Thursday, 30 April 2009

Willing (ton) Blackcap

I got so bored at Broom this morning I was in work an hour and a half early. It didn't get much better at lunchtime when I popped back. Well, I say that, but I did have a Marsh Harrier fly over my car just as I pulled in to the pits. Also my first Hornet of the year buzzed out of a tree stump.
After work I had a quick look at Home Wood. None of the hoped for Garden Warblers there, so I went to the cycle track at Willington GP.
A male Blackcap (above) was showing well at the start of the track, and the Nightingale was singing vigorously at the far end. A female type Red-crested Pochard was on the settling lagoon, but it had a red/orange edge to its bill - immature drake?

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Meeting Crossbills

Broom = dull. The highlight of my day was hearing two Crossbills calling outside while I was in a meeting. At least I got a few nice Yellowhammer shots in the evening sunshine.

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

coo coo cachu!

Took a break from the norm this evening, and went around the MVCP/Rookery complex. This fine Cuckoo put on a wonderful display on the edge of the reedbed at the country park. Also Cetti's Warbler singing away, along with lots of the other commoner warblers. Unfortunately I didn't get a Gropper there, which was the real reason for going over. I did however find one reedling away distantly in Rookery.
Also in Rookery was a second-summer male Marsh Harrier - a nice surprise. Also a pair of Garganey still, and one or two Hobbies. (No Whiskered Terns on any water bodies either.)

Monday, 27 April 2009

Missed it by a cats whisker

Four visits and four hours spent at Broom today. Virtually nothing of note all day (except three Common Sands) until dusk. 1 Arctic Tern, along with 58 Common Terns in to roost. No Whiskered Terns.

I did have to pop up to Paxton to see their Whiskered after work though. After about twenty minutes of watching it flew high south, giving me false hope. It had returned to its favoured pit another twenty minutes later.

Sunday, 26 April 2009

Sandwich from the chiller

Woke to find frost on the car. Darren called while I was defrosting it so
ditched it and went in his car. First stop Broom (naturally) and jammed in
to another Sandwich Tern sat on a post - my seventh in Beds this year! It
was only there about four minutes before a Sparrowhawk flew over the gull
colony and flushed everything. The Sarnie circled up high and headed off

We waited round just in case anything else flew in, but apart from a
Greenshank, Common Sand, Snipe, and a Little Egret, nothing did. We went to
have a look at Stewartby, just in case. It was dead as a door-nail. Broggy
was just the same so we went for a wander in the woods instead.

Over an hour later and we had very little to show for our efforts.
Goldcrests seemed to have been decimated by last winter's cold snap, and our
meagre Firecrest population seems to have gone the same way - none again on
this visit.

Popped up to Coopers Hill on the off-chance of Tree Pipit, but no joy.
Highlight was bumping in to Paul Wright, who I hadn't seen for a few months.
We chewed the fat for a while, saw nothing, and parted company. We went off
to Rookery.

Just as we got out the car at Rookery Rob called. "Hoopoe on Blows!" But
he'd lost it flying away from him. Bum. Do we go and help them look, or
check out Rookery first? Rookery won. A lovely hour was spent gazing over
this wonderful wetland in the heart of Beds. The best birds were at least
one drake Garganey milling around the reedbeds, and confirmed breeding
Black-headed Gulls - five nests. There was no further sign of the epops all

Darren wanted a cup of tea we intended to go to MVCP, and did, but never got
to the cafe. We ended up looking for the Cetti's but it was better at
playing hide-and-seek than us. Two Cuckoo's performed brilliantly though!

A cup of tea and a monster burger at Little Chief later, we then went out to
some old gravel workings near Salford. Unfortunately they were now past
their best, but we did see Yellow Wag, Lapwings, and plenty of Linnets.
Also had a displaying Meadow Pipit, which is always nice to see.

By early afternoon we were knackered, so ended up going home. I cut the
grass, had a quick ride round on the off-chance of a Dotterel, and ended the
day with a lovely roast.

Saturday, 25 April 2009

Private birding

By 6am both Mark and Mike had beaten me to Broom. They'd already got a
Whimbrel on the deck, and two of the Barwits from yesterday were still
there. Another Greenshank flew around calling too. By 6:30 there were
about six of us all stood waiting expectantly.

