Friday, 29 November 2013

BOS Balscote Quarry :: 29 November 2013

A quick visit on a freezing afternoon to see if I could catch up with the great grey shrike. Unfortunately not. Did manage to be entertained by a charm of goldfinches for most of the time, ably supported by a mixed flock of tits. The main excitement came in the form of a kestrel strike as the birds hopped between the bushes and the feeders.

The sightings (14) included: goldfinch, pheasant, blue tit, coal tit, great tit, greenfinch, chaffinch, collared dove, wood pigeon, mallard, kestrel, blackbird, green woodpecker and fieldfare over.

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Brandon Marsh :: 26 October 2013

Dropped Charlotte off for a tennis match and then headed off to Brandon Marsh for lunch and an afternoon stroll. We encountered showers along the journey and it didn't look too promising as we arrived, so we left our gear in the car and opted for lunch. There was little on the feeder stations outside the Visitor Centre windows - we even became grateful for the late arrival of chaffinch and greenfinch.

Out on the reserve there were few species but plenty of birds, mainly large numbers of ducks (shoveler, widgeon and teal) and black headed gulls. A couple of nice birds though; goldeneye, kingfisher and a juvenile grey wagtail from the Carlton Hide. As we left, we flushed a green woodpecker from beside the reserve road.

Not a stunning species count and nothing of any note, given that migration is underway and that there are reports of interesting visitors all across the country. Maybe next time.

Our confirmed sightings for the day (29) included: woodpigeon, magpie, feral pigeon, blue tit, great tit, chaffinch, black headed gull, greenfinch, carrion crow, coot, buzzard, mute swan, mallard, gadwall, lapwing, teal, starling, moorhen, wigeon, shoveler, common gull, tufted duck, lesser black backed gull, heron, kingfisher, goldeneye, grey wagtail, robin and green woodpecker.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

West Kilbride and Seamill :: 23-31 August 2013

Popped up to Scotland for a week to see the folks. Only managed to get a couple of walks along the beach, but managed many more cream teas! On some days the weather was stunning and the kids got to spend some time on the beach in the sun. Others not so good, but overall we were really lucky and any rain that did fall did so overnight.

On the walks we noted the birds we saw; this year we noticed the Dunlin complete absence of wheatear which were much in evidence last year.

Our list for the holiday (35 species) was: carrion crow, house sparrow, rook, herring gull, black headed gull, pied wagtail, mallard duck, mute swan, lesser black backed gull, jackdaw, starling, housemartin, cormorant, oystercatcher, curlew, redshank, common gull, gannet, swallow, blackbird, magpie, feral pigeon, woodpigeon, kestrel, chaffinch, blue tit, great tit, great black backed gull, eider duck, sandwich tern, dunlin, ringed plover, turnstone, goldfinch and wren.

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Brandon Marsh :: 20 July 2013

Normal Saturday morning before Brandon Marshes but then off with the girls to the Badger Tearoom for lunch - a few refreshing drinks and paninis before setting off with ice creams for a gentle walk round the reserve. Dodgy knee you know, so gentle it was. Thank goodness the temperature dropped off and we had some cloud cover.

Green sandpiperA lot of butterflies and dragonflies out today with our favourite being the Banded Demoiselle - gorgeous - well spotted Eilidh. Some big dragonflies too - quite un-nerving. Not too many people out but a good number of birds if not species.

Our sightings (37) included: ferrel pigeon, wood pigeon, chaffinch, pheasant, bullfinch, great tit, blackbird, blue tit, greenfinch, magpie, black headed gull, swallow, greylag goose, mute swan, green woodpecker, carrion crow, lapwing, coot, starling, cormorant, oystercatcher, canada goose, tufted duck, redshank, common gull, ringed plover, common tern, sand martin, mallard, grey heron, moorhen, green sandpiper, barnacle goose, lesser black backed gull, stock dove, swift, and hobby.

