Friday, 9 December 2022


Here's a suggestion put forward by Mal McGar at the last AGM

what3words – A better way to help all if there is an emergency

For those of you who do not know about this geocoding system app, I will briefly explain how it can help you all. 

Go the website ( and you will find a more detailed explanation of all that this FREE app has to offer. As long as you have a smartphone or other device able to log into the web, you can download this app and use it anywhere.

Basically the world has been divided into areas that need just THREE WORDS to denote a precise location. All the emergency services now use this system.

So how can it help you? For instance, you are at Linford Lakes Nature Reserve and you need medical help but you cannot move! Call the ambulance service and give them the ‘what3words’ location. Without it, it will be almost impossible for you to tell them exactly where you are. Saying you are between any two of the hides will mean nothing to them!

Also imagine you come upon an accident on a road you are not familiar with. By using the ‘what3words’ app you can give the emergency services the exact location. Also it can be used to arrange a meeting point if you do not know the area where you are. What if your car breaks down in a strange area? Both the AA and RAC use the app.

Please take the time to look at the website so you can fully understand the benefits of having the app on your phone. Let others know, family and friends, and help them to feel more safe out and about.

Recently I have found people give their news of an interesting bird’s location that seems a bit vague to me. Think how much more helpful if you post your exact position with ‘what3words’ and also give a location as to where you last observed the bird if it flew off.

A final point for thought. Do any of you carry a whistle and torch with you at all times when out birding? Think how that can help you in an emergency!

Mal McGar

Monday, 14 November 2022

Proposed Development at Linford Lakes

I am delighted to advise that the planning application (21/02533/OUT Linford Lakes) submitted in respect of the land adjacent to the Nature Reserve has just been REFUSED by MK Planning Department

If you were one of the hundreds of people who wrote in to object to the proposed development  THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU.


Monday, 1 August 2022

Bird Ringing Saturday 30th July

Hi all,

It's hard to believe we have not run a "proper" ringing session at Linford for over a month and a half, but today we properly went for it and it's fair to say the results surpassed expectation!

Although we didn't manage to get all the nets up that we (or more accurately, I...) wanted to due to the essential gardening involved, we handled a total of 161 birds of 22 species, 152 of which were newly ringed.

Warblers led the charge with 30 blackcaps taking up the lion's share and the remainder of the warbler list comprising of 16 reed warblers, 21 chiffchaffs, 2 sedge warblers, 14 garden warbers, 3 lesser whitethroats, 7 common whitethroats, and a single willow warbler.

We also encountered a tit flock which boosted the totals by 16 blue tits, 11 long-tailed tits and 8 great tits with one of the long-tailed tits turning out to be a retrap of a juvenile ringed in 2018!

Other notable captures included 2 goldfinches, a treecreeper, a goldcrest, a green woodpecker and a kingfisher.

Catches of this size cannot be managed without an excellent, experienced and dedicated team, and today I was fortunate to have Keith, Helen, Nick W, Michelle, Beth, Nick C, Claire, Sue and Andrew on hand to assist with lifting, holding, carrying, extracting, ringing, scribing, chatting and generally keeping each other awake! I know Jasper was also sending his good luck vibes from afar, which is scientifically proven by the numbers. Heaven help us the next time he is actually here in person!



Monday, 2 May 2022

Bird Ringing Report Saturday 30th April

Hi all,

Today's session can best be described as a mixture of frostbite and sunburn, with an icy start soon giving way to a warm and sunny day.

On the ringing front, we handled 59 birds with a nice mix of 18 species, 28 of which were newly ringed. Retraps may have outweighed the new birds this week but at this time of year, it is the retraps that provide the most valuable data, largely reflecting the migrants that have made it back to their breeding site after a long a perilous journey.

Unsurprisingly, this was a very warbler-centric day with seasonal firsts for willow warbler, sedge warbler, garden warbler, common whitethroat and our first ever adult lesser whitethroat. (Previously we have only caught 1st year birds.) In addition to these new arrivals were 15 blackcaps, 3 reed warblers and 3 cetti's warblers. Notable retraps included a returning blackcap which was ringed as an adult in 2019 and retrapped in each subsequent year, a male cetti's warbler which was ringed in 2020, and best of all, a sedge warbler which was ringed as a juvenile elsewhere in the UK in 2016, making it an impressive 6 years old! (The longevity record for sedge warbler currently stands at 8 years and 8 months).

