Saturday, 20 August 2016

Seamill and West Kilbride :: 16-18 August 2016

I've not been out much lately so took the opportunity to take a few pre-breakfast was to catch up on Stonechatcoastal species while staying at the Waterside Inn and Hotel in Seamill.

Beautiful conditions and accommodation, just perfect for our needs. Two mornings along the coastal walk brought a surprising sedge warbler which I'd never noted here before; also common sandpiper which is new for me on this stretch. Also noted whimbrel which had been difficult to spot on previous occasions.

On the third morning I tried for sandwich tern in Ardrossan at the Black guillemotInverclyde Marina where I had seen them before. No luck, but did find shag and black guillemot. Later on the day I had the opportunity to have a relaxing walk along the beach at Portencross and picked up sandwich tern and while doing so also noted wheatear.

Species noted (46) included: herring gull, rook, starling, carrion crow, jackdaw, mallard, kittiwake, oystercatcher, curlew, lesser black-backed gull, great black-backed gull, common gull, eider, black-headed gull, redshank, woodpigeon, linnet, grey heron, meadow pipit, goldfinch, swallow, blackbird, magpie, song thrush, dipper, mute swan, goosander, cormorant, pied wagtail, grey wagtail, common sandpiper, gannet, sandmartin, house sparrow, whimbrel, black-tailed godwit, buzzard, ringed plover, stonechat, dunnock, sedge warbler, housemartin, black guillemot, sandwich tern, wheatear and shag.

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

RSPB Otmoor :: 01 June 2016

The weather forecast looked to be poor for June so we didn't rush out and instead dropped into the Red kiteAbingdon Arms at the top of Otmoor Lane for lunch. The three of us enjoyed a really nice lunch of soup, sandwich and a Ploughmans.

Onto the reserve and straight away we could see swift and house martin feeding above, even in the light drizzle. Soon a red kite floated by, soon to be mobbed by lapwing as they sough to move it on. As we approached the feeders a jay scarpered and a pair of woodpeckers exited stage left into the trees; soon they we gone right down the hedgerow.

At least half a dozen snipe we drumming over as Turtle dovewe made it down the carpark field and towards Big Otmoor.

No sign of the turtle doves at the gate or the trees beyond. I was disappointed. Still a lot of activity in the reeds on the righthand of the path, with quite a few reed warbler and a few sedge. As we turned the corner for the Wetland Hide we saw a turtle dove on the ground to the right of the hide, accompanied by a couple of linnets. From the hide we saw a large mixed flock of carrion crows, rooks and jackdaws feeding along the track; whether they were scaring of the usual flock of linnets, yellowhammer and reed bunting I am not sure but they were virtually absent. Eilidh spotted a rather acrobatic sedge from the window and we watched as it contorted itself catching flies.

Between the first and second hide we began hearing a cuckoo. Turtle doveBy the time we got to the second hide we would hear it ahead in the conservation area. I had a play at playing cuckoo from my phone but although it appeared to get some response we never managed to set our eyes on it.

The highlight on the way back was again the turtle dove, back on the track beside the Wetlands hide. It took off and landed on a tree some distance down the path along Big Otmoor. We were fortunate to find it again on our way back. Further sightings of great spotted woodpecker and jays at the feeders as we finished our visit.

Species sighted (41) included: swift, wren, lapwing, Great spotted woodpeckerred kite, snipe, greenfinch, reed bunting, jay, goldfinch, chaffinch, pheasant, woodpigeon, great spotted woodpecker, bullfinch, coot, carrion crow, black-headed gull, housemartin, reed warbler, robin, greylag goose, canada goose, Ross's goose, mute swan, kestrel, turtle dove, little egret, redshank, rook, grey heron, sedge warbler, linnet, jackdaw, tufted duck, shoveler, mallard, cormorant, whitethroat, blue tit, common tern and blackbird.

Saturday, 28 May 2016

Wildlife Trust Summer Leys :: 28 May 2016

My second visit to @wildlifebcn #SummerLeys and this time I was accompanied by Eilidh. Started off early and got there around 8.40am. The car park was much quieter than last time so probably there would be no special birds viewable from the Pioneer Hide - this proved to be the case. Only thing of note for me was a lone pochard, picked out by Eilidh and a little ringed plover.

We progressed onto the path around the site and soon came across garden warbler not far from where I saw it last time. Red-legged partridgeIn the field to the right was a flock of mute swans but passing through the flock were two red-legged partridge - we took photos of ladybird and other insects as we waiting on the partridges progress across the field and eventually they got close enough for a shot.

