Sunday, 3 February 2019

RSPB Otmoor :: 03 February 2019

Another cold day (4°C) but it felt warmer with the sun out. There was still quite a bit of snow on the ground but it Marsh harrierhadn't stopped people turning out; the car park was almost full.

All the usual birds round to the feeding station and then to the hide. A flock of linnets flew off at the slightest movement; these were joined by reed bunting, a few chaffinch and a couple of yellowhammer. In the hide a couple mentioned that they had seen a short eared owl at the first screen and so we headed there next. No dice ... but we did have female marsh harrier and a fly through peregrine. Off to the left of the screen water rail called. Ahead and right I saw what I thought may be a water rail in flight, low to the water, but too far away to be sure. Stonechat

Down to the second screen and we saw mute swans ice breaking - really strange noise. A pair of stonechats continually dipped into the water at the edge of the pool and sat on overhanging twigs and stalks.

Sightings (31) included: blackbird, blue tit, buzzard, canada goose, carrion crow, chaffinch, coot, cormorant, dunnock, gadwall, great tit, grey heron, kestrel, linnet, mallard, marsh harrier, moorhen, mute swan, peregrine, pheasant, pied wagtail, red kite, reed bunting, robin, rook, shoveler, stonechat, teal, tufted duck, woodpigeon and yellowhammer.

WkWT Brandon Marsh :: 02 February 2019

Another cold one. This time a visit to WkWT Brandon Marsh - Charlotte came with, and asked for somewhere with a cafe and not to go round a large expanse of water. This fitted the bill. Whooper swan

We started round New Hare's Covert to the Wright hide, but other than tits and a few chaffinch we didn't see much. A buzzard low over the golf course and a few very persistent robins were all that caught the eye.

Round at the Wright Hide, we were disappointed by the extent of the ice covering the East Marsh Pool. Some birds on the ice but most on the scrape or on the few pools formed in the ice. In the distance we spotted the two whooper swans [#83] which we thought might not be visible from the East Marsh Hide as they would be obscured by a reed bank.

Sure enough, the whoopers were indeed obscured when we got to the EM Hide. Just the usual gathering of ducks and geese, so after a hopeful wait to see if the bittern showed, we moved on.

Two fieldfare over but nothing to add. Back to the Visitors Centre for a sandwich.

Sightings (36) included: black-headed gull, blackbird, blue tit, buzzard, canada goose, carrion crow, chaffinch, coal tit, common gull, coot, cormorant, dunnock, fieldfare, gadwall, goldfinch, great spotted woodpecker, great tit, greylag goose, lapwing, magpie, mallard, moorhen, mute swan, nuthatch, pheasant, pied wagtail, reed bunting, robin, shelduck, shoveler, song thrush, teal, tufted duck, whooper swan, woodpigeon and wren.

Sunday, 27 January 2019

Broughton Castle :: 27 January 2019

Sightings of brambling in a mixed flock on Sandfine Road, Broughton near Banbury lured me out this afternoon. It didn't Redwinglook promising as it was cold, there was quite a strong wind and spots of rain were falling. As I arrived though it stopped spitting with rain and was just windy and cold!

No sign of any brambling in the mixed flock at the beech wood - mostly great tits, a few blue tits and a handful of chaffinch. Another flock of c.20 birds turned out to be all goldfinch.

As I walked, I added redwing and mistle thrush [#77] to the year list. On the slope I also saw two roe deer lying on the stubble field. Roe deer

As I turned back I watched for any movement in the trees and was often distracted by blue and great tits darting about. I did however also see a single treecreeper.

Sightings included: blackbird, blue tit, buzzard, carrion crow, chaffinch, goldfinch, great tit, long-tailed tit, mistle thrush, redwing, robin, treecreeper and woodpigeon.

Hanging Houghton :: 26 January 2019

The forecast suggested that the morning would be the best time to be outdoors and so, with reports of a great grey shrike just north of my usual Northants range, I decided on an early start. When I arrived at Hanging Houghton I was unsure of access by car, and signs suggested that the surface was unsuitable. I continued driving until I came to an open barn and parked up with a dozen or so other vehicles - according to GoogleMaps I was only 500m away.

