Bird Sightings

Seen an interesting bird?  Then let us know by submitting a record on our on-line database.  It is easy to do but if you need some instructions take a look at the Submit Sightings Page.  To view the latest sightings just click on the menu item for Latest Sightings.

Some birds are not uncommon in other parts of the country or around our coasts, but may be in Buckinghamshire.  If you want to see just how scarce a particular species is then take a look at the Bucks List.

Breeding Goosanders on the Thame

Goosanders have bred on the River Ouse in the north of the county for several years. As this is a fair way for their normal range in the UK this is certainly rather exceptional. Then in May 2019 there was a report of a female with seven well grown young on the River Thame near Haddenham. So maybe a indication that the population on the River Ouse was expanding.

Then in 2020 a pair bred on the River Thame and the brood captured on a trail camera. See below:

The video was recorded on 22nd June 2019. There are eight birds shown. The female is the bird that perches on the concrete platform first and has the bright coloured legs. The leg colour of the juveniles is much duller.

Thanks to Henry Manisty for allowing us to use his video.

For a previous post on Goosanders breeding in Buckinghamshire take a look at https://bucksbirdclub.co.uk/breeding-goosanders-in-bucks/

Bucks Bird Blockers

This following list is for general interest and shows all of the birds that are on the Bucks list but which have not been seen for some years. Sometimes for a great many years! This of course does not cover all of the species that have never turned up in the county. That would be a long list!

If you have been birding in the county for quite a few years then maybe you have seen a few of these. If not then it is maybe something to aim at!

While some of these are certainly possible (e.g. Rose-coloured Starling) others look extremely unlikely (e.g. Pallas’s Sandgrouse)! It also seems strange that a bird such as Puffin has been recorded 11 times in the county, but none since 1979!

The data was kindly compiled by Roger Bibby.

160 years100 years
Guillemot (1852)Palla’s Sandgrouse (1908)
90 Years80 Years
Little Bittern (1922)Roller (1938)
50 Years40 Years
Bufflehead (1961)Serin (1971)
Great Snipe (1962)Hooded Crow (1975)
Nutcracker (1968)Rose Coloured Starling (1978)
Red-breasted Flycatcher (1970)Puffin (1979)
30 Years20 Years
Long-tailed Skua (1982)American Golden Plover (1991)
Bluethroat (1983)Black-eared Wheatear (1992)
Corncrake (1985)Eider (1993)
Cirl Bunting (1985)Pomarine Skua (1994)
Arctic Skua (1985)Razorbill (1996)
Little Bunting (1987)River Warbler (1997)
Aquatic Warbler (1990)Purple Sandpiper (1997)
Richards Pipit (1998)
Great Shearwater (1999)
Franklin Gull (1999)
10 Years
Whiskered Tern (2001)
Red-rumped Swallow (2002)
Woodchat Shrike (2003)
Least Sandpiper (2003)
Two-barred Crossbill (2003)
Bee-eater (2005)
Twite (2006)
Wilsons Phalarope (2007)
Black Stork (2008)
Great Reed Warbler (2008)
Icterine Warbler (2008)
Green-winged Teal (2010)

Migrant Dates

One of the interesting aspects of birding in Buckinghamshire is the arrival and departure of migrant species (such as Cuckoo, Swallows, etc). Questions are often asked as to what is the earliest arrival date, or what is a typical arrival date for a specific species. This post answers many of these questions.

The data below contains data on the various migrant birds species found in Buckinghamshire and has been extracted from Annual Reports for the county from 1971 until 2019 . It includes Summer visitors, Winter visitors and passage migrants.

This date was compiled by Jim Rose and Graham Smith.

Please bear in mind the following points :-

  • The average dates given are that of the earliest records received and not the typical arrival date which is obviously somewhat later.   The opposite of course applies to average late dates.
  • Some species that are normally regarded as UK residents (e.g.  Ringed Plover) can be treated as summer visitors to Bucks as there is a clear break in records during the winter months.
  • Some species that are regarded as summer visitors to the UK, may in fact be treated as migrant species in Bucks (e.g.  Wheatear), as it is possible to separate the spring passage from the return passage. Hence there are two sets of tables for these species (see Spring and Autumn Migrants).
  • You may find that there are some species missing from the tables that you might have expected to see.  This may be due to the back that some species that are normally regarded as say a summer visitor do turn up during other months making it difficult to determine arrival and departure dates (e.g. Blackcap).
  • Where the occasional exceptional record occurs (e.g. where a normal summer visitor is recorded over wintering) that record is ignored from the average date calculation and from the earliest/latest ever data.  This is indicated against that species in the table.  Similarly in years where wintering birds stay on to breed, the dates for those years have been ignored (e.g. Goosander).
  • Additional years data will be added on the publication of the Buckinghamshire Annual Bird Report.
  • Red Italics means that data is inconclusive due to some out of season records or lack of data

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Below is one example of how migrant arrival dates have changed over the years. It appears that Swallows now arrive up to ten days earlier than previously.

Arrival dates for Swallow from 1972 until 2017
Note that the graph has been “smoothed” by plotting “three year averages”.

Club Constitution

The Buckinghamshire Bird Club constitution was updated in November 2020. To see a PDF copy click on this link.

Buckinghamshire Bird Club Constitution

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Indoor Meetings

The committee have decided to run a series of “Indoor Meetings” using the on-line “Zoom” application. This will allow members to see a presentation from their own home without the risk of attending a meeting in Wendover. For more information on these meetings see the Club Events tab.

