This blog is about all forms of wildlife I record around North Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes in particular. My main interests for 2012 will be looking for anything I've not seen before.

Friday, December 31

Happy new year and finally some Waxwings

Finally (made the effort/connected with) saw around 100 Waxwings on Century Avenue, Oldbrook at 15:15 today. They were actually landing on the pavement to eat the fallen berries, they would make easy photo's but not sure they'll be any food left by the morning.

May I wish everyone a very happy new year and a good year of wildlife watching in Bucks for 2011.

I'm still compiling my 2010 Mammal summary and will post soon.

Monday, December 20

Medbourne - Pink-footed Goose

Had a nice 'estate' tick this morning whilst driving the wife to work. Saw 4 geese at tree top height flying east into MK. Thought Greylags, job done, then realised the last one was well over a 3rd smaller, looked again and noted short neck and dark head, Pink-footed goose! Must be 'Pinky' doing the rounds.
(Car temperature gauge was -10oC)

Thursday, December 16

Walton Balancing Lakes - Mr Beardie !

A lunch time visit to see if I could connect with one of the male Bearded Tits for the first time. Nothing for 10 minutes, so I strolled to the 2nd hide but this lake was frozen with nothing around at all. I went back to the platform and 5 minutes later directly ahead of me I picked out 1 male and 2 female Bearded Tits. I then tracked the pair at least coming towards me, they showed to about 10 feet and finally the pair flew behind me (over the board walk) and into the next section of reed. From here it was difficult to view as this screen does not have any slats cut in. But from peering around the end of it I could still make out the birds feeding and moving . They showed so well I even managed to see the male has a long metal ring on his right leg, but alas not letters/numbers showed. One squealing Water Rail, a Robin walking along the ice under the Bearded Tits and a fly over Herring Gull made up the rest.

Tuesday, December 14

Short-eared Owl at Linford

A very pleasant year tick today at a local patch. Who said December birding was tough!
I looked at my computer at 13:00 and thought I'd not made any plans for my lunch hour, I had no jobs/chores/xmas/family to think of, so thought I'd give Linford a bash. Met old timer Ray Stroud walking back into the the car park from the reserve, after a quick chat of 'nothing about' and 'someone had defecated on the bench in the bird hide at Willen' (which was nice!) I plodded on regardless. First stop a scan of Swans Way from the Willow tree...within seconds I was watching a Short-eared Owl quartering along the road and ranging towards the canal. Cracking sight - forgotten how long the wings were. Did the ring round and through Nik (on his works xmas lunch) had a conference call with Ray to get him back on the reserve as he'd walked off to get the bus.
So I carried on into the reserve and soon met the noisy Siskin flock flying over head, estimated about 60 now (from what I could see). Then detoured back to Near Hide - {oh for a Bittern standing on the frozen ice} but no joy, the unfrozen patch was a bit bigger and Wigeon had replaced Teal as the most numerous wildfowl. A single female Goldeneye the pick. On leaving the hide a pair of Bullfinch showed really well with the male looking stunning in the December gloom.
Met Rob eager for his SEO tick in the car park as I was leaving. An hour later he'd text it was still there at 15:00. Job done.

Monday, December 13

Saturday - Thursley Common, Surrey

The weekend just gone was set aside for a family visit to my parents-in-law. Still on the hunt for a year tick I'd had my eye on the current overwintering Great Grey Shrike at Thursley Common. With my Bird Guides texts set to anything decent around the Hants/Surrey border I received a report that the Shrike was on 'Shrike Hill' mid morning. So after an early lunch I made the 10 mile journey to 'The Moat' car park and set off along the board walks and started the task of scanning anything that could hold a shrike above it. It wasn't going to be a easy. I eventually got across the bog, lots of it frozen, and to 'Shrike Hill' but had no joy in locating the bird. Best spots, or actually the only spots were 3 Green and 3 Greater Spotted Woodpeckers, 6 Fieldfare over and a flock of 13 Lesser Redpolls. A few Jays and a Mute Swan over made up the rest. I hung on into dusk in case any owls were about but none were. Annoyingly I got another text (later in the evening) of a Great Grey Shrike near my regular patch near Fleet - knowing my luck the same bird. Birding in Decembers tough!

Friday, December 10

Linford Lakes at lunch time

A balmy 4 oC greeted me at Linford today, actually felt warmer than that.
I headed for Woodland Hide and could hear a large flock of finches from some distance away. I saw the birds flying around in a large flock a few times. I finally picked out that these were mainly Siskins and around 80 in total, but very hard to see as they would have shown better from Swans Way near the sheep pens. A quick look from Near Hide produced a near frozen lake, but a hole behind the bund held 55 Teal, the main duck and a small number of Wigeon, Tufted and Gadwall were with the Mute Swans and a few Black-headed Gulls. The odd 'whistling' Bullfinch were also heard.
Other news around the city, the Scaup remains at Caldecotte. Waxwings again in Blakelands and Rob had a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker whilst doing his tetrad in Lathbury.

