Monday, 27 July 2020

Wildlife BCN Summer Leys :: 27 July 2020

Before lockdown my wife's car was booked in for a service and we had to push it back due my travels to work in Russia. Scheduled for my return it was then postponned due to the Covid-19 lockdown. Today was the day for it to eventually get it's service, some five months overdue. We take it back to the garage we bought it from and so we found ourselves in Northampton at 10.00am.

The rain had been falling in Banbury and all the way to Northampton - we therefore had no real plan as to what we'd do. Having handed the car in we opted for a drive and to sit looking at the meadow by the car park at Wildlife Trust BCN's Summer Leys Reserve.

We turned into the car park and the rain had slowed to a few spots; as we parked up, it stopped altogether. We decided that we should make the most of this interlude and jumped out my car, then headed across to the main body of water. From there we could see c.27 swifts, large numbers of common tern, 26 mute swans, 31 cormorant and 19 greylag geese. A few house martin appeared in amongst the swifts. As we peered to the opposite side we spotted a lone green sandpiper, then two great white and four little egrets.

Common tern

The sun decided to make an appearance so we opted to take our chances and go for a bit of a walk. We reached the Paul Britten Hide (looking back towards the Pioneer Hide) and could see a third great white egret, several sand martin and, in one corner, a single oystercatcher. As I took a photo of the great white egret, a grey heron in the background could be seen handling an eel that it had just caught.

We went on further to the next viewing screen, but didn't spot anything more of significance. As we returned to the car park, drops of rain started to fall and as we drove off the rain started falling again - our timing was impecible!

Great white egret

Sightings (30) included: black-headed gull, blackbird, canada goose, carrion crow, common tern, coot, cormorant, goldfinch, great crested grebe, great white egret, green sandpiper, greenfinch, grey heron, greylag goose, house martin, lapwing, little egret, little grebe, long-tailed tit, magpie, mallard, moorhen, mute swan, oystercatcher, sand martin, starling, swift, tufted duck, woodpigeon and wren.

Nether Worton :: 19 July 2020

It was forecast dry and so Charlotte and I decided to take a bit of fresh air. YellowhammerI'd previously enjoyed a walk with my eldest daughter around Nether Worton and suggested we take the same route. We set off along the gated road and enjoyed butterflies to our left and right. As we passed the turn for Over Worton I suggested we look for a path that made a future circular walk in the other direction.

We walked to the end of the road and from the corner could see a family group of whitethroat flying back and forward across the road between trees on our right, and the hedge on out left. Just on from here we could hear skylark in the fields and then had a yellowhammer over. There were also a couple of warblers in the bushes by the stream but we couldn't see them well enough for an ID but think they were reed warlber.

We turned left along a track and left again to circle the hill, now passing through crops of barley. It had rained the night before and so our shoes soon started to pick up mud. As we crossed a small stream we entered a small coppice and heard a number of species of which goldcrest and blackcap we our best. The goldcrest stayed out of reach and thwarted any decent photo. We stepped out from the trees to see a jay on the wing to our right, flying along the treeline and landing in some distant trees - although we saw movement we couldn't get a good view of the bird.

We forged on an when getting back close to the gated road we had better views of yellowhammer and a skylark that was trying to draw us away from it's nest. We had more butterflies here and some interesting flying beetles.

Back onto the gated road we spotted a green woodpecker in the gardens to our right, but the sighting was only fleeting and again no photo possible.

Finally, as we approached the church, I could see two spotted flycatchers on the wires to the left side of the road. As we got closer thet flew off with one heading down the driveway of the ajoining cottage. As I reached the driveway, I was surprised to see the bird sitting waiting on the gate. I took a couple of photos before it left and then took a couple of steps forward, in hope that the bird might return. It did, not one minute later - what a confiding specimen! A magical encounter.

Spotted flycatcher

The species we noted (21) on our walk included: blackbird, blackcap, blue tit, buzzard, canada goose, carrion crow, goldcrest, goldfinch, great tit, green woodpecker, grey heron, jay, lesser black-backed gull, red kite, rook, skylark, spotted flycatcher, swallow, whitethroat, woodpigeon and yellowhammer.

Sunday, 21 June 2020

Nether Worton :: 20 June 2020

Having dipped spotted flycatchers at Whistley Wood earlier this morning, I ventured out again. Spotted flycatcherWell Arsenal were on the the TV and he indoors had settled down to watch. I decided to try another site - the one suggested by @old_caley previously. It did sound like it would be a good shout for spotted flycatcher at Nether Worton as Nick (@@old_caley) had said "You should try Nether Worton Church and adjoining cottage. Easy parking and birds are obvious in trees at the edge of the small paddock next to the church and also on the wires and aerial of the cottage."

