Monday, 31 December 2018

WkWT Brandon Marsh :: 31 December 2018

Last day of the year and Charlotte suggested we go out again for a spot of birding, and some fresh air. There were reports of the caspian gull again at Brandon Marsh, plus a common scoter yesterday, so we decided to go there for lunch and then a quick circuit. Caspian Gull

As we approached the Wright Hide we saw a small flock in the tops of the alder trees; a mix of siskin and lesser redpoll (#151). They soon moved off and back towards the Visitor Centre. We then dropped into the hide and after a brief scan found the caspian gull (#152). There were fewer greylag geese on the water today but a few more black-headed gulls. Not much else out there that was different.

I couldn't make out the caspian gull from the East Marsh Hide but did get a brief view of a water rail as it crossed the narrow channel to the left of the hide. Jay

Back at the Visitors Centre we watched great spotted woodpecker, nuthatch and an array of tits feed from the various stations. We were also treated with a jay passing through.

Sightings today (38) were: black-headed gull, blue tit, canada goose, carrion crow, caspian gull, chaffinch, common gull, coot, cormorant, dunnock, gadwall, great black-backed gull, great spotted woodpecker, great tit, grey heron, greylag goose, herring gull, jay, lapwing, lesser black-backed gull, lesser redpoll, magpie, mallard, moorhen, mute swan, nuthatch, pied wagtail, reed bunting, robin, shoveler, siskin, teal, tufted duck, water rail, wigeon, willow tit, woodpigeon and wren.

Saturday, 29 December 2018

WkWT Brandon Marsh :: 29 December 2018

Needing one more species to progress to 150 on my year list, I read with interest that a drake smew had been spotted at WkWT Brandon Marsh yesterday. It was reported to have still been present at dusk and so I left home to arrive at first light.

When I got to Swallow Pool there were a couple of people already running circuits but there was no sign of the smew - another curse for Saturday morning birding. Whooper swanThe bird wasn't located all morning and appears to have moved under cover of darkness. While running my own circuits I did manage to find centi's warbler (#150) and so not all lost, although I could find any redpoll either; I did disturb a small flock of likely candidates but they flew off against the grey sky and I didn't manage any ID.

I spent the rest of my time in the East Marsh Hide but didn't see anything of consequence and the bittern didn't show, despite recent performances for massed crowds.

Sightings (33) were: black-headed gull, blackbird, blue tit, canada goose, carrion crow, cetti's warbler, chaffinch, coal tit, common gull, coot, cormorant, dunnock, great black-backed gull, great tit, grey heron, greylag goose, lapwing, magpie, mallard, moorhen, mute swan, reed bunting, robin, shelduck, shoveler, starling, teal, tufted duck, whooper swan, wigeon, willow tit, woodpigeon and wren.

Friday, 28 December 2018

Pitsford Water :: 28 December 2018

It has been about six weeks since I last got out and so I thought I'd try for a couple of year ticks. There had been some sightings at Pitsford Water and so I thought I'd head there. Charlotte decided to tag along for the fresh air (and the offer of lunch).

We stopped in Brixworth at The Coach & Horses for lunch - the BLT baguette came with so many chips and salad that Charlotte didn't manage to finish it all.

Back at the reservoir we put on our walking boot and both commented on how cold it was, Stonechatdespite the 9°C outside temperature displayed on the car. The lapwings were spooked by our passing and a small flock of about 40 rose and flew out across the water. Some goldeneye joined the wigeon and teal out on the water. Not far on, we came across the group of 11 whooper swans; two juveniles. As we reached the feeders at the end of the gated road we found numbers of chattering tree sparrows. They were joined by reed bunting, blue/great/coal tits and a couple of blackbirds. On the fringe of the reeds was a single female stonechat.

When we got to the Bird Club Hide we scanned to see what lay amongst the numbers of ducks and Whooper swanswildfowl on the water. Amongst the teal, wigeon and pochard was a female scaup (#149). Behind this we picked out 5 drake red crested pochard, plus four females - there may have been more. We also saw just the single great white egret.

Heading round to the Scaldwell Hide we picked out a pair of goldcrest, followed by a pair of treecreepers. At the hide we didn't spot anything new, other than a distant large gull which we couldn't be sure of the ID with just bins.

To finish, we walked both sides of the causeway, spooking the lapwing again but this time considerably more than 100 of them.

Just one more this year and I'll be happy.

Sightings (35) included: black-headed gull, blackbird, blue tit, canada goose, carrion crow, coal tit, common gull, coot, cormorant, fieldfare, gadwall, goldcrest, goldeneye, great crested grebe, great tit, great white egret, lapwing, magpie, mallard, moorhen, mute swan, red-crested pochard, reed bunting, rook, scaup, shoveler, stonechat, teal, tree sparrow, treecreeper, tufted duck, whooper swan, wigeon, woodpigeon and wren.

Sunday, 18 November 2018

WkWT Brandon Marsh :: 17 November 2018

So, having failed with the pintail at Pitsford Water and having seen that there was one at WkWT Brandon Marsh, Saturday afternoon's outing was sorted. A quick lunch before we headed out meant we could get straight onto the reserve.

Only having around 2½ hours to play with we headed out to East Marsh pool, Pintailstopping first at the Baldwin Hide. There we a few people in residence - they had been watching three whooper swans and a single black swan. The whooper swans were resting just to the right of the scrape and apparently hadn't moved all morning. Initially the black swan was feeding near the bank, past the Wright Hide, then it decided to have a nap too.

