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).

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Great Grey Shrike goes to ground but LESSER SPOTS, FIRECRESTS and BARN OWLS make up for the disappointment


Another overcast and very grey day with temperatures hovering around 11 degrees C. Not much wind to speak of and dry.

My mind was quickly made up for me this morning on which way to go as Robin Edwards sighted a Great Grey Shrike at 0745 hours in Bedfordshire, just north of Upper Caldecote. Being an excellent county bird, I set off immediately but was quickly held up, as a guy lost control of his Astra on the A414 just east of the St Albans Park Street roundabout and overturned, consequently blocking the entire dual carriageway

After eventually getting through, I headed north up the A1 and as I was level with NORTON GREEN (HERTS), I noticed a dead BARN OWL in the central reservation, exactly 1.4 miles south of Junction 8.


Anyway, finally made it to Upper Caldecote. Several observers had already come and gone, including SCB, Stuart Warren and Lol & Bob. I joined Jim Gurney, whilst Jake Ward and wife briefly passed by. Robin's Great Grey Shrike had vanished - it was nowhere to be found. Jim and I split up and checked acres of farmland but to no avail - my highlight was a singing male CORN BUNTING jangling away from besides the B658 just north of the village at TL 164 466


On the New Excavations east of the road (at TL 182 435), waders included 4 Ringed Plovers and a winter-plumaged DUNLIN, with ducks consisting of 2 Shoveler (pair), 4 Gadwall and 6 Common Teal


Thanks to Jim Gurney, I was finally able to add EUROPEAN GOLDEN PLOVER to my annual Beds tally - some 220 of them consorting with Lapwings in the large ploughed field immediately east of the bund and former gypsy encampment site.


Exactly as last spring, a pair of LESSER SPOTTED WOODPECKERS was frequenting the trees surrounding the clayshooting compound at TL 046 355. Today I enjoyed 20 minutes of non-stop activity from 1110-1130 hours, the birds affording excellent 'scope views. They were initially mobbing a Great Spotted Woodpecker which was 'pick' -ing from the top of one of the trees. The pair of Lesser Spots seemed very interested in their larger cousin and were bobbing up and down the branches in quite a playful manner. The Great Spot then flew off to another tree and began drumming but this left the pair of Lesser Spots at the top of the tree pecking away at the buds starting to emerge. Although the male occasionally raised his red crown at the female in display, the two birds seemed more intent in feeding and did not call very much - only the female's occasional anxiety call. The birds remained on view for no less than 20 minutes, in the tree line at the back of the compound - the same place as last spring and I suspect very close to a chosen and reliable nest site. They were both still on view as I phoned Andy Plumb with the news.

In fact, woodpecker activity was very much in earnest in the wood, as I saw and heard a further 3 Great Spotteds and a single Green, whilst 5 SISKINS and a Common Treecreeper were noted in the footbridge vicinity.


My visit here lasted from just after midday to 1320 hours and was once again highly successful. At exactly the same spot as last autumn, I quickly found the two wintering FIRECRESTS - showing well in the ivy just inside of the wood and 50 yards before the metal gate. The male was repeatedly singing and affording excellent views as it flitted about low in the canopy. Although none were in the vicinity of the Firecrests, I did also see 3 Goldcrests - including a singing male 40 yards beyond the gate.

King's Wood also produced a BLACK SQUIRREL, my second this year and my first for the site, as well as a barking Muntjac, Common Treecreeper, 45 Fieldfare and 8 Yellowhammers by the farm.


Park at the far end of the Houghton House concrete road at TL 037 392 and then follow the road past the cottages, turning right just before the farm buildings. This main footpath then takes you past Kingswood Cottage and to the gated entrance to the wood proper. Walk past the information board and take the track to the right that runs parallel with the main track outside of the wood and then continue for at least 300 yards, passing two caged plant protection compounds on the left. You will then come to an area where a tree has fallen across the track and been chopped up, with 7 pieces to the left of the track and 5 to the right. This is the area and on the very outside of the wood, you will see some blue, yellow and red paper in amongst a lot of rubble bordering the main footpath on the outside of the wood. If you know the sounds made by Firecrests and the song, you should have no difficulty in locating them here.


A pair of BARN OWLS here was particularly welcome, one of three different pairs nesting in the vicinity.

The two GREATER SCAUP were still present (male and female), along with 46 Common Goldeneye, 422 Northern Pochard and 14 Great Crested Grebe - 22 Stock Doves also being of interest.

Nearby, on Brogborough Hill, several Common Magpies were tucking into a roadside Muntjac kill.