The Domesday Book records that until 1066 one Leofgeat held the manor of Ortune, probably at what is now Nether Worton. After the Norman Conquest of Spotted flycatcherEngland an estate of three hides and half a yardland at Worton passed to William the Conqueror's half-brother Odo of Bayeux. By 1086 there were 15 households consisting of 10 smallholders and five villagers. The earliest parts of the Church of England chapel of ease of St James are 12th-century Norman and 13th-century Early English.

The church was easy to find and only 8½ miles from home. I got out the car and waited for around 20 minutes before a spotted flycatcher flew over me from the church and onto the wire behind. In no time it had a butterfly in its beak and took no time in devouring it. Spotted flycatcherHaving fed, it seemed to be in no hurry to leave and was happy for me to walk underneath taking photos.

After a minute or two it left, landing in the tree in front of the church/cottage, still in view if looking down the drive. I managed to take a number of photos before it retreated further back into the tree and out of sight. Quite a magical encounter. Success!

The road that runs past the church continues on along a gated road and so I think it may be an idea to look at some Ordinance Survey maps of the area and try having a walk here - the area was very attractive.

Whistley Wood :: 20 June 2020

My wife suggested we do a spot of birding in the morning and I thought that I'd make a concerted effort to see spotted flycatcher. GoldcrestOn the Banbury Birders WhatApp Group someone had asked where good spots were in the local area and two that stuck in my mind were Nether Worton (courtesy of @old_caley) and Whistley Wood (courtesy of @987jonty)- probably due to their unusal names. One stipulation was that, wherever we went, we shouldn't be walking in long grass (due to the frequent rain over the last week) and that there was somewhere to have a decent walk. I therefore opted for Whistley Wood as I had never been the Nether Worton and didn't know if we could easily create a circular walk.

Juvenile marsh titWe were late setting out and reached the layby on the B4525, by the entrance to the wood, at about 9.30am. Above us flew a single house martin and as soon as we got through the gate a male bullfinch fed in the tree to our left. As far as my wife was concerned, the morning was therefore already a success! There was a lot of birdsong but nothing to give away a spotted flycatcher. I heard a call to our right and thought it was possibly a jay, or had I mistaken a magpie. Suddenly my wife doubted that she'd locked the car and, as we hadn't gone far, she doubled back. As I waited a jay flew passed and landed in a tree ahead - I saw my wife returning and waved her to hurry back - she Juvenile marsh titarrived in time to see it hopped through a few nearby trees and then it gave us good flypast views.

We followed the paths encountering chiffchaff, goldcrest, song thrush and the normal woodland birds. When we reached the far end, some of the paths were blocked as (as the signs said) this part of the wood was "under new ownership". We worked our way around and eventually down a glade with grassy edges and a few meadow plants. There were numbers of flies, bees and butterflies - including large skipper and ringlet.

At the final corner, before we ran parallel to the road and the layby ahead, we stood to watch a party of blue and great tits - some juveniles amongst them. We watched and found that in the scrub below there were two tits foraging. I started to take photos and watching I concluded they were willow tit as they had pure white all round the collar. Later I found out that there was a developing white spot on the upper bill and this is a tell-tale sign that we had actually seen juvenile marsh tit (Richard Broughton @woodlandbirder provided an article he'd written on the subject.

Despite not finding a spotted flycatcher, this was really great place for a spot of birding and a walk so we will be back again I'm sure.

Sightings (22) included: blackbird, blackcap, blue tit, bullfinch, buzzard, carrion crow, chaffinch, chiffchaff, coal tit, dunnock, goldcrest, great tit, house martin, jay, marsh tit, mistle thrush, nuthatch, red kite, robin, song thrush, woodpigeon and wren.

Sunday, 14 June 2020

Farmoor Reservoir :: 13 June 2020

It had seemed to be a long week and decided that we would take advantage of the predicted good weather on Saturday morning for a walk at Farmoor Reservoir. WhitethroatArriving at just after 8.20am, we found that the gates to the car park were still closed and a sign displayed indicating that they would be opened at 10.00am. I had seen that the site had reopened but not that the gates wouldn't be opened until later than the usual 08.00am. We parked back down the road and walked along the public footpaths running alongside the site.

