Friday, 29 December 2017

Draycote Water :: 28 December 2017

Yesterday in Banbury it snowed and, in the main, mostly melted. We arose to find a heavy frost but decided to continue with our plan to visit Draycote Water and see if we could see the hawfinch there. As we headed north there was a noticeable increase in snow on the fields and roadside. Between Southam and Dunchurch the road became quite treacherous and cars were slowing down to deal with the icy conditions - you could feel the car twitch on cornering. The Country Park had been closed early yesterday due to show and fallen trees.

@DraycoteBirding had pointed where the likely spots would be and so on arriving we quickly had hawfinch feeding on the ground in the small copse behind the park zip wire. HawfinchThe light from this position wasn't ideal and another birder was on the far side of the copse and was waving - later we found out he had the other hawfinch on his side.

After a short while the hawfinch moved right, further into the gloom and into a dip. While it's head was briefly visible there were no photos possible. We decided to circle the copse (bad idea) and see if we could get any views with the sun at our backs. Between our movement and some cyclists coming down the path the birds scattered and it took a good 15 minutes before the finches were back in any number, however without the hawfinch. We opted for a visit to the café for coffee and hot chocolate.

When we returned to the park the hawfinch had returned to the spot we had first seen it but quickly hopped right into a darker spot, the sun now directly behind the copse. No chance to improve the photos I had without perhaps spooking the birds again.

Today sighting (copse only) were: blackbird, bullfinch, chaffinch, dunnock, great spotted woodpecker, great tit, greenfinch, hawfinch, robin, song thrush, woodpigeon and wren.

Sunday, 17 December 2017

Thenford :: 17 December 2017

After last month’s failed attempt at seeing hawfinch, I was interested to read on @987jonty's twitter feed that there were still two or three hanging around Thenford Church. I'd been busy picking up my eldest daughter from Uni on Saturday and so after breakfast Sunday I made a quick visit.

Actually it was bloody freezing standing still watching across the lake to the yew and other trees on the far side of the lake. A few flyovers but none were hawfinch. I had been told to listen out for the flight call but the main sounds came from mistle thrush.

Without any success I dropped down the wall from the churchyard to the Hawfinchpath beyond and talked briefly to a small group walking their who helpfully suggested that the birds had moved on. Starting to rain I turned and saw a small group of finches at the top of a distant tree; predominantly greenfinch but one turned out to be hawfinch [#172]. I’d started to believe was a mythical creature but at last some success.

Sightings (16) included: black-headed gull, blackbird, blue tit, carrion crow, chaffinch, collared dove, coot, dunnock, greenfinch, hawfinch, house sparrow, mistle thrush, robin, starling, woodpigeon and wren.

Saturday, 2 December 2017

Draycote Water :: 02 December 2017

It was a cold morning to go out but I needed to get some fresh air after a week indoors. I wanted to go to Thenford again to see if I could find a hawfinch, but in the end decided on Draycote Water. It looked like a bad choice as I left Banbury as the drizzle started to fall. I needn't have worried as it stopped by Southam.

The car park was quiet and I noted the payment machine has been upgraded to take contactless card payments - note to self. Decided for anticlockwise rotation and spotted good numbers of ducks, grebes and cormorants, plus a single shag. At the spit I spotted the black-necked grebe [#171] Black necked grebebut couldn't see any sign of the long-tailed duck; speaking to others confirmed no one else had seen it either. There appeared to a coach-load of birders and I stopped with a group of them as they scanned trees opposite. Turned out to be stunning pair of goldcrest.

Turned to head back as birders suggested there was nothing of any consequence further on. One chap was more disappointed the departure of the LT duck as he is sitting on 198 and looking for a couple of visitors to top the 200 for the year.

A short visit but good to add another species to the year list after a pause in progress.

Sightings today (33) included: black-headed gull, black-necked grebe, blackbird, blue tit, canada goose, carrion crow, coot, cormorant, dunnock, fieldfare, goldcrest, goldeneye, goosander, great crested grebe, great spotted woodpecker, great tit, grey heron, greylag goose, little egret, little grebe, long-tailed tit, magpie, mallard, meadow pipit, mute swan, oystercatcher, pied wagtail, robin, rook, shag, tufted duck, woodpigeon and wren.

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Thenford :: 18 November 2017

Despite the drizzle I decided that it would be a good morning to get some fresh air. The only local place I'd heard multiple sightings of hawfinch (other than over @987jonty's back garden) was around Thenford Church - decided. RedwingAs I approached the church I could see the attraction with substantial numbers of winter thrushes, first redwing and soon joined by fieldfare. Soon, to the right, I also had mistle thrush.

I circled the church and looked out, often distracted by movement of the thrushes. Seven moorhen fed at the edge of the lake and coot called. A wren however tried to drown out all the other calls.

No sight of any hawfinches I returned to the front of the church and Wrenfollowed the paths and gates to the left, down closer to the waters edge. Noisy mistle thrush called from the tops of trees but no joy for the target bird. I thought I saw another birder set down his scope in the churchyard and so looped back that way to see if they had had any luck but no one was around when I got there.

