Author Archives: Linda

The River Ouzel – its wild past – Derek Turner – 14th November – Recording

The course of the Ouzel runs through Milton Keynes and many of our excursions visit the Ouzel Valley. Derek Turner of Bedfordshire Geology Group gave us a full account of the river’s geology and history.

The presentation was based on a series of photographs shown from a Mac via Zoom on a PC rather than a PowerPoint presentation so the size of images varies

The recording will be available to view for 30 days. Follow the link and put in the pass code when asked to do so.

Passcode: ZHh?v4Y4

MKNHS Group Visit to Spurn National Nature Reserve – Report by Harry Appleyard

This residential trip saw a small descent of MK Natural History Society members on Spurn, a 3.5 mile long peninsula sat at the mouth of the Humber on the East Yorkshire coast from 27th to 30th October. It is an SSSI and a National Nature Reserve, owned by Yorkshire Wildlife Trust since 1960. The Yorkshire Wildlife Trust closely monitor and manage the meadows, wetlands and intertidal habitats across the reserve alongside Spurn Bird Observatory (established in 1946).

The Spurn area is widely considered one of the UK’s best birding destinations, boasting a huge variety of migrants common, scarce and rare annually. There are several watch points and hides which are manned daily in varying capacities but usually for hours on end during the peaks of migration when there can be near non-stop “vismig” of passerines flying overhead and the possibility of rare seabirds passing the shoreline. Its neighbouring reserve Kilnsea Wetlands also holds the only breeding colony of Little Terns in Yorkshire, breeding alongside other shorebirds including Ringed Plovers, Oystercatchers and Black-headed Gulls.

Waders over the Humber, 29th October 2023 © Harry Appleyard

To date just over 400 species have been recorded here and over 250 this year alone. With persistent westerly winds earlier in the autumn, local birders and visitors were treated to several American vagrants including a Pectoral Sandpiper, American Wigeon, a Red-eyed Vireo which was ringed at The Warren near the north end of the reserve and a flypast from Yorkshire’s 1st Upland Sandpiper. More recently the winds have turned more easterly, bringing deluges of wintering thrushes, finches, Goldcrests, Woodcocks and other annual migrants from mainland Europe, plus a handful of passerines from the far east including Red-flanked Bluetails, Siberian Chiffchaff, Yellow-browed Warblers and a Dusky Warbler.

This trip was originally suggested by Colin Docketty, who very sadly passed away just a few weeks ago. He was very much looking forward to it when I had last spoken to him over the phone just over a month ago and I know he would have thoroughly enjoyed this weekend here, as we were incredibly lucky with both birds and the weather.

Naturally with a few of us split up across the area on arrival and some coming from further afield, the species seen were not shared by everybody but in the end it was a great first visit for new-comers to the area with some of Spurn’s scarcer species gracing the skies, hedgerows and wetlands throughout the weekend. The species list wasted no time in getting off to an exciting start with a Dusky Warbler ringed at The Warren on Friday morning, which was subsequently heard calling by a few of us in the same area on Sunday. These “little brown jobs” are more likely to be found wintering in southeast Asia but are one of the more regularly-occurring vagrants in the UK at this time of year.

Dusky Warbler ringed at The Warren, 27th October 2023 © Harry Appleyard

Early risers were treated to a Rough-legged Buzzard on both Saturday 28th and Sunday 29th. On Saturday morning it was mobbed by Crows before landing near Spurn Bird Observatory and on Sunday it flew south across the reserve in superb morning light, showing off its striking white rump, very pale underwings and a distinctive solid brown patch on the belly, separating it nicely from the more familiar but still quite variable Common Buzzards of North Bucks. A ringtail Hen Harrier also flew south past the Warren a little while earlier on Sunday, offering a short view as it flew low along the Humber. Common Crossbills also put in a few appearances. On Saturday a pair fed on a small conifer near Kilnsea Church before heading south with a flock of 4 and on Sunday a pair were seen flying over the Spurn Discovery Centre.

Rough-legged Buzzard, Spurn, 29th October 2023 © Harry Appleyard

We spent much of Saturday walking across the Spurn peninsula, scanning the dunes, the Humber and the north sea. We didn’t quite make it to the very tip of the reserve but still managed to cover a very good amount of ground with plenty of species found along the way, not limited to birds. A single Red Admiral flew south under a gloomy sky and Dog Vomit Slime Mould was spotted next to our path. As we made our way to the peninsula a flock of 4 Whooper Swans flew low to the south along the shoreline, accompanied by a single Cormorant. A flock of 30 Mealy Redpolls showed very well as they fed close to ground level around the Chalk Bank/Potato Field areas and a trio of new-in Siskins near the lighthouse also provided excellent views. Sadly the bird of the day, a Hoopoe was only seen by one of us as it flew over the dunes near the southern tip of the reserve but later showed very well for other birders in the area. A couple of newly-arrived Woodcocks made brief appearances and an adult Grey Seal passed by the shoreline as we headed back north later on in the afternoon. The edge of the Humber estuary provided a few common Spurn species which would otherwise be a rare treat in Milton Keynes including a flock of dark-bellied Brent Geese from Siberia, 6 Turnstones and a Grey Plover.