Quite a number of moorhen out on the scrape and around the perimeter of the East Marsh, not so many coot. Growing numbers of teal and wigeon were largely outnumbered by a significant greylag goose presence. A pair of little grebe fed on the far bank to the left of the Baldwin Hide.Pintail

On to the East Marsh Hide and as soon as we sat down we could see the pintail [#148], working right and soon out of view behind reeds. It eventually showed again working left until it again disappeared from view.

We wandered round past Carlton (nothing to see again) and into the Ted Jury Hide. As we talked with the other occupant, a sparrowhawk flew over and out low across the reeds. A single moorhen, and two trees full of woodpigeons were all that we found.

From the visitor centre we added great spotted woodpecker and willow tit. A nice hot chocolate and coffee in a crowded tea room was accompanied by a shared banana and toffee muffin.

Sightings (37) included: black-headed gull, blackbird, blue tit, carrion crow, chaffinch, common gull, coot, cormorant, dunnock, gadwall, great black-backed gull, great spotted woodpecker, grey heron, greylag goose, herring gull, kingfisher, lapwing, lesser black-backed gull, little grebe, magpie, mallard, moorhen, mute swan, pintail, reed bunting, robin, shoveler, sparrowhawk, starling, stock dove, teal, tufted duck, whooper swan, wigeon, willow tit, woodpigeon and wren.

Sunday, 4 November 2018

Pitsford Water :: 03 November 2018

A flock of c30 goldfinches, viewed from the upstairs "office", enticed me out today. Charlotte was off to play tennis in the afternoon so we grabbed an early lunch an parted, me to Pitsford Water in Northants, Charlotte to Charlbury in Oxfordshire.

The car park at the far end of the causeway displayed a notice indicating that the gates would be shut at 4.30pm and so I opted to park on the verge up the hill. I dropped down to the causeway and onto the northern circuit. Lots of wildfowl on the water with wigeon and numbers of teal, gadwall and pochard; there seemed to be quite a large count of pochard compared to my usual expectation. From here I also added a single yellow-legged gull.

I started round and as I went I picked up what I think are my first goldeneye of the winter. Across the water were four great white egrets. Large numbers of cormorant rested on the opposite bank. I scanned the swans, only to find the few dozen I could see from this point were all mute.

As I passed the first hide I had a small flock of tree sparrow [#146] in the bushes on the waters edge, opposite the gated road where the feeders are usually situated. I couldn't see any sign of feeders in place but a small flock of c10 collared dove landed in the big tree beyond the gate; a couple made there way onto the lane. Soon after I had great spotted woodpecker over.

I reached the next hide and from here could see the whooper swans [#147] up at the most northerly point.

Whooper swanOn to the next hide and I was able to get a better view of 11 whooper swans, two first winter, feeding in Scaldwell Bay. A great white egret had relocated and was stalking the water to my right. The numbers of coot had increased from only a handful further back, to dozens here. Two moorhen worked their way passed from south to north.

Time to head back and only a lone yellowhammer to add until I reached the road. A short walk over the causeway added little egret and c50 golden plover over the water.

Didn't manage to pick out the pintail ducks reported the previous day. Annoying as they are probably still around.

Sightings (36) included: black-headed gull, blue tit, Canada goose, carrion crow, collared dove, coot, cormorant, gadwall, golden plover, goldeneye, great crested grebe, great spotted woodpecker, great white egret, grey heron, greylag goose, lapwing, lesser black-backed gull, little egret, long-tailed tit, magpie, mallard, moorhen, mute swan, pheasant, pochard, rook, shoveler, starling, teal, tree sparrow, tufted duck, whooper swan, wigeon, woodpigeon, yellow-legged gull and yellowhammer.

Wednesday, 31 October 2018

RSPB Minsmere :: 26-28 October 2018

A few days away in Suffolk and so it would be rude not to visit RSPB Minsmere. It had been a bit wet as we set off but by the time we arrived the sun was out, although it was cold. We had a spot of lunch and then set out onto the reserve.

BitternAt the crossroads Charlotte convinced me that we should go over to the Bittern and Island Mere hides to see if we could see a bittern; there might also be an outside chance of a bearded tit. The Bittern hide showed very little and the reeds in the pool were in need of a trim. A young family entered and noisily discussed looking for unicorns. After some time we decided that we would retreat to Island Mere. As we passed the hill on our right we saw a jay fly past, but nothing else caught our eye.

No sign of bearded tit from the boardwalk into Island Mere but the hide was bustling with people. This was for a good reason - a bittern (#144) was Bitternstanding fishing in some thinly spaced reeds not far from the hide. It was difficult to get much of a photo from where it sat but we watched as it caught a total of four fish (3 x roach, 1 x perch). We sat / stood for a good while - as we waited we had views of great white egret and marsh harriers as they passed by.

Eventually after two hours the bittern walked a circle round open ground, in failing light, and back into the reeds once more. A great choice by Charlotte! It was getting late and so we headed to our hotel to check in.

The next morning the forecast was for better weather but gradually deteriorating through the day. After a full BitternEnglish breakfast we returned to the reserve, heading for the sea and the South hide. It was much colder and the wind stronger too. Out to sea we could sea great black-backed gulls and 200+ common scoter. From the South hide we found 5 avocet and an array of ducks. Quite large numbers of great black-backed gull were resting here too.

There had been reports of three Dartford warblers along the dunes but they refused to show. While looking around likely habitat a few stonechat spun around in the air catching flies in the more sheltered spots. We saw kestrel and then a muntjac deer as we headed back to the Visitor Centre for lunch.Bittern

Charlotte popped to the toilet before we went to Island Mere to try our luck with the bittern again. As I waited I had a goldcrest in the trees overhead. Back to the Island Mere hide and we had a repeat performance from the bittern. It was getting on so we decided to leave and had a wander around Snape Maltings and a cream tea.

