Greater Linford Wood visit


I made my first visit to the nearby Greater Linford Woods which is less than a mile away from where I live. Birding was quite slow in drizzling fog but I managed to find a mixed flock of songbirds. As this forest could be an attractive roosting/stopover site for migrating songbirds it is worth to visit it more often, especially during the rarity season.



Fall colors are making the forest so beautiful in late October. © Gyorgy Szimuly


European Blue Tit. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Species seen (full list):

Common Wood Pigeon 6,
Great Spotted Woodpecker 2,
Eurasian Wren 5,
Dunnock 1,
European Robin 2,
Goldcrest 3 (new to my British list), 
Long-tailed Tit 18,
European Blue Tit 4,
Great Tit 7,
Marsh Tit 1,
European Nuthatch 3,
Common Magpie 6,
Western Jackdaw 8,
Carrion Crow 5,
Chaffinch 1,
European Greenfinch 1.


13°C, fog, windless.


Thanks to the superb Swarovski guys, Dale and Beate, I have got a nice Swarovski Optik cap which is now my everyday birding cap. I wear it by pride.


Old Wolverton Golden Plovers


Panorama view of the area from the Manor hill. © György Szimuly

News have been circulating in the local birding mailing list about a nice flock of European Golden Plovers so it was obvious to give it a try to find them. We drove to the Manor Farm Court where I could easily check the nearby wetland from.

The gravel pit-like wetland held a nice number of Northern Lapwings and European Golden Plovers. They were continuously chased and scared by Carrion Crows made counting challenging. I had no much time to count all the birds but I have a picture of what birds are using the area.


Flock of Northern Lapwings. © György Szimuly


Flock of European Golden Plovers. © György Szimuly


Old Wolverton gravel pits. © György Szimuly

Wader numbers:

Northern Lapwing 590
European Golden Plover 225 (137 based on the grounded birds)

On the lake Mute Swan, Eurasian Wigeon, Northern Showeler, Eurasian Teal, Mallard, Tufted Duck, Great Cormorant, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Eurasian Coot, Common Moorhen, Black-headed Gull, Herring Gull and Lesser Black-backed Gull was also present.

Over the trees edging the lake 12 Barn Swallows moved to SW direction.

Update (11.10.2012):

A local birder, Bill Parker, who read my post on the local mailing list, started to count the number of golden plovers visible on the image I posted. The flock apparently larger than the number of plovers counted on the ground. I had no time to sum up the flying birds based on the image at the time of posting this blog but I could do it later on. Here is the method and the result.


Common Cranes and Red Kite in Tyringham

Let me go back to the autumns of the past 20 year or more. I regularly visited one of the most attractive national parks of Hungary, the Hortobágy National Park where tens of thousands of Common Cranes stopping over the wetlands of the park before moving to their wintering grounds. I loved that atmosphere as their calls were heard from every directions. I can say I know Common Cranes well enough and love their calls which I am expecting in every autumn no matter where I am in Europe.


Tyringham Hall where the Common Cranes flew over. © György Szimuly

Today I got them. I am not in Hungary but in the Midland UK but I picked them while calling. Even my wife recognised their calls when first heard over the pastures of Tyringham. 5 Common Cranes (3 adults and 2 1Y birds) moved by slow wingbeats from NW direction to SE. I watched them by my Swarovski 10×42 SwaroVision binoculars in perfect weather and acceptable light condition. At the time of watching the cranes I was not aware of its local status but later I realized that this was the 12th known record of Common Crane for Buckinghamshire and I saw the 2nd ‘largest‘ flock ever, based on the local birder, Simon Nichols’s comment. Unfortunately I did not take photos as the camera was not with me while following them. When they disappeared behind the trees I took over the camera from wife but for another reason.


Red Kite chased by Carrion Crows and Western Jackdaws. © György Szimuly

A Red Kite appeared just above me which I hoped to see. A week ago we visited the same site but I had no binocular with me. I saw a thin raptor soaring over me but it was too distant to ID it as a Red Kite. Potentially it was a Red Kite. Today I saw it on the exactly same place. It was chased by Carrion Crows and Western Jackdaws. I could take a record shot of the bird. I was also happy by two migrating juvenile Barn Swallows. Probably the last ones for this year.

Birds seen around the Tyringham Hall:

Red Kite 1, 
Eurasian Sparrowhawk 2,
Common Buzzard 7,
Common Kestrel 1,
Common Crane 5,
Black-headed Gull 8,
Lesser Black-backed Gull 4,
Little Owl 1 at the bridge
Green Woodpecker 1,
Common Wood Pigeon 45,
Stock Dove 14,
Barn Swallow 2 juv.,
Rook 5,
Northern Raven 2,
Carrion Crow 35,
Western Jackdaw 70,
European Goldfinch 22,
European Siskin 10.

From Tyringham I drove to the northern lake of the Willen Lake to get an idea of the birds present there. Two days ago I saw hundreds of gulls coming for night roosting at dawn. I planned to count them and get a better view on the composition of the species. The gulls have not arrived untill the light conditions were acceptable.