Friday, December 3

Garden Sparrowhawk

Nice surprise this morning to see a male Sparrowhawk perched on the garden fence above one of my peanut feeders. I had another male for over a week back in March and I alone observed him eat 5 Blue Tits. I wonder if this one will return over the weekend.

Wednesday, December 1

Lunch time

As I said at the beginning of the working week, I was going to use my lunch hours to maximum effect this week. So taking my life in my hands by trying to get out of the car park in CMK I set off to Broughton Grounds as I'd not been for ages and was hoping for some owl action. I then found out that they'd shut the road from the H5. So I detoured to Willen South (knowing Rob had already checked it out earlier) but after 60 seconds of that easterly wind in my work trousers and tears streaming down my face, I retreated to the car. I then headed back into CMK and gave another couple of laps of Lloyds Court and the Library but only Starlings were noted.

Tuesday, November 30

Tongwell Lake

Earlier in the day Rob had text with news of a small flock of Redpolls in the plantation at Tongwell Lake. So I took a trip over in my lunch hour. I soon located the flock feeding in alder about 50 yards along from the houses. Here I counted 13 at least and did note, as Rob had, that some appeared bigger and whiter than some of the 'gingery' ones. They were then spooked and all flew off and did a few laps around the top of the trees - here I counted around 25 birds.
Better do some more swatting up on 'Mealys' v 'Lessers'!
I then had a quick look along Wedgewood Avenue for yesterdays Waxwings but no joy.

Monday, November 29

Swans Way, Linford

With the days getting shorter and no chance of any birding before or after work, I'm making every effort to use my lunch breaks as effectively as possible to try and mop up some decent birds before the years out. Alas my mammal list is also drawing to and end.
First up another try for Short-eared Owls along Swans Way. No owls seen from my car but two Kestrels suggests the food chain is still active. I did get an email beep on my phone, which I didn't read at first, I then received a text from Simon a few minutes later to advise that 25 Waxwings were in a tree a couple of miles away at Blakelands, but I decided time was tight and stuck it out hoping for some owls.
Also the female Smew was still reported from Caldecotte.

Minus 9 !

With nothing on locally, Rob and I meet with Mike Wallen on the hills Sunday morning. Mike advised it was warming up as it was now only minus 7 compared to minus 9 when he left his house this morning. The regular Barn Owl was hunting along the Stoke Hammond bypass. A Little Owl called as we meet in the car park at sun rise. Lots of Redwing and Blackbirds feeding on the berries in the icy conditions, a distant Raven cronked and a Marsh Tit called from the scrub near the path. We did well for mammals with 14 dark form Fallow Deer, including a large stag with a find set of head gear and a Fox made an attempt for some of the rabbits but missed. Rob also found a fresh Mole hill (a mammal I still hope to see this year) dug that morning! Amazing how it had achieved this as the ground was frozen solid. We could not locate the recent male Ring Ouzel.
We then left Mike and headed onto Wilstone Reservoir. We were both amazed how low the water was. Also large parts of water were frozen. A Kingfisher, Redshank, 14 Golden Plover and drake Goldeneye were the highlights, but we couldn't locate the over wintering Water Pipit. We also meet another birder in a short sleeve t-shirt and jeans! When asked 'aren't you cold' his reply was 'it's a long story' - you Herts boys are nutters :-)
With time short (so we couldn't listen to this chaps story) we thought we'd have to check out Caldecotte Lake on the way home as Keith had text with a possible rare grebe earlier in the morning. Again large parts of the north lake were frozen. We found a female Goldeneye, a Little Grebe with the Great Crested and then I spotted a female 'red head' Smew near the Cormorant Island. A quick phone call to Keith who was still on site and we confirmed it was the Smew he had found earlier. So Slavonian Grebe still evades my Bucks list.
Check out Keith's excellent blog for a picture of the sawbill -

Few pictures from south of the beacon.

Saturday, November 27

Shenley Wood

A quick lap with the family this afternoon in the wintry conditions. Didn't produce much in the way of bird life. A Jay, Blackbird, Magpies and Wood pigeons were about the best on offer. With most of the woodland birds near the houses where the food was on offer.
On a positive note all 11 of my bat boxes were still hanging and intact.
I took a few pictures of the new development surrounding the wood.
This facing south towards Westcroft -

These new drainage ditches were completely frozen. Two pipits flew towards the 'old peoples home' development (1st picture). I bet these water courses would be good for passing migrants if you can get there before the dog walkers.

Facing south -

I also took a stock count of the number of 'wood pecker' holes around the wood. If 70 plus Noctule Bats can take up residence in an thin Ash tree - who knows what other bat species can be found next spring!

