Sunday, 29 January 2017

Over Norton :: 28 January 2017

Started the day with breakfast and the Big Garden Birdwatch. An enjoyable hour but with nothing to enthuse over (blackbird - 4, blue tit - 1, carrion crow - 1, chaffinch - 2, dunnock - 2, goldfinch - 4, house sparrow - 3, magpie - 2, robin - 2, starling - 7, and woodpigeon - 4). No sign of the long-tailed tit flock that had been frequenting the garden at breakfast over the previous few days nor the collared doves. Later in the afternoon a wren decided to show and preen, long enough to force me to get my camera but not long enough for me to take a photo.

Having read that a little bunting had been found locally in Over Norton I planned to drop the car somewhere near the A3400 roundabout and follow the path towards Over Norton. Better I thought than dropping the car in a village with other birders possibly doing the same; little did I know that the path where the little bunting was showing was actually the public right of way and that you therefore viewed from one end or the other.

As I arrived I talked with a birder on his way out. Carrying a camera sporting a very large lens he told me that he'd been there for two hours and not seen the bird, and also that he wasn't aware anyone had seen it since the previous morning. Met the nice chap from Slough again, with his repaired camera body - he was disappointed with his cattle egret photos using his other older camera body and had hoped to get something. He hadn't seen the bunting either and was beginning to think of moving on too.

Two hours passed with reed bunting, yellowhammer, chaffinch, blue tit, great tit, blackbird and brambling enjoying the seed scattered on the path but no sighting of the little bunting. At one point one of the number thought he had it in view but on review it was just a reed bunting. News from the other side on the copse (Over Norton) suggested that they had seen it briefly earlier and a few people braved the comments to walk down the footpath and change ends with no luck. Overhead we had red kite, buzzard, raven while in the field we also had pied wagtail and lots of fieldfare. In the end I decided it was time for lunch and headed home out of the cold. Could it be that the sighting earlier had been incorrect and another eager birder incorrectly identifying a reed bunting?

This morning, on the Oxon Birding site, I note that the distinguished Mike Pollard is credited with the sighting report- no doubt there then. I dipped and the bird changed its behaviour showing little on the day I chose to visit, and only at one end.

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Middleton Stoney & Stow-on-the-Wold :: 14 January 2017

At the recent monthly meeting of the Banbury Ornithological Society (BOS) it was reported that during the Short Day Count, held the previous day, three cattle egrets had been found on a farm along the B4030 just outside Middleton Stoney towards Enstone. The birds could be found down the 'Restricted Byway Aves Ditch' on left, approximately 500 metres to view muddy field of pigs with metal shelters. The farmer kindly allows the BOS to survey the land twice a year. This is a first recorded sighting in the BOS monitoring area!

I had so far been unable to visit (due to having to go to work) and got up early before the rest of the household had stirred. Cattle egretDirections were good and as I got my boots on I hooked up and chatted with a nice chap from Slough who had travelled up for a look. We found the field but talking with the observer in residence the birds had been pretty static at the other side of the field all morning - after an hour and a half he then packed up and went. An hour passed and we were only afforded distance views of one of the egrets in flight, landing briefly, then repeating. Eventually it came closer and I enjoyed watching the egret following the pigs around as they disturbed the ground and, as the pig moved on, it dived in to see what might have been uncovered.

While talking with Mike Pollard he said his next port of call was going to be the long-staying blue rock thrush over in Stow-on-the-Wold. Why not I thought. So off I went, passing John @987jonty and Gareth @grimsbury_birds as I left.Blue rock thrush

Rained most of the way to Stow - was supposed to be sunny all day! Parked up, found Fishers Close and a small group watching the blue rock thrush low in the tree. They had talked with locals and it appeared that it was being fed with mealworms in the bad garden of a house. It dropped low for quite extended periods and showed behind branches. Got a slightly better view before it dropped to feed again. Then off home - time for lunch.

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Roade and Longelandes Way, Banbury :: 02 January 2017

Having dipped at Woodford Halse on 27th (a no show after feasting on berries all of the previous day), a trip to Roade to catch up with the long-staying waxwings. Watching the Waxwings in RoadeA group of up to 40 had thought to do the same and were spread from a large tree at the top of the railway bank along to berry trees outside a row of houses. Some were trying hard and getting a little too close - comments starting to be exchanged. Great start to the year list.

On return to the house I had a Twitter notification from @Vanellus26 "ICYMI - Waxwings on Longelandes Way, Banbury, around turning into Portway". A resident had phoned his sighting into the RSPB office and news had spread. I needn't have gone to Roade - waxwings were just along the road!

Initially I didn't see or hear them and so I first found redwing feeding on berry bushes along Longelandes Way. As I returned to Portway I could hear waxwings calling from a tree just round the corner Waxwings in Banburyand circled round to see if I could get an angle for a photo through the branches. I felt envious of a resident who was hanging out of his bedroom window taking photos; turned out when I talked to him later (he was the one who called in the sighting) that he couldn't get a clear view either.

Off they flew and so I started to search for them around the estate. It didn't take long to find them again, at the bottom of Portway. Up to 13 seen and joined by Sandra Blechly (BOS) just before they moved again, out onto Longelandes Way and right above my car.

[Photo of gathering from Martin Swannell's twitter post]