MONDAY 24 MARCH
Feeling like winter again with temperatures struggling to reach 7 degrees C and a biting NW wind blowing........
In the CHESS VALLEY at BOIS MILL POND, the immature Sinensis Cormorant was still present, perched on top of the island, while at CHESHAM FISHING LAKES, a lot of migrant activity with the return of at least 18 Black-headed Gulls and at least 3 COMMON CHIFFCHAFFS singing (two on the South Lake and 1 on the North). Nuthatch and Coal Tit were in song, with Long-tailed Tits (pair), Robin (4), Wren (4), Goldcrest, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Dunnock, Song Thrush, Common Starling and GREY WAGTAIL all noted. The GREAT CRESTED GREBE pair were still on territory, with 8 Coot and 21 Tufted Duck also present. Across the road, LATIMER ROAD NUMBERS 1-49 held Common Starling (pair), Jackdaw (18), Common Blackbird, Chaffinch and House Sparrow (male chirping from guttering).
Another pair of GREAT CRESTED GREBE were at SHARDELOES LAKE, where also to be found were 10+ Little Grebe (several whinnying), the 3 Mute Swans (the male busily chasing last year's offspring around and the female incubating), 44 Atlantic Canada Geese, a pair of MANDARIN DUCKS, 12 Gadwall, 13 Tufted Duck and 54+ Coot. A noticeable passage of gulls with 7 Argenteus Herring present, 2 adult Lesser Black-backed and a single Black-headed, while a WATER RAIL was squealing from last year's nesting area. The 2 Grey Heron were still lingering, as were 34 Fieldfare and 26 Redwing, while new in were 3 singing COMMON CHIFFCHAFFS. Other species noted included Wren (4), Common Blackbird, Mistle Thrush (2 singing males), Robin (2), Great Tit (2), Stock Dove (4), Red Kite (5), Grey Wagtail, Green Woodpecker, Nuthatch, Common Buzzard and Common Magpie (6).
Leaving the local patch, I then headed north to BEDFORDSHIRE - the Rookery on the A1 roundabout at BIGGLESWADE NORTH now containing 24 active nests. Nearby, at GYPSY LANE WEST PIT (BROOM GP), the undoubted highlight was a migrant first-winter drake RUDDY DUCK - one of only 71 now left in the UK. It was showing very well at the north end of the pit, diving continuously at first before resting with one of the 2 Great Crested Grebes present.
This pit also held 4 Greylag Geese, 12 Tufted Duck, 4 Gadwall and 10 Coot, with the scrape to the north yielding Ringed Plover, 4 Stock Dove and 45 Woodpigeon. Across the road on GYPSY LANE EAST, waders were well represented with 3 Ringed Plovers, a LITTLE RINGED PLOVER (my first of the year), a pair of Common Redshank, a pair of Oystercatchers (one of them ringed) and a winter-plumaged migrant DUNLIN, while 12 COMMON SHELDUCK was a large gathering for inland.
Pair of Oystercatchers - the left hand bird being ringed
My first Little Ringed Plover of the year
A migrant Dunlin still in winter plumage
An impressive gathering of Common Shelduck
In addition, a single Little Grebe, 26 Greylag Geese, 26 Gadwall, 18 Shoveler, 2 Red-legged Partridge, 8 Coot, 84 Black-headed Gull, 20 Common Gull, 3 Lesser Black-backed Gull, Mistle Thrush, Wren and Goldfinch.
I then returned to SOUTH BUCKINGHAMSHIRE with an evening visit to SPADE OAK PIT (LITTLE MARLOW) hoping for a sighting of Mediterranean Gull. Despite a large roost, I could not locate the adult of recent days, but there were at least 430 Common Gulls (predominantly adult), 15 Herring and at least 5 Lesser Black-backed. All 3 GARGANEY (2 drakes) were showing well, feeding along the closest vegetative edge of the spit (see pix below), along with a Little Grebe (scarce here), 4 Common Shelduck, 4 Egyptian Geese, 115 Common Teal, 44 Shoveler, 3 Wigeon and 34 Gadwall. A COMMON CHIFFCHAFF was in song, as was a Mistle Thrush, while Green & Great Spotted Woodpecker, Ring-necked Parakeet (2), Red Kite (5), Stock Dove, 5 Pied Wagtail and 2 Song Thrush were all noted. A Red Fox was out on the spit.
As I walked back to my car, I picked up a raptor flying purposefully east at 1755 hours - pretty high in the sky. It turned out to be an immature male MARSH HARRIER - the first I have ever seen at Little Marlow.