Other birds of note included 5 reed buntings, one of which was a retrap from 2018, and 3 new greenfinches.

Today's star bird was a retrapped green woodpecker which was ringed way back in December 2015 and hadn't been encountered again until today. This bird is at least 8 years old which is impressive, but still some way short of beating the record of 15 years and 8 days! What was also unusual about this individual is that it had one mostly normal iris (whitish but with a few brown flecks), and one iris which was completely brown. Whether this is simply a sign of ageing, or perhaps some other condition, will require further study!

Birds seen around the reserve included 10 house martins, 3 swallows, 3 common terns, and singles of hobby, raven, cuckoo, barnacle goose, sparrowhawk and red kite.

On the non-avian front we had peacock, brimstone and orange tip butterflies, 3 grass snakes, 2 great crested newts, and a common toad. A probably hairy dragonfly was briefly in a net, but freed itself before a 100% ID could be made.

Huge thanks to Keith, Richard, Helen and Otto for all their help and for quickly adapting to the hot and cold conditions!

Kind regards


Monday, 28 February 2022

Bird Ringing Summary Report for 2021

Hi all,

Let me start by wishing you all a happy and healthy year ahead in 2022. This last year has been another most unusual one, both socially and environmentally. Although the recent tropical conditions have blocked any opportunities for ringing over the festive season, it has at least given me the time to input the last of our data and compile this report.

To give a high level summary of 2021, we operated 36 ringing sessions during the year, down 2 on the previous year, which is impressive considering I took an extended break from work during 2020 which meant I had much more time available to ring (lockdowns notwithstanding). In both 2020 and 2021, no ringing took place during January and February. In 2020 this was due to a combination of bad weather, ill-health and a two week ringing expedition to the Gambia, while in 2021, this was due to strict lockdown measures meaning that we could not travel without good reason.

Overall, we processed 1572 birds of 52 species, 1269 of which were newly ringed. This was down 183 on the previous year's processing totals but was our most species diverse year ever, up two on the 2020 tally of 50 species. We added several new species to the Linford ringing list including black-headed gull, green sandpiper, jackdaw, mute swan, oystercatcher, and tree pipit bringing the all-time total to 69 species ringed. Other new records of seldom ringed birds included 2 barn owls, a siberian chiffchaff, a common tern, 6 cuckoos, 3 lesser whitethroat, 2 marsh tits, a mistle thrush, 2 skylarks, 4 snipe, 3 sparrowhawks, 2 water rails and a yellow wagtail.

Species that had record breaking years in terms of newly ringed birds included blackcaps with 189 (+8.6% vs 2020), garden warblers with 42 (+110% vs 2019), great spotted woodpeckers with 9 (+28.6% vs 2014), kingfishers with 12 (+50% vs 2015), meadow pipits with 40 (+2.6% vs 2020) and reed warblers with a whopping 172 (+36.5% vs 2020).

Species that had noticeable declines in ringed numbers included blue tits with 151 (-34.3% vs 2018), bullfinches with just 1 (-92.9% vs 2015), great tits with 41 (-68.7 vs 2018), goldcrests with 9 (-76.3% vs 2017), long-tailed tits with 36 (-47.1% vs 2019) and wrens with 23 (-50% vs 2016). Greenfinches were just about hanging on with 8 ringed (-80% vs 2018) and this was the first year since we started ringing at Linford that we did not ring a single chaffinch (a max of 17 were ringed in 2017).

It should be noted that while this data is not based on a constant effort (ie placing the same amount of nets in the same places at the same times over the year) these trends do seem to reflect the national picture. It is clear that climate change is having a significant impact on our bird life with some species benefitting and other species struggling to adapt to these unpredictable conditions.

