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.

Black-winged Stilts - A 3rd County Record

On 14th May 2019 two Black-winged Stilts were found at College Lake. They remained all day mainly in front of the Octagon hide enabling many birders to see this very scarce county bird. Unfortunately the birds were not present the following morning.

This is only the 4th county record for this species. For more details see the Bucks List.

With Black-headed Gulls
With Greenshank

Photos kindly provided by Nick Truby .


Breeding Goosanders in Bucks!

Goosanders typically breed on rivers in the hilly parts of the UK where there a faster flowing rivers . So this is typically Wales, Scotland, the North of England as far south as Derbyshire, plus the Exmoor and Dartmoor areas on South West England. However we have been fortunate to have had regular breeding in the north of the county for some years. The BTO Breeding Atlas 2007-2011 does say that the range of this species is expanding but shows the closest breeding site to be many miles away (with one exception in Northamptonshire).

Previously some photos were published on the old Bucks Bird Club website at this link. This shows photos taken in 2010 although the first recorded breeding in the county was in 2007 at Gayhurst when 12 ducklings were seen. In 2010 a female with 6 ducklings was recorded at Olney, also on the River Ouse. Goosanders then bred near Olney each year from 2012 to 2017. There are no records for 2018 but they did breed successfully in 2019 as the photographs below show. A further breeding record of a female with five ducklings on 12th May 2019, from nearby Cold Brayfield is presumably from the same breeding population.

Female with six ducklings near Olney Mill on 23rd April 2019
23rd April 2019
23rd April 2019
Above and below – Female with three ducklings on 4th May 2019
4th May 2019

The photos in this post were kindly supplied by Angi Harrell

It is rather remarkable to have this fantastic duck breeding in the county. Long may it continue.



Migrant Dates

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

The file below is a PDF file containing data on the various migrant birds species found in Buckinghamshire. It includes Summer visitors, Winter visitors and passage migrants. Click on the download button to view the file.

The data in the file has been extracted from Annual Reports for the county from 1971 until 2017. This work was carried out 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 Migrant Summer Visitors).
  • 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.  
  • Additional years data will be added on the publication of the Buckinghamshire Annual Bird Report.


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”.

Graphs of the Occurrence of Scarce Birds

Dave Ferguson has kindly updated the graphs showing the occurrence of some of the scarcer visitors to Buckinghamshire.  For each of these species there is a graph showing the occurrence year by year and a separate graph showing the distribution of the species during the calendar year.  Some of these are quite revealing.  The species covered are the scarcer species that typically occur annually or near annually.  The rarer species have all sightings listed on the Bucks Species List.

  • The rarer birds with full details of sightings included in the Bucks Species List  include birds such as the Divers, the Skuas, Dipper, Snow Buntings, etc.
  • The scarcer birds with graphs include such species as the rarer Grebes, Bittern, the scarcer Swans, Smew, Red-breasted Merganser, Pied Flycatcher, Ring Ouzel, etc.
  • The commoner species records are contained in the Annual Reports, the Monthly Bird Bulletins and in the Goingbirding database.

A couple of example of the graphs available are given below:

The left hand graph for Smew clearly shows the window of occurrence between December and early March. The right hand graph shows just how scarce they have become in recent years. This may be due to less severe winters in continental Europe.
The left hand graph clearly shows when you need to be out looking for Ring Ouzels in the county! The right hand graph is interesting as it seems to show an increase in the species occurrence. However this could be attributed to a better coverage by birders.

All of the graphs can be accessed via the  Bucks Species List where the words “See Chart” are given.  Just click on these links to view the graphs. See image below.

Note that the above is just an example image and it contains no links to the graphs.

MEGA - Black-crowned Night Heron!

The village of Chearsely lies between Aylesbury and Long Crendon and close to the River Thame.  Resident John Weston noticed an unusual bird visiting his garden pond on 14th December 2018 and when it returned the following day he took the photos below.  The bird also returned on the 16th December but was not seen thereafter. During it’s stay the bird was seen to eat several Frogs.  John thought that the bird was a Bittern but was not sure, so a couple of weeks later he sent the photographs to Andy Harding, our County Recorder.  Andy soon confirmed that the bird was in fact a juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron, which is a county rarity!

The following photos show the garden setting and an enlargement of the bird.

Not exactly typical Night Heron Habitat!

We should be thankful that the bird decided to feed during the day!

This is just the seventh record of this species in the county since 1797!!

  • 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
  • 2017 Claydon Lakes – Probably a near adult seen on several dates between 22nd Aug and 15th Sep.  Click here to view the post for this individual.
  • 2018 Chearsley – A juvenile present in a garden from 14th to 16th Dec.

Nationally there have been about a dozen records of Black-crowned Night Herons during 2018.


Spotted Crake at Willen Lake

A few regular visits to Willen Lake (north) by Mike Wallen turned up trumps when he found a Spotted Crake early on the bank holiday Monday.  Unfortunately it was rather distant at about 350 metres range!  News was soon out and the bird was seen by many local birders as well as others from further afield.  The bird remained until 27th September.