Looks like this millstone will stay around my neck for another week at least as I head back to Russia for work again this week.

Sightings (21) included: black-headed gull, blackbird, blue tit, carrion crow, chaffinch, coot, dunnock, fieldfare, goldfinch, greenfinch, jackdaw, lapwing, long-tailed tit, mistle thrush, moorhen, mute swan, redwing, robin, starling, woodpigeon and wren.

Monday, 30 October 2017

RSPB Arne :: 28 October 2017

After a nice walk down Branksome Dene Chine and along the promenade, we set off for lunch at Morton's Hotel in Corfe. From here we drove down Soldiers Road to Arne Road, both single track. We parked in the overflow card park and headed onto the reserve, stopping at the Visitor's Centre to see if we could see the reported female brambling - no such luck.

We set out across the reserve and noted the large number of family groups enjoying the woodland; perhaps this might be why we saw few species or deer on out way to the coast. Even on the coast there were few species of note and it wasn't until we were well on out way back to the Visitor's Centre that we saw goldcrests in a holly bush.

When back at the car park there was a muntjac deer feeding in the corner of the field, quite relaxed about the group of people stopping and taking photos.

A slightly disappointing visit from a birding perspective but a pleasant walk never-the-less.

Sightings (21) included: blackbird, blue tit, carrion crow, chaffinch, coal tit, cormorant, curlew, dunnock, goldcrest, goldfinch, great black-backed gull, great tit, herring gull, little egret, long-tailed tit, oystercatcher, pochard, robin, shelduck, woodpigeon and wren.

Branksome Dene Chine :: 28 October 2017

We were due to be picking Eilidh up at 11.30am and so after breakfast FirecrestCharlotte and I opted to walk down Branksome Dene Chine to the beach and have a stroll, while Ailsa rested in her room.

We dropped down about 1/3 of the the way through the trees and took a photo for the 7 days in B&W running on Facebook. Above we caught sight of tits and a single great spotted woodpecker and were remarking how many species were around when I heard and then saw a goldcrest ... buses eh! I stopped and listed again and thought I could hear firecrest (described to me yesterday on FirecrestBrownsea by one of the volunteers). I opened the bird identification app on my phone and played the call to confirm. This had the added benefit of drawing in a bird which turned out to be a firecrest [#168]. There turned out to be three and at one point they flew past me so close that I could hear the wingbeat. I ran back to the car to get my camera and managed to get a single photo, not my best but then again not my worst!

Charlotte and I then had a nice stroll along the promenade and on the way back up the hill added a raven, calling loudly from the treetops. Sightings on the Chine (10) included: blue tit, carrion crow, firecrest, goldcrest, great spotted woodpecker, long-tailed tit, magpie, pied wagtail, raven and wren.

Brownsea Island :: 27 October 2017

It has been two years since we last visited Brownsea Island and it was going to be a hard act to follow - then we were spoilt with achingly good views of red squirrel and some photos that did them justice - we were under no illusions that the same would happen again. As it turned out, we did see a couple of red squirrels but somehow not in the same displays as before. The day wasn’t all about the squirrels this time!

We set out on the 10.00am ferry and arrived on the island in glorious sunshine. It was to be set fair for the whole day. As we landed we looked out over the lagoon and it appeared that the water was further out somehow and the birds more distant. A small group of redshank fed within range of our bins but most birds were really quite distant. We could see avocet, black-tailed godwit, teal, cormorant and little egret.

Off we set towards the Low Hide. Looking out we could see how low the water actually was, and again how distant the birds were. After a short while we moved on to the Mac hide, hoping to catch sight of some spoonbills.

SpoonbillFrom the Mac Hide we could see a group of about 20 large white birds and initially assumed that these may be the spoonbills; in fat they were all little egret. With a few more scattered across the lagoon, it is probably the largest congregation of little egrets that I’ve seen. We wee pointed to some reeds to the left of the hide where a female kingfisher was resting, and had been for a good five minutes. Tried some photos but it was really too distant for anything other than a record shot. A small flock of meadow pipit passed by one of the closer islands, one resting on top of some chicken wire, protecting the tern nesting site from predation.

We set off again, headed for the Villa. Last time we were here there were only coal tits visiting the Kingfisherfeeding station but this time they were joined by great and blue tits and chaffinch. On nearby trees we had siskin, redpoll and goldcrest [#166]. Having not seen any goldcrest this year I then went on to see more on three separate occasions as we circled the Dorset Wildlife Trust trails. Buzzard circled overhead as we turned to head for lunch.

ShagAfter lunch we headed back to the Mac Hide to see if any spoonbills had been pushed back to the lagoon by the rising tide. To our delight three spoonbills [#167] had turned up, but other than preening, the had their bills under their wings and perched on one leg. Talking to one of the volunteers, they reported that two little stint had been feeding on the small islands on the scrape just ten minutes before but had headed left - I scanned the area and could see possible candidate birds but without a scope it wasn't possible to confirm a sighting - on return home though I had photos to crop and could see the little stint [#168] dwarfed by dunlin and larger species. We had another, better sighting of the kingfisher as it landed and fished from some nearby poles.