The next morning we checked out and decided to have another stroll around the reserve. On the entrance road you could see how much rain had fallen overnight. The reserve was damp but not really we or muddy. We headed for the sea again - we saw common scoter again and a gannet far out to sea. Nothing extra at the South hide but we stopped on our way onwards to talk with three guys watching the passage of birds with scopes and bins. They had noted a single velvet scoter and two red-throated divers - unfortunately earlier and not visible now.

As we approached the sluice we came across the stonechats again. As I was trying to get a photo I noticed one of the birds was in fact a Dartford warbler [#145].

It was getting on to lunchtime and we decided to make a last detour to Dartford warblerIsland Mere for one last bittern encounter. Another great show from the bittern plus the appearance of a single male goosander.

Sunday lunch at the Bell, Middleton finished off our stay. We must try and arrange more of these long weekends - great fun.

Sightings (53) were: avocet, bittern, black-headed gull, black-tailed godwit, blackbird, blue tit, carrion crow, chaffinch, common gull, common scoter, cormorant, dartford warbler, dunnock, fieldfare, gadwall, gannet, goldcrest, goldfinch, goosander, great black-backed gull, great spotted woodpecker, great tit, great white egret, green woodpecker, greenfinch, grey heron, greylag goose, herring gull, jay, kestrel, lapwing, lesser black-backed gull, linnet, little egret, long-tailed tit, magpie, mallard, marsh harrier, meadow pipit, moorhen, mute swan, pheasant, pied wagtail, reed bunting, rook, shelduck, shoveler, snipe, starling, stonechat, teal, wigeon and woodpigeon.

Wednesday, 24 October 2018

BOS Bicester Wetlands :: 24 October 2018

Another day off work for the school half term so I talked Charlotte into a visit to the BOS Bicester Wetland Reserve, a first for her. The sun was out again and so regardless of what we saw, it would be a relaxing day out.

We decided to take our lunch up into the main hide so as to not spook the birds unnecessarily. From here we looked across the water and noted teal (18), moorhen (6) and black-headed gulls (19). Blue and great tits joined goldfinches, greenfinches and chaffinches at the feeders, only interrupted by a visiting great spotted woodpecker.

When thinking about eating our sandwiches we saw three jays fly from right to left over the entrance road but into the far trees. We waited for further views but none were forthcoming. While waiting though, a magpie chased out a sparrowhawk from the trees and began a dogfight ... first the magpie chasing the sparrowhawk, and then they swapped places. At one point I couldn't believe that the magpie escaped the sparrowhawk's clutches. Just minutes later this event was repeated but in addition to the magpie a crow decided to have a go. Again, how the crow escaped a lunge from the sparrowhawk we will never know.

As we were deciding to head down to the other end of the reserve, a wren decided to land on the ledge of the window - I'm not sure who got the biggest fright! As I looked down the fence below I could see the wren hopping left and right, recovering it's composure. Shortly after both red kite and buzzard flew over, the buzzard landing in a distant tree, to the annoyance of the magpies.

On the works pool two little grebe dived around the groups of mallard and gadwall.

Green sandpiperAs we approach the new hide the teal on the water were disturbed and every single one took to the air - 28 of them. From the hide all we had was a solitary green sandpiper. Over we had woodpigeon (65) and starling (45).

On our return to the car I looked over to the water treatment facility and counted 49 carrion crows. I also spotted a single grey wagtail.

Nothing out of the ordinary but a nice day out.

Sightings (30) included: black-headed gull, blue tit, buzzard, carrion crow, chaffinch, dunnock, gadwall, goldfinch, great spotted woodpecker, great tit, green sandpiper, greenfinch, grey heron, grey wagtail, house sparrow, jackdaw, jay, little grebe, magpie, mallard, moorhen, pheasant, pied wagtail, red kite, robin, sparrowhawk, starling, teal, woodpigeon and wren.

Monday, 22 October 2018

Napton Reservoir & WkWT Brandon Marsh :: 22 October 2018

There have been reports that a pair of bearded tits have been seen at Napton Reservoir. So on my day off today, I thought I'd drag Charlotte over to see if we could find them. When we got onto the waters edge you could feel the wind was cold - even the bright sun didn't seem to protect and so by the time we were close to the reeds Charlotte was already feeling the chill. We passed @Cymbelinelister and @daco1600 coming the other way - they said the male showed briefly in the channel. We waited but it didn't show for us.

A sandwich in the car and off we set for WkWT Brandon Marsh, stopping for a cup of tea and coffee on arrival. We stopped at the Jon Baldwin Hide and noted the higher water level, the larger numbers of teal and wigeon, and watched the cormorants bask in the sun. A photographer in the hide said a jack snipe had been spotted from the Teal Pool Hide and so we made that our next stop. Even before we got there we had talked with a birder who had just come from the Teal Pool and said he hadn't been able to find it, neither could we.

JayNothing extra from the East Marsh Pool or on our arrival at the Carlton Hide. The water has been taken over by a weed which covered almost three quarters of the visible pool. Nothing doing here.

At the Ted Jury Hide there was only a grey heron in the distant water. However, on opening the side window we had a good look at a single jay ... enough to get Charlotte’s attention.

Sightings (22) at Brandon Marsh: black-headed gull, blue tit, chaffinch, coot, cormorant, gadwall, goldfinch, great tit, grey heron, greylag goose, jay, lapwing, little egret, moorhen, robin, rock dove / feral pigeon, shoveler, teal, tufted duck, wigeon, woodpigeon and wren.

