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).

Thursday, 31 January 2013

Still no Waxwing

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.

Monday, 28 January 2013

A pure drake FERRUGINOUS DUCK for a change

After a long sojourn away from the Home Counties on a 'Round Britain' tour, it was back to reality today and a rush round BEDFORDSHIRE, trying to catch up with those birds many of the locals had already seen.
Following yesterday's foul weather, I was rather surprised to see an overnight frost and by day, temperatures struggled to reach 5 degrees C. It was a nice morning but as the afternoon progressed, the wind increased and as darkness approached, more heavy rain arrived.
I was very pleased to get an early morning call from Andy Plumb, informing me that yesterday's drake FERRUGINOUS DUCK had returned (per David Kramer) so without any ado, it was there that I headed for first, meeting at the hide with MJP, Pip, Francis Buckle and Roy Nye. The bird was showing very well roosting with 64 Northern Pochards to the left  of the hide, mainly asleep but waking up every now and again. In terms of plumage, it was typical of an adult drake, with rich chestnut-red head, breast, underparts and sides, a much darker back and upper tail, and very conspicuous, heavily contrasting, gleaming white underparts. The eye (iris) was typically pearly-white, with an off-white (almost yellowish-white) nictating membrane. The peaked head shape was also spot on. It also preened for a short while, revealing a very conspicuous pure white wingbar.
Ferruginous Duck hybrids are a common sight in Britain and up to 70% of the claims relate to these and so I was keen to get a good look at the bill. Fortunately, the black was restricted to the nail only and did not extend around on to the bill flanges, thus ruling out any obvious signs of hybridisation. It did however show some bluish-white internal markings in the bill often associated with UK in-bred captive Ferruginous Ducks but as this feature occurs widely in the overall World population of the species (and is a feature of all Aythyas), I guess we can safely give it the benefit of the doubt and claim it as a genuine vagrant. Knowing that Welney Refuge had recently had a hybrid Ferruginous Duck (but a very good lookalike), I 'phoned Mark Thomas to ask him to check out the images of it on BirdGuides to see how similar it was. Frustratingly, my mobile then ran out of juice and I was unable to make any further contact with anyone during the day. Steve Blain later confirmed that it was clearly a different bird.
To the right of the same hide was a newly-discovered first-winter BLACK-NECKED GREBE, showing well just in front of the main island. Also seen were 8 Great Crested Grebes, 36 Mute Swans, 22 Gadwall, numerous Tufted Duck and Coot and the aforementioned Pochards.
Driving through WILLINGTON VILLAGE (BEDS) and just beyond produced a Sparrowhawk and at least 350 Fieldfares, with many more Fieldfares and a singing Skylark at the HATCH TURN. Just along ICKWELL ROAD in UPPER CALDECOTE (BEDS), a covey of 5 GREY PARTRIDGES was seen.
I then pulled in for the first of three visits to GYPSY LANE PITS, BROOM (BEDS) during the day, all three resulting in the failure to locate the regular wintering male Merlin - he was just nowhere to be seen. Stomping around the gravel workings did however yield excellent views of up to 9 different JACK SNIPES, this location certainly being one of the hotspots for this tricky-to-find winter visitor. Also recorded were 8 Stock Doves and a Meadow Pipit, whilst on the WEST PIT, a single redhead SMEW was amongst the wildfowl at the south end, as well as 4 Great Crested Grebe, 1 Little Grebe, 15 Wigeon, 36 Tufted Duck and 19 Pochard (3 Smew had been seen earlier).
On the other side of BROOM GRAVEL PITS and to the east of the B 658, a single (long-staying) adult PINK-FOOTED GOOSE was amongst 85 Greylag Geese in fields at TL 168 440.
In SOUTHILL VILLAGE (BEDS), I managed to find 5 TREE SPARROWS chirping in a hedgerow bordering the horse fields along with Chaffinch, 18 Greenfinch, Common Magpie and Blue Tit, but driving wistfully around BIGGLESWADE failed to locate any Waxwings.
Back to WILLINGTON DOVECOTE PITS (BEDS) and not that much to show for the walk - still 404 Barnacle Geese in the usual field with 3 hybrid birds intermingling with them - SISKIN, Robin and Mistle Thrush augmented the tally.
Both Roy and Francis had found a nice (showing) Bittern at the west end of BROGBOROUGH LAKE (BEDS) but by the time that I arrived, Martin and Pip had watched it drop down from the reeds and slither away from view. The GREATER SCAUPS were a great treat though but still the same three I had seen earlier in the month - the adult drake, first-winter drake and female. The SLAVONIAN GREBE was up the west end of the lake too, showing reasonably well in with a flock of Tufted Duck towards the NW bank; at one point, it got spooked, and flew a short way. A total of 31 Common Goldeneyes was counted, with 258 Tufted Duck and 11 Great Crested Grebes also logged. A pair of Bullfinches were noted too.
I then made a brief sortie into NORTH BUCKINGHAMSHIRE where at CALDECOTTE SOUTH LAKE (SP 888 346), the flock of 8 GREATER SCAUPS were still present, consisting of two fine adult drakes and 6 female-types. This is the largest single gathering ever recorded in the county, eclipsing the 6 seen at Boveney Lock on 10-11 February 1991. They were showing very well from the footpath that runs around the western shore of the lake. Very little else of note there, apart from a raft of 29 Tufted Duck.
Checked a few of WOBURN PARK'S LAKES (BEDS) but saw little of interest outside of 83 Tufted Duck, 3 Pochard and 8 Gadwall, whilst STOCKGROVE COUNTRY PARK LAKE was still frozen and totally birdless.
Better success came from WILSTEAD VILLAGE (BEDS), where opposite the entrance to ELMS LANE (LITTLEWORTH) at TL 079 442, I was very pleased to find 8 BRAMBLINGS - a species I failed to find at all in Bedfordshire in 2012.
The weather then got increasingly wet and I gave up for the day

