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, 21 February 2013

Swiss Gardens LESSER SPOT

I succeeded in relocating the female LESSER SPOTTED WOODPECKER at Swiss
Garden today but no crests of any denomination were heard or seen. The LSW
was seen quite close to the "private - keep out" signed timber gate on the
right of the path from the roadside to the lake, i.e. on the north side of
the lake - this was just before 1pm. I got JG onto it and we watched it for
several minutes (and even took a couple of appalling record photos with my
pocket Lumex) before it flew east a 100m or so and we lost it to view just
as TP strode up to join us. Several Redwings were hereabouts and some
Siskins - the Snow Drops are looking great. A couple of Treecreepers and a
Nuthatch showed but tit numbers were low during my noon till 1.35pm visit.

After a satisfying GMG hot dog, I drove back to Kempston seeing a Red Kite
as I passed Sheerhatch Wood but then not finding, again, any Mandarin at
Kempston Mill tho' 40 Mallard were along the river here.

Martin J Palmer

Friday, 15 February 2013


The first good day in a long time, with beautiful blue sky all morning. Although the wind picked up and cloud gathered later in the day, it still remained dry, whilst temperatures recovered to about 8 degrees C.
I devoted today to BEDFORDSHIRE, birding there from mid morning until dark. It was an excellent day, with six new birds for the County Year - WAXWING, TUNDRA BEAN, RED-CRESTED POCHARD, Common Snipe, Ring-necked Parakeet and Little Owl.....
After countless attempts this year, WAXWING came easy today, thanks to young Stephen Northwood. All 10 wintering birds in AMPTHILL had now relocated from 'Mountain Ash' and the Mistletoe opposite the library to GLEBE ROAD - in fact, the large tree in the back garden of 'Copse Corner', almost on the junction with the main Bedford Road. Although there were no berries nor apples to be seen in the vicinity, the birds seemed content to stay put and afforded excellent views as they displayed to each other and occasionally went on flycatching sorties. I was very pleased to finally catch up with them, especially as they will be shortly migrating back to the Continent. Paul Wright was also instrumental into trying hard for me to connect - much appreciated Paul.
From Ampthill, I drove north through Bedford to RADWELL GP, stopping first by the A6 Pumping Station, from where Jim Gurney, Pip, Lol and Bob connected last night. No sign whatsoever - Chalfont St Peter birder John Edwards also joining me on the verge. I then drove round to where Peter had first found them - in fields to the west of the railway bridge. Again, no sign - just 71 grazing Mute Swans. It was time to do some hiking, so I parked up by the gated entrance to the fishing pits (at TL 008 582) and walked SSE along the footpath to around TL 014 575, from where I was close to a large flock of Greylag and Atlantic Canada Geese. The two adult TUNDRA BEAN GEESE were feeding tight to the trees on the west shore of the gravel pit and were showing well - the smaller size, long, thin necks, dark breast and neck feathers and relatively stunted bills being diagnostic of rossicus. They showed little orange in the bill, and one bird had that white rim around the bill-base that many Beans get. The legs and feet were bright orange, ruling out Pink-footed Goose.
The two fishing pits to the east of the footpath held large numbers of feeding wildfowl, including 91 Gadwall, 78 Wigeon, 42 Mallard and 83 Tufted Duck, whilst a visit to the Viaduct Pit added 22 Teal, 2 more Wigeon and an impressive 186 Northern Pochard. The 4 adult Bar-headed Geese were still present, as well as 2 Barnacle but there was no sign of the hoped-for Pintail.
Had a scout round for Common Kingfisher but no joy but good numbers of Lapwings on the flooded meadows.
Four miles to the west, I visited HARROLD-ODELL COUNTRY PARK (SP 957 568), where I quickly added RED-CRESTED POCHARD - 2 drakes and a female showing well from the disabled parking bays by the centre. Nine Common Goldeneye were also present, including 3 adult drakes.
Being on my route, I stopped off at PRIORY COUNTRY PARK again, where both the drake FERRUGINOUS DUCK and first-winter BLACK-NECKED GREBE were still to be seen from the hide (at TL 074 487) - also 46 Northern Pochard, 12 Great Crested Grebes and a Little Grebe.
Driving the CARDINGTON-OLD WARDEN road produced a PEREGRINE pair and 3 Common Kestrels, whilst fields by SHUTTLEWORTH PARK held 8 Stock Dove.
Joined Stuart Warren at SWISS GARDENS, OLD WARDEN (TL 147 448) but we were both unable to locate Jim's female Lesser Spotted Woodpecker. Plenty of Great Spotted Woodpecker activity though (drumming, display), a nice Common Treecreeper and a site record (for me at least) of 22 Coot on the lake. No evidence of Mandarin Duck though, another species I just cannot find in Beds this year).
Moving on to BROOM and COMMON SNIPE secured - 6 individuals being flushed from the flooded field just west of the A1 and east of the Gypsy Lane East Pits at TL 193 442 - a pair of Red-legged Partridges too. The Pits proper held quite a few duck, including 5 COMMON SHELDUCK, 22 Common Teal, 24 Gadwall and 6 Shoveler, with the West Pit (at TL 178 438) still holding the 3 'redhead' SMEWS.
Talking of Little Owls, I tried the regular Oak at SPEEDSDAIRY FARM, BEADLOW but nothing, just a Green Woodpecker for my efforts. To the south of the A507 at BECKERINGS PARK (SP 988 370), 220 Fieldfares and 20 or so Chinese Water Deers.
STOCKGROVE COUNTRY PARK LAKE still held NO Mandarin Ducks and the lake was still bursting at the seams with water and very muddy. Common woodland birds such as Jay, Great Tit and Blue Tit were seen as well as 15 Grey Squirrels.
SOUTHCOTT VILLAGE (LINSLADE) produced the long-lived female RING-NECKED PARAKEET of unknown origin, still roosting in the same hole on the last tree running west along the hedgerow (at SP 903 244). A flock of over 100 Fieldfares was also in the vicinity, as well as a single Goldcrest.
As dusk approached, I visited the lime kilns at TOTTERNHOE QUARRY, where I immediately located the LITTLE OWL pair - one of 3 reliable pairs in this part of the county.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