Walking between two hedgerows we made our way from the north of the site to the west, encountering chiffchaff and large numbers of blackcap - initially all males, but eventually adding females. After crossing the small burn that runs from the river, we entered into Garganeyopen space. This proved to be a wider and more enjoyable way onto the site and offering more open scrub land. We then saw whitethroat, sedge and reed warbler, and reed bunting. Whitethroat were in abundance with family groups chasing around several bushes and others singing from atop small trees.

We saw a couple ahead of us and followed them up from the path onto the west side of F1. The water was quite still with only a gentle breeze. There were few species on the water's edge: coot, mallard and a couple of pied wagtails. We soon came to the western edge of the causeway, and as we looked at the assembled greylag geese, a single small duck Garganeytook off and landed amongst the geese on the other side of the causeway. We ventured onto the causeway to find it was the male garganey (eclipse plumage). Despite the initial flight, it was then happy to stay for photos - feigned shyness.

We decided to make a circuit of F2 and were surprised at how few gulls there were; mainly just the black-headed gulls nesting on the rafts. Eventually we did see a common tern but not the numbers we are used to seeing here - perhaps we are later due to the lockdown. We added grey wagtail, red kite, buzzard and chaffinch in and over the trees to our right.Great-crested grebe

As we approached the final stretch to the sailing club, they had obviously opened the gate to the car park (around 9.40am) and in came a stream of cars - they all soon were on the banks and setting up rods, some already casting by the time we reached them. We didn't add anything new over the causeway, perhaps due to the two family parties ahead who had decided to have at least one member walk along the wall on either side.

We reached the car after around 2½ hours on the paths and having covered 4.7 miles.

Sightings (34) included: black-headed gull, blackbird, blackcap, blue tit, buzzard, carrion crow, chaffinch, chiffchaff, collared dove, common tern, coot, cormorant, dunnock, garganey, goldfinch, great crested grebe, great tit, grey wagtail, greylag goose, magpie, mallard, mute swan, pied wagtail, red kite, reed bunting, reed warbler, sedge warbler, snow goose, song thrush, stock dove, whitethroat, willow warbler, woodpigeon and wren.

Saturday, 6 June 2020

Grimsbury Reservoir :: 05 June 2020

I decided to stay local today as the weather was not as settled, heading down to Grimsbury Reservoir for a pre-breakfast circuit. Little ringed ploverIn the scrub to the left as I entered there were numbers of greenfinch, a goldcrest, house martins and a chiffchaff. There was quite a lot of action and I thought I could have stayed here for a while, but decided to keep going.

There were a couple of cars in front of the sailing club gates and when I got the reservoir I could see around six fishermen already within the fencing - not bad for 5.30am - maybe they were working later too. Soon I found two juvenile little ringed plover, both with their backs to me ... one did at least turn a little and give me an opportunity to take a record photo. WrenOne of the fisherman then decided to site himself towards the north of the site, flushing the two juveniles. As they spun out across the water, they were joined by an adult that must have been further ahead.

I got ahead of the fisherman and when I reached the top end, one of the juvenile LRPs dropped onto the waters edge; when I stepped into the longer grass I could get a better photo. As I stood, a wren called in the trees to my left - he gave me some good views, and seemed content to stay close.

I reached the scrub and brambles at the north end of the site finding numbers of whitethroat, Common whitethroatboth common and lesser. It proved impossible to get a photo of the lesser as they stayed in the undergrowth and I wasn't going to camp out until I got what might only be a record shot; however, a number of common whitethroat showed reasonably well. Some had the look of juveniles but appeared quite well advanced if they were.

I turned left to go into the edge of the wood and stopped to watch a couple of sedge warbler. As I stood, a grey squirrel walked up to me getting within about three or four feet. It obviously wanted to get passed me on the path. He stopped, unsure how to proceed - Common whitethroatperhaps worried about social distancing rules. After a few tens of seconds it resolved its dilemma and just made a dash for it, almost jumping over my feet.

I continued down and under the bridge. On the other side I looked for any action across the water, and when I couldn't locate the singing sedge warbler I bore left. Ahead there was another singing sedge warbler, but it was flighty. As I stood in wait, a female whitethroat collected food for its young - the sun also came out.

I returned through the bridge and down toward the canal. As I passed an area with log pile I had two juvenile wrens with still fluffy heads. Common whitethroatOn the canal side I found chiffchaff and a grey heron.

