MONDAY 7 JANUARY
Another dreary grey day with little brightness but still fairly mild for the time of year.
A bit of Targeted Birding today with Stonechat, Firecrest, Hawfinch, Great Grey Shrike and various Owls on the menu. Partly successful, particularly in East Herts
Better news was the return of 15 House Sparrows in the garden (LITTLE CHALFONT), all feeding together on one birdtable shortly after dawn
Also making a reappearance were the 4 Red-legged Partridges on GORE HILL, AMERSHAM (BUCKS) - after disappearing since the New Year
At BEACONSFIELD SERVICES (BUCKS) early morning, the BOHEMIAN WAXWING flock had increased by 4 to 32 birds - all showing well perched high in the trees overlooking the service area
The roads around CASTLEMAN'S FARM, WOOBURN COMMON (BUCKS) were still under deep water and impassable, but around the farm were 33 House Sparrows and a single Moorhen; just 9 Egyptian Geese were in the 'chicken fields'
Chris Holt and I met up with Graham Smith in SPRINGFIELD FARM QUARRY (BUCKS) where we searched without success for the male Common Stonechat Pete Stevens had seen recently. A GREEN SANDPIPER was put up from some damp ground, with 36 Mallard, 24 Lapwing, male Red-legged Partridge, 22 Red Kite, singing Skylark, 7 Meadow Pipit, female Reed Bunting, 2 Goldfinch and 70 Fieldfare all noted.
HOGBACK WOOD at BEACONSFIELD (BUCKS) was our next location where we hoped to connect with the wintering Firecrest. This was not to be and the extensive Holly scrub produced no less than 8 Goldcrests, Coal Tit, Nuthatch, 7 Long-tailed Tits and my first Common Treecreepers of the Bucks Year.
Following up a call from Paul Reed, we diverted to COLLEGE LAKE BBOWT (BUCKS), where Paul had located three different WAXWINGS from the two present at the site yesterday. Sadly, these 3 stayed just two hours. The 5 RED-CRESTED POCHARDS were on show though, favouring the far NW corner of the Deep Pit. Two were adult drakes.
After that, we gave up with South Bucks and headed east into HERTFORDSHIRE...
At BRAMFIELD OLD RECTORY GARDEN, a male HAWFINCH was showing well on our arrival perched high in one of the trees (one of only two seen on site this morning).
The rest of the day was then spent at THERFIELD HEATH, where we did exceptionally well.
Three species of owl was recorded, with a single SHORT-EARED hunting late afternoon in setaside NNE of Greys Farm, along with 2 BARN in the same vicinity. A male Sparrowhawk afforded excellent views as it perched in one of the hedgerows and the wintering GREAT GREY SHRIKE was adorning the hedgerow east of Duckpuddle Bush at around TL 344 385.
A flock of 130 EUROPEAN GOLDEN PLOVERS flew west, with 100 Chaffinches in one field at the south end of the Icknield Way nearer Park Farm and some 25 roosting Yellowhammers at the north end. A large flock of 200 Linnet were in the vicinity, whilst 9 CORN BUNTINGS staged for a while in trackside trees.
The most gratifying experience was that of the GREY PARTRIDGES, of which at least 35 were encountered. As we wandered the mile or so back to the car at dusk, males were calling from virtually every field either side of the Icknield Way - it was fantastic, especially when one considers how scarce this farmland species is now in our countryside. This is certainly one of the best sites around for this species. It made me harp back to the early 1970's when Stone Curlew was still relatively numerous in these fields.