Cormorant and Whooper Swans, 28th October 2023 © Harry Appleyard

Mealy Redpoll at Potato Field, Spurn, 28th October 2023 © Harry Appleyard

Sunday was a very productive day from start to finish. Movement on the sea was very minimal but there was lots to see in the sky above with plenty of migrants trickling through to the south. Between 8.10 and 9.30 over 160 Siskins flew south past the Warren Watch Point, followed by small numbers of Bramblings, Reed Buntings, Mistle Thrushes and a few Redwings and Fieldfares “in-off” the north sea. A Lapland Bunting also gave itself away with calls as it flew north past The Warren. During some continued exploration of the shoreline, a Merlin gave an incredible display of its aerodynamics as it pursued a Skylark which narrowly escaped its talons, minus a few feathers! A vibrant Greenland-type Wheatear showed very well around the small cliffs and another new-in Woodcock came straight in from the sea, flying very low over the shoreline before ascending above the cliffs at the last second right in front of us.

Woodcock, 28th October 2023 © Julian Lambley

After lunch we made a quick dash to Beacon Lane at the northern edge of the reserve to see a small flock of Waxwings. 8 had been reported a little while earlier but we only saw 4, which eventually flew south. A single individual flew north from Canal Scrape by the Spurn Discovery Centre around sunset also. For the rest of the afternoon we headed to Kilnsea Wetlands and Beacon Ponds, also owned by Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and part of the Spurn Bird Observatory’s recording area. On the way we passed by a Sound Mirror, built to detect zeppelins during WW1. This is one of the many wartime structures still standing across the Spurn area, with more being excavated and maintained by the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust’s Military History volunteers further south on the Spurn peninsula.

There was no shortage of wintering waterfowl to see with large numbers of Wigeon, Shoveler and Teal across the lagoons. A Long-tailed Duck which had arrived on the wetlands earlier in the week had also kindly stuck around, though being very mobile and frequently diving under the surface as it fed adjacent to the Kilnsea Wetlands hide. 4 Avocets, including a colour-ringed individual and a single Mediterranean Gull were also present. Perhaps the highlight of the afternoon for most of us was an incredible murmuration of waders spotted in the distance over the Humber, caused by an unidentified raptor. A couple of Red Admirals and 10 Common Darters were also still on the wing across the area.

For those that ventured out onto Monday morning, there were a few last minute additions to the species list. The sea was once again surprisingly quiet but a flock of 14 Common Scoter, a regular species for Spurn sea watching, flew south past the Warren. There was also another flyby from a ringtail Hen Harrier. A little while later a Purple Sandpiper called as it flew in from the beach and went north and a Great Spotted Woodpecker, a much less frequent find here than in Milton Keynes was calling near the Kew Villa area by the northern edge of the reserve.

In the end, over 80 species of bird were observed through the duration of the trip. I think it was safe to say we were spoilt with good weather and good birds all through the weekend, which is exactly what Colin would have wanted. I’d personally like to thank Yorkshire Wildlife Trust’s Spurn team and Spurn Bird Observatory for their assistance and hospitality over the course of this weekend and of course all the attendees that managed to make the journey up here.

To view the list of species seen during the visit click here

ELEGY FOR A RIVER – IS IT TOO LATE FOR RIPARIAN WILDLIFE? – Dr Tom Moorhouse – Tuesday 7th November –Recording

Ecologist and wildlife author Dr Tom Moorhouse was our guest speaker. His first book “Elegy for a River” laments the declining health of the UK’s rivers and wildlife such as water voles and will ask what can be done to improve them.

The recording will be available to view for 30 days. Follow the link and put in the pass code when asked to do so.

Passcode: NH*==L99

My World of Bats – Daniel Hargreaves – Tuesday 12th April – on Zoom

A recording of Daniel Hargreaves talk about Bats around the world is now available to view for the next 30 days.

To view the recording, click on the link below and then enter the passcode when asked to do so.

Passcode: 8#Nb?K&Q

To find out more about the work of the Bat Conservation Trust and support their work go to:

Opportunity for Wildlife watching in Scotland

MKNHS member Chris Coppock has just had to withdraw for health reasons from a Scottish wildlife holiday run by Naturetrek for members of North Bucks RSPB.  The dates are 25th May to 1st June, and the cost was £1335 per person based on sharing a room: £155 single supplement.  He had a single room booked, and the outstanding balance is £1192 (he’s paid the £299 deposit).  See the holiday description below and the contacts if you’d like to follow this up.