Sunday, 27 January 2013


Mark Thomas discovered a drake FERRUGINOUS DUCK at Priory Country Park this morning, the bird remaining with a flock of Pochards until just after lunch time only.

A party of 6 BEWICK'S SWANS were also seen in the county on Saturday briefly, whilst large numbers of WAXWINGS still remain.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013


Dave Kramer found a smart drake RED-CRESTED POCHARD at Priory CP this
morning, with Pochards on the north side of the main lake until 10.00am at
least (per Tony P)

Monday, 14 January 2013

BRENT GOOSE bonus but the GREAT NORTHERN DIVER was really, really hard work

Well for days they have been predicting SNOW and this morning it finally arrived. With temperatures overnight below freezing, snow that began falling in the early hours had settled to a thin covering by the time I got up at 0600 hours and side roads were decidedly dodgy. At first, it was a mixture of sleet and snow, but by mid-morning, and with temperatures recovering a little, it fell quite heavily, so much so that by dusk, there was a widespread covering of up to two inches in the Chilterns Region.
I had got up early so that I could be in the hide at Foxcote before daylight but what a waste of time and effort that turned out to be. I did not know that Whooper Swans moved during the cover of darkness........
The access road between Maids Moreton and Leckhampstead was typically treacherous, with snow laying several millimetres thick. I was in the hide before daylight but there was no sight nor sound of last night's flock of 9 adult Whooper Swans, a party of the same size apparently at Drayton Bassett (Staffordshire) early on (per Graham Smith). In fact, there was not a great deal to shout home about, just a nice adult drake GOOSANDER....
Just 3 Great Crested Grebes, 21 Mallard, 22 Teal, 33 Wigeon, 8 Gadwall, 11 Pochard, 16 Tufted Duck, 8 COMMON GOLDENEYE (2 drakes) and 16 Coot counted, with a pair of BULLFINCH by the gate and 5 Common Blackbirds in the hedgerow NNE of the reservoir.
The Whooper Swans were not at Hyde Lane either, although the 20 Mute Swans (including 4 first-winters) were still in the cereal field to the south of the access track. Thirteen more Mute Swans were on the fishing pit, along with 1 Great Crested Grebe, 1 Cormorant, 7 Mallard, 7 Gadwall, 29 Wigeon, 52 Tufted Duck and 32 Coot. Four COMMON GOLDENEYE (1 drake) were noteworthy.
The cereal crop (covered in snow) also yielded a flock of 36 Eurasian Skylarks, 4 Meadow Pipits and just 2 Pied Wagtails, as well as 5 Rabbits.
Being back in the North of the county, I decided to finish off two of the main counts I had missed out on during my previous visit....
At CALDECOTTE NORTH, the logcall included 3 Cormorants, 1 Grey Heron, 11 Mute Swans, 4 Greylag Geese, 8 Mallard, 4 Gadwall, 6 Tufted Duck, 8 Great Crested Grebes, 10 Coot and 6 Moorhens, whilst across the dual carriageway on CALDECOTTE SOUTH, a single Little Grebe, a further 11 Mute Swans (including the family party of 4 juveniles), 29 Atlantic Canada Geese, 9 Greylag Geese, 22 Cormorants, 16 Mallard, 4 Gadwall, 5 Shoveler, 37 Tufted Duck, 24 Northern Pochard, 28 Coot, 6 Moorhen but NO Goosander or Goldeneye.
WILLEN LAKE SOUTH BASIN came up with the goods and had an impressive number and variety of waterbirds to see and count - most noteworthy being the 37 COMMON GOLDENEYE. The largest county congregation of Mute Swans too - 113 in total - along with 60 Atlantic Canada Geese, 29 Greylag Geese, 28 Mallard, 24 Gadwall, 2 Shoveler, 121 Wigeon, 220 Tufted Duck, 295 Coot, 9 Moorhen, just 5 Great Crested Grebe, 9 Cormorants and 35 Lapwing.