Sunday, 2 June 2013

RSPB Minsmere :: 29 May 2013

School half-term and therefore a 3-day short break was called for. We decided on a visit to the Suffolk coast and a stay at the Westleton Crown. It turned out to be a beatutiful day and so on the way there we stopped off for lunch at the Quy Mill Hotel, just outside of Cambridge. Their 2 and 3 course set lunches are always a hit.

Then to the Westleton Crown and on check-in we decided the girls would all like a cream-tea while the eldest daughter got on with some GSCE exam revision. Off I trotted for a couple of house on the RSPB Minsmere reserve - a mini visit for a couple of hours. I'd stated that the main reason for the visit was to get a photo of a bearded tit and so I chose to make for the reed beds between 'Bittern' and 'Island Mere'. Marsh Harrier ariel combatOn the visitors listings it suggested that the best place to see a bearded tit would be on the second passing place on the entry ramp to the 'Island Mere' hide. There were flocks of swifts skimming the water and reeds, marsh harriers quartering the area and we had two bitterns fly past, unfortunately from left field on both occasions. Although generally quiet we were entertained by the marsh harrier showing off their acrobatics and we were Bearded tit all excited to see a sparrowhawk attempting to hunt swifts over the 'Island Mere' - I was surprised to see it and was dubious about his likely success but started to hear that both the sparrowhawks and hobbies had been having a go, with observed successes. On leaving the hide I had another pause to see if I could spot a bearded tit and on-cue one turned up. More amazingly I managed to get a shot off while the reeds were not completely in the way.

It wasn't until a couple of days later that we got back to the reserve. The forecast didn't look promising but we hoped that it would be a little inaccurate, as it had been the previous day. From the Visitor Centre we headed out towards the East Hide and the coast. We thought that we would attempt to see the stone curlew that were said to be nesting in a field off the track. Unfortunately, since the young had hatched the birds seem to have retreated back into the bracken and out of view. We were unsuccessful. Just a 100 metres on we came across a bearded tit, soon joined by one of it's young - a partially formed tail helping age the youngster. Beautiful to see. Then, as we walked along the coastal path we felt a spot of rain. Fortunately we were just about to go into the East Hide and we managed to stay dry. What a noise from the assembled birds, especially when one of the larger gulls flew overhead and the smaller gulls prepared to protect their eggs and young. The shower lasted less than 10 minutes and was the last rain we had.

Our previous visits to Minsmere have all been in the autumn and so we have never seen avocets there before - they have always moved on before we arrived. However there were a good number of these beautiful birds wading and feeding at the edge of almost every pool. Consistently around the rest of our circuit we heard the many warblers singing, particularly the reed warbler, but also some sedge warblers. We stopped off for lunch in the reserve visitor centre and then I dropped off the girls for another revision session (and more cream-teas).

I returned to the reserve and set-off for another visit to the 'Bittern' and 'Island Mere' hides. HobbyAnother short view of bittern on the Island Mere was all that was of any significance, and no bearded tit. Slightly disappointed I headed back for the Visitor Centre, partly as there appeared to be no progress in the hide and partly as I needed to visit the loo! However, as I passed the 'Bittern' hide I heard an odd call and stopped to investigate. On entering the hide I was greeted by the sight of two bittern, one starting to boom and reports of hobby on some distant trees. The following hour and a half were a magical display of bittern booming, hobbies hunting dragonflies and my first sighting of a cuckoo. It was non-stop action with some specularly good views of the hobby. One was quite comical as it dived into the grass to catch a dragonfly and then it struggled to walk out and then pose for some time on the ground opposite us. A worthwhile stop.

The next morning was our last and on checking-out we decided to have one last walk. We opted for Westleton Heath, Dartford Warblerdue to its proximity and the fact that I'd read of someone seeing dartford warbler there - a species I hadn't yet seen. Hopeful, but suspecting that turning up to see a specific species on a portion of the heath would prove fruitless, we set off from the car-park. We had great views of red deer but no sign of our target bird. Then after an hour and on our way back to the car, a burst of song and there he was! Another life check. This was coupled with more views of cuckoo - buses eh - and a jay. A superb end to a great holiday.