Friday, November 26

Swans Way, Linford

With a report of a Short-eared Owl back at a previous favoured haunt on the 18th. I tried my luck to see if any were hunting in the sunshine this afternoon. First issue was the new gate across the road near the sheep pens was padlocked, thus stopping me checking out the back of Linford and Haversham weir. But I was still able to park near the sheep pens. Scanning the field and near the ruined church didn't produce any owls. Actually the only mammal muncher was a Kestrel flying across the road as I left. I did however spend most of my time watching the row of Alder trees inside the Linford Reserve hoping to see if any Redpolls were around. I did get some nice views of Fieldfares, Redwings and a large tit flock held Blue, Great and Long Tailed. Finally I picked out 1 male Siskin feeding in one of the Alders. A crow scarer was being used from the fishing pits and 26 Cormorants flew over heading towards Haversham Lake.

Thursday, November 25


Another drive around CMK this lunch time in search of Waxwings. Alas all the foods still on offer just nothing taking it.
The Kiln Farm flock looked to have relocated to Woburn in Beds. Dipped Waxwings there last year.

Tuesday, November 23

Waxwings are coming....

With a report of 43 Waxwings feeding on Rowan in the Kiln Farm estate this morning. I thought I'd use a little of my lunch hour to do a few laps of CMK to try my luck. I tried the previous couple of sites that these amazing birds had used before. First up was a side road down the side of the central library, plenty of cotoneaster berries still here. Then round to Lloyd's Court and the bushes around the car park. About 10+ Starlings in the trees above the road needed a second glance but no Waxwings. A flock of small finch's left an alder on another back road, hoping for Redpolls, these turned out to be Goldfinches.

Saturday, November 20

Willen Lake North at dusk

I met up with Rob late in the afternoon to check out reports of a large Starling gathering at Willen North. I parked up beyond the Hospice and found Rob already on site and the Starlings starting their ariel display. We estimated about 2ooo. These then divided off and roosted in numerous sections of the reed beds around the lake. Lots of wildfowl on the calm lake and Rob mentioned he counted over 86 Cormorants roosting in the trees to the back of the island.

The Bearded Tits were also reported from Walton Balancing Lake today.

Thursday, November 18

Willen Lake South at lunchtime

Not visited Willen South for a long time and hoped for something good with other inland waters holding a variety of decent wildfowl:
2 male and 11 female Goldeneye, 70+ Tufted Duck, 15+ Pochard, 100+ Coot, 2 Gadwall, only 2 Mallard seemed low? 2 Kingfishers flew through the scope followed by a small all white? wader? no idea what it was. 1 Grey Heron, 1 Herring Gull and 2 Common Gull along with a few Black-headed Gulls.

Tuesday, November 9

Walton Balancing Lakes

A lunch time trip to Walton in a very brisk NE wind, circa 15mph+ didn't produce any views of the Bearded Tits. Met Geraldine on site and she advised they've been heard but not see. Guess the wind was too much. I gave it 15 minutes but only heard a Water Rail squeal. I popped up to check if the '2nd' hide was still standing and was surprised to see 2 drake and a female Wigeon with 5 Shoveler and 3 Gadwalls. Not sure I've seen Wigeon here before?

Monday, November 8

Saturday was set aside for DIY but was viciously crushed and blown out the water by the offer of Rob going for American Golden Plover on the Norflok coastline. I'd had my eye on the Glossy Ibis at Welney for some time as well, so couldn't refuse an offer to ride shotgun with him. We arrived at Welney soon after first light, but others already advised of the negative news. Darn. We gave it an hour and a half but still no joy so we set off for the coast. Just under an hour later I received a text from Bird Guides that the Glossy Ibis had finally been seen/turned up.
We continued to Cley and parked at the beach. Still no reports of the American Golden Plover - was it here or at Blakeney? Cley proved good as always with 3 Grey Phalaropes from North Hide, a Red Throated Diver drifted off shore along with lots of Common Scoter and a few Kittiwake. An Adult Arctic Tern feeding along the shore was a very late bird. Locals had said it had been around for quite some time, even landing on the beach to rest.
We then visited Holkham Gap to follow up a report of 60+ Lapland Buntings yesterday. Again no joy. Still no news of the American Golden Plover and the light fading we headed off to Titchwell. Lots of birds here with 100+ Golden Plover (which yesterday held a juvenile Dotterel). We did see a dozen Twite on the bank towards the new hides. Then on the beach finally had some brief flight views of 11 Shorelark that had been in the area all day. At least 1 adult Yellow-legged Gull was in the roost on the freshmarsh along with 20 Little Egrets before flying off east to roost. Last bird of the day was a Woodcock flying out of the car park in the near dark.
For the mammal list - still no Common Seal ! But for the 'Dead List' I did add a probable dead Otter, a freshly killed Weasel, more Rabbits and Hedgehogs.
A good day but alas dipped on all possible lifers. Annoyingly the American Golden Plover was reported from Blakeney late in the afternoon as we munch our curry in the early evening.
Now back to the DIY ;-)

Friday, November 5

Female Bearded Tit at Walton Balancing Lake

Female Bearded Tit at Walton Balancing Lake 05/11/2010 13:31 – Car Park SP879369

Speaking with Nik about the news he said “what did you go there for !?!!?” – Well, Linford was dead yesterday, Walton’s closer to work and I still needed Bittern for my Bucks year list – came my reply.