At the feeders we were spoiled by around five pairs of bullfinches, two squirrels, marsh tit, chaffinch, blue coal and great tits. As we got through the first Reed warblergate we were lucky enough to hear and then spot some obliging reed warblers. As we got onto the high path beyond the second gate we found sedge warblers and then the nesting sand martins. At one point a goldfinch was hanging on the edge of one of the holes in the wall; who knows what it was doing.

We turned for home and didn't encounter anything new until we were almost back to the car - a willow warbler singing in a high tree dragged us back a few tens of metres to see what was singing. The bird looked a little fluffy and perhaps could have been a juvenile?

Only good experiences here so far. One to keep on my list.Willow warbler

Sightings today (44) included: swift, woodpigeon, black-headed gull, carrion crow, canada goose, greylag goose, reed bunting, mute swan, cormorant, tufted duck, mallard, common tern, gadwall, shelduck, jackdaw, coot, great-crested grebe, lapwing, magpie, pochard, lesser black-backed gull, little ringed-plover, great tit, robin, long-tailed tit, chaffinch, dunnock, garden warbler, red-legged partridge, green woodpecker, buzzard, blue tit, wren, coal tit, greenfinch, marsh tit, bullfinch, goldfinch, blackbird, reed warbler, sedge warbler, sand martin, starling and willow warbler.

Sunday, 15 May 2016

RSPB Otmoor :: 14 May 2016

Dropped into RSPB Otmoor early morning for my annual pilgrimage to see the turtle dove. Sedge WarblerAs I got to the car park I could hear a turtle dove "purring" on the other side of the hedge. Not bothering with walking boots or a coat I picked out binoculars and my camera and shot off to find it. A couple of hundred metres and I found it high in a tree with the sky and light behind, not conducive to good photographs. I too some all the same. I returned to the car, suited up and headed down the track. At the first gate I met one of my work colleagues with his wife, coming the other way - they had been on the organised dawn chorus walk which had started at 5.00a.m. Bit early for me after the long week I'd had.

Heard both the turtle dove and a cuckoo calling as I continued along the path but didn't set eyes on either. WrenDid start to see sedge and reed warbler (and hear many more) in the reeds running either side of the path. As I got near to the turn for the wetlands hide I had garden warbler to my side and snipe plus oystercatcher over. A skylark ascended, as they do, and hoped for what seemed a couple of minutes before dropping back to the field beyond the trees. Apparently the greenshank had moved on and the cuckoos had been giving a show in the sun, predictably before I got there at 8.30a.m. A few redshank were visible from the gate. Linnet, reed bunting and yellowhammers were still hanging round the wetlands hide.

Common tern appeared at several points as did marsh harrier and red kite, the raptors being mobbed by lapwing. The lapwings were also having a go at any crows if they came near. Stopped to talk to a chap who tried to point out the location of the barnacle goose but it appeared to have dropped from view, although Ross's geese were visible but very distant.

At the first screen a single male pochard was diving front left and two common terns were balancing on various poles swooping and perhaps passing food? At the second hide there was not much to report but as I sat a cuckoo flew straight over the hide (no call) and off over the conservation area - a female up to no good? - so quick that I only had time to pick up the camera but couldn't get a shot off.

On the way back I stopped looking out over Otmoor and talked with Derek Latham. He had his big lens on (Sigma 300-800mm) and was waiting for the hobby. Turtle DoveEventually the could be seen across Big Otmoor and slowly they got closer - we waited patiently but eventually they disappeared again and I left to head home.

As I neared the turn for the feeders I could see a couple listening to the turtle dove, again it was behind the tree line. They eventually bored of waiting and As no one was around I had a try at playing "turtle dove call"; it certainly had an effect and the bird took off, circles and landed in-view a couple of trees along. A better view for photos.

As I turned to the carp ark I heard chiffchaff again but they were in the dense bushes. ChiffchaffBuoyed by the success of my playing birdsong I had a go with chiffchaff. Wow ... They certainly took notice and started flying across my head, back and forth across the path. I readied my camera, played again and got quite a nice shot.

A very pleasant visit.

Sightings (48) included: turtle dove, chiffchaff, common whitethroat, sedge warbler, goldfinch, mute swan, skylark, mallard, red kite, lapwing, chaffinch, swift, greylag goose, rook, carrion crow, blackbird, reed bunting, snipe, oystercatcher, canada goose, cormorant, reed warbler, redshank, garden warbler, robin, little egret, yellowhammer, linnet, coot, jackdaw, blue tit, house martins, woodpigeon, shoveler, ross's goose, wren, tufted duck, common term, swallow, dunnock, pochard, buzzard, cuckoo, marsh harrier, gadwall, hobby, pheasant and long-tailed tit.

