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.

Tuesday, August 31

Linford Lakes at lunch time - Water Shrew

Met Nik at Linford today in the nice sunshine. Only waders on the bund were Lapwing. Plus the water levels are starting to rise and the mud fast disappearing. Also the bushes and paths were quiet. Only highlight was finding a Water Shrew.

Bank Holiday Birding

A busy weekend for me but managed to fit a bit of birding in. Highlights:

Friday evening - Linford - 3 Common and 2 Green Sandpipers.
Then onto Willen Lake - 1 Oystercatcher, 1 Common and 1 Green Sandpiper.

Saturday early morning - Manor Farm - 1 Green Sandpiper, 1 Snipe flew through, 3 Yellow Wagtails and best of all 2 Common Redstarts.
Then onto Stony Stratford NR, 1 Green Sandpiper was joined by another 3.
Then onto Foxcote Reservoir - 6 Green Sandpipers, 5 Common Sandpipers, 4 Greenshank, 1 juvenile Little Ringed Plover, 2 Hobbies flew through together and star bird was a juvenile Garganey.

Sunday evening - after being away in Kent over night I was very pleased to see the juvenile Kentish Plover was still reported from Eyebrook in the morning. By the time I'd returned from Kent and finally met up with Rob to hitch a ride to Eyebrook, time was running out (another dead Stoat on the road before Olney). We arrived at 1930 and only had about 40 minutes before our scopes were useless in the gloom. But just enough time to enjoy great views of the Kentish Plover which was joined by the Pectoral Sandpiper.

Friday, August 27

Big Butterfly Count thank you email

I received this email today...

Thank you!

So far, an amazing 10,000 people have joined Sir David Attenborough in taking part in the UK’s first ever big butterfly count.

You and your fellow butterfly counters have carried out over 15,000 counts and clocked up an astounding 210,000 individual butterflies and moths. Sightings are still coming in (you have until the end of August) but the main results are already clear.

Small Tortoiseshell by Martin WarrenThe Small White and Large White topped the charts but the big surprise was the Gatekeeper, which was only just behind in third place. Although a widespread butterfly, its populations have been hard hit in recent years so the big butterfly count result indicates a turnaround in the Gatekeeper’s fortunes. Your sightings also suggest a welcome return for the Small Tortoiseshell after years of decline.

For more big butterfly count results, including the Top 10 species, please visit our big butterfly count results page.
or here:

A big butterfly count thank you!

So far, an amazing 10,000 people have taken part in the big butterfly count. You and your fellow butterfly counters have carried out over 15,000 counts and clocked up an incredible 210,000 individual butterflies and moths.

Sightings are still coming in, but the main results of the UK's first ever big butterfly count are already clear. From 24th July - 1st August 2010, a staggering 8,926 of you took part across the length and breadth of the UK, from Orkney to Scilly and Fermanagh across to Norfolk (click here to see maps). A breathtaking 187,000 individual butterflies and moths were counted!

This is the biggest ever weekly count of butterflies anywhere in the world!

Butterfly Top 10

The Small White was the most common butterfly overall, very closely followed by the Large White and the Gatekeeper. Over 29,000 of each of them were counted and it was a very close race for the top spot. Nearly half (47%) of all the butterflies and moths counted belonged to these three species! The Top 10 butterflies counted during the big butterfly count are shown below:

Species Grand Total
1 Small White 29,954
2 Large White 29,893
3 Gatekeeper 29,094
4 Meadow Brown 13,876
5 Common Blue 11,462
6 Peacock 11,213
7 Green-veined White 7,399
8 Red Admiral 6,316
9 Small Tortoiseshell 5,700
10 Ringlet 5,061

Most counts took place in gardens. In fact, 42% of the butterflies and moths counted were from your gardens, with another 23% from fields and 22% from other rural habitats.

The high counts of the Large and Small White butterflies comes as little surprise, as these are very common species in almost all habitats (especially gardens) and both had a good year in 2009. The outstanding performance of the Gatekeeper, on the other hand, is a very pleasing result as this butterfly has suffered a run of extremely bad years and populations were at a low ebb. 2010 has clearly been a good year for the Gatekeeper, particularly in comparison to its close relative the Meadow Brown, which is normally the more abundant by far of the two. Gatekeepers were seen in the highest numbers in fields and other rural habitats, as well as from the centres of major cities such as London and Manchester.