Two pairs of Mute Swan were in the vicinity, with 6 Little Egrets on the Chess, 2 Grey Wagtails, 2 Little Grebes and 6 COMMON TEAL


Joan Thompson and Anna Marrett stumbled upon an outstanding find today - the first nesting occurrence that I know of of COMMON CROSSBILL in the Chess Valley. The female was sitting somewhere within the high canopy of a tall conifer and was alarming loudly as a Jay passed closely by. I joined them late afternoon, the woodland also yielding two calling TAWNY OWLS, calling male Stock Dove, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Jay, Coal Tit, SISKIN, 5 Fieldfare, 36 Redwing, a pair of Common Kestrel and 3 singing male Goldcrests

GREAT GREY SHRIKE very briefly near Upper Caldecote

I passed the bird on the left hand side of the road as I approached Upper Caldecote around 07:45 and needed to turn back. I parked in the rough lay by just north of the "Rumble Strips Ahead" sign heading south into the village and walked along the verge. The bird was perched in the tree beyond the sign. I didn't have optics but was reasonably close - rang Steve Blain and the bird then flew south, low along the hedge line. I turned the car around again but couldn't see where it had gone and didn't have time to hang around. On my return from Biggleswade around 08:50, I again couldn't stop but didn't see it along the hedge line from the village to the road sign where it had flown (Robin Edwards)

Monday, 27 February 2012

Returning waders


Perhaps not as warm as during the weekend but still mild for the time of year, with temperatures reaching 11 degrees C. Very grey and overcast throughout and as dusk approached, some light rain fell.

Most of today was spent birding the Three Counties, concentrating mainly on those waders that have returned in recent days. I added four species to my Bucks Year List and just two to my Beds. Also spent time surveying Rookeries......


A male Song Thrush was in full song whilst 16 LESSER REDPOLL were still in the vicinity. The Rookery at LOWER PYEBUSHES WOOD held 47 active nests (at SU 963 896)

The gull flock was not able to settle in the hour that I was there but included just 400 Black-headed, 170 predominantly juvenile Herring, just 5 Lesser Black-back and 1 adult Great Black-back. There was no sign of the two Iceland Gulls from yesterday.

Red Kites were conspicuous by their absence, just 5 lingering around.


A bumper showing of waterfowl, suggesting that many had moved in from surrounding waters.

Most notable were GREAT CRESTED GREBE and GADWALL. Two pairs of grebe had arrived and no less than 62 Gadwall - one of the highest counts I have ever had there. There were also 4 COMMON TEAL (2 pairs).

Other species noted included 4 Little Grebes, 5 Mute Swans (the resident pair now nest-building and three of last year's young), 24 Tufted Duck and 58 Coot, whilst large numbers of roosting/washing gulls included an adult GREAT BLACK-BACKED (first record this year in my Recording Area), a local record 22 HERRING (90% juvenile), 12 Common and 96+ Black-headed.

Three Red Kites were lingering, Grey Wagtail, a singing male Song Thrush, Long-tailed & Blue Tit, 3 Goldfinch, Common Kestrel, a male SISKIN, Mistle Thrush and 3 singing male COMMON TREECREEPERS.


The Shardeloes Rookery numbered 13 active nests whilst that by the railway in Holloway Lane, Chesham (at SU 973 998) held 17; the Chessbury colony (at SP 957 013) held 16 and that in Chesham Vale at SP 962 023 numbered 33.


The pair of GREAT CRESTED GREBES present since January had relocated to the east end of the larger lake, with 2 first-year Mute Swans, 7 Northern Pochard, 9 Tufted Duck and 8 Coots also present.

Chris Pontin had seen up to 6 Reed Buntings here in recent days but there was no sign today.

On neighbouring POW WOW LAKE, the adult pair of Mute Swans was present and a male BLACKCAP was in quiet subsong in some dense ivy.


A large flock of winter thrushes feeding east of Hastoe Lane, including 240 Redwings and 40 Fieldfares.


College Lake yielded both OYSTERCATCHER and COMMON REDSHANK, single pairs of both having just arrived after wintering on the coast. The 'Oycs' were piping and displaying on the main island of the deep lake whilst the Redshanks were on the main marsh. Up to 8 COMMON SNIPES were on the marsh, as well as 18 Mute Swans, 9 Teal, 2 drake Shoveler, 57 Tufted Duck, 25 Pochard, 13 Wigeon, 48 Lapwing and a pair of Stock Doves.


At MARSWORTH, a single BITTERN was in the reedbed, along with a COMMON SNIPE, with 6 Great Crested Grebes, 1 first-year Mute Swan, 19 Shoveler, Green Woodpecker, 2 Grey Wagtails and a singing male Common Treecreeper also being recorded.

College's pair of Red-crested Pochard had relocated to STARTOP'S END, where 3 Great Crested Grebes, 5 Mute Swans, 31 Tufted Duck and 17 Pochard remained.

The extensive vegetated fringe held 6 Linnets and 8 Pied Wagtails, the latter perhaps migrants.

The first-year DARK-BELLIED BRENT GOOSE was still feeding away on the grass field towards Cemetery Corner on WILSTONE, with 77 Greylag Geese in tow and 2 adult Mute Swans.

Duck numbers were well down on my last visit with just 22 Wigeon remaining, 3 Mute Swans, 220 Teal, 10 Gadwall, 26 Shoveler, 38 Tufted Duck and 42 Pochard. The redhead SMEW was on here, as well as adult drake and female Common Goldeneye; 16 Great Crested Grebes were counted and active Grey Heron nests on the Drayton Bank now numbered 9.


I stopped off in Aylesbury and was delighted to find the female PEREGRINE sitting right inside the chamber, perhaps indicating that she is about to breed for the first time; the male was perched nearby.


