Sunday, 18 October 2020

Farmoor Reservoir :: 18 October 2020

There was a shout early doors that a mandarin duck (juv) had dropped into Grimsbury Reservoir - I didn't see the message straight away. When I was ready to leave I sent a reply asking if it had stayed but unfortunately it departed after just 20mins. Charlotte and I decided for a walk at Farmoor Reservoir instead.

Very few boats on F2 but around 25 people on the eastern corner of F1 by the causeway learning to paddle board. Nothing at all on the causeway and still the rock pipits eluded me. There were a handful of tufted ducks - hundreds of coot and great-crested grebe. In the grey calm this tuftie looked isolated - a bit of an arty shot for me!

A female scaup was on the western side of F2 but we decided to stop our circuit there and dropped down to the river. A group had been swimming in the river and were dressing as we appraoched - brrr. Onto the river and we saw a kingfisher skim near to the oposite bank and ahead - we looked but never caught up with it.

We had three cetti's warbler calling at various points, and a single fleeting view - looks like I'll not have a photo of one this year. Redwing and bullfinches fed in the trees and bushes on the opposite bank.

We looped back to head for the Pinkhill reserve and came across a female blackcap feeding on berries. There was probably more than one but we decided not to wait and confirm.

A little disappointed I haven't found these pesky rock pipit on several visits - the meadow pipits at the water treatment works are far more obliging ...

Sightings (27) included: blackcap, bullfinch, carrion crow, cetti's warbler, coot, cormorant, great black-backed gull, great crested grebe, great tit, grey wagtail, greylag goose, herring gull, kingfisher, lesser black-backed gull, little grebe, magpie, mallard, meadow pipit, mute swan, pheasant, pied wagtail, redwing, robin, rook, tufted duck, woodpigeon and wren.

Saturday, 17 October 2020

Pauline Flick Nature Reserve :: 17 October 2020

Her indoors had decided to join a 10km walk for MIND, the mental health charity, so I decided to have a walk around a local Nature Reserve that I've not visited before - the Pauline Flick Nature Reserve near Great Rollright (Chipping Norton).

Pauline Flick Nature Reserve

The old Banbury to Chipping Norton Railway line was dismantled in the early 1960s. This section of the old railway was donated to the Banbury Ornithological Society who manages the site for the benefit of wildlife.

Many species of plant, bird, mamamal and insect have become established and the Society aims to maintain and enhance the diversity of wild species while providing access to the general public.

I parked across from the entrance in a spot between two gates that didn't block access to either. Despite ocassional rain over the last week the ground wasn't muddy but I donned walking boots anyway - they would just get wet from the grass. I could hear great and blue tits, blackbird and wrens but nothing of significant note. There were blue, great and coal tits on the feeders and a walk-by pheasant below them.

Buzzard

At the old crossing I looked across the field and saw three buzzards soaring with a single red kite.

I turned to look back along the track and noticed a moth struggling to get away from a wasp. I watched and filmed the wasp subdue then disect the moth. Quite a sight at miniture scale.

Continuing on, a buzzard was resting in the treetops but must have heard me coming as it took to the air and headed away from me and down the path. I could hear buzzards calling to my left and wondered if it was my bird now interacting with the others I'd seen earlier.

I heard some birds calling and looking up saw eight fieldfare over; two split off and diverted over the path and out to distant trees.

I reached the end of the path by the blocked tunnel and to the "rigs excavation". This western end of the reserve is more natural with the underlying rock structure remaining partially exposed.

The natural bedrock of this area is layered limestone dating from the Jurasic period. This natural geology has been exposed and given a R.I.G.S. designation (Regionally Important Geological Site).

Limestone is common in the area, including at some special local sites. Situated on a high ridge separating the counties of Oxfordshire and Warwickshire, the Rollright Stones, a worn and weathered local Oolitic limestone, are arranged in an almost exact circle. The Rollright Stones site not only consists of a stone circle, but also associated with the complex is a standing stone over the road in Warwickshire called the King Stone - close to an unexcavated Bronze Age barrow, and a collection of stones - the remains of a burial chamber called the Whispering Knights.

I didn't add anything of significance on the return. Sightings included: blackbird, blue tit, buzzard, carrion crow, chaffinch, coal tit, fieldfare, great tit, magpie, pheasant, red kite, robin, woodpigeon and wren.

Monday, 12 October 2020

Farmoor Reservoir :: 11 October 2020

Her indoors was off to play a tennis league match against Goring (in the afternoon) and so I had a leisurely morning and then lunch with my eldest. The day was set fair, although temperatures likely to be circa 13°C - there was to be little wind though.