Sunday, 21 October 2018

Wybunbury Church :: 22 October 2018

Staying at the Red Lion in Wybunbury (pronounced Wimbry) to visit Ailsa at University. We had an early breakfast and decided on a stroll around the church opposite our pub/restaurant/hotel. Eilidh said the church bell had rung most of the night when she wasn't sleeping.

Numbers of great and blue tits fed in the trees around the church and as we rounded the corner we found that there was only a tower and the remainder of the church wasn't there ... The Domesday Book contains a reference to a priest in Wybunbury. Wybunbury ChurchThe church was broken into in 1464, the cross was broken and valuables were stolen. The thieves were caught and hung. The tower was built in the 15th century on the site of the earlier church. By 1750 its foundations were observed to be settling and the tower was beginning to lean. In the early 1790s the church was repaired or rebuilt. In 1833 the body of the church was demolished; James Trubshaw then straightened the tower by removing soil from the higher side and soaking the ground so that the tower settled back straight; this is the earliest known application of the technique later used on the Leaning Tower of Pisa. He rebuilt the body of the church in a style loosely based on the previous building. This church was replaced in 1892–93 by a church designed by James Brooks, which in turn was demolished around 1976. The tower was saved from demolition by a group of villagers who formed the Wybunbury Tower Preservation Trust.

A handful of fieldfare were highly mobile on the tops of the trees and a single woodpecker drummed somewhere ahead. I dropped down to the graveyard lower down the slope. From here I could see over to Wybunbury Moss National Nature Reserve - I must schedule some time to visit when we come next. On a post to my right a jay sat in the shade of a tree. It was quite happy to sit as I watched and it was only when I walked a little closer that it took off and moved along a few posts, then onto a gravestone. Another jay appeared to the right. They soon moved on and were lost to sight. A promising little walk for the future.

Boddington Reservoir and Temple Pool :: 07 October 2018

The weather had been suspect and so I thought that there might be something worth seeing at Boddington Reservoir. Little egretI walked from the car and chatted to a birder coming the other way, asking if he had seen anything of note. Rather grumpily he said not. The water was very low and the island had actually joined onto the mainland. Not a wader in sight. Around 80 greylag geese rested on the left hand side, with 24 black-headed gulls. Behind were five grey herons fishing and behind them again were two little egrets.

Great crested grebes (8) swam above and dived below the water. Numbers of mallard (33) rested on the rocky edge. This was going to be hard going I thought.

One of the little egrets fished close by and allowed a couple of photos, Little egretso not a waste of time, but soon I was past the fishermen and their match and on the high slope to the right of the reservoir. I stopped and talked with a chap who volunteers at Brandon Marsh - nice guy. As we watched the far hedge we had bullfinch, chiffchaff, goldfinch and blackbirds. Turned out we had both been to see the grey phalarope at Napton almost at the same time but not met then. As we stood a small flock of what appeared to be golden plover passed over. There were reports of redwing over Grimsbury but none to be seen here.

Moving on I found 18 red-legged partridge (#143) near two pheasant - Marsh titthese had eluded me for the whole year. I'd like to find some greys but never seem to have the luck. Turning for home I passed the water sluice at the far end and entered the trees. A mixed flock of tits made some commotion and I luckily picked out a couple of marsh tit amongst them.

A pleasant visit but disappointing given the expanse of mud along the edge of the water.

After lunch, Charlotte agreed to a short walk down to Temple Pool. I was hoping to show her the mandarin ducks but they didn't show. We did though see three jays fly off ahead of us as we got to the entrance to the pool from the footpath. Then great-spotted woodpecker Red-legged partridgeand nuthatch showed but not close enough for a good photo. On the way back up the hill I saw what I first thought was a kestrel but turned out to be a sparrowhawk, being mobbed by a crow.

Sightings included: black-headed gull, blackbird, blue tit, bullfinch, carrion crow, chaffinch, chiffchaff, coal tit, dunnock, goldfinch, great crested grebe, great spotted woodpecker, great tit, grey heron, greylag goose, jackdaw, jay, kestrel, lesser black-backed gull, little egret, long-tailed tit, mallard, marsh tit, moorhen, mute swan, nuthatch, pheasant, red kite, red-legged partridge, reed bunting, robin, rook, sparrowhawk, woodpigeon and wren.

Sunday, 30 September 2018

Temple Pool :: 29 September 2018

Charlotte was playing tennis in the afternoon so I decided to get the grass cut in the morning, have lunch, then head down to Temple Pool to see if any mandarin ducks were still there.

Mandarin duckIt was a beautiful afternoon with almost cloudless skies. Overhead were flocks of jackdaw and rooks, quite vocal. Buzzard over but no sign of the GS woodpeckers from last time. At the foot of the slope I crossed the horse racing track and into Temple Pool. This time I was even more careful and quite so as to not spook any of the birds on the water, I gingerly made my way to the Temple building and sat down on the steps, resting against one of the pillars.

To begin with the was nothing on the water, at least not in the open. Gradually though mallard showed, as did a couple of moorhen. Mandarin duckAfter a short while, a lone female mandarin broke from the righthand side and head down close to the water, swam out to the centre, turned, and headed back under the overhanging trees. Last time I was here it was just a single male I saw so hopes were now high.

Nothing changed for then next 10mins or so until the blue flash of a kingfisher headed down the righthand edge, in full sunlight. It landed on the bushes in the far distance (200m) but left out of sight shortly after.