Time for picking up Eilidh we headed back to catch the ferry back to Sandbanks, seeing shag as we left.

Sightings today (40) included: avocet, black-headed gull, black-tailed godwit, blackbird, blue tit, buzzard, carrion crow, chaffinch, coal tit, cormorant, curlew, dunlin, goldcrest, goldfinch, great black-backed gull, great tit, greenshank, grey heron, herring gull, hooded crow, jackdaw, kingfisher, lesser black-backed gull, little egret, little stint, long-tailed tit, meadow pipit, nuthatch, oystercatcher, redshank, robin, shag, shelduck, siskin, sparrowhawk, spoonbill, teal, wigeon, woodpigeon and wren.

Thursday, 26 October 2017

RSPB Otmoor :: 25 October 2017

The first sunny day of my week off (half term) and feeling a bit better after my Russian cold. Charlotte and I headed to a sun soaked RSPB Otmoor to find an almost full car park. We set off and enjoyed the pair of great spotted woodpeckers as we passed the feeding station. Golden ploverWe haven't been for a while and it was a stark contrast as we walked along the path to have relative quiet following the departure of the sedge and reed warblers. Looking to the skies we had a distant fly-past from a peregrine [#164] which bizarrely is a first for the year. As we reached the turn for the hide we could see distant large flocks in the skies; to the right some starlings, but to the left and ahead very large numbers of golden plover [#165].

From the hide we saw an unusual sight of a kestrel sitting in the grass, albeit slightly camouflaged by the brown of the stems. The usual suspects were feeding on seeds beyond the gate, joined by larger numbers of chaffinch than normal - unfortunately no brambling amongst them.

SnipeDown at the first screen we found 20 snipe with large numbers of resting mallard and teal; a single widgeon joined them at the far end.No sign of hen harrier, water rail or even marsh harrier but a late flight from a bittern raised the adrenaline.

Given the time we had to turn back here and return home, seeing my first redwing of the winter as we did so. A late treat was a marsh tit at the feeding station as we passed again.

Species recorded today (40) included: bittern, black-headed gull, blue tit, buzzard, canada goose, carrion crow, chaffinch, coal tit, coot, cormorant, dunnock, golden plover, goldfinch, great spotted woodpecker, great tit, greylag goose, jay, kestrel, lapwing, linnet, magpie, mallard, marsh tit, moorhen, mute swan, peregrine, pheasant, red kite, redwing, reed bunting, robin, rook, shoveler, snipe, starling, teal, tufted duck, wigeon, woodpigeon and wren.

Saturday, 21 October 2017

Farmoor Reservoir :: 21 October 2017

Just back from two weeks in Kamensk Uralsky with a stinking cold. Undeterred I decided to pop down to Farmoor Reservoir to see if I could see the 3 common scoter mentioned on the Oxon Birding Blog.

Walking in a very brisk wind throughout I set off round F2, heading first across the causeway. I saw two rock pipit who were very skittish, strangely though not on the sheltered side as I might have expected; odd but no other birds sheltering there either. The causeway was just about as quiet as I’ve ever seen it. I talked to a couple of guys coming the other way and they said that they hadn’t been able to find the scoters. After a full circuit i hadn’t seen them either, but did see the 100 or so barnacle geese [#162] in some distant fields, joined by good numbers of greylag.

When I got back to the Visitor Centre I could see a couple of birders along the causeway, stopped and looking out onto F2. I decided to head back across the causeway and found that it was the three common scoters [#163] Common scoterthat they were watching. Unfortunately the birds remained distant but I was glad to have avoided the Saturday morning jinx and pleased I’d been patient enough to cross the causeway for a second time.

Today’s species (21) included: barnacle goose, black-headed gull, carrion crow, common scoter, coot, cormorant, great crested grebe, grey wagtail, greylag goose, lesser black-backed gull, little grebe, long-tailed tit, magpie, mallard, moorhen, mute swan, pied wagtail, rock pipit, rook, tufted duck and woodpigeon.

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Pitsford Water :: 07 October 2017

Charlotte suggested that she would come along on this mornings walk but that she would go and take out some cash, pay for her Mum’s papers, and drop in to see her Mum first. After a shower I thought I’d quickly fill the feeders as I will be in Russia for the next two weeks - as I stepped out the back door I felt a slow drizzle, not what was forecast. With some time left to kill I then filled up the car as it was running on vapour. Got to Pitsford Water at 10.45am and started off clockwise, round the Wildlife Trust managed site, in sunshine. All the usual suspects plus a flock of tree sparrows and a single stonechat. StonechatWe moved along and could see a young lad watching something from his scope. He came back towards us as we walked the other way. We stopped to chat and he said that he’d been talking with someone in a hide further up the trail and that there two whooper swans reported. Sure enough, looking through his scope, there they were [161].

We stopped at the next hide and found the chap who had spotted them on his way in. By then we checked Twitter and could see the news was out. Great white egretHe had been in the hide for a little while and could point out dunlin, ringed plover, little ringed plover and he didn’t need to introduce the great white egret. As we looked through his scope we also added a single ruff. The sky started to cloud over but there wasn’t any threat of rain, indeed we had to take off our waterproofs as it was getting close.

