We had determined in 2020 to not chase a year list and in an attempt to save a small part of the planet would not leave such a huge carbon footprint by birding more locally. We've also changed our motor, diesel to petrol, and don't want to crucify it like we did the last one which we managed to pretty much run into the ground during 2019.
Our last weekend spent in our tired old car began on the 25th January with an effort to find some good local birds. Needless to say we completely failed in our quest to find both Crossbills and Tree Sparrows at previously semi-reliable sites in Oxfordshire. We walked a long way that day for practically no reward whatsoever. Fast forward to Sunday 26th January when we headed to nearby Bedfordshire for a couple of local twitches. Nothing very rare but potentially useful year list additions (figuratively speaking of course since we are definitely not year listing). An hour spent stood in the freezing cold by the edge of a bleak field in driving rain, Mrs Caley very wisely opted for the inside of the car, yielded no sighting of a hoped for Great Grey Shrike, the second dip of that species already this year. We moved on to Priory Country Park in Bedford where we did at least score with a very handsome drake Ring-necked Duck so things were on the up. Not for long though since we double dipped the Shrike again on the way home!
Whilst double dipping the Shrike we heard of a Jack Snipe that had been seen from the hide at Willen Lake in Milton Keynes. We were only a few miles away so made it there within half an hour. Birds settle on the cropped reeds quite close to the rudimentary hide so decent views are afforded even if it is difficult looking through the slats since they are at a very awkward height to access, particularly for the more vertically challenged. After a few moments of adjustment it was clear that there were a lot of Common Snipe, probably about thirty in total, but after an hour of careful searching through it was apparent that the Jack Snipe wasn't amongst them. I researched a little bit via the internet and Bucks Birds informed that the Jack had bobbed slowly across the reeds and then disappeared into the taller and denser vegetation to the left of the hide. Probably never to be seen again.
We made our second visit of the year to Draycote water, before this year we had never been there. This time we were looking for a Black-necked Grebe and assumed that it would be seen from the Farborough Bank because that was where we'd seen everything a few weeks before. We got buffeted by the increasingly strengthening winds for our troubles and didn't find the Grebe, later learning that it was in fact hanging out on the opposite side of the reservoir at a place called Rainbow Corner. Maybe the rainbow that hung over the water as we walked back to the car was actually pointing the way.
We walked towards the part of the pit where the Garganey was supposed to be along a muddy track and noticed a small flock of Goldfinches feeding at the base of some Alders (I think). The ten or so Goldfinches flew into the trees and joined a larger flock of feeding birds. When I aimed the camera at the nearest group I was pleasantly surprised to see that the other birds were Siskins and not more Goldfinches. Siskins are always good birds to find locally.
|Grey Heron colony|
|Greater Scaup (foreground)|