As I started down the boardwalk from the small car park I flushed something small from the boardwalk edge which moved off into the reeds, but I could still hear it moving around? Don’t think it was a bird as it didn’t give any contact call as it was flushed? So had my hopes up it could have been a mammal....a Water Vole? or perhaps a Mink :-( ? Anyway I couldn’t relocate it so started off further along the board walk and to the viewing platform. From here, I could again something moving to my left through the reeds (but this animal/bird was the same as the previous – it would have had to have crossed the footpath leading off to the 2nd hide. I now started to track the twitching reeds as the creature moved around my left and closer to me. I then realised it was a bird as it started giving ‘CHA - ing’ calls, with heart beat raised I started to think it didn’t sound quite right for Bearded Tit – a shorter “ping” from memory? The reeds kept moving and I could track this as it moved across my position and away from me. Panicking that the bird was not going to show itself and the movement now going away from me I started ‘pishing’ the bird. Again it still kept moving away to about 10 metre. I noticed the reed stems getting shaken more and more, I could still hear some “Cha–hing” calls as it went. So I finally used my bins as I’d been keeping them covered out of the rain, and started to track up the shaking reeds to finally see a female BEARDED TIT pop out on top of the Reed Mace between some greener leaved shrubs. This then moved off away from me, but at this point I’m sure I heard a ‘second’ contact call coming to the right of where that bird was (about 4 metres away). Then gone. No more views. (I then thought I heard 2 calls off to the right by the time Martin K and Rob N had arrived but they didn’t).

UPDATE 14:39 Rob N’s still on site and called to say he’s heard two Bearded Tits calling and briefly seen one at distance moving amongst the reeds.

The platform seems the best location – But please be very quiet once on site. Boardwalk SP880370

What a sweet Bucks county tick!

Thursday, November 4

Linford Lakes at lunch time

Quiet, very quiet.
I'm struggling to spend the time, effort or petrol on visiting Linford recently and with no reports coming I thought the strong south westerly might produce something good.
The highlights:
5 Lapwings flew straight through and they were the only waders I could find.
A Sparrowhawk flew over the hide whilst being chased by 2 Goldfinchs giving alarm calls.
7 Common Gulls amongst the 50 plus Black-headed.
Lots of Tufted Duck, few Wigeon, 4 Gadwall and the odd drake Pochard. No Little Egrets and no Geese at all? Lots of Cormorant though.

Tuesday, November 2

Last weekend.....

I took my daughters back home to Somerset last Friday so they could catch up with my family and I could see some birds ;-)
We stopped off to twitch the Lesser Yellowlegs at Port Meadow on route. After my only previous visit, to twitch the Pectoral Sandpipers, the site looked amazing, with the flood showing over a massive area. Even in a howling wind it didn't take long to track down the Yellowlegs near the main footpath next to 1 Ruff. Brilliant views and the legs showed really bright through the scope. With the wind blowing the life out of the girls we headed off sharply. Only my second Yellowlegs after the Berry Fen one a few years back with Rob N.
We then headed down to Weston and twice dipped Purple Sandpipers on the rocks near Birnbeck Pier, either we were a fraction too early for one of the high tides or they just weren't in yet? Hopefully get another chance at Christmas to add this species to my year list.
I quick walk around Knightstone Island produced over 40+ Oystercatchers, 15+ Shelduck and 1 Curlew amongst the Gulls on the mud around the island.
On Sunday I made a quick stop off at Cheddar Reservoir. I have to admit I was shocked how low this was, large stretches of exposed mud/ground/bottom. Massive numbers of Coot and ducks. After about 5 scans and checking every Great Crested Grebe, I couldn't locate the long staying 1st winter Red-necked Grebe. Then a young lad with birding gear came and asked if I'd seen it, I advised not, then as soon as he walked off out of ear shot, I found the grebe in the middle of the reservoir drifting away towards the Coot flock. With the girls not coming back a Halloween party in Wookey Hole I continue scan the lake and re found the 2 Whopper Swans but no sign of another year tick I was after - the Red-breasted Merganser and actually a Somerset tick. No joy. Then received a Bird Guides text later that evening and is was still being reported!
A good trip and nice to catch up with the family.

Monday, October 25

Linford Lakes at lunch time

Been a long time since I had a lunch hour at Linford, but was not missing much from other bird reports. A cold 8 oC with some frost still on the ground in places. Pleasant sun shine though. Highlights:
1 Marsh Tit, 3+ Song Thrush's on the berry bushes, 1 Common Darter, 1 Hawker sps but not seen well and 1 butterfly not seen well, suspect a Speckled Wood.
From Near Hide, 2 Little Grebe, 3 Snipe along the bund line, lots of ducks in and 8 Common Gull. No sign of last weeks Whopper Swan and not many geese in at all. 2 Grey Squirrels and a female type Stonechat along Swans Way rounded off a pleasant hour.

Sunday, October 24

Ivinghoe Beacon, Lapper, dip no. 2!