Three noted, with two close together in Woodham and another just east of Kingswood Lane (all in SP 69 18).


A flock of 25 EUROPEAN GOLDEN PLOVERS flew over heading NW whilst after a lot of effort, I finally tracked down a recently-arrived male EURASIAN CURLEW (in the horse field opposite the entrance to the reserve). Three Brown Hares were in the vicinity.


The Rookery alongside the A418 south of Rowsham held a total of 12 active nests.


I decided to spend the rest of the afternoon in Bedfordshire, again searching for waders. First off, I checked 100 Acre Meadow, where 400 yards east of the bridge were 105 BARNACLE GEESE, the single long-staying PINK-FOOTED GOOSE and 5 EGYPTIAN GEESE.

A Sparrowhawk and Grey Wagtail were also seen.


No less than 307 BARNACLE GEESE were on the meadow and with them showing well, I decided to take the opportunity and read the red plastic rings. Over half of the flock seem to be ringed and I can confirm the continued survival of UB and BA (a pair), JA, CV, UN, UV, DF, DE, PH, PZ, CC, CJ, PB, NK, NS, FT, NV, AL, KZ, KH, KP, CB, CE and JP (incidentally in the order of each ring I read).

Dovecote Lake held 4 Great Crested Grebes, 4 Mute Swans, 86 Wigeon, 8 Shoveler, 56 Tufted Duck and 3 COMMON SHELDUCKS, whilst waders included an OYSTERCATCHER (my first of the year) and 4 Common Redshanks. A group of 7 Pied Wagtails was feeding on one of the islands.

The Riverside Walk produced both Green & Great Spotted Woodpeckers, 4 singing male Song Thrushes, a charm of 27 Goldfinch and a very nasal and wheezing male Greenfinch.

At DEREK WHITE'S PIT, Steve Blain's Black-tailed Godwit was long gone - just 7 Little Grebes worthy of note from there. Nearby GYPSY LANE PITS at BROOM produced my first local pair of RINGED PLOVERS of the year.

The last hour of daylight was spent searching for Golden Plover and Barn Owl but as usual, I failed to find either

Monday, 20 February 2012

MERLINS at Broom and Hatch

Three Crossbills around the Hill Fort at The Lodge this morning. Also an adult male Merlin on the west side of Broom GP at lunchtime (Steve Blain). What may have been a different Merlin was also seen at Hatch.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

MARSH TIT added - LGRE Diary Notes for today


An overnight light frost was followed by a cold, dry day, with cloud moving in from time to time and some long sunny periods. Temperatures reached 4 degrees C

My main target bird today was Lesser Spotted Woodpecker and with such a nice morning, I finally connected..........


(0800-1000 hours) After almost completing a full circuit of the reserve, a female LESSER SPOTTED WOODPECKER actually found me. I was alerted to her presence by the shrill piercing call, uttered from near the top of a Silver Birch tree. I quickly locked on to her and followed her movements for several minutes as she flicked from tree to tree. I then heard the male calling from a neighbouring tree and the two birds kept in close proximity for several more minutes. A couple walking their dog then approached and this sent both birds flying further into the wood and as I walked away, the male called loudly again.

The pair were in the Birches just left of the 4 tall Douglas Fir trees about 80 yards before the eastern end of the wood. The main track follows parallel with the outside perimeter track here.

Church Wood has consistently (for me at least) been the most reliable site in Buckinghamshire to see this species and a visit between February and April is likely to reap rewards. I have found the period 0800-0900 hours to be optimum. Last year though, I drew a complete blank here.

Doing a full circuit of the wood also yielded singles of both Great Spotted and Green Woodpeckers (no drumming as yet), an impressive 8 Common Treecreepers, 4 Nuthatches, 2 Coal Tits, numerous Blue and Great Tits, three separate flocks of Long-tailed Tits, Jay, 6 Goldcrests, 5 SISKINS, Wren and 120 Redwings at the east end (feeding on the understorey and leaf litter).


Despite little disturbance, the 2,000 or so gulls present did not appear to have anything interesting with them - just 73 Herring Gulls and 7 Great Black-backed Gulls. Charlie Jackson visited much later though and saw a 2nd-winter Iceland Gull and an adult Yellow-legged Gull.


My next 'target bird' of the day was CORN BUNTING. Following some excellent advice from local birder Warren Claydon, I checked the 7 stubble fields south of Saunderton. First off, I checked the long thin field next to the railway line at SU 823 972. In here, I found 8 Red-legged Partridges, 1 Skylark, 193 Linnets and 26 Yellowhammers, with a nice male BULLFINCH in the railway scrub. I then walked a whole host of what seemed like suitable fields but in the very last one I checked, the large stubble field at SU 824 977 east of the main A 4010, I located a flock of 200 Skylarks, 53 Linnets and 29 CORN BUNTINGS - the latter conveniently lining themselves up alongside each other on the overhead wires. This same field also held 5 Brown Hares and 8 Stock Doves.

These were my first Bucks Corn Buntings of the year........


Situated 3 miles NNW of Hemel Hempstead lies Water End Meadows, SE of Great Gaddesdon church and school at TL 033 110. One can park sensibly at SU 030 113 and walk SE alongside the Gade.

