Sunday, 28 May 2017

RSPB Otmoor :: 27 May 2017

Looking on the internet I couldn't see any reports from local sites on highlight birds so opted for another visit to RSPB Otmoor - I still haven't managed to see either the hen harrier or bittern this year.

As I got to the end of Otmoor Lane, a red-legged partridge appeared Turtle doveon the verge and proceeded to walk ahead of the car. I progressed slowly so as not to startle it and enjoyed the close views. Another car joined behind me and I had to increase pace, spooking the bird, which resulted in it flying off left over the hedge.

From the car park I could hear a turtle dove over the hedge on the Roman Road. We went round to have a look but it was out of sight. Coming back to the car park, chiffchaff and blackcap darted about the trees singing loudly.

Once at the feeding station cuckoo and turtle dove could be heard clearly. Marsh harrierLooking along the hedgerow at the back of the bridleway a cuckoo landed low and out of sight of those on the other side. Distant and quiet it paused there for at least five minutes. Another could be hear back down towards the car park and seemed to arouse some interest in my bird, although there it stayed.

On the bridleway I could see some of the birders waiting for the turtle dove to come down to the seed spread on the ground by the cattle pen. I said hello and then moved on. No sooner had I got 20 metres and a turtle dove landed on the telegraph pole, then flew down in front of the gate and pens. I expect a few stunning photos will be posted this weekend.

Cuckoos continued to call but they didn't show as well as my last visit. Red kiteReed and sedge warblers still called and darted on my right as I reached the turn for the first screen. Snipe drummed overhead and common tern worked the reeds to the right.

Reached the first screen and was glad I hadn't bothered with a fleece as it was now getting quite warm. Watched up to four marsh harriers quartering the reeds, joined by both buzzard and red kite overhead. Stayed a good while but not afforded any views of hen harrier or bittern. A pleasant relaxing time though.

On the way back a woman who had been at the first screen for much of my time there was stopped and peering through her bins. A snipe resting in the scrub, unfortunately out of a clear photo shot or through her scope.

Through the kissing gate I turned right to have a look at the first pool on Big Otmoor. LinnetRedshank flew overhead, perhaps flushed by red kite overhead. Nothing much at the pool, perhaps where the redshank had been. A cuckoo called from a nearby tree but as I approached it flew off down the track.

Further views of turtle dove as I made the turn and noticed the guys still guarding the fence and pen - the seeds appeared to have been replenished. A single curlew flew overhead, towards Big Otmoor and common crane could be seen on Greenaways.

Almost back to the car when a whitethroat showed to my left carrying lunch. WhitethroatPopped off a few photos - perhaps I will get an ID on the caterpillar from those in the know.

Sightings today (49) included: black-headed gull, blackbird, blackcap, blue tit, buzzard, canada goose, carrion crow, chaffinch, chiffchaff, common tern, coot, crane, cuckoo, curlew, dunnock, gadwall, goldfinch, great crested grebe, great spotted woodpecker, great tit, grey heron, greylag goose, hobby, house martin, kestrel, lapwing, lesser black-backed gull, linnet, little egret, magpie, mallard, marsh harrier, mute swan, pochard, red kite, red-legged partridge, redshank, reed bunting, reed warbler, sedge warbler, shoveler, skylark, snipe, swift, tufted duck, turtle dove, whitethroat and woodpigeon.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

RSPB Otmoor :: 13 May 2017

We decided to make the postponed trip to RSPB Otmoor to catch up with the turtle doves. From the car park we could hear cuckoo and groper calling, but not the turtle dove. Previously I've heard it in the trees behind. As we set off it started to drizzle and I began to question my choice of clothing - no waterproof today. I needn't have worried as it lasted less than 5 minutes and never got particularly heavy. CuckooAs we got to the feeders the turtle dove could be heard purring round on the bridleway. We ignored the draw of the groper calls and continued on. As we turned a turtle dove [#132] landed on top of the telegraph pole, just about the worst place it could be for photos given the light. As we watched, I spotted a cuckoo on the telegraph wires above the feeding station, too far for a decent photo and with one of the wires partly obscuring the bird. Both flew off shortly after.

The cuckoo then worked the tree line along the bridleway, occasionally stopping to tease with a brief view. Not to be outdone the turtle dove joined in, not affording the usual pose from previous encounters. Snipe drummed overhead and the warblers sang at full voice from the reeds.