SHORT-EARED OWL still - MJP Diary Notes 12 February

Evenin' all !

Mid morning I spent half an hour at Woburn Road Wetlands ~ 7 Snipe, 5
Skylarks,1 Little Egret, 32 Wigeon, a Sparrowhawk but best were 4 Song
Thrushes together by a rail fence.

Jim Gurney rang me and I hastened over to Swiss Garden but two and
three-quarter hours later and I hadn't connected with his female Lesser
Spotted Woodpecker, nor his Kingfisher over the lake - good numbers of
seemingly all the small woodland birds tho' with Nuthatches, Treecreepers,
Goldcrests, Marsh Tit and the other four common tits all showing well as
well as both the larger woodpeckers.

Mid-afternoon I spent half an hour at the shelter by the feeders at The
Lodge - the banal souls who think it's ok to talk loudly standing outside
the shelter and/or banging their car doors eventually wore both my and the
patience of the initial glut of Siskins and Redpolls - At one time a dozen
or more of each were on the ground on my side of the rail fence and included
up to 7 Mealy Redpolls including two adult males and the orange-polled bird
recently mentioned by LGRE. The light was very dull and rather poor for
photography but I took a few more record shots. The interruptions tho'
eventually told and the great majority of the birds headed off not to return
by my departure

I then drove to Gypsy Lane, Broom - all three recent Smew were still present
on the west lake along with a couple of Shoveler and Wigeon. The east side
held a Ringed Plover, 7 more Shoveler, 8 Teal and 10 Gadwall as well as 5
Pied Wagtails.

From 3.40, I spent half an hour at Furzenhall Farm track, Biggleswade and
was well rewarded with very good close views of the recent Short-eared Owl
only about 100m from me at 3.55 and then a repeat performance at 4.05.

A brief look in at Willington toward dusk and in excess of 300 Barnacle
Geese were present in the westernmost of the sheep fields then, c4.45, I had
2 Little Egrets fly over the A603 at Cardington roundabout on my way home to


