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, 29 April 2011

PURPLE HERON reappears

The first-summer PURPLE HERON was relocated at Brogborough Lake this afternoon but flew quickly east and returned to Lagoon 9 at Marston Vale Millenium Park. It then flew again and went back down in the small pool between Rookery North and South Pit (Andy Plumb, Martin Green, and others).

The BAR-TAILED GODWIT passage petered out by 0900 hours, with a further flock of 16 through Broom (Steve Blain) and 3 with a Common Greenshank at Willington GP (Tim Robson)

At Harlington, the confiding SHORT-EARED OWL remains

Major passage of BAR-TAILED GODWITS

BAR-TAILED GODWITS were moving in large numbers this morning with 10 at Gypsy Lane Pit first thing followed by 25 through Broom GP at 0810 hours (Steve Blain)

A further 70 or more passed through Rookery Pit South (with some lingering) (Andy Plumb) whilst Neil Wright noted both WHIMBREL and ARCTIC TERN at Brogborough

Thursday, 28 April 2011

BAR-WIT bonanza


Another very cold day with the wind remaining ENE and quite strong at times. Very cloudy and grey early on but then much brighter this afternoon. Everywhere still very dry, with the ground baked hard. BAR-TAILED GODWITS were the order of the day with 9 birds locally, four of which lingered to allow many birders to connect.......


After hearing that Dave and Roy's Wilstone BAR-WITS (2) and WHIMBREL had flown straight through and east, I made my way towards Bedfordshire where I was convinced some BAR-TAILED GODWITS would pitch down at some stage and become twitchable. In the event, I was very fortunate, as up until 0949 hours at least, a party of 4 individuals (1 transitional and 3 winter-plumaged types) remained on the mud in Rookery South Pit. Sitting shivering in my shorts, other birds detected during several 'scope scans included the long-staying single adult ICELANDIC BLACK-TAILED GODWIT, 3 Common Redshank, several Ringed Plover and 4 Little Ringed Plovers.

A single drake GARGANEY was also apparent, Mute Swans were still nesting (despite being left for dry with the receding water level) and the perimeter scrub despite the cold still harboured both singing Lesser Whitethroat and Willow Warbler.

The gaudy male YELLOW WAGTAIL was still present on the manure pile by the entrance track.


Following both MJP and Pip to Stewartby, that water body was surprisingly birdless - just 1 Common Tern at 1000 hours, 70 Barn Swallows and 50+ House Martins


Again, pretty birdless - 9 Common Terns, 80 Barn Swallows and a singing Willow Warbler


No Godwits or any other waders of note to speak of - potential breeding Northern Pochards at four different sites the highlights


A single ARCTIC TERN here at 1105 hours was of note, but keeping mainly to the adjacent river rather than the pit, 8 Common Terns, an adult summer DUNLIN, Ringed Plovers, the lone Barnacle Goose and 18 House Martins. The 3 Bar-tailed Godwits had departed to the north at 0945 - so long gone


Joined Bob, Lol, Jim and Pip at the reserve but despite walking the entire length and breadth of the 'New Heath', no sight nor sound of Andy Schofield's early morning Tree Pipit - the weather was just not conducive for a bird like that to sing and display.

In over an hour searching, the best I could find were 3 singing male GARDEN WARBLERS, a COMMON CUCKOO and 8 singing male Common Whitethroats


Back to Broom and at 1240 hours, of the 35 terns flying over the lake 7 were ARCTIC and 28 Common - the ARCTICS all keeping together and flying over towards the southern shore.

Little else of note though - 8 Mute Swans on the pit by the entrance track and 2 Little Grebes and a singing male Western Reed Warbler and COMMON CUCKOO and numerous singing male Common Whitethroats.


No sign of any Bar-wits here, just the breeding pair of Oystercatchers, 8 Mute Swans (1 pair nesting), a Common Tern and 162 Barnacle Geese

BAR-WIT bonanza

A flock of 4 BAR-TAILED GODWITS arrived in Rookery Pit South early morning and were still there early afternoon. Two were then seen at Peacock's Lake, Broom, before being joined by a third, with all three departing NE at 0840. They pitched back down at Derek White's where they remained for about an hour......several observers

Thanks to a text from Steve via Jim Gurney, I just nipped over to the plateau to scope Derek's from the Lodge to see three summer plumaged Bar-tailed Godwits. At 9.45 they flew off and I picked them up flying towards me. They veered off over the main house and gardens rather than overhead which was a shame as I was posed with camera for an awful record shot (Richard Bashford)

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Mid evening update from Martin Stevens at Broom GP: 9 ARCTIC TERNS, first-summer LITTLE GULL, Greenshank, RUFF,

At dusk the Little Gull and two Ruff were present (Steve Blain)

ARCTIC TERNS now coming through as expected

Following a single in Rookery South for most of the day, Steve Blain has found 8 ARCTIC TERNS at Broom Peacock's Lake this evening.....the first of many I'm sure

PURPLE HERON still present

This morning at c. 09:30, I observed c.80 Waxwings behind Sandhouse Lane in a bare tree some 200 yards further south than yesterday's favourite oak tree (where there were up to 100 yesterday). On my return at 1pm, they were nowhere to be seen, but were probably still in the area.

Earlier in Rookery, the first-summer PURPLE HERON made a pleasant reappearance (thanks to Dave Ball for spotting it !) just after 11am and spent 5 minutes flying over the pit before heading off to MVCP. Other birds of note were 2 Red Crested Pochards, 1 Greenshank, 1 Black-tailed Godwit, 1 Redshank, 2 Shoveler, 2 Little Ringed Plover, 1 Yellow Wagtail and at least 2 Hobbies, c 12 Common Tern and 1 ARCTIC TERN. No sign of the drake Garganey which I saw there yesterday at c. 3.30pm. There was also another (?) Yellow Wagtail perched on the heap of horse manure upon leaving the site at around 12:30pm (Peter Nash)


At least one, probably two Hobbies at Barton Hills NNR this morning, one at each end of reserve. Pair of Northern Wheatear still present on burrowed area at top SE corner with male calling and exhibiting courtship behaviour. Female vanished for long periods possibly into burrow. Also nearby had a female Ring Ouzel. One Raven flew by mobbing another raptor but only few seconds view of this and suspected male Gos as looked too large for even a large female Sparrowhawk (Ian Kelly)

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

A major arrival of COMMON SWIFTS, more HOBBIES and a PURPLE HERON !!

