Saturday, 22 February 2014

RSPB Otmoor :: 22 February 2014

Dropped 'her indoors' off at her tennis match and skipped off to RSPB Otmoor. Conditions were wet underfoot but not as bad as I'd feared. Fields were underwater but the paths were all pretty passable. The car park was as full as I've ever seen it. Great spotted woodpeckerPeople didn't seem to be congregating anywhere around the reserve but when I got to the 1st screen there was a small group all focussed across the reeds to the hedgerow. Sure enough a couple of minutes later, up rose a hen harrier (female) which quartered the reedline along the hedgerow and then over. Short but sweet, unfortunately too distant for decent photos. Up rose flocks of lapwing and golden plover as the harrier progressed rightwards and out of site. The others drifted off but I waited a few minutes in hope of a repeat - none came.

I pushed on to the second screen where I was told that I'd just missed a brief show from the bittern - damn, if only. Never mind, next time.

Today's sightings (32) included: magpie, lapwing, kestrel, starling, mallard, chaffinch, great tit, blue tit, pheasant, great spotted woodpecker, marsh tit, canada goose, red kite, coot, wigeon, shoveler, buzzard, teal, little egret, hen harrier, tufted duck, great crested grebe, gadwall, golden plover, pochard, black headed gull, woodpigeon, blackbird, reed bunting, cormorant, robin and wren.

Balscote Quarry & Draycote Water :: 21 February 2014

Another cold windy day with a chance of rain, must be time for a walk. Off to BOS Alkerton/Balscote Quarry. No sign of the great grey shrike again. Did manage to find buzzard, woodpigeon, stock dove, redwing, carrion crow, rook, woodpigeon, meadow pipit, green woodpecker, pheasant, greenfinch, chaffinch, tree sparrow, goldfinch, dunnock, blue tit, coal tit, great tit, yellowhammer, robin, mallard, mute swan, blackbird, coot, teal, moorhen, kestrel, lapwing, snipe, magpie and pied wagtail (31 species).

After a spot of lunch at home, I decided to continue on to Draycote Water to see if I could see the great northern diver, or the long tailed duck. A bracing 3½ mile stroll. GoldeneyeGetting late in the afternoon I suppose the diver was out near the middle and I couldn't spot it. However I was just in time to catch the long tailed duck as it headed away from the shore. The sightings (24) around the reservoir included: coot, canada goose, moorhen, black headed gull, lesser black blacked gull, common gull, tufted duck, mallard, goosander, goldeneye, long tailed duck, pied wagtail, great crested grebe, little grebe, blue tit, blackbird, great tit, woodpigeon, heron, buzzard, cormorant, magpie, carrion crow and rook.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

BOS Balscote Quarry :: 2 February 2014

A couple of hours until Ireland play Scotland in the Rugby Six Nations. Just enough time for a quick trip to Balscote Quarry to see if the great grey shrike would play ball. No report of a sighting since January 25th though.

Boy, cold again. Entertained by a hunting kestrel and two green woodpeckers that seemed to be having fun holding onto the screen on the left side of the pool. We tried to stay warm but there was no respite in the blustery conditions. We popped up to the other end of the quarry to see if we could strike lucky. We had managed to forget suitable footwear for Charlotte and so I had to go it alone. As I got to the first slope out shot a bird from the bramble scrub, down to the debris (pallets, wire mesh etc etc) heaped in mounds. A black edge to the wing, a thick white prominent bar on the wing - there it was! But where was it ...? Disappeared into or behind the mound and gone - despite waiting for the bird to re-emerge, nothing. A better view please and maybe even a photo ... no chance. Another visit will be required, but at least we know it is still there.

Sightings (27) included: teal, mallard, coot, moorhen, great tit, blue tit, chaffinch, goldfinch, greenfinch, coal tit, dunnock, snipe, tree sparrow, kestrel, robin, lapwing, green woodpecker, carrion crow, woodpigeon, long tailed tit, blackbird, pheasant, buzzard, great grey shrike, rook, meadow pipit and wren.

Lost in the rugby. Perhaps we should have stayed longer.

Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust :: 1 February 2014

With 'her indoors' off playing in a tennis match (which they won), I decided to slope off and try out a couple of sites I hadn't visited before. The first was Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) Calvert Jubilee. Cold and windy, with a threat of a shower I soon found one of the two hides listed on the Trust's website. Quite a few coot on the water and cormorant on the floating rafts, but not much else. The pair of little grebes made the visit to the hide slightly more rewarding - great to watch them hard at work.

On the outside perimeter, a couple of red kite cruised over, presumably spreading out from the A41. Having read about woodcock being flushed from the ground around the hide, I ventured out around the squelchy ground to the scrub area between the lake and the road. A vocal green woodpecker was really the only species of note, although both redwing and fieldfare passed over. Time for a change.

Through Grendon Underwood to BBOWT Upper Ray Meadows. Access was slightly daunting due to the water filled pot-holes on the lane - perhaps a lowered car suspension wasn't the best option. Blue titThe wind seemed to have picked up and felt to have more of a bite. A mixed flock of fieldfare, redwing and starling in the field behind the car park had raised the interest of a peregrine falcon; beautiful in the late sunlight. The hides yielded little, just common garden birds. Worth returning later in the month when some of the visiting waders settle back in.

All in all it was a pleasant couple of hours and now I know the sites, I'll be back.

Sightings (22) included: coot, moorhen, cormorant, tufted duck, great crested grebe, little grebe, red kite, black headed gull, carrion crow, magpie, blackbird, rook, blue tit, great tit, fieldfare, green woodpecker, lesser black backed gull, woodpigeon, goldfinch, redwing, starling and peregrine falcon.