Friday, 28 November 2008

28 NOVEMBER 2008

Calvert BBOWT; First-winter LITTLE GULL again in gull pre-roost breifly before flying to sailing lake. The first-winter CASPIAN GULL was also still present, seen and photographed by Warren Clayden (images above taken by Tim Watts).
Berryfields; earlier this week at 3;50 p.m, 1 SHORT-EARED OWL hunting close to watchpoint and 1 on ridge and 2 BARN OWLS

Monday, 24 November 2008

More Weekend Birding

SATURDAY MORNING (22nd) CALVERT- Large numbers of Black-headed Gulls in surrounding fields and loafing on both lakes. HILLESDEN; The 4 TUNDRA BEAN GEESE flew in from SE area, circled pools then landed but very wary/ 120 Greenfinch on Sunflower strip/ COMMON STONECHAT next to pools on rough ground/ 14 Meadow Pipit.

SUNDAY AFTERNOON (23rd) GRENDON UNDERWOOD LAYBY; a whopping c450 Linnet. Not in one flock but 4 over half mile area. Not double counted as they flew right to left in flocks in quick succession, think roosting together. Attracted to area by rape field with edge left to seed and uncut Maize type field. CALVERT BBOWT LAKE; Gull pre-roost not massive but good turnover, these included a first-winter LITTLE GULL, a classic first-winter CASPIAN GULL, a classic adult CASPIAN GULL and several adult YELLOW-LEGGED GULLS.

Weekend Birding - TUNDRA BEAN family reappear

The four TUNDRA BEAN GEESE (adult pair and their two offspring) reappeared at Hillesden Farm Pools at the weekend and showed well throughout. Tim Watts obtained these images above.
At Calvert BBOWT Lake, two adult CASPIAN GULLS roosted, along with 13 Yellow-legged Gulls (Mike Wallen), whilst at Foxcote Reservoir, the drake RING-NECKED DUCK remained.
Two SHORT-EARED OWLS remain at Berryfields.

Monday, 17 November 2008

17 NOVEMBER 2008

Foxcote Reservoir (evening visit)

A very enjoyable hour or so sat in the hide at Foxcote this afternoon. Best bird was the 1st-winter KITTIWAKE in with the gull roost The gull roost also held 3 adult YELLOW-LEGGED GULLS and c280 LBBG's.

The drake RING-NECKED DUCK was also present, with Pochards as usual along the west bank. Also 474 Wigeon, 12 COMMON GOLDENEYE and a female NORTHERN PINTAIL of note amongst the ducks.

Finally the Starling roost proved predictably - but not boringly! -spectacular, with I reckon about 6,000 birds sweeping through the sky and eventually plunging into the reedbeds by the hide.


Saturday, 15 November 2008

15 NOVEMBER 2008

15 birders gathered in the A41 lay by for the Berryfields' show this evening, and it didn't disappoint. First to appear were 2 SHORT-EARED OWLS over the ridge to the left at 16:00. Then at 16:20 JRW picked up the juvenile HEN HARRIER, as usual arriving from the right. It slowly crossed the road, and dropped to roost in the field behind the large field to the left. Finally, at 16:40, 2 BARN OWLS showed to the right.


Friday, 14 November 2008


Family party of Tundra Bean Geese, Hillesden Pools, near Calvert, North Buckinghamshire, 14 November 2008 (Adam Hartley)
In plate 1, the male is on the left, the darker female to its right and two juveniles.
In plate 2, one juvenile is on the left, then the adult male, female and second juvenile.
Plate 3 shows just the male and female and plate four, a larger close-up shot of the male


A much milder day than of late with temperatures several degrees above the average for mid November, Dry all day but with increasing cloud cover.


Following a text from Tim Watts early afternoon, I made my way straight to Hillesden. He had just discovered four 'Bean' Geese. Already having missed what were presumably the same four in Bedfordshire on Wednesday, I was keen to get there before they flew off again.

I arrived on site at 1330 hours and was extremely pleased to find the entire goose flock still roosting on the middle lake. In amongst the 240 Greylag Geese were sat the four birds on the grass. A short time later, a dog walker arrived, and three of the four birds stood up. Immediately, I was struck by their similarity to Pink-footed Geese, with very dark head and necks and relatively short and thicker-necked, the darker feathers contrasting with the paler body. The amount of orange on the bills was variable but very limited - all four birds being TUNDRA BEAN GEESE.

