Saturday 30 March 2013

Spring started

An early start on Friday to get a walk in (as I had to work) was rewarded with my first summer migrant and a decent one at that; a female Ring Ouzel lurking with a couple of Fieldfares just above the wood at Pegsdon. Not unexpected about now but good to get one in before the hordes descend on the site into April and potentially steal the “finds” from under my nose. Maybe I should get up there and monopolise so the other SFYL listers have to go elsewhere but that would bring nose and face to mind as I probably would not find very much else of note…
Adding to my successes in the pits early Saturday was a male RCP in Quest which I was fortunate to bag for the self-find list as I had not read or heard anything about Mr Blain finding it the night before as I sat at home watching films and scoffing down some nice red. Not much else about but I also checked out some potential wader habitat in an unsuccessful look for Wipit, though finally bagged Chiffchaff and a small group of Barnacles to add two more to the list. Surprised not to get an LRP or a Wheatear though but they will come to me in the next month no doubt.

Friday 29 March 2013

Summer plumage

No, spring still hasn't arrived.  Still freezing out there.  I spent most of the day bimbling around looking at quite a few sites ready for when spring arrives properly.  Best bits were finding a nice newish gravel pit with some excellent wader potential, and importantly, well away from the well-watched Broom.  Watch this space!

Bird highlights were seven Scaup on Broggy, drake Red-crested Pochard on Quest, three Chiffchaffs at Marston Sewage Works, and best of all a sum plum Slav Grebe at the Stewartby Lake roost.  Ok, initially it was picked out as a 'small grebe' by Neil, but identifying it was a team effort as it was quite a long way off and nearly dark.  I added something else to the year list too today, but I can't remember what it was - must have been exciting!
It was a long way off.  And dark.

Wednesday 27 March 2013

Still cold

It's not got any warmer, has it. Still two Curlews over Biggy Common this evening were nice.

Sunday 24 March 2013

Snowy plovers

Stayed in most of Saturday with the snow but figured that most others would have done so as well so leaving a week’s worth of arrivals to be found on Sunday. Had a few waders today around the brick pits: Redshank, Oystercatchers, a few Snipe, a couple of flocks of Golden Plover (one of 11 and a second one of 50ish was probably GP though could not be certain with the distance and gloom), two Ringed Plovers over MVCP and then two in Quest with two SFYL Dunlin.


More snow. Wonderful. Still it didn't stop me having a quick drive down to Gypsy Lane to see if I can find a Dunlin or something. As I neared the pools something shot across the road, then back again, before flashing a white bum and landing in a bush. It couldn't be. I quickly parked up and looked back up the road. Yup, it was a Wheatear!

After Roger's earlier in the day I didn't expect to find one myself a bit later. It bombed around on the muddy snow-free bits of the path and spent quite a while on the road edge before I left it alone trying to eek out a living in the harsh conditions.

Interestingly, food must be scarce out there at the moment as a couple of Robins were both pecking at some road kill Rat and Rabbit carcasses just along from the Wheatear. I hope she survives.

Winter Wheatear

It was cold this morning. Snow covered the ground and a cold wind blew out of the east bringing more snow with it. Normally, much of my regular walk around my local patch of Henlow Grange is in the lee of the trees alongside Poppy Hill fishing lakes but today there was no protection from the wind and the birds were sparse. Signs of spring noted earlier in the month were no longer in evidence: the Great Crested Grebe nest was a flooded mat of rotting vegetation and nothing was singing. It has been a month since I have added a species to my patch list (Pochard on 23 Feb) and  I was hoping for some different ducks, possibly a Brambling or,  even more unlikely, a passing Waxwing. But a flock of 40 Linnets in a cabbage crop were the only finches I could find. I paused long enough to count the nests in Poppy Hill rookery, now up to 59 (from 31 last weekend) and caught some movement out of the corner of my eye. A bird was foraging, out of view, in a snow-free plough rut by the track. I was expecting a Yellow Hammer or Corn Bunting, but not a harbinger of spring. The male Wheatear hopped out onto the track, hanging around long enough to allow me to extract the camera and get the above picture, before it flew off north across the fields. Can't help wondering what its fate will be, given the current cold snap is supposed to last for the rest of the week.

Saturday 23 March 2013


After slipping away for a couple of weeks on a well earned break in Cyprus I thought I'd probably be safe from missing anything exciting back home. How wrong was I! Ring-billed Gull at Stewartby. Arse.

So, what did I do when I got back home? The gull roost of course! The weather wasn't quite what I'd been accustomed to during the last couple of weeks however.

Needless to say I didn't see a Ring-billed Gull, but I did have a sparkling adult Med Gull, and best of all, a Curlew over at 6pm.