It was also very pleasing to see the Small Tortoiseshell in the Top 10, as this familiar butterfly has suffered a severe decline in recent years and had become a scarce sight in many parts of the UK, particularly in the south. The results of the big butterfly count suggest that it has bounced back and it was seen by many participants, particularly in gardens (where it was the 6th most common species).

The Comma and the Speckled Wood just missed out on Top 10 places on the basis of the total numbers of butterflies counted. However, these two species were frequently seen during big butterfly counts, albeit in small numbers. In fact, the Comma was the 7th most frequently seen butterfly (in all habitats), but ranked only 11th in terms of the total number seen.

Although no day-flying moths made it into the Top 10, you were busy recording them. All six of our target moths were reported, along with many others. The most common moth during big butterfly count was the Six-spot Burnet, followed by the Silver Y and then, some way behind, the Humming-bird Hawk-moth. The Six-spot Burnet came in 13th place overall, with just under 4,000 individual moths counted.

Linford Lakes at lunch time

A quick stop off at CMK this morning held only a few Wood Pigeon and 150+ Starlings around the car park area.

Blackhorse Lake was unsurprisingly devoid of hirundines in the lunch time sunshine compared with yesterdays drizzle, just a few Common Terns remained.
Also quiet were the paths into and around the main reserve with most of the Chiff/tit flock having moved on.
I did note 1 Willow Warbler and 1 Chiff Chaff starting to sing again.
The hour was saved by insects with 3 Red Admirals on the buddleia and 10+ 7 Spotted Ladybirds around the wildlife garden wall. 2 Speckled Woods, 2 Meadow Browns and a Small White made up the numbers around the reserve. Dragonflies and darters were also numerous. Didn't bother with the hides today.

Thursday, August 26

English Mammal list update

Two thirds of the year nearly over and I'm still short some easy and difficult mammals for the my English 2010 year list.
Most notable and probably easiest to catch up with 'locally' are:
Field Vole, Mole, Mink and Stoat.
Harder ones include:
Harvest Mouse, Otter, Yellow-necked Mouse, Wild Boar and Polecat.
Of the remaining bat species I'm still short:
Leislers, Nathusius Pip, Alcathoe and Grey Long-eared.
Coastal wise I'm still short of everything !
Harbour Porpoise, Grey and Common Seal and any Dolphins or Whales !
All that's left in the England as far as I can see is Mountain Hare and I have a plan to see these.....

Linford Lakes after work

I re visited Linford after work in the drizzle and overcast conditions to see if anything new had fallen in.
Plus I'd have a little more time to stake out the roaming tit/chiff flock along the main entrance path.
Again Blackhorse Lake showed a repeat of earlier in the day with numerous Common Terns and lots of low flying hirundines skimming the lakes surface.
Once along the entrance path inside the reserve and slowly stalking the birds I'd estimate that I counted 11+ Chiff Chaffs, 3+ Willow Warblers, 1 Lesser Whitethroat and 1 male Blackcap amongst the numerous Blue, Great and Long tailed Tits.
The bund remained quiet from Near Hide. So I decided to continue on round to Far Hide. After a few sweeps of the bund nothing was seen except 2 Little Egret and at least another 20 Common Teal hiding from the north easterly. Another couple of scans with the scope on full zoom I finally spotted a Common Sandpiper in the early evening gloom. But that was about that. Again I returned to the entrance track and the tit/chiff flock remained, dashing from side to side, surely a 'rarer' bird is in amongst them.

Linford Lakes at lunch time

A grey, drizzly visit today, looked good for grounded warblers etc.
First up of note was Blackhorse Lake on the road in, this held 20+ Common Tern and 50+ hirundines hawking over the lake.
Along the paths into the main reserve 3+ Chiff Chaffs together and a Goldcrest. 1 Large and 2 much smaller Grass Snakes noted.
From Near Hide everything was flushed off the bund twice but all I could pin point as the culprit was a Crow pecking into something. 2 Swifts and 45+ House Martins were above the lakes. The rest of the bund was quiet. Back on the paths, 4 male Blackcaps were the pick of the ID warblers, lots of other flocks moving around the reserve.

