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, 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