CuckooWe stopped to talk with some of the regulars who mentioned the departure of a male ruff and the remaining blackwits on Big Otmoor. We strolled down but initially couldn't see them, finding only redshank as lone wader. There were also very large numbers of gulls: herring; black-headed; lesser black-backed. We scanned around and saw three birds approaching - the returning godwits. Not in strong summer plumage but still a welcome sight. Two common tern landed just behind the waders and looked like they might be having an argument - at least that was the body language. In the background the cuckoo continued calling.

We dropped into the hide but nothing to note, other than as we left a cuckoo was resting in a dead tree in the direction of the bridleway and better for photos. It obliged and I managed to take a few photos before it dropped onto a post behind the hedge line, unfortunately not affording a photo from my angle. I decided not to circle round in case the couple in the hide had a better view and I might scare it off.

Turtle doveDown to the first screen we didn't hear any reeling gropers and the number of hirundines grew. Reed warbler could be heard a little clearer than before and danced around the reeds. Quite a few birds on the water but nothing particularly notable. A single skylark rose into he air and climbed high before falling back on the other side of the hedge.

On to the second screen and quieter on the water with views of reed warbler and marsh harrier.

On the return we passed the turn for the hide and noted the large number of hobbies now hunting in the far distance. Almost at the turn for the feeders a turtle dove began calling again, posing in a clearing amongst the branches. Having taken a couple more photos we moved on to the feeders, only to be joined by a cuckoo - the best view I think I've had.

Black-tailed godwitsA top visit and brightening into dappled sunshine as we left.

Sightings (49) included: black-headed gull, black-tailed godwit, blackbird, blue tit, bullfinch, buzzard, canada goose, carrion crow, chiffchaff, common tern, cormorant, cuckoo, dunnock, gadwall, goldfinch, great spotted woodpecker, great tit, grey heron, greylag goose, herring gull, hobby, lapwing, lesser black-backed gull, linnet, little egret, long-tailed tit, magpie, marsh harrier, moorhen, mute swan, pheasant, pochard, red kite, red-legged partridge, redshank, reed bunting, reed warbler, robin, rook, sedge warbler, shoveler, skylark, snipe, swallow, swift, tufted duck, turtle dove, woodpigeon and wren.

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Summer Leys :: 06 May 2017

Well today was meant to be a visit to RSPB Otmoor to catch up with the turtle dove, recently returned - a better view of a grasshopper warbler wouldn't be turned down either. Instead I read my twitter feed at breakfast and noted that @987jonty was at it again, reporting from Summer Leys. Garganey, grey plover, black terns and wood sandpiper were all mentioned. Quick change of plan!

Got to the main hide to find @987jonty in position and quickly added Greenshankgrey plover [#127] and a single avocet, @987jonty pointing out the wood sandpiper [#128] - he then excused himself as he was north for turtle dove and nightingale, plus he was frozen in the cold wind.

Something flushed the bird right and so we lost sight of the grey plover. We then decided to make a circuit. We then found garden warbler [#129] in the trees not far from the footpath as we kicked off from the hide. We also saw a cuckoo fly right over the top of the main hide. Bullfinch, song thrush, willow warbler, more Whimbrelgarden warblers and a pair of blackcaps kept our spirits high in the chilly wind. Surprisingly quite for chiffchaff compared to the rest of last and this month on other sites.

Next to show was a greenshank [#130] on the far bank. Very distant but a photo confirmed the ID. 5 Black terns were seen over Mary's lake and as we watched at the feeding station a couple of grey plover flew overhead and away from the reserve - hopefully only temporarily.

From the next hide we added a pair of whimbrel [#131], initially well camouflaged in the grass and reeds. As we reached halfway the sedge warblers reached full volume. Sand martins were very active above and when we got to the nesting wall could be seen diving in and hanging on the outside of the holes.

Unfortunately no sign of the garganey so probably just over a ledge and hide from view.

On return to the car we had one last look on the main lake Black ternand again saw a cuckoo, avocet, greenshank and the black terns now over the main lake.

RSPB Otmoor maybe next ...

