Red-breasted Merganser at Caldecotte Lake

A few days ago an adult Red-breasted Merganser was reported from the nearby Caldecotte Lake in Milton Keynes. The bird were relocated by birders in the following days and I hoped I would find it as well.

In the first hour I was walking sll around the north lake in quite a gloomy but mild weather. In the ‘arms’ I saw a beautiful drake Common Merganser (Goosander) and it pretty much was the highlight. In the bushes quite a lot of European Robins called, and tits flocked mainly on the eastern side of the north lake.

As there was no sign of the Red-breasted Merganser, I headed to south lake. Sun came out and painted the lake and its surrounding golden. Again a nice Common Merganser, striking Common Pochards, Eurasian Wigeons coloured the Common Coot groups. At the south end birdwatching point a Water Rail called loudly. I checked every corner of the lake, but I didn’t see the rare merganser.

Driven by the sixth sense, I returned to west side of the north lake to give it another try. After passing the Caldecotte Arms pub the male Red-breasted Merganser was meters away from the walkway. It showed very well in beautiful lights. I had time to take a few record shot through the Zeiss binoculars with my iPhone. The outcome is definitely not jaw dropping, but enough for documenting.


Photo taken by an iPhone through my Zeiss binoculars handheld. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Records from Caldecotte Lake North/South, Milton Keynes from today

Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) 46/47
Mute Swan (Cygnus olor) 19/11
Gadwall (Anas strepera) 2/4
Eurasian Wigeon (Anas penelope) 5/18
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) 9/6
Mallard (Domestic type) (Anas platyrhynchos) 53/67
Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata) 2
Eurasian Teal (Anas crecca) 0/4
Common Pochard (Aythya ferina) 0/14
Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula) 7/24
Common Merganser (Mergus merganser) 1/1
Red-breasted Merganser (Mergus serrator) 1/0
Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis) 4
Great Crested Grebe (Podiceps cristatus) 25/12
Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) 8/32
Gray Heron (Ardea cinerea) 3/4
Little Egret (Egretta garzetta) 2/1
Water Rail (Rallus aquaticus) 1
Eurasian Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) 24/15
Eurasian Coot (Fulica atra) 51/147
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) 78/115
Mew Gull (Larus canus) 3/6
Herring Gull (European) (Larus argentatus) 1/4
Lesser Black-backed Gull (Larus fuscus fuscus) 0/12
Lesser Black-backed Gull (Larus fuscus graellsii) 1/1
Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus) 0/1
Common Wood-Pigeon (Columba palumbus) 4/4
Common Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis) 2/1
Eurasian Jay (Garrulus glandarius) 1/0
Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major) 0/1
Eurasian Green Woodpecker (Picus viridis) 0/1
Eurasian Magpie (Eurasian) (Pica pica [pica Group]) 16/10
Carrion Crow (Corvus corone) 6/5
Great Tit (Parus major) 6/3
Eurasian Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus) 15/11
Long-tailed Tit (Aegithalos caudatus) 14/31
Eurasian Wren (Eurasian) (Troglodytes troglodytes) 5/5
Goldcrest (Regulus regulus) 2/0
European Robin (Erithacus rubecula) 21/28
Eurasian Blackbird (Turdus merula) 14/10
Song Thrush (Turdus philomelos) 2/0
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) 14/0
Dunnock (Prunella modularis) 8/14
Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus) 2/0
Common Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs) 2/0
Eurasian Bullfinch (Eurasian) (Pyrrhula pyrrhula) 1/0
European Greenfinch (Chloris chloris) 1/0
White Wagtail (British) (Motacilla alba yarrellii) 0/2
European Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis) 9/4
House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) 8/0


Milton Keynes rarities and ridiculous birders

There have been a few rare bird news circulating in town in the last few weeks. Among those there was Bearded Reedling, Great Northern Diver, Slavonian Grebe and Rough-legged Buzzard. These reports appeared on Twitter and Birdguides, but have never been through the local SMS alert system.

Most of the records were posted by an unknown birder and as usual local birders (twitchers) became suspicious immediately. That didn’t really surprised me as I’ve been going through this process since I moved to England. Despite the Bearded Reedling was relocated by a local birder and the record became kinda ‘accepted’, the community remained suspicious when the Great Northern Diver was reported. Nobody managed to see that.

Then a few days ago a Slavonian Grebe was reported from the Willen Lake and yet again a series of cynical posts appeared in the local mailing list. One of the biggest twitchers in England had to say this: “I have been in the game of news dissemination long enough to smell a rat and this one leaves a long trail of doubt.” He said this without going to Willen Lake and tried to find the grebe.

Then all the cynical twitchers has been put to shame, when one of the locals finally got out to Willen and re-found the Slavonian Grebe. I also have seen it a few hours ago.

When I moved to England I had a few cases, when I had to think, I was a bad birdwatcher and it’s better to sell my binoculars. It started with the observation of a family of Common Cranes in Tyringham about two years ago. Nobody believed me. Then I saw a Redpoll and I got a feedback, that it was quite uncommon (in fact it wasn’t). I got another one, after I reported a Common Crossbill. None of them are mega species. Probably I can say, I am from a Common Crane kingdom, where I’ve seen tens of thousands of them in Hungary.