As I walked along I saw a flock of goldfinches to my left, then yellowhammer and a couple of skylark. Ahead I could see around ten people with scopes presumably on the shrike or trying to pick out a lapland bunting, reported the day before. A couple of cars had ventured this far but the potholes confirmed I had done the right thing in leaving my car back at the barn. As I reached the congregation I talked to a chap coming from my right and found out that the shrike had been seen but was off to the right and across a couple of fields. I decided that it might be a losing battle trying to spot the lapland bunting in the scrub, so headed straight for the shrike. Around the scrub were flocks of skylarks, chasing each other and some rising as they often do - I'm not sure I've ever seen this many together before.

When I got to the top of the hill there were two blokes scanning with scopes. They had seen the shrike 10 minutes before on the hedge ahead but it had dropped and disappeared. Great grey shrike In just a couple of minutes, one of the guys (a young lad who worked at an RSPB reserve) picked out the bird on the other side of the field - distant, but a tick. The young lad said he was visiting family but he had popped out to add to his year list, already standing just short of 150 - in fact he had been to Blashford Lakes the previous week to see the lesser scaup. In the hedge ahead of us we were treated with numbers of chaffinch, yellowhammers, linnet, reed bunting and tree sparrows.

The shrike worked its way along the far hedge and eventually both of the others left. I was joined by another local birder and we watched as the shrike worked back along the far hedge, eventually dropping to the ground. It didn't reappear but as I looked along the hedge behind us it appeared ahead but still a little distant. It didn't stay more than a minute and dropped again, out of sight. Raven passed over, cronking as they went.

Not long after @Old_Caley (Nick) and his wife turned up - amazing who you bump into on a cold, windy Northants hillside! Eventually I saw the shrike fly out from the hedgerow ahead and across the field to the far side. We watched it settling in various far away bushes and trees. At this point an annoying birder decided to walk along the far hedgerow and right up to the bird - it stayed still until he was right upon it at which point it took off, into the high branches of a tall tree - talking to him later it appears that he never saw it, even when it flew off! It then disappeared for some time, and I had to head home to meet for lunch. I said goodbye to Nick and his wife and headed back.

Sightings (17) included: blackbird, carrion crow, chaffinch, dunnock, goldfinch, great grey shrike [#74], great tit, linnet, magpie, pied wagtail, raven, reed bunting, rook, skylark, stock dove, tree sparrow and yellowhammer.

As I write this I have just finished my "Big Garden Birdwatch". Nothing out of the ordinary but after I submitted my results I had an extra group of goldfinch visit - 15 - and a beautiful male sparrowhawk [#75]. I also see that Old Caley managed to get closer views of the shrike just after I left - oh well.

Sunday, 20 January 2019

HIWWT Blashford Lakes :: 20 January 2019

Today we dropped our eldest daughter at SEASON, the Exclusive Cookery School located in a converted well house within the grounds of Lainston House Hotel. Siskin

We then continued on to Blashford Lakes Nature Reserve - I'd scanned potential birding sights earlier in the week. The Blashford Lakes reserve used to be a series of gravel pits until it was developed. The woodlands, lakes and grasslands at Blashford attract a plethora of wild birds and I decided well worth a look. With six bird hides and 8km of rolled gravel paths it probably won't be the last time either.

We left the car in the main car park and walked round to the Tern Hide. Having never been there it was good to find some maps of the reserve in handouts. Siskin A large flock of linnets fed on the water's edge. It was absolutely freezing and so we didn't stay in the hide for long. After I left I heard two guys talking and it appears there was a lesser scaup on the very far edge - not visible with our bins though.

We continued round to the Education Centre and Charlotte decided to stop and have a cuppa before pushing on. I decided to go on to the Woodland Hide to see what they were getting on their feeders; best birds were nuthatches and a small flock of siskins.

