Tongwell Lake walk report – 15 January 2023

Above photo: Reeds at Tongwell Lake  (Photo©Harry Appleyard)

Today’s weekend walk took place at the rather overlooked Tongwell Lake, a small lake a short distance north of Willen which can boast an impressive range of birds at this time of year including resident and migratory passerines as well as mixed congregations of waterfowl, sometimes hosting some of Buckinghamshire’s scarcer species. This was just one day shy of a year since the last Society weekend walk here, so it was an interesting opportunity to compare the variety.

Mallard, Male Goosander, Tufted Ducks and Black-headed Gulls (Photo©Harry Appleyard)

As with last year’s visit, birds took the spotlight for most of the walk but there were fleeting appearances from Grey Squirrels and one of the first Bumblebees of the year for a few of us! Many of the same species from last year were present across and around the lake with several species of wintering waterfowl including around 30 Tufted Ducks, 12 Pochard, 4 Shovelers and 4 Gadwall. Small groups of Mute Swans, Greylag, Canada Geese, Black-headed Gulls and Coots were also present on the water while a Grey Heron and 3 Cormorants were resting at the island.
Female Shoveller (Photo©Bob Phillips)

One of the target species, Goosander was on show right away. While last year there were 7 and this year there were 2, their numbers here can wax and wane throughout the autumn and winter, sometimes reaching double figures. A lone male was one of the first birds we saw among a lot of the other waterfowl on the lake but later on it was accompanied by a female, diving and showing well towards the end of the walk.

Male Goosander (Photo©Harry Appleyard)

A couple of birds which were not seen on last year’s visit included Lapwing and Raven. A lone Raven and a flock of around 150 Lapwings passed by shortly after me and Martin Kincaid arrived but later on, several small flocks of Lapwings were seen throughout the walk and a pair of Ravens also flew low over the conifers near the M1. While often on the move, the Ravens have become a much more familiar sight in North Bucks in recent years.

Raven (Photo©Harry Appleyard)

There was a good variety of passerines, some showing much more so than others. One of our autumn and winter visitors, the Lesser Redpoll stole the show on several occasions with small flocks of up to 7 birds seen feeding on birches around the area. We were treated to some excellent views of 3 here last year too, so it was good to see them again in a season that has so far not produced many locally. Surprisingly Siskins were absent this time but the views of the Redpolls definitely made up for their absence.

Lesser Redpolls (Photo©Bob Phillips)

Around some of the more densely vegetated areas there was a small flock of Long-tailed Tits, a Song Thrush heard calling and a pair of Goldcrests which showed very well, with one displaying to the other at close range. A Treecreeper was seen by the north side of the lake while a Great Spotted Woodpecker made a brief appearance in the treetops on the island. At least 2 Red Kites, a Sparrowhawk and 2 Common Gulls were also seen passing by.

Red Kite (Photo©Bob Phillips)

Some early signs of spring included a Dunnock singing, flowering Hazel buds and Purple Dead-nettles* by one of the footpaths.

Purple Dead-nettle (Photo©Harry Appleyard);  Hazel – female catkin (Photo©Bob Phillips)

Thanks again to Colin Docketty and Martin Kincaid for planning and leading this walk.

Harry Appleyard
16 January 2023

* NB Purple Dead-nettle is not shown in many wildflower books as it’s a naturalised plant, which flowers early and dies down in the summer.