Unfortunately I had to leave at 7, bound for an exclusive tour of a private
estate. Rob and I were there to add species to their bird list, and to
spread the good word of the Bird Club.

It was a thoroughly enjoyable few hours with some excellent birding thrown
in. We had Cetti's Warbler, Raven, two Shoveler, 14 Grey Heron nests, and 8
Cormorant nests - all excellent county records. Hopefully now more records
will be coming from this secret corner of Beds, thanks to Rob's hard work.

After a mid-afternoon snooze (its hard work birding in spring) I was out
again, this time with Carrie. We ended up back at Broom, and met Robin
there. The two Barwits were still there but had been joined by another
Whimbrel - making two. I also found a lovely adult Little Gull right in the
middle of the gull colony. They really are tiny, even when compared to a
Black-head. We also had a very dark-billed Common Tern. Over the last
week, several birds with very dark bills have been seen at Broom. I guess
they've still got some of their winter plumage going on with a dark bill?
Not sure really.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

An evening by the river

After work birding started at Broom, naturally. I pottered around Gypsy Lane East hoping to see my White Wag from the other day to try and digiscope it. It wasn't there. There was a rather tame Mistle Thrush bouncing around the stubble though.

After half an hour of not seeing very much I went to Langford for a wander along the river. A few warblers were singing - Blackcap, Sedgie, Whitethroat. A distant Cuckoo cuckooed, and a wonderful Barn Owl did a few fly pasts. No Groppers though. I guess they can't be in yet, as there were three along this stretch last year.

I also had to switch my atlas head back on again when I found three broods of Greylag goslings on the edge of the river - 8, 5 and 3. I will have to see if they've already been recorded in the tetrad.

Home just after 7, with a curry waiting for me - nice.

Ps - also just heard the BMA was a pukka call, and it's on its way out!


Spent an hour at Broom before work - lovely morning, no birds. Well, I say no birds, but I did have a fly-over Fieldfare (heading the correct north-east, as if off back to sunny Finland.)

While at work, dipped a Crossbill outside my window because of a large silver Saab. It was apparently drinking at the pond just beyond it.

Lunchtime back at Broom was cut short by a BMA (Baby Mega Alert) which MST had to rush back home for. I've had no news either way since to say if it's showing. Let's just hope he didn't dip. However, before the BMA came through, we counted 17 Common Terns over the lake. A nice increase on the ten at lunchtime yesterday.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009


Another fog-out this morning so birding postponed until lunchtime. Predictably, Broom was uninspiring with just ten Common Terns to hold our interest.

This evening I dropped in to the fantastically named Derek White's Eggs GP next to the A1. Two LRP's knocking around, along with an Oyc, two Common Terns, three Teal, and a sitting Lapwing. The Meadow Pipits were still showing well, with maybe two pairs here now.

I spent the evening walking around the local fields. I found just four Golden Plover. I was hoping for a few more.

Monday, 20 April 2009

WeBS will have to wait

Was going to head in to the brick pits to do my WeBS count this evening, but trying to get photos of Sand Martins stopped me. Damn hard birds to photograph zooming around above your head!

Did find another White Wag at Gypsy Lane East this evening though.

Where's Broom gone?

Fogged out this morning at Broom. Just as I arrived Matt was leaving, and just as I left Jim was arriving. At least we all know everyone was seeing the same thing - nothing.

Mark had the right idea - to stay in bed!

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Chasing the sun

Broom mid-morning was quiet again. 10 Teal, two pairs of Shovelers. A glorious lye-in was to blame.

Brogborough Lake mid-afternoon - drake Common Scoter showing well. It was showing just off the ex-gull watchpoint diving continually. This is the last of at least 40 Common Scoter so far this spring in Beds, and I've seen all of 'em! Last year I saw zero Scoter in Beds, being away for then the few single birds turned up.

Rookery had a fantastic pair of Hobbies hunting the sides of the pit. Also a pair of Teal still. This pit is probably the best wetland site in the county, but unfortunately it's going to be developed in to a huge incinerator! No doubt the planning process with promise some sort of wetland compensation for its loss, but will deliver diddly-squat, like usual.