On closer inspection, I soon discovered that it was a family party, with two adults and two juveniles. The smaller female was much darker in plumage, whilst the male had slightly more orange on the bill. Both adults had distinct orange in the bills, the bills themselves being typically deep-based and rather short. The juveniles by comparison had much more restricted colour in the bill and this was pinkish-orange rather than the deep orange of both adults. Furthermore, they had distinct pale fringes to all of the upperwing feathers, dark brown mantles with fine barring and a noticeable white outer tail and terminal band. Although the adults had orange legs and feet, the juveniles had much paler orange legs.

(Pink-footed Geese were ruled out on leg colour, leg length, bill colour and structure, upperpart colouration and uppertail pattern)

As I was taking photographs of the four birds, I was soon joined by Oxfordshire birder Adam Hartley. I quickly directed Adam on to the four birds and over the next 25 minutes we studied them and photographed them at 90 yards range. The Greylag Geese all moved on to the lake just leaving the four Tundra Beans on their own, one juvenile remaining asleep. At 1405 hours, just after a Chinook Helicopter had passed low over a neighbouring field, all four flew up and flew to the right hand scrape, where they touched down and drank. In flight, the base of the tails were pure white, contrasting with the dark brown uppertail-coverts and rump. The outer rim of the tails were pure white too, being most marked on the two juveniles.

The birds remained on the 'hide scrape' until at least 1415 hours, when Adam and I departed, but flew off 20 minutes later when a farmer in a JCB approached the pools. Adam obtained some superb images, four of which I present above.

Tundra Bean Goose represented my 175th species in Buckinghamshire this year, from memory my best year ever.

The Hillesden Pools also yielded 2 adult Mute Swans, 3 Gadwall, 3 Northern Pochards, 4 Tufted Duck, a pair of Eurasian Wigeon, a drake GOOSANDER (TW only), 4 Coot and a Grey Heron. At least 2 Bullfinches were in the House gardens, with 25+ FIELDFARE in the vicinity. A Common Snipe flew over us calling.

CALVERT BBOWT - just 1 Common Snipe noted, although the JACK SNIPE was seen by others later; 4 Great Crested Grebes.


Sadly, a dead Badger was beside the Quainton road, less than half a mile from the A41.

In perfect conditions this late afternoon and evening, Eurasian Sparrowhawk (2 including an adult male), Common Buzzard and 7 Common Kestrels were hunting, a CHINESE WATER DEER was in a distant stubble field and 6 COMMON STONECHATS (4 males) were counted. Disconcertingly, for the second night running, NOT ONE Short-eared Owl was seen - they have possibly deserted the area. Fourteen birders witnessed the events this evening.

The juvenile HEN HARRIER flew in from the east at 1621 hours and quickly disappeared towards the far hedge, with a BARN OWL on view ten minutes after I left (per Sally).

Thursday, 13 November 2008

13 NOVEMBER 2008


A return to damp, dismal and very grey conditions, with persistent and steady rain from mid-afternoon


Constant rain, very unsuitable weather for hunting owls and consequently none seen

Tim Watts and I watched the juvenile HEN HARRIER arrive from the east at 1605 hours and after a couple of passes at a male and female Common Pheasant in the long grass, it flew towards the far hedgerow and was lost in the gloom at 1608.

Jackdaws were flighting to roost all evening, with 222 to the SW by 1608, with 24 Rooks and the odd Carrion Crow mixed in with them; 2 Goldcrests moved west along the car park hedgerow.


The JACK SNIPE was still present, showing well in front of the hide.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008


A flock of 10 RED-CRESTED POCHARDS arrived at Foxcote Reservoir on Sunday 9 November 2008, staying for just one day



Aylesbury A41 layby; Tonight- now 5 SHORT-EARED OWLS, 3 BARN OWLS, 2 COMMON RAVEN. The juvenile appeared at 4:28, flew straight to roost in large field.Keep your eyes peeled around this time as only on show for c1min and as flying towards us, no white rump visible, hard to pick out as flew low over brown weeds in failing light. Decent side on view just prior to roosting but only for c15 secs! Also spotted , a Bucks Herald reporter! checking out what all the fuss has been about this week!
Calvert BBOWT Lake (morning visit); 175 Pochard and FERRUGINOUS DUCK back/ JACK SNIPE still in front of 1st hide/ 4 (new in) Little Grebe on sailing lake
Foxcote Reservoir; Adult drake RING-NECKED DUCK still/ 4 male+ 4 female COMMON GOLDENEYE/ COMMON SHELDUCK seen earlier by others
Grendon Underwood layby; c 1,000 Lapwing/c 100 Golden Plover/ c 2,000 Starling/ c 40 Snipe/ c60 Teal/c 25 Wigeon/ c 80 Linnet, all seen in flight over 1hr period when spooked up off fields/floods by raptors,

