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.

Thursday, January 27

Linford Lakes at lunch time

Another lunch time trip to see what was about, the paths were alive with birds compared to recent visits, well I say alive, a female Chaffinch, Wren and 3 Blackbirds were better than nothing.
From Near Hide in a freezing north east wind, the best I could muster were 6 Little Egrets dotted around trying to keep out the wind.

Monday, January 24

Linford Lakes at lunch time

Driving down next to the Blackhorse Pub I spotted 4 thermalling Buzzards over the road, two of these were displaying as I took the road inside the reserve. And that was about as good as it got. Paths still quiet. From Near Hide, 3 Little Egrets and 8 Grey Herons. Lots of Crows stood on the bund (or what's left of it). Also loads of wildfowl in every corner of the reserve but nothing above the usual.

Lodge Lake yesterday morning

I've been asked to carry out some urban bird survey's for a local ecologists. Yesterday was my first at Lodge Lake. Nothing earth shattering as this was the initial "what's actually there" survey. Highlights were a male Sparrow Hawk whizzing through with a couple of Greenfinch as his wing men. But the best surprise was a female Goosander which circled my position and appeared to land on the main lake, out of my view. Around 5 minutes later the bird circled above again and flew off towards CMK. (Disappointingly this being my second visit in a week and still no sign of the normally regular Little Grebes!)

Friday, January 21

Lodge Lake

With two lunch hours missed this week I was determined to get my bins on and get out for today's.
Where to go.............thought Lodge Lake might be productive, possibles - Bittern, Beardies, returning Cettis Warbler, even Grey Wag or Kingfisher would have been a nice year tick. I'd not been to Lodge Lake for a long time but the habitat still looks good for all of the above. Didn't do a full lap, mainly concentrating on the main reed beds.
Best spots were a male and 3 female Reed Buntings feeding on the reed mace heads. A noisy charm of Goldfinch's feeding in the Alders didn't produce any Redpolls or Siskins. Nearly every other bird was a Robin, seemed to be all over the place. Disappointed not to see any Little Grebe either.
Cold but nice in the sun shine.

Tuesday, January 18

Walton Balancing Lakes

Cold, but sunny with a light breeze seemed like a good idea to visit Walton today. Also to witness the vandalism that's recently taken place with both the screens now ripped down. A couple of other birders were already on site and had not seen anything special. All I saw were about 10 feeding Siskins, a couple of Reed Buntings, a Buzzard mobbed by about 10 Crows and finally a Sparrowhawk flew over. Nice in the sunshine though.

This morning

Whilst collecting the milk of the doorstep this morning I noticed Shenley Wood alive with bird song. After I few moments I picked out a Song Thrush towards the top of the wood, a bit further away than last years bird. So imagine this could have been in song for a few days/weeks now.

With an appointment before work I didn't do the school run so found myself with 10 minutes spare. So after fighting through the rush hour I decided to stop off at Lloyds Court in Central Milton Keynes to see if the Waxwings were still hanging on. I estimated around 200 sat between the row of trees along the car parking spaces and birds actually feeding on the red berries alongside the grid road. An amazing noise was coming from all quarters. Even a few members of the general public were stopping by and taking photo's on their mobile phones. Not many berries left as far as I could see. Also, note to self - never stand underneath a flock of Waxwings in a tree, the amount of droppings was like rain coming down!

Monday, January 17

Lunch time birding

On an earlier lunch slot today and not helped by it raining until the last 15 minutes of it. So I stayed closer to the car today - well actually in it, until the last stop.
First up CMK and the wasteland opposite Argos. One Common Gull and lots of Black-headed on the wet section. 10+ Magpies all of note on the scrubby area.
Then onto Furzton Lake, my first visit of the year, 3 Grey Herons, 3 Lapwing (the only waders), 1 Lesser Black-backed, 13 Common Gulls and numerous Black Headed Gulls, 2 Cormorants with very white heads looked pretty weird. Hardly any Great Crested Grebes and only Mallards the ducks of note.
Last stop with the rain finally easing. I pulled into Teardrop Lakes near Knowhill. Hoping the numerous Alders might hold some Siskins or Redpolls, but no joy. Very quiet except for my first singing Song Thrush of the year. Has anyone else heard one this year? I normally hear one in Shenley Wood from first light around now, but not so far.

Saturday, January 15

College Lake Friday not birding and too early for batting?