Dan Forder had photographed a WATER PIPIT here during the harsh icy conditions of last week and today the same bird was showing very well at the top of the stream, just yards from Hemel Hempstead Garden Centre. It was feeding with 2 Grey Wagtails and was surprisingly approachable, revealing its slate grey crown and hindneck and quite warm brown mantle and back. The white supercilium was bold and extensive and the white underparts evenly streaked.

Walking as far SE as the wooden bridge across the stream, I also added 9 Teal, 8 Gadwall, 2 Little Grebes, 8 Moorhen, 4 Coot, 1 Grey Heron and 1 Common Snipe.

Although Water Pipits were once an annual winter visitor to Hertfordshire, with up to 10 recorded, it is now a very rare bird in the county and to have two birds (this and the wintering bird at Tring Reservoirs) is quite exceptional.


A brief incursion was then made in to Bedfordshire where, upon driving north on the A5 NW of Hockliffe, I sadly came upon a dead BARN OWL (a species I have yet to see alive in the county this year). The bird was quite badly damaged but was ringed - BTO metal GR 32025 being the number. The bird had been hit directly opposite Fourne Hill Manor at SP 956 283 (record for Peter Wilkinson).


Had a quick look at Battlesden Lake but little of note - 2 Mute Swans, 4 Gadwall, 8 Wigeon, 5 Tufted Duck, 360 Black-headed Gulls, 40 Common Gulls and 15 Lesser Black-backed Gulls.


Walked down to the bridge at the north end of the lake and as SCB advised, placed some peanuts on the posts. Within no time at all, up to 4 different MARSH TITS arrived with the numerous Blue and Great Tits - my first of the year in the county.


Parked up at SP 936 342 NW of Woburn and took the bridleway leading across Aspley Heath on the east side of the main road. Peter Smith had earlier seen a pair of Common Stonechats here (a species ridiculously rare this winter) but despite criss-crossing the area as far north as the new plantation, only found 56 Linnets, a Chinese Water Deer and a male Muntjac.


Returning to North Bucks, visited LINFORD NATURE RESERVE in the hope of finding the Black-tailed Godwit that had been present the last three days. Despite scouring the bund high and low, there was no sign of it. Masses of waterbird present though, with 8 Grey Herons, 1 Little Egret, 35 Mute Swans, many Canada & Greylag Geese, 112 Teal, 312 Wigeon, 19 Shoveler, 20 Gadwall, 298 Tufted Duck, 184 Pochard and a drake Goldeneye.


Joined Keith Owen for the roost but it was poor; no more than 2,000 gulls roosting consisting of mostly Black-headed (including the adult leucistic bird), 500 Common, the usual adult MEDITERRANEAN now sporting resplendent black on the head and blood-red on the bill, about 50 Lesser Black-backed, just 15 Herring and not one Great Black-backed.

Two female-type GREATER SCAUPS were identified amongst the many Aythyas.

I then spent the last half-hour of daylight searching for Barn Owls but failed as usual; I also drove up to Cranfield Aerodrome where Dave Odell enjoyed excellent views of 4 SHORT-EARED OWLS 20 minutes before I arrived - at 1710 hours. They had been searching for Voles over the rough area at the western end.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Today's Highlights

Adult winter LITTLE GULL briefly on Gypsy Lane East pools before flying west towards main lake at Broom GP, 13.00 (Steve Blain); also SMEW still and first Ringed Plover of year (Martin Stevens)

Four redhead SMEW and the adult MED GULL still on The Pillinge (per Martin Green) and the 10 TUNDRA BEAN GEESE still at Blunham Lake

Thursday, 16 February 2012


A female Lesser Spotted Woodpecker was amongst a tit flock in the woodland east of the lake in Swiss Gardens this lunchtime. First seen by Jim Gurney at around 12:00 it was still showing nicely at 12:35 before we lost it in the tree-tops (per Steve Blain)

Tuesday, 14 February 2012


Brogboro' Lake (3.55 to 5.05pm with Chris Deary and, for a while, Stu Warren); 2m 2f SCAUP, a partially summer hooded adult MEDITERRANEAN GULL, 25+ Goldeneye, 3 Gadwall, only a dozen or so L B Backs, 4 Herring Gulls, good-sized roost of the smaller two common species of gull, no Bittern, 200+ Jackdaws low over, 5 Pied Wagtails over, [earlier the others had seen an adult Yellow-legged Gull and a first-winter was reported as well].

Stewartby Lake (5.11 to 5.25pm): a BITTERN flew left along the north-west shoreline past the gull watchpoint at 5.16 only 100m offshore giving great views, only 14 Dabchicks, no sign of any Smew recently present in brief search, negligible gull roost (MJP)

Little Barford 'GIPPO' flock now up to 7

7 EGYPTIAN GEESE in fields near Little Barford today (and the same number present yesterday morning, per Mark Ward), and three Goosanders on the river here today, per Jim Gurney.