Charlotte and I decided to continue on to do a full circuit and to see if we could get a better view of the ruff. Although it looked close, we had seriously underestimated the time it would take to get there round the path. Once at the opposite hide there was little improvement in distance and a proper photo was out of the question.

Now committed we pushed on encountering flocks of red legged partridge and pheasant, plus muntjac and roe deer. Taking a rest in a hide overlooking Walgrave Bay we watched a great white egret being mobbed by a small flock of black-headed gulls, Whooper swanlooking quite deranged at times as it warned them off.

From the bank we also had the chance to see the whooper swans, this time close enough for a photograph.

As we eventually got close to the fishing lodge car park we were treated with views of two jays, although in flight and heading away. When we got to the car park Charlotte opted for rest on the benches while I continued on to the road and across the causeway to collect the car. Martin Swannell (@alanthetortoise) asked if we had seen the Whoopers and had his camera trained on them - I’ll look for his photos later.

Sightings today (38) included: black-headed gull, blackbird, blue tit, canada goose, carrion crow, common gull, coot, cormorant, dunlin, gadwall, goldfinch, great crested grebe, great white egret, jay, lapwing, lesser black-backed gull, little egret, little ringed plover, long-tailed tit, magpie, mallard, moorhen, mute swan, pheasant, red-legged partridge, ringed plover, robin, rook, ruff, shoveler, starling, stonechat, teal, tree sparrow, tufted duck, whooper swan, wigeon and woodpigeon.

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Draycote Water :: 30 September 2017

Just back from a business trip to the USA and a bit miffed that I missed the red phalarope at Farmoor Reservoir earlier in the week.

I noted last night that two little stint and a ruff were at Draycote Water and so I went up for a look. From previous experience the likelihood it that clockwise is likely to result in earlier finds, particularly the stretches before the valve tower - nothing doing though and by the time I got to the tower I decided the only thing for it was a full circuit.

Passing the golf course there was a lot of commotion as a mixed flock of rooks and jackdaw were forced into the sky by four circling buzzards - the buzzards calling frequently.

I met a chap from Wolverhampton (@Dean_A_1975)who was visiting site for the first time - Kestrelhe’d come to see the wheatear, and hadn’t been disappointed. He had a talked with a few of the other birders, as I did later, and no one had seen my target species. There were reports of a black tern but again none of us had seen it - @Cymbelinelister reported it and I presume he was there before the flotilla turned up.

At this point I managed to step on the edge of the tarmac and twist my ankle.. only two miles to go ...

When I got to the hide I found an old chap in there with a picnic chair, flask, lunch and a few musical instruments - a saxophone and a clarinet I think. He didn’t play while I was there by others suggested he might be playing Wheatear‘Stranger on the shore’ when alone.

Continued to see large numbers of little grebe and a large flock of greylag geese. Little egret in the end totalled 8.

The final treat of the day was a single wheatear flitting from the lower slopes to the Reservoir perimeter wall. A final chat with a chap carrying binoculars - really into photography and much to say about some of the new Olympus cameras. Interesting.

Time for home.

Sightings (33) included: black-headed gull, blue tit, buzzard, canada goose, carrion crow, coot, cormorant, dunnock, goldfinch, great crested grebe, great tit, grey heron, grey wagtail, greylag goose, kestrel, lesser black-backed gull, little egret, little grebe, magpie, mallard, meadow pipit, moorhen, mute swan, pied wagtail, robin, rook, starling, teal, tufted duck, wheatear, woodpigeon, wren and yellowhammer.

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Grimsbury Reservoir :: 13 September 2017

Seems I can't get enough of the little grey phalarope currently residing at Grimsbury Reservoir. Day three of the little guy feeding along the east edge of the water. As I arrived two birders were finishing lunch and thinking about moving on. Grey phalaropeThey said they thought they had seen another circle but fly on. They also reported a sighting of another at Farmoor Reservoir.

I talked with another birder who was watching from the path, Terry I think (previously maintenance for DHL but retired in May). As we walked back to the car park who should be coming the other way but @987jonty. He said that he hadn't yet managed to get any views or photos in the sun. As I got to the car a downpour arrived. Talking later @987jonty was soaked, for the second day running. Maybe better luck tomorrow!?

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Grimsbury Reservoir :: 11 & 12 September 2017

As I was leaving work I checked my phone to see if there were any interesting reports on Twitter. I came upon a photo of a grey phalarope and stopped to enjoy the image. I then noticed it was a post from @987jonty and that the bird was less than a mile from me. I contacted the guys on site and confirmed that the bird was still there - it was so I hot footed it over there.

I arrived just after a downpour of rain and the guys were feeling a little wet and cold. Another great find by @987jonty!

As the bird foraged along the east bank it appeared to be Grey phalaropesuffering a little and it's walk a little laboured - injured or just tired? The weather perked up and by the time @Vanellus26 and I packed up we counted 18 people had attended. Two swifts joined a significant flock of hirundines as we left - there are a few hanging on in there it seems.