Shortly after, a couple of female mandarin swan out further from the overhanging tress, followed by a male. ChiffchaffAs I got excited it hopped out of the water and onto a long hanging branch, but out of sight. Chiffchaff and blue/great tits fed on the trees and bushes either side of the temple, and a grey squirrel walked right past me.

Almost 20 minutes later another male mandarin with three females ventured out. This was followed by the male in the tree dropping into the water and making their way out into the main pool. Still around 100m away it gave the opportunity for some photos - 5 birds in all. This didn't last long and they headed towards the island at the far end. As they got close a third male, looking more like the more transitional plumage bird from last time, Kestrelappeared from the right and followed them away and out of sight.

I waited for another 5-10 minutes but they didn't show again. I was treated to the kingfisher landing on the wall at the water's edge, but all too short for a photo.

On the way back home I stopped at Balscote Quarry to see the work on the site - diggers been in much of the week. Can't wait for some water there! As I sat I had greenfinch, goldfinch and a raven mobbing a kestrel.

Sightings at Temple Pool (14) included: blue tit, buzzard, carrion crow, chiffchaff, great tit, jackdaw, kingfisher, magpie, mallard, mandarin duck, moorhen, robin, rook and woodpigeon.

Monday, 24 September 2018

Napton Reservoir :: 23 September 2018

I knew it would happen but it was still disappointing that a grey phalarope chose Friday to drop into Grimsbury Reservoir. As I feared, it had gone when people returned on Saturday morning. No chance then of seeing one on the patch. Grey phalaropeAfter arriving home at midnight on Saturday I opted for a long lie to try and recover from all my travels. Before heading for my shower, I had a look on BirdGuides to see if there were any birds around - the two most likely sites, close at hand, were Charlecote and Napton Reservoir.

It had been a long week, firstly visiting Davenport, Iowa USA, flying in overnight Friday and secondly moving my youngest daughter into University on the Saturday of my return. Just to cap it all, the M6 was shut in both directions for the journey home. Close was best and I know my way around Napton Reservoir.

Grey phalaropeWhen I arrived I couldn't immediately see anyone on the banks. Two fishermen had taken to the shore just before me and started unpacking their gear. As I surveyed the site I noticed a couple of people over the far corner (southern point). I assumed that if the birds were still here then that was most likely. I wandered around and found three guys in residence, two packing up camera equipment. There were, in fact, two grey phalarope [#142] feeding in the shallows. These are reported to be the first on the reservoir since 1967. The water level is quite low Grey phalaropeand perhaps the resulting muddy area and shallow edges have been more tempting.

I chatted to the remaining birder and discovered it was @draycotebirding. It is always good to put a face to the names you follow on Twitter. Hopefully, now we have met I can drop into Draycote to see some of the gull roosts with some guys that know their stuff. As he swung round his scope he picked out a water rail on the fringe of the opposite reeds.

As this was a bonus visit I didn't stay much longer after his departure, pointing out the location to a couple, and in the car park another party who reported they had missed the one at Charlecote - I made the right decision.

Sightings (16) included: black-headed gull, carrion crow, coot, great crested grebe, grey heron, grey phalarope, little grebe, mallard, moorhen, mute swan, rook, snipe, swallow, tufted duck, water rail and woodpigeon.

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

Temple Pool :: 12 September 2018

At the Banbury Ornithological Society monthly meeting on Monday, we had our regular bird callout. At this point I heard mostly reports that I was already aware, of or had read. One from Mark Ribbons though was for three mandarin ducks at Temple Pool, two in transitional summer plumage. Mandarin duckTalking to him later I asked where this pool was and he explained that it was on the left of the road, almost halfway between the Shenington turn (toward the recycling centre) and Upton House. I looked this up and found it to be at grid reference SP374447 - there is a gate and space to pull in off the road.

Mark had explained they were "flighty" and so I arrived at the pool carefully making sure I moved quietly and slowly. This was still too much and as soon as I passed the gate, a duck took off and flew off down to the far end of the pool, beside the righthand bank. Soon it came into sight but only for a few tens of seconds as it disappeared behind an island. Mandarin duckDespite waiting it never reappeared. My photos were unfortunately from a distance of just under 200m.

Two great spotted woodpecker flew over and into the top of a distant tree, although visible with binoculars. Making a bit of a racket.

On the way back to the car I heard jay in the trees but no sighting. I did though have a view of a hare feeding on the hillside which was nice.

Sightings included: blue tit, carrion crow, great spotted woodpecker, jackdaw, magpie, mallard, mandarin duck, red kite, rook and woodpigeon.

Sunday, 9 September 2018

Daventry Country Park :: 09 September 2018

It has been a while since I ventured over to Daventry Country Park Spotted flycatcherbut with reports of 2 x pintail and a garganey I thought I would give it a go. Just as was about to leave home, @987jonty posted that he'd had a wigeon, marsh tit, a flower yellow wagtail and a spotted flycatcher at Grimsbury Reservoir. I haven't managed to catch up with a spotted flycatcher and thought about heading there - I haven't seen it there when I have so kept to my original plan.

The sun followed me over and the weather was good on arrival - £2 paid for parking and onto the reservoir for an anticlockwise circuit - it just feels right that way. Quite a breeze off the water as I went along the dam with no slight of the garganey or pintail.