Monday, 10 November 2008

10 NOVEMBER 2008 - JACK SNIPE remains

Calvert BBOWT; JACK SNIPE still from 1st hide. Water level risen and ti has moved. Come 4-5 mts back from right hand side of black sunken log on waters edge and scan slowly right. Static until 4:35 when vigourously preened,then at 4:40 it left hiding spot and fed in full view(although dark!) in open muddy pool.Add Image


Friday, 7 November 2008




Viewing from the public footpath accessed from Lawn Hill, half a mile east of Edgcott, I spent 80 minutes 'scoping and click-counting the vast numbers of large white-headed gulls 'swarming' over the tip and resting in neighbouring fields and on ridges of earth. I was amazed at the sheer number of birds - very similar in number to what I used to experience at the once open tip at Hedgerley.

In total, I click-counted a staggering 4,913 large white-headed Gulls, including 2,562 Lesser Black-backed Gulls, 1,826 Herring Gulls (of which a surprisingly large percentage were northern Argentatus), an outstanding 511 Great Black-backed Gulls and a much smaller number (14) of rare gulls. The latter included 11 YELLOW-LEGGED GULLS (5 adults, 3 2nd-winters and 3 first-winters), 3 CASPIAN GULLS (two clean-headed adults, with small dark eyes, greenish bills, aggressive foreheads & long pale legs, and a striking white-headed first-winter - seen at Calvert BBOWT recently) and a juvenile ICELAND GULL (seen earlier on BBOWT Lake and photographed). Despite such vast numbers of large gulls, small gulls were very much in the minority, with less than 200 Black-headed Gulls and only 15 or so Common Gulls.

At least 18 RED KITES were in attendance and most impressive was an estimated flock of some 7,500 Common Starlings, all often wheeling around in one huge mass.

At the nearby CALVERT BBOWT RESERVE, the JACK SNIPE was still showing well, 'bouncing' in one spot in the 'cut reeds' directly in front of the first hide (its favoured roosting and feeding spot is just behind the muddy scrape area, 10 yards in from the water's edge and 20 feet left of the middle horizontal log).

Wildfowl included just 4 Gadwall and 8 Tufted Ducks


A record 37 observers was present at 1600 hours, all anticipating tonight's 'show'. First to perform, as usual, were the SHORT-EARED OWLS, with all three birds hunting widely across the fields for over half an hour.

At 1635 hours, I located the juvenile HEN HARRIER, once again appearing from the east and then flying across the road and to within 75 yards of the large, assembled crowd. Fantastic views were obtained, allowing me to fully explain and illustrate to others the intracacies of ageing ringtail harriers. The viewing lasted just over four minutes as at 1639, it dived down into the long grass and did not reappear.

A noisy flock of 17 Greylag Geese flew SW, 2 COMMON STONECHATS were seen, 3 Roe Deer, 27 FIELDFARES, 352 Common Starlings SE to roost and as dusk approached, a beautifully close BARN OWL.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

A Berryfields Bonanza - HEN HARRIER and MERLIN headlining

Berryfields is situated north of the A41 just NW of Aylesbury, with the roosting and feeding area best observed from the layby just west of the minor road to Quainton.



I decided to arrive early this evening, particularly as the weather forecast was good (overcast but dry, light winds and 12 degrees centigrade). Tim Watts was already in situ, complete with chair, and the evening's proceedings were also enjoyed by Francis Buckle, Mic & Jan Wells, Graham Smith, Dave Horton, John Gearing and Howard Ginn.

The first SHORT-EARED OWL appeared shortly after I arrived at 1515 hours, feeding over the rough field on the far ridge. This was soon joined by a second bird, both of these being rather pale. About ten minutes later, the much darker-breasted, juvenile appeared over the close field, and for the next 40 minutes, all three birds put on a fabulous display as they quartered over the fields searching for rodents. At times, the two paler birds flew up high in the sky, and played together, whilst the juvenile kept low and spent occasions perching on fenceposts, even extending its range to the far eastern end of the field on the opposite side of the road.

A total of 6 COMMON STONECHATS was encountered, 3 (two males and a female) at the east end, a lone female in the middle and two males on the hedgerow at the far west end, along with a charm of 17 Goldfinches, 31 Meadow Pipits, 12 FIELDFARE and 3 REDWING.