Will Bedfordshire ever get a decent bit of wildlife-friendly wetland? The Marston Vale Country Park could have been this, but has been turned in to a Mecca for kids and people out for a nice Sunday afternoon stroll. It charges people to walk round the 'wetland', but with its two hides you can't see out of after 9am because the sun's in your eyes, and paths that go no-where near the wet bits, it's totally missed the point. The place is a joke for the visiting naturalist, and massively frustrating as it could have been SO good! What's worse, is the same consortium have also purchased the Willington GP area, and are going to turn that in to a similar thing. We've been in contact with them, to try and influence their land use and make it slightly birder frendly, but whether this will happen is another story. High-horse now gotten off.

Willington GP early evening - good views of the Nightingale, and a single Little Egret. Also heard my first Reed Warblers chatting away in the old washout lagoon.

Several other pits looked at but bugger-all seen.

Saturday, 18 April 2009

Here and there

Missed the 1st summer Med Gull at Broom, but I'd gone by the time it turned up. Did see a Common Sand, and two Snipe.

The 2 local Peregrines were chasing feral pigeons, but failing dismally, despite a bit of tandem hunting. The male of this pair has bright custard yellow feet and cere. He's a very hansom beast. Hopefully they're now using the box provided.

Nightingale, Lesser Whitethroat, Common Whitethroat, Cuckoo all singing at Willington. Along with a fly over Greenshank, and a Little Egret. MST has apparently recorded a Greenshank on this day each year for the last five years. It has to be the same returning adult each time? An incredible coincidence if not.

The Southill Estate had a single Raven flying over, and c.10 Lesser Redpolls. The Redpolls are presumably late migrants filtering back north. It’s a shame they are now virtually extinct as a breeding bird in Beds. Check out the provisional Beds breeding Atlas map for them:

Rookery South had a pair of Garganey, single Shoveler, 2 Teal, 9 Pochard, and 3 Common Terns. LBB's on territory, and perhaps four BH Gulls also looking to perhaps nest?

Quest had over 400 LBB's, 50 Herring Gulls, and at least two Yellow-legged Gulls, all loafing on the exposed mud. Two pairs of LBB's appeared to be on territory at the south end, with several Pochard and a pair of Teal. This is another sites that's going to have millions of tonnes of concrete poured all over it - this one is going to be called NIRAH.

Friday, 17 April 2009

An Arctic trickle

Another quiet morning at Broom, at least it was for me as I got there at 07:30 and had missed the two Little Egrets and Dunlin!

MAW and I popped back in at lunchtime and found two Arctic Terns buzzing over the lake, with up to five Commons. Two Dunlin flew in as well, making it a successful trip.

By mid-afternoon Matt had got three Arctic's, and Dunlins had risen to five. By the evening, the Two original Arctic's were still around but had dropped to one by the time I left at 19:15.

Common, Common, Arctic

Arctic, Common, Arctic

Common, Common, Arctic (front), Common

All the above flight shots are the same lingering Arctic taken in the evening

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Pot black

The weather closed in at lunchtime so a return visit to Broom was in order.  Not long after MST and I had turned the hedge corner we found a wonderful Black Tern dipping over the lake.  Nice.  Also six Common Terns, and numerous other birders followed.  The BT eventually headed off high east with a groups of Sand Martins after half an hour.  It looks like it's the only one in the country at the moment!

Dull, dull, dull

An hour and a half spent at Broom this morning, but nothing new. The only thing to brightened up the morning was a Song Thrush which sat out for me.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Baked beans?

Went straight to Broom again after work, but it was dead as a door-nail. The three Common Terns from lunchtime were still around, and there was a Green Sand on the washout pit. I left at around 7pm.

As the Bean Geese had been seen a few days ago, I decided to have a quick look. Unfortunately they were still there. I say unfortunately as should have gone back north by now. The 'escape' factor is looming large.

Misty skies but no surprise

Lunchtime visit to Broom in the vain hope of something new. I found something new, but it wasn't quite the eastern waif I was hoping for - it was a rattling Lesser Whitethroat.