Members can run Zoom from most PCs as well as many tablets and smartphones. The minimum requirement is a speaker but a microphone is required if you wish to ask a question. A camera is nice to have but not essential.

The first Zoom presentation will run immediately after the Club Annual General Meeting on 12th November at 19:30. Club Member Nick Marriner will give a talk on the work he is doing with local farmers to improve habitats for wildlife.

The Next Field Meeting

There are three field trips in “Club Events” tab.  Whether or not we can run these and what restrictions will need to be in place, will not be clear until much nearer the time.

The next field trip is planned for 1st January 2021 at College Lake.  This is always a popular venue and there is always a variety of wildfowl to be seen at this time of year.  We will contact members and post further details here nearer the time.

After that we are planning trips to Otmoor RSPB Reserve and Tring Reservoirs.  For more information visit the “Club Events” tab.

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County Bird Racing

This is an article looking back in time to when County Bird Racing was popular. At one time there were national competitions which attracted hundreds of teams from many counties across the UK. The teams would consist of four birders who would have to see or hear as many species as possible in a 24 hour period, from within their county. The teams would be handicapped as to what their species target would be and the winners would be the team with the highest percentage of their target.

So in an attempt to document what happened in Buckinghamshire, the results have been pulled together and are shown in two tables.

Table 1 – The List of Participating Teams and Totals. This data can also be found at
https://www.goingbirding.co.uk/bucks/birdracing.asp

The second table is in PDF form and can be downloaded with this link. This table shows all of the species seen for the teams.

It is quite interesting to see how some species have become more common over the years and how some species have become very difficult to find. For example in the early years it was not possible or extremely difficult to see Little Egret, Red Kite, Buzzard or Raven. It was however, with a bit of planning, possible to see or hear Lady Amherst’s Pheasant, Willow Tit, Turtle Dove, Ruddy Duck and others. Take a look at the species table for the whole picture.

Since the last race took part in 2012 things have changed further. Turtle Dove and Nightingale have all but gone from the county and birds such as Great White Egret are now a possibility! If anyone does attempt a bird race in the future it will be interesting to compare results. One thing is for sure is that to get even close to the current record of 121 species will be a real challenge!

White Stork in South Bucks

On 8th June, photos posted on Twitter and on Facebook of a White Stork at Cockmarsh, just over the border in Berkshire, were tantalising and several Bucks birders crossed the Thames to try and locate the bird. Unfortunately all that could be gleaned was a report that “a Crane” was seen to fly off north, presumably over the river into Bucks.

A wander around some of the likely places in the area the following day did not produce anything however the video below has since been posted on Twitter. This was taken on Monday 8th at Bradenham about 11 kilometres to the NW from Cockmarsh.

There are 18 prior records of the species in the county. The origin of this bird is not known but there are release schemes in Southern England at present, so a possible source.

Red-necked Phalarope at Little Marlow GP

The Red-necked Phalarope was a gap in the county list for many Buckinghamshire birders. That all changed on Sunday 7th June 2020 at about 07:10 when Little Marlow regular Adam Bassett saw a male land on the west side of the sand spit. He quickly put news out to the county birders and with 20 minutes several local birders were on site with a steady flow of birders arriving during the morning.

The bird fortunately mainly fed along the west side of the sand spit which is much closer than the east side and it fed quite happily moving up and down most of the morning. It was harassed from time to time by Coots but generally just flew a short distance. It did swim from time to time as it picked insects off of the water.

Photography was difficult given the distance to such a small bird and the light conditions.

An interesting size comparison

A video of the bird can be found at https://twitter.com/Adamdbassett/status/1269724081076699136

At 09:18 the bird was seen to fly off high and it was thought to have gone. However it returned just after 10:00 and stayed until 11:53 when it was seen to fly off.

The above photos are courtesy of Adam Bassett (1 &3) and Paul Watts (2 & 4).

Peregrines in Marlow

Peregrine Falcons have gradually been spreading across the country and now breed on many tall buildings and structures across the country, as well as their natural cliff habitat. For the past few years we have been fortunate to have Peregrines breeding on the Aylesbury Council Offices and the MK Stadium in Milton Keynes.

We now have two more sites which are currently home for two pairs of Peregrines, both being seen regularly on the main churches in High Wycombe and Marlow and both are called “All Saints”. Neither site seems to have any breeding activity going on this year but that might indicate that one or more of them are first summer birds and not ready to breed just yet. However Peregrines often stay in the area that they have taken up residence in to breed, so hopefully next year breeding may take place.

Both sites are on secure buildings but the birds can be viewed from the churchyards of surrounding roads. Please respect the churchyards and graves if you visit.

All Saints Church Marlow – Plenty of perching places for Peregrines and plenty of food nearby. There are two Peregrines up there somewhere!
One of the Marlow birds with prey on 31st May
Marlow – 31st May
31st May – Neither of the Marlow birds appears to be ringed.
The female eating an unfortunate Ring-necked Parakeet – 1st June
The male perched higher up the side of the steeple. 1st June

Peregrines in High Wycombe

The High Wycombe birds have been present through the latter part of the winter at least. Neither appears to be ringed. Birds have been reported at both Marlow and High Wycombe within a short time period, so it seems likely that these are separate pairs. The photos below were taken in February 2020 but the birds were still in the area in April and May.

All Saints Church, High Wycombe. One bird can just be seen on the parapet.
Peregrine – female
Peregrine – female
The male

Photos kindly provided by Phil Laybourne, Dave Parmenter and Jim Rose.