A single Eurasian Sparrowhawk spooked the Goldfinches and two male Common Stonechats shortly later, perching briefly in the hedgerow, and at 1540, I located the HEN HARRIER on the far side of the hedgerow 800 yards east of the Quainton road near Quarrendon House Farm. With its rich rusty brown heavily streaked breast and equally warn-coloured underwing-coverts, it was clearly a juvenile and as it flew much closer and banked towards us, the four-banded tail was narrowly tipped buff at the tip of the terminal tail-band. It was boldly streaked on the underparts but lightly marked on the head, with a slight paling arc around the eye, no collar and uniform dark brown upperparts. The mantle and upperwing-coverts were paler than the rest of the upper wing and neatly peppered with pale fringing, with the pure white rump strongly contrasting as it quartered the pale coloured field flora. For over ten minutes, it hunted over its roosting field (to the east of Quainton Road) but then came even closer to the crowd, hunting over the main field north of the A41 layby. After a number of unsuccessful plunges at the ground, it then returned to its original field, and remained on view until 1600 hours. Thi sis the third consecutive evening that the bird has roosted at the site.

Whilst staking out the Hen Harrier, I latched on to a male MERLIN which quickly flew to a nearby perch by Quarrendon House Farm. It sat in full view on top of a hedgerow (again, east of the Quainton Road) for four minutes (1603-1607), before dropping down and speeding away over the field, but long enough to allow all those present to get on to it. In flight, the upperparts had a bluish-grey tinge to them, with the tail having a fairly broad black subterminal band. When perched, the head pattern showed a faint moustachial, a darkish crown and a narrow, pale supercilium. The underparts were quite heavily streaked brown, indicating that the bird was sub-adult. It was present for its third day.

At 1612 hours, two COMMON RAVENS (presumably a pair) flew 400 yards apart south over us in the layby and the A41 towards Aylesbury, presumably off to roost, whilst as the light faded, the first of 2 BARN OWLS started to hunt the fields. A truly memorable evening


The undoubted highlight today was the presence of a single JACK SNIPE roosting and 'bouncing' in front of the hide, partially obscured by reeds (Gareth Leece)
The bird remained throughout the afternoon, allowing Tim Watts to obtain these three images.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008



A41 layby,Berryfields, Aylesbury; 1430-1700 (Tim Watts)

With certainty 3 SHORT-EARED OWLS/ MERLIN/BARN OWL/4 COMMON STONECHAT and late on a female or immature HEN HARRIER.
Harrier not seen hunting, infact only really glimpsed interacting with 2 Short-eared Owls, in failing light at 4;30p.m. What I did see was a gleaming white rump as it turned in flightand dived into weedy/rough grass. Expected it to come up with prey, but no, it didn't come up again at all. It is roosting and I know exact spot it went down. Not mega distant from layby, estimate c500mts. I will be there at dawn tomorrow and will point out the spot to anyone who has a look..

Calvert; Adult drake FERRUGINOUS DUCK back on BBOWT lake from 1st hide.

Quainton Hills; c 500 mixed Fieldfare/Redwings ranging over slopes/site tick with adult YELLOW-LEGGED GULL with c 200 L.B.B/ 2 Starling flocks of c1500 plus smaller flocks,
lots of Common Blackbird on lower slopes and home village of Whitchurch solid with them early morning.

Rough grass field nr Waddesdon; pair of COMMON STONECHAT,


Monday, 3 November 2008


A classic first-winter CASPIAN GULL at Calvert Landfill, North Bucks, photographed by Tim Watts on 1st November

Marsh Gibbon; c40 Golden Plover + c350 Lapwing on flood

Calvert Landfill; STRICTLY PRIVATE no access; Found out where the FERRUGINOUS DUCK disappears to today, it is on pit on adjacent landfill site with it's 3 Pochard buddies! Can't be viewed but very likely to be disturbed by workers and go back to BBOWT lake. Also 2 DUNLIN feeding/6 Snipe/ first-winter CASPIAN GULL/ c2,000 Common Starlings. After heavy rain gulls usually choose to feed on wet fields and leave landfill, very few L.B.B but the really big gulls chose to stay feeding on tip. Very suprised to count 180+ Herring Gull and c50 G.B.B, haven't seen anywhere near this number on pre-roosts so think they stay on recently tipped rubbish until virtually dark. Loads of Fieldfare/Redwings and Blackbirds seen at all sites including a massive mixed flock c 400 at base of Quainton Hill.