During the following morning I checked with @987jonty whether he had been able to check out the site before work, and confirm the bird was still there. He had, and it was! At lunch I saw the sun was out so dropped into the Reservoir again for a few photos, in better light. Six or so people were already there and the bird appeared to be in better spirits and showing very well.

Back to work a happy man.

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Napton Reservoir :: 02 September 2017

It has been a while since I went to Napton Reservoir and on arrival there was still a mist over the water. A few people were already on the banks fishing in the gloom. As I climbed the bank from the car I saw groups of coot, Common buzzardmallard and great crested grebe, and as I set off a couple of sedge warbler fed in the reeds in front of me; they stayed safe from being photographed in the lower reeds. Within the first 20 minutes the sun cleared most of the mist and it was obviously going to be a lovely day. I spooked a buzzard in a treetop as I turned a corner and it flew into the field ahead and landed on a hay bale. It didn't stay long and eventually landed in a distant tree.

As I walked along the footpath, moorhen fed on the bank, occasionally taking of and landing further back down the bank where I had come from. Two buzzards took to the air and began the slow job of catching thermals and rising into the sky above. Speckled wood butterflyAt the small weir, at the end of the path, I watched a couple of speckled wood butterflies enjoying the sun before heading back. I dropped down into the field beside and walked along the marked footpath. In the opposite hedge were numbers of yellowhammer, reed bunting, siskin and blue tits. This was just the sort of habitat that the restarts would love so I spent some time investigating. Nothing. As I looked I had views of a female kestrel, and on the second occasion it was being mobbed by some corvids. There were sporadic waves of mainly swallow but some house martins overhead and then out over the water.

I climbed back up on the reservoir and retraced my steps seeing a little grebe take off and land on the far reaches. I continued surveying the hedgerows and as I approached the last corner I saw a bird drop from the fence onto the field and back. On closer inspection I could see it was a female redstart. Watching this for some time I also caught sight of the male and a lesser whitethroat. Unfortunately they were some 65m from me and only record shots were possible.


I then circled the smaller pond and talked with the fisherman - one had caught tench and the other's mate had caught a carp. On the canal footpath I again spotted a speckled wood butterfly but no other bird species of note.

Reed buntingAs I got back to the car I could see a yellow wagtail high in a tree and then a garden warbler nearby.

An enjoyable visit which made me wonder why I don't come more often.

Sightings (34) included: black-headed gull, blackbird, blackcap, blue tit, buzzard, carrion crow, chiffchaff, coot, dunnock, garden warbler, great crested grebe, grey heron, house martin, jackdaw, kestrel, lesser whitethroat, linnet, little grebe, magpie, mallard, moorhen, mute swan, redstart, reed bunting, robin, rook, sedge warbler, starling, swallow, tufted duck, woodpigeon, wren, yellow wagtail and yellowhammer.

Grimsbury Reservoir :: 28 August 2017

It was a beautiful Bank Holiday Monday morning and we were due to be having a BBQ lunch with friends. It seemed to be a shame not to take advantage of such nice weather so I picked up my things and headed off to Balscote Quarry; in the back of my mind I remembered a reported sighting on the Oxon Blog a couple of days before.

As I sat down at the screen I could see that the water has dried up completely and that the feeders are not currently being filled. The site appeared to be virtually bereft of any life, until Roger Evans and a companion walked across the main body ... they appeared to have spotted something but it was not visible from my vantage point. I decided to move on to Grimsbury Reservoir instead as at least I'd have a walk.

Parked the car and the area appeared busy but I suppose this was to be expected on a Bank Holiday when the weather was good. Some people were fishing the river near the entrance and there were numbers of large dragonflies quartering the water along the reeds. I didn't stop and circled to do a clockwise rotation of the reservoir.

It was noticeable that there were more people than usual, in around half a dozen groups and I could see there was a very substantial number of Canada goose x greylag goose hybridcanada geese on the far bank (counted c.225). I looked along the hedgerow for the redstart seen the previous day but with no success. I stopped to talk with another birder and he hadn't seen it yet either, despite having seen it the day before and knowing where to look. He did say that he had seen a juvenile hobby in the adjacent field but I didn't see that either.

Continuing round I did find good numbers of long-tailed tits and chiffchaffs. and small flocks of linnet.

Sightings (11) included: black-headed gull, canada goose, carrion crow, chiffchaff, lesser black-backed gull, linnet, long-tailed tit, mallard, pied wagtail, woodpigeon and wren.

Saturday, 26 August 2017

Seamill and Portencross :: 23 August 2017

Visiting our Scottish family, we managed to spend a few hours between the Clyde Marina in Ardrossan, Seamill, and Portencross beaches.

Unfortunately the brook running down the side of our hotel, the Seamill Hydro, has had wok done on the wall and this has changed the structure of the bed. No sighting of dipper this year. Black guillemotFrom the end of the garden I did get excited when I saw a black and white bird offshore but when reviewing photos I could see that is was only an eider in eclipse.

Along at the Clyde Marina we were happy to see shag and two black guillemots [154]. It is amazing that I see these in this little harbour almost every summer.