Northern Willen Lake. © György Szimuly

Birds and numbers of the northern Willen Lake:

Mute Swan 15,
Canada Goose 30,
Greylag Goose 7,
Eurasian Wigeon 159,
Mallard 47,
Gadwal 52,
Northern Showeler 18,
Tufted aduck 12,
Great Crested Grebe 9,
Little Grebe 11,
Great Cormorant 18,
Grey Heron 2,
Eurasian Moorhen 18,
Eurasian Coot 257,
Black-headed Gull 295,
Mew Gull 13,
Lesser Black-backed Gull 3,
Common Wood Pigeon 12,
Great Spotted Woodpecker 1,
Green Woodpecker 1,
European Wren 1,
European Robin 3,
Dunnock 1,
Eurasian Blue Tit 2,
Common Starling 80,
Carrion Crow 12,
Common Magpie 6.


Mute Swan. © György Szimuly


Little Grebe. © György Szimuly

Would two dowitcher species have been too good?


A lazy flock of Black-tailed Godwits and Northern Lapwings with Black-headed Gulls on the South Lake. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Today I spent all the day with Elis and Rick Simpson for a very good reason. For birding! I have been planning to make a visit to WWT Slimbridge Wetland Centre together with László Musicz, the Hungarian wild goose expert and one of the very best friends of mine. Unfortunately today he was not with me but I could manage to have a promising birding day with my new Friends from Milton Keynes. Kea and Andi was not with us neither as it could have been a long day for Kea without much of interests for them.


WWT Visitor Centre in Slimbridge. © Gyorgy Szimuly

The ‘zoo-like‘ WWT wetland centre is quite attractive. It is not necessarily for a keen birdwatcher but in general. The connection between birds and humans are pretty unique as they just walk among visitors like people in the streets.


Very tame European Moorhens were everywhere. Nice place to get good images of common birds. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Birding wise it was also promising as in the morning the 3rd ever Long-billed Dowitcher for Gloucester was reported. Weather was nice and pleasant though the light direction wasn’t perfect from the South Lake discovery hide. After failed to pick up the dowitcher from the flock of Black-tailed Godwits we moved to the Zeiss Hide where a Red-necked Phalarope was also reported. The hide actually provided a nice view to the River Severn and the adjacent wetlands. The phalarope was actively feeding by making those uncountable typical tiny circles. Ellis was happy to see her new lifer and and as a gratification she gifted us with some chocolates. I wish we had more lifers for her…


The view to the River Severn and surrounding wetlands. The Red-necked Phalarope is on the image… somewhere. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Species seen from the hide was as follows:

Barnacle Goose 150,
Canada Goose 25,
Common Shelduck 1,
Eurasian Wigeon 250,
Common Buzzard 3,
Northern Lapwing 120,
Common Ringed Plover 1,
Eurasian Curlew 2,
Common Redshank 10,
Red-necked Phalarope 1.


I liked this ‘discrimination’. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Before meeting and chatting a WWT worker on Rick’s Wader Quest project we checked the South lake again for the dowitcher. It was not there. Black-tailed Godwits and Northern Lapwings were dominant.

Waders counted by WWT staff in the morning:

Northern Lapwing 167
Black-tailed Godwit 276
Common Redshank 72
Spotted Redshank 1
Common Sandpiper 1 (we did not see it)
Green Sandpiper 2 (we did not see them)
Ruff 8 (they were not present). 

After we left the centre I checked the BirdGuides reports for possible updates on the Long-billed Dowitcher. Of course it was relocated but not exactly in the wetland centre but on the northern side of the River Severn. We have been too far for returning back as we headed south to Dorset for something else!

We excitedly entered the RSPB Lodmoor Reserve at Weymouth, Dorset in pouring rain. Rick and Elis has seen the Short-billed Dowitcher weeks ago but they hoped to see it again. The bird was not visible at the usual location at the time of our arrival though it was reported from the morning time. Luckily we had to wait not too long for the bird to appear as it suddenly landed in the middle of the pool and started feeding. The juvenile bird provided an amazing view, showing all the important characteristics through the spotting scopes.



The Dorset Short-billed Dowitcher. © Elis Simpson


Black-headed Gulls. © Gyorgy Szimuly




Canada Geese were continuosly moving over the reserve. © Gyorgy Szimuly


Dunnocks flocked at the entrance of the reserve. These are record shots only and taken by a Nikon V1 compact. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Other birds seen around:

Canada Goose 150,
Eurasian Teal 15,
Mallard 15
Northern Shoveler 6
Northern Lawing 10,
Short-billed Dowitcher 1,
Common Sandpiper 1,
Mediterranean Gull 5,
Black-headed Gull 120,
Dunnock 6,
European Robin 4,
Meadow Pipit 3,
European Goldfinch 6,
European Greenfinch 4.

We almost managed to get two dowitcher species on the same day out their original migration routes. It would not have been an everyday experience. Anyway I have been more than satisfied to have a new lifer and specially because it was a shorebird. Short-billed Dowitcher became the 134th species on my shorebird life list. My total life list jumped to 2,176.


After leaving the reserve we quickly checked the bay for some potential seabirds. ‘Only’ three Northern Gannets and a few European Herring Gull was seen.

On our way back to Buckinghamshire a Eurasian Woodcock was flying over the highway A34 just northwest to Newbury at dusk. Another new bird to my British list.

Here I would like to say a big thanks to Rick and Elis who made this day unforgetable… in many ways!