Saturday, 14 May 2016

Grimsbury Reservoir :: 13 May 2016

I dropped into the Reservoir to see the arctic tern reported by @987jonty earlier in the day. GoldfinchFortunately for me the tern had stayed, and it appeared to be the same for @987jonty! Picked up both lesser and common whitethroat, blackbird, reed bunting, song thrush, arctic tern, great-crested grebe, lesser black-backed gull, mallard, coot, goldfinch greenfinch, carrion crow, rook and grey heron.

I continued onto the Borrow Pit to see if the channel wagtail was showing but no sign. The grasshopper warbler heard earlier in the day was also silent. A good try. Unfortunately as light levels were low, shots of the tern were pretty poor.

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Draycote Water & Grimsbury Reservoir :: 11 May 2016

A beautiful Thanksgiving Service for my friend Marion today. Afterwards I decided not to try and get back to work before the office closed and instead made a late afternoon visit to Draycote Water. Caught up with the white-winged black tern, although distant, but had closer views of up to 29 black tern, along with artic and common terns. Also had four dunlin and two oystercatchers over. On the way back to the car I was treated to views of skylark, goldfinch, yellow wagtail, linnet and a mass of hirundines, predominantly swifts.

Sanderling The traffic was busy around the Tescos roundabout when I got back to Banbury so I decided to detour to Grimsbury Reservoir. This turned out to be a good idea as sightings included sanderling, common sandpiper, greenfinch, goldfinch, grey wagtail, whitethroat, lesser whitethroat, blackcap and bullfinch. Also met up with @987jonty and @grimsbury_birds who had spotted a spotted flycatcher but it had gone into hiding since I arrived.

Saturday, 7 May 2016

Wildlife Trust Summer Leys :: 07 May 2016

This was my first visit to the Wildlife Trust's Summer Leys Nature Reserve. SpoonbillFound it easily after an early start. I was surprised by the number of cars already in the car park but on talking to a guy unpacking from his car, four spoonbills has been reported earlier in the morning. Fortunately I got to see these from the main/closest hide before they took off at around 8.30am. I stayed in the hide for a good while and picked up three grey plover (one male summer plumage), wood sandpiper, ruff (one male summer plumage), redshank and a ringed plover. @987jonty had obviously picked up the reported spoonbill sighting as he also appeared apparently seeing the spoonbills leave from the carpark.

Onto the reserve and again many warblers in attendance - Blackcaplots of blackcap and garden warblers but also numbers of sedge. At one point the path was diverted to protect an area where sand martins are nesting - they were hunting overhead around this area.

A good visit which takes the year total to 121.

Today's sightings (46) included: grey plover, ruff, wood sandpiper, black-headed gull, common tern, mute swan, spoonbill, redshank, tufted duck, shelduck, coot, greylag goose, mallard, oystercatcher, great-crested grebe, teal, grey heron, moorhen, shoveler, cormorant, gadwall, carrion crow, woodpigeon, rook, ringed plover, reed bunting, jackdaw, garden warbler, chaffinch, robin, chiffchaff, magpie, bullfinch, wren, blackbird, goldfinch, great tit, blackcap, greenfinch, blue tit, long-tailed tit, sedge warbler, sand martin, swift, dunnock and buzzard.

Wood sandpiperGrey plover

Sunday, 1 May 2016

RSPB Otmoor :: 30 April 2016

After my successful trip to BOS Balscote Quarry I headed off to RSPB Otmoor. Sedge WarblerI was slightly worried that I should be making a trip somewhere else as I might just see the same as when there a few weeks earlier. I needn't have worried. As I arrived I had 9 buzzards climbing in the thermals, with a red kite mischievously mobbing each of them in turn.

Picked up my first lesser whitethroat there this year along the path to the feeder, not much had changed. But a soon as I stepped onto the main path into the RSPB site there was a noticeable increase in warbler activity. Soon spotted reed warbler and then sedge; constantly showing and calling here and all the way round to the second screen. The sun was out and so were the grass snakes.

Grasshopper WarblerJoined a couple of guys who were waiting for a grasshopper warbler to show; a great tick for me as I never seem to be able to find them. Showed regularly through the afternoon.

There were so many sedge warbler on view that you had to concentrate to make sure you didn't overlook a calling warbler, such as the many whitethroat, lesser whitethroat, willow warbler and chiffchaff. Appears I missed a garden warbler from yesterday's reports.

Grass snakeThe noise coming from the conservation area beyond the second screen was just deafening. I was lucky enough to catch sight of another life tick as it trailed behind a flock of canada geese, landing out of view.