There were six Spotted Crake sightings in the UK on 27th August and a total of 13 so far for the month of August.

The photo below is the only one received so far.  Given the distance to the bird, people may not feel they have a worthwhile photo, but if you do have a better photo, hopefully from a closer range, then please send to Webeditor for possible inclusion in these pages.

Spotted Crake keeping close to the reed bed. (Photo copyright Mike Wallen)

Spotted Crake – Above two photos copyright Phil Tizzard.

This individual is only the fifth record record for the county, the others being listed below.  A few historical records, now regarded as “unsafe” are not included.

1995 Willen – An adult 19th-23rd Aug, with a juvenile from 5th Sep.
2000 Dorney Common – A juv showed well for over a week in a stream on the Bucks/Berks border from 9th-19th Oct.
2003 Little Marlow GP – 1 29th-30th Mar.

A few photos of these birds can be found at this link.  There are some nice photos of the Dorney Common bird.

It is interesting that another Spotted Crake was found on the same day at Eton Wick, Berks but this is right on the Bucks border on Dorney Common and only about 150 metres from the sighting in 2000!

Bucks Peregrines 2018

We have Peregrines breeding on the council offices building in Aylesbury once again and also at the MK Stadium in Milton Keynes.  These have both become regular breeding locations for this amazing species.  Unfortunately the links to the cameras at Aylesbury are not working this year, despite repeated attempts to fix.  So we are very much in the dark as to the progress.  Normally by the end of April hatching of the eggs takes place with fledging in early June. This year we will have to observe from a distance to see how things are going.

As of 22nd May there was just one chick in the nestbox which was duly ringed.    Unfortunately the Milton Keynes pair failed this year.

The Aylesbury youngster was taken to St Tiggywinckles for the second time as it is was found grounded and unable to fly.  It stayed there for a week. Checks did not find anything wrong and it was released back on the office block on 30th June.  All now seems OK and the parent birds are in attendance.  Thanks to St Tiggywinkles for their fantastic support.

The single Aylesbury Peregrine chick being ringed. (Photo copyright Lynne Lambert)

There are numerous Peregrine sightings on the Bucks Sightings website.  If you wish to view them click on Search, enter “Peregrine” in the Species Name field, also change the date field to say search from the start of the year and you will see all Peregrine records for that period (unless suppressed to protect potential breeding birds).


Field and Indoor Meetings

We have reached the end of the published field and indoor meetings for 2017/18.  The new dates for the 2018/19 period will be published shortly.  Please check back later.


Cranes at Gallows Bridge

The Common Crane is a rare vagrant to Buckinghamshire and despite reintroduction schemes in the UK in recent years, there were no sightings of this species in 2016 and 2017.  So when Warren Claydon found two at Gallows Bridge Farm BBOWT Reserve on 16th May, it was somewhat of a surprise!  It was assumed that they would soon move on.  However that was not the case and the birds were seen daily until 27th May attracting quite a lot of interest with local birders.  Fortunately the fact that the birds were on a nature reserve with excellent hides, birders could visit the hides with little or no disturbance to the birds.

The two birds spent much of the time over the first few days at the far end of the reserve, so with warm sunny days, the views were not great due to the distance and the heat haze.  From time to time the birds left the reserve and went onto nearby farmland presumably to feed.  As the days went on the pair moved much closer to the hides and were seen to perform their display dance on more than one occasion.  It was hoped they might stay and breed, albeit being quite late in the breeding season, but they departed probably overnight or early morning on 28th May.

The following photos courtesy and copyright from the following people.  John Edwards (top 2), Graham Smith (middle 2), Rob Cadd (lower 4).  Click on the images to view full size.

The pair were constantly close together.

Feeding together.


Parts of the dancing behavior shown in these four photos.


Local birder Rob Cadd spent a considerable amount of time in the hides observing and photographing the Cranes and put together this stunning video :-



New Forest Field Trip

This field trip was to the Acres Down and Beaulieu Road Station areas of the New Forest on 21st May.  Seven members turned up at Acres Down for this Hampshire trip on a clear and sunny day. Unfortunately for most of the group the highlight of the day, a male Honey Buzzard, first appeared from the Raptor Point at 9.20am and was gone by the time of the official start of 9.30am. Those that were fortunate to see it were thrilled that it flew directly overhead giving magnificent views of the bird.

Unfortuntaely this photo of a Honey Buzzard was not taken during the field trip!

A pair of Stonechats were displaying on top of the gorse bushes on the walk to the Raptor Point from where the trip was based. Buzzards were the next raptors to be seen and it was not long before the male Goshawk was seen perching on his usual tree opposite the viewing point. He was later seen circling high in the sky before disappearing in the clouds.
After an excellent cream tea the short trip to Beaulieu was made in the hope of seeing some woodland species. After walking round most of the woods at Shatterford a male Redstart made a brief appearance on a branch before disappearing in the undergrowth. Upon leaving the woods a juvenile Sparrowhawk went through the trees at the edge of the wood.
Although the total number of species seen was quite low there were some excellent birds during the foreshortened trip.

Paul Wright