“The wild landscapes around the River Spey in the Scottish Highlands are amongst the most unspoilt in the UK. The area inland of Inverness and the Moray Firth embodies much of what people love about Scotland, encompassing the high peaks of the Cairngorms, peaceful forests and scenic river valleys, all within a relatively small area. These alpine uplands, windswept moorlands, remote lochs and ancient Caledonian pinewoods also support some of the country’s rarest and most exciting creatures. Speyside is technically just the area around the River Spey, although many use the term more generically to refer to the ‘whiskey triangle’. Our tour will visit Speyside as well as Strathspey, Badenoch, the Cairngorms and Moray, taking in the ancient Caledonian Pine Forest, hidden lochans, beautiful coastline and high passes in search of the region’s wildlife. We’ll stay for 7 nights in the area, searching for iconic birds and mammals such as Golden Eagle, Red and Black Grouse, Red Squirrel, Crested Tit and Crossbill. Spring is a particularly rewarding time to visit, when the forests resound with the calls of songbirds and summer visitors have arrived to breed, while the occasional passage migrant or lingering winter visitor can still be found.

Click here for full itinerary.  If you want to know more, contact Paul Tucker , 01908-563006 or  01962-733051”

Dancersend: Cradle of Nature Conservation – An illustrated talk by Mick Jones MBE – Tuesday 5th April – on Zoom

A recording of Mick Jones’ talk about the Dancersend Reserve is now available to view for the next 30 days.

To view the recording, click on the link below and then enter the passcode when asked to do so.

Passcode: 1W8$x9Ki

A trip to Florida in the company of our Chairman Matt Andrews – Tuesday 29th March – on Zoom

A recording of Matt Andrew’s talk about springtime in Florida is now available to view for the next 30 days.

To view the recording, click on the link below and then enter the passcode when asked to do so.

Passcode: 70ufW7K.

Bucks and Milton Keynes Environmental Records Centre Recorders’ Seminar on Saturday 2nd April 2022

This annual free seminar for anyone interested or involved  in recording wildlife in Milton Keynes or Buckinghamshire is being held on Zoom. It can be attended by phone or computer

Booking is essential, and is first come first served. Booking will reserve your place, details of the meeting will be sent to you a couple days before the Seminar. The full programme of the day will be circulated soon.

Book your place here:

There are also details on the BMERC webpage

If you haven’t received any notification you aren’t on the BMERC mailing list.  If you’d like to be included for future events and information send an email to

Visit to Westbury Farm 8th May 2018

Westbury Arts Centre – Westbury Farm

30 members of the Society met at Westbury Arts Centre on Tuesday 8th May. In an introduction to the site, wildlife artist Kate Wyatt, and Martin Kincaid explained that the centre had gained funding last year for a project to research the history and natural history of Westbury farm.

The Society  was invited to carry out surveys in the surrounding grounds to document the wildlife as part of this project. Mammals, birds, moths, and trees had been surveyed and this evening, members continued recording.

Green Carpet moth

Green Carpet ©JGordon Redford, 08 May 15

They were also able to look round inside the house, and to visit Kate’s studio as well as enjoying refreshments in the kitchen. A mothing session was held later in the evening and a trap was left overnight. Unfortunately temperatures dropped and a wind got up, so moth numbers were low.  The final list was: Lime Hawk-moth, Brimstone (X3), Green Carpet (X3), Flame Shoulder (X2), Common Carpet, V Pug

For more about Westbury Arts Centre: Westbury Arts Centre

UK Wood Pasture & Parkland Network

Wood pasture is characterised by big old trees growing in open pasture-land

Wood Pasture and Parkland is home to some of the oldest living trees in the UK, whose value to wildlife is astounding. Their myriad of micro-habitats support some of our most endangered species. If you can’t picture what this habitat looks like, you’re not alone.

At their core, both wood pasture and parkland consist of big old trees with full crowns growing in grazed pasture, with abundant wood decay. They are what ecologists like to call a ‘mosaic habitat’ which means an area with a mixture of other habitats; the value of the mosaic is greater than the sum of its parts.

For too long this habitat has been overlooked, understudied and undervalued; we are only just starting to fully appreciate its real value.

The Wood Pasture and Parkland Network are determined to raise the profile of this incredible habitat with a series of 5 videos which introduce the ecological, biological, historical, cultural and landscape aspects of Wood Pasture and Parkland, describing best management techniques.

Click here for more information and to access the videos: UK Wood Pasture & Parkland Network – Peoples Trust for Endangered Species

Monitoring inland colonies of Cormorants and Common Terns

Cormorant ©Peter Hassett, Willen 25 January 2018

Cormorant ©Peter Hassett, Willen 25 January 2018

Although Bucks is an inland county, County Recorder Andy Harding has alerted Buck Bird Club members to the fact that the National Seabird Survey organised by JNCC, covers Cormorants and Common Terns , and encourages members to provide as much information as possible. Andy says “this year in particular it would be helpful if you could make additional efforts to record all breeding or attempted breeding information for Cormorants and Common Terns and enter that information with your sightings of these species on the Club website.”

‘The Seabird Monitoring Programme (SMP) aims to ensure that sample data on breeding numbers and performance of seabirds are collected, both regionally and nationally, to enable their conservation status to be assessed. Reports as seabird numbers and breeding success in Britain and Ireland’

Click on the link for more information: Seabird Monitoring Programme

Record your sightings on the Buckingham Bird Club Sightings page