Sunday, 15 March 2020

Draycote Water :: 14 March 2020

Back from extended visits to Russia for work and thought I'd try to catch up with the black-necked grebe(s) at Draycote Water. On Friday there had been a stunning summer plumage bird join the long-staying one.

I wondered if the car park might be quieter, given the current worries about Covid-19, but it was heaving like usual. There were boats on the water (both leisure and fisherman), windsurfers, cyclists, and parties walking. Not a good omen.

ScaupI passed a single scaup on my way out to the Draycote Bank and eventually bumped into a bloke who said he'd seen the BN grebe an hour before. I talked to every other birder I came across but he was the only one to have seen it. I suppose it wasn't a surprise that it might be mobile given this level of disturbance.

Saw goosander, good numbers of goldeneye and my first meadow pipit of the year, but no BN grebe.

On my return from the valve tower I connected with scaup again, but this time all three (drakes) were together and sleeping.

I'll watch reports and maybe try again.

Sightings (30) included: black-headed gull, blue tit, canada goose, carrion crow, chaffinch, chiffchaff, coot, cormorant, gadwall, goldeneye, goosander, great crested grebe, great tit, greylag goose, kestrel, little egret, little grebe, long-tailed tit, mallard, meadow pipit, moorhen, mute swan, pied wagtail, reed bunting, robin, rook, scaup, tufted duck, woodpigeon and wren.

Saturday, 22 February 2020

Keele University & Borough Hill :: 17 & 21 February 2020

We'd hoped to be able to get in some birding while visiting our youngest at Keele University but the weather put paid to that - flooded roads and continued rain. TreecreeperIt was a shame as I'd just got back from a couple of weeks working in Russia and was keen to get out in temperatures above the sub-zero of late. From our hotel room we spotted many corvids, but I suppose you'd expect that from a hotel called Rookery Hall! We added a pair of mistle thrush on the extensive lawns to the rear.

As a consolation for not getting birding we walked round the University grounds and in particular the woods and ponds. No jay as on previous occasions but we did spot both nuthatch and treecreeper for the year list. Kestrel

On our final day off for half-term we decided to try for the short eared owls at Borough Hill, Daventry. It had been a couple of days since anyone had posted anything, the wind was quite strong and temperatures on the low side. We stood on the hillside scanning left, right and ahead. After a couple of hours we gave up and headed back tot he car before the light gave in. The only company we had were a couple of other birders who sloped off before us, the constant crossing of a green woodpecker and a female kestrel who hunted a bit but could often be hunkered down against the wind in the tree beside us.

Sunday, 26 January 2020

Port Meadow :: 25 January 2020

This was my first ever visit to Port Meadow and was inspired by the recent sightings of Caspian gull. Grey wagtailI parked up at Walton Well Road car park and headed towards the flooded fields, not really knowing where I was headed. I bumped into another chap who asked where the wigeon were and I had to admit I hadn't got the foggiest. As I passed the trees on my right there were views of grey wagtail and numbers of chiffchaff - possibly my earliest ever.

As I approached the gate, I spotted a sparrowhawk coming low across the water and sweeping left along the tree-line. This spooked a large number of wigeon and teal out onto the water - they added to an incredible collection of Chiffchaffwigeon and a smaller number of teal. On the far bank were a few hundred lapwing which occasionally took to the air to join substantial flocks of BH gull.

Through the gate I had redwing in trees across the meadow and buzzard and red kite above. I set up the scope and scanned the water picking out shelduck (5) and pintail (at least 4). I scanned the gulls but couldn't identify anything unusual.

I turned back, through the gate, and set up watch. A couple of other birders turned up and as we chatted, goosander (3) appeared. Long-tailed tit fed behind and a flock of golden plover passed over. Golden plover

After an hour I was running out of parking fee and headed back to the car, passing Adam Hartley (Gnome) on the way. As I stepped into the car a small flock of geese flew in from my left - I'd packed away all my kit and from a distance they looked like Canada geese - reports later suggested 150 barnacle geese had been there and perhaps these were the first of an influx. I didn't see any reports of anyone picking up the Caspian.