ChiffchaffApproaching East Bay I saw some birds catching flies above the tress and stopped to watch - luck was on my side as it turned out to be a spotted flycatcher [#140]. Watching I then saw willow warbler and heard chiffchaff. I couldn't help think that I might be able to get a better view from further into the trees. A path headed in that way but soon ran out - I pushed through and watched to see what I could find. The glade opened ahead and I was treated watching spotted flycatcher, blackcap, treecreeper, willow warbler, chiffchaff, goldcrest, great spotted woodpecker and an array of tits all feeding ahead of me. In the end I stayed quite a while enjoying the show.Treecreeper

Further on I came across a southern hawker dragonfly, resting on some ivy followed by a common darter. Back on the water I spied the water's edge and picked out wigeon, teal, gadwall, shoveler, Canada geese and lapwing.

After a spot of lunch I sat on the dam and looked out to see if I could see the garganey amongst the feeding teal - no joy. Was it going to elude me again? In a last-ditch effort, I circled back to see if I could peer through the gaps in the trees to the feeding ducks. I took a series of photos and on returning home one was confirmed as the drake garganey [#141] in eclipse plumage - result!Southern hawker

Sightings today (34) included: black-headed gull, blackcap, blue tit, bullfinch, buzzard, canada goose, carrion crow, chaffinch, chiffchaff, cormorant, gadwall, garganey, goldcrest, great crested grebe, great spotted woodpecker, great tit, house martin, lapwing, lesser black-backed gull, little egret, long-tailed tit, magpie, mallard, moorhen, nuthatch, shoveler, spotted flycatcher, starling, teal, treecreeper, wigeon, willow warbler, woodpigeon and wren.

Sunday, 2 September 2018

Farmoor Reservoir :: 02 September 2018

A tremendously good time at Birmingham Symphony Hall last night, entertained by Ward Thomas, Imelda May and Texas. A late arrival home but awake by 6.30am. I decided to drop into Farmoor Reservoir as the weather was to be good and changing Monday.

The water was calm when I arrived and still too early for most to be out in boats on F2. Almost the first bird up was a little grebe diving beside the valve tower.Little grebe A number of coot were diving alongside. A father and his two children were feeding ducks and a dozen or so juvenile black-headed gulls.

I headed for the causeway and soon picked out terns working along F1; there were 6 and appeared to be the black terns [#138] I'd missed all year. Three guys were seated by the first set of buildings, watching the terns; they appeared to be over towards the other bank but we all decided they were probably closer to the middle. I continued on but didn't see anything on the causeway, other than Canada and greylag geese. As I passed one group though, Dunlina juvenile dunlin fed at the waters edge.

I reached the end of the causeway and decided to make a circuit of F1 and hope to get closer to the black terns. As I went round they always seemed to be distant, as I had feared. I did come across calling chiffchaff and a number of willow warbler. As I sat and watched the tern I saw a couple of birds cutting across the surface of the water and took a couple of photos - it turned out to be a yellow wagtail [#139] chasing a common sandpiper; these sandpiper seem to get chased a bit and I remember seeing similar behaviour at Grimsbury Reservoir, although on that occasion it was pied rather than yellow wagtail. Black tern

I took a few record shots of the terns but they never got close enough for a proper shot.

As I passed the water treatment buildings I saw another (same?) yellow wagtail and a small flock of linnet. Ahead I also saw a kestrel on a fence but it moved ahead before I got close.

I had another look along the causeway before I headed for home, but the tern were still far out. I bought a coffee to get change for the car park barrier and headed home.

Sightings (30) included: black-headed gull, black tern, Black ternblue tit, buzzard, canada goose, carrion crow, chiffchaff, common sandpiper, coot, cormorant, dunlin, goldfinch, great crested grebe, grey heron, grey wagtail, greylag goose, kestrel, lesser black-backed gull, linnet, little grebe, mallard, moorhen, mute swan, pied wagtail, swallow, teal, tufted duck, willow warbler, woodpigeon and yellow wagtail.

Sunday, 26 August 2018

WkWT Brandon Marsh :: 25 August 2018

No sooner than we arrived in the car park and put on our boots, than the heavens opened - we had to run for the cover of the Visitor Centre. No point in heading out yet as we would get soaked and hadn't bothered with waterproofs; after all it was meant to be dry (Sunday forecast to be wet). Started with lunch and watched the tits and finches on the range of feeders outside the window.

After lunch the sun came out and we decided that the shower had past. Taking our usual route round New Hare Covert we hoped to see the spotted flycatchers reported the previous day. Strangely I caught up with Charlotte and she was waiting under a tree - apparently she thought it would make good cover from the rain - although it wasn't raining ... yet. I suggested we push on to the tall trees as it would likely give us better cover (mistake). Water railWithin 25m the rain started and we hurried to some trees ahead and took refuge - the rain only got heavier and over around 5 minutes we started to get quite wet. With no let up in sight I decided to make a run for it to the larger wood - even though this would mean running through heavier rain, I was already wet. Once there we were better protected but not completely out of the falling rain. Standing still we were able to pick out a treecreeper on the opposite side of the path to our usual.

The rain started to ease and we pushed on. Just beyond the turn to the Wright Hide we came across a small flock of willow warbler to our right (Swallow Pool) - Water railat least 7. From the hide we had geese, lapwing, coot, moorhen (and young of the latter two). There were also numbers of teal and gadwall in eclipse.

On to the East Marsh hide. As we entered there was a couple already in residence - they excitedly told us that they had been watching a pair of water rail in front of the hide for the last 20 minutes. On Thursday they had been trimming and cutting banks and islands on the East Marsh pool and this must have exposed the area ahead of us - although disrupted this seems to have drawn a crowd! - two showed briefly but one chased the other back out of sight.