TUNDRA BEANS still present

10 Tundra Beans, 7 Mardarins, Little Egret and 2 Goldeneye at Blunham Lake this lunchtime. (per RIB/SCB/IN)

Monday, 13 February 2012


The ten TUNDRA BEAN GEESE were again at Blunham Lake this lunchtime. Also 50 Teal (per Steve Blain)

Sunday, 12 February 2012

BLACK-TAILED GOSWIT at 100 Acre Field, Bedford

Despite 98% frozen, undoubted highlight was a BLACK-TAILED GODWIT. Over twice at different locations both times heading for the river. I have assumed it was the same bird and 111 of the Willington Barnacle Flock in the wheat field east of the old STW beds. Octagon Farm 100% frozen just a few BHG and 5 Grey Herons. Common Redshank heard calling over the STW but not seen mainly due to the misty conditions (Nick Cook)

Saturday, 11 February 2012

The Brickpits today - Steve Blain

As it was foggy this morning and the eagle appeared to have gone to warmer climes I spent most of the afternoon in the brick pits. Great birding but very few birders out enjoying it. Most pits iced up, with even Stewartby around a third frozen over.

Stewartby Lake:

Smew - 1 redhead
Teal - 40
Tufted Duck - 290
Goldeneye - 15
Hybrid Tufted X Pochard - 1 drake

The Pillinge, MVCP:

Teal - 260
Tufted Duck - 90
Moorhen - 27
Smew - 1 redhead
Common Scoter - female type still

Brogborough Lake:

Tufted Duck - 634
Pochard - 880
Goldeneye - 40+
Scaup - 4 (2m, 2f_)
Bittern - 1
Cormorant - 60 roosted
Yellow-legged Gull - 1 ad roosted
LBB Gull - 115+ roosted
GBB Gull - 3+ roosted
Common/Bh Gull - c.6800 (photographed an average portion of the roost, estimated that the whole roosted was about 20x the photo - the number of birds in the photo was 340)

Steve Blain

SMEW on Stewartby Lake this morning

Redhead SMEW on Stewartby lake, 11.40 (per Steve Blain)

WHITE-TAILED SEA EAGLE in Bedfordshire on 10 February

A visit to East Hyde had revealed the three Jack Snipe's showing well along the stream, but no sign of the Goosanders.

Shortly after turning back onto the B653 towards Harpenden, my girlfriend enquired what was soaring over the valley. Although obviously huge it took a few seconds to realise that it couldn't be anything other than an Eagle. A quick scan revealing a largely white tail, huge bill, and a pale belly, showed it to be an immature WHITE-TAILED SEA EAGLE. With a rising sense of panic/exhilaration I pulled into the layby by the water treatment works. We then watched the bird soaring low over the B653 and heading north where we lost it to view as it flew over the hill towards Hyde Home Farm and the Chiltern Green/Peter's Green area. The snow and ice covered roads were not exactly conducive to chasing Eagles, but with a four wheel drive managed to manoeuvre along several of the minor roads, but couldn't locate it again. The bird was in view for around ten minutes in total, and probably a 2nd winter, with no obvious wing tags or jesses. If the bird stays in the area many of the lanes have limited view points, but the road from Kimpton to Peter's Green has a couple of panoramic view points to scan from (Duncan Coates).

BEWICK'S SWANS at Wyboston - 10 February

Six BEWICK'S SWANS (three adult and three imm) at Wyboston Lakes, also a pair of Smew. Note this site is private so please do not trespass. The gate i slocked. However, for all you year listers out there, you can view the lake from a footpath from Little Barford. From Eynesbury Tescos, head south into Little Barford past the power station and over the roundabout, 100 metres further and there is a small line of cottages on the left. You can park on the right and take the footpath over the field (probably passing two Egyptian Geese...) and to the river. Walk right a little to view the lake across the river. Note, the Smew left the lake and are probably on the river so do check up and down. Good numbers of other duck in the ice hole on this lake and a Snipe. (RIB/SCB)

Heavy overnight show then a WHITE-TAILED SEA EAGLE


The region was blessed with another 3-6 inches of fresh snow overnight which meant birding for me was once again put on hold - roads had to be cleared

At 1359 hours, I took a call from a very excited Duncan Coates who was at EAST HYDE twitching Jack Snipes. Incredibly, a juvenile WHITE-TAILED SEA EAGLE had appeared from the Batford direction and was flying fairly slowly but steadily north over the sewage treatment works. It continued flying north along the course of the Lea but was lost from view five minutes later as it flew NE towards Peters Green and Luton Airport........A phenomenal sighting

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Today's Highlights

All 10 TUNDRA BEAN GEESE were back again at Blunham Lake today, with both the female COMMON SCOTER and 3 redhead SMEWS still on Millbrook Pillinge Pit. At least 2 JACK SNIPE remain at East Hyde.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Roosting gulls

Brogboro' Lake (4.05 to 5.00pm, with DHB, JG and latterly NW)

1 adult MEDITERRANEAN GULL amongst a few thousand BH and Common Gulls, just 9 argenteus Herring Gulls and 2 Lesser Black-backs1 drake Goosander, several Goldeneye, 1 drake Wigeon

other species as usual - most of the ducks were a long way off so we didn't look for any Scaup

Stewartby Lake (5.08 to 5.18 with DHB)