Mid morning I received a text from Mike Wallen that Dave Bilcock had located a new Lapland Bunting near the sheep pens below the beacon. So this time I tried again when I had a family free window mid afternoon. I also increased my chances by taking Nik and Rob N along. Dropping down the slope from the car park, towards the sheep pens we notched up at least 3 Bramblings feeding in one of the larger Whitebeams. As we approached the sheep pens we started scanning the stubble field looking for a needle in a stack of needles. We easily picked up the large Skylark flock which also contained lots of Linnets but failed to pick out the Lapland Bunting. Then to add insult another Lapland Bunting was reported from Dorney Lakes at the very south end of the county. Surely one or two of these little brown jobs must be up north and around Milton Keynes?

Saturday, October 23

Lodge Hill in the deep south, Lapper dip no. 1

Wow has it been over a week since my last post!
Well this morning I dragged Nik the 39 miles south to Lodge Hill Farm near Bledlow Ridge to try and refined the near week long Lapland Bunting found by Warren Claydon. After the hour long drive in bucketing rain we finally arrived at the parking area with the sun/light thinking about turning on. As forecast the rain had moved off by a 07:15, so we started our trek round to the farm and where the bird had been seen.
A mammal bonus was a pair of Roe Deer out in one of the open fields, these constituted my 31st mammal species for Bucks this year. I'd first seen this species in Cambridgeshire back at the end of January!
As I was speaking to Jim Rose to check we were in the right spot another birder appeared down the track and introduced himself as Warren Claydon (the finder of the Lapper on his local patch) So the three of us tried to locate this elusive bird in the stubble field before us. But alas no joy and with negative news from yesterday we gave up and headed back towards the car. I did however see a few Corn Buntings which were a 'tarty' year tick, but disappointed not to connect with the Lapland Bunting. Bet it's still there but the fields and site are massive.
Thanks to Jim and Warren for their help today.
A Bucks tick last week and a dip this week, I'll predict that we could be due some more Lapland Buntings before the years out...fingers crossed.

Tuesday, October 12

Knot going to miss this one....

Oh the number of puns I could have used....
I had a text last night from Chris G at Manor Farm at 18:09, to say he'd found a KNOT feeding on the pools. It's a species of wader I'd never seen in Bucks in my brief time listing in the county. A call from Simon to advise he was going for a look made me drop everything...i.e getting the kids ready for bed etc and getting ready for my evenings football match. I informed the wife I would only be 30 minutes and back in time to continue with parental duties - I didn't hear any response as I ran out and slammed the door :-).
Now sunset was about 18:17 and it was already gone 18:30!
Normal ETA to The Manor is under 10 minutes and even with the evenings rush hour I pretty much did it in that, joyed by a call back from Simon along the way to say 'it's still showing, the main entrance gates are still open, you can use me scope'. Finally after a mad dash avoiding the cow pats I connected with Simon at the top of the slope and got my first views of the Knot. It was nearly 18:45 and getting really dark. Not the best views of Knot but really chuffed to finally bag this species in Bucks. Ahh the pleasure of deleting the species from my Bird Guides text list ;-)
Thanks to Chris for continuing with his 'patch' and Simon for the updates.
The birds still showing at Manor Farm today and hopefully some other Bucks listers will connect with this species today. The sites looking really good so who knows what else might get pulled in.

Sunday, October 10

NBBG visit near Brill

The North Bucks Bat Group attended a box check scheme near Brill this evening.
An email was sent around last week of some Leislers bats being found in the boxes, a species I've never seen before and really needed for my mammal list.
So of course I got a pass out and attended the early evening box check. With only 17 boxes to check it wasn't going to be a late night.
First up 3 Soprano Pips, closely followed by this handsome bat, a male Leislers Bat, as said, a first for me and my 30th mammal species in Buckinghamshire this year and my 43rd mammal for England.

He really was a very smart bat. After we'd finished the box checking we check out a Pipistrelle roost in one of the nearby buildings and amazingly found a Whiskered Bat hiding under a couple of planks of wood propped up again the side of a wall! We then detected Common Pips starting to feed and heard a probably Noctule fly over, but this could have been the male Leislers?
An amazing evening and good to catch up with everyone.
Many thanks to Hannah for organising the evening.

Friday, October 8

Shenley Wood

Not been out to my lunch time patch for the last few days. But back home, I've noted a singing Chiff Chaff along the side of Shenley Wood for the past two mornings. Plus in the evening the Jackdaw and Crow numbers are building nicely over the wood and sports field. Finally, a Pied Wagtail roost must be building up again in the city centre as a flock of 8 flew over the house the other evening, all heading in that direction.

Tuesday, October 5

Linford Lakes at lunch time

Still mild even though no sunshine. A small orange and brown butterfly was seen very briefly on the wing. Guessing it's far too late for Gatekeeper so presuming Small Copper (only think left really?).
Two Marsh Tit and 1 Chiff Chaff amongst the tit flock. 1 Buzzard mobbed by Crows and Jackdaws. 1 Little Egret in the Heronry. Finally at the end a Yellow Wagtail flew over the car park. Pretty quiet all round.

