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.

Upcoming Club Events

The Next Field Meeting

The complete list of field trips for the period until June 2018 are now listed on the Events tab.  Some further details will be added closer to the events but the dates should not change.

The next field meeting is to Willen Lake, Milton Keynes on Sunday 26th November 2017.  Willen Lake is one of the top birding sites in the north of the county and has produced many good birds over the years.  We hope to see a good selection of wildfowl, Snipe and other wintering birds.  Meet at 9:30 am.  

Goldeneye - One of the ducks we hope to see.

Goldeneye – One of the ducks we hope to see.

For more details click here. 


Hawfinch Invasion!

Recent weeks have seen a huge invasion of Hawfinches into the UK with Buckinghamshire certainly getting it’s share of birds.  The vast majority have been fly overs, in particular at Ivinghoe Beacon/Steps Hill which is a regular place for birders to watch for visiable migration (Vizmig).

The birds were first seen at Ivinghoe Beacon on 16th October where a number of birders had gathered in anticipation of a Hawfinch passage (based on reports elsewhere in the UK).  Sure enough there were sightings of perhaps 20+ birds in a number of separate groups and there were also reports of two at Bledlow Ridge and Marlow Bottom.  The next few days saw birds reported from Great Brickhill (3), Lodge Hill, Little Marlow GP, Marlow and a site in mid-Bucks.  Then on 21st numbers built up on Steps Hill to 34,  21 on 22nd Oct and amazingly over 90 birds on 23rd!  Since then Hawfinches have been recorded from Milton Keynes in the north of the county to Marlow Bottom in the south.  Steps Hill is still the hot-spot with over 30 seen on 26th and over 60 on 27th and 28th October (although numbers could be significantly higher with multiple observers involved).  There were generally smaller number during the rest of October but 71 seen by a group of observers at Steps Hill on 30th was excellent.  Steps Hill continued to be well watched early mornings in early November and small numbers reported.  However Hawfinches then started to be seen on the ground at a few sites including Tattenhoe (MK), Chesham Bois Woods, Whiteleaf and most significantly a large group at Great Hampden.  These were found by Warren Claydon on 1st November when 24 were recorded.  The following day 42 were counted with at counts in the high thirties by several observers the following day.

So there is still time for you to try and see one of this impressive Finches!

It is thought that these birds originated in Central Europe and one theory is that storm Orphelia forced the birds to fly much further west than usual.  Whatever the reason local birders are very happy to see them.

With the majority of the Hawfinches being initially seen as fly-overs, there were few photos.  Later a few photos were obtained.

One of the only photos obtained in the county during this invasion.. Mid Bucks - Copyright Tim Watts

Hawfinch in Mid Bucks on 20th Oct 2017 – Copyright Tim Watts

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Steps Hill – Birders gathering at first light on 28th October for the anticipated Hawfinch movement.

 

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They were not disappointed!

 

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Watching Hawfinches on passage is not always easy. This flight view is probably better than many of the views obtained!  It does however show the distinctive heavy shape and wing pattern (Photo copyright Mike Wallen)

 

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A small group of Hawfinches fly over. (Photo copyright Mike Wallen).

 

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Hawfinch at Great Hampden on 2nd November – Copyright Jim Rose

The above video was taken in poor light at some distance but does show a Hawfinch feeding on Hornbeam seeds.  The birds may not move very much and are easily overlooked.  In the tree in question about eight birds were feeding but this was only apparent when they all flew out in one group.

Hornbeam is one of the prime food items for Hawfinches at this time of year.  Many seeds will have already dropped to the ground so some birds will be searching through the leaf litter for them.  Look for the distinctive shape of Hornbeam seeds and leaves  if you wish to find your own Hawfinches.  Unfortunately some trees do not appear to have cropped very well this year but Hornbeams are a common species in woodland and larger mature hedgerows.

To see previous photos of Hawfinches in the county, click here.

The Next Indoor Meeting

The indoor meeting is on Thursday 7th December 2017 and is a talk by our own Andy Harding (Buckinghamshire County Recorder).  The talk is called ‘Transylvania’ .    