We waited only for a couple of minutes Green sandpiperand out popped a water rail, which I assume is a juvenile due to colouring and feathering. We were entertained but with increasingly heavy skies overhead. The rain started again and as it did a green sandpiper dropped in to the waters edge. It only stayed a moment as it was quickly chased away by feeding moorhen chicks. The chap showed us a photo to see if we could identify it and it was a greenshank - it had been in front of the hide for just a minute and been chased away by the coot and moorhens - I wasn't to see one this time. The rain chucked it down and we decided to stay put.

Carlton and Ted Jury Hides were very quiet and yielded nothing of any consequence, Willow titalthough we did see a small group of whitethroat between the two.

We dropped into the Baldwin Hide on our way back but didn't add to our sightings on the water, seeing only a small flock of long-tailed tits working along the trees at the waters edge.

When I left the hide I saw some birds chasing one another on the tops of the trees but couldn't pick out what they were. I stopped and waited but Charlotte soon got bored of this and headed up to the tea-room to pick up a hot chocolate and coffee before it shut at 3.45pm. I soon managed to view the birds and found they were garden warbler. Satisfied I went back to the reserve Visitor Centre but as I passed the Carlton ditch I saw a bird flash to my right, sporting a black cap. Waiting, it turned out to be a pair of willow tit. Absolutely gorgeous.

Sightings (36) included: black-headed gull, blue tit, buzzard, canada goose, carrion crow, chaffinch, common tern, coot, cormorant, dunnock, gadwall, garden warbler, great tit, green sandpiper, greenfinch, grey heron, greylag goose, house martin, lapwing, long-tailed tit, mallard, moorhen, pheasant, reed bunting, robin, rock dove / feral pigeon, sand martin, swallow, teal, treecreeper, tufted duck, water rail, whitethroat, willow tit, willow warbler and woodpigeon.

Friday, 24 August 2018

Grimsbury Reservoir :: 23/24 August 2018

On the Oxon Bird blog, Thursday morning, Colin Wilkinson reported green sandpiper, redstart and two wheatear at Grimsbury Reservoir. @987jonty also reported a teal and two sand martíns. At lunchtime @987jonty visited again and located the wheatear on the west side of the reservoir. With my work laptop out of action, I decided to drop in and have a look - after all, I’d managed to miss wheatear all through the spring.

I made a full circuit and couldn’t find the bird at all. As I left the site I turned to look back at the sailing club building. A small bird was hopping around the kerb and it turned out to be a female wheatear [#136]. Result.

Today, again at lunchtime, @987jonty spotted a redstart in the hedge between the cattle field and the waterworks. I was just starting lunch I thought I would drop in again. As I neared the reservoir my photo chimed and reported @987jonty had now spotted a whinchat. Although I arrived within just a couple of minutes, the whinchat had flown off across the cattle field. I chatted to John and waited to see if the restart would show - eventually John left and I continued to vigil. Eventually the redstart [#137] obliged.

I finished a circuit of the reservoir but no joy with the whinchat, or the yellow wagtails John had over.

Sightings (18) included: black-headed gull, blackbird, canada goose, greenfinch, grey heron, house martin, jackdaw, kestrel, magpie, mallard, mute swan, pied wagtail, redstart, robin, rook, wheatear, whitethroat and woodpigeon.

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Bicester Wetland Reserve :: 13 August 2018

The August meeting of the Banbury Ornithological Society (BOS) was an outdoor meeting at Bicester Wetland Reserve; the entrance to the reserve is immediately past the Bicester Avenue retail park/garden centre on the edge of Bicester.

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 heavy moving equipment and hazardous areas. The site can be locked at any time by Thames Water, therefore keys are vital.

The reserve manager Alan Peters gave an introductory talk about the site and about viewing from three hides. Created in 1999, Bicester Wetland Reserve was the result of an agreement between the BOS and Thames Water. The 7 hectare 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.

Green sandpiperWe split into groups as it wouldn't be possible for us all to visit the hides at the same time. David Tustian was with me and we chose to start at the far end of the reserve at the new hide by the railway. Here there is a small pool of water who's fringes are churned up into mud by grazing cattle. We entered the hide and were pleased to see a handful of green sandpiper [#134] - new for the year. These birds move between the main scrape and this pool and as we watched most did so, with others returning. Three snipe fed in the shallows and a couple of grey heron stood watch.

As we walked back we stopped at the middle hide. From here we could look back and see various wildfowl and a couple of little egrets. ChiffchaffA family of magpies made noisy conversation and four buzzard quartered the other side of the railway tracks.

As we set off back to the main hide we talked with Jo and Chris Morgan and found out that they had seen some bird ringing - a juvenile blue tit. Colin Wearn (who conducts ringing on the site) had his mist nets in place for a ringing demonstration. We got back and luckily they were just setting off to collect any other birds caught in the nets - this time a juvenile chiffchaff.

Watching from the hide a group spotted a water rail [#135] skulking in the far fringes across the water - soon lost heading right and behind reeds.

WhitethroatAnother visit to the nets yielded two more birds: another chiffchaff and a common whitethroat. I had a chat to Colin and he told me about his visits to Ascension Island to survey and study the sooty terns - he also showed me some photos and video on his camera. We also talked about his ringing demonstrations at Countryfile Live at Blenheim the previous week - he also had great photos of elephant hawk moth caterpillars in standard brown, but also green livery.

As we prepared to leave, the house martins that were skating cross the pools were first joined by a few swallows and then up to 9 swifts. No sooner had we started to talk about the swifts that a cloud of swallows descended and filled the sky. They then skimmed the pools and provided a spectacular sight.

A great visit and hopefully I can get back at the right time to catch up with the water rail in the winter.