Monday, October 4

Tuesday evening talk.....

The local Milton Keynes Natural History Society has a talk by a good friend of mine tomorrow evening.
Ecological consultant Stuart Blair will speak about his work surveying all of the known badger setts in Milton Keynes. A bigger job than you may think!

For more details see -

Linford Lakes at lunch time

A pleasant visit to Linford this afternoon. It started with a Small White Butterfly near the city centre and then a mint condition Red Admiral at Linford, both enjoying the 16oC temperatures and the sunshine. Also at the reserve, numerous Migrant Hawkers and even teneral Darters. Plus a Little Egret, Cettis singing, 1 female Blackcap and a Stonechat in the brown field along the access track. Something had spooked all the Lapwings and Gulls from the bund as they were noisy and flying all over the place.

Sunday, October 3

Linford and Furzton

A dawn start with Rob at Linford in the rain today. Not a lot about, best spot was a Ruff on the bund which after a few minutes flew off as the rain started. A Kingfisher and Cettis Warbler were the only other birds of note. Not really that many ducks in either.

A mid afternoon drive by of Furzton Lake and the returning Yellow-legged Gull was out in the middle with numerous Black Headed Gulls surrounding it. Then followed by a quick stop off at CMK which didn't produce any birds.

Oh well slim pickings.

Saturday, October 2

Shenley Wood and it's star 'birds'!

What a glorious sunny morning. My eldest daughter had been banging on about a 'good stamp around the woods' so I didn't want to disappoint. I also wanted to have a look around and make sure the bat boxes were still hanging up.
Not long after entering our ride I picked up a large tit flock moving through and above, this contained a Marsh Tit (possibly the earlier Marsh Tit from next doors garden) a Coal Tit ( which is always nice as we have no pine in Shenley) Great Tits, Blue Tits, Long tailed Tits and a Treecreeper. I could also hear Greater Spotted Woodpecker and Green Woodpecker.

Views down the main rides -
Main centre Oak - or 'Sally' Centre Oak if your 7 years old!

But the star 'bird' today was not a bird, but in fact an insect - ladybirds and 7 Spotted Ladybirds to be precise. In a 2 metre square patch alone my daughter and I fought over who could count the most. We gave up at 25+! It was amazing to see so many of these insects enjoying the daytime sun or coming out from within their overnight roost spots . Every leaf we up turned showed sheltering 7 Spots.

As we continued around the wood we estimated at least 150+ 7 Spotted Ladybirds showing along the low vegetation along the paths. So how many were in amongst the more sheltered spots?
Alas, I did find one Harlequin Ladybird (in a two spotted form) near the 7 Spots.

And this Shield Bug showed in it's autumnal attire -
We also spotted 1 Speckled Wood butterfly (my last butterfly of the year?) and a few mushrooms around the paths.
Plus interestingly, the previous Noctule Bat roost tree had a strange drumming noises coming from within it! Plus a Greater Spotted Woodpecker was tapping away nearby. So I predict a Woodpecker was actually inside the previous bat roost - lets hope it's just having a look round and tiding up!

Marshy's back !

Earlier in the week I thought I'd heard a Marsh Tit in Shenley Wood whilst packing the girls into the car for the school run. This morning I saw one leaving next doors Corkscrew Willow (which borders our garden) with a seed in it's beak and fly off towards the wood. This species previously over wintered in the woods and was a regular feeder to next doors garden. Can't ever remember it coming into our garden!
An early morning bicycle ride with my eldest this morning to collect the Saturday papers and still noted 4 Skylarks and 1+ Meadow Pipit in the small area of grass/park land that splits Oxley Park Plus 2 House Martins and a Swallow moving through.
Later in the backgarden I could hear a few Meadow Pipits moving overhead and a Migrant Hawker Dragonfly put in a brief appearance.

Friday, October 1

Bat photo's

Bechsteins Bat from our last trapping session of the year

This time on a tree looking a little more natural

And lastly a Brown-long Eared bat.

Wednesday, September 29

Defra questionnaire

I've copied this email from Mick A'court from the Bucksbirders yahoo email group - thought it needed a wider audience -

As part of formulating their white paper on the natural environment (due to be published in spring 2011), DEFRA are running a four point online questionnaire on what the public think.

Its your chance to put your comments to them and all conservation bodies are urging people to do so and tell as many people as you can about it..

DEFRA website link is

The link to the online survey form is in the second paragraph down.

There more people who comment, the more likely it will be to have some effect on shaping their policy.