A major change in weather conditions. After record-breaking temperatures in the past two weeks and an extensive ridge of high pressure centred over the UK, a NNE wind changed all that today pegging the temperatures back by at least 15 degrees C and bringing grey skies and considerably colder weather.
Such weather is always productive for hirundines (and normally Arctic Terns) and today was no exception, with the first arrival of COMMON SWIFTS to our area and an upsurge in HOUSE MARTINS......
(1200-1318 hours)
New for me were both HOBBY and COMMON SWIFT, with three of the former chasing the few flying insects back and forth over the Drayton Hide, Drayton Bank and main reedbed and at least 18 of the latter high over the reservoir with the martins and swallows.
The reservoir itself typically held few birds for late April: 14 Great Crested Grebes, 2 Mute Swans, 3 remaining Eurasian Wigeon (2 drakes), 42 Tufted Duck and 8 Northern Pochards. Meanwhile, Common Terns numbered at least 130 with 25 or more eeking out space on the main raft.
A single YELLOW WAGTAIL was on the North Bank, with hirundines represented by 250+ Sand Martin, 44 Barn Swallows and 26 House Martin, with a singing male Common Chiffchaff in the hedgerow by the new outfall and 3 male Common Whitethroats between the car park and the Drayton corner.
Several Red Kite were overflying the area
The big change here was the number of hirundines flying about - and more exceptionally the 40 COMMON SWIFTS. There was a major influx of HOUSE MARTINS (50+) whilst Sand Martins numbered at least 250 and Barn Swallows 35 or more.
The cold wind deterred the Gropper from reeling in the reedbed but 8= Western Reed Warblers were singing, as well as a male Reed Bunting.
This reserve goes from strength to strength and really has benefited from BBOWT's investment and plans to hallmark it as their premier location. Despite the cold wind, there was plenty to see, especially on the main marsh.
A pair of Great Crested Grebe is now present on the deep pit, with a pair of Mute Swans on the marsh, a pair of Gadwall, 4 Shoveler (3 drakes), 19 Tufted Duck and the continuing pair of COMMON SHELDUCK.
Three families of Lapwing were apparent (adults with 3, 2 & 2 young), the babies being sheltered from the blasting wind, with 6 Common Redshank and a pair of LITTLE RINGED PLOVERS. Two COMMON SANDPIPERS were migrants.
Two Common Terns were investigating the raft, whilst a COMMON CUCKOO was calling from the adjacent Fen, a Common Chiffchaff singing and hirundines again well represented, with 46+ House Martins, 70+ Sand Martins and 15 Barn Swallows.
Pitstone Quarry harboured just 1 lonely Mute Swan.
Moving on to Bedfordshire from 1530-1617 hours, county additions included a single COMMON SWIFT and a flock of at least 6 HOBBIES hawking over the railway Poplars.
The drake GARGANEY was still present, as well as the adult ICELANDIC BLACK-TAILED GODWIT, plus a pair of Common Teal, just 1 Common Redshank, 12 Common Terns and a COMMON CUCKOO. Again, bumper numbers of hirundines, with 35 House Martins along the west bank, 100+ Sand Martins and several Barn Swallows. A single male Lesser Whitethroat was rattling.
With the pit still draining, three Great Crested Grebe nests and equal numbers of Coots are being left stranded.
From 1700-1730 hours, I savoured the delights of Geoff Dawes' WAXWING flock. There were 84 birds in all - the great majority young birds - all roosting in a single flowering Sycamore adjacent to Sandhouse Lane literally just yards off of the main A5 trunk road at SP 936 300. The flock were extremely vocal - with several adults in full breeding plumage - and were commuting to a Wild Cherry tree to feed.
This same piece of roadside scrub also yielded a male Lesser Whitethroat, male Blackcap and male Willow Warbler
Whilst on site, I received an emergency call-out as a 33-ton Tesco HGV had managed to hit the southbound A5 Thorn Turn roundabout and completely overturn. As a result, the route to Dunstable was completely closed. Within seven minutes, I was on site - the driver being very shaken but fortunately only with minor lacerations to his face and arms. As a major arterial route, traffic soon built up in every direction and I had to temporarily divert traffic away from the scene whilst several Fire Engines and other emergency vehicles raced to the scene.
The first I heard of the PURPLE HERON was when Darren Thomas pulled up alongside me as I was directing and shouted ''Have You Heard''. I couldn't believe it - I had only just left the site some 45 minutes earlier..........
I eventually managed to get away from Thorn Turn at 1900 hours and arrived at Stewartby Lake shortly after 20 or so Beds birders had seen the bird in flight. Martin Palmer had discovered the bird in Rookery Pit South at 1750 hours (whilst he was with Keith Owen) and after a short while it had flown and then come down in the adjacent North Pit (or the small reed-fringed pool between the two). Thankfully, MJP and Steve Blain had kept onto it as it had completed a full circuit of Stewartby Lake proper and had returned back to North Pit.
At 1920 hours, I noticed it rise from the reeds on North Pit and take flight. It flew left and low over the remaining reeds and then veered back. In the frenzy that ensued, Andy Graham demanded my bins (he had left his at home) and I switched to the 'scope, through which I was to obtain excellent views as it spent the next 3-4 minutes in flight, eventually disappearing low over the railway and Rookery Pit into Lagoon 9 of the Millenium Park. The bird was clearly a first-summer with retained brown flight feathers (coverts, scapulars, secondaries), brownish crown and brown mantle feathers. The distinctive flight silhouette was apparent (marked kink in neck, long slender bill and long legs and toes), with its pale somewhat yellowish legs, heavily striped neck, contrasting pale creamy throat and lack of upperpart contrast being diagnostic. Furthermore, that strange body movement as the wings flap was noticeably apparent, these fidgety movements characterising this species from Grey Heron. I was well and truly chuffed - as so were Bob & Lol, Richard Bashford, Andy, Darren, Tony Donnelly, Dave Odell, Tim Robson, Andy Plumb, Jim Gurney, Pip Housden, Allan Cutts, Dave Ball, Martin Stevens, John Bowler and the many others that had gathered at the entrance gates.
Purple Heron is a local mega in Bedfordshire with just five previous records -:
1) A juvenile at Felmersham GP from 10-16 September 1955 (Beds Naturalist 10: 29-30)
2) A probable adult at Dunstable Sewage Farm on 16 and 18 May 1958 (Beds Naturalist 13: 37)
3) A juvenile at Wyboston GP from 10 August to 10 September 1966 (British Birds 60: 312)
4) An adult was shot at Caddington in August 1973 (British Birds 67: 314)
5) One was seen in Luton Hoo Estate on 4 September 1977 (British Birds 71: 490)
I departed shortly later after it flew to the Millenium Park but Neil Wright and Steve Blain intercepted it there and enjoyed a minute's worth of view of it on the deck before it once more flew and returned back to Rookery South.
On my way home, a HOBBY flew over the Steppingly crossroads at 1948
Another eventful day

SHORT-EARED OWL near Harlington

Chris Deary has seen a SHORT-EARED OWL hunting a grassy field between Lower East End Farm and Lovetts Green, between Harlington and Sharpenhoe this morning. TL051311 - please view only from roadside or surrounding footpaths and do not enter the field as it is private.

It has been present in the same area since Sunday evening, along with a reeling Gropper (per Steve Blain).

Monday, 25 April 2011

Early Saturday Morning Broom GP

5 Little Gulls, Ruff, and Common Sand at Broom GP 08.00, per Jim Gurney

Rookery Pit Good Friday

In addition to the 9 then 12 BLACK TERNS and single COMMON GREENSHANK and BLACK-TAILED GODWIT that I had earlier, Steve Blain, MJP and others also noted two drake GARGANEY, 4 DUNLIN and 6 HOBBIES in the area later during the day. There were also 4 'rattling' male LESSER WHITETHROATS in the scrub around the periphery

Twitchable WHIMBREL

Patrick Giles discovered a WHIMBREL in the large ploughed field along the Cardington to Old Warden road early morning, where it continued to show well for several hours wandering back and forth - at TL 092 468 (LGRE, Lol Carman, Bob Chalkley, Jim Gurney, Steve Blain)

Good Friday - influx of BLACK TERNS

Three BLACK TERNS were found by Johnny Lynch at Grovebury mid morning, with 9 more in Rookery Pit at about the same time (LGRE). Although present about an hour later (JL & LGRE), it appears all three joined the 9 at Stewartby Lake later and remained into early afternoon

Good Friday Birding: early morning at Broom

Early morning saw 2 LITTLE GULLS and 3 BLACK-TAILED GODWITS fly through Broom, with 5 RUFF on the deck for a few hours (Steve Blain et al)

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Darin finds first county WHINCHAT of year

Quick in/ out at Luton airport this evening found me a cracking male WHINCHAT on the perimeter fence adjacent to the weedy field. Only 1f WHEATEAR further up on the fence (Darin Stanley)


Rosemary Setchfield had a single BLACK TERN circling high over Broom GP at around 2pm today.

Rookery today

I visited the pit from 11.10 until 12.35 this morning - and thanks to Tony and Pip for their company...

3 Hobbies were new in as were 6 Common Terns, other sp present inc 2 Common Buzzards, 1 Kestrel, 1 Greenshank, 4 Dunlin, 2 Ringed Plovers, 4 LRP's, 4 Redshanks, 9 pairs of G C Grebes inc 4 active nests, 1 Little Egret, 1 Gropper heard but no luck with yesterday's other 2 Greenshanks, R C Pochards or Garganey, c35 species in all


HOBBIES now arriving

2 Hobbies and a Greenshank at Rookery this lunchtime. Also, another Hobby over the old railway line at Willington, but no sign of the Turtle Dove there today (Tony P)

27 singing male COMMON WHITETHROATS on Blows Downs

07:30-12:00 Observations from Staffan

Wheatear - 2, One on tesco slope, another on Plateau (both females)
Yellow Wagtail (flyover)
Whitethroat - 27 (all singing males!)
Chiffchaff - 5
Willow Warbler - 2
Blackcap - 6
Skylark - 12+
Yellowhammer - 9
Linnet - 5
Jay - 7
Grey Heron
Swallow - 3

Broom first thing

The highlights from this mornings vigil:

A 2nd summer MEDITERRANEAN GULL from 06:30-07:40 when if flew off north, a Dunlin over north-east at 07:10, and a pair of Wigeon.

Nothing at Derek WE pit on my way past at 08:00.