A couple of positive notes to end on, we had our first successful breeding pair of sand martins occupying the "Sand Castle." During 2021, they raised two broods of 5 and 3 chicks, all of which were ringed and will hopefully return to grow the colony in a couple of months from now. Regular readers will also know that I have a special interest in cuckoos, another species which is declining nationally but still seem to be doing well at Linford and the surrounding complex of lakes. During 2021 we ringed 6 new birds and retrapped 4, including the very first individual to be ringed at Linford back in 2017. This bird was hatched prior to 2016 making it at least 6 years old, while the record for the longest lived wild cuckoo (as proven by ringing) stands at 6 years, 11 months and 2 days. Obviously we are all wishing for his safe return in 2022!

2021 was another very succesful year in terms of the sheer volume of data we have been able to gather and this would not have been possible without the contributions of a great many people. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Martin, Carla and everyone at the Parks Trust for their continued support, for allowing us the privilege of ringing in some of MKs best wildlife sites and for all the work they do to preserve them.

Thanks are also due to Friends of Linford Lakes Nature Reserve for all their efforts to keep everything looking beautiful and welcoming for the benefit of all visitors. Special thanks go to Tony for his tireless efforts to protect the site from the ever present threat of encroaching development.

Thanks to all the Linford permit holders who contribute to the ongoing maintenance of the site and the crucially important task of recording all the flora and fauna.

I also have to thank Martin and Margaret for putting up with all the clattering and chattering at times when I am sure they would really rather be sleeping!

Of course it goes without saying (but I'm saying it anyway) a massive thank you is due to all of the ringers, trainees and helpers who have made the trip to Linford to support a session, sometimes from considerable distances, and almost always at truly irrational times of the morning, none of this would have been possible without your assistance. First and foremost I have to take my hat off to Keith who has suffered through hypothermia, heatstroke, numerous injuries and still somehow wants to keep coming back for more. Huge thanks also go to Helen for the many breakfast deliveries, excellent conversation and calming presence in stressful times. To Richard for always seeming to turn up just in the nick of time. To Sally for agreeing to be my first official trainee (I apologise in advance for what you have let yourself in for!). To Chris for all the encouragement and support. To all the Hilfield regulars who have made the trip up north, Jack, Simon, Verity, Josh, it's always lovely to see you, don't be a stranger! John W and John B, thanks for taking time out from Stortons! Sarah and Neil, thanks for the assistance at Nature Day! Elliott, I wish you every success in your future birding career!

And last but by no means least, thanks to everyone else who carried a pole, wound up a peg, took a great photo or just shared a good story, Michelle, Nick & Claire, Ann, Di, Langton, and anyone else I may have missed (don't hate me!)

Here's hoping for a 2022 that is somewhat closer to the old normal than the new normal.

Cheers and best wishes,


Friday, 8 October 2021

Proposed Development at Linford Lakes

I'm sure by now many of you will have heard that yet another planning application (21/02533/OUT Linford Lakes) been submitted in respect of the land adjacent to the Nature Reserve. You can find all the details relating to the proposal by clicking on the link below.

The new proposal seeks to provide 584 units of accommodation, far more than in the previously refused application, of up to 250 units of accommodation, and more than the adjacent Redhouse Park housing.

If you have or are thinking about writing in objection then a massive THANK YOU.

If you are not sure or wonder if it will really do any good, I can promise you (and I have been here a few times before) every voice counts

Profit driven developers and ill-informed planners rely on apathy to get away with - what to some wild life - will literally be murder.

I have pasted below a copy of FoLLNRs letter of objection to MKC Planning Dept. Please feel free to copy from this or use your own words to make your feelings known.

Please also do email your local councillors and ask them to support your objection - their e mail addresses can be found on the MK Council website, you may be surprised how helpful some of them can be.

You can either lodge your objections to the new planning applications by e mail to :

Or if you can’t see that your objection has been logged you can email who is the head planning officer.

(1) Full application for the change of use of 68.65ha of agricultural land to a linear park and a new access road to the Linford Lakes Study Centre with associated works including the stopping up of the public road in Stanton Low and demolition of the Marle Inn; and (2) Outline application (matter of access to be considered, with matters of layout, scale, appearance and landscaping reserved) for up to 277 extra care apartments (Use Class C2); a care home providing up to 70 bedrooms (Use Class C2); up to 41 retirement bungalows (Use Class C3) and up to 196 homes (Use Class C3) with communal amenity space and other associated works. 