It's not Cyprus!

Can you see the Med?

Wednesday 20 March 2013

Slipping in another Scaup

Here’s a shot of 4m2f Scaup I took at Broggie the other evening – the extra drake was up the north-eastern end of the lake whereas these were at the western end out from the gull watchpoint. The previous week, John Lynch and I had seen 3m1f + 1m early afternoon on 13th March so a pair of these Scaup count as SFYT’s for me.


Monday 18 March 2013

The Waste Land

TS Eliot was obviously not a birder, for it was he who wrote that 'April is the cruellest month...' No it isn't, you melodramatic old fool - March is...I haven't found a thing since the first few days of the month.

Over the last few months, I've been keeping an eye on a local farm reservoir (which is the nearest body of water within easy walking distance). For the first two months of the year, it looked fantastic for waders: lots of exposed mud, shallow pools and emergent, fringing vegetation. Imagine my horror when I discovered this weekend that it had been pumped full of water. But hey, selfishness aside, it was still worth checking. After a pair of Oystercatchers yesterday (a site first for me), I returned this evening, in sparkling light and hoping for Ringed Plover, Redshank or perhaps something more fanciful like a Curlew or Avocet.

I gave a visceral laugh out loud when the first birds (only birds) on the entire reservoir were a pair of Mandarin. I admit that they looked fantastic in the light, but they were positively not what I was expecting. Both flew off in the direction of Gamlingay Heath. I know there are a couple of private lakes over there, but have no idea what is 'kept' on them.

Still, Mandarin counts as one, just the same as a Lesser Scaup would do. Seems wrong to me, but I'll take it.


Sunday 17 March 2013

Nice weather for ducks

Out and about between the rain this weekend. With Stewartby roost probably well watched after RBG and Kittiwakes over the previous two days, I thought I would try my luck at Grovebury for some fresh air Saturday evening… and it was fresh especially without gloves. As the gulls built up my hopes for Kitty increased but there was none doing and a probable Yellow-legged Gull in the near dark will have to wait for another time to hit the list. A couple of birds did fly in though and hit the SFYL net, firstly a Shelduck and then a female Goosander, which joined a male that appeared from nowhere in the far corner so presumably had been lurking in cover (and had been reported there last week).
So other than plastic Barnacle Goose and maybe plastic RCP, all the likely wildfowl now on the list and just real scarcities left.

Still fancying a bit of Kitty, and guessing every one else would be in bed, I had another run round some brick pits on Sunday morning and scored again nicely with a Slavonian Grebe at Stewartby, though I am mindful that this could be the Brogborough bird moved along (did that bird also count for the previous Stew record at the end of Jan?) Three Oyks there and one in Quest were not new, but three Ringed Plovers through Quest at the start of a heavy shower were my first in Beds of the year. Duck and swan numbers well down in Chimney Corner complex but once again had Bittern there, no doubt disturbed by my arrival over the bank. 

Saturday 16 March 2013

Kitti conundrum

Following on from last evening’s excitement, I returned to Stewartby Lake in the hope of getting further views of the first-summer Ring-billed Gull that Neil had found on Thursday 14th March. I determined I’d get there early as the weather was inclement and I hoped any goodies would arrive early to roost. So it was that I joined Tony Ploszajski at 4.45 at the usual gull watchpoint midway along the north-west bank. We were sheltering under brollies but the change in wind direction had brought the roost closer and all conveniently facing west broadside on. In fact the gulls came in later than yesterday and comprised just a few hundred birds split roughly equally between Common and Black-headed. Roy Dunham soon joined us and the last night’s hero, Neil Wright. Tony P had to go but Tony Revill and Phil Rhodes arrived. Of a sudden, Neil cried out that an adult Kittiwake had just flown in – and it had! We watched it for some time but then continued our scans for the RBG or a Med Gull as more and more gulls now poured in. A few minutes later I was scanning the flock and well over to the left, I ‘re-found’ the Kittiwake. Whilst trying to direct the others on to it, Tony Revill called that he was watching an adult Kittiwake in flight in the vicinity I was pointing to – he was and Tony and I kept on it through our ‘scopes as it circled and then headed right but we lost it in the melee. During these flight views, Neil called out that he’d still got a Kittiwake on the water over to the left where my bird had been. I then re-found presumably the flying bird on the water in the front centre of the roost, just as where the original bird had been. Paul Wright now arrived and we quickly directed him onto both birds. Regrettably, but unsurprisingly, the Ring-billed Gull didn’t make a second appearance and, as Lesser Black-backs had dropped from 135 down to 49, it is likely that the RBG was merely en route northward.

In terms of what counts on a Self-found Yearlist, the above is a conundrum…..