I needn't have worried, a great day out and perhaps I can get to Summer Leys sometime soon.

Species noted (36): chiffchaff, blue tit, rook, great tit, mallard, coot, lapwing, whitethroat, canada goose, reed bunting, wren, goldfinch, chaffinch, pheasant, coot, reed warbler, grasshopper warbler, sedge warbler, willow warbler, tufted duck, carrion crow, greylag goose, mute swan, mallard, blackcap, great-crested grebe, common tern, buzzard, red kite, #####, cormorant, magpie, grey heron, marsh harrier, shoveler and goldfinch.

BOS Balscote Quarry :: 30 April 2016

Got up to try out a site a bit out of my normal range; Summer Leys, Curlew Sandpiperadvertised as an old gravel pit transformed into a haven for breeding and wading birds (@987jonty posted from there recently).

However at 7.25am I got a message from @grimsbury_birds as I tucked into my breakfast - the curlew sandpiper was at Balscote Quarry again. A quick shower and dashed to see it before it moved off-site again. Thankfully joined a growing number to see this, a pair of little ringed plovers and a dunlin. Also enjoyed lesser whitethroat, whitethroat and a lesser redpoll, the latter visiting the niger feeder.

Species noted (22): curlew sandpiper, dunlin, little ringed plover, mallard, pied wagtail, canada goose, carrion crow, rook, blackbird, chaffinch, linnet, cormorant, lesser whitethroat, yellowhammer, greenfinch, lesser redpoll, buzzard, blue tit, robin, magpie, great tit and whitethroat.

Friday, 29 April 2016

Draycote Water :: 29 April 2016

Left work early to make a quick circuit of Draycote Water. It was a bit chilly Wheatearwith a stiff breeze but on arrival was quite sunny; at various times the rain threatened but didn't come to anything.

An amazing number of swifts have arrived and have joined the swallows and housemartins to feast on the flies along the banks of the reservoir. At Toft Bay I was remembering the last time I saw a treecreeper on the site, only for one to drop into view.

Approaching the Valve Tower two common sandpipers flew off towards Biggin Bay. Shortly after I had whinchat, wheatear and more sightings of common sandpipers. Spotted the tree sparrows in their usual place by the feeding tables and finally a green woodpecker to round off the visit.

A great way to finish the working week. Treecreeper

Sightings today (47) included: house martin, mallard, canada goose, great-crested grebe, swift, pied wagtail, yellow wagtail, carrion crow, coot, mute swan, linnet, white wagtail, blue tit, swallow, goldfinch, grey wagtail, black-headed gull, common gull, lesser black-backed gull, tufted duck, dunnock, kestrel, jackdaw, rook, teal, woodpigeon, blackcap, bullfinch, magpie, blackbird, moorhen, greenfinch, wren, chaffinch, long-tailed tit, treecreeper, robin, great tit, starling, chiffchaff, buzzard, common sandpiper, greylag goose, wheatear, tree sparrow, pheasant and green woodpecker. 

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Borrow Pit :: 26 April 2016

Got a message from @grimsbury_birds that @987jonty had found a male garganey at the 'Borrow Pit'. Since Banbury flooded in 1998, the Environment Agency has been working on a comprehensive scheme to protect the town from flooding. Male garganeyThe construction of the flood alleviation bunds will reduce the risk of river flooding to a 1 in 200 year standard. As part of the flood alleviation scheme a large borrow pit was constructed. This is now filled with water and is referred to as the 'Borrow Pit pool'. There are plans being developed to turn this area into a country park to maintain and enhance this important flood plain habitat. This was the first time I'd visited so took a moment to get my bearings. Light was starting to fade and there was the threat of more snow / hail / rain in chilly temperatures. Met @Vanellus26 who had also just arrived - we meet at last. The male garganey had stayed and we had good but distant views. Another year tick.

Monday, 18 April 2016

WkWT Brandon Marsh :: 17 April 2016

Couldn't sleep but when I got up the sun was shining - you couldn't have two more different days, yesterday's snow to today's bright sunny morning. A quick breakfast, shower and off to WkWT Brandon Marsh.

Quite wet through New Hare Covert and not much unusual activity but lots of calling from chiffchaff and willow warbler. Black-tailed godwitGot to the edge of the golf course to see a woman with binoculars and scope coming back onto the path - at the same time a cuckoo was calling from across the golf course. I stopped to talk with the woman who explained she had seen the cuckoo drop down and thought she could get a bit closer - when the golf balls started dropping around her she decided that even a cuckoo wasn't enough to chance getting stuck by a golf ball.