On the NORTH BASIN, an additional 6 Great Crested Grebes, 4 Little Grebes, 7 Mute Swans, 7 Teal, 8 Gadwall, 2 Shoveler, 35 Wigeon, 36 Tufted Duck, 6 Pochard and 71 Coot, with 6 COMMON SNIPE and 51 Lapwings showing well just in front of the hide.
The last of my counts was at TONGWELL LAKE (NORTH BUCKS) (SP 868 423) where an impressive 59 Gadwall were in residence; also 3 young Mute Swans, 16 Atlantic Canada Geese, 2 Greylag Geese, 2 Teal, 2 Shoveler, 26 Tufted Duck, a female Pochard, 22 Coot and a single Great Crested Grebe.
It was now time to concentrate on BEDFORDSHIRE, the first time I had visited the county this year........
In BROGBOROUGH VILLAGE, I saw Collared Dove and Carrion Crow, before joining up with Paul Wright at the Watchpoint at BROGBOROUGH LAKE. Paul had just watched 15 DARK-BELLIED BRENT GEESE fly in and they were still present as I pulled up in the heavy snow, swimming in the centre of the lake. They were all adult birds and had presumably been displaced by the onset of this cold snap, all remaining until at least 1112 hours, when Paul, Tony P and I departed the site (Jim Gurney, Lol & Bob and Chris Dreary also connecting).
As Steve Blain had stated yesterday, most of the huge number of Aythya ducks I had counted in November 2012 had moved on, and there was not a great deal in the way of other birds present. Highlights included the SLAVONIAN GREBE (in the NE corner), 2 GREATER SCAUPS, an adult drake and a first-winter drake (with Tufted Ducks close to the southern shore) and 27 Common Goldeneyes, with Cormorant, Great Crested Grebe, Coot, Mute Swan, Mallard, Northern Pochard (just 2), Common Magpie and 2 Greenfinch padding out the list.
The fields and hedgerows around SHEEPTICK END supported 30 Fieldfare whilst LIDLINGTON VILLAGE added Common Starling, Jackdaw, Robin, Pied Wagtail, 6 Common Blackbirds and a Song Thrush.
I was hoping for Waxwing at MARSTON VALE COUNTRY PARK but there were none to be seen - just several more Fieldfares, 5 beautiful BULLFINCHES, Green Woodpecker, Jay, Goldfinch, Woodpigeon, Dunnock, Great Tit and Blue Tit. The PILLINGE PIT had very few wildfowl other than Tufted Duck, Gadwall and Teal, but did have Grey Heron, Moorhen and large numbers of day-roosting gulls, including well over 400 Common Gulls (and 18 Lesser Black-backeds and 500+ Black-headeds).
As I entered the QUEST PIT, the snow got heavier and heavier and increasingly settled, and despite doing a full suite of the site, none of the 3 redhead Smew was found. Plenty of Pochard (42), Wigeon, Teal and Mallard, and 18 Meadow Pipits in the long grass.
I then spent an absolute age searching CHIMNEY CORNER SOUTH and NORTH PITS (at TL 035 445 and TL 037 453 respectively) for the juvenile GREAT NORTHERN DIVER that Tony P had seen only a short while earlier and had been discovered during the Great Duck Hunt yesterday. In fact, I was just about to give up when Chris Dreary espied it briefly as it dived underwater. It was in the centre section of the South Pit and lingering in the channel between the southernmost island and the reed-fringed edge of the next island to the north. It was incredibly elusive and once in diving mode, soon disappeared from view. Mute Swans numbered 73 on the Pit, seemingly attracted to feed.
By now, the snow was falling so thick and fast that I decided to abort and headed back home