Steve Blain

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Three more singing NIGHTINGALES

Two COMMON NIGHTINGALES are back in last year's territories just east of Sandy, near the Everton - Swaden road. They started their competition today at 8:15 pm and are both audible from the metal gate, where the Greensand ridge walk enters the sheep pasture on Sand Lane (one based at TL18364973 ("Dame's orchard"), the other one in the overgrown clearing at TL18514941) (Johannes Kamp). A further bird is in Cople.

80 species at just two Bedfordshire sites !!

First day of a ten day break from work....hoorah! and 80 species seen or heard today, mainly from just two sites.

from 8.45 till 11.10 I was at Willington, much of the vist in the company of Jim Gurney, and late afternoon I went to Rookery South ClP from 4.00 until 5.40pm (latterly joined by Keith Owen). 58 species at Willington and 40 at Rookery were recorded with highlights as follows....

Willington: 1 Cuckoo, 1 purring Turtle Dove, 2 Nightingales in song - one photographed, 8 species of warbler included 3 Garden Warblers, lots of Common W'throats and 2 reeling Groppers, 1 Kingfisher, 2 pair LRP's, 1 Oyk, 1 Green Sandpiper, 1 Wigeon still, pair Shelducks, 1 Sparrowhawk, both Woodpeckers and a Raven flew south-east "cronking" - my first from this site, I even got a passable photograph of it.

Rookery South ClP: Cuckoo, Red Kite, 3 Greenshanks - county year tick for me, 5 Dunlin, 1 Green Sandpiper, 3 Snipe, 7 Redshanks, 4+ LRP's, 2 Ringed Plovers, 2 drake R C Pochards, 1 drake Garganey, 6 Shoveler, several Teal, 1 Common Lizard

Martin J Palmer

And another RING OUZEL at Barton

I couldn't resist coming up here (Barton Hills) after work, after hearing about a female reported earlier and that I only got brief views last time I attended. Browsing around found me 1 cracking adult male RING OUZEL close by in the basin beside the Pasque flower Hill, this time on the ground. I sat there for about 30 minutes absorbing its splendour as it was feeding away, on this lovely warm evening. Then I went home for an 'rollocking' from wifey and Charlie. It was worth it though (Darin Stanley)

GREENSHANK arrival in Rookery

3+ Greenshanks currently in Rookery South ClP, 16:30, per Martin Palmer.

Light Southeasterlies produce more BLACK TERNS.....

5 Black Terns at Broom GP from 12:40.

Also Ruff still at Derek White's Eggs pit.

Steve Blain

Another RING OUZEL on Barton Hills

This morning there were three wheatears at the top Southeast corner of Barton Hills NNR. One male and two females, one darker than the other. Also female RING OUZEL in valley leading down to springs (Ian Kelly)

Sandy Pits last night

A bit of birding at the angling pit near the railway line at Sandy (52.115494N,0.277256W, yesterday evening didn't produce anything extraordinary, but 50 species in one hour (18:45-19:45) - and it's nice to have all the migrants back!

Green Sandpiper 2
Common Tern 2
Kingfisher 1 male
Cuckoo 2 males cooing, 1 female calling and approaching a male
Yellow Wagtail 1 male flavissima
Sedge Warbler 7 sg.
Reed Warbler 1 sg.
Cetti's Warbler 3 sg.
Grasshopper Warbler 1 reeling on small island

Johannes Kamp

Spotted Redshanks GONE......

Broom GP was very quiet this morning, with more birders than birds!

One of the Ruffs is still at Derek White's Eggs pit, but no sign of the other Ruff, or the Spotshanks.

Nine Common Crossbills flew over the house at The Lodge at 08:25

Steve Blain

The Brick Pits first thing today

Rookery Pit -
Dunlin 2
Black-tailed Godwit 1
Lt Ringed Plover at least 1
Yellow Wagtail, Lsr Whitethroat, Sparrowhawk
Only 1 Teal left, but 4 drake Shovelers. Two pairs Pochard. BH Gulls seem to
have deserted their nests

Stewartby Lake -
in a quick look, not a lot. 4 Common Terns but nothing else of interest over the
water. An Oystercatcher and a couple of Lsr Whitethroats. Many more Common
Whitethroats than last week

Millbrook Station area -
Cetti's Warbler heard from MVCP , Cuckoo over, Garden Warbler and Lsr
Whitethroat. Again several C Whitethroats, so a good arrival of those in the
last few days.

Barry Nightingale


The SPOTTED REDSHANK has always been a scarce passage migrant in BEDFORDSHIRE, occurring only very occasionally as it returns to or migrates back from its breeding grounds in northern Scandinavia and Siberia.
Steele-Elliott (1904) gives only two known occurrences, the first of which was a pair and one of which was shot and obtained, at Langford on 17 September 1856 and another 'obtained' in about 1870, whilst towards the middle of the last century, one was at Bedford Sewage Works on 13 April 1943.
Between 1951 and 1987, there was some 74 records (Trodd & Kramer, 1991), with most occurring pre 1960 at the sewage farms at both Bedford and Dunstable. Eight per cent or more of records have involved single birds, although parties of four birds have been recorded on three occasions: at Bedford SF on 2 September 1962, at Wyboston Gravel Pits on 18 August 1969 and over Barkers Lane Gravel Pit (now known as Priory Country Park) on 12 August 1984.
I have concentrated my study on records since 1976.........
A) The Records (all accepted by the Bedfordshire Natural History Club Scarce Bird Committee) 1976-2006
1976: None Recorded
1977: 1 record - Barkers Lane GP from 17-24 April
1978: 3 records - singles at Bedford SW on 30 April and at Radwell GP on 7 May and in autumn flying over Dunstable SW on 20 September
1979: None Recorded
1980: 5 recorded with 1 at Dunstable SW on 12 April, two at Radwell GP on 5 May and in autumn, singles at Radwell GP from 10 August to 12 September and at Harrold GP on 7 September
1981: 3 records, with singles at Radwell GP on 15 and 23 August and at Bedford SW from 1-4 September
1982: 3 records - singles at Girtford GP on 12 April and flying over Barkers Lane GP on 18 April and a very odd record over Blunham GP on 9 July
1983: 2 records - 1 at Barkers Lane GP on 18-19 April and one in autumn at Great Barford on 11 September
1984: an excellent year with 8 birds recorded - 1 at Radwell GP on 28 April followed by a party of 4 at Barkers Lane on 30 April and then 3 in autumn with 2 at Barkers Lane on 12 August and another at Dunstable SW on 6 September
1985: None Recorded
1986: 1 record - flying over Barkers Lane on 6 September
1987: an excellent autumn for the species with up to 9 birds recorded - 2 at Rookery Pit on 15 August were followed by 3 there on 6 September and another on 12 September, with singles at Dunstable SW on 31 August and 7 September and a bird at Stewartby Lake on 11-12 September
1988: 2-5 recorded - one over Priory CP on 3 April was exceptionally early with what was probably the same bird at South Mills NR on 8-9 April. An adult summer was then discovered at South Mills on 21 July with it or further singles at Willington GP on 7 August and Rookery CIP on 8 August.
1989: None Recorded
1990: 4 records - an adult in breeding plumage at South Mills NR on 17 June with a juvenile there on 7 September. Further juveniles were then seen at Rookery CIP on 15 September and 7 October
1991: another good autumn with up to 5 birds recorded - single adults in spring at South Mills on 2 April and 'in June' with autumn records involving one over Priory CP on 19 September relocated next day at Willington GP, two birds at Coronation CIP on 27 August, 1 in Rookery CIP from 1-4 September moving to Coronation from 6-10 September, with two then in Coronation from 10-15 September
1992: 3 records - an adult in transitional plumage at Coronation on 7 June, a juvenile there from 23-30 August and a further juvenile at South Mills NR on 9 September
1993: 3 records - an adult in breeding plumage at South Mills on 24 May ffollowed by a moulting adult at Rookery CIP on 11 July and another adult there on 3 September
1994: 2 records - a single juvenile was present by the River Hir, Arlesey, on 20 August with another at Willington GP on 12 September
1995: 5 recorded - 2 adult birds arrived at Dunstable SW late on 23 June and stayed until next day, with another 2 adults in Rookery on 26 August and a juvenile there on 5 September
1996: 4 recorded, all in Rookery Pit - a moulting adult on 7 August, juvenile on 7-8 September, a second juvenile on 8 September and a very late bird on 17 November
1997: another excellent year with 8 recorded - an adult in partial breeding plumage at Rookery on 22 April, followed by at least 7 juveniles in there from 19 August to 28 September, one of which visited Coronation on 27 August
1998: another good year with 8 birds recorded - at Rookery Pit, an adult on 22 July was followed by single birds on 2, 26 and 31 August and 3 on 5 September, with a very confiding and well-watched juvenile at Dunstable SW from 2-8 September
1999: 5 records - the only spring record was of a summer-plumaged adult in Quest Pit on 3 May whilst in autumn, return passage started with 1 at Bromham Lake LNR on 9 August and a juvenile at Marston Vale and Rookery from 29 August to 1 September. Two were in Rookery on 4 September with a final record over Priory CP on 26 September
2000: 2 records - a single over Priory CP on 17 September and a juvenile at Broom GP on 1 October
2001: 4 records - an adult summer at Willington GP on 10 May, another at Marston Vale CP on 23 June, a juvenile at Willington GP on 7 August and another at Octagon Farm GP on 28 August
2002: 2 records - an adult summer over Marston Vale on 11 May and a single over Roxton GP on 2 September
2003: 7 recorded - a single at Willington GP on 12 April was the only spring record. The first in autumn was a juvenile at Broom GP on 9 August, with 2 juveniles at Marston Vale from 26 August to 1 September, another 2 juveniles there from 23-27 September and a single at Octagon Farm GP on 24 September
2004: 2 records - an adult summer at Roxton Pit on 3 May and an adult in Rookery South on 10 August
2005: 5 records - the only spring record was of a splendid summer adult at Rookery on 23 April, with juveniles in autumn at Rookery on 1 September and in Marston Vale CP on 5, 17 and 29 September
2006: 4 recorded, with 3 in autumn and an exceptional winter record - an adult summer male at Broom GP on 29 June was followed by further singles there on 5 July, 15 August and exceptionally on 9 December.
2007-2010 - no data available
Taking the above records and study period, Spotted Redshank is virtually an annual passage migrant, particularly in autumn, with just 4 birds during 1976-1979, 33 between 1980 and 1989, a mammoth 47 during 1990-1999 and 26 from 2000-2006 - 111 birds in all. Spring passage is on a much smaller scale than in autumn with the earliest record on 2 April 1991 but with most occurrences during the last week of April and first week of May. There are a few midsummer occurrences. Autumn adults have occurred from mid July, with a typical peak of autumn occurrences from late August to mid September. There is a record from November and an exceptional one from early December whilst the maximum number of birds was the influx of 7 juveniles in August-September 1997
Lee G R Evans