An amazing 42 Little Grebes in three tight groups mid centre of the lake, a dispersing roost of only a 100 or so gulls including 7 L B Backs which had all flown by our departure, the remainder being mostly Common Gulls with some B H gullsboth lakes completely ice free

Martin J Palmer

Marston Vale today

On The Pillinge at MVCP this morning, 3 redhead Smews, adult Med Gull, Redshank and Snipe, 150 Teals and Sparrowhawk. Good numbers of Tufted, Pochards, Wigeons and Gadwalls. In two fields near Husborne Crawley (SP965368), minimum of 27 Chinese Water Deer. (Barry Nightingale)

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Perched MERLIN

Having the opportunity to leave work in London early this afternoon, I decided to head north up the A1 to try for Jim Gurney's TUNDRA BEAN GEESE at Blunham Lake. I pulled up beside the lake at 14.45 and immediately saw the geese on the ice on the eastern side of the lake. Next moved onto Gypsy Lane West where the redhead SMEW was feeding in the ice free northern end of the lake beside the lay-by. Returning back along Gypsy Lane towards Hill Lane, I noticed what looked like a small raptor on telegraph wires above the unmade road leading to Brookland Farm. I pulled over and there on the wire was a stunning male MERLIN. Three excellent Beds birds in an hour and I didn't even have to get out of the car (Johnny Lynch)

River Ivel environs

Pair of GOOSANDER at Derek White's and redhead SMEW still on Gypsy Lane west (Richard Bashford)

TUNDRA BEAN flock back on Blunham

Jim Gurney reports that the ten TUNDRA BEAN GEESE are back on the ice at Blunham Lake, 11:45.

Furthermore, the first OYSTERCATCHER of 2012 was back at Broom GP yesterday, and Cetti's and two CORN BUNTINGS at Willington washout pit too (Steve Blain)

Millbrook Pillinge today

Three redhead SMEW still, two Pintail and the female COMMON SCOTER (per Steve Northwood)

EGYPTIAN GEESE now all together

Now six EGYPTIAN GEESE at Little Barford this morning. Broom fourjoining the Little Barford two I guess (Richard Bashford)

Sunday, 5 February 2012


4 Egyptian Geese and 1 Barnacle Goose with a flock of c250 Greylag in the field west of the G&M Growers complex (Matt Burgess). These are most likely yesterday's 4 birds at Stewartby.

Harrold and Radwell today

Six Pintail (two males) and a Dunlin at Harrold. Also injured Pink-footed Goose. Three Dunlin and a Ferruginous x Pochard at Radwell. Large Bunting flock by Radwell "grey phalarope" bit by bridge. Most Corn and Yellowhammers (Richard Bashford)

First significant snowfall of winter - BEWICK'S SWANS lost in freezing fog


Well the snow finally arrived. It started light at around 1700 hours on Saturday evening and then continued until 0300 hours on Sunday morning, the latter three hours producing the heaviest falls. No less than six inches fell in the Chilterns area and as a consequence, I was called in to work from 2100 hours. The M40 and M25 were complete no-go areas and by 2200 hours, both ground to a complete standstill as numerous lorries jacknifed. It took literally all night to clear the motorways, many Saturday night revellers being forced to spend eight hours in their vehicles. I personally helped over 250 vehicles to get on their way, generally automatic top-of-the-range Mercedes and BMW's.

I managed to get home at 0800 hours, in time to top up the birdtables. I then got some sleep. After that, I returned to Bedfordshire.


Very busy in the garden with 34 House Sparrows, 5 Common Blackbirds, 6 Redwings, 12 Fieldfares, 8 Goldfinches, 3 Dunnocks, 4 Chaffinches and the resident Robin feeding.

In Chesham, Chris Pontin had a female BLACKCAP in his garden


A Ring-necked Parakeet in a tree opposite the Red Lion public house was the first in the Recording Area this year.


JT informed me of 8 Waxwings in the estate but on checking the area, all I could find were large numbers of Fieldfares and Redwings


A lot of snow at East Hyde but surprised to see the lane completely salted and clear. An excellent selection of birds on offer in the stream including 1 Little Grebe, 15 Common Teal, 8 Moorhens, 1 GREEN SANDPIPER, 5 COMMON SNIPES and 3 JACK SNIPES - the latter all in the first 50 yards of ditch from the road and showing extremely well. No less than 8 Meadow Pipits were also attracted in by the open water.


Returned to Stewartby Lake, mainly with the idea of seeing Pete Smith's Common Sandpiper from yesterday. In stark contrast to yesterday, met just 3 birders - Barry Squires and Tim Stowe and his son.

As I was 'scoping one of the resident PEREGRINES on the chimneys, I heard the familiar sound of BEWICK'S SWANS and out of the misty conditions from the east came a herd of no less than 13 birds. No doubt due to the fog they were very vocal and their echoing honks could be heard from quite some distance. They seemed excited at seeing the open water of Stewartby and with 2 adult Mute Swans at the helm, they made brief splashdown near the sailing club. The resident 22 or so Mute Swans already on the lake took an instant dislike to them and in no time at all they were back in the air and by 1445 hours were heading northeastwards away from the lake. The herd included at least 2 juvenile birds.