Picked up the summer plumage black-tailed godwit and a first winter mediterranean gull from the Wright Hide. Lots of hirundines across the water, the sand martins making good use of the nesting walls. Lots of common gulls, many more than I had seen together before. CuckooOnto East Marsh hide and could now see common sandpiper and redshank. By the time I got to Carlton Hide I heard that the cuckoo was nearby. By the time I reached the Ted Jury Hide I was lucky enough to add water rail and eventually the calling cuckoo. Back to the Visitors Centre and a spot of lunch ... 105 for the year.

Sightings (47) were: robin, blackbird, woodpigeon, magpie, carrion crow, mallard, canada goose, blue tit, kestrel, collared dove, coot, mute swan, blackcap, buzzard, house martin, greylag goose, shoveler, lapwing, wren, lesser black-backed gull, common gull, mediterranean gull, great-crested grebe, tufted duck, sand martin, grey heron, oystercatcher, yellow-legged gull, herring gull, chaffinch, gadwall, teal, moorhen, redshank, common sandpiper, pied wagtail, little grebe, chiffchaff, willow warbler, black-headed gull, stock dove, water rail, cuckoo, great tit, feral pigeon, reed bunting and dunnock.

RSPB Otmoor :: 16 April 2016

When we woke the snow was falling and I decided not to rush out. Eventually we had lunch got our things and were on the road to RSPB Otmoor by 2.00pm. There was a lot of water arounfd the Otmoor Lane and in the carpark and the car was nicely coated in mud - a job for tomorrow.

Once onto the reserve there were good movements of blackcap, tits, goldfinch, chiffchaff and reed bunting. Many of the same suspects could be seen on the feeders. Reed buntingJust past the feeders we could see a female marsh harrier quartering the reeds in the far distance. A skylark launched to the right, catching my attention as I watched the harrier. Lots of reed bunting, linnet, goldfinch and yellowhammer were still frequenting the path beyond the gate at the hide, joined by a pair of pheasant. Red kite, buzzard and marsh harrier were alo seen from here. Little grebe was added at the second screen and eventually, after hearing them along the path, sedge warbler was seen when almost back to the first screen. Up to 101 for the year!

Passed a couple of guys heading into the reserve as we left. Presumably it was them that then reported short-eared owl and barn owl on the OXON Birding blog later in the day. If only we'd had more time and the showers threatening hadn't pushed us along so fast. No cuckoos calling.

Sightings (36) today: goldfinch, robin, blackcap, chiffchaff, lapwing, chaffinch, mallard, great tit, pheasant, greylag goose, canada goose, blue tit, woodpigeon, reed bunting, long-tailed tit, dunnock, magpie, carrion crow, tufted duck, black-headed gull, grey heron, marsh harrier, skylark, teal, yellowhammer, linnet, moorhen, swallow, shoveler, blackbird, red kite, buzzard, cormorant, little grebe, little egret and sedge warbler.

Friday, 15 April 2016

Grimsbury Reservoir :: 15 April 2016

A tweet from @grimsbury_birds saying that dunlin and wheatear at Grimsbury were the reward for being out in the rain with @987jonty this morning. As the rain had stopped I thought I would drop in on the way home from work. Found both and also added house martin. Activity was high although it felt cold in the damp air.

Only disappointment was that @987jonty, whom I met in the car park as I left, reported he had later spotted redstart too though it soon vanished as they do unfortunately. Should have stayed longer and joined him!

Sightings (30) were: buzzard, blackbird, swallow, robin, woodpigeon, magpie, cormorant, carrion crow, rook, pied wagtail, white wagtail, yellow wagtail, goldfinch, greenfinch, blackcap, willow warbler, blue tit, great tit, reed bunting, dunlin, wheatear, house martin, dunnock, sand martin, green woodpecker, great-crested grebe, mallard, lesser black-backed gull, wren and bullfinch.

Monday, 11 April 2016

Grimsbury Reservoir :: 11 April 2016

I didn't expect to be back again so soon. Another Twitter update from @grimsbury_birds, this time alerting to the presence of 2 x little gull, 2 x common tern, a little ringed plover and a common sandpiper. Even less time free than yesterday but at least it was a lunchtime. Met with @987jonty who had been the source of the report. Unfortunately the little gulls had already moved on, perhaps to join the others at Draycote Water, but added common tern and little ringed plover before I had to leave too. Still no luck with the redstart.