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Is it mid-April or mid-May? Certainly makes one wonder

Back to summer again today with temperatures rising again to over 24 degrees C this afternoon. A light SE wind continued to blow, presumably responsible for the impressive array of scarce migrant birds that arrived in our area today.
Bedfordshire stole the show once again today with the lion's share of the scarcer birds, particularly the Broom area, and by the end of the day my county year list exceeded an incredible 160 species........
Steve Blain had discovered two SPOTTED REDSHANKS earlier in the day and as luck would have it, they were still present late afternoon. Despite getting delayed by over two hours on the A1 after a car and caravan overturned just north of Welwyn Garden City blocking two of the three northbound lanes, both birds were still on view when I arrived on site at 1630 hours. What I hadn't realised before I set eyes on them was that they were adults in virtually full breeding plumage - particularly smart and elegant with virtually all black head and underparts with fine white dappling on the upperparts and upperwings, dark legs and deep red bills. They were feeding fairly close to the road on the mud in the closer bays and upon kind invitation by the new site owner, I was able to obtain some outstanding views. Both birds were still present when I left at 1700 hours.
A GREEN SANDPIPER was often feeding with them, whilst other waders on the pit included two RUFF (the same two birds commuting back and forth from Peacock's Lake at Broom), 4 Little Ringed Plovers, 2 Ringed Plovers, 4 Common Redshank and several Lapwings. Other birds noted included a single Barnacle Goose with the Greylags, 7 Common Terns and 2 male Pied Wagtails.
I was mightily impressed by the new owner and spent nearly half an hour chatting with him; he has great ideals for the site and plans to construct a hide overlooking the pool; he is particularly nature conservation minded.
My next county year-tick came in the form of a full spring-plumaged adult COMMON GREENSHANK - feeding with a Common Redshank along the western shore. As I walked towards it, it called several times - announcing its presence with its loud 'teu-teu-teu' notes.
The three GARGANEYS were a cracking sight - two drakes and a female loosely associating with Gadwall towards the SW corner of the lake.
Several Common Terns were feeding over the lake but no Black Terns or Little Gulls and a walk back through the wood yielded my first GARDEN WARBLER of the year, along with 4 Willow Warblers and 3 male Common Whitethroats.
At last ! Today when I walked down 240 yards west along the track the male COMMON NIGHTINGALE was singing. It was still to the right of the track and favouring a thicket 25 yards in. Typically elusive as they usually are, it did eventually move about revealing its location.
Thanks to Keith Owen, ten minutes later and I was at Quest. Keith had discovered an exceptionally early WOOD SANDPIPER in the middle marsh section of the pit and as I joined him, it had just flown out of view into a dense reedy area on the railway side of the site. He showed me a nice video of the bird obtained before it flew out of view and after scanning the entire complex and seeing GREEN SANDPIPER, a summer-plumaged DUNLIN, single pairs of Little Ringed and Ringed Plovers, 2 Common Redshanks and 3 YELLOW WAGTAILS, I joined Lol and Bob in walking the mile or more around to the reedbed.
Andy Plumb and family appeared once we were by the railway and at 1855 hours we finally enjoyed views of the summer-plumaged WOOD SANDPIPER - my 160th species in the county this year.
Much later than I had envisaged, I finally rolled up at Ivinghoe, where Richard Woodhead had located a female Pied Flycatcher in Top Scrub early morning and Chaz Jackson and Jack O'Neill had relocated mid-evening in the same area. Despite many observers searching, these three observers remained the only lucky ones to connect all day and as I pondered my next move, I walked over to the sheep field and enjoyed excellent views of the 3 RING OUZELS (a male and two female-types) feeding just outside of the fenceline as you look towards the Beacon and SE slope. The male is present for its fourth day and this location seems to be that favoured by the majority of ouzels at the reserve this spring.
At dusk, the regularly roding WOODCOCK passed by the car park at 2030 hours but although I could hear it, I could not see it. Two Tawny Owls were also calling.
What will tomorrow bring?

Bumper crop of GRASSHOPPER WARBLERS at Sandy Smith NR

Great day yesterday saw more then expected, the Gropper we're fairly confiding and just about photographable.

1 Northern Wheatear
1 Cuckoo
2 Red Kites
4 Yellowhammers
13+ Linnets
18+ Whitethroats
6 Blackcap
2 Lapwing
4 Buzzards
2 Kestrel
6 Red-legged Partridge
4 Mistle Thrush
1 Treecreeper
6 Jays
8 Reed Buntings
Loads of the usual Sky Larks and Meadow Pipits


More WHEATEARS on Barton Hills

This morning a walk around Barton Hills NNR produced two Northern Wheatears, a male at the top SE corner between the gate and the fairy ring and a female on the top fence not far from the northern end. The male was also present yesterday whilst on sunday there was another male nearer to Plum Pudden This was a different individual as it was very brightly marked with a wide supercillium, the other being less bright with some buff on the grey mantle. Also had a Lesser Whitethroat in the scrub near the springs, and a lot of activity by pairs of Linnets. Twce have heard Tawny Owl calling in the distance from North end of reserve. Pair Bullfinch courting in TL03Z behind cemetery (Ian Kelly)

Broom Area this morning

A summary of this morning:

3 Garganey - (2m, 1f) on the main lake 06:30-07:30
Black Tern - on the main lake 07:45-0800
Ruff - on Peacock's Island
Pink-footed Goose - on the main lake
Common Sand - on Gypsy Lane East
Wheatear - female on west side of main lake

Another Ruff (reeve) on Derek Whites Eggs pit this morning too.