From Portencross beach we looked across a field contain a large mixed corvid flock of carrion crow, rook and jackdaw. As I scanned across I came across the welcome sight Sandwich ternof a single hooded crow [155] - I haven't seen one of these on this part of the coast before.

Progressing along the shoreline we didn't see anything significant until we reached the corner of the outcrop. Here we saw half a dozen sandwich terns [156] and a large mixed flock of circa 200 ringed plover [157] and dunlin, predominantly ringed plover. On closer inspection a handful of sanderling were mixing in.

Returning to the car we spotted common gull and ringed plover Ringed plover and dunlinon the shoreline, again joined by a couple of sanderling. Linnet cruised the edge of the golf course as did a small flock of house sparrows.

Sightings on the coast (30) included: black guillemot, black-headed gull, carrion crow, common gull, cormorant, dunlin, eider, gannet, goldfinch, great black-backed gull, herring gull, hooded crow, house martin, house sparrow, jackdaw, lesser black-backed gull, linnet, magpie, manx shearwater, oystercatcher, pied wagtail, ringed plover, rock dove / feral pigeon, rook, sanderling, sandwich tern, shag, starling, swallow and woodpigeon.

Saturday, 19 August 2017

RSPB Ramsey and Grassholm Islands :: 15 August 2017

We started with an early breakfast at the East Hook Farmhouse B&B where we were staying, then off to the RNLI Lifeboat Station at St Justinians, near St. Davids.

Our boat left for Ramsey (Ynys Dewi) at 10.00am and was packed. The sun was our, there wasn't much of a breeze, and the crossing was easy. Such a change from the day before (and the day after). On landing we had a brief talk from the RSPB volunteers, mainly about the key species and the options for trails. With only one toilet on the island, and everyone there carrying binoculars and cameras, everyone opted to go for a visit before setting off - a queue for the ladies as usual.

We opted for the north circuit as we could then decide on Choughprogress as to whether to loop round on the south circuit later - we had a 2.30pm boat to catch for our visit to Grassholm. Soon after we set out we had our first tick; a number of chough [151] were feeding in the fields but remained at arms length. Good numbers of wheatear showed as we walked parallel to the perimeter wall. We had considered not climbing to Cam Ysguabor but when we got there we decided to make the ascent. To the right I saw stonechat and amongst the usual butterflies, I added Wall. We started to really appreciate the views afforded from the tor.

We dropped back down to Aber Mawr and from Wheatearhere watched ravens, fulmar [152], chough and herring gulls soar around the cliffs. Common seals also swam in the shallows below.

We continued along the trail and at the foot of the hill to Carn Llundain we stopped to eat our sandwich lunch. Wheatears and meadow pipit flew around us; the occasional chough soared by, usually calling loudly.

As we reached Porth Lleuog, Charlotte and Ailsa opted to take the short cut back across to the harbour for a cup of tea while Eilidh and I continued onto the south circuit; that decision was proved to be the correct one when we approached the bay across to Ynys Gwelltog - what a sight! We had more views of wheatear, mipits and chough plus an increasing number of butterflies including gatekeeper and common blue.

RSPB Ramsey Island

We turned for the harbour passing Foel Fawr hoping to see the harbour porpoises that are sometimes views from this stretch, but without success.

We met up with the others at the farmhouse and shop, and waited for our next ride to arrive. Just a few minutes late we climbed onto our jet boat which was due to take us out to RSPB Grassholm, some 7.5 miles offshore. Nice and steady as we started out on Manx shearwaterRamsey Sound but as we accelerated into the now stiffening breeze, we started bouncing in our seats as we hit each wave; the water often blowing directly into us as we landed - I'm not sure this was Eilidh or Ailsa's favourite bit.

As we got further out to sea we started to see groups on manx shearwater - on occasions they flew alongside the boat and it was tempting to take a photo - not really possible due the motion of the boat. We also picked out some guillemot and common tern. As we approached Grassholm the numbers of gannets grew - we then talked with our crew and were told that around 39,000 pairs of gannet bred on the island this year and that the numbers keep growing. We also saw good numbers of kittiwake on the cliffs.

We circled the island and on the far side we came across some shag; Albino shagone of these, in amongst the juvenile group was an albino, something our crew said they hadn't seen before.

Finishing up at Grassholm we started back but soon came to a stop as we came across a group of common dolphins. They swan around the boat but as we left they unfortunately didn't follow in the bow-wave. The journey back was much smoother and it was possible to stand for some of the way. Along with the manx shearwater were increasing numbers of guillemot. I took some photos and noticed to my surprise that I'd caught some juvenile razorbill [153] too.

As we approached the halfway point I Guillemot and razorbillnoticed some fins int he water to our left and we swung round to see what it was - Risso's dolphins - a new species to me. Much less friendly that common dolphins we circled for around 10 minutes watching their various dives, presumably looking for their favourite squid meal. Infants are dorsally grey to brown and ventrally cream-colored, with a white anchor-shaped area between the pectorals and around the mouth. Linear scars mostly from social Risso's dolphininteraction eventually cover the bulk of the body. Older individuals appear mostly white.

