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

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