the floods are effecting us all, and they are affecting the birds
too. Those which
depend on foraging in fields and hedgerows, such as Lapwing, Woodpigeon,
and Blackbirds, are really
struggling at present and many will have foresaken Cookham for a
while to find drier feeding.
and Kestrels too will be having real difficulties, with many
voles drowned or relocated. Only time will tell the real toll.
it has had the affect of drawing in other species, and there have
been huge numbers of gulls around this last week or two. At
present, there are typically 2,500 Black-headed Gulls on
Widbrook Common. Of course, it is out of the breeding season
so most will not in fact have black heads, just a black smudge
behind the eye. Other species such as Herring Gull and Lesser
Black-backed Gull are to be seen as well.
probably the most exciting has been the arrival of a small party of Bewicks
Swans, all the way from Russia, and making use of huge expanses
of water outside the traditional wintering areas in the UK.
adults and four immatures arrived in Widbrook around lunch-time
today (18th December) and if the water level stays high and they are
not disturbed, they could well hang around for a while.
can be discerned from the Mute Swans by their black and
yellow bills and the lack of a knob on top of the bill. They
will probably stick together so look for a group of six, 2 white and
4 brownish ones. But you will need binoculars for successful
they were on the west side of the road, looking towards Cookham
Rise. Good hunting.
wonder how many readers may have been wondering why so many people
have been on Winter Hill lately looking up to the skies? No,
they were'nt observing spiralling fuel prices! They were
looking for Buzzards.
not just any Buzzards. The UK receives about 20 pairs of Honey
Buzzards from Africa each year and they spread themselves
throughout the UK, breeding in about three locations only. And
so they are a rare bird to find.
imagine the surprise in birding circles when news started getting
out that dozens were being seen in the north-east of the country,
gradually moving south.
check of the weather pattern suggested that huge numbers of
Scandanavian Honey Buzzards were being blown across the
north sea and using our eastern coast to travel south along,
instead of the west of scanwegia etc.
over the next three days, some 300 to 400 of them streamed down
the UK and many got as far inland as Berkshire.
the past thirty years there have only been 13 individuals reported
in the County. Over the last few days, almost twice this
number have been spotted passing overhead, a good number over the
history was being made right over our heads, and even on Monday
25th, no less than 9 went over.
next time you see someone looking straight up, ask them 'Are you
looking for Buzzards, Honey?'
after yet another wet spell, here we are in the second week
of September experiencing some of the highest temperatures
yet this summer. And if that confuses us, what does it
do to the birds.
martins in the Cookham's not only arrived late, but
delayed breeding due to the very wet start to the season.
In fact,most left it too late to start a second brood, so
that does not bode well for numbers next year.
of tits and thrush species lost out to the
rainy spring spell also. 'Our garden Blue
Tits abandoned in early May and didn't bother again after that.
Anyone had similar experiences?
course, we are now in the main migration window for many
species. Swifts had already left the Cookhams by end
July, and Whinchats were moving through Strande Water
by end August. Hobbies have had a good year and
I saw 3 over Widbrooke, 7 over Winter Hill Golf Course, and
3 more over Bourne End this Sunday. They look so
majestic chasing dragonflies and flying ants, often in the
midst of much more ungainly gulls trying to do the
further afield, a Hoopoe has taken a fancy to a
paddock in Twyford and has staked a claim to it for three
weeks now. Swallows are on the move and
warblers are slowly disappearing. However, Skylarks
should soon be back with us having spent the end of their
breeding season on the coast to moult.
not let us know of any unusual sightings in the Cookhams, or
whilst you were on holiday."
guess you can say spring has come and gone and we had the
two days of summer earlier this week. So what has this
meant for the birds. The very wet April and May seems
to have taken its toll on small birds. Our garden Blue
Tits failed for the second year running to raise a full
spring brood, but may try again before the end of the
season. However, Robins seemed to do better.
tend to feed more on ground pests whilst Tits go more
for caterpillars and insects in trees and bushes, which were
perhaps fewer in number. Also, the rain water taken
into boxes on birds feathers has far less opportunity to dry
out than in open nests such as robins etc causing rapid
cooling of the chicks. Global warming is not having
entirely beneficial effects on garden birds after all! House Martins
too are having mixed fortunes. The
traditional colony in Broomhill has been ignored so far, the
first two explorers arriving only four days ago. But others
have been active elsewhere in the village, and the Sand
Martins are nesting again in the drain pipe holes of
Odney's riverside wall, and in farmer Copas' sand bank in
Tawny Owls will have fled their cavity nests a few weeks ago.