What a great end to our day!

Our sightings (24) included: carrion crow, chough, common tern, cormorant, fulmar, gannet, great black-backed gull, guillemot, herring gull, jackdaw, kestrel, kittiwake, lesser black-backed gull, linnet, manx shearwater, meadow pipit, oystercatcher, raven, razorbill, rock dove / feral pigeon, shag, stonechat, swallow and wheatear.

Sunday, 6 August 2017

RSPB Otmoor :: 05 August 2017

This trip to RSPB Otmoor had been postponed a couple of times lately - firstly for the green sandpipers at WkWT Brandon Marsh and then the ruddy shelduck at Farmoor Reservoir. WhitethroatHoping that this wouldn't be too late or prove difficult, I set off early to make sure I got a couple of hours before the forecast showers set in.

Leaving the car park I could hear turtle dove over the hedgerow running up the Roman Road. I stopped and considered whether to look for a view but decided to push on. As I walked up Otmoor Lane and passed the entrance to the Rifle Range, I saw what I first thought was a collared dove; on closer inspection it turned out to be a turtle dove. Unfortunately it flew up and to quite a distance, feeding along the drive, outside sensible photo territory.

Red kiteThe entrance to Long Meadow is immediately after this gated entrance and advertised by a yellow arrow footpath sign - a very low stile gives access to the meadow proper. A good number of birds were making good use of this hedgerow, including two green woodpeckers who flew up and into the trees above.

Sightings of redstart I heard were towards the far end of the meadow beyond the old brick stop-butt so I set off, keeping an eye for movement in the odd bush scattered ahead. Muntjac deer showed and moved right into the trees and to my right I could hear two tawny owls calling; nothing immediately visible to I continued on. As I came into range of the brick stop-butt I saw a bird drop into the grass from a bush then as I got my binoculars on it I was sure I saw the flash of colour indicating restart. Not close enough to be sure. I waited for a while on the far side of the stop-butt but with no success so walked on from here to a denser grouping of bushes ahead. I saw three birds fly in to the bushes to my left and quartered around to see if I could get a view. Yes, male redstart [#145]. RedstartRedstartQuite distant for a photo but a tick. A couple of minutes later it showed again but then everything went quiet - I did find a big group of goldfinch feeding on the seeds of wild flowers on the field fringes.

I doubled back the the stop-butt but nothing immediately evident. As I turned to go (the skies beginning to darken) I caught a glimpse of the tell-tale colouring rising from the grass again. I stepped back and then heard a male call and although at distance, managed a couple of photos. Difficult to get close to these birds and they seemed to be on the move or hidden.

Red kite over as the rain started to fall and I hastely returned to the car. As I got to the car park a group of birders who had been out on the wetlands seemed to have the same idea as me and were all back to get out of the showers.

Sightings in Long Meadow (17) included: blackbird, blue tit, bullfinch, carrion crow, chaffinch, dunnock, goldfinch, great tit, green woodpecker, long-tailed tit, magpie, red kite, redstart, turtle dove, whitethroat, woodpigeon and wren.

Saturday, 29 July 2017

Farmoor Reservoir :: 29 July 2017

Decided to visit Farmoor Reservoir and see if I could catch up with the ruddy shelduck. A bacon butty set me up for the morning - Charlotte and I were on site by 9.20am. By the cafe we started with two Egyptian geese, coot and mallard. Which way to go? We couldn't see any birders around so opted to take the causeway first and hope to bump into someone.

Common term were fishing left to F2 and no long after we set off, a hooter sounded and around a dozen boats carrying two fishermen each steamed out. That might make some of the birds mobile.

Soon a turnstone could be seen on the left wall - Turnstonegot a couple of photos before it hopped down onto the waters edge. As it did so, I saw another bird run ahead of it; it turned out to be a sanderling [#143]. I spent a bit of time following the sanderling up the causeway while Charlotte checked out the hide. Eventually the sanderling flew back passed me, and I doubled back. I then had sanderling, turnstone, common sandpiper and dunlin.

Just as we approached the end of the causeway we chatted to an birder who had caught us up and when I asked about the shelduck he suggested it might not be there as it hadn't appeared in the early morning reports; if it was there he suggested it would be on F1. We then had common tern land on a buoy right.

We dropped down to the Pinkhill Reserve only to find that, Sanderlingdue to antisocial behaviour, the hide was locked. Bugger. We did enjoy the walk and sight of large quantise of quince fallen on the paths. We returned back onto the perimeter path and quickly checked round F1 - no obvious sighting of the shelduck and so opted to complete the circuit round F2.

Passed a couple of (juvenile?) female red-crested pochard and stopped to watch a fisherman land a sizeable rainbow trout. As it was netted we talked with a birding couple passing in the opposite direction - the shelduck was indeed on F2 and not far ahead. Close views of the ruddy shelduck [#144] allowed some decent photo opportunities.

Not far left we had a hobby high right then some Ruddy shelduckjuvenile willow warbler in the trees. Another, or one of the previous Egyptian geese was feeding on the grass with a group of greylag geese.

We then decided to have a coffee in the cafe before heading home.