Back up on the reservoir I headed back adding willow warbler and c.80 swifts feeding over the river. A peregrine passed overhead and didn't give any of us a second look. A handful of house Martin had also joined the swifts.

Sightings (28) included: blackbird, blue tit, canada goose, carrion crow, chiffchaff, dunnock, goldcrest, goldfinch, great tit, greenfinch, grey heron, grey wagtail, house sparrow, lesser whitethroat, little ringed plover, long-tailed tit, magpie, mallard, mute swan, peregrine, robin, sedge warbler, stock dove, swift, whitethroat, willow warbler, woodpigeon and wren.

Sunday, 31 May 2020

RSPB Otmoor :: 31 May 2020

The RSPB Otmoor reserve has been authorised to open on a limited basis from 28 May 2020, Garden warblerbut the paths to the screens, the screens themselves, and the hide are all still closed. The standard two metre social distancing rules are obviously in place and signs are displayed at various points.

I still try to avoid unnecessary contact and so again set off at 4.30am, arriving at 5.00am in the car park. It was clear that there were more cars in the car park today compared with the 28th - even at this early hour there were a couple of bays already occupied.

As soon as I turned onto the bridleway I could hear garden warbler in the trees to my left. Pausing I found one singing it's heart out in the red sunrise light. Cetti's warbler were also numerous and quite vocal. BitternI heard distant cuckoos and some common snipe were drumming over Greenaways.

I made my way along the bridleway picking up the usual warbler and other species expected for this time of year. When I reached the crossroads for the screens and hides I watched several cuckoos and Cetti's warblers but just couldn't get a decent photo - good views considering the general skulking nature of Cetti's. I also had a couple of bullfinch pairs pass by.

I spent some time around this area and noticed, out the corner of my eye, a heron coming my way, Bitternquite high in the sky. As it got closer I sudden realised it was in fact a bittern at an unusually high altitude. I quickly raised my camera and shot off a few photos as it circled me and flew off across Greenaways, where it dropped down.

I walked back and stopped to talk to a birder, photographing in the reeds in the channel beside the bridleway. As we talked, a cuckoo flew behind me and back where I'd come from. I saw that it landed in a tree and so we both strolled down, taking occasional photos as we went. By this time the light had stopped being quite so red and my photo showed the normal grey plumage. Bittern

The cuckoo soon departed and I talked with a mother and young daughter who were looking for the bittern. I explained that I'd seen it but that it had dropped into Greenaways and probably into one of the patches of reeds. I saw a few people ahead with cameras and scopes and suggested the go there as they were all probably waiting for the bittern. When I reached the area myself I found that they were waiting as I'd thought and found Dan and Trish Miller were there again. We waited for almost an hour and picked up several species, including curlew.

Eventually the bittern raised it's Cuckoolong neck and head high enough to be seen through the reeds. This only lasted for a few tens of seconds before it took off and flew away from us. The photos weren't as good as those from my earlier flyby.

It was time to head home but I promised to phone Dan and Trish if I came across the turtle dove on my journey back to the car. I reached the cattle pens and to my delight, the turtle dove was feeding on the track leading away from the pens. I phoned Dan and after a few minutes Trish arrived - fortunately the turtle dove stayed long enough for her to see it - her previous views had been in poor light. In actual fact, Turtle dovephotographing across this track is a little tricky and haze is a bit of an issue.

After a couple of minutes a woodpigeon came in to land, too close of the dove's liking and it left and down the trees along the bridleway. I said my goodbyes to Trish and followed the dove, stopping on several occasions to listen to and watch Cetti's warblers as they flitted about. When I turned the corner I could see the dove in the treetop ahead and got some better photos than when it was feeding on the ground.

I spotted a couple of willow warbler along this stretch as I made for the car. Another good visit and great to bag the turtle dove.

Sightings (46) included: bittern, black-headed gull, blackbird, blackcap, blue tit, bullfinch, buzzard, canada goose, carrion crow, cetti's warbler, chiffchaff, coot, cuckoo, curlew, garden warbler, goldfinch, great tit, grey heron, greylag goose, lapwing, little egret, long-tailed tit, magpie, mallard, marsh harrier, moorhen, mute swan, pheasant, raven, red kite, red-legged partridge, redshank, reed bunting, reed warbler, robin, sedge warbler, skylark, snipe, stock dove, swallow, swift, tufted duck, turtle dove, willow warbler, woodpigeon and wren.