Andy has been a very keen birder for many years, with a considerable interest in butterflies and moths also.  Andy has been Buckinghamshire County Bird Recorder for over 20 years and has very considerable expertise in field identification and a strong interest in bird migration and scarcities – so expect some goodies to be found. A bird watching trip leader for many years, Andy has led a large number of successful holidays – destinations include Bulgaria, Hungary, Florida, Lesbos, Morocco, North Cyprus, northern and southern Spain as well as Transylvania, part of Romania covering the Carpathian Mountains. It is one of those forgotten areas of Eastern Europe that is becoming more popular as people realise its wildlife potential and appreciate the fantastic scenery. It is rich in spoilt forests of pine and beech, rolling grasslands, marshes and alpine meadows along with high mountains and rocky gorges. With all this habitat comes top quality birds and mammals.

Honey Buzzard – Stramba Valley

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Transylvania is a plateau in northwest central Romania, bounded by the Carpathian Mountains to the east and south and the Apuseni Mountains towards the west.

This should be a fascinating talk More information can be found on this link

The venue is as usual at Wendover Memorial Hall in Wharf Road.  Door open at 7:30pm for a 7:45pm start.  Entrance is free for members and £2 for non-members.   As usual refreshments will be available.

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Yellow-browed Warbler Invasion!

Late September/Early October saw an unprecedented influx of Yellow-browed Warblers into the county.  Firstly one at Little Marlow GP, then in Central Milton Keynes and finally one put in a brief appearance at Weston Turville Reservoir.

Little Marlow GP

On 27th September 2017 Little Marlow regular Adam Bassett found what is probably the 9th Yellow-browed Warbler for Buckinghamshire and which is also the first record for Little Marlow. The bird was part of the way along the east bank and in thick vegetation between the footpath and the lake.  (In fact Adam thought he had heard a Yellow-browed Warbler call from this location the previous day but the bird was not seen and did not call again). Adam soon put the news out and a number of local birders were on site within a very short time. However the bird was very elusive and was constantly moving around and only calling very infrequently, so the bird went missing for long periods.  Fortunately everyone saw the bird (I think) even if just a glimpse.  Photography was all but impossible with the bird moving around constantly.

The next day Bourne End birder Simon Ramm relocated the bird in the same area about 7:30am.  Again local birders were soon on site and the bird was seen by a good number of people all day.The bird never moving very far from a group of tall Cherry trees.  The Warbler did show somewhat better than the day before and a few people managed to get some record shots.

The Warbler remained until Monday 2nd October at least.

This is the first record of this species at Little Marlow.

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Photo copyright Mike Wallen

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Yellow-browed Warbler – Showing well for a change!

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Above two photos copyright Mick Vogel

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It was very acrobatic at times – Photo copyright Jim Rose

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Photo copyright Dave Ferguson

 

Milton Keynes

On 30th September by Mark Hawkes found another Yellow-browed Warbler in Central Milton Keynes.   It was in area area in and around a car park near the food hall and was calling and giving good views at times.  It remained until 1st October at least.

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Yellow-browed Warbler in Central Milton Keynes

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Above two photos copyright Stuart Mundy

 

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Yellow-browed Warbler – Central Milton Keynes

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Above two photos copyright Derek Hales

 

Weston Turville Reservoir

Dave Parmenter came across yet another Yellow-browed Warbler on Sunday 1st October.  He had already walked right around the lake but went back to the area by the old tin hide (of Bearded Tit fame) to try and refind an oddly calling Chiff Chaff.  However he then heard a Yellow-browed Warbler calling and followed it along as it moved through thick undergrowth towards the stream.  He did get some views of the bird but was unable to photograph.  Despite several birders getting on-site fairly quickly the bird was not refound.

 

There are six accepted records of Yellow-browed Warbler in Bucks and two pending sightings.  The prior records are:-

1966 Holmer Green – 1 on 9th Oct.
1992 Marlow GP – 1 on 11th Oct.
2003 Water Eaton, M Keynes – 1 in a garden 19th-21st Oct.
2004 Woburn GC – 1 from 4th-14th Apr.  Click here to view photos of this bird
2006 Dinton – 1 on 21st Oct.
2013 Woughton Park, M keynes – 1 on 19th Nov.
2016 Comm0n Wood, Penn – 1 on 17th Oct.
2016 Black Park – 1 on 20th Oct.
The latter two records awaiting acceptance by the rarities committee.