All these happenings are forcing me into giving up reporting and just focusing my own birding. I don’t even give a damn who trusts me or not, whether my records will be included in the annual reports or not. I’ve been birding long enough not to play with rarities just to make my whatever lists more impressive. I’m happy that other Buckinghamshire birders share my thoughts about those self-conceited birders. Luckily there are many kind and approachable ones.


Bearded Reedling. © Gyorgy Szimuly

The price of being a bird conservationist

Many years ago one of my non-birding friends tried to help me to get my life sorted. One of the ‘lessons’ he taught me, and what many of my current friends would argue with, to get rid of all the negative things from my life. Keep or move away from people with toxic souls, stop listening news on media. I immediately questioned him, but tried reducing negative news to reach me. Suddenly, it worked. And it worked better and better, day by day.

However, I couldn’t completely exclude negative things from my life, simply because I’m addicted to the conservation of birds. In our time being a bird conservationist of any level is one of the most challenging activities. To do it right we have to be emotionally connected to birds and the whole ecosystem. And it is a ‘Catch 22’. State of birds reports are emerging weekly, more and more bird species are in the brink of extinction, less and less money is available to avoid the irreversible processes. We are touched emotionally every day, yet we keep fighting.

If we count the number of issues waiting for being solved and the success stories in bird conservation up to date, we see huge differences. Yes, issues are more frequently coming up than success stories. Still, those success stories give us power not to stop fighting. Fighting means we have to let negative news in our life. Somehow they are different from those we see on news channels about wars, murders, corruption, global warming, lies or who know what else.

I dedicate this post to Everyone who cares about wildlife. Should he or she be a celebrity standing out for birds, a scientist, an ex-hunter who works as a ranger against poachers, a volunteer or a simple parent who teach his or her child not to hate, but respect wildlife and Everyone in between!


I’m happy to be have nature loving kids with equipped with tenderness and sensitivity towards our feathered friends. © Gyorgy Szimuly


Record numbers of Red-breasted Goose in Hungary

Watching tens of thousands flying Red-breasted Geese is definitely one of most incredible birding spectacle in Europe. © Nikolai Petkov

Watching tens of thousands flying Red-breasted Geese is definitely one of most incredible birding spectacle in Europe. © Nikolai Petkov

Earlier this week the first ever Red-breasted Goose census took place in Hungary, following an increased number of observations across the country. The census resulted incredible numbers of these beautiful and globally threatened goose species.

On 6 November 1,733 Red-breasted Goose were counted. Most of the birds were found in the Hortobágy National Park in Eastern Hungary. A single flock of 581 birds and another big one of 412 birds were present on two fishpond. On the wetlands of my former local patches, the Old Lake of Tata and the Ferencmajor fishponds resulted 5 Red-breasted Geese, but this number has increased to 29 by today.

One of the big Red-breasted Goose flocks over the puszta of Hortobágy National Park. © Sándor Borza

One of the big Red-breasted Goose flocks over the puszta of Hortobágy National Park. © Sándor Borza

Hungarian goose experts speculated that this event was the beginning of the split of the wintering sites. It is known that the Arctic breeder Red-breasted Goose is wintering along the northern and western coast of the Black Sea, but small number of birds spend the winter in the Carpathian Basin (Central Europe). It needs further investigations wether something has happened on the traditional wintering sites or this is just a one-off event.

Another classic photo of the puszta with Red-breasted Geese. © Zsolt Ampovics

Another classic photo of the puszta with Red-breasted Geese. © Zsolt Ampovics

On the very same day more than 50 Lesser White-fronted Goose and tens of thousands Greater White-fronted Goose were counted across the country. However not all goose species are doing well. Worryingly low numbers of Tundra and Taiga Bean Goose have been registered in my hometown where it had been a dominant goose species in the ’90s. Less than 1% of the total number of wild geese (15,000 birds) was Tundra or Taiga Bean Goose on the Old Lake of Tata this morning. One of my very best friends, László Musicz said.

Soon we have to initiate the legal protection of the Tundra Bean Geese. A decade ago everyone would have been laughing on such a proposal, then a few years ago we started scratching our head, and today it became a reality.

I will follow the progress reports from Hungary and post updates regularly. Huge thanks for the photos to Sándor Borza (Hungary), Zsolt Ampovics (Hungary) and Nikolai Petkov (Bulgaria).


More information about the Red-breasted Goose conservation project can be found on About the Lesser White-fronted Goose visit © Nikolai Petkov

Update on 10 November 2014

The Hortobágy National Park (HNP) Authority published an update on their website with the final total number of Red-breasted Geese counted during the census. According to the report over 2,000 Red-breasted Geese have been recorded in the whole country including 1,806 birds within the Hortobágy National Park territory.

Sadly, the Tundra/Taiga Bean Goose numbers equalled with the Globally Threatened Lesser White-fronted Goose, while more than 230,000 Greater White-fronted Geese were present in the HNP alone. This issue has to be taken seriously without any further delay!