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).

Sunday, 16 November 2014


Immature on and around farm buildings at Portobello Farm, Sutton this morning, 09:45-11:30. Grid reference TL209473.

As he only lives about one mile away, Steve came along and captured some images here: 

We spoke to the farmer, Mr Reams, who was delighted with the bird and does not have a problem with people visiting. There is a parking space at TL211471. Please respect privacy, footpaths, etc, etc...

Darren Oakley-Martin

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

FERRUGINOUS DUCK at Brogborough Lake

Following a timely call from MJP, I made my way quickly north to BROGBOROUGH LAKE, where Stuart Elsom had earlier discovered a FERRUGINOUS DUCK during his monthly WeBS count of the site. MJP was still there when I arrived 35 minutes later and very kindly directed me straight on to the bird - isolated to the right of a throng of Aythya duck. Immediately, it was seen to be much smaller than the Pochard it was accompanying, with a characteristically peaked crown and long thin neck. It's plumage was 'ferruginous' brown throughout, albeit virtually black on the upperparts. These contrasted with the gleaming white undertail coverts, with little hint of any grey in the flanks (a typical hybrid trait). The long bill was primarily dark grey, with a slight bluish band towards the tip, while the iris was dark, indicating that the bird was either female or juvenile. I took a number of shots of it but at the distance viewed (230 yards) barely more than poor record in quality (see below). At no point did I see its wing bar nor belly but face-on, the bill was seen to be black restricted to the tip and not extending out on to the flanges - a perfect candidate in my opinion and not one of the many hybrids at large in the UK.

Whilst there, I took the opportunity to count the waterbirds present, logging the female GREATER SCAUP (image below), 172 Tufted Duck, 128 Northern Pochard, 28 Mallard, 248 Coot, 11 Great Crested Grebe, 4 Little Grebe and 7 Mute Swans

Autumn summary (by Martin Palmer)

Well, after a slow, poor year, Bedfordshire Birding finally took off in September and October – rumour had it Birders were leaving Scilly to twitch Bedfordshire – yup it was that good!!! At the end of August we’d amassed a paltry 179 species but now we’ve stormed on to 193, almost respectable but, alas, still down on recent years so we need a late surge to reach a creditable 200 species with just 7 weeks remaining as I type this.

Star birds were two County additions in the shape of a Barred Warbler at Blows Downs from 27th September (JL) and a Lesser Grey Shrike available late afternoon only on 10th October at Furzenhall Farm, Biggleswade (P+K Sims, MJP et al) with a confiding Hoopoe at Willington (RE) enjoyed by a few hundred observers during its 6-day stay..

As it’s been so productive, I’ve taken the time to add a few paragraphs on the species found in Beds during this exciting Autumn – mostly gleaned from emails sent to Bedsbirds:~
On 1st September, a Ring-necked Parakeet was seen at Sandy Heath Quarry and further singles were at Stopsley on 15th October and Eaton Bray on November 1st but an amazing dozen were seen heading south over Warden Hill by Andy Grimsey on 30th October. Stuart Winter reported a European Honey-buzzard at Warden Hill on 7th September (one of several records that will be subject to our local rarities panel adjudication). Our only Little Stint of the year was found at Grovebury Road SP on 9th September (JL et al). A Black Tern was reported from Stewartby Lake on 12th September, (per NW). John Cookson, per SCB, videoed a Wryneck in his Henlow garden on 16th September – see Bedsbirds Images blog. A Hawfinch flew over Biggleswade Common on 17th (RIB) and next day a ringtail harrier sp was reported from a train twixt Tempsford and Little Barford but was not relocated subsequently.

We now leap forward to 27th September and, my oh my, what a find by John Lynch. The Barred Warbler performed well from time to time for the rest of the day as crowds amassed on the slope above the paddocks at Blows Downs, Dunstable. Moreover, this first for Bedfordshire continued to show on a daily basis through to at least 3rd October but was only perhaps glimpsed on 4th and I recall a single report for 5th but most people visiting over that weekend went away disappointed. There are some super photographs of this bird on the blog.