Lillingstone Dayrell - Bat Survey

Yesterday evening I attended a bat survey near Lillingstone Dayrell - a village I never knew existed, it's above Akeley not far from Foxcote Res. I couldn't help but think on the drive over that the lovely surrounding countryside must hold some mega birds but just no ones looking.
On arrival we had a quick look around the inside of the (derelict) house and found an owl pellet which I've saved to be dissected in November at one of the Natural History practical evenings. We started the survey at sunset (18:54). I need to check my recordings to see if it was Brown-long eared bats emerging from the roof. I did detect some early Common Pip activity. Then one Common Pip started feeding up and down the side of the house and muffled anything else that might have been around. At least 3 Tawny Owls were heard with a female coming really close in the trees behind me. This was then joined by a Muntjac which barked for the next hour on the other side of the fence to me, obviously annoyed at me being there. So if any other bats were present I didn't have much hope in hearing them. I was getting to the point when I wished the owl would eat the noisy pip and the muntjac eat the owl then bugger off. All that did happen was the first Muntjac was joined by another one which bark along with it! These were then joined by a local dog from the house opposite and this started barking. So all in all a rather noisy night. After the survey had finished I then took the best countryside roads home, hoping to find some new mammals for my list. The best I could muster was a Fox in Akeley and a cat in Nash.

Sunday, September 26

Steps Hill at dawn for some vis mig

Rob and I had been planning some dawn watches from the Steps Hill/Ivinghoe Beacon area for a while now. So we gratefully tagged along with Mike Wallen and met up at 06:15 this morning to see how he carries out his 'vis mig'. Judged on Mike's previous visits it was not a classic days migration but we still recorded 7 Common Buzzards, 2 Red Kites, 2 Ravens, handfuls of Meadow Pipits over, 7 Redwing and a flock of 40+ House Martins. (No Gannets unfortunately)
This site shows how others got on over the weekend:
On the mammal front we saw 1 dark form Fallow Deer with another 4 a little later. 1 Hare and a handful of Rabbits. We'll certainly return.

Friday, September 24

Linford Lakes at lunch time

Nothing seen from Near Hide except 50+ hirundines hawking the lake. Along the paths a female Blackcap was on the end of about 11 Long tailed tits. 2 Marsh Tits, one seen and another one calling nearby. Finally one of the Cettis Warblers has started singing again near the 'Quiet Please gate'.

Wednesday, September 22

Tuesday evening - bingo - Bucks list meets Wryneck !

After having dipped the Lathbury Wryneck three times last autumn. The Bacombe Hill bird reappeared Tuesday morning and looked set for another day. With a juggle of lunch hours I was on the road and picked Nik up by 1615. After 40 minutes we arrived in the small car park at the base of Bacombe Hill. We took a wrong turn from the car park and totally missed the area the bird was in. Quick call to Lee and he talked us back onto the bird. What a bird amazing views, well chuffed to finally add this bird to my Bucks list. Check out Lee's blogs for fantastic photo's of this bird.

Monday, September 20

RSPB Skua and Shearwater Cruise Sunday - Pictures added

Nik, John C and I left MK about 0520 to get to Bridlington Harbour, East Yorkshire for 0900. We were due to board the Yorkshire Belle for a 3 hour plus Skua and Shearwater Cruise with other members of the North Bucks local group.
With shortest route in the sat nav we seemed to be travelling most of the time in the middle of no where or I think it's called Lincolnshire, passing villages like Spital-in-the-street and Snitterby. We finally arrived in Bridlington at 0830, just enough time to get a egg butty and pull the waterproofs on. This trip was going to be wet.
We then spent the next 3 and a bit hours bobbing about in the north sea off Flamborough Head.
The highlights - 6 + good views of Harbour Porpoise, 2 good views of Atlantic Grey Seal. Alas these were the only mammals spotted at sea.
Bird highlights - 3 + Sooty Shearwaters (or the same one!), 2 Great Skua's, 1 brief Pale phase Arctic Skua, 10-15 Red-throated Divers (with 5 in a flock a highlight), 10 + Guillemot's and Razorbills and a few Shags. The odd Kittiwake and Sandwich Tern rounded it off but on the whole passage was quiet and the weather all wrong, well it was wet!!
I've very kindly been sent these photo's from Steve Smith who was on the cruise. From the top Great Skua, Sooty Shearwater, Gannet with Greater Blackbacked Gull. Many thanks Steve.

We left Bridlington around 1330, with nothing posted on birdguides, what a surprise we're away for the day and the winds were against us, I can't remember ever birding when a 'falls' taking place!
So Plan B was engaged (a little eccentric I know but a ticks a tick and a lifers a lifer).
Nik and I headed to the Peak District and Torside Reservoir to look for Mountain Hare. So after our 262nd mile of the day we finally arrived at 1549. As we entered the National Park (a first for me) a Red Grouse flew high above the car from one side of the road to the other - a good start - but we wanted better). By 1630 we'd finally found the car park at Torside and after a 5 minute scan of the slopes above us I finally picked out a Mountain Hare - my 42nd mammal tick of the year and obviously a lifer for me. Not the best views and very distant, plus it was grey, overcast and windy - proper moors weather - but well chuffed with the find!
We then continued onto through 'Snake Pass' and on towards Stanage Edge to look for Red Grouse. After a few minutes near one of the car parks we both had amazing views of both males and female Red Grouse, plus birds in flight and calling - all the ticks ;)
With both target species ticked and in the bag and nightfall approaching we started heading for the nearest Camra pub and some locally brewed ales (I even managed a cider called 'Moonshine' Cider in celebration). A great day and some amazing scenery in the Peak District. I'll try and add some photo's but on first inspection there pretty grey and poor quality. Thanks to Nik for helping out with the wheels and allowing my hairbrain scheme to drive us miles to see one hare!