The car park was busy again on arrival and the new parking scheme was still not up and running, so another freebee. Winsurfers adorned F2 and the "taxi drivers" watched on. I set off over the causeway, noticing that the water level is lower than it has been of late.

About halfway across I came across two dunlin feeding happily on the waters edge on the F2 side, not worried about the people already admiring them. I joined and took a few snaps. Ahead I could see someyhing right on the waters edge, about ¾ of the way across the causeway, this time on the F1 side. It turned out to be another dunlin.

Dunlin

I turned left round F2 and stopped to look at the mass of coot and great crested grebe - a couple watched on. On the rafts were black-headed, great-black backed and herring gulls.

I dropped fown to the river and immediately felt relaxed as I strolled along the bank in the sunshine - just so still. A couple of kayaks paddled by and as they did, a kingfisher flashed by, rising high to pass over the treetops toward Pinkhill.

A rather handsome kestrel sat in a tree, quite interested in what was happening below. Eventually looking my way I took a few shots - bit of kestrel photo weekend.

Kestrel

I heard cetti's warbler but on this ocassion I didn't have good views. A blackcap joined a flock of long-tailed tits feeding on the path back to the Pinkhill hide but nothing else showed.

I completed my visit with a circuit rounf F1 with only grey/pied wagtails and a handful of meadow pipit to show for it.

Meadow Pipit

Sightings for today (34) included: black-headed gull, blackcap, blue tit, buzzard, carrion crow, cetti's warbler, coot, cormorant, dunlin, goldfinch, great black-backed gull, great crested grebe, grey heron, grey wagtail, greylag goose, herring gull, kestrel, kingfisher, lesser black-backed gull, little egret, little grebe, long-tailed tit, magpie, mallard, meadow pipit, moorhen, mute swan, pheasant, pied wagtail, red kite, robin, tufted duck, woodpigeon and wren.

Saturday, 10 October 2020

Borough Hill, Daventry :: 10 October 2020

I set off to see if the long-staying black redstart at Borough Hill, Daventry would give itself up, or if it would be another Saturday morning curse. Just when I was about to enter Byfield from Banbury, around 8 red-legged partridge scattered from the road as I approached; they were a bit slow and so I had quite a good view.

As was the case when I visited last time, there was a wind blowing but it wasn't very cold. Boots on and camera locked-and-loaded I set off in search of the "eastern perimeter fence". I turned at the end of the metal fence hoping for a view but nothing showed, until @987jonty appeared from the other end of the facility. We chatted and watched linnet, meadow pipit, stonechat and a kestrel around us.

Black redstart

We split and headed in opposite directions to see what we could find. As I reached the far end of the fence I flushed a single bird between me and the fence - I watched it circle and raised my bins to see it land out in the field. I could swear it had a red/orange flash at the rear.

Meadow pipit

Heading back I saw a bird fly off toward where @987jonty stood. I got closer and could see the black redstart on the fence to his left and that he hadn't yet spotted it. I attracted his attention and pointed to where the bird was showing - in 30s we both had cameras on it.

Black redstart

Black redstart

We watched as it hopped arond various structures and fences and then again as it fed around two concrete pads. It turned out to be quite a showy bird. Eventually @987jonty had to go as he had only planned for a short drop-in visit.

Black redstart

I followed the bird around for a while with views in several different spots: from trees, in scrub, on walls and on the ground. I also searched around hoping for another bird on migration but no other species were showing.

This was a very productive area and I'm sure any remaining passage will be good here.

Sightings for today included: black redstart, blue tit, carrion crow, chaffinch, cormorant, goldfinch, kestrel, magpie, meadow pipit, reed bunting, robin, skylark, stonechat, woodpigeon and wren.

Sunday, 27 September 2020

Draycote Water :: 26 September 2020

I set off from the car park at 7.45am and followed the shoreline around from the Visitor's Centre to the Sailing Club. The only bird of note was a single common sandpiper and critically no ruff. The sun hadn't started warming the air and the temperature was shown as 5°C on the car display - there was also a wind chill too.

I continued the clockwise circuit and added my first autum goosander before seeing a meeting of nine grey heron in a field to the the left of the path - I haven't seen that for a while.

At the inlet I met Callum Pudge (@PudgeysPictures) who was watching little egrets fish and had earlier seen a couple of kingfishers. A pair of grey wagtails dropped in; calling frequently as they moved up and down the channel, and as they departed. We chatted for a while awaiting the kingfishers but they didn't return and I eventually left him to his vigil.

