THURSDAY 31 JANUARY
Well the last day of January went out much in the same vein as all month with very strong winds coming from the West and quite a few heavy showers. Temperatures remained constant at the January average of 7 degrees C.
Not a great day for me, with little to show from a dawn until dusk bash.....
In the CHESS VALLEY (BUCKS), 3 Little Egrets present but no sign of the Great White Egret in any of its normal haunts.
Then negative results on Jack Snipes - none at Broughton Trout Ponds, Lemsford Springs nor East Hyde. As news broke on the pager of a Great White Egret at WHITWELL CRESSBEDS (HERTS), I met John Temple sitting in his car at the East Hyde bridge - he had seen nothing either.
Anyway, just over 10 minutes later, I was at WHITWELL CRESSBEDS and no Great White Egret to be seen (nor observer) - just 6 Little Egrets showing well from the road, and 4 Red Kites hunting over a neighbouring field. No sign of a breeding pair of Common Raven either - a huge branch on one side of the tree having broken off.
I then moved over into BEDFORDSHIRE and drove around Linslade and Leighton Buzzard searching for Waxwings but with no joy.
STOCKGROVE COUNTRY PARK (BEDS) was still devoid of Mandarin Ducks on the lake but a photographer feeding birds on the bridge did fortuitously provide me with an easy MARSH TIT, at least 3 Coal Tits, 6 Great Tits and 5 Blue Tits.
I then did a long walk into WOBURN PARK (BEDS), where at the Abbey Lake (SP 962 325), I saw 2 Grey Herons, 2 EGYPTIAN GEESE, 4 Mute Swans, 1 Great Crested Grebe, 66 Wigeon, 3 SHOVELER (2 drakes), 31 Tufted Duck, 22 Pochard, 4 GOOSANDER (3 adult drakes and a redhead), 25 Coot and Nuthatch.
Thanks to some advice from Peter Smith, I eventually located the resident pair of AUSTRALIAN BLACK SWANS - at the far NW end of Upper Drakelow Pond at SP 950 336 - grazing with Atlantic Canada Geese. This pair had successfully reared three young last summer and were part of a UK naturalised population of just under 100 individuals. In Holland, the population of this species is even greater - clearly eligible under Category C. The Upper Drakelow Pond also held 8 Northern Pochard.
I then returned to BUCKINGHAMSHIRE with a visit to GALLOWS BRIDGE. Very, very quiet and very, very windy - the highlight being a small flock of 21 EUROPEAN GOLDEN PLOVERS.
CALVERT SAILING LAKE (NORTH BUCKS) was my last destination of the day and finding a sheltered spot in the SW corner, set forth on counting and scrutinising the gull roost. The roost was very impressive - and massive - with no less than 13,500 gulls roosting by 1720 hours when Warren and I gave up looking at darkness. The vast majority were Lesser Black-backed Gulls - 98% or more adult - with an incredible 6,425 click-counted. Herring Gulls were second most numerous at 4,100 (with perhaps 10% northern Argentatus) and Black-headed Gull in third place at 2,637 birds.
GREAT BLACK-BACKED GULLS numbered an impressive 216 individuals (again, 98% adult), with just 122 Common Gulls and just 2 YELLOW-LEGGED GULLS, an adult and a 4th-winter. None of the hoped-for white-wingers came in - the only rarity being CASPIAN GULL - an adult and a first-winter.
Passerines encountered included Green Woodpecker, 3 BULLFINCH, 2 Fieldfare and 5 Redwing.
Driving about a mile east of QUAINTON (BUCKS), a TAWNY OWL flew across the road at BLACKGROVE FARM at SP 765 189 - my first of the year.