Sightings (25) included: black-headed gull, blackbird, buzzard, canada goose, carrion crow, chiffchaff, coot, gadwall, green sandpiper, grey heron, house martin, little egret, magpie, mallard, moorhen, pied wagtail, rook, snipe, swallow, swift, teal, tufted duck, water rail, whitethroat and woodpigeon.

Saturday, 4 August 2018

Seamill and West Kilbride :: 30 July - 03 August 2018

Our summer visit to my parents in Scotland usually results in a number of coastal walks, before breakfast each morning. I almost managed each of the five days but on Thursday we opted for a shopping trip with the girls to Silverburn in Glasgow.

Ever hopeful I was on the beach by 6.40am and noted the usual suspects at the bottom of the burn leading into the sea - lots of gulls, carrion crows, rooks and jackdaws. I turned and headed for the bridge that crossed the burn hoping to see the dippers - my last few visits have resulted in zero sightings, I suspect due to the rebuilding of the wall beside the burn and the disturbance this caused. Unfortunately no sign.

Ringed ploverAlong the beach and I picked up linnet, redshank, curlew, oystercatcher and gannets out to sea. I stopped and watched some rocks, picking out some juvenile dunlin who comically hopped higher and higher up the rocks as the sea came in. Both shag and cormorants out at sea with shelduck flying past (single).

As I returned to the hotel I watched sand martins entering the pipes in the hotel retaining wall. These were joined in flight by house martin and swallows.

Dipper juvenileThe next morning I was back on the beach but on this occasion was overjoyed to see a juvenile dipper feeding ahead. This was followed shortly by close views of an adult. Out further along the coast to the Waterside Inn I had good views of ringed plover and willow warbler. Out to sea I could also see a pair of sandwich tern fishing.

A ringed plover started calling and then lead me away from where it must have been nesting. It clambered across the rocks, making sure I was paying attention and following.

On the third morning I decided to head out to Portencross beach and hoped to catch up with e sandwich terns that usually hang out on the rocks. Unfortunately there were none. DipperTo begin with there wasn't much else but eventually as the sea went out small mixed flocks of ringed plover and dunlin arrived. Not the best morning I've spent there!

On my final morning I saw some interesting looking ducks and got quite excited - they turned out to be juvenile shelduck. No sign of the dippers as I headed out but I came across a young willow warbler in the hedge ahead. As I reached the turn I saw small flocks of linnet and meadow pipit. As I watched I saw a pied wagtail chasing a linnet along the beach. The linnet dropped and then sized up to the juvenile pied wagtail. After a short standoff, the linnet flew at the pied wagtail and then off Linnet vs pied wagtailback down the beach with the wagtail in pursuit. I thought this odd behaviour but then remembered the juvenile pied wagtails at Grimsbury Reservoir chasing a common sandpiper earlier in the summer.

The ringed plover performed the same show as I passed.

Back at the burn I found that the juvenile dipper was feeding, further out of view than my previous visit. Glad they are back and looking forward to following them again.

Willow warblerSightings on my walks (42) included: black-headed gull, blue tit, carrion crow, common gull, common sandpiper, cormorant, curlew, dipper, dunlin, dunnock, eider, gannet, goldfinch, great black-backed gull, grey heron, herring gull, house martin, house sparrow, jackdaw, lesser black-backed gull, linnet, magpie, mallard, meadow pipit, mute swan, oystercatcher, pied wagtail, ringed plover, robin, rock dove / feral pigeon, rook, sand martin, sandwich tern, sedge warbler, shag, shelduck, song thrush, starling, swallow, whitethroat, willow warbler and woodpigeon.

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Grimsbury Reservoir & Farthinghoe Nature Reserve :: 09 July 2018

An update at lunchtime confirmed that the mandarin duck was still present at Grimsbury Reservoir. It was also reported that an adult yellow-legged gull was also present so I thought I would drop in.

Mandarin duckNo sign of @987jonty so I started off on a clockwise rotation. It was unfortunate but the mandardin was sitting out in the middle of the reservoir so just record shots. The yellow-legged gull (#131) ticked I also saw a single common sandpiper being chased across the water by the many juvenile pied wagtails along the bank. Lots of song at the far end but all I managed to pick up was a single whitethroat.

In the evening was the second Banbury Ornithological Society outdoor meeting of the summer. We visited Farthinghoe Nature reserve. This lovely little reserve is managed by volunteer warden Tim Pridmore. MothThe reserve can be found off the A422 towards Purston. We parked in the farmer's yard and set off from there.

This long, narrow, amazingly diverse site is now a mosaic of developing woodland, open grassland and ponds. The meadows are improving each year as a result of the management plan which includes harvesting hay late in the year to maintain low soil fertility. This has led to the welcome return of some of the old meadow flowers such as lady’s bedstraw, meadow vetchling and snake’s head fritillary. The ponds and wet areas attract dragonflies and damselflies from the nearby lake and stream and in late July it is possible to find Green woodpeckerbeautiful demoiselle damselflies in good numbers. There is also a colony of marbled white butterflies on the site. Pipistrelle and noctule bats find an ideal hunting ground here.

Tim was so knowledgeable about all aspects of his reserve and made it a very worthwhile visit. We were limited to a small number of bird species but were luckily to see a handful of mistle thrush over and a family of green woodpeckers on the other side of the field.

I think we will all be back when the weather is more conducive to sightings. Maybe couple it with a visit to Thenford in the winter to look for hawfinches.

Sightings at Farthinghoe (16) included: blackbird, blackcap, blue tit, buzzard, carrion crow, chiffchaff, goldfinch, green woodpecker, jay, long-tailed tit, mistle thrush, pheasant, pied wagtail, robin, swift and woodpigeon.