No sign of Charlotte so I continued on to Ivy South Hide. NuthatchAs I set out two blokes said there were some goosander here and a yellow browed warbler, if I could find it. I stopped off at the hide, picked up what I could and stepped out hoping for the YBW. Three guys were pacing on the far side so I made my way over. Talking to one he said that it had shown an hour earlier but only for 10 seconds and it was high in the trees - not looking good. I strolled to and fro for around 10 minutes, and then Charlotte arrived. She told me that she had stopped off at the Ivy North Hide and had views of a bittern, although not in the open and only really visible with a scope - damn.

Not two minutes later I saw a bird that looked a likely candidate for LBW; before I could get the camera on it,Yellow browed warbler it flew off towards the trees on the edge of the water. I kept an eye on this area and just a few minutes later spotted it making its way back over. A couple of photos and I could see it was the target bird. As others arrived I pointed them to the spot where the bird had been and left them in hopeful mood.

We headed back toward the Ivy North Hide but before we reached it, we spotted a water rail reasonably well in the open, feeding. Good views! Into the hide and we didn't manage to spot the bittern but had more views of water rail.

Returning to the Education Centre for lunch, we heard some noisy Water railgreater spotted woodpeckers chasing one another and as we stopped to watch, a treecreeper ascended a tree ahead.

Sightings today (39) included: black-headed gull, blackbird, blue tit, canada goose, carrion crow, chaffinch, coal tit, coot, cormorant, dunnock, gadwall, goldeneye, goosander, great crested grebe, great spotted woodpecker, great tit, grey heron, linnet, little egret, little grebe, long-tailed tit, magpie, mallard, mute swan, nuthatch, pheasant, pochard, reed bunting, robin, shelduck, siskin, song thrush, treecreeper, tufted duck, water rail, wigeon, woodpigeon, wren and yellow-browed warbler.

Friday, 4 January 2019

Seamill & West Kilbride :: 02 January 2019

Our festive trip to see the folks up in Ayrshire allowed me to indulge in a spot of birdwatching, Red-breasted mergansermostly from the beach outside our hotel. Unfortunately sunrise is 30 minutes later than back in Banbury, and sunset 10 minutes earlier. So heading out before breakfast resulted in very poor light and very high ISO to get any shot.

Firstly, I hoped to pick up the dippers in the burn beside the hotel wall. Nothing doing. In the seaweed there were two meadow pipit and beyond were numbers of wigeon, teal and herring gull.

As I walked on I had a flypast from a drake red-breasted merganser and a few seals bobbed close to shore. A pipit flew left to right and I took a photo, Water pipitassuming it was a rock pipit - reviewing later it turned out to be water pipit.

Pairs of eider cruised well offshore, joined by cormorants - none that showed as shag. At the point I saw a handful of redshank which drew me to three turnstone feeding nearby. I was just admiring them when I noticed an intruder to the party - on closer inspection (ISO 5000) it was a purple sandpiper [#38] - never managed to find one of these before.

Time to get back and join the rest of the family.

The next morning Eilidh had a hair appointment in the Purple sandpipernext village (Fairlie) and as we entered the village we could see a number of birds on the shore - ducks and some small waders. Having dropped off Eilidh I headed back to the car park at the point, and parked up. Gulls dominated at the point but redshank fed in several groups, wigeon glided on the water, accompanied by several teal and a single shelduck. A single little egret fed at the end of the burn.

One wader caught my eye, being larger than the numbers of redshank. I managed to get a bit closer and found it was a Greenshank greenshank [#42].

Back round to the car and I added curlew [#43]. As I tried to get in position for a photo, and to the brow of the hill, I saw the red-breasted merganser again. Much better view this time.

Sightings totalled 32: black-headed gull, blackbird, buzzard, common gull, cormorant, curlew, dunnock, eider, great black-backed gull, greenshank, grey wagtail, herring gull, house sparrow, jackdaw, kestrel, little egret, meadow pipit, mute swan, oystercatcher, pied wagtail, purple sandpiper, red-breasted merganser, redshank, robin, rock dove / feral pigeon, shelduck, teal, turnstone, water pipit, wigeon, woodpigeon and wren.