Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Bedfordshire - 20th February 2009

A day's birding in Bedfordshire with fellow East Yorks migration lover and local patch worker Mark (Thomas), at various sites across the county, with canine companions Norman and Higby in tow. Many sites visited, beginning (in thick fog) at Stratton balancing lake, where N & H assisted admirably in flushing no less than six Jack Snipe and four Common Snipe.

A look at Broom GP's was curtailed by the fog, but all the common woodland species (including c25 Siskins) were on show at the Swiss Gardens, and the sun finally broke through as we arrived at Cardington Hangars. A surreal, beguiling site dominated by two huge former WWI airship hangars set in flat agricultural surrounds, the word Quatermass sprang instantly to mind; also home to a pair of Peregrines, thanks to Mark and the RSPB fixing a nest box to the more run-down of the two buildings.

(The other is home to the Warner Bros film set, and has recently been transformed into both Gotham City and a certain Chocolate Factory...)

A drive to Woburn village in search of a reported small flock of Waxwings was the runaway highlight of the day, after a joy of a half-hour spent in their company. Ridiculously tame and completely unfazed by us (and indeed the constant noise from traffic, people, vans unloading a few metres away etc), seven birds picked berries, preened, called, sang, snoozed and even courtship-fed at point-blank range until eventually leaving en masse to the west.

Willington GP's (reed-fringed gravel pits, grazing marsh, scrub and a small woodland) held another Jack Snipe (thanks Norm), single Oystercatcher and Green Sandpiper, three Redshank, a pair of Shelduck, plenty of Teal and Wigeon, and the locally ubiquitous Little Egrets and Common Buzzards.

A second look at Broom GP's yielded plenty of common wildlfowl, while a drive along a nearby farm-track in search of Barn Owls was instantly successful, with one of the birds within a few metres of us. The same area held mixed flocks of Yellowhammers and Corn Buntings.