There continued to be large numbers of little egret around the reservoir (dozens) plus groups of eight to eleven of little grebe (plus lots of singles and pairs). As I climbed the slope at the valve tower, I had eight house martin feed over the trees and along the shore.

In the trees around Biggin Bay I had a pair of jay moving around the treetops - their calls catching my attention. Always mobile, they continued to call and fed for a couple of minutes. I rarely see jays here, never mind two, so it was great to see them.

A few gulls were feeding on a fish on the shore at Toft, with four little egret and two grey heron watching on, and then a flyover from seven meadow pipits wrapped up my visit.

Sightings (35) included: black-headed gull, blackbird, blue tit, buzzard, canada goose, carrion crow, common sandpiper, coot, cormorant, dunnock, gadwall, goosander, great back-backed gull, great crested grebe, great tit, grey heron, grey wagtail, greylag goose, house martin, jay, lesser black-backed gull, little egret, little grebe, magpie, mallard, meadow pipit, moorhen, mute swan, pied wagtail, robin, rook, shag, teal, tufted duck and woodpigeon.

Wednesday, 23 September 2020

Farmoor Reservoir :: 20 September 2020

We arrived mid-morning to find that parking fees were still not active and that there must be some event as there were a lot of cars and vans. It turned out that there were many seniors there and perhaps some sort of competition - a couple of the sailing boats sported GBR on the sails.

We strode out and set off across the causeway. Initially it didn't look good until a turnstone landed on the F1 side ahead of us. I noticed a young chap ahead who'd presumably been watching it ahead. It fortunately stayed put an I took a few shots. The chap headed down to us and watched (Thomas Miller - @temiller17) as the turnstone fed around the waters edge. Thomas said he'd just seen a ruff fly off across F1 and that there were a couple of ringed plover and a dunlin about.

Turnstone

We moved on and soon came across one of the ringed plover, accompanied by a dunlin. The dunlin initially fed but then decided on a bit of shut eye, leaving the ringed plover to stand guard. We spotted the other ringed plover behind us on the causeway but didn't head back.

Ringed plover and dunlin

We opted to drop down onto the river and made our way along, seeing little of interest. We did see some interaction between male brown and migrant hawker dragonflies, and a few other species I didn't immediately ID.

In the trees by the turn away from the river we came across a vocal cetti's warbler - I stopped to see if I could get a photo but each time I saw it perch, it moved on before I got the camera on it.

We went back up onto the reservoir and continued round F1 in the hope of locating the ruff, but of course we didn't.

Sightings for today (33) included: black-headed gull, blackbird, blue tit, carrion crow, cetti's warbler, chiffchaff, coot, cormorant, dunlin, dunnock, great crested grebe, great tit, greenfinch, grey heron, grey wagtail, greylag goose, herring gull, lesser black-backed gull, magpie, mallard, moorhen, mute swan, pied wagtail, red kite, ringed plover, robin, rook, swallow, tufted duck, turnstone, willow warbler, woodpigeon and wren.

Sunday, 13 September 2020

Sutton Park, West Midlands :: 12 September 2020

Today was the day I was booked to transport my youngest daughter to her University digs, in prepartion for what is likely to be a strange final year. With one of her French friends already resident (isolating there for the last few weeks), it was time for the rest of them to return and prepare.

Having executed my duties, it was time to return home and join the caravan down the M6. I'd hoped to get away at a sensible hour and fortunately I did. By 4.45pm I was pulling up in the car park at Sutton Park. In my favour I had talked with @old_caley the night before, as he had visited at the end of August - he had given me a pointer as where to target: "Enter via Boldmere Gate next to Powell’s Pool. Park at the Flying Field car park and alk north west across grassy field aiming for grass tracks between scrub. Between Crown Plantation and Hurst Hill on map. RBS is in the area of scrub and crab apple trees".

I did as instructed and bumped into another birder with similar directions. When we reached the target area there was no one else to be seen and so we headed our seperate ways, searching for the bird. After a short time I noticed a guy with a camera walking the other way - he indicated the bird was quite a bit further on now but pretty vague about where he'd been - very odd. I looked for the chap I'd been talking to but he was nowhere to be seen.

I set off and after about 10 minutes of searching I spotted a chap with a scope on the other side of some gorse - I reached him and shortly after was on the bird. After a few photos I spotted the chap I'd met earlier and went to wave him up to where we were.

Red-backed shrike

The bird was very obliging and I spent a while with it - a life tick for me after all!

Red-backed shrike

My next challenge was how to explain on the 'phone that I would be leaving for home AFTER the time when I said I'd already be there ...

Red-backed shrikeRed-backed shrike