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).

Monday, 14 November 2011

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.

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