I did stop off at CMK before work this morning. Only thing of note was wet binoculars.

Wednesday, August 25

Linford Lakes at lunch time

Turned up this lunch time and found 4 other people on the reserve! Thought it was a mega twitch! But alas, just the forerunner that nothing decent was around.
From Near Hide:
3 Little Egret, 5 Swift, yesterdays Sand Martins had grown to over 20 birds hawking over the lake and that was about that. The forecast rain clouds had opened by the time I'd left the hide so imagine the good birds were about to turn up.

Tuesday, August 24

Linford Lakes at lunch time - Black-tailed Godwit

Took my telescope with me today. Did the usual rounds and still noted a few butterflies battling the stiff westerly. Also spotted a Water Shrew, which seemed smaller than previous encounters with this species. Lovely white ears noted. Guess it could have been a juvenile?
From Near Hide, I spotted a lone Little Grebe and 2 Little Egret. Then whilst scanning the 'crescent bay' I spotted a 'godwit' flushed from out of view and into the water. This then decided it had had enough and took off towards the hide. It flew along the bund showing large white wing bars, black wedge on rump, white tail with black bar across the end and toes sticking out, which secured it as a Black-tailed Godwit. It fought the wind and drifted off west towards Haversham. Duck and geese numbers seemed on the increase but everything was huddled down trying to get out of the wind. Final birds noted were 3 Sand Martins heading North West.

Monday, August 23

Linford Lake at lunch time - Wood Sandpiper

Following my usual route around I spotted a nice Red Admiral and two largish Grass Snakes. Luckily I made it to Near Hide before the heavens opened. Working my way along the bund left to right when I got to directly opposite the hide I spotted a wader feeding along the shoreline. Only with my bins I struggled to make out what it was. So I started crossing off what it wasn't. Then tried ringing a few people to see who could get to it as my lunch hour was fast running out and I wouldn't have enough time to get back to the car to collect my scope. Called Rob H and talked through the 'id' features, dark backed bird with dark crown, pale buff on neck and breast, white unders, couldn't see colour of legs - just darkish? Thin shortish dark bill. Too small for Ruff. Rob was happy to suggest Wood Sandpiper which I'd totally forgotten about. Then as luck would have it a lady turned up with a scope. After a few minutes getting herself set up the bird walked off the shoreline and behind some weeds! Seriously running out of time, I again spotted the bird a few metres to the right, back on the shoreline. Put the scope on it and bingo a 'spangly backed' 'whacking great white supercilium' 'breast markings continuing further down' of a juvenile Wood Sandpiper. Then dashed back to work and spent the next hour trying to send an email to the bird groups from my mobile.

I then returned to Linford after work, armed with my scope this time, but Nik and Rob had beaten me too it and could only find a juvenile Ruff and Common Sandpiper instead of the Wood Sandpiper. The Ruff looked remarkably different to the earlier Wood Sandpiper.

Friday, August 20

Linford Lakes at lunch time

OMG - another Pygmy Shrew under one of the ACO's, this time I got to see the whole of the tiny mammal, including the 'doomed' head. Like yesterdays, it showed two tone in colour, with a long thick/hairy tail and tiny size overall.
I also recorded my first Red Admiral at this site this year - Linford has usually been very reliable for this species in the past.
Birds of note included a Spotted Flycatcher along the entrance track and a Chiff Chaff singing. Tufted Duck numbers were also on the increase.
The log book noted a 'Slav Grebe' yesterday but I couldn't see anything other than Great Crested today.
I've also noted what a good year 7 Spotted Ladybirds are having this year - anyone else agree?

