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.

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Great White Egret – Wendover Canal

This individual had quite a few admirers over it’s ten day stay along the Wendover Canal. One reason for this was the fact that the bird was very confiding and at times was only 10 feet or so from birders who were watching from the towpath.

The bird was first reported by Helaine Cadman on 11th July 2019 and was seen almost every day in “The Wides” area of the canal until 20th July. On the 21st a Great White Egret was seen in flight heading SE over Wendover. What may have been the same bird was then seen at College Lake a few hours later on 21st July.

Photo copyright Adrian Roach
Photo copyright Jim Rose
A short video clip of the Great White Egret

To search for all Bucks Records of Great White Egret (up util 2016) visit

To view a previous post (2016) on this website for this species visit

Historical Rarity Records

A new facility has been added to the Buckinghamshire Goingbirding database that enables users to see historical records of rarities and scarce species. Up until now the database has only held those records that have been posted by the many birders who have submitted their sightings onto the database. While the Buckinghamshire Goingbirding database has been running since 2009 there are clearly many rare and scarce species that were seen in the county prior to that.

So the sightings data for these species has been uploaded from the PDF document that is held on this website under the “Bucks Species List”. By having them accessible by means of a database search makes it easy to view old records for specific species.

Some of the sightings go back as far as 1760 but there are relatively few prior to 1900. However there are over 800 sightings of scarce and rare species prior to 2009 (when Goingbirding started).

There are some points to bear in mind when viewing these records:

  • None of the uploaded sighting have observers attributed to them.
  • The records in the Rarities section are often a summary of sightings of an individual bird/s when seen over a period of time or by more than one user.
  • Some entries cover the period after 2009 (when Goingbirding sightings commenced) and so there may be duplication (but in summary form) of some records.
  • The Rarity records are taken from the Buckinghamshire Bird Club annual reports and only include records that have been accepted by the Records Committee. Some records have been included for completeness (as they are referred to in a historical record) but where a record is now considered “unsafe” or now outside of the county, then this is stated.
  • The post 2009 Rarity records may also include some that are not included in the normal Goingbirding database as not all sightings are submitted via Goingbirding.
  • Some species that used to be regularly seen but are now rare (e.g. Hawfinch) OR that were once scarce but are are now regularly seen (e.g. Little Egret) are included only for those years where they were scarce. Sightings for the period during which these species were more common can be found in the Annual Report for the former and Goingbirding for the latter.
  • Some species (e.g. Black Redstart and Pied Flycatcher) only have breeding records shown in these lists. These species have charts showing their frequency by year and month on the full Bucks Species List.
  • At present the historical rarity records are only fully up to date until the end of 2016. Other years will be added in due course.

How it works :-

Click on the link to “Rarities” on the main Goingbirding menu.

Select a “Species” from the pull down list and click on “Search”. You may also select filters for “Site”, “Observer” and Dates if you wish.

Example Search for Pectoral Sandpiper

Once the list is displayed you can then click on the Species Name to show all of the other sightings in Goingbirding for that species.

This gives a good comparison between the past (accepted) records and the more recent (post 2009) records. Note that the five “Recent” sightings have been summarised into two lines in the Rarity search but there are four
additional historical records.

Click on the Back button in your browser and then on New Search to search for another species.

In the event of any errors or omissions from the list of rarities please advise the webeditor  

Common Tern Ringing – 2019

On Friday 21st June the young Common Terns that had been raised on the Tern rafts at Little Marlow GP were fitted with BTO rings.

A young Common Tern in the process of being ringed.

For more photos visit this link. Thanks to John Edwards for providing the document.

Early the following week one or two of the twelve young Terns had been seen to leave the rafts. There were several more clutches yet to hatch so there should be more young to follow.


White-winged Black Tern!!!

On Sunday 19th May 2019 local birder Rob Hill found a White-winged Black Tern at Foxcote Reservoir in North Bucks. With only one prior record for the county, this was indeed a MEGA find!

Word was soon put out and a good number of birders from around the county and from adjacent counties managed to see the bird as it fed around the site and while perched. The bird was observed until dusk when it appeared to stay to roost. However the bird could not be found the next morning.

White-winged Black Tern – Foxcote Reservoir – 19th May
The Foxcote photos above kindly supplied by Nick Truby.

The story does not end there as the bird was relocated 17 kilometres away at Willen Lake, Milton Keynes the following day, by David Chamberlain! Again the news was put out and again the bird attracted a lot of admirers!

White-winged Black Tern – Willen Lake South – 20th May 2019
Much of the time it was seen flying around the lake and picking up food from the surface of the water.
A pontoon in the middle of the lake provided a place to rest.
Video and photos from Willen Lake kindly provided by Rick and Elis Simpson

The only prior record of this species in the county was of two juveniles that were seen to fly from Wilstone Reservoir (Herts) into Bucks on 31st August 2008.


Stone Curlew - Gallows Bridge

With less than 20 records in the county since 1950, the Stone Curlew is on the wish list for many local birders. They have not bred in the county for many years when they were once fairly numerous in some areas.

Local birder Rob Cadd was on site at Gallows Bridge BBOWT reserve at 5:15am and found the bird on the east side of approach field. It foraged amongst the scrapes until about 7am when it was mobbed by a Lapwing and flew to the main meadow. It walked halfway down meadow, then back towards the hides, eventually roosting in rough patch in the meadow. There was occasional activity after that.

Stone Curlew
Confrontation with a Lapwing.
A close encounter!
All photos and Video kindly provided by Robb Cadd

Robb notified the County Recorder and several birders managed to see the bird during the day. It was not present the following morning.

A list of the previous Stone Curlew sightings for Bucks can be found on the Bucks List. (Search for Stone Curlew).


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.