The sailing club slipway held 3 DUNLINS and a COMMON REDSHANK but trying as hard as I could, there was no sign of the overwintering Common Sandpiper. There were quite a few waterbirds on the lake including 32 Great Crested Grebes, 23 Little Grebes, 39 Gadwall, 82 Wigeon and 4 Shoveler whilst other species noted included Great Spotted Woodpecker, 3 Bullfinches and a female Grey Wagtail.

In the reedbed in the NW corner, both the BITTERN and the COMMON KINGFISHER were still present, the former today frequenting the reeds on the opposite side of the bank


There was a massive gull roost at Brogborough this evening with over 1,200 Common Gulls present. Add to that some 2,600 Black-headed Gulls and the single adult MEDITERRANEAN GULL again, with the large white-headed gulls represented by 138 Herrings, 52 Lesser Black-backed, a single near-adult YELLOW-LEGGED and 21 Great Black-backed.

A huge number of wildfowl were also present including 11 Great Crested Grebes, 18 Mute Swans, 288 Coot, 18 Wigeon, 5 Shoveler, 42 Teal, 552 Pochard, 447 Tufted Duck, 48 Common Goldeneye and the 4 GREATER SCAUPS (2 drakes).

Three SHORT-EARED OWLS remained in the area but yet again, no sign of any Barn Owls

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Feeding WATER RAILS at a frozen Willington

Late afternoon I put quite a few sardines out at Willington on the ice next to the reed edge on the west bank, by dusk 4 WATER RAILS were feeding together on them with at least another 6 calling around the site. The wintering BITTERN jumped up in the NW corner at 4.40hrs and then at 5.05 flew down the lagoon toward the East bank before dropping in to the reeds in the middle of the east bank.

Other birds here today, L Egret, Kingfisher, Common Snipe, teal 118, gc grebe 4, wigeon 111.

Mark Thomas

Southill area

Lots of birds new in around Southill, mostly Fieldfares and Skylarks, a few big flocks of the latter between Southill and Broom. Also a big mixed flock of Skylarks and Linnets in the little set-aside fields just west of Broom. The redhead Smew looked rather lonely on Gypsy Lane West. A few Lesser Redpolls and a Bullfinch in Southill Millennium Woods and a Red kite over. About 40 Golden Plover in fields north of Southill, a far cry from the hundreds around at Xmas. A Woodcock flew over the house yesterday evening (Paul Donald)


Dave Kramer had a BLACK-TAILED GODWIT standing on the ice at Priory Country Park late morning but its stay was only brief

PINTAILS arrive in large numbers


Another very hard frost with temperatures overnight dropping to -7 degrees. Consequently, many water bodies are now totally frozen over. It was another freezing but bright day but cloud encroached from the west and as darkness fell, snow began to fall (the first real snow of this winter). By 1900 hours, two inches was laying in my garden.


Ice was the name of the day and very little of all four Tring reservoirs was unfrozen. Both Tringford and Marsworth were completely frozen over and consequently, most wildfowl and water birds were concentrated in small patches of open water on both Wilstone and Startop's End............

At STARTOP'S END RESERVOIR, 35 Mute Swans were amongst the birds crammed into the small ice-free area, along with 9 Shovelers, 25 Tufted Ducks, 5 Great Crested Grebes and 272 Coots

At least 15 House Sparrows were by Startop's Farm and 8 Goldfinches, whilst in the NE corner in the Bucks section, the first-winter male SNOW BUNTING was keeping close company with 2 Pied Wagtails

The first-winter DARK-BELLIED BRENT GOOSE was also in Bucks, the first time this winter it has been so. It was with 71 Greylag Geese and 83 Canada Geese 400 yards SSE of College Farm at SP 927 143 (in the second field along the lane).


Due to the Tring Reservoirs being largely frozen over and the fact that the deep BBOWT pit rarely freezes, exceptional numbers of wildfowl were present.

Although the highlight for me was the single COMMON SHELDUCK, numbers included 6 Great Crested Grebes, 2 Mute Swans, 43 Mallard, 53 Gadwall, 122 Common Teal, 223 Eurasian Wigeon, 173 Tufted Duck, 213 Northern Pochard and 5 female Common Goldeneyes.


The corvids present here were having a field day with a freshly dead sheep laying in the field. The two resident COMMON RAVENS were in attendance and giving orders but also busy rebuilding/repairing their nest or simply making a new nest, frequently gathering material and taking it back to a pine.

Stock Dove, Great Spotted Woodpecker and 40 Fieldfares were also noted.


It seemed like all of Bedfordshire's finest were at Stewartby and the Millenium Park today and for good reason - a plethora of birds were on offer, due to the Arctic conditions

The main attraction had been an adult winter LITTLE GULL that Paul Wright had found and had later been seen by Neil, Peter Smith and others. It quickly moved from the main lake to the sewage works compound but whilst I was on site, had somehow managed to give us all the slip by disappearing westwards with a group of Black-headed Gulls.

Next up was Paul's BITTERN, showing regally in the sunshine at the fore of the reedbed in the NW corner. Looking across from the west shore, it was just left of the two light green buoys when I espied it, but as the morning drew on, it disappeared back into the reed fringe.