At “Derek White’s Eggs (Bev’s) Pit, just off the A1 north of Biggleswade, SCB glimpsed what was very likely a Spotted Crake on September 29th but despite much searching it failed to materialize again – another for adjudication by the local panel. Another brief unconfirmed sighting was of a Grey Plover flushed from Sandy Heath Quarry on 1st October. JL came up trumps again with a Wood Lark passing Blows Downs on 4th October. Stuart Winter saw another at Sharpenhoe Clappers next day and DO-M saw one at Sandy Heath on 23rd – all subject to notes submission. On 5th October, Richard Bashford heard some Bearded Tits calling at Rookery South ClP and proceeded to find a total of at least 28 Beardies there – an amazing number for the County.

Despite the Barred Warbler and Lesser Grey Shrike topping the bill, so to speak, most people’s favourite bird of October was the confiding and long-staying Hoopoe at Hill Farm, Wood Lane, Willington from 5th to 10th. A lady had found it in Cople on 3rd October and shown a photo she’d taken to local birder Steve Halton next day. OMG! SH contacted Willington resident birder Robin Edwards but their searches on 4th were unsuccessful. Undaunted, Robin took a stroll along Wood Lane to the south of the A603 on the Sunday morning and, on reaching the farm at the end of the lane, hey presto, voila, exotica personified. It promptly disappeared however and didn’t show again for about an hour whereupon it showed brilliantly until late on the 10th but moved on overnight.

The next new bird for the year was a Tree Sparrow seen by Steve Heath along Chapel Lane, Southill also on 5th October - no more here but two were seen along the Icknield Way, Streatley by SCB et al on 18th then one at Hatley Road, Potton on 28th (DO-M) and another n.w. of Upper Caldicote on 29th with 3 there on 30th (SCB again). On 1st November, MJP found 7 along a hedgerow n.w. of Upper Caldecote, a kilometre or so from the above site and, though there were none on show there on 3rd, up to 10 were present on 4th (MJP, SCB, LGRE et al). A Rock Pipit was at Gypsy Lane East on 7th October (SCB) and brief views of this species or Water Pipit were reported from the Pinnacle, Sandy vis-mig watch-point on 22nd and from Myer’s Farm on 30th.

On 10th October, Jon Palmer saw a Lapland Bunting at Galley Hill, Luton and perseverance by him brought good views of two there on 4th November. Steve Blain found two Lapland Buntings in flight during his lunch break on 3rd in the large stubble field immediately n.e. of Upper Caldecote – they were also seen in flight by LGRE et al later that afternoon but searching there on the following days brought plenty of farmland species to enjoy but no more Laps.

Around 11.30 on 10th October, Pete Sims found a shrike at Furzenhall Farm, n of Biggleswade. Kathy Sims joined him to see the bird and they put out an email at 2.17 to inform local birders of a presumed Great Grey Shrike being there. The news was broadcast on RBA pagers at 2.20 and Andy Plumb sent out some text messages to relay the news leading me to pick up Jim Gurney en route from Kempston. We arrived at c3.05 along with Andy Jackson who had walked down thro’ the Lodge. I raised my bins – aaagghhh, big fat mask etc, quick record photo and “bingo” the first Lesser Grey Shrike in Bedfordshire since a corpse found along the River Ouse on 25th January 1907 and prior to that an unsubstantiated record of one reported to the Duchess of Bedford at Woburn in the fist week of September 1894 - thus this was effectively another first for Bedfordshire. Much dialling, photographing and ‘scoping ensued through till almost dark, the quickly spread news enabling over 50 birders to see the bird. Regrettably, just like the Hoopoe, the bird decided to move on overnight and only sad faces were there on Saturday morning.

The 11th October brought the first Cetti’s Warbler ever to be recorded at Dunstable STW (per RD) and, on 12th, whilst doing his Webs count, RIB found a Dotterel on the large field west of the lakes at Radwell which remained with a large flock of Golden Plover and Lapwing until mid-afternoon enabling a few others to see this scarce plover. Amazingly, presumably the same bird was rediscovered just s.w. of G M Growers at Upper Caldecote on 16th October by SCB – this following a small plover with Goldies at nearby Gypsy Lane East GP seen by Martin Stevens the previous evening.

Stuart Elsom braved the heavy rain on the evening of 13th October to visit Stewartby Lake gull-roost and was rewarded by quite a few Little Gulls amongst the throng. The next morning was another red letter day. Firstly, Barry Nightingale found a Bonxie at Brogborough Lake c8.40am which stayed long enough for several local birders to see it before heading off n.e. at 10.30. Incredibly, RIB+SCB, heading over to Brogborough from Sandy, found another Bonxie heading north over New Road at 8.55 – and there had been two reported from Grafham Water that morning too. Tony Donnelly and Andy Graham then found a juvenile Gannet at Stewartby Lake at 12.14 which again stayed for some lucky witnesses to see it there before it too flew off n.e. around 1.45pm.