If you are going to email please include your name and address otherwise it may not be accepted.

Kindest regards



To: Milton Keynes Council Planning Department


Re: Planning Application 21/02533/OUTEIS | (1) Full application for the change of use of 68.65ha of agricultural land to a linear park and a new access road to the Linford Lakes Study Centre with associated works including the stopping up of the public road in Stanton Low and demolition of the Marle Inn; and (2) Outline application (matter of access to be considered, with matters of layout, scale, appearance and landscaping reserved) for up to 277 extra care apartments (Use Class C2); a care home providing up to 70 bedrooms (Use Class C2); up to 41 retirement bungalows (Use Class C3) and up to 196 homes (Use Class C3) with communal amenity space and other associated works. | Linford Lakes Nature Reserve Wolverton Road Great Linford Milton Keynes MK14 5AH

Dear Sirs

We are writing to voice our strongest opposition to the above planning application in respect of the Land at Linford Lakes. 

Our reasons are as follow. 

1.     The proposed development is contrary to the following local policies:

Policy DS5 Open Countryside


A. The Council defines Open Countryside as all land outside the development boundaries defined on the Policies Map. Planning permission within the open countryside will only be granted for development which is essential for agriculture, forestry, countryside recreation, highway infrastructure or other development, which is wholly appropriate to a rural area and cannot be located within a settlement, or where other policies within this plan indicate development would be appropriate. 


Policy DS6 Linear Parks 


C. The Ouse Valley between Haversham and the M1 motorway, known as "Linford Lakes", is part of the Linear Park system.


Policy DS6 restricts any development in Linear Parks to leisure and recreation  activities and these should be consistent with the objectives set out in Policy NE3 and Policy NE4


Policy DS6 states: The wildfowl reserve - Linford Lakes Nature Reserve, based on Stantonbury Lake, and the surrounding lakes and land that fall within the Great Linford Gravel Pits Biological Notification Site (BNS), should be retained as an important ecological resource. 


Policy L1 Facilities Acceptable In The Parks 


Planning permission will only be granted for leisure and recreation uses, or proposals that are ancillary to and directly support such uses.


Policy NE3 Biodiversity and Geological Enhancement 


Development proposals will be required to maintain and protect biodiversity and geological resources, and wherever possible result in a measurable net gain in biodiversity, enhance the structure and function of ecological networks and the ecological status of water bodies in accordance with the vision and principles set out by the Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes NEP. 


Policy NE4 Green Infrastructure 


E. The existing network of linear parks and linked parks and green spaces will be extended into the urban extensions and along the Ouse and Ouzel Valleys to the north to provide a well-connected network of green infrastructure that: 

1. Is strategically planned. 

2. Is attractive and enhances the surrounding landscape. 

3. Is safe and well used for recreation. 

4. Meets the needs of existing and future residents. 

5. Is designed to provide a range of ecosystem services e.g. manage flood risk or provide flower rich habitats that supports a diverse range of pollinators. 

6. Is designed to support mitigation and adaptation to climate change e.g. through vegetation for carbon uptake (carbon sequestration). 

7. Achieves a net gain in biodiversity. 

8. Is managed into the long-term. 

9. Where possible improves connectivity with other green infrastructure networks e.g. by linkages to the urban parks. 

10. Where appropriate explores economic opportunities that will support the network’s sustainability – for example in conservation, agriculture, renewable energy or outdoor environmental education or recreation; such activity must not result in a negative impact to the integrity of the network, the ecosystem services provided or on biodiversity. 

Previous decisions in respect of development proposals relating to this land

MKC DCC have reviewed and unanimously rejected all previous applications for the development of the land at Linford Lakes for the reasons that: 

"the proposed development(s), by virtue of its location outside the settlement boundary of Milton Keynes would represent an intrusive form of development in the open countryside which is identified as an Area of Attractive Landscape in the Milton Keynes Local Plan, which would be detrimental to the open, rural character of the locality. The proposal would result in the loss of a substantial area of varied habitat and appearance and would harm the special landscape character of the area in this regard, providing an urbanised character and appearance to the land." 