Over in the Millenium Park on MILLBROOK PILLINGE PIT, Lol, Bob, Roy Nye, Tony Hukin and I observed an adult MEDITERRANEAN GULL in the throng of small gulls present on the pit. It was just starting to get a blackish ear-covert patch and an orange tip to the bill. There was an incredible number of Common Gulls roosting on the pit - I click-counted 342 - along with 3 Herring Gulls and 11 Lesser Black-backed Gulls

The female COMMON SCOTER was still present in the SW corner of the pit, along with the 3 redhead SMEW, 162 Common Teal, 54 Wigeon, 6 Mute Swans (family party, 3 first-years) and 3 Little Grebes.

Returning back to the main lake at Stewartby, following another sighting of the Little Gull, scanning across produced 23 Little Grebes, 32 Great Crested Grebes and 22 Tufted Ducks, whilst the inlet in the NW corner yielded Common Snipe, WATER RAIL and a nice COMMON KINGFISHER.

Shortly after chatting to Steve Blain on the phone, mostly about Pintails and some exceptional flocks of them, no less than 44 NORTHERN PINTAILS and 4 EGYPTIAN GEESE flew overhead, the latter coming down on the Sailing Club green and remaining long enough for Bob, Lol and others to connect.

Forty of the PINTAIL flock made landfall on the Pillinge Pit, with 15 dapper drakes amongst them (Mark Thomas had seen 56 over Willington and 8 remained at Radwell).

Peter Smith also saw Common Redshank and the overwintering COMMON SANDPIPER at Stewartby but frustratingly I didn't hear about them until later.


The 'Corn Bunting fields' held 11 Common Magpies, a Common Buzzard and 170 Fieldfares but no Corn Buntings !

Nearby, a pair of GREY PARTRIDGES were half a mile west of the village and another 6 were seen beside the B658 south of BROOK END NE of Greensands Fishery.


Steve Blain had seen 2 Shelduck and 3 Dunlin at Derek White's earlier but nothing of note was there when I visited in the afternoon but GYPSY LANE WEST LAKE retained the redhead SMEW and PEACOCK'S LAKE the single COMMON SHELDUCK, as well as 21 Mute Swans in one small area of open water


Still 3 SHORT-EARED OWLS and 2 COMMON STONECHATS present but no Barn Owl or Merlin


Returned to Marsworth late afternoon and enjoyed captivating views of up to 3 different EURASIAN BITTERNS, including 2 'scrapping' on the SW corner and one showing very well just standing forlorn and cold on the solid ice. The birds were very popular throughout the day with many observers obtaining photographs (see a nice selection above)

Two WATER RAILS were surviving the weather and were risking being caught by the no less than 7 Grey Herons standing on the ice, whilst the CORN BUNTING roost numbered 89 birds; a group of 18 Moorhens were together on Startop's

Alarmingly, many youngsters were risking life and limb by walking out on to the ice - some walking out over 40 yards. Total madness

Friday, 3 February 2012

Cold blast produces birds including record flock of TUNDRA BEANS

A great day in the county today, no doubt created by the arrival of the deep freeze.....

EURASIAN BITTERNS forced out into the open by ice included single at Willington GP (Mark Thomas, Lol & Bob), Millbrook Pillinge Pit (Steve Northwood) and the west end of Brogborough Lake (Lol & Bob), whilst Jim Gurney's flock of 10 TUNDRA BEAN GEESE at Blunham Lake remained all afternoon on the ice (Richard Bashford, LGRE, MJP, MT, et al). This is the largest flock ever recorded in the county.

SMEWS irrupted from the east with Steve Blain's redhead still on Broom Gypsy Lane GP West (MT, LGRE, MJP, JG, et al), with 3 more redheads on Millbrook Pillinge Pit (SN, LGRE), where the female COMMON SCOTER still remains at the SW end (SN, LGRE).

Dave Ball discovered 8 NORTHERN PINTAILS at Radwell, with 3 more at Peacock's Lake, Broom (MJP).

Two SHORT-EARED OWLS and two COMMON STONECHATS remain at The Wixams

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Increasingly cold weather produces SMEW

There is a red-head SMEW at Broom GP, on Gypsy Lane West pit this lunchtime. It was a bit skittish and flew as soon as it saw me on the east bank, but quickly came down again and was last seen sitting preening on the north bank of the pit at 12:45 (Steve Blain)
A few bits from while I've been away:A Ring-necked Parakeet was around Beeston from late 2011 until the middle of January. Unfortunately it hasn't been seen since the colder weather arrived. A photo can be found here:

A Ring Ouzel wintered in a Toddington garden and was seen throughout Jan and Feb 2011. Many thanks to Lawrence Jarrett for chasing this up, and for Brian Mander for giving permission for his photos to be published on the blog:

A male Lesser Spotted Woodpecker has been visiting a garden peanut feeder in Shefford recently. Again I have some pictures but need to get permission before I can publish them.

Steve Blain

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

COMMON SCOTER at Millbrook Pillinge

Stephen Northwood discovered a female COMMON SCOTER at Millbrook Pillinge this morning, an unusual record for early February