Thursday, August 19

Broughton Grounds lunch hour

I completed my reptile survey at this site for the Parks Trust. As before, found no reptiles. But did find a Pygmy Shrew under one of the tins. This is my 38th mammal species for England and my 29th for Buckinghamshire, well chuffed to finally see one of these tiny shrews. Also on site I flushed a Chinese Water Deer, I then spotted a Rabbit on the verge of one of the grid roads and a road kill Grey Squirrel near one of the roundabouts rounded up my mammal count.
Bird life at Broughton was thin on the ground with just 3 fly over Yellowhammers.
A few Meadow Browns and a Small White were also noted

Wednesday, August 18

Linford Lakes at lunch time

Still in the August doldrums on the birding front with actually nothing worth noting.
Rabbits and Squirrel were the only mammal hi-light although I did flush something big that could jump so suspect it was a Muntjac near one of the paths.
Butterflies included Common Blue, Large Whites, Speckled Woods and lots of Meadow Browns.
Also lots of large Hawker dragonflies over the paths.
Mid size Grass Snake was probably the best spot.

Tuesday, August 17

Back garden wildlife shots

These are some photo's taken over the past week or so, mostly in the back garden:Common Darter, Toadie the Toad in our rockery, Berberis Sawfly - of which the larvae have cleaned my Berberis two years running. juvenile Woodmouse - not happy with the profile shot but check out my tail!

Willen Lake at lunch time

Diverting from my usual lunch hour at Linford Lakes I visited Willen today.
From the hide after 12:00:
6 Green Sandpipers, 1 Common Sandpiper. 1 male Kingfisher showing display flight and calling from the posts in front of the hide. Plus a second Kingfisher calling in reply to the right of the hide but not seen, also lots of Coots but low numbers of ducks.
Just 4 juvenile Terns and a few Sand and House Martins on the South lake.
Reeds in front of the hide could definitely do with a trim.

Central Milton Keynes

I’ve not stopped off at CMK waste ground for good while. But did this morning. Alas nothing seen at all except 2 fly over pigeons. Then I picked up a raptor soaring towards Sainsbury’s at the far end. I eventually picked out the white cheek of a Hobby, I then noticed it was carrying an item of prey in its talons and eating it as it drifted off east – probably hirundine as none of these were around either. I then brought my bins down back to the ‘red cargo’ container and picked up another raptor flying directly towards me at top speed and head high, it passed between the container and fence. It then flew over a the perimeter fence ( a perfectly good fence on which to perch ) and landed on the bonnet of my car! It didn’t look at me but kept looking around for hunting opportunities, unhappy with these it then flew onto the top of the car and the pair off us eyed each other through the sun roof for a minute or so before it took off towards Argos. It was a nice juvenile Sparrowhawk and had the most piercing yellow eyes. Guess these two raptors were the reason CMK was devoid of birdlife at 08:50 this morning.

Monday, August 16

Sunday 15th trip to Harrold & Odell CP

With nothing else 'on' birds wise, Rob and I took a trip across the border this evening to tick Black-necked Grebes in Bedfordshire. It was a patch tick for me and my thoughts were this site looked good for Otter or Mink. Plus, Robs on 4!! Stoats for the year so hoping some of his luck would rub off on me. I had only seen my second 'dead' Stoat of the year on the Tingewick bypass earlier in the day.
The site was good with a mixture of habitats and with water levels low we also added 2 Green Sandpipers and a juvenile Ruff plus the 2 Black-necked Grebes were showing well.
A slow drive home through the countryside did produce a small mammal running across the road but I didn't get a good enough look to see what it was.

Saturday night - Bechsteins Project

Early evening on Saturday a slimmed down band of Bucks Bechstein Project volunteers i.e. just 3 of us, packed up both traps and all the kit ready for the long walk into the section of mature oak woodland we were surveying in North Bucks.
Here’s a photo of a harp trap assembled, the width of the catch bag is nearly 2 metres long.
Plus we had to carry the Auto Bat ‘lure’ equipment and its batteries and all our regular ‘batting’ kit. So by the time we’d reached our destination through a heavy shower we were nice and warm. After erecting the two traps which take about 5 minutes each we then have to sit and wait for 1 hour after civil twilight ends before we can turn them on. Then we attempt to lure the bats to the calls the machine is emitting. Well last week the team (alas without me) managed to catch and process 5 Bechsteins Bats! To explain how rare they are (and not even supposed to be in Bucks) these were the 2nd to 6th records ever in Bucks!
So tonight hopes were high that we do have Bechsteins in Bucks. Unfortunately the weather was poor and temperatures were cool.Earlier on the path along to the wood I noticed a huge dead Mole. So with time to kill I went back to take these photo’s. This is the best ‘dead’ conditioned Mole I’ve ever seen (never seen a live one – yet!) So it’ll be added to my dead mammal list for the year.

