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, 30 November 2011

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

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

Monday, 28 November 2011

SHORT-EARED OWLS in record numbers


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


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

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

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


The female PEREGRINE was sat on the platform at midday


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Weekend Highlights

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

Saturday, 26 November 2011

OSPREY still

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

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

Friday, 25 November 2011

OSPREY still lingering

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

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

TUNDRA BEAN GEESE at Clophill - and still present today


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


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

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


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


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

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

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


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


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

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Weekend Highlights

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

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

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

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Juvenile OSPREY still lingers on

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


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

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

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Monday, 14 November 2011

Today's GANNET

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

OSPREY still lingering

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

NORTHERN GANNET loses its way in the fog


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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Since 1987, the following Northern Gannets have occurred -:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

Sunday, 13 November 2011


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

M J Palmer

Today's Highlights

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

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

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

Saturday, 12 November 2011

What an excellent day in Beds

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

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

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

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

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

Steve Blain

SHORT-EARED OWL at Willington

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

Stotfold CORN BUNTINGS flocking already

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

Another highly productive day of local birding


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

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


A single LITTLE EGRET was present as I drove past

(0945-1300 hours)

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

Large flock of PINTAIL at Grovebury

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

A busy day !

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

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

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

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

Per Steve Blain


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

Mid-morning CRANES

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

Friday, 11 November 2011


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

Thursday, 10 November 2011

MERGANSER still present

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


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

Wednesday, 9 November 2011


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

Another Red-Letter Day Locally


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

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


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


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

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


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

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


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

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

OSPREY still lingering

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


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

Monday, 7 November 2011



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

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


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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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


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

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

Latest Bedfordshire OSPREY ever

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

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Today's Highlights

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

Thursday, 3 November 2011

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

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

Richard Bashford

FIRECREST in Bedford

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

Tuesday, 1 November 2011


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