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, 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.