Grimsbury Reservoir :: 10 April 2016

A Twitter update from @grimsbury_birds alerted me that the recent redstart had been spotted again. I had a lot on and so could only afford a very short visit, enough for a single circuit. The redstart was spotted on the western edge of the reservoir but not to be seen when I passes back and forth - the stream of dog walkers wasn't likely to help.

Talking to others it appeared that a sedge warbler was present on the eastern side. Grey wagtailAgain not visible on my pass but did add willow warbler and blackcap to the year list. I must remember to drop a pair of binoculars and some boots into the car and try to visit a lunchtimes when the site is quieter.

Sightings (25): blackbird, blackcap, black-headed gull, blue tit, buzzard, carrion crow, chaffinch, goldcrest, goldfinch, great tit, great-crested grebe, grey wagtail, jackdaw, long-tailed tit, magpie, mallard, pied wagtail, reed bunting, robin, rook, starling, swallow, willow warbler, white wagtail and wren.

Sunday, 10 April 2016

Draycote Water :: 09 April 2016

Sunday was to be the better day of the weekend but I was already going to be taking my daughter back to University after the Easter break. It was already raining by the time I got to the car park. Fortunately this was the heaviest shower of the circuit and didn't detract much from the visit. There was a distinct rise in the fly population along the banks which appeared to have had a significant affect on the number of fisherman and the success they seemed to be having.

Mixed flocks of yellow and pied wagtail with meadow pipit welcomed me on Farnborough Bank. Yellow wagtailThe great northern diver was fishing far offshore after turning past Farnborough Spit. Two Polish families occupied the hide for what appeared to be a party but was probably only a picnic with their children but it was enough to decide not to stay. Coming around Toft Bay I added chaffinch, bullfinch and then chiffchaff. Either the chiffchaff was a stalker or their were many along to Biggin Bay.

Unfortunately the Slavonian grebe I was looking for didn't make an appearance but it may have been mobile given the high volume of sailboat activity on top of the fishing activity. Added yellow wagtail if nothing else and had a pleasant walk. I'll wait with interest to see if the Slavonian grebe is spotted again.

Today’s sightings (37): mallard, coot, mute swan, yellow wagtail, pied wagtail, goldfinch, black-headed gull, magpie, meadow pipit, common gull, great crested grebe, cormorant, woodpigeon, blackbird, canada goose, swallow, great northern diver, pheasant, tufted duck, long-tailed tit, dunnock, carrion crow, chiffchaff, moorhen, robin, chaffinch, bullfinch, reed bunting, greylag goose, blue tit, wren, great tit, rook, jackdaw, gadwall, tree sparrow and goldeneye.

Monday, 4 April 2016

Farmoor Reservoir :: 03 April 2016

Back from holiday and I needed to drop into Eynsham as I had stupidly forgotten to return some thermocouples from a recent trip to the USA. Reports of red-necked grebe, great northern divers, sandwich tern, rock pipit on the causeway and the presence of a few swallows drew me down to the reservoir.

Flies are starting to swarm again and this has had a Red-necked grebenoticeable effect on the number of fisherman on the banks. F2 was heavy with sailing boats and also some fisherman in boats so after the causeway, where I found the red necked grebe, I went down to Shrike Meadow. Nothing significant seen here but did spot my first sandmartin of the year. Round F1, dropping into Pinkhill Reserve hide, there was still not much of note.

An enjoyable walk and plenty to see. Unfortunately not enough time to manage F2.

Looking at reports I seem to have missed an osprey c18:10-19:04 fishing over F2 which then flew off N/W. I suppose it wasn't going to drop in with the number of boats I encountered and by then I was tucking into a Sunday roast. Damn in any case.

Today's species (31) included: starling, cormorant, great crested grebe, mallard, little grebe, pied wagtail, black headed gull, red necked grebe, tufted duck, kestrel, sandmartin, magpie, greylag goose, carrion crow, coot, long tailed tit, blue tit, chiffchaff, robin, reed bunting, great tit, blackbird, mute swan, chaffinch, woodpigeon, song thrush, moorhen, goldfinch, collared dove, grey heron and rook.

Sunday, 21 February 2016

RSPB Otmoor :: 20 February 2016

A friend visited RSPB Otmoor this week and returned having seen stonechat, linnet, golden plover and marsh harrier. YellowhammerSpurred on to increase my year list I decided to head down. The weather forecast wasn't favourable but would probably affect my wife's tennis match in Cholsey, more than my stroll round the reserve.

It was raining when I arrived and so began the visit spotting from the car. A red kite overhead and a few LBJs in the nearby bushes and trees. The rain appeared to subside and so I headed off down the track from the car park. Lapwing and coot from the path but with binoculars I couldn't see any of the golden plover. A kestrel on my left was hunting but in what appeared to be flooded edges of the fields.