Steve Blain

LITTLE GULLS at Cainhoe Pits

Eight LITTLE GULLS were at Cainhoe Pits first thing this morning (Peter Soper)

Monday, 18 April 2011

BLACK TERNS early - LGRE Diary Notes

Most likely the last day of high pressure for a little while with the beautiful calm sunny conditions giving way to fresher SE winds as the day went on. As a result, some very early BLACK TERNS arrived in the Home Counties, including 5 at Calvert Sailing Lake and 2 at Rookery........
A party of 4 RED KITES drifting slowly east at 1140 hours about a mile SE of the village
Checking Gypsy Lane Pit early afternoon revealed the presence of a COMMON SANDPIPER - the first of the year in the county - along with 4 LITTLE RINGED PLOVERS, a pair of Ringed Plovers, 2 Common Shelduck, 1 Lapwing, a female Grey Wagtail, 2 male Pied Wagtails, 65 Sand Martins and a female NORTHERN WHEATEAR; also another Holly Blue butterfly.
(1300-1630 hours)
Spent a prolonged period on site, initially checking the main Dovecote Pit and then the riverine scrub along the Cycle Way and former railway line. Persistence paid off with three new additions to my county yearlist......
The main pit held no less than 7 LITTLE RINGED PLOVERS, 2 Ringed Plovers, 4 Oystercatchers, a pair of Common Shelduck, nesting Coots, a Common Tern and 35 Sand Martins, with the adjacent fields harbouring 13 remaining Barnacle Geese and 7 YELLOW WAGTAILS
Back to the Cycleway, a COMMON CUCKOO flew around calling - my first of the year - with the scrub adjoining the track and the old railway track yielding a host of newly arrived warblers including at least 5 COMMON WHITETHROATS, 12 Blackcaps, 5 Common Chiffchaffs and 3 male WILLOW WARBLERS. Several pairs of Long-tailed Tits were seen, with Robins, Common Blackbirds and Song Thrushes all already busily gathering food and feeding young. A COMMON KINGFISHER showed well along the river course.
Checking around the lake 500 yards west of the entrance, a female NORTHERN WHEATEAR was flitting along the fenceline, with single pairs of both Mute Swan and Coot present. Several Common Buzzards were overhead.
Sadly, but most likely because of the time of day, there was no sight nor sound of the male Common Nightingale present yesterday but after an extended vigil, I did eventually track down the EUROPEAN TURTLE DOVE - gently 'purring' from the two tallest Copper Beeches to the east of the lake. Also, shortly after 1615 hours, a male GRASSHOPPER WARBLER began reeling from a clump of hawthorn in the centre of a reedy area just east of the lake - both latter species new for me.
In the warm sunshine, butterflies were pleasantly abundant, with healthy numbers of Small, Green-veined and Large Whites, Peacocks and Speckled Woods, as well as 2 Holly Blues and single Red Admiral and Small Tortoiseshell.
I joined Keith Owen at Rookery late afternoon (from 1715) where two summer-plumaged adult BLACK TERNS were gracefully dipping over the water's surface catching insects much earlier than normal. There was also an influx of small waders in the drained pit including at least 7 LITTLE RINGED PLOVERS, a single DUNLIN, a Common Snipe and several Common Redshanks.
The drake GARGANEY was still present, associating loosely with 5 Shovelers and 3 Common Teal, with 1 pair of RED-CRESTED POCHARDS still showing, a pair of COMMON SHELDUCK and the two singing male Willow Warblers still near Jackdaw Bridge.
MJP joined us at about 1730 hours and within minutes I heard of a HOOPOE in Hardmead hamlet, just across the border into North Buckinghamshire. The bird had just flown into and out of Paul Nye's back garden and as I attempted to get hold of him, had flown on to a neighbours shed and then dropped down onto the grass playing area adjacent. All three of us decided to make a dash for it but despite taking just 12 minutes to get on site, the bird had flown from behind Paul's house and disappeared towards the Rectory garden 200 yards to the north. We all spread out, including Roy (Paul's father) and a birding neighbour living closeby (and later Dick Bodily) but despite an exhaustive search of the Rectory garden, the churchyard, adjoining gardens and fields, there was no further sign of the bird up until dusk.
A very attractive hamlet however and brightened up by sightings of a male GREY PARTRIDGE, a solitary late FIELDFARE, a RED KITE and two singing male Yellowhammers.
Most pleasing for me as it was a belated county yeartick was a hunting BARN OWL at 1945 hours, south of the village and in the vicinity of the Green Valley Farmhouse. Before it alighted on a post, it hunted the roadside verge briefly

Broom area today

Common Sandpiper and Green Sandpiper on Gypsy Lane East pits this morning, and a White Wagtail there this lunchtime. Now 16 Common Terns over the main lake, with a Lesser Whitethroat rattling in the hedge by the watch point (Steve Blain). Nearby, a RUFF on Peacock's Lake (Mark Thomas)


17 April: One female drumming consistently and calling occasionally in Ampthill Park this lunchtime. TL029385. On easternmost side of open area of the park calling from dead tops of tree 30m south of the ridge, moving into next group of trees on top of ridge and briefly drumming from another tree just within the wood at the bottom of the slope (Andy Grimsey)

17 April: ARCTIC TERNS briefly at Broom

4 ARCTIC TERNS in/out at Broom 15.15 (Steve Blain)

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Lingering FIELDFARE at Kempston Mill

Friday 15/4: A single Fieldfare in the Willows by the back channel close to the Mill bridge.

7 Blackcaps, 4 Chiffchaffs, 1 Willow Warbler and 4 Sedge Warblers (Dave Barnes)

First TURTLE DOVE of year

Friday 15 April: Heard Purring but Not seen, this evening, along the old railway line at Willington (Bob Golder)

Swabridgeworth Friday

15/4: 2 reeling male GRASSHOPPER WARBLERS, 2 COMMON CUCKOOS and 2 Common Whitethroats on other side of Sheering lower road scrape all by 0600 hours (Graeme j Smith)

Thursday, 14 April 2011

OSPREY north this evening

OSPREY north over Derek Whites Eggs pit 18.10 this evening (Steve Blain)

WAXWINGS over Wardown Park

21 trilling birds flew north over the park at lunchtime (13.38pm) following the river upstream (Mike Russell)

Singing FIRECREST still at The Lodge

The male FIRECREST was singing again briefly by the gatehouse/shop at 13:15 before flying over the road, per Darren Oakley-Martin.

Four RING OUZELS at Blows Downs this morning

08:34 14/04/11 RING OUZEL Blows Downs
four this morning; 2 in Half Moon paddocks, 2 on ridge by plateau (Rob Dazley et al)

BLACK-WIT still present

Black-tailed Godwit still at Derek WE pit this morning. Also Cuckoo by the A1 at Seddington (and which almost hit a car!)

Last night (13th) at Gypsy Lane East pits (Broom GP) there were three White Wagtails.

Steve Blain

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Another pair of PIED AVOCETS

Another pair of PIED AVOCETS were on the 'doughnut' island on the Dovecote Lake at Willington this lunchtime.

Earlier, the BLACK-TAILED GODWIT was still at Derek White's Eggs pit, viewable from the gateway by the A1.

Tony P

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Millenium Park yields four new species to Year List - LGRE

Well, following a number of April days breaking all previous records to 1892, cooler NW winds set in overnight bringing a much fresher feel to the weather. In fact, temperatures returned to near normal at this time of year, ranging between 8 and 11 degrees C. It did remain fine and dry however.
After an abortive attempt at the Arundel WWT Little Crake all day yesterday, I decided to concentrate closer to home today and birded the Three Counties. It was a very productive day.......
(midday to 1330 hours)
In an attempt to 'clean up' on a few outstanding common migrants that had appeared over the weekend, I visited Marston Vale and notched up my 150th species in Bedfordshire this year. I managed four additions in total - WESTERN REED & SEDGE WARBLER, COMMON WHITETHROAT and HOUSE MARTIN - but failed in my quest to hear or see the single Grasshopper Warbler that has arrived on site, mainly because of the freshening and cold wind.
I did a complete circuit of the reserve with a very impressive 22 singing male WILLOW WARBLERS being recorded. Also seen were Sparrowhawk, several Barn Swallows and Sand Martins, 8 House Martins, 5 Sedge Warblers, 1 Western Reed Warbler, 1 male Common Whitethroat, 2 CETTI'S WARBLERS (the overgrown ditch pair), 9 Blackcaps, male Bullfinch and 6 Reed Buntings.
No sign of yesterday's early Hobby nor of a hoped-for Osprey (one of which did fly north over Southill this afternoon) and very quiet overall - just 4 Common Redshanks, the 2 singing male Willow Warblers by Jackdaw Bridge and a male Blackcap. Of interest, Black-headed Gulls numbered 122 with the breeding colony now harbouring 45 active nests.
No luck with any Common Cuckoos but 18 Great Crested Grebes loafing, 20 Sand Martins, 4 Blackcaps, a male Sedge Warbler (by the fishing lake), a male Willow Warbler, 1 Common Chiffchaff and Bullfinch all seen, as well as an Orange Tip butterfly.
 Lee G R Evans


A single winter-plumaged BLACK-TAILED GODWIT was at Derek White's Eggs A1 Pit just north of Biggleswade at lunchtime today (DOM & Steve Blain)

Monday, 11 April 2011

Willington today

Two Common Whitethroats seen singing during a before work walk along the old railway line at Willington GP's this morning returning via the southern path - one near the Nightingale bushes, [but no sound or sight of this species yet this year], the other near the stream along my return walk. Also plenty of Blackcaps showing, a few Willow Warblers, a couple of Chiffys and 3+ Bullfinches. A brief look at Homer's donut atoll on the main lake held a drake Wigeon, 3 R Plover sp~, 5 Teal but no Avocets... no wagtails on the sheep fields either and only 24 Barnies remaining, also 1 Oyk showing (MJP)


A single Ring Ouzel flew over the main lake and in to the hedge on the north-east side at 07:25 this morning. No sign since.