Today's sightings (35) included: black-headed gull, blackbird, blue tit, buzzard, carrion crow, common sandpiper, common tern, coot, cormorant, dunlin, Egyptian goose, great black-backed gull, great crested grebe, great tit, greylag goose, hobby, house martin, long-tailed tit, magpie, mallard, mute swan, pied wagtail, red-crested pochard, robin, ruddy shelduck, sand martin, sanderling, starling, swallow, swift, tufted duck, turnstone, willow warbler, woodpigeon and yellow-legged gull.

Sunday, 23 July 2017

BOS Bicester Wetland Reserve :: 23 July 2017

Got in touch with the BOS Warden for the Bicester Wetland Reserve and he offered to show me round this morning. A good result, other than meeting at 8.30am - this week's lie in gone :-)

Disturbance to the reserve is kept to a minimum by viewing from hide or screen. Bicester Wetland Reserve is managed by the BOS on behalf of Thames Water. This is a member-only site due to the hazardous nature of the site, heavy moving equipment and hazardous areas. Created in 1999, Bicester Wetland Reserve was the result of an agreement between the BOS and Thames Water. The 7ha site was previously used for the disposal of sewage sludge from the nearby sewage treatment works. Channels and scrapes were excavated with supporting bunds and water control mechanisms.

Arrived on the dot and met Alan Peters at the foot of the Tower Hide. Reed warblerWe climbed the steps and he explained how the key system worked. We watched as 7 green sandpiper fed at a distance. We had a fly-by from a kingfisher and then Alan spotted a snipe wading from an island to the bank.

Alan then took me across a stile and onto the rest of the reserve. We passed a swallow nesting tower which has, as yet, not been used. A number of goldfinch, dunnock and whitethroat flew ahead of us and onto the left fencing as we went.

We reached a field with a kestrel nest box on the left and crossed to a new gate and fence, running alongside the train tracks. Alan explained that they are going to plant a large number of whips along this boundary to replace hedging removed when the train line improvements were done - this should provide a screened access to the new hide at the end of the field.

A pheasant briefly caused some excitement. Green sandpiperThe farmer, who grazes 8 cattle in the field for management purposes, joined us in the hide for 5 minutes or so and chatted about the little owls seen along the far hedge. Alan was running a tight schedule so we left and returned to the cars. We drove to the gate where I was instructed on the padlock system used. Alan then left and I returned to the Tower Hide for half an hour. Had good sights of wren, reed warbler, blue and great tits plus a noisy arrival from a dozen canada geese.

A pleasant first visit and now that I have a key, I'll be back.

Sightings (22) were: blackbird, blue tit, carrion crow, dunnock, goldfinch, great tit, green sandpiper, grey heron, house martin, kingfisher, little egret, magpie, mallard, moorhen, pheasant, reed warbler, robin, snipe, tufted duck, whitethroat, woodpigeon and wren.

WkWT Brandon Marsh :: 22 July 2017

Dropped into WkWT Brandon Marsh again to see if I could get a longer and better view of the green sandpiper. Not starting so early this week and so Charlotte came along too. Arrived before the Visitor Centre opened and so walk round the back and off round Grebe Pool. Suspected I saw a pair of garden warblers playing in the bushes but through substantial foliage - later confirmed from my photos. As we got into New Hares Covert we stopped and individually saw treecreeper and buzzard. As we exited onto Swallow Pool we were entertained by a whitethroat. At this point Charlotte had something in her boot and so we pushed on to the Wright Hide. From here we could see a couple of sand martins being fed by parents in the nest wall. Many more lapwing to be seen too.

Considering the time of day, the butterflies were out in number. There has been a noticeable emergence of gatekeeper. Also enjoyed the meadow brown, small tortoiseshell, red admiral, comma and various whites plus a male banded demoiselle.

Comma butterflyGatekeeper butterfly


We decided to turn back to the Visitor Centre for a coffee and while there had good views of many fledgling blue and great tits. We also had greenfinch and great spotted woodpecker.

Great spotted woodpecker

Knowing that the rain would come at sometime before lunch we pushed on and stopped in the Teal Hide; from here we could see three green sandpipers. Mission accomplished. Charlotte then spotted a hobby hunting for dragonflies over the seedbed in the distance.

Nothing additional to be seen in the Green sandpiperEast Marsh Hide we stopped to look in the Carlton Hide - nothing at all ... to reward our patience a reed warbler showed briefly. Finally into the Ted Jury Hide but again pretty devoid of any views. Shame ... I think I'll wait for a new arrival before visiting again.

Sightings (39) included: blackbird, blue tit, bullfinch, buzzard, canada goose, carrion crow, chaffinch, common tern, coot, dunnock, garden warbler, goldfinch, great spotted woodpecker, great tit, green sandpiper, green woodpecker, greenfinch, hobby, jackdaw, lapwing, long-tailed tit, magpie, mallard, moorhen, mute swan, oystercatcher, pied wagtail, reed bunting, reed warbler, robin, rock dove / feral pigeon, sand martin, sedge warbler, song thrush, swallow, treecreeper, whitethroat, woodpigeon and wren.