Sightings (31) included: black-headed gull, blackbird, blue tit, buzzard, Canada goose, carrion crow, chiffchaff, gadwall, golden plover, goosander, great tit, grey wagtail, greylag goose, herring gull, lapwing, lesser black-backed gull, long-tailed tit, magpie, mute swan, pied wagtail, pintail, red kite, redwing, robin, shelduck, shoveler, sparrowhawk, teal, wigeon, woodpigeon and wren.

Sunday, 19 January 2020

WkWT Brandon Marsh :: 19 January 2020

It was another sunny day and so I decided to go out birding again, this time choosing WkWT Brandon Marsh - it has been ages since I was last there.

Lesser redpollI arrived to find the car park rammed and only just squeezed in to the overflow - people after me would have to park in the coach park or down the lane. I didn't stop as I went through the Visitor Centre and followed my usual circuit. With the heavy frost overnight the ground was solid and so slipping on mud wasn't the issue, it was the ice.

After Grebe Pool, New Hares Covert and Swallow Pool, I stopped at the Wright Hide. I could see many gadwall, some teal, lots of black-headed gull but no sign of the great white egret. I'd need to go round to the Great white egretEast Marsh Pool hide to get a different viewpoint.

As I headed from the hide I spotted some birds in the treetops and in a likely feeding spot for redpoll. Mostly goldfinch and blue/great tits. Looking from the other side though I picked out one bird which was a more likely candidate - hidden by branches at first, it eventually showed and yes it was a redpoll. Little smile.

Got round to the EMP hide and easily picked out the great white egret. I watched it for a while and then scanned around picking out juvenile common and herring gulls. There were also two shelduck. The water was partly frozen so there was little chance of anything feeding near to shore. A muntjac deer was seen feeding on the opposite bank.

I dropped into the hides beyond but didn't add anything of note.

Sightings today (36) included: black-headed gull, blackbird, blue tit, buzzard, carrion crow, chaffinch, coal tit, common gull, coot, cormorant, dunnock, gadwall, goldfinch, great tit, great white egret, grey heron, herring gull, kestrel, lesser redpoll, long-tailed tit, magpie, mallard, moorhen, mute swan, pied wagtail, reed bunting, robin, rook, shelduck, shoveler, stock dove, teal, tufted duck, wigeon, woodpigeon and wren.

Saturday, 18 January 2020

Aynho to Souldern Wharf :: 18 January 2020

I'd attended the Banbury Ornithological Society talk on Monday which described Alan Peters' time birding in Columbia during 2018. PintailHis talk covered all sorts of terrains visited, as well as discussed drugs and the various fighting factions. The meeting made me consider where I should go this weekend - no not Alan's bit, but the call out which indicated that there were (4) pintail in the floodplains by Souldern Wharf. Just the ticket.

I slept late and had a leisurely breakfast before heading off and parking by the Great Western Arms, by Aynho Wharf. I put on walking boots and set off past the boats and several fisherman. PintailI talked to one who lamented at the lack of curlew which he said used to be visible from just where he sat. Several of the boat owners appeared to have hung out feeders which attracted the usual array of small birds. Across the river a great-spotted woodpecker landed in the tree, worked its way upwards, and then headed off in the opposite direction to where I stood.

Red kites and buzzard spooked the gulls but there was no specific species of interest as I went along. It was an enjoyable walk as the weather was bright, but on the cold side.

Red kiteEventually I reached Souldren Wharf and decided to forge onwards as there were at least gulls visible in the floods ahead. As I had almost cleared the trees on the right I saw a pair of duck in the floodwater and sure enough they were pintail. As I noted this down a flock of ducks flew passed and then circled back, heading south. I was amazed to see that it was a flock of 12 pintail. Made my day.

The kites could be seen in trees, on fence posts and on the wing. As I made my way back I started to encounter a flock of redwing feeding in the trees on my side of the canal - up to 20 or so. As the red kite soared past again, several small birds darted around a bush and allowed views of dunnock, blue tit, wren and house sparrow. More of these could be seen on the other side of the canal, near the farm.

A little muddy but the visit paid off with numbers of pintail I'd only hoped that I would see.

Sightings (28) included: black-headed gull, blackbird, blue tit, buzzard, canada goose, carrion crow, coal tit, dunnock, great black-backed gull, great spotted woodpecker, great tit, greylag goose, house sparrow, jackdaw, lesser black-backed gull, magpie, mallard, moorhen, mute swan, pheasant, pied wagtail, pintail, red kite, redwing, robin, rook, woodpigeon and wren.