Also 6 Common Terns, 4 Shovelers, 4 Teal, Yellow Wagtail, Sedge Warbler around Broom GP this morning too.

Steve Blain

WAXWINGS still present in Luton

Whilst getting the car washed at Homebase in Bramingham Road, Luton, a small flock of WAXWINGS flew around and landed in surrounding trees; in fact they stuck around for me to count 21 in one tree. the flock got fed up of being pestered by 2 Magpies & then the flock took off grouping together make about 30+ birds (Darin Stanley)


Sunday 10 April: a male FIRECREST just outside the main entrance at The Lodge RSPB and a RING OUZEL on the New Heath briefly

Sunday morning: an excellent cooverage of the Pegsdon Hills

4+ RING OUZELS, male COMMON REDSTART, 6+ Wheatears, 40+ Fieldfares on Pegsdon Hills
so far this morning.

Steve Blain, Nick Cook, Andy Grimsey, Paul Anness, Stuart Winter

Meanwhile, Barry Squires had a female BLACK REDSTART on Barton Hills


Barry Nightingale discovered a pair of PIED AVOCETS in Rookery early Sunday morning and after they flushed away to the east after a brief period were later relocated at Willington Gravel Pits

Pegsdon Hills Saturday Evening

Saturday 09 April

Male Ring Ouzel, male Common Redstart, and 7+ Wheatears on Pegsdon Hills this

According to others there had been at least 3 (prob 4) Ring Ouzels and
8+ Wheatears there this afternoon.

Steve Blain

Saturday Evening: LITTLE GULLS in Rookery

There were 3 adult LITTLE GULLS in Rookery South Saturday evening of which 2 remained on Stewartby Lake on Sunday (Neil Wright, Martin Green, LGRE, et al)

Saturday Morning: 1 Lidlington RING OUZEL still present

1 RING OUZEL still this morning though elusive. It flew in from the road, sat in the top of a tree for 15 mins before disappearing in the direction of the road again; at least 10 Buzzards and 2 Sparrowhawks in area too (Andy Plumb).

Dave Odell has seen a Common Raven between Cranfield and Marston Thrift today.

Saturday morning - first COMMON WHITETHROATS start arriving

Saturday 09 April

A Common Whitethroat was singing and showing well along the Bedford - Sandy cycle
path just east of the Willington to Great Barford road this morning.

Earlier, a showy Grasshopper Warbler was 'reeling' from a small willow just
south of the path around WL9 at Marston Vale Country Park, until 07.30 at

Tony P

The Millenium Park - Saturday

A fairly quiet day on the MVCP on Saturday:

1 White Wagtail - sailing club lawn 8.30am

At least 20 Willow Warblers heard singing around park, I'd guess there was probably double that present.

Several Blackcaps singing around park.

2 C Terns on Stewartby Lake in the afternoon. Also 1 heard on lake this morning from my parents garden.

1 Red Kite seen over Stewartby tip at 3.50pm.

1 Oystercatcher seen between sewage works and Stewartby Lake about 4.30pm. Again also heard this morning over lake from my parents garden.

Another or the same White Wagtail seen from Jubilee Cottages overview at 5.55pm.

Gropper heard from path around 200 yards from Jubilee Cottages overview well about 6.30pm.

No hirundines seen all day...

Martin Green

Saturday, 9 April 2011

And yet more RING OUZELS

8 April: This morning at about 08.00 had two RING OUZELS at the top SE corner of Barton Hills NNR. One was a superb male which perched on the boundary hedge by the kissing gate and also fed on the ground. The other was only seen briefly then flew off calling loudly towards Hexton estate woods and I didnt get a view of its breast but suspect it was a female. The male moved off along the line of the boundary hedge. Also saw good numbers of Chiffy and Willow Warbler and far more Blackcaps than on Tuesday, with at least three pairs giving courtship displays.
Yesterday afternoon from top field path saw at least eleven Buzzards simultaneously although some were in Hertfordshire. One was very pale and looked almost like a Rough leg from beneath but didnt have a white rump. Also of great note was that the Pasque Flowers are already showing very well on Plum Pudden Hill, I dont think I have ever seen good numbers (50 to 100) so early (Ian Kelly).

8 April: Another COMMON REDSTART

Female COMMON REDSTART on junction of footpaths at Oak Farm/ Old Bedford Road, Potton, grid reference TL 210 494 at 07:10.

Now around 110 Sand Martins in Sandy Heath Quarry.

The first [Common] Whitethroat singing on the new heath at The Lodge at 07:30.

Darrell Oakley-Martin

8 April: RING OUZEL at Broom

Martin Stevens had a RING OUZEL at Gypsy Lane East this morning. It was in hedges by the pit with a Fieldfare before flying off along the lane. 07.20

Incredibly early WHINCHAT

A glorious morning in the sunshine. Wigmore Country Park today

2 Common  Whitethroats (my earliests by a distance).
5 Wheatear (3m, 2f).
1 male WHINCHAT (a stonking individual).
3 pair of Linnet.
4 Willow Warbler.
3 Chiffchaff.
3 Blackcap

Mike Russell

Female COMMON REDSTART on Blows and more RING OUZELS

Friday 08 April: Female COMMON REDSTART today at Blows - showing very well in the same section of hedgerow as the male earlier this week - in the eastern paddocks - also 3 Northern Wheatears still
Otherwise, Keith Owen discovered three RING OUZELS this evening at Lidlington Hill, 150 yards along the Boughton End road and visible from the first gate (MJP and I joined keith and watched one of the birds - a crippling adult male - go to roost in a neighbouring hedgerow. This bird broke out into full song for a brief period - very rarely heard on passage.
I did a full circuit of the Millenium Park earlier but failed to locate any Western Reed, Sedge or Grasshopper Warblers but did manage 9 different singing male Willow Warblers and 1 Cetti's whilst Keith and I checked Rookery Pit South - a BLACK-TAILED GODWIT present for its second day, 3 LITTLE RINGED PLOVERS which later flew off east together, 10 Common Redshanks, 5 Common Teal and the 5 Red-crested Pochards; also great views of a sleeping Grass Snake and two more Willow Warblers

Thursday, 7 April 2011

BLOWS DOWNS this evening

A successful evening stroll on the way home tonight

Northern Wheatear - 4 males in the paddocks

*COMMON REDSTART - a male in the hedgerow above the Kingsbury slope

*RING OUZEL - two males and a female in the bushes at the top of the chalkpit

Rob Dazley


To continue the Wheatear theme there are 5 on the railway by Brogborough lake per Neil Wright and a Grasshopper Warbler reeling along the MVCP access track per Phil C

RING OUZELS at Pegsdon

2 Wheatears and 2 RING OUZELS below Deacon Hill around midday. The ouzels
flew off towards Large Dell. Also 2 Grey Partridges near the "weed research
area" - Tony Gill


Still one WHITE WAGTAIL at Gypsy Lane East this lunchtime. Also two Common Terns over the main lake (Steve Blain/Mark Ward)

WHEATEARS galore today

Group of 6-8 NORTHERN WHEATEARS along the bridle path 300m E of Cople Water End at 0930. Also three buzzards enjoying the sunshine.(Geoff Pickerell)

Summer is definitely here

Well British Summertime really did arrive today with temperatures in the Chilterns and elsewhere in Southeast England reaching a somewhat balmy 22 degrees C (72 degrees fahrenheit). In fact, after the remnants of yesterday's cold front finally gave way to high pressure this morning, the day was glorious.
Sadly, I was unable to take advantage of the conditions until after 1500 hours, but then made the most of it.....
The Rookery in the plantation at TL 273 113 held 18 active nests
There was no sign of the male Common Redstart in Incombe Hole this afternoon nor later this morning but noticeable was the widespread arrival of WILLOW WARBLERS - with 5 singing in Top Scrub and another in Incombe. There were also 5 Common Chiffchaffs in Top Scrub and at least two male Blackcaps, whilst later in the evening, Sally noted 7 Northern Wheatears on the adjacent meadow.
At 1800 hours, the superb male COMMON REDSTART was still showing very well at the eastern end of the Paddocks, flitting from the ground to the wire fence with the sun full on it. It could easily be seen from the new fencing bordering where the work on the new tramway is being undertaken
Thanks to a suggestion by Steve Blain, I finally managed to connect with WHITE WAGTAIL this evening - a nice male associating with 21 migrant Pied Wagtails on the short grassy field adjoining the new footpath to Dovecote Pit at Willington. The flock also held 19 resplendent YELLOW WAGTAILS - all bar one males. Four Meadow Pipits were also noted, as well as the 198 Barnacle Geese - and the pit held Oystercatcher (pair), Ringed Plover (pair) and Common Redshank.
At dusk, Darrel Bryant very kindly guided me onto 4 male NORTHERN WHEATEARS on the main plateau - my belated first in the county this year
Kind regards

Wednesday, 6 April 2011


Female MERLIN flew over the road by the entrance to the works at Broom GP this lunchtime. Very little at Gypsy Lane East, apart from 1 John Temple (Steve Blain).