Round to the hide and here found a couple of chaps enjoying visits from a fixed flock on linnet, yellowhammer, reed bunting, goldfinch and chaffinch. Female Marsh HarrierSetting up my scope I could then pick out hundreds of golden plover in amongst the lapwing. Red kite again out towards the mast in the distance. The wind was really howling and threw rain onto one side of the hide.

From here onto the first screen. Before I got there I could see a pair of marsh harriers quartering the reed bed ahead, but at quite some distance. A couple of record shots taken but only of the female which got close enough. One of the chaps from earlier joined me and spotted a bittern across the top of the reeds someway in front. No sooner than I spotted it, it dropped down and out of sight. Almost immediately a bird began hovering almost above where the bittern had dropped, at first thought to be a sparrowhawk but eventually showed as a peregrine.

The starlings were starting to collect for the evenings murmeration but it was time for me to leave. As I picked my way from the feeders down the path a family came towards me from the car park. I wish I'd had my camera ready as they were quite unaware of a red kite dancing not 25 feet above them - it would have made quite a picture.

Species noted today (37) were: red kite, pheasant, dunnock, blue tit, blackbird, carrion crow, robin, lapwing, coot, canada goose, greenfinch, chaffinch, reed bunting, great tit, marsh tit, mallard, moorhen, grey heron, wigeon, golden plover, linnet, greylag goose, woodpigeon, teal, yellowhammer, magpie, starling, stock dove, kestrel, shoveler, marsh harrier, tufted duck, lesser black backed gull, bittern, peregrine falcon, great crested grebe and mute swan. 86 for the year.

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

RSPB Arne :: 15 February 2016

Visiting my eldest in Bournemouth during the school half term - as good an excuse as I need. NuthatchGreat few days break and also made it possible to make another visit to RSPB Arne. Started again with lunch at Mortons House, a 16th century Grade 2 Elizabethan manor house hotel and restaurant in the heart of historic Corfe Castle. The hotel is said to have been previously linked by underground tunnels to Corfe Castle. . Over the garden wall the steam train to Swanage passed by - must try and get down to the station at the right time to see the approach from a better angle.Many more people at the reserve than last October but the weather was significantly better.

Decided to try the green route again and picked up a few species in the wood prior to our encounter with the ska deer. Soon after this a pair of jay passed by - just managed a record shot. Once we got to the beach we could see a diving duck offshore - eventually spotted more and identified as red-breasted merganser, a year tick. Continued round to the hide and picked up curlew, spoonbill and a great black backed gull over. Spun back on the red route and found a pair of missile thrush in a large field with jackdaw and carrion crow.

Red breasted merganserWhen we reached the reserve visitor centre we also added nuthatch and great spotted woodpecker. Unfortunately didn't have time to make loop round the Coombe Heath trail so missed avocet and dartford warbler.

Sightings (34) included: robin, blue tit, great tit, chaffinch, coal tit, siskin, house sparrow, greenfinch, goldfinch, blackbird, woodpigeon, carrion crow, wren, jay, goldcrest, oystercatcher, redshank, great crested grebe, red-breasted merganser, wigeon, shelduck, teal, spoonbill, mallard, curlew, herring gull, black headed gull, lesser black backed gull, great black backed gull, magpie, jackdaw, mistle thrush, nuthatch and great spotted woodpecker.

Sunday, 31 January 2016

Draycote Water and Brandon Marsh :: 30 January 2016

An early start and off to Draycote Water. A chill in the air but still overcast from rain in the night. 200m into an anti-clockwise circuit there he was, that elusive drake smew popped up from a dive. Clearly not hiding from me anymore. With each step the sun started to burn through and as the hide was reached the temperature felt noticeable warmer. ScaupDown the boardwalk a small bird dropped into the tree next to me, just where I had spotted chiffchaff on my last visit; it turned out to be a goldcrest. Song thrushes again in the hedgerows and at least four flocks of long-tailed tits. Four bullfinches were feeding in the tops of the trees as I came back from the boardwalk onto the main path. Between Toft Bay and Biggin Bay the scaup was hanging with a mixed group of goldeneye and tufted duck. Whether it was mobile or further out I failed to note the great northern diver.