So the final list of sightings (67) were: chaffinch, house sparrow, carrion crow, rook, jackdaw, swift, mallard, tufted duck, black headed gull, mute swan, coot, marsh harrier, sparrowhawk, bearded tit, great tit, blue tit, greenfinch, goldfinch, barn owl, marsh tit, magpie, pheasant, woodpigeon, collared dove, starling, swallow, house martin, robin, herring gull, lapwing, mediterranean gull, raven, oystercatcher, linnet, shelduck, shoveler, gadwall, redshank, avocet, kittiwake, arctic tern, common tern, greylag goose, barnacle goose, moorhen, dunnock, sedge warbler, little egret, reed warbler, wigeon, great spotted woodpecker, reed bunting, red legged partridge, stone curlew, canada goose, green woodpecker, cormorant, great crested grebe, sand martin, bittern, little grebe, buzzard, hobby, cuckoo, kestrel, jay and dartford warbler.

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Brandon Marsh :: 27 April 2013

Picked up Eilidh from a sleepover at school, had breakfast, cut grass, fed the birds, put in canes for runner beans, pruned the lilac bushes, put out the rubbish, Whitethroatposted a letter, dropped into Sainsburys, dropped Charlotte at tennis, and then off to Brandon Marsh with Ailsa for lunch. What a morning.

So after lunch a gentle stroll, interrupted at times by showers and hail-stones. A big change in the residents at Brandon since the Easter weekend - no end of warblers have turned up, as have the swallows. A very significant number of whitethroat were displaying, including lesser. Fantastic views were offered by the female whitethroat in the photo.

Our sightings (39) included: carrion crow, dunnock, woodpigeon, reed bunting, feral pigeon, magpie, blue tit, great tit, great-spotted woodpecker, chaffinch, robin, greenfinch, blackbird, willow warbler, greylag goose, jay, whitethroat, canada goose, lesser whitethroat, tufted duck, lapwing, mute swan, coot, oystercatcher, lesser black-backed gull, redshank, swallow, gadwall, shoveler, mallard, ringed plover, dunlin, heron, blackcap, long-tailed tit, great crested grebe, moorhen, snipe and black-headed gull.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Horley Scout Camp :: 13 April 2013

Another outing to see if I could catch the crossbills, but this time success! Common CrossbillAnother first. Quite a decent flock too, although as they came down onto the hay bales beneath the trees, a car came along and scared most of them away. With grey skies promising rain, it was difficult to get behind to get other than a silhouette shot, so no classic today. A recored shot at least.

As I had been dropped off by the wife I also had some time to walk over the back of the woods - a nice stroll. Sightings (16) included: robin, mistle thrush, wren, woodpigeon, long tailed tit, blue tit, chaffinch, great spotted woodpecker, carrion crow, crossbill, magpie, great tit, blackbird, dunnock, buzzard and kestrel.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Farmoor Reservoir :: 07 April 2013

Fixed the wheel on my mother-in-law's lawnmower and left Charlotte to cut the grass at her mum's house ... does that seem wrong?

Popped down to Farmoor Reservoir in an attempt to see the black redstart and/or the little gull. Meadow pipitAll to make up for not seeing the crossbills earlier in the day. Same again though, no new sightings to add to my records. However I did see (27): carrion crow, pied wagtail, little grebe, great crested grebe, mallard, tufted duck, black headed gull, cormorant, meadow pipit, coot, robin, gadwall, teal, shoveler, reed bunting, blackbird, starling, moorhen, redwing, goldfinch, canada goose, lapwing, chaffinch, blue tit, great tit, dunnock and woodpigeon.

Horley Scout Camp :: 07 April 2013

Popped out this morning to see if I could spot the six crossbills reported around the entrance to Horley Scout Camp, but was unsuccessful. TreecreeperI did see: wren, buzzard, carrion cow, magpie, jay, blue tit, great tit, willow tit, long-tailed tit, coal tit, woodpigeon, dunnock, robin, wren, mistle thrush, chaffinch and this beautiful treecreeper.