Three Common Terns had increased by one from this morning, and two Grey Partridges blasted up from the scrub when I was trying to photograph a singing Willy Wobbler.

Birders 8 - birds 2

Two hours spent stood in the cold this morning at Broom. Unfortunately there were more birders than birds! Two Common Terns were the best we had to show for our efforts.

The highlight of the morning, apart from the banter, was seeing the preview copy of the 'Guide to Broom' penned by the fair hand of Mr Stevens. A labour of love, and littered with all the bird records from the Broom GP area. When it's finished, it's sure to be an excellent read. Watch this space.

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Mist it!

It's just been one of those days in Beds today. The promise was good, with hanging showers and heavy overcast conditions all day in eastern England. And by-golly was it good!

I was up way before dawn and down at Broom just on day-break. Unfortunately, unlike yesterday morning, Broom was dead. Everything from yesterday had cleared out and it was just two Goldeneye that were new in. Soon after 6am I'd started getting news from Stewartby. Martin Green was also up and checking his local patch. Two fabulous Black-necked Grebes were first on the menu, quickly followed up by a drake Red-breasted Merganser, a Sandwich Tern and three Arctic Terns! RIB had also found two more RB Mergs at Harrold, and Neil had found two more at Brogborough Lake, along with three more Arcitc Terns! This was getting silly.

However, I cracked big-style when I got wind of a bloody Arctic Skua flying around over Stewartby, then chasing a Kittiwake!

Just over twenty minutes later I was at the sailing club end of Stewartby lake not seeing the Skua. I had missed it by seconds - oh arse-tits! The Kitti, two Bn Grebes, and a spanking Mergnaser did little to lift my spirits! Well, at least for a short while anyway.

Black-necked Grebes at Stewartby

I decided to have a look at some other pits in the valley, but RIB (who also just dipped the Skua) beat me to the goodies - he'd found the three Arctic Terns and the Sarnie, which had apparently been chased away by the Skua, up at Chimney Corner North. I arrived a few minutes later, and RIB pulled a sum plum Black-tailed Godwit from under my nose, while I was watching the terns. Gurn also turned up on the far bank, and while I was videoing the Sarnie on the deck we all simultaneously realised there were two Sarnies sitting together! Bonus!

Sandwich Tern at Stewartby
Went back to Stewartby, no change there, but the Grebes and Merg were posing nicely for photos. Picked up Mr Stewartby-Green, then on to Broggy to look for the Mergs there. No sign of them, so up to Neils for a cuppa. A lovely warm mug of tea later and we were on the road again to MVCP. Dropped Mr Stewartby-Green off, but not before feasting on the pair of Garganey on the long meadow pool. Then headed home for a spot of lunch and to pick Carrie up.

Red-breasted Merganser at Stewartby

We were back out again by 2pm, but we were too late to get the Osprey which had just flown over Stewartby Lake. Got to Chimney Corner again, and saw the pair of Mergs that had dropped in there (presumably the missing pair from Broggy), and the Arctic Terns still, and picked up a bonus Greenshank with the Blackwit on the far side. While we were here Roy called up to say he'd had a White Stork fly over his car just a little way down the road. We went looking in the fields and near-by pits, but to no avail. We ended up back at Stewartby where the two Sandwich Terns were back again, and we took in the rediculously tame Grebes again. The Merg had departed though.
A roast dinner was calling so we headed home late afternoon well and truly knackered!

Arctic Terns at Chimney Corner North

Thursday, 9 April 2009


Drake Garganey still present on the G&M Growers pits, but well and truly gripped at lunchtime by Whitey.  He had a Sandwich Tern flew north just a few minutes after I'd left!  Good job I don't need Sarnie for my Broom list…

Think I might go to Pegsdon later to sulk.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

One eye on the sky

A drake Garganey still present, spending most of its time on the G&M Growers pits. Single Dunlin on the main lake, but precious little else. It was so empty I had a rest on the south bank with one eye on the sky for any migrating Ospreys…

Two Brambling in my garden in the evening.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

More new arrivals

3 Garganey found at the crack of dawn by Burgess were new in, but the excitement of Little Gulls and our first Common Tern had all gone.