Sunday, 10 February 2013


With not much happening, and still recovering from my epic trip to Shetland, I decided to devote Saturday to some Target Birding in Bedfordshire. Although the weather was pretty inclement, I did manage a respectable 9 additions, the best of which was a SHORT-EARED OWL..........
It was very cold, grey and overcast all day, with intermittent rain...
Having not seen Waxwing yet in Beds this year, my first stop was in AMPTHILL where both Paul and Neil Wright had seen several feeding on Mistletoe berries late morning. Keith Owen had given it an hour just before I arrived but in the next half, there was no further sign of them - just a few common woodland birds.
I then had a conversation with Steve Blain who quickly convinced me that time would be well spent studying the array of REDPOLLS on offer at the Gatehouse bird feeders at THE LODGE, SANDY. He was not wrong. Many others had the same idea (including Bob, Lol, Pip, the twins, Barry Squires and Jim Gurney) and it was very busy and bustling, with doors banging, boots slamming, children crying. But, despite all of this, lots and lots of REDPOLLS and SISKINS visiting........
Lesser Redpolls have an annoying knack to change plumage in spring and at the end of a long winter, bleach out in their feather-ware. Many become much paler and take on an uncanny Mealy-like appearance. Just over 40 Redpolls appeared to be visiting the feeders and they were a right mish-mash, from beautiful adult males to very drab first-winters. The majority could be safely assigned to the LESSER REDPOLL bench, being typically dark, small, heavily streaked, uniformly marked on the upperparts and rump, small-billed and short-legged, but there were a number of others that simply did not fit that bill, being noticeably larger, bulkier, longer-tailed, paler, longer-billed and heavily cloaked featherwise in the nape and trousers. In fact, one was a classic adult male MEALY in full spring plumage, whilst another was very grey (mealy) in appearance and a safe bet. A bulky orange-polled individual was also clearly a first-winter MEALY, with two further birds showing enough characteristics to make the class of flammea. The birds were commuting between the Nyger feeders and the ground and performed very well on occasions, albeit frustratingly brief.
SISKINS numbered 30 or more, with a female BRAMBLING with the Chaffinches (1 of 5 apparently), as well as Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Coal Tit, Great Tit and Blue Tit.
Not that far away at BROOM, GYPSY LANE EAST GP provided me with my first COMMON SHELDUCK and RINGED PLOVER (pair), whilst all 3 SMEWS (two immature drakes and a female) were still showing at the North end of GYPSY LANE WEST PIT. No Merlin tho', as if there was any chance, and the nearby VILLAGE PIT failed to yield SB's 3 RCP of earlier in the week, just 44 Gadwall of note.
Anyway, just as I was about to drive away, SCB was on the phone - he had just found a SHORT-EARED OWL at the north end of Furzenhill Road on BIGGLESWADE COMMON. I was there within eight minutes and there it was - the Owl flying high across the road and into a ploughed strip. Fantastic! I quickly lost it though, as changing from binoculars to telescope saw it disappear from view. A male Sparrowhawk was standing in a neighbouring field, Steve and I then continuing to BIGGLESWADE COMMON SEWAGE WORKS, where we both saw 3 overwintering COMMON CHIFFCHAFFS (most likely abietinus-types from the sound they were all making), 3 Goldcrests and both Grey and Pied Wagtail.
By now, news had travelled, with Lol, Bob, Pip and Jim all on site. The SHORT-EARED OWL had flown back over the road and was hunting the large rough field with a BARN OWL, where also 13 Yellowhammers and 53 CORN BUNTINGS were seen. Two Little Egrets flew North over the Common too.
I then checked BLUNHAM LAKE at dusk but found little of note outside of 7 Shovelers. Good number of duck present though

Saturday, 2 February 2013

A real Red Letter Day

At Priory Country Park, the drake FERRUGINOUS DUCK and first-winter BLACK-NECKED GREBE were still present (per Dave Kramer), whilst at Brogborough Lake, 4 GREATER SCAUPS and the SLAVONIAN GREBE were still to be seen (Neil Wright et al).

Newly discovered were a flock of 12 adult BEWICK'S SWANS at Chimney Corner South (Andy Grimsey et al) and 3 adult WHOOPER SWANS with Mute Swans just south of Broom Village (Paul Howard et al), whilst all 3 SMEWS (all redheads), the male MERLIN and 2 Ringed Plovers were at Broom Gypsy Lane Pits (many observers).

Two different adult MEDITERRANEAN GULLS were seen at the roosts, with singles at Brogborough Lake and Stewartby Lake respectively.

Steven Northwood had 2 WAXWINGS in Flitwick in the Tesco's Supermarket car park.

Friday, 1 February 2013

Latest Bedfordshire Images

A fabulous selection of images from top bird photographer MIKE LAWRENCE - illustrating both the Priory Country Park drake FERRUGINOUS DUCK and BLACK-NECKED GREBE