Jon Palmer found a Great Grey Shrike along wires beside the Icknield Way, Streatley on 19th October but, presuming it to be last winter’s returnee, it was often elusive during its stay until at least 23/10 and was seen there again by JP on 30th. Another GGS was seen by Bob Hook and Neil Wright near Boughton End during a vis-mig session and, well done Jean Abbott, a third was nailed by many at Sandy Smith NR from 25th October into early November, though this one too could vanish for long periods.

A Short-eared Owl was seen by JL on vis-mig Blows Downs duty on 19th October and two further reports came on 6th November, from Roger Hicks at Henlow Grange and Bob Hook at Folly Wood, Lidlington, before another was reported from Knotting a few days later. SCB reported a Firecrest at The Lodge, rather a short-stayer it seems, on 21st the same day that MJP found a female Scaup at Brogborough Lake which is still present this afternoon after periods of absence in the intervening three weeks. Another record for the rarities panel’s adjudication is the Leach’s Petrel seen near dusk and only very briefly at Stewartby Lake on the evening of 21st (MJP). Two Whooper Swans visited Priory CPk on 23rd October (TP), a Bearded Tit was heard at Quest ClP on 26th (SE) and five “brown-head” Goosander were seen at nearby Chimney Corner South ClP on 29th (AG).

Into early November now and a Common Tern at Stewartby Lake is the latest ever in Beds it seems (PS). And today, 11th November, a lunchtime ‘phone call from SCB took me dashing over to join Stuart Elsom at Brogborough Lake where he had identified a female Ferruginous Duck amongst the mixed raft of Tufted Ducks, Common Pochards and Coots. The female Scaup was also present there and our first Goldeneye of the winter here was also found.

The Ferruginous Duck is the 194th species for the year, with a few more subject to verification, so, after one of the worst starts in recent memory, up until the end of August that is, 2013 has redeemed itself and 200 is yet possible…… Species on the 2013 year-list but not yet recorded/accepted this year include Tundra Bean Goose, Bewick’s Swan, Green-winged Teal, Slav and B N Grebes, Shag, Hen Harrier, (Spotted Crake), (Leach’s Storm-Petrel), Spotted Redshank, Ring-billed Gull, Long-eared Owl, Waxwing, Wood Warbler, R B Shrike and Water Pipit (16).

Martin J Palmer 

Tuesday, 4 November 2014


I had 2 LAPLAND BUNTINGS this morning (winter male seen well and 1st winter seen briefly), with Skylarks and Linnets at TL097262 ie fields east of Warden and Galley Hills. I saw them at about 08:30 and then the lark/finch flock moved towards the Warden Hill trig point; 385 Golden Plover also in the area (Jonathan Palmer)

Elsewhere, Peter Smith confirmed the continuing presence of the first-winter COMMON TERN on Stewartby Lake - the latest-ever record in the county

Saturday, 1 November 2014


In addition to the regular Streatley adult GREAT GREY SHRIKE, a second bird has been showing for over a week now at the Sandy Smith Nature Reserve, east of Clophill. Like most individuals of this species, this latest bird is highly mobile and has a very extensive hunting territory; it is also difficult to get to within 100 yards of it - my best images to date....

TREE SPARROWS back on the menu in Bedfordshire......

Evenin’ all…. I went for a farmland walk between Ickwell and Upper Caldicote late morning and amongst a good array of passerines happened on at least 7 TREE SPARROWS in a hedgerow at TL160 462 – this is quite near but apparently not the same site from where a few were reported by Steve Blain some days ago. For those wishing to look for them, take the Caldecote Road east from Ickwell which becomes the Ickwell Road some way along it. Some 250m east of the Vets establishment there is room to park on a dirt pull-in just off of the south side of the road at TL1624 4584. A public footpath runs north from here and you should walk some 400m along it when you will reach a hedgerow running away to the west. Amongst the plentiful Reed Buntings and Linnets you should find the Tree Sparrows as well as the odd Yellowhammer and Greenfinch. Starlings, Mipits and, especially, Skylarks were all seen well either side of the footpath. Good Luck! I’ve sent Steve Blain a record photo of 5 of them to put on the Bedsbirds Images blog (Martin J Palmer)