On 27th March 2018 The Planning Inspectorate ruled that development of this site:

 “would intrude into the countryside, and into a designated AAL and Wildlife Corridor. It would cause substantial and irreversible harm to the Ouse Valley’s valued landscape. It would permanently destroy priority habitats, threaten important wildlife, and weaken ecological networks. It would also take 15 ha of land from the Linear Park, reducing the scope for informal and passive recreation uses in the future”. 

2.     The Proposed Development will result in serious ecological damage and will negatively impact Linford Lakes Nature Reserve

This proposed development flies in the face of the 2020 Environment Bill by which the Government has strengthened its commitment to protect the environment for future generations.

This Bill introduces statutory guidance for local planning authorities to explain how they should take into account Local Nature Recovery Strategies, to embed strategies for the environment and nature’s recovery into their planning systems.

The Government has committed to leave a richer, more biodiverse environment for future generations with a clear need for action: between 1932 and 1984, we lost 97% of our species-rich grassland, five species of butterfly have disappeared from England in the last 150 years, and indicators showing the state of birds dependent on farmland stand at less than half their value compared to 1970.

The Applicants own Independent Preliminary Ecological Appraisal has identified the following types of habitat within the proposed development area, all of which they rate as having a high protected species potential.

Dense Scrub, Scattered Scrub, Broad-leaved Scattered Trees, Mixed Scattered Trees, Recently Felled Woodland, Tall Ruderal, Swamp/Reedbeds, Running water, Species-poor Hedge with Trees 

Most of the above habitats would be destroyed if this application were allowed to proceed.

The land which the applicant suggest could be used to replace the above habitats, lies directly within the River Great Ouse Flood Zone. This land floods significantly and regularly (photographs are available to substantiate this), it is very different in nature to the area being proposed for building, it cannot be regarded as a similar habitat and could not support the same range of flora and fauna. It would be almost impossible to replicate the types of habitat identified above and any attempts to do so would be washed away or submerged in the winter floods. Even if it were possible to replicate the lost habitat, it would take many years to establish, during which time most of the current species would be lost to the area, probably for ever.

The EIA report which accompanied 17/01937/OUTEIS in 2017 for development of the same area of land concluded: 

"There would be an irreversible loss of habitat and fragmentation of habitat within Linford Lakes Biological Notification Site and Wildlife Corridor during construction" and "a significant negative effect at COUNTY level was classified as certain." The EIA report also indicated that the Zone of Impact that construction work could have, would be up to 2Km and could severely impact Linford Lakes Nature Reserve. 

The proposed development fails to minimise impacts on biodiversity or provide a net gain in biodiversity and/or contribute to the Government's commitment to halt the overall decline in biodiversity, nor does it establish a coherent ecological network that is more resilient to current and future pressures, as required by the NPPF. 

In the last three years over 20 cuckoos have been ringed by the local BTO team on LLNR land adjacent to the development area. This indicates just how vitally important this area is as a breeding site for this "red list" species, which is in severe decline - the UK has lost over half of its breeding cuckoos during the last twenty-five years. Linford Lakes is locally and nationally important to the survival of this and many other "red list" species and any form of disruption should be avoided. (A list of Red List and BAP Species recorded at LLNR since 2012 is included as Appendix 1).

Osprey have become annual visitors to Linford Lakes and use the site as a ‘refuelling point’ as they arrive in Spring and leave in Autumn. Last year one bird remained at LLNR for nearly two weeks and this year birds visited in April and August. This spectacular fish-eating bird of prey is an Amber List species because of its historical decline (due to illegal killing) and low breeding numbers. They are listed as a Schedule 1 species on The Wildlife and Countryside Act.

Linford Lakes are immensely rich in Dragonflies, 11 species of dragonfly have been recorded along with 9 species of damselfly. Dragonflies in the UK are in decline. The loss of wetland habitat due to development, together with run-off and the effects of insecticides are having a devastating effect on dragonfly numbers. The high risk of run-off contaminates during the construction process and then from the housing estate into the lake system along with the loss of habitat and increased human activity, will inevitably lead to a further decline in these species. 