Did you happen to see us on TV a couple of Sundays ago?
Country File covered the inspection of the Tawny Owl boxes
that we installed in Quarry Woods during the winter, and several
Cookham birders were involved with the Hawk & Owl Trust, and the
Woodland Trust, checking which ones may have been used. We did
find evidence of at least one having been used to raise owlets, but
several were empty, quite a few had been taken over by squirrels,
and two had been stuffed full of material by Great Tits
(which must have taken ages!). The most interesting one
however, and fortunately captured on the camera, was a
quickly-departing Mandarin Duck, leaving a bemused Roger
Parkes to look inside and find no less than 16 Mandarin eggs!
These chicks will eventually have to leap down onto the ground and
be quickly led to the nearest part of the Thames - which must be
hundreds of yards away!
of you may have seen the regular sorties of Red
Kite over the
village this summer. A most welcome sight. And not too
far away, at Bray Gravel Pit, a much rarer Red-footed Falcon
lingered for a short while. Meanwhile, I am doing a sponsored
24-hour bird race in support of the Cookham Millennium Pageant fund,
so if you would like to sponsor me, do get in touch.
seems to have crept up on us somewhat but it is an exciting
month from an avian point of view with the first migrants
appearing. Already, Swallow, Sand Martin and
House Martins have been spotted on the south coast.
may have had one of Germany's Blackcaps
garden this winter (do let me know if you have) but they will
soon be off and our 'own' Blackcaps
from Africa will
arrive by the month's end. There are still flocks of Redwing
(70 in Strand Lane yesterday) and Fieldfare (20 over
Alleyns Lane yesterday) but they too will be off north
before too long. Many have said House Sparrows
disappearing. Well, I took it upon myself to check so
I have walked most of the streets of the Rise this week
counting those I could see or hear. I found 180!
Biggest groups were in Broom Hill and Whyteladyes Lane, and
most roads had a few.
I would be grateful to hear from anyone who has them in
their garden regularly. After all, at the present rate
of national decline, you might not for much longer!
It's February and in our crazy 'global warmed' world, the
birds are totally confused. Our local Broomhill Song
Thrush has been singing his heart out all January and
February, and so has the one in Alleyns Lane. Have you
got one near you? Blackcaps
have been wintering
in several Cookham gardens; these are not the same birds as
those spending the summer with us, but ones who have come
from Germany, having worked out it's quicker to get back
there from UK than from Africa. And who said animals
From the 'raptor watchpoint' on Winter Hill yesterday, there
was a group of 4 Red Kites over the Cressex Centre,
another with three Buzzards about a mile to the west,
another Buzzard over Medmenham and yet another Kite
a couple of miles from there. You will need good bins
or a telescope to separate them, though. If anyone
fancies a Kite Hunt from there anytime, let me know and I
will organise a viewing with Cyclops, my 'scope.
Having mentioned raptors, I have received three
independent reports of an eagle-sized species being seen in
Langley this week. Descriptions seem to fit juvenile Golden
Eagle, or possibly White-tailed Eagle, three of
which have spent the winter in East Anglia having journeyed
from the Polish colony, where there are some 500 pairs!
Anyway, back to Cookham. There have been a few Brambling
with Chaffinches on the corner of Long Lane and
Switchback this week. Delightful little birds, again just
with us for winter.
If you would like to know about the local birding scene,
give me a ring - 01628-525314
we are into AD2000 and we should see soon how many of the Little
Owl boxes get used. In the meantime, we have not
been idle and have been working with the Hawk & Owl
Trust, and the Woodland Trust, to install 20 Tawny Owl
in Quarry Wood and Bisham Woods.
Come the spring we will be inspecting these to see how many Tawny's
have taken a fancy to them and, all being well, will be
putting in another 20 elsewhere in the woodlands between
Cookham and Pinkneys Green.
To find out more about these projects, birdlife in the area,
and the special events in the area, ring Brian on