Friday evening saw my first (purposeful) 'mammal in headlights' drive of the year with a trip to mid Bucks and College Lake. The reason for the trip was the North Bucks Bat Group had very luckily secured Patty and Brian Briggs to come and talk to us about British Bat Identification. Patty and Brian are 'Bat Royalty' and there knowledge and passion is second to none. Brian first went through all the main ID features to separate our 17 or so species, he made it so clear and simple that I hope I've taken it all in! Then, we split into groups and took turns to identify (stuffed) bat specimens using our skills and accompanying literature. It was the first time I'd ever seen a Greater Horse Bat and a Serotine (in the hand) and my they were impressive creatures. I'm looking forward to returning to Cheddar Gorge in May to reconnect with these two species, first encounter only last year with my Father, great memories.
As for 'bunnies in headlights' my only mammal encounters on the way down were two different Red Foxes not 100 yards apart on the grid roads near my estate at 7pm! On the return (with Badger in mind, or actually any deer as I've seen none yet) I only saw my 3rd Fox near Water Eaton in the bushes near the Stoke Hammond bypass. I couldn't even find the Barn Owl hunting along the main bypass towards Linslade. Oh well Barn Owl will have to wait.

Friday, January 14

Out and about at lunch time

In an effort to avoid the showers I stayed close to the car this lunch time.
First stop Central Milton Keynes (opposite Argos) to see how the development is coming along. Still some birds with 5 Linnet flying around, a Crow, a few Black-headed and Common Gull's on the sandy wet section alongside the H6 (this must surely hold a Snipe or two?).
Then onto South Willen, like Linford yesterday this held masses of wildfowl. All the usual ducks, with 2 Goosander and 15 plus Goldeneye the best spots. (Surely something rarer must be amongst these two sights?) But I soon left as the heavens opened.
Then onto Lloyd's Court, Central Milton Keynes, to see if yesterday's Waxwings were still around. I'd also received a text of Mick Shepard who advised 50+ were still around some 20 minutes earlier. All I could see were a small flock of Starlings and the odd Redwing added in. The berries along the side of the Library have already been stripped.
Rob then text as I leaving Lloyd's Court to advise the Bearded Tits were not showing at Walton Balancing Lake but a Bittern flew in and landed in the reeds!
Looking forward to the photo's on your blog Rob :-)

Thursday, January 13

Linford Lakes at lunch time - Wigeon anyone!

10 oC ! Mild today, still cloudy and with a slight breeze. Water levels still rising and the mud all but gone from the bund, so wet feet all round for the Lapwings and gulls.
Amazingly the whole reserve was filled with Wigeon, I would estimate 400+, the Near Hide log book says there were around 600 on the 11th! Presume these are some birds from Gayhurst Quarry, perhaps they had a 'shoot' on and these relocated to Linford. Good numbers of Teal, Tufted Duck and a few others species, but I couldn't pick out anything rarer in my brief time in the hide. 6 Grey Herons were dotted about as well. The footpaths nearly came to life with Great and Blue Tit calling from within and the odd Wren making a racket.

Two mounted Police were along Swan's Way and a police car was in the reserve car park. Sue & Steph, the reserve staff, mentioned a missing person has been reported to them since the 9th Jan from the Giffard Park area. There was even a poster on the Near Hide door. Fingers crossed he turns up.

Tuesday, January 11

Linford Lakes at lunch time

A blustery WNW greeted me in the car park this lunch time. Thus no birds were seen along the paths to the hide. I did walk round to the boardwalks and I saw 50+ Siskin flying around in a flock and landing in the tops of Alders briefly before taking off again.
From Near Hide, the water levels are starting to rise, but small patches of earth still remain. These held a few Lapwing and wildfowl. A Little Egret sheltered out of the wind next to a Grey Heron and a male Goldeneye made up the best of the rest. Very quiet. On the walk back a Treecreeper showed really well working it's way up a trunk, but other than a Chaffinch that was it.