Sightings (48) today included: avocet, black Tern, black-headed gull, blackbird, blackcap, blue tit, bullfinch, canada goose, carrion crow, chaffinch, chiffchaff, common sandpiper, common tern, coot, cuckoo dunnock, gadwall, garden warbler, goldfinch, great crested grebe, great tit, greenshank, grey plover, greylag goose, jackdaw, lapwing, little egret, magpie, mallard, mute swan, oystercatcher, redshank, reed bunting, robin, rook, sand martin, sedge warbler, song thrush, starling, swallow, swift, teal, tufted duck, whimbrel, wigeon, willow warbler, wood sandpiper and woodpigeon.

Monday, 1 May 2017

WkWT Brandon Marsh :: 01 May 2017

Another early departure to see if we could avoid the showers forecast around lunchtime. Decided on a trip to WkWT Brandon Marsh to see if we could add anything to the year list. The decision was helped by the provision of a tearoom in the Visitors Centre.

Willow warblerChiffchaff again in full voice but also supported by some willow warbler. Quite a few whitethroat showed, as well as a single lesser whitethroat. Blackcap singing and moving at speed in the treetops were frustrating as I tried to get a photo. By the golf course we could see a sparrow hawk high in the sky and at some distance - we expect it was causing some concern to the birds on the scrape. As we turned the corner to the Wright Hide we could see a number of common tern. We stopped in the hide to watch and caught sight of dunlin and little ringed plover. As we watched we had a fly-past from a jay [#125], to the excitement of Charlotte.

Common sandpiperWe popped back to the Visitors Centre for a coffee and on our return we chatted briefly to one of the guys heading the other way. He pointed us to the Baldwin Hide where a common sandpiper was feeding. We got there to find the sandpiper, and a canada goose nesting right outside the window - this caused some excitement for a little girl with her parents.

The terns were passing the hide really closely and while watching them we saw a blue streak across the water - Kingfishernot one but two kingfishers [#126]. I had inadvertently knocked the camera into manual focus and ended up having to do the work myself. By the time I noticed the birds has stopped there passage back and forward across the bank in front of us.

As far a Charlotte was concerned the day couldn't have gone any better.

Sightings (41) included: black-headed gull, blackbird, blackcap, blue tit, bullfinch, canada goose, carrion crow, chiffchaff, coal tit, common sandpiper, common tern, coot, cormorant, dunlin, dunnock, goosander, great crested grebe, greylag goose, house martin, jay, kingfisher, lesser black-backed gull, lesser whitethroat, little ringed plover, long-tailed tit, magpie, mallard, moorhen, mute swan, oystercatcher, reed bunting, robin, sand martin, sedge warbler, sparrowhawk, swallow, tufted duck, whitethroat, wigeon, willow warbler and wood pigeon.

Boddington Reservoir :: 30 April 2017

After lunch @grimsbury_birds and @987jonty reported they were at Boddington Reservoir and had found two black terns. Black ternWe decided to have an afternoon walk and head there to see if we could see them too. By the time we arrived we could see a large number of birds working around the small boats on the water. These turned out to be arctic tern [#123]. As we walked round we could then see the two black tern [#124] around the fringes. The terns all moved quickly and at distance making a good photo impossible.

Good views of multiple whitethroat and chiffchaff around the rest of the Reservoir. Bullfinch, pheasant and a single little egret added to the interest.

Arctic ternBy teatime @987jonty was reporting another five black terns at Grimsbury Reservoir. With rain forecast overnight I wonder what we will find tomorrow.

Sighting (24) included: arctic tern, black tern, blue tit, bullfinch, buzzard, carrion crow, chiffchaff, coot, goldfinch, great black-backed gull, great crested grebe, grey heron, house martin, lesser black-backed gull, little egret, magpie, mallard, moorhen, pheasant, pied wagtail, reed bunting, robin, whitethroat and woodpigeon.

Borrow Pit, Banbury :: 30 April 2017

A heads up from @grimsbury_birds let me know that wheatear and whinchat had been found at the Borrow Pit. WinchatAlso that black terns had visited Grimsbury Reservoir. Given the time I had available I opted for the Borrow Pit. Not immediately obvious but as I approached the rocky area there was some movement - the whinchat [#121]. With dog walkers close behind the bird took off and across the water. Fortunately the wheatear [#122] then showed for a few minutes before it too was flushed off and out of sight. Hoping for a better view of the whinchat I circled round and was fortunate to see the bird land onto some reeds.