A lunchtime visit yielded a cracking female 2cy Peregrine, which took a Lapwing in flight! Peregrines in Beds are becoming common place now, and can be expected almost anywhere. However I hardly ever see them hunting!

After school visit to the neglected Gypsy Lane end produced the female type Merlin again, this time chasing a Skylark high in the air. No pipits, and only three Pied Wags, but also a pair of LRP's, and some hissing Shelducks.

Monday, 6 April 2009

More minutus

A lunchtime visit back to Broom with Mr Ward was good.  Little Gull numbers had risen to 7, all winter plumaged adults, and we also had a Red Kite over (different one to the individual on Saturday) and a female Merlin zip east.

Broom or Pegsdon this evening?  That is the question...

Minutus magic

In typical murky April conditions this morning, three adult winter Little Gulls and a Common Tern dropped in just after 8am.  I'd already had a text from Mr Broom (Martin) that there was a Common Tern there at 07:15 but by the time I'd got there (at around 7:45) there was no sign of it.  So I suspect, as the tern and gulls appeared at the same time, the tern was a new arrival.  On my way out of the site a Willow Warbler sang from the edge of the wood (my first this year), and three Blackcaps scratched from various bush areas.

This sort of weather (low cloud/mist, with an easterly wind) in April is quite exciting for an inland birder.  These sort of conditions typically mean you should be out early looking for passage terns, gulls, and waders.  This is where Broom currently scores well.  The site is on a north-south river valley, and the size of the lake means it draws stuff in from a reasonable distance.  Most things only come in for a look, fly around a few times and are off again, but sometimes they stick.  The dedication of a hardened few in recent years has also meant that Broom gets excellent coverage during the spring period.  Things still get missed, but a huge amount has been seen for such a small site.  I'll probably leave there for now...

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Kumlien's number two

Spent lunchtime walking round the Lodge in the hope of picking up the recent Wood Lark. No sign again, but Lesser Redpoll on the Gatehouse niger feeder.

As the Kumlien's Gull had been showing well during the day, Gurn and I popped over to the brick pits for another look. I'd just stepped out of my car when Pete called to say it was briefly at Stewartby before disappearing again. We checked a few of the lesser pits without any luck before ending up at Stewartby with plenty of other birders. It eventually flew in to the middle of the roost and gave good views. Plenty of debate was sparked from one vocal individual about its identification.

The views tonight were quite good. It's a very striking bird, and one you won't miss if it turns up in your gull roost! Two-tone bill, with grey washed primaries, a hint of grey on the mantle, and the rest of the bird is virtually white. It also has a pale eye, but this was difficult to discern on gull-roost views. The build was heavy (for an Iceland Gull type) but still smaller than most Herring Gulls, and between that and a Lesser Black-back. To be honest, if you chopped off its primaries, you wouldn't look twice before calling it an Iceland Gull, despite its build.

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Kumlien's Quest

Broom before work and at lunchtime today. Not much has changed. 8 Redshanks, and 4 Ringed Plover were the highlights. Plenty of Buzzard activity at lunchtime with several parties spiralling over the woodland around Old Warden. The gulls have settled back on Peacock's island and were displaying well. Just waiting for the first Common Terns to arrive back, any day now…

After work shot around Gypsy Lane East - 3 Green Sands, 2 Shelduck, 1 LRP, and 1 Ringed Plover the best. Very few pipits and wags this evening.

Headed over to Stewartby Lake to see if the 2nd winter Kumlien's would come in. It did, and early, but was spooked by the boats on the far side. I decided to try and relocate it, and finally found it roosting in Quest. A really striking gull. Almost completely white from a distance. Its grey wing-tips were about the darkest park of the bird. The bill was two-tone, and it was just about getting a pale grey mantle. In flight, it had a dark (broken) band on its tail, which was about the same shade of grey as the wing-tips. It looks identical to the Leicestershire bird, so it presumably moving south with the Lesser Black-backs?

After a lot of strange and odd looking gulls in the county recently, it was nice to see such an obvious Kumlien's. Mark and Mark turned up shortly afterwards and we watched it 'till dusk. As we were about to leave a Barn Owl did a fly-past - nice.

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