Friday, September 17

Bechsteins Survey - Tonight

Tonight is the last official survey of the year for the Bechstein Bat Project. We will restart again in May and carry on into June 2010.
I'll hopefully post tonight's results tomorrow.
It's going to be cold with an overnight temperature dropping down to around 5 oC so could be a quiet night, but you never know with bats....

and what a last night it was....
2115 -
Trap 1 4 Brown Long-eared 3 males and 1 female
Trap 2 1 Natterers a female
Trap 2 1 Bechsteins bat, an adult female only, the 10th ever county record!
Trap 1 1 Natterers a female
Both traps empty
Trap 2 1 Brown Long-eared
Trap 1 1 Brown Long-eared our 9th bat and another male.

Our finish temperature was actually only 9.0 Oc, so goes to prove that bats are still about even if its getting cold.
At least two Tawny's were calling most of the evening.
A near midnight dash home through the countryside only produced 5 Rabbits and 2 Cats in the headlights.

Broughton Grounds lunch time

Some sunshine but mainly cloudy. A brisk WNW wind and temperatures around 13 oC. Perhaps my last survey of this site for the Parks Trust and finally found my first reptile. A small juvenile Grass Snake curled up under one of the carpet tiles. Under 14 cms long and under a cm thick. Also found some mammal droppings on top of one of the ACO's. Took some record shots on my mobile, will check the books when I get home. Could be adding Field Vole (Poo) to my mammal list for the year as still need that species!
On the bird front 2 Buzzards, 10 Meadow Pipits in the cleared stubble field near the car park and a couple of Lapwing over.

CMK R.I.P (again.....)

Decided to drive into work today instead of cycling. Hence no Linford lunch time trips this week. Today also looks like my last opportunity to complete my reptile survey at Broughton Grounds later. Didn't have to do the school run either so had a spare 5 minutes to stop off at CMK (the waste ground opposite Argos). Not a great start to see as man with a van (and small digger) clearing all the lovely habitat - er pallets/bath tub/cable drums/mounds of earth etc. So the site was birdless and I imagine further works are due to start.
But a little gem still remained, whilst talking to Rob N on the phone to discuss our different birding trips this Sunday, I noticed a bird with a flicking tail in my rear view mirror. Grab my bins again to see a Wheatear feeding around the deserted car park. Nice start to the day.

Monday, September 13

Sunday evening 12th - Shenley Wood bat survey

Had a call from Chris that he was short handed and needed help doing a survey in Shenley Wood for the Parks Trust. With nothing on except the ironing I jumped at the chance. Chris had already set up by the time I'd walked in. In comparison to Friday's survey it was cold! By the time we'd finished the temperature had dropped to 9.1 C! Being this cold did not help with the survey. Unfortunately no bats were caught. Even the fly over bats at base camp were thin on the ground. A couple of 'pips' flew through giving off social calls. 1 Myotis species did pass, but best of all a possible Barbastelle flew through, alas Chris's recorder was off so we didn't get a recording of the bat and it didn't return. Even though we had poor returns it beat doing the ironing!

Saturday 11th Radley GPs, Oxford

Set the alarm for 05:20 to twitch Spotted Crake near Abingdon. The bird had been showing well (not usual for this species) all week since last Friday. Positive news yesterday and my only window was first thing this morning. Had a fairly good idea where I was going and the time frames involved. I was also joined by Nik who'd given up his duvet to come along and help me bag this lifer for me. So we set off in the dark for Abingdon, we travelled along the minor roads as much as possible in the hope of seeing some mammals crossing the road but nothing was seen.
Once on site we had to navigate where the hell the complex of pits was. After a quick drive around some dead ends we realised we needed to be getting nearer to the railway line.
(A big thanks to the Oxford birds yahoo group, whilst sat in the wood doing the bat survey last night I had good phone reception for once and managed to log into my yahoo groups, read the latest from the Oxfordshire group and found some important 'gen', even better a map of the pits labelled with the correct pit the bird was on). So nearing 7am we finally found the right combination of path/pit/reed bed and railway line. (Thanks again to Gnomes blog and his pictures showing the area and the bird) Light was still poor and cloudy skies meant the bird wouldn't show particularly well. But after a couple of scan with the scope I finally picked out the Spotted Crake feeding in front of the reeds. Relief. Alas with the light so poor I didn't even bother with digiscoping. Other birds of note included a single Common and Green Sandpiper and a Red Kite over some houses in the distance. Cracking site all in all and hopefully I'll be back if they get another Pied-billed Grebe!
Back home before 9am, still no mammals on the country roads. We took the family down the local Whetherspoons for breakfast and celebratory pint ;-)