Wednesday, 15 January 2020

Cotswolds :: 15 January 2020

I snuck out of the office after lunch, when the boss wasn't looking, and headed for the Cotswolds. Red-legged partridgeOne of the other boys had been to see some short-eared owls and I fancied a go; the afternoon weather forecast was as good as it was likely to be for the foreseeable future.

Near Naunton, I spotted red-legged partridge in a field and stopped for a look. Fortunately there was somewhere I could pull in safely.

I continued on and found the site. Must have been a dozen cars in view. I got out and talked with one of the guys and it appeared the owls were not really showing yet. After about 20 minutes, dark clouds arrived and the rain started to fall. Boxing haresIt didn't last long but the sun was less evident afterwards. Kestrels and red kite could be seen over the fields and a solitary stonechat sat atop a dry-stone wall.

Behind us, someone spotted a couple of hares beginning to box. They charged around between bouts.

Eventually, after a wait of over an hour, we spotted a short-eared owl and eventually it showed close enough for a photo - not close or in good light but pleased to have had reasonable views. After this we could see that there were in fact two SE owls. Before we all packed up, two barn owls also joined in quartering the field, although by now the light had given up.

Short-eared owlShort-eared owl

Short-eared owlShort-eared owl

Tuesday, 14 January 2020

RSPB Otmoor :: 12 January 2020

After spending a lovely lunchtime with friends on Saturday, we decided Sunday should be a birding day. SparrowhawkLooking at the weather and time available we decided to head for RSPB Otmoor. The road was closed between Islip and the first Beckley turn and so we had to detour through Woodeaton and Elsfield. Flooding was still very evident all around this area.

Shoes on, we marched down the track and paused at the feeding station. A sparrowhawk was running circuits around the feeders and trees, only minutes apart, and trying to catch anything dropping off the feeders. We watched over a dozen attempts but it failed on each pass - I tried a couple of photos but it was just too dense to allow a tight focus. A jay and great spotted woodpecker flew to our right. Golden plover

Nothing by the side of the bridleway but we could see cloud of birds over Big Otmoor. Over the fields we could see flocks of golden plover and lapwing; estimated at c.5,000 and c.4,000 respectively. Occasionally they would all rise and fill the sky above - almost like glitter against the sky and even more so when dark clouds passed over - eventually this attracted a peregrine who failed to catch either species and it cruised off to try its luck elsewhere.

Golden ploverWe dropped into the hide to see what was showing there and added close views of linnet, bullfinches, chaffinch and reed bunting. Waiting here we scoffed our sandwich lunch before moving on to the first screen. Here we picked out a few snipe on a small island and numbers of gadwall. Over toward Noke more golden plover and lapwing could be seen.

We moved on again towards the second screen and encountered a hare, allowing us good views. Around the same area we also watched a muntjac deer feeding on the bank, leaving as a group came in the opposite direction. A kestrel landed in the treetop ahead but a couple were walking ahead of us and as they approached it took to the wing and departed.Hare

On our right, in the reduced edge, a pair of stonechat kept level with us. Entering the second screen the stonechat showed very well right in front of the hide. A marsh harrier quartered the distant reed bed and more golden plover and lapwing flocked in the sky. More than a dozen pochard slept or dived ahead. Good views of red kite directly above.

On the way back we bumped into the Millers and stopped for a chat while standing in a pool of mud. The was a constant stream of people heading in the opposite direction to us, presumably hoping and preparing for a starling murmuration.Stonechat

Sightings (43) included: black-headed gull, blackbird, blue tit, bullfinch, buzzard, Canada goose, carrion crow, chaffinch, collared dove, coot, dunnock, gadwall, golden plover, goldfinch, great spotted woodpecker, great tit, grey heron, greylag goose, jackdaw, jay, kestrel, lapwing, lesser black-backed gull, linnet, long-tailed tit, magpie, mallard, marsh harrier, moorhen, mute swan, peregrine, pheasant, pochard, red kite, reed bunting, robin, snipe, sparrowhawk, starling, stonechat, tufted duck, wigeon and woodpigeon.