Sunday, January 9

Rutland Water - Saturday afternoon

As mentioned in an earlier post, 2011 is about seeing and adding new birds/wildlife to my 'life' lists. So with the drake American Wigeon reported all week (up to Thursday) at Rutland Water it had been 'flashing' on my radar. I took the gamble of going for this bird with the full knowledge that "this was going to be your only weekend pass until February!" per the wife. So Rob and I set off at One and headed the hour and 15 minute jaunt up the A1. We arrived in Whitwell Car park and meet the only other birders we saw all afternoon, who'd given the 300 plus Wigeon flock (feeding on the grass in the creek) a grilling but could not locate the American bird. So we then set about working are way through them. We'd managed about 3 scans each when a Crow spooked the whole flock and were then helped by a Black-headed Gull, all the birds flew out the creek and onto the main water. Rats. So we started to head towards the ferry terminal to try for another look. As we walked through part of the boat yard. Rob shouts "do you still need Siskin for the year?" I replied, not stopping "yes but I'll wait and tick if off back in MK" and carried on. Rob stopped to grill the Siskins (quite rightly). So I finally stopped and raised my bins to have a quick look. He said "about 15 to 20 but no Redpolls". But from my position further up the path ahead of him I picked out a larger paler/whiter bird.....heart beat now raising....the bird finally showed the classic 'Redpoll' on it's forehead. I said "I've found a Redpoll but it ain't ginger!" Rob caught up and we grilled the larger/paler/whiter Redpoll. We were hoping to see a 'ginger' Redpoll (Lesser) alongside for comparison but none were seen but another 2!!! 'whiter/paler/larger Redpolls. We worked our way through the differences, took some photo's and I even digiscoped some footage via my mobile phone. Everything was spot on for classic Common 'Mealy' Redpoll (a lifer for me :) (later that night we sent all the evidence to Si to get verified and he was more than happy with the i.d. ((even if my mobile video footage was pants!)) - result!) By now we'd spent 30 minutes looking at the Mealies, the Wigeon flock had moved back onto the grass to feed but a long way off on the other side of the creek. With time and light running out and happy with the lifer I was happy to let the yank Wigeon go. We headed off up the road to Barnsdale and after about 10 minutes scanning the water Rob picked out the 3 reported Slavonian Grebes in deep water and diving a lot. I then picked out a drake Red-crested Pochard. We didn't see the long staying Long-tailed Duck which was later reported on Bird Guides at the same time we were there?!? With sunset gone we headed off, chuffed with finally bagging Common Redpoll - just need to get one in Bucks now ;-). The yank Wigeon can wait and now goes on my 'dip' list.

Thursday, January 6

Caldecotte Lake at lunch time

Quick blast down the A5 at lunch time and I soon arrived at the middle car park of Caldecotte Lake. Quick scope of the South lake where 80+ large gulls were standing on the ice. Surely with a closer view it must have held a Yellow-legged or two. Then onto the wooden bridge (where Keith's ((see his blog been putting seed down) and 3 Reed Buntings were the best spot amongst a lot of finch's. On my way back the number of Chaffinch's had increased to 8 so not long now before a Brambling's going to pop up here. Also liked the look of the Ash trees full of 'keys' that the Greenfinch were feeding on - could get a Hawfinch here also!). Onto the North Lake I picked out a drake Goldeneye amongst good numbers of ducks. Walked back under the bridge I spotted a female Goosander near the reeds on the South Lake. Lots of birds on offer and lots of good habitat but lunch time was like pedestrian rush hour! With joggers/push bikes/office walkers all over the place. I can see why I like having Linford to myself at lunch times!

Wednesday, January 5

Linford Lakes at lunch time

I nearly decided against going to check if the previous weeks Bittern was still on site, as the sleet and rain pounded the car on the journey over. Luckily is paused enough for me to get my boots on and to Near Hide. All that was noted on the walk/dash down was a flock of 10 Long Tailed Tit. From Near Hide, no joy on the Bittern and little else of note. Mainly still all frozen except the patch in front of Far Hide and difficult to view from Near Hide. The bund did have sections unfrozen and these held most of the commoner duck species (all year ticks) but no more than 50 in number, with Teal the most numerous. On the dash back just the Long Tailed Tits still on the foot path.

Waxwings - Grange Farm

27 sat in the Oak of my daughters school this morning. They then flew off towards Budgens around 08:26. Well chuffed with an estate/school run tick - so close to my own estate.

Rob what was the name of the Rowans/berries on the two trees as you drive out of Medbourne. The top third of both of these has been eaten. Could be the Waxwings or could be Redwings? Fingers crossed they return.

Tuesday, January 4

Walton Balancing Lakes

The good thing about being back at work is having a lunch hour to myself to do some wildlife watching.
The car temperature gauge said 2 oC, it felt more like minus 2! I took a trip to Walton Balancing Lakes to see if the Bearded Tits were still hanging on. Through my 30 minutes on the platform I could hear the soft contact calls (almost like Long Tailed Tit) coming from within the reeds but never any classic 'ping ping' calls or views either. I did notch up a few year ticks with Fieldfare over, 2 Water Rails squealling then another bird flushed which flew up and out of the reeds and dropped into another section (bet it was a Bittern which flushed it), 2 Greater Black Backed Gulls were flying with 2 Lesser Black Backed and a Herring Gull. Finally a distant Buzzard was thermalling a long way away.

Slow start 2011....

Every year I keep a list of the birds I record in MKUA, Bucks and the UK (which is normally always England) and obviously a life list. I also keep a list of mammals and butterflies. So having spent most of the new year holidays in Hampshire I'm off to a slow start with the Oldbrook Waxwings on New Years Day probably the best tick so far (these were ticked on route to travelling to Hants).
This years natural history goals are to see all the bits I've never seen before like Marsh Fritillary, Smooth Snake, Otter etc and any new birds to my life list. So posts might be many or thin on the ground.