If you have a more photos for the website please forward to Jim Rose

MEGA - Black-crowned Night Heron!!

On Tuesday 22nd August 2017 Northants birder come fisherman Bob Bullock, was fishing for Catfish at Claydon Lakes when at 8:30pm he saw a Black-crowned Night Heron as it flew past him and landed in an Oak tree.  He passed word on and the next evening a small group of birders including Simon Nichols, Rob Hill, Lee Evans, Tim and Coleen Watts turned up to see if the bird was still present.  Just after 8:30pm it appeared and was seen in flight and perched in a tree.  Encouraged by this on the evening of 24th about fifteen birders arrived and again the bird appeared in flight and perched for about five minutes in a tree.  The bird then flew off fairly high to the NW over Steeple Claydon, possibly to feed by the river Thame.

The bird was last seen on 29th August.

The bird is thought to be a first summer bird, having some plumes but also some streaking on the breast.  It is unringed.

A few photographs were obtained, although the light was very poor, so these are just silhouette shots. (Click on the photos to view full size).  If anyone has, or manages to obtain and better quality photos, then please contact Jim Rose.

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In gathering gloom the group of birders waited patiently for the Night Heron to appear.

 

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Several shots of the bird in flight were obtained but due to low light, they are only silhouettes.

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The bird flew off into the sunset NW over Steeple Claydon.

This is just the sixth record for the county, the previous sightings being as follows:-

1797  Cliveden – 1 immature shot

1899  Taplow – 1 in August may have been an escape

1967  Newport Pagnall GP – Immature on 3rd Aug

1987  Willen Lake – Juvenile on 26th Oct

2005  Old Wolverton – An adult on 13th May 

 

 

 

Gibraltar Point Anyone?

The club field trip to Gibraltar Point  NNR is Lincolnshire is due to take place on the weekend of 20th-22nd October.  This has been a regular event on the Bucks Bird Club calendar for many years, although the accommodation arrangements changed after the storm surge in December 2013 (which destroyed the observatory accommodation block).  These days we stay in the Crown hotel just down the road from the reserve.  Breakfast and evening meals are at the Crown Hotel.

For those of you not familiar with Gibraltar Point take at look at http://www.lincstrust.org.uk/gibraltar-point

The cost starts at £106 per person for two people sharing a twin room, including a two course dinner and breakfast for two nights.  Some people may wish to stay on an extra night or have a single room.  Please contact Steve Marley at FieldMeetings@bucksbirdclub.co.uk for further details.  Room are subject to availability.

Please note that the final date for booking your place is 31st August 2017.

 

 

Cuckoo Breeding at Little Marlow GP

Cuckoos have bred at Little Marlow on several occasions over recent years. There is obvious concern at the decline of this species in the UK. This year we were fortunate that a nest was identified (initially by Simon Ramm) by the calls of the young bird as it begged for food, the bird being unseen.  A watch was kept on the nest site and on 6th July Alan Stevens had spotted the juvenile Cuckoo perched close to the edge of the bush in which we presumed the nest to be (the bush is partly in a reed bed).  A few birders and other locals managed to see the individual before it moved overnight into much taller trees nearby and was subsequently harder to see.

The young bird remained within 50 metres of the nest site for at least eight days after fledging. Apparently Reed Warblers typically continue to feed young Cuckoos for 2-3 weeks after fledging (per BWP).

The following photos were taken on 14th July about 40 metres from the nest site with the host Reed Warblers still working hard to feed the oversized flegling. (Click on image to see full size).

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The juvenile Cuckoo looking more confident. (photo copyright Helaine Cadman)

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These two photos show the huge size difference between the Cuckoo and it’s hosts! (photos copyright Helaine Cadman)

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The following video was taken on 6th July by Simon Fielder who just happen to be passing by!  If you watch for a short while you will see the Cuckoo being fed by it’s Reed Warbler hosts.  Note that the bird was well hidden hence the video only being of it’s head.  The Cuckoo hardly moved, letting the Reed Warblers do all of the work!

We can only hope this youngster will manage to return to Little Marlow next year and continue with the breeding success.