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Some great finds during Duck Counting Day

Richard Bashford stumbled upon 9 adult WHOOPER SWANS first thing, as they dropped into Harrold Country Park for about 45 minutes. They then moved off west but were relocated at Foxcote Reservoir (North Bucks) late afternoon.

A GREAT NORTHERN DIVER was also an excellent find in Chimney Corner South Pit, the bird still being seen late afternoon at the northern edge (per Lol Carman). Lol also saw 3 redhead SMEW in Quest North nearby.

At Brogborough Lake, 2 SLAVONIAN GREBES and 2 GREATER SCAUPS, with 2 WAXWINGS at Common Farm (Mark Ward).

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Woburn Park and environs

Duck numbers in Woburn Pk this am reasonable, inc 129 Wigeon, 44 Gadwall, 80 Mallard, 77 Tufted, 112 Greylags, 6 Shoveler. I presume all last years off-spring from the Black Swans and Egyptian Geese have left the parish, as only the adults are left.

Big flock of Siskins swirling around Eversholt Lake. Impossible to count, but I estimated 180. On the lake itself not a single wildfowl. With other 'no birds' visits by other observers recently can only assume that something has happened to the water quality. Very strange

At Milton Bryan Pond 42 Mallards and 2 Moorhens, also various released exotics inc R C Pochard and about 4 Ferruginous Ducks.

Mill Pond 4 Coots and 6 Mute Swans

At least 40 Waxwings near Millbrook Stn at 11:00 am.

At Stewartby a Little Egret, Common Redshank, 11 G C Grebes, 8 Siskins, 13 Gadwall, a Wigeon and a few other bits and pieces. Of interest was a very pale falcon hybrid (female size) on one of the chimneys, which, for about ten minutes, was continually dive-bombed by the 'resident' male Peregrine.

Barry Nightingale

Meanwhile, Darin Stanley saw the male MERLIN again near Streatley, and a PEREGRINE, whilst 25 or so WAXWINGS were still present at Marston Vale, and the SLAVONIAN GREBE and GREATER SCAUP at Brogborough Lake. Steve Blain further reported both PINK-FOOTED GOOSE and MERLIN at Broom

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Plenty of action today: GREAT GREY SHRIKE highlight

A GREAT GREY SHRIKE was seen twice on wires east of the A6 opposite the turning to Streatley this morning (David Asquith; Peter Nash), whilst an immature male MERLIN was sighted south of Barton Hill Road (Steve Blain).

A drake PINTAIL was at Hollington Basin Pond (Mike Browning), with 3 redhead SMEW in Quest Pit (Lol Carman) and FIRECREST and BRAMBLINGS in Clifton village (Alan Outen).

Still lots of WAXWINGS to be seen including 6 along Silsoe Road between Flitton's Sand Road and Wardhedges (at TL 063 354), 60 at least in Shefford Road, Clophill (Tim Stowe), 12 at Stewartby Lake (Pete Smith) and 4 in Cainhoe (Peter Soper).