SATURDAY 15 DECEMBER
After yesterday's rain, it was comforting to see Saturday dawn bright and clear. And, after a week with temperatures barely creeping above freezing, a relief to see double figures once more. In fact, by late afternoon, it was 11 degrees C, but then heavy showers returned.....
I did not do a great deal of birding today just mainly duck counting.......
DUNSTABLE SEWAGE FARM (BEDFORDSHIRE)
After stopping off there very briefly on two occasions during the week, it made a change to be able to have a relaxing look today. Thanks to John Tomlin and Johnny Lynch, who very kindly agreed to man the gate this morning, some 75 or so birders were able to savour the delights of the GREY PHALAROPE, now present for its third day. Once again, it was favouring the SW corner of the third pan, elegantly pecking at insects and flotsam on the surface of the warm water. Johnny Foster attempted a couple of images, despite it being some 100 yards away (see above).
Duck numbers had dropped since the freezing temperatures, such that today all I could muster were 2 Little Grebe, 3 Mute Swan, 88 Mallard, 44 Gadwall, 17 Shoveler, 18 Teal, 63 Tufted Duck and 22 Coot; JL and I also had a LESSER REDPOLL fly over us calling.
BUSHMEAD ESTATE, LUTON (BEDFORDSHIRE)
I met up with Darin and young Charlie, and after consulting the help of Andy Whitney and Andy Grimsey (thanks guys, and once again apologies for mixing you both up), checked the berry-bearing shrubs extensively covering the outer edge of the estate. Sadly, there were no Waxwings to be found, just a lot of winter thrushes and a Red Kite drifting overhead.
LOWNDES PARK, CHESHAM (BUCKS) (SP 958 016)
I then returned to home ground and set out to finish the duck counting duties for the remainder of the Chess Valley not already done. Lowndes Park Lake had now mostly cleared of ice and held 45 Atlantic Canada Geese, 8 Muscovy Ducks, 3 surviving Embden Geese, 86 Mallard, 9 Moorhen and 126 Black-headed Gulls, whilst the parkland yielded 2 Mistle Thrush and 6 Long-tailed Tits.
Chesham's Bury Lake (SP 955 015) was filling up with water again (after being dry for the best part of two years) but was birdless; CHESHAM FISHING LAKES (SP 971 003) however held 1 Atlantic Canada Goose, 15 Mallard, a drake Gadwall, 5 Tufted Duck, 21 Coot and 6 Moorhens.
Two WATER RAILS were showing well on the pool just by the footpath SE of the smaller lake, with 1 of 2 wintering COMMON KINGFISHERS there too and 3 SISKIN and BULLFINCH pair also. The adjacent Pow Wow Lake held 2 Mute Swans (the two first-years), 34 Mallard, a female Tufted Duck and 4 Moorhen.
At GREAT WATER, LATIMER (BUCKS) (SU 997 987), the biggest surprise was a redhead GOOSANDER, swimming just upstream of Neptune's Falls. Mute Swan numbers were down slightly at 16, with 113 Atlantic Canada Geese still accompanied by the single adult GREYLAG GOOSE (the sole occurrence in over 15 years), 18 Mallard, 18 Tufted Duck, 8 NORTHERN POCHARD, 2 Little Grebe, 56 Coot and 24 Moorhen. Three LITTLE EGRETS were fishing the stream east of Bois Mill, with 4 Mistle Thrushes, a single Fieldfare (the huge numbers now departed since the freeze) and 3 Goldcrests also encountered.