NW clearly self-found the first bird centrally in the flock when overall numbers were under a thousand. But, had I found the second bird and it was the first bird that had flown up for a fly round and landed again in much the same place as it took off from? Or, had I merely relocated the first bird over to the left and it was TR who found the second bird flying in to land centrally in the roost? Indeed it is unlikely, but not inconceivable, that there was the ‘central bird’, the ‘left bird’ and that the ‘flying bird’ simply flew through and headed west toward Brogborough. It is safest and most likely that just two adult Kittiwakes were present. It is also ‘almost’ certain that any one of us present would have found the first Kittiwake moments after NW called it as it was a very obvious bird toward the front centre of the flock – so on that basis alone is, I understand, an SFYT.


Monday 11 March 2013

Still in the running for Wildfowl Cup

Catching up with my WeBS counts after a weekend away and bagged a half decent Selfer with a Brent at Roxy. There have been a few around/over in the last few days.

Sunday 10 March 2013

Stuck in Luton

Not my normal Saturday first thing birding this week when I looked out of the window and discovered it was thick fog as it had been all the previous evening. If there was anything out there to be found it would not be until the fog clears and that would have been after my curfew so stayed home to do my jobs, other than a quick half hour in the afternoon to go WEBS-ing in the local Wardown Park.

Mother's Day much them same with plenty of brownie points to be scored. Did pick up one tick though, driving around to collect my mother-in-law for lunch when two Egyptian Geese were seen flying north east over the town, possibly out from Luton Hoo. So that goes with the ton-up Woodcock from Sandy Smith last Sunday to take me into the second century.

Wardown Park, Luton - just checking that there was not a Bonaparte's lurking...

Tuesday 5 March 2013

Well sick

After being stuck in doors with a stinking cold for the last four days it was time for a walk in the warm sun shine. I headed for Broom.

The red-head Smew was noted still on GLW before I noticed a load of gulls sat on the end of Peacocks Island. I shifted the scope round for a squint (they were still a long way off).

Black-head, Black-head, Common, Avocet. Hold on a minute - AVOCET!! Well, that's a nice surprise. It had a little preen and went to sleep amongst the gulls.

I went for a closer look and noticed two Oycs sat at the opposite end of the gull flock, another SFYL bird. Two birds with a few mins.

Not bad after a few weeks of a lean streak. Iphonescoped shot below.

Sunday 3 March 2013

Lesser Spot...

I can count on the fingers of several hands, the number of times over the last few weeks that I have searched for these elusive little bastards along the stream that runs from west of Gamlingay through to Sutton. This morning, my persistence paid off with a calling female between Pegnut Wood, Potton STW and John O'Gaunt GC - not far from where I also had a female last summer (approx. 3/4 mile).

So thrilled and flushed with success was I, that until now, I had completely forgotten about a very interesting-sounding 'Chiffchaff' I'd heard a few seconds earlier near the sewage works. Must return tomorrow morning; however, this afternoon I have a larger target species in mind...

I think Matt was partially right; whilst I wouldn't necessarily say there is an 'edge' to this year's competition, it is certainly cut and thrust.

By the way, who the bloody hell is Matt? Is he Lord Lucan/ The Scarlet Pimpernel masquerading as a Bedfordshire birder? ;-)


Saturday 2 March 2013

Having a flake with that ?

Reached the 99 after adding four more to the list in the pits this Saturday morning. Waxwings found just north of Westoning were my second flock found of the year and a bit of a surprise as most seemed to have moved through, perhaps they are on their way back ? After last week I did not need to add Scaup but six at Brogborough would have been enough for a steal after only two there last week. Two SFYT though at Marston Vale with a Cettis shouting at me in the WL9 reedbed right next to the vehicular entrance before spotting an Oystercatcher on the island in the Pillinge with some Lapwing. A quick scan of Stewartby and Quest did not give anything for the notebook so it was time to drop into Chimney Corner South which has been good to me this year and once again obliged with a SFYT female Pintail, associating loosely with 70 Wigeon, The ducks here had a brief panic as a Bittern appeared over the bank and flew over the water before dropping into the reeds. This seemed to have come from the North pit so could well have been the bird I found there in early February, perhaps disturbed by the two dog walkers that appeared soon after distantly on the footpath at the back of this pit. A quick look in Rookery on the way back to see if it was suitable for waders and thinking Ringed Plover etc was enough for the 99 but not what had been expected; my first Raven of the year flew over cronking loudly while inspecting all the Teal for the orientation of white stripes.

Friday 1 March 2013


My first in 11 months (and yes, that does mean I'm also one of many never to have seen the dead cert Merlin at Gypsy Lane GPs). This one was just south of Chawston at 5pm tonight.  Keeping me in the game but still mid table.