On the way back I also saw a buzzard and peregrine falcon over Duke's Meadow on the north side of Banbury. Not a bad morning, even though I didn't see what I had looked for.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Napton Reservoir :: 02 April 2013

Following lunch at The Moon and Sixpence, Hanwell we opted for a walk around Napton Reservoir. The sun was out and the car suggested a balmy 9° C outside. We had seen sparrowhawk in the garden at breakfast time, buzzard over the car and kestrels on wires and hovering above the road verge on the way there. Unfortunately no raptors at the reservoir.

Boots on and it felt much milder than it has been of late. Weed dancing great crested grebeAs we rounded the corner we felt the wind strength rise and the real-feel temperature drop. The main sight was of great crested grebes displaying - we were lucky enough to see both head shaking and the weed ceremony where the grebes can be seen virtually dancing on the water. That time of the year - Eilidh caught some of the action. Too cold to stay long though.

Today's sightings (21) included: carrion crow, goldfinch, blackbird, coot, mute swan, great crested grebe, moorhen, tufted duck, canada goose, mallard, woodpigeon, chaffinch, house sparrow, magpie, blue tit, great tit, robin, fieldfare, pied wagtail, common gull and black-headed gull.

Monday, 1 April 2013

Brandon Marsh :: 30 March 2013

As it was the school Easter break, we had Granny & Grandpa to stay. Water RailThey joined us for lunch and a walk round the reserve - not the full circle as it was a bitter wind, just down to the East Marsh and Carlton hides. We were rewarded with a fly-past from a water rail in front of the East Marsh hide and then a short view as the water rail made it's way along the edge of the reeds, unfortunately away from us.

On our way back to the Visitor Centre we came across a small group of photographers following a pair of goldcrests down the path. GoldcrestWe joined briefly and managed a decent record shot. Some of the others have posted their photos on the Unofficial Guide to Brandon Marsh site. Well worth a look.

Our sightings (39) included: carrion crow, kestrel, blue tit, great tit, pheasant, chaffinch, reed bunting, coal tit, blackbird, woodpigeon, black-headed gull, magpie, dunnock, feral pigeon, robin, water rail, teal, shoveler, coot, moorhen, wigeon, mute swan, great-crested grebe, cormorant, tufted duck, lesser-black backed gull, common gull, lapwing, shelduck, canada goose, greylag goose, snipe, mallard, gadwall, long tailed tit, goldcrest, pied wagtail, greenfinch and great spotted woodpecker.

Friday, 22 February 2013

Farmoor Reservoir :: 20 February 2013

The car was due for it's service and MOT so it was an early morning run down to Oxford; then back to work in a courtesy car before it was even 9 a.m. After a short day at work, it was back to Oxford for 4 p.m. and relative relief that the old girl didn't cost me any more than I had expected.

So now I was in Oxford and it was still light ... straight home? StonechatNah. I'd heard there were 4 long staying scaup on Farmoor F1, so I popped over. On arrival I was greeted by a male stonechat that lead me up the slope to the reservoir edge. Boy was it cold up there. It took 5 minutes to locate the scaup and add another tick on my list. Another 5 minutes look around and then off home - too cold to stay any longer!

Sightings noted (17) included: stonechat, black headed gull, coot, mallard, tufted duck, great crested grebe, scaup, goldeneye, carrion crow, magpie, pied wagtail, kestrel, woodpigeon, cormorant, starling, grey heron, and little grebe. 

Monday, 11 February 2013

Brandon Marsh :: 11 February 2013

Woke this morning to a couple of inches of snow.  Duly had a lay in and then pottered downstairs to make breakfast and a cuppa for her indoors.  Next door called to see why the curtains were still drawn and once we had explained we decided to drag the kids out of bed and off we went to Brandon Marshes.  I can't believe it was October that I was last there!

Redpoll and SiskinWe started with lunch as usual.  Due to the cold weather, the tearoom was eerily quiet; there was a rather daunting pool of water to navigate on Brandon Lane which may have deterred a few people.  Soup and baguettes consumed, off we set to squelch out way round the reserve - or so we thought.  We agreed that we would just take in East Marsh and Carlton Hides but the path to these was under water and impassible.  Off we trotted to Wright Hide instead.  On the way we came across a mixed flock which initially appeared to be finches.  They turned out to be Redpoll and Siskin. SnipeQuite a few birds were spotted out on East Marsh Pool, although most of the scrape was underwater. It was nice to see so many Snipe.