And yet another CUCKOO

Third report of the day - and year - in the county, with one calling at the top of the old heath at The Lodge RSPB at lunchtime today, per Derek and Sarah Niemann. Furthermore, the male WOODLARK was singing there again

MARSH HARRIER at Dunstable Sewage Farm

A female-type MARSH HARRIER flew South in to Houghton Regis Chalk Pit at 10:00am (Andy Whitney)

BARTON HILLS this morning

Walk round Barton Hills this morning produced numerous Chiffchaffs singing, also a few Willow Warbler and Blackcap. Highlight was hearing a very distant Cuckoo call twice, but could not locate it. No sign of either Ring Ouzel or Wheatear. Near springs watched a Chiffchaff collecting nesting material and near cemetery saw a pair of Treecreepers. Much activity by Yellowhammers and Linnets on top of hill and numerous pairs of Skylark in fields to East. In chalk pit pair of Grey Partridge (Ian Kelly)

OSPREY North over Pegsdon

OSPREY north over Pegsdon Hills at 11am, per Andy Grimsey. Also two female RING OUZELS in 'Chack Valley' and male Wheatear on Deacon Hill.

BLOWS DOWNS this morning

Male COMMON REDSTART still, male RING OUZEL and 4 NORTHERN WHEATEARS all fairly near the sheds at around 9am. An ouzel (thought to be the same) seen to head off north high up at 9.30 (Nick Sinden)


4 White Wags, and 3 Yellow Wags are still on the workings at Gypsy Lane East, with a handful of migrant Meadow Pipits, this morning.

Last night (5th) at Willington GP there were 2 White Wags (on the 'donut' island), with 14 Yellow Wagtails, and 30+ Pied Wags on the fields. No sign of the flava type.

Steve Blain

NORTHERN WHEATEAR at Woodside Farm, Caddington

This morning at 07:00, Woodside Farm nr Caddington held a female Northern Wheatear, 5 Meadow Pipits and several Blackcap & Chiffchaff territories. The Wheatear was spotted flying into a young rape crop, where it promptly disappeared and would be impossible to find unless it flew again.

One the way to Harpenden, a single Swallow was over Gibraltar Farm (Pepsal End).

Jason Chapman

SEDGE WARBLER at Kempston Mill - and first CUCKOO

Singing SEDGE WARBLER in the reed bed at the mouth of the back channel just downstream from the bridge. Initially heard at 06:40 and then again on my way back past at 07:30.

Also 2 Grey Partridge, initially flushed close to the river where the western bypass crosses, but later alongside the bypass where it turns to head across to Great Denham (Dave Barnes)

Meanwhile, Pete Soper heard the first COMMON CUCKOO of the year - at Cainhoe Gravel Pits

Monday, 4 April 2011

A truly eventful day - LGRE Diary Notes - COMMON CRANE !

Although the day started off bright and sunny, strong and blustery winds soon set in from the west bringing in heavy cloud, pegging temperatures back and affecting searching of small passerines.
Being heavily curtailed in my birding activities all weekend (bar a twitch for my 4th Pied Fly at Blows Downs but my first for 22 years), I concentrated once again on the Three Counties, making every effort to catch up with the many migrants that arrived over the weekend.......
Once again, no sign of Chris Pontin's Willow Warbler in the tall Poplars beside the larger lake but three different singing male Common Chiffchaffs (one by the causeway between the two lakes, one in the Willows at the lake edge and another in the tall trees bordering the Pow Wow Lake).
The two baby Great Crested Grebes were still doing well on the small lake, riding on mum's back, with two pairs of Atlantic Canada Geese now nesting on the islands; also 11 Tufted Ducks still in residence with songbirds represented by 6 Wrens, 2 Great Tits and a Chaffinch.
Just as I was about to leave the site, David Bilcock contacted me to say that Paul Reed had just watched a White-fronted Goose arrive at College, so off I went.....
On my arrival at around 0900 hours, Paul's EURASIAN WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE (incidentally an adult) was showing very well feeding up along the bund, occasionally interacting with a single Greylag Goose that it had arrived with at 0810 hours. The bird was unringed and was very vocal, repeatedly calling during the half-hour or so of my visit.
Several pairs of Atlantic Canada Geese are now nesting on the islands at the reserve, as well as 8 pairs of Lapwing, whilst other species noted included a pair of Mute Swans, a single Great Crested Grebe (on the deep lake), a pair of Wigeon, 2 drake Shoveler, 36 Tufted Duck, the pair of OYSTERCATCHERS (not showing any signs of nesting yet) and 6 Common Redshanks; a Mistle Thrush was in full song.
A film set was once more being constructed in the pit so disturbance was a problem - all that was in there was 1 adult Mute Swan, a drake Shoveler and 12 Coot, with the surrounding trees harbouring 4 singing male Common Chiffchaffs and 2 Blackcaps.
I walked from the car park along the Ridgeway to Aldbury Nowers. NORTHERN WHEATEARS were very much in evidence today, with as many as 10 in the area, mainly on the eastern slope.
There were 3 jangling male CORN BUNTINGS in the small pieces of vegetation adjoining the fenceline, a pair of Yellowhammer, 6 Linnets, at least 8 Meadow Pipits and a minimum of 15 singing male Eurasian Skylarks.
The long-staying adult male RING OUZEL was still showing very well at midday, still pulling earthworms from the chalky soil just out from the wire fence in the sheepfield immediately SE of the Beacon and trig point. Thanks to Francis Buckle, I was also able to locate an additional female in the same area, the male frequently 'chacking' to her, whilst a male NORTHERN WHEATEAR was nearby in the rabbit warren area of the slope.
In the scrub between the car park and the S-bend were singing male Blackcap and Common Chiffchaff, along with my first WILLOW WARBLER of the year. The Top Scrub yielded a further male Blackcap and 5 more Common Chiffchaffs.
Hawking above the four pans were my first three EUROPEAN BARN SWALLOWS of the year in Beds - my 137th species of 2011.
I was driving along the old A421 towards Kempston at 1320 hours when I picked up a large bird flying just above tree height in a straight line from Marston Moretaine towards Brogborough. I screeched to a halt and got my 'bins on it and quickly confirmed my initial suspicions - it was a COMMON CRANE !
I scrambled back in the car and did a quick U-turn and raced back towards the old layby of Shanks & Ewans and waited for it. The bird was flying in a direct line and was slowly flying SSW - actually flying parallel with the new bypass perhaps believing it to be a river. It flew the entire length of Brogborough Lake and then gradually gained height as it approached the much higher ground of Brogborough Hill. It then glided around for a few minutes gradually gaining height before taking up a new line - flying parallel with the M1 and heading WNW. I lost it to view in the 'scope at 1328 whilst keeping RBA updated, as well as informing Simon Nichols, SCB, MJP and other interested parties of its progress. The bird was an adult with bright crimson-red on the crown and rich grey upperparts; it also had a few misplaced or missing feathers on its outer primaries of the right wing. The long trailing straight legs beyond the tail were diagnostic.
Simon informed the Bucks Birders and although the bird was not picked up by those in Milton Keynes or the surrounding area, Laurie Bryant managed to relocate it 32 miles to the west at Gallows Bridge later in the afternoon (more to follow).
At 1342 hours, Pete Smith's corking male YELLOW WAGTAIL was showing well with 3 Pied Wagtails on the grass in front of the sailing club - my first of the year in Beds (139). Virtually nothing else of note there though, particularly now with the wind blowing strong.
At neighbouring Quest Pit, just 9 Gadwalls was mustered up
The pair of GREY PARTRIDGE were still present in the field to the east of the village, feeding very close to the north side of the A603.
Despite Mark Ward and Nigel Willitts walking away informing me of their success, I was to spend the next two hours searching in vain for the male Common Redstart that had been present all morning and early afternoon in the Birch scrub 200 yards along the footpath from the entrance gate adjacent to the New Heath. It did call a few times but not persistently enough to allow Pip and I to locate it.
A nice selection of waders present including Lapwing, a pair of OYSTERCATCHERS, a pair of Ringed Plovers, 3 LITTLE RINGED PLOVERS (including a pair displaying), 6 Common Redshank and a single DUNLIN. A single COMMON TERN was new for the year (140), with 8 Sand Martins overflying the water.
Very quiet in the blustery conditions - 30+ Sand Martins being the only species of note
At about TL156 397 less than a mile east of Shefford, a flock of 84 European Golden Plovers was resting in a crop field south of the B658; several birds were acquiring partial breeding plumage.
Late afternoon saw me yomping up Deacon Hill which was well worth it as 'scoping from the sheltered fenceline at the top of the sheep field towards the trig point, I located a stonking adult male RING OUZEL feeding on the western slopes - a different bird to Steve Blain's female-type of Sunday. The bird was feeding unperturbed on the chalk slope but was alone - with no sign of the usual lingering flocks of post-migrating Fieldfares. I checked the remaining valleys and the slopes either side of the summit but there were no more ouzels to be found or surprisingly any Northern Wheatears.
As I was making my descent, news came through that my Common Crane had been relocated - some 32 miles to the west in central Bucks - so I was off in hot pursuit !
Just south of Rowsham and in Bierton, several roadside ROOKERIES totalling an impressive 85 active nests
Whilst waiting at red traffic lights, I had ample time to check out the resident pair of PEREGRINES and was absolutely stunned to find the male mounting the female actually on the nest platform - the first time I had ever seen either bird on the platform and raising high hopes of a nesting attempt this year.
Arrived on site late evening to find Simon Nichols and new partner, Matt Slaymaker, Tim Watts, Warren Claydon, Mike & Rose Collard and BBOWT warden Mick McQuaid all watching the COMMON CRANE at Gallows Bridge. The bird was standing (and feeding) on the remaining floodwater at the far western end of the main field and could be observed distantly from the two hides. The bird was a full adult as I had initially suspected, with very pale grey upperparts, the odd brown summer feather on its mantle and upperwings, a bright crimson-red patch on its crown, black forehead, face and foreneck and shaggy, voluminous black-tipped grey tertials at its rear end. Most of the underparts were grey, with its long legs also grey.
There was no evidence of rings at the distance the bird was observed, but knowing many of Norfolk's Common Cranes from previous acquaintances, I feel fairly confident that this is an adult from that population and perhaps one of the initial four birds that did its annual spring flyaround along the North and east Norfolk coast early this morning. Every spring we see a similar movement take place as the Broadland population eeks out new areas and displaces far and wide.
Whilst putting the World to rights with Mike, Rose and Mick in the hide, we were serenaded by the eerie but beautiful sounds of a male EURASIAN CURLEW out on the field behind. Two Brown Hares were also busy boxing. The COMMON CRANE remained until dusk on the pool, 'dancing' in display or posturing for a fight with several Atlantic Canada Geese that marched up too closely as the light faded
A truly eventful day