During the last ten years, the Friends of Linford Lakes, along with specialists such as the County Bird Recorder, Moth Recorder, the Parks Trust Biodiversity Officer and the local BTO Bird Ringing Group have built up a great deal of information and data about the wildlife to be found on and around the Nature Reserve. This information clearly demonstrates that for its size, LLNR is probably the richest habitat and most species diverse site in the County. 

The applicants Ecological Desktop Survey (Bird Report) whilst indicating the presence of well over a hundred species appears to consist of only old records with nothing later than 2016. By not including records for the Nature Reserve it has missed many of the rare and priority species which are regularly seen at LLNR. It therefore fails to fully recognise the exceptionally high ecological value of the Linford Lakes complex. The applicants survey team do not appear to have referenced the species records for LLNR which would have helped give a better indication of the true importance of this area for biodiversity and priority species. Records for LLNR maintained by FoLLNR can be found at

The applicants own Environmental Impact Assessment Predicts “Significant Effects”. “During the construction phase, the effects will be high. A number of protected and rare species are present. The proposed scheme of works is likely to kill, injure and harm species and habitats at the site should no mitigation and compensation be installed.” As can be seen above it is unlikely that effective mitigation and compensation can be achieved.

The report goes on to say “The site is likely to have a significant impact on species during its operational phase. The increase in traffic levels will ultimately lead to higher road collisions between vehicles and species”.

 Such loss of habitat and disruption to wildlife is not acceptable.  

3.     There is no justification for the proposed development

The applicant has failed to consider the impact of the new Milton Keynes East Strategic Urban Extension which lies around 2 miles from Linford Lakes within the development boundary and which is set to deliver 5000 new homes. This development will according to MKC provide:

“A wide range of dwelling type, size and tenure should be provided creating choice, a varied building form and meeting community needs. 31% of housing should be affordable.”

 “In accordance with Plan: MK policy HN3, the development will be expected to provide an element of supported or specialist housing to help contribute towards meeting the needs of older persons and households with specific needs.”

The MK East Strategic Urban Extension will provide all and much more than this piecemeal proposal can ever achieve, furthermore, it includes all the infrastructure (shops, medical facilities, schools, leisure facilities and parks) that a sustainable development requires. The proposed development at Linford Lakes has no supporting infrastructure and by comparison is unsustainable.

We therefore request that this proposal be refused.

Yours faithfully

A C Bedford

Chair Friends of Linford Lakes

Tuesday, 5 October 2021

Bird ringing report Saturday 21st and Sunday 22nd August

 Hi all,


It was a warm and muggy 17°C when I arrived onsite at 04:30am to open the nets. With heavy showers forecast from 10am onwards, I was eager to make the most of the time we had available and it certainly wasn't a wasted effort. We managed to process 116 birds of 23 species, 105 of which were newly ringed before the rain stopped play.

It was another warbler fest  with blackcap numbers significantly up on recent sessions, 22 individuals were processed along with 11 reed warblers, 5 garden warblers, 11 chiffchaffs, 9 willow warblers, a cetti's warbler, a whitethroat, all topped off with 2 lesser whitethroats which are quite scarce at Linford with only 2 previous ringing records.

Other notable birds were 3 new kingfishers, an impressive and noisy 5 new great spotted woodpeckers, and a magpie. A very feisty juvenile male sparrowhawk was a strong contender for bird of the day but he was pipped at the post (or perhaps pippited at the post...)  by a very smart tree pipit which was a new species for Linford.

REEWA 10 (1)
ROBIN 7 (2)
BLACA 22 (2)
WREN 2 (1)


The predicted thunderstorms finally rumbled through in the early hours this morning, allowing me an extra hour in bed while I waited for the rain to stop and proving the old adage that every cloud has a silver lining...

As far as the ringing was concerned, it was a much more sedate affair compared to yesterday's frantic antics, with a further 41 birds processed of 16 species, 34 of which were newly ringed.

Notable birds included 4 chiffchaffs, 3 garden warblers, 5 reed warblers, 3 blackcaps, 4 willow warblers and another new lesser whitethroat.

Incredibly, another 2 tree pipits were ringed (you wait 7 years for one and then....), and out of 2 marsh tits seen, one found the net making it the 3rd to be ringed at Linford.



REEWA 4 (1)
BLACA 2 (1)
BLUTI 6 (3)