Sorry about the quality but check out those front paws!Showing against my Maglite 2 AA torch shows the scale of how big the mole was.

Behind our ‘bat processing area’/camp between the two traps we also noticed this female Glow Worm in the grass. She’d actually turned off her light because it took me so long to try and get these record shots. She soon turned back on again after I’d finished. I had to turn the flash off on the camera and use my head torch for light.
When the time came to turn on the traps we were well chuffed 15 minutes later to get a Natterers Bat in trap 2, so at least bats were on the wing even though the weather was poor. Our next inspection of trap 1 revealed 3 bats. These turned out to be 2 juvenile male Bechsteins and another male Natterers. We were so chuffed. These were a lifer for me and my 37th mammal species this year.


A third visit to trap 1 revealed another bat - another Bechsteins – this time a full adult male and only the 9th record ever in the county! What a night! And that was that no more bats recorded and our surveying time had sadly come to an end.
I’m not at liberty to talk about the angry Hornet that pestered us as we dismantled trap 1 the others are still deafened from my scream as it bumped into the back of my head in the pitch black.

Shenley Wood - Saturday morning

Bill Parker kindly helped me check the dozen bat boxes around the wood for the second time this year. We'd erected these over 2 years ago. This was from a project I'd put together myself to help increase the number of bat roosts around Milton Keynes. They were kindly funded by the Gordon Osbourn Trust Fund from the Milton Keynes Natural History Society, The Parks Trust and Bucks County Council.
Sadly they have not produced any bats, or signs of bats so far and Saturday didn't disappoint......again no bats or even signs of any. To add to the disappointment 2 had be tampered with but we were able to rehang and a third had disappeared altogether - presumed stolen to be used as a bird box - ironically this was a Schwegler 2 FD (£35 plus p&p !), as shown below, which has a special wooden board behind the entrance hole, thus making it useless for birds. If it has been rehung in someones garden lets hope the bats find it and use it.

Friday, August 13

West Bletchley Bat Walk

I spent this evening assisting Nick Kelly and the North Bucks Bat Group with a guided walk around Chepstow Park for the local council. Unfortunately due to the weather the turn out was a little thin . But we still 'wowed' a few youngsters and adults with the delights of bat watching. Again due to the weather the bats attendance was also low but Common Pipistrelles were seen and heard well and one or two Daubentons put in a good show.
http://www.northbucksbatgroup.org.uk/

Thursday, August 12

Linford Lakes at lunchtime

Not much about but,
1 Ringed Plover, 8 Little Egret, 10 Common Tern, 2 Garden Warblers feeding away on Elderberries (is it that time of year already!), a few Tufties and Teal back in also.
3 Gatekeepers, 3 Meadow Browns, 1 Green veined white,
1 large and small Grass Snake together
1 Ruddy Darter and a Harlequin Ladybird

GONE

Checked the Noctule roost last night from the back garden and none were seen in over 25 minutes.
I then checked the roost this morning and could hear nothing. So, confident to say they have left with my last confirmed sightings from Sunday 8th August. They started way back on the 19th May.
Hope they come back next year. Any bets on the start date for 2011?

Also found a small Bank Vole in one of the 'hotels' yesterday afternoon.

Wednesday, August 11

Wood Mouse

I set the 'mammal hotels' last night and checked early doors this morning. Only a small/juvenile Wood Mouse was found, might upload some photo's if the qualities any good.
Did give it 5 minutes in the back garden last night checking for bats. I didn't witness any leaving any known roost, but just a Common Pipistrelle feeding over the garden.

Tuesday, August 10

Milton Keynes Noctule Roost - Sunday evening

I have not had to a chance to check the roost properly yet. But can confirm at least 3 Noctules departed out of the wood around 21:00 hours on Sunday.
Will provide update on findings in Dorset shortly.