees between 900 and 1,000 metres from the gatehouse car park, accessed by turning left just past the first stile on the Sandy Ridge Trail. The sheer mass of birds allowed me quickly to relocate them and for me they were fortunately favouring the Birches on the lower slope about 50 yards beyond the bench and the sharp bend in the trail. I was able to set my 'scope up and carefully pan through the flock - they were all feeding in the canopy but at parallel eye level to me as I stood at the top of the slope. Despite the rain and gloom, I was able to obtain some great views - the flock consisting of a total of 278 birds, with 3 Siskins mixed in with them.

On about the fifth scan, I picked up two individuals of interest that met my exilipes criteria. MEALY REDPOLLS were perhaps the most abundant species in the feeding flock but again, applying strict criteria, only 8 were of significant paleness to be identified with certainty. One first-winter redpoll was particularly well-marked and strikingly obvious - lacking hardly any streaking on the sides, with gleaming white undertail-coverts and an extensive and rather bulging white rump. This was an undoubted SCANDINAVIAN ARCTIC REDPOLL.

Once again, this bird had a noticeable bulk, with the white back 'protruding' where the cloaked feathers had gathered at the hindneck. It had a buffish face and an obvious white eye-stripe, with strongly contrasting darker ear-coverts. The white tarsi feathers were thicker, with the rump gleaming white and unstreaked. The chin and throat were dark and contrasting with the white underparts, with prominent white fringing to the flight feathers and an obvious, broad, pure white greater covert bar. The bill was distinctly pinched-in.

A second individual was very similar but had far more streaks along the sides and flanks, a much narrower crimson poll and a longer bill. It had a hint of pale pink on the breast and was less white in the wing. It was a borderline bird but well within the variation shown by some photographed exilipes in Sweden and Norway (a few of which I have placed on my Bedfordshire Birding blog).

The entire flock flew off strongly towards Biggleswade Common at 1515 hours after being spooked by a Sparrowhawk.


After taking advice from Steve Blain, I did a tour of the Southill area in search of partridges. In addition to the numerous Rook, Carrion Crow, Jackdaw and Common Magpies I encountered, the Greylag Goose flock was located north of the village at TL 158 423. In amongst them were still the two PINK-FOOTED GEESE - the adult and first-winter - both feeding together.

A covey of 4 Red-legged Partridges was just east of the Stanford turning at TL 158 418 whilst respective coveys of 3 and 8 GREY PARTRIDGES was located east of the village at TL 161 427 and TL 162 422 - the latter very welcome indeed.

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