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.

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 ;-)

Friday 10th Bechsteins Survey - College Wood

Our last but one survey for this season had us visiting this Woodland Trust site south west of Milton Keynes. A warm 15 C and light breeze looked like good conditions for bat activity.....bat activity was low over our base camp with the old Common Pipistrelle flying overhead. A Myotis species was also detected walking down to the harp traps. The autobats were turned on at 21:10. Results were mixed with one trap not catching any bats. The other trap, the one I was assisting with did catch a female Natterers, then a female Brown-long eared, then finally on our last check produced another Natterers. I also noted no owls calling all evening. Packed up and back to the cars around 23:30. Home and in bed before midnight as an early start was planned.

Wednesday, September 8

Linford Lakes - the calm remains

Another dull day on the wildlife front today. No sign of Rob H's dawn Common Redstart along the entrance track.
The singing Blackcap was still present, but very quiet and not giving off it's final phrase, which made me think it was a Garden Warbler yesterday.
A pair of Buzzard thermalled above the paths. The odd Chiff Chaff gave contact calls.
On the bund you could have any wader you want as long as it was a Lapwing.
Butterflies included Brimstone, Speckled Wood and Small White.
A pair of mating Ruddy Darters were too good an opportunity to take a few snaps on my mobile phone.

Tuesday, September 7

Linford Lakes - quiet again

Just a single Hobby and Snipe of note on the bird front. Plus a male Blackcap was singing very quietly along the access track, heard on both passes.
Small White and Speckled Wood plus a few dragonflies on the wing before the heavens opened. Bet its dripping with birds now!

Monday, September 6

Linford Lakes and insects rule

Winds picked up! Still some sun and warmth, so the insects were still on the wing whereas the birds weren't.
2 Small White, 2 male Brimstones, 1 Comma and 2 Speckled Woods.
Migrant and Brown Hawker dragonflies and Common and Ruddy Darters, plus a few damselflies.
On the bird front
1 Green Sandpiper, 1 Buzzard, a few House and Sand Martins trickling through. Four Common Terns with 3 on Blackhorse Lake. I wonder what the south west rains will bring?

Sunday, September 5

Norfolk today

Rob and I took a day trip to the Norfolk coastline today, my intention was to tick off Grey and Common Seals, do a little see watching and add some birds to my year list. These are the hi-lights from Cley, Salthouse, Stiffkey and Holme NOA:
Harbour Porpoise ! Seen really close in from Cley beach, soon followed by a Grey Seal ! Two mammal year ticks in the space of a few minutes at the start of the day (40th & 41st).
'Pishing' a family party of Weasels with Mike and Rose Collard was brilliant - mail us a picture if any good please Mike? A Muntjac, Hare, Grey Squirrel and Rabbits were also seen.
As you'll see I've also updated my 'dead' mammal list, it was carnage out there!
Decent birds notched up included: Arctic Skuas, Hooded Crow, Little Stints, Merlin, Red-backed Shrike, Pied Flycatcher and Red-necked Phalarope. Dipped out on Barred Warbler and Lapland Bunting.
I now have to devise another way of see Common Seal for my year list.

Thursday, September 2

Furzton Lake at lunch time

Quick check of Furzton Lake today to follow up a report of a Sandwich Tern yesterday afternoon. As suspected it had already moved on. With just a single Common Tern and 6 Swifts moving through. Another stop off at CMK again produced nothing but a Small Tortoiseshell on one of the Buddleia.

Sandwich Tern and Wood Warbler are my major bogey birds for Buckinghamshire.

Herfordshire last night - New Bat for me!

Last night I was invited to tag along with Matt and Hilary to visit Patty and Brian Briggs in Hertfordshire. The reason for our trip was to meet Algie a rescued Nathusius Pipistrelle. He'd originated from Essex and was suspected of been attacked by a Hobby. One of his wings was badly ripped with talon markings, he's now in the capable hands of Patty and Brian.
The three of us were very exited as we'd never seen this species before. Patty and Brian walked us through the special ID features for this species.
Nathusius Pipistrelle has been recorded across the country but in very small numbers. In fact, for Bucks, we only have one 'probable' recording of one flying at College Lake a few years back.
This represents my 39th mammal species this year ;)
Patty also showed us 'Daisy' a female Noctule who becomes very grumpy if she doesn't get half an hour of strokes on the back per night! (Daisy that is not Patty)
Massive thanks to Hilary and Matt for taking me along and also thanks to Patty and Brian for their hospitality.

With an hour plus each way through the countryside I was hoping we'd see some other mammals along the way. A dead Badger near Swanbourne was noted on the way down. A Brown Rat dashed across in front of us on the way back home, but that was it.

Wednesday, September 1

Linford Lakes - Painted Lady

Wow September already and another nice sunny half hour spent as Linford today. Wasn't expecting much bird wise due to the high pressure. But was delighted to find a Spotted Flycatcher feeding along the main track. A few minutes spent watching the warbler flock showed a Garden Warbler and Lesser Whitethroat - both looking stunning in the sunshine. Then a Yellow Wagtail flew over calling.
Only a juvenile Common Tern of note from the hide. Walking back I heard a rustle in the undergrowth on one of the banks, looked over and saw a flash of chestnut/red of a mammal which I predict was a Bank Vole.
Nik had texted earlier to advise he'd seen a Painted Lady near Oxley Park shops on a Buddleia. So as I got back to the car park I thought I'd put my bins on the Buddleia growing in the wildlife garden, first up a Peacock, then a Brimstone and last but not least 1 Painted Lady, my first of the year. No time for any pictures.