Even our shortened circular walk was revised as the path became very muddy as we came out of New Hare Covert.  A quick detour and back to the Visitor Centre for hot drinks and cakes - well I didn't like to say no, the girls were cold.

Our sightings today (38) included: feral pigeon, blackbird, magpie, chaffinch, blue tit, great tit, dunnock, reed bunting, coal tit, long tailed tit, bullfinch, greenfinch, goldfinch, nuthatch, house sparrow, robin, woodpigeon, carrion crow, goldcrest, mallard, coot, tufted duck, moorhen, siskin, redpoll, cormorant, canada goose, snipe, gadwall, teal, shelduck, black headed gull, shoveler, greylag goose, mute swan, pheasant, kestrel and great spotted woodpecker.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

In the garden, Banbury :: 09 February 2013

GoldcrestA late rise and "take it easy" morning.  So it was when making a late breakfast I saw what initially appeared to be a wren, hopping about in the tree on the edge of the garden.  Though, as it came to the end of a branch, it was apparent I was wrong and it was in fact a Goldcrest!; a first for our garden.  It must have spent a good 30mins moving around the tree but never quite slowing down or coming out into the open.  And then it was gone.

No sooner had I put the camera down, disappointed not to have a better photo, than a friend turned up not 5 feet from where the Goldcrest had been. Sparrowhawk Our Sparrowhawk came and sat on the wall having failed to snatch whichever bird had been bobbing along the garden edge.  This following morning the Sparrowhawk could again be seen on a nearby rooftop, sitting in the rain for at least 10mins.  Visitors beware!

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Duke's Meadow, Banbury :: 26 January 2013

The thaw was in full swing. Last night's snow didn't materialise, just a downpour of rain instead. Waxwing - disdainful in the shadeOn opening the curtains this morning I was greeted with sun, so off I went again to see if I could locate the waxwings from last weekend. Even before I left the car, I had them in sight. A quick few photos but then disaster - a couple of dog walkers rounded the corder and flushed the birds off into the distance.

Returning later in the day to see if I could pick them up again (failed), I would have been disappointed if I hadn't found an array of companions on my circular walk. They included: blue tit, great tit, chaffinch, goldfinch, starling, house sparrow, blackbird, woodpigeon, collard dove, fieldfare, rook, carrion crow, magpie, green woodpecker, treecreeper and bullfinch. Lets hope tomorrow's weather allows another search.

Duke's Meadow, Banbury :: 20 January 2013

I've been following @waxwingsUK for the last few months and came across a tweet indicating the location of waxwings in Duke's Meadow, Banbury. WaxwingI set off through the snow to see if I could break my duck; I havn't been able to locate waxwings despite turning up at locations where there had been recent sightings.  With Landranger grid reference in hand, I arrived in the correct location and set about a search - it didn't take more than 20-30 minutes to find them.  Numbers had increased from the previous day's two, to six.  Yes, at last, and what beauties they were!  Thanks go to Kirsty Brannan.

West Kilbride and Seamill :: 01 January 2013

Back in the north for the New Year festivities.  What weather though; not unlike the rest of the country, the days were dull, rained and were windy.  Seamill beach - New Years DaySo it wasn't until New Years Day itself that a walk on the beach was even a possibility. The weather changed, well partially, and the sun came out for a while - the wind didn't stop though and what was a cold day turned into a freezing one with wind chill.  The temperature outside decided that I would be on my own.

The sea was unusually high so the opportunity to see much in the way of birds was somewhat restricted.  DipperThe usual black headed gulls, gannets, common gulls, oystercatchers, curlew, pied wagtails, mallard ducks, robins, wrens, goldfinches and jackdaws were joined by grey wagtails and dippers.  A fine pair of dippers in fact and a great watch in the shelter of the Seamill Hydro's perimeter wall.  Hopefully we will see more on our next visit.