MONDAY 5 JANUARY
A light frost followed by a few fog patches, then a pleasant winter's day, with temperatures of around 6 degrees C and mostly blue skies
First thing, all 5 BULLFINCHES were feasting on white sunflower hearts in the CHAFFINCH HOUSE garden
Following Stuart Elsom's late Sunday afternoon find, I joined Jim Gurney, Martin Palmer, Pip Housden, Lol Carman and Bob Chalkley at 100 ACRE, MEADOW LANE in BEDFORDSHIRE, where fortunately the adult DARK-BELLIED BRENT GOOSE was still present and showing well. It was busy preening on the eastern shore with a couple of Greylag Geese and at 130 yards distance, an opportunity for me to photograph it was not to be missed. The Greylag flock numbered 116, with the Canadas much fewer in 26, but far more impressive was the 850 or so European Golden Plover wheeling overhead, and 450+ Lapwing. All of the usual wildfowl were represented (85 Wigeon, 25 Teal, 15 Gadwall, etc), as well as 4 Fieldfare and the pair of COMMON STONECHATS.
Three Common Chiffchaff were flycatching either side of Meadow Lane just north of the sewage works (two ringed) but there was no sign of anything tristis-like.
I then visited WILLINGTON, where I counted the BARNACLE GEESE flock - too far away to read any of the red rings but 425 birds in total - plus 1 Barnacle x Snow hybrid and 1 Atlantic Canada Goose. Great Spotted Woodpecker, 25 Redwing and 9 Common Blackbird were the only other noteworthy sightings here.
At HATCH, the large flock of winter thrushes was still to be found in the grass fields, as well as 2 GREY PARTRIDGE and 4 Red-legged Partridge; 8 House Sparrows were within the confides of the hamlet.
In UPPER CALDECOTE, I was more than delighted to find 27 TREE SPARROWS in the maize crop and adjacent hedgerow just north of the Briar Patch Nursery and Elizabeth Smith Veterinary Practise, as well as 17+ Yellowhammer, 20+ Linnet, several Reed Buntings and a Green Woodpecker.
At GYPSY LANE EAST, BROOM GP, I teamed up with Lol & Bob again, where we were to find 7 JACK SNIPE in one small area of sedge. Not much on the water other than 1 Greylag Goose, 8 Shoveler, 19 Pochard and 2 Mute Swan, with 76 Lapwing overhead. Neighbouring PEACOCKS LAKE was even quieter, with just 2 Mute Swans, 4 Greylag Geese, 15 Sinensis Cormorant and 44 Coot.
No luck with Little Owl at the SANDY SMITH NATURE RESERVE at CLOPHILL, but 90 Fieldfare, 2 Red-legged Partridge, Green Woodpecker, Reed Bunting, 5 Yellowhammer, Common Buzzard, 2 Common Kestrel and 35 Linnet were notable.
After staking out a few other 'target birds' and improving on previous photographs, I then concentrated my efforts in relocating Mike Campbell's GREAT GREY SHRIKE at GROVE. Parking by the church and lock, I ventured south along the west side of the Grand Union Canal to the farmland 400 yards south of where the pylons cross the area - the area where MC had seen the shrike on two occasions. But nothing - no sign of it - just 150 Fieldfare, 15 Redwing, 33 Linnet and a Sparrowhawk. I wandered further south towards Slapton, checking both sides of the canal, but still no joy - a needle in a haystack. Then bingo - a joyous Peter was walking back along the towpath - he had espied the shrike just 10 minutes previous just NW of Slapton - result! After 10 more minutes walking, I arrived at canal bridge 118 and there, across the field to the east of the canal, was the GREAT GREY - sat in good view on the telegraph wires. It remained on view for a few minutes before darting down into the hedgerow, presumably to roost - at approximately SP 927 212 - well into BUCKINGHAMSHIRE by about half a mile. Having been present for over a month, this bird is particularly wide-ranging, the map below giving some guidance as to where it has been seen during that time.
A PEREGRINE was roosting on a pylon as I walked back north to the car.
The adult ROSS'S SNOW GOOSE was still present at GROVEBURY SANDPIT, still feeding with 65 Atlantic Canadas and 6 Greylag, whilst the gull roost attracted in excess of 1,200 birds, including 937+ Black-headed, 71 Common, 53 Herring (primarily argenteus including several clean-headed adults), 67 Lesser Black-backed, 17 Great Black-backed, 5 YELLOW-LEGGED (3 adults, a 2nd-winter and a first-winter) and a first-winter CASPIAN.