Male COMMON REDSTART at The Lodge this morning

Male COMMON REDSTART along the Firs trail from the Gatehouse at The Lodge RSPB Reserve this
morning, per Andy Schofield. The bird showed on and off for much of the morning but as the wind increased from the west and the sun went in, it disappeared and was not seen again (LGRE)

Sunday, 3 April 2011

BRAMBLINGS in Clophill garden

8 BRAMBLINGS on our sunflower feeders this morning - this is the 16th consecutive week we have had them in the garden, but usually just 2-4 birds (Roger Christopher)

Sunday morning: more RING OUZELS arrive

RING OUZEL and Wheatear on Deacon Hill, Pegsdon this morning. Also 30
Waxwings just below the hill by the Live and let live pub.

Steve Blain/Nick Cook

Ps Also 3 RING OUZELS on Warden Hill this am, per Paul Anness (with one
there yday, per Andy Grimsey)

Saturday Sightings: Broom Gravel Pits

Waxwing- 2 in Upper Caldecote, Hitchin Rd
Brambling- c10 Moat House Copse, high in trees and very mobile
Little Ringed Plover- 3 in Gypsy Lane west and 1 on the washout pit
also 2 Ringed Plover and 1 Green Sandpiper
Swallow- 1 over peacock's North
Fieldfare- 19 North
Golden Plover- 17 South!

Water/Rock Pipit- 1 over Peacock's heading East
Common Tern- 1 over Peacock's Lake
Yellow Wagtail- 1 over North
Sedge Warbler- 1 North of Peacock's in scrub

Matt- and the Peacock's Island Scrub Clearance Committee. MT, SB, NC, TW, EG, MS, DT.

Saturday Morning LOCAL MEGA: PIED FLYCATCHER at Blows Downs

Bob Chalkley discovered a fabulous adult male PIED FLYCATCHER in the paddocks at Blows Downs 10.50 Saturday morning - the first at the site for 22 years. It remained in the central hedgerow for the rest of the day eventually being admired by just under 60 observers.

Nearby, an extremely early male GREENLAND WHEATEAR was in the paddocks (LGRE et al), with three more NORTHERN WHEATEARS on the Top Fields (Rob Dazley)

Saturday Morning: RING OUZELS on Blows

Male and female RING OUZELS on the Kinsbury slope, Blows Downs this morning, per Rob Dazley 08.30

Friday, 1 April 2011

No Garganey, Common Tern or Yellow Wagtail


Although the forecasted temperatures of 20 degrees C did not materialise, the winds did veer more to the Southwest and were unusually strong for this time of year. It was fairly mild - and dry - but the blustery conditions that prevailed over much of the day did somewhat restrict searching for small passerines.
I had originally planned to have a comprehensive search for migrants, especially in Bedfordshire, where I was hoping to connect with Swallow, White Wagtail, Yellow Wagtail, Common Tern and other early arrivals but that all went pear-shaped when I received a call to say that a medium-sized petrel was on view in Berkshire and its identification was not certain.....
Having only seen the drake GARGANEY of suspect origin at Blunham Pit this year in Bedfordshire, I was keen to see Peter's pair that he discovered at Cainhoe West Pit this morning. Despite arriving on site late morning, the two birds were nowhere to be found, neither on the west pit or the more suitable reed-fringed pit to the southeast.
I did see a single drake COMMON SHELDUCK, 4 Common Teal and 27 Tufted Duck, along with a pair of Great Crested Grebes and 1-2 OYSTERCATCHERS and newly arrived migrants in the form of 15 SAND MARTINS and 2 singing male Common Chiffchaffs. A small group of 5 FIELDFARE flew east.
(This premier site is accessed from the Millbrook to Mill End road at TL 023 403, with observation best performed from the pit edge close to the Jackdaw Railway Bridge in the SE corner at TL 020 403)
Not quite as productive as of late with just 3 ICELANDIC BLACK-TAILED GODWITS remaining, 11 Common Redshank and a pair of LITTLE RINGED PLOVERS (actively displaying) present. On the ever-diminishing water of the main pit were 6 Great Crested Grebes, 2 Little Grebes, 10 Mute Swans (including 7 first-summers), 4 Common Teal and 76 Coots, with 5 Common Gulls resting and the hedgerow just north of the bridge harbouring a male Common Chiffchaff and singing male Blackcap.
Very quiet with none of the hoped for hirundines and just the single OYSTERCATCHER on the sailing club green
Just as I was about to move on to check the pits on the Ouse Valley, I was made aware of a petrel species that was being watched on Theale Gravel Pits in West Berkshire. Initially I believed it may be an April Fool's Joke, as inland petrel records in late March/early April are virtually unprecedented in Britain,  but after discussing the bird with several Berkshire birders that had been told about the bird and had already arrived on site, the fact that it looked like a LEACH'S PETREL made it even more remarkable. In any case, this was a bird far too rare to miss, and knowing that previous Band-rumped Petrel occurrences have been in early April, I made a hasty retreat from central Beds and made my way back to the M1....
Lee G R Evans