Off to Brandon Marsh and lunch. The visitor centre was heaving with cyclists, their cycles adorning every available spot around the parking stands. Firsts for the year were two nuthatches, one on the nut feeders but another visiting a seed feeder not a foot from the window. Onto the reserve and quiet down through New Hare Covert and round Swallow Pool. Outside the Wright Hide I found a chap watching a goldcrest low in the undergrowth, then some siskins feeding high in the trees. PochardGood numbers of pochard were diving outside the hide. Reasonably quiet in the East Marsh hide and joined by a number of other groups. Talked about the recent bittern sightings in the channel to the left of the hide and spent most of the time watching here. Eventually rewarded but by water rail at the front edge moving left to right. Waited and eventually saw the return passage. Onto Carlton hide and nothing on the reed bed. Eventually a cormorant came to fish and a little grebe worked it's way down the right hand edge. A kingfisher fly past seemed to be all we would get but then I spotted a bittern come low across the reeds and drop in directly ahead. Waited around ten minutes with a hopeful few. Would you believe it ... up it went and everyone happy. Time for home.

Species count for Draycote Water (44): Siskinjackdaw, mallard, coot, tufted duck, little grebe, cormorant, carrion crow, great crested grebe, black-headed gull, moorhen, smew, goldeneye, pied wagtail, meadow pipit, canada goose, blackbird, blue tit, green woodpecker, long-tailed tit, dunnock, robin, teal, gadwall, woodpigeon, magpie, wren, bullfinch, jackdaw, great tit, goldcrest, song thrush, greylag goose, goldfinch, scaup, chaffinch, wigeon, buzzard, goosander, lapwing, grey heron, tree sparrow, rook, lesser black-backed gull and fieldfare.

Species count for Brandon Marsh (43): magpie, reed bunting, blue tit, great tit, nuthatch, robin, chaffinch, dunnock, greenfinch, wren, blackbird, canada goose, woodpigeon, great crested grebe, carrion crow, cormorant, mute swan, shoveler, coot, gadwall, black-headed gull, goldcrest, siskin, moorhen, lapwing, common gull, lesser black backed gull, goosander, pochard, tufted duck, grey heron, long tailed tit, goldeneye, shelduck, oystercatcher, teal, herring gull, water rail, greylag goose, kingfisher, little grebe and bittern.

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Draycote Water :: 16 January 2016

Having failed seeing the drake smew at Draycote Water on two occasions, both in wet and windy weather, Draycote WaterI set off early to see if my luck would change. Below freezing as I set out with car windows needing scraped.

Quiet on the roads and arrived just before sun up. Two guys offered me their ticket as they were abandoning their cycle round the reservoir as a bad idea, given the temperature at that time. Watched the sun rise from the side of the reservoir then set off for a circuit. No sign of the smew but pleased to see the hide was open again after vandalism close it during the festive season. The birds seemed to be appreciating the cold but still and bright conditions with chiffchaff and goldcrest showing very close but in woods.

After a fruitful circuit I still had no smew on my list so I decided to make another journey down to the hide. Drake smewMet a couple surveying the bay with a scope and they picked up both the smew, a redhead and the scaup - it's good to talk! Walked round the bay to the other bank for better photos but still distant. While watching for the smew was lucky enough to be given a fly past by a kingfisher.

A most enjoyable morning.

Today's species (50) included: coot, little grebe, mallard, goldeneye, carrion crow, tufted duck, great crested grebe, greylag goose, cormorant, black headed gull, meadow pipit, great northern diver, lesser black backed gull, wren, woodpigeon, moorhen, teal, pied wagtail, robin, blue tit, blackbird, great tit, dunnock, chiffchaff, bullfinch, song thrush, goldcrest, great spotted woodpecker, long tailed tit, green woodpecker, starling, jackdaw, canada goose, pochard, fieldfare, redwing, common gull, rook, grey heron, goosander, chaffinch, reed bunting, tree sparrow, magpie, lapwing, gadwall, smew, feral pigeon, scaup and kingfisher.

Sunday, 3 January 2016

Draycote Water :: 02 January 2016

Another attempt to bag the drake smew reportably present at Draycote Water. Numerous photos on twitter, with the bird "showing well", have frustrated me since my last attempt. On that occasion the weather was inclement and this visit was to be no different, wind and temperature a bit more bearable though. I was also assisted by "her indoors" so a pleasant afternoon come what may.

Unfortunately, despite a full circuit, I was again unable to tag the bird. Perhaps I should go on a nice day?

Species spotted today (31) included: black-headed gull, robin, blackbird, coot, mallard, little grebe, great crested grebe, cormorant, long-tailed tit, tufted duck, pochard, goldeneye, carrion crow, moorhen, lesser black-backed gull, shoveler, rook, goosander, grey heron, canada goose, teal, scaup, pied wagtail, wigeon, chaffinch, blue tit, great tit, magpie, great northern diver, woodpigeon and shag. At least the year list is up and running.