WheatearSedge warblers appeared to be on overtime, joined by whitethroat. A single common sandpiper fed along the waters edge. Overhead a red kite quartered looking for opportunities.

Back home for Sunday lunch.

Sightings (15) included: blackbird, carrion crow, common sandpiper, coot, mallard, mute swan, red kite, reed bunting, rook, sedge warbler, tufted duck, wheatear, whinchat, whitethroat and woodpigeon.

RSPB Otmoor :: 29 April 2017

An early rise and off to RSPB Otmoor. Onsite by 7.15am and immediately the noise from warblers was evident. CuckooOver the car park field grasshopper warbler could be heard over the local chiffchaff. Soon after leaving the car park a cuckoo [#115] could be heard and by the time I'd reached the feeders it could be seen in the far distance in the top of an oak tree. At least two grasshopper earners were calling but remained out of sight. Great spotted woodpecker exhibiting the same behaviour as we saw last time we were onsite - taking shards of peanuts and pushing them deep into a hole in a nearby tree.

Reed warblerSedge warblers then took over as I walked along the bridle way, followed by reed warbler. Then spotted whitethroat [#116] in the top of a tree before seeing the cuckoo in the trees running parallel to the path. Turned to head down to the first screen and heard a grasshopper warbler in the bush beside me. As I tried to see it I was joined by two older gentlemen, one of whom was particularly hard of hearing. The managed to position themselves within 10 feet of the bird and discuss loudly what the could and couldn't see and hear. Amazingly the bird continued to sing and move around the bush, although not giving a photo opportunity.

Sedge warblerFrom the second screen I had views of marsh harrier [#117] and then common crane [#118]. Watching for movement I could hear a cuckoo calling nearby - two then flew past not a shabby imitation of a sparrowhawk! Turning round I then saw a female sparrowhawk low over the reeds.

Lots more warbler action all the way back to the feeders where I stopped to see if I could locate the grasshopper warblers - a fleeting glance but a view nevertheless. The cuckoo then reappeared in the distance then moved to the telegraph wires above and away into the trees. Now lesser whitethroat [#119] sang to the left and hobby [#120] flew over.

What a visit!

Sightings (49) included: black-headed gull, blackbird, blue tit, bullfinch, buzzard, canada goose, carrion crow, chaffinch, chiffchaff, common tern, coot, cormorant, crane, cuckoo, dunnock, gadwall, goldfinch, grasshopper warbler, great spotted woodpecker, great tit, grey heron, greylag goose, hobby, house martin, kestrel, lesser black-backed gull, lesser whitethroat, linnet, long-tailed tit, mallard, marsh harrier, mute swan, oystercatcher, pheasant, pochard, raven, red kite, redshank, reed bunting, reed warbler, sedge warbler, shoveler, skylark, sparrowhawk, swift, tufted duck, whitethroat, willow warbler and wren.

Spiceball Park & Grimsbury Reservoir :: 26 April 2017

At lunchtime I noted on Twitter that Colin Wilkinson had found a wood warbler in Spiceball Park that morning, in the same location as last year. Wood WarblerDespite not having binoculars or camera I thought I'd better have a look in case it moved on. I met @987jonty in the car park as I arrived and he confirmed it was still there and singing. Feeling positive I headed straight there; as I got to the footbridge I was joined my Mike Pollard, carrying scope and bins. Despite searching for 30mins we couldn't catch sight and only occasionally heard a brief call. Had to go back to work.

Wood WarblerAt dinner I looked on Twitter and it appeared that the bird was seen later in the afternoon and so I headed back. I met Mike coming the other way and he pointed me to the others, already in attendance (@987jonty, @grimsbury_birds, @dwatsonbirder). Sure enough the wood warbler #111 showed but mostly in dense bush or high in the trees. A life tick though!

Still short of a yellow wagtail I popped onto the reservoir as there were local reports. No luck though. Happy regardless.

Sightings (22) included: carrion crow, blackbird, blackcap, chiffchaff, common sandpiper, goldfinch, great tit, greenfinch, jackdaw, linnet, little ringed plover, long-tailed tit, magpie, mallard, pied wagtail, magpie, rook, song thrush, swallow, willow warbler, woodpigeon and wood warbler.