 

MK Peregrines

While the pair of Aylesbury Peregrine Falcons failed to successfully raise any young past the fledging stage this year, the good news is that Peregrines in Milton Keynes have been successful in fledging three chicks from a nest in the MK Stadium.  Apparently a staff member at the stadium has seen one of the adults drop prey items in the middle of the pitch and two of the youngsters took it in turns to fly down and grab it.  No doubt good practice.  Hopefully these birds will be seen in the area for some time.

The World’s fastest bird has successfully bred again in 2017 inside Stadium MK, the home of Milton Keynes Don’s.pegchick2017stadiummk1a-700

A pair of Peregrine’s was first noted in 2013-2014 and they are believed to have attempted to breed in 2014.  In 2015 the first confirmed breeding took place when the falcon’s utilised an old crow’s nest in the East stand and successfully fledged (flying independently) one chick.  In 2016 the birds moved to an old crow’s nest in the South-West corner of the stadium and successfully raised their family of 3 chicks to fledging stage, with the chicks on the wing in mid-June.

In 2017 the birds again nested in an old Crow’s nest in the South of the Stadium and fledged  3 chicks again, a week earlier than 2016.  The family are still doing well and whilst only really visible for much of the time from inside the stadium, with patience the birds can be observed over and around the outside.

A purpose built platform has been erected inside the stadium which has a dedicated CCTV camera fixed on it, it is hoped that the birds will utilise this platform for breeding in 2018. If they do then it is hoped that images from this camera can be screened to a wider audience.

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Female Peregrine in the stadium

The Peregrine Falcon is the world’s fastest bird, reaching speeds in excess of 200 mph in a stoop ( a dive ); speeds of between 250-300 mph have been claimed. Their prey is virtually any other bird species ( that they are able to carry ), and predominantly always taken on the wing. In catching their prey Peregrines can undergo tremendous ‘G- force’, way in excess of that endured by human’s, for example- fighter pilots. The Peregrines at StadiumMK represent only the 3rd known breeding site in Buckinghamshire, and the 2nd in an urban environment.

The Peregrines population in the UK has fluctuated over the last century, mainly due to effects on it caused by humans, both negative and positive. In the 1960’s the population hit an all-time low due to problems with egg shell thinning caused by pesticides. Since then there has been a fourfold population increase, with the population in the UK estimated at over 1500 pairs, so birds have started moving into many of our towns and cities, utilising tall buildings to nest upon. This has allowed dedicated people to install CCTV camera’s which has allowed us to see in far greater detail the life of this stunning raptor. One interesting aspect of Peregrine behaviour only confirmed in recent years has been their propensity to hunt at night, making use of the artificial light from the streets below to light up their prey as it passes over.

Peregrines are afforded special protection in law, and it’s fair to say that they enjoy even more protection at StadiumMK where the staff feel proud of their Peregrines and enjoy the sight of the the fastest creature on the planet zooming overhead.

These birds are at the top of the avian food chain, they are stunning to watch and breath-taking when hunting and in courtship displays, in the eyes of many, they are simply ‘Bird number 1’.

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One of the MK youngsters

Article and photos supplied by Mike Wallen (Thanks Mike).  All photos taken around the 7th June.

 

Aylesbury Peregrines - 2017

Unfortunately the breeding attempt by the Aylesbury Peregrines came to a sad end when the single chick was found dead under the tower.  It was thought likely to have flown into the building on one of it’s first flights.

So that will be the end of he breeding attempt this year.  Hopefully they will return next year with more success.    Comments on the recent activity can be seen at Aylesbury Peregrine Project website.

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Taken om 11th June while it was getting ready for it’s first flight. (Photo from Mike Wallen)

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The single youngster as on 2nd June. It sometimes wanders around the platform and out of sight.

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The tiny chick being guarded by an adult. 2nd May 2017. The chick hatched on 28th April

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Sitting Peregrine – April 2017

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Nightingale Recording

Sadly this species is is now extremely scarce in the county.  The recent stronghold at the MOD site at Arncott has not recorded any this year.  Fortunately one did turn up at another mid Bucks site and Bill Parker managed to obtain this excellent recording.

Click on this link to hear recording Nightingale in Song.

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This photo of a recently fledged Nightingale was taken by Paul Watts at Arncott in 2012 when there were 4-5 singing males..

Let us hope that the species has a better showing in 2018 but the trend is not looking good.