Saturday, 20 January 2018

RSPB Otmoor :: 13 January 2018

It was time for my first visit of 2018 to RSPB Otmoor. Always a pleasure and a good place to move on with my year list. I decided to go early in the morning, as I usually do, although this prevents me seeing the spectacle of thousands of starlings in their winter murmuration. The car park was relatively quiet when I arrived and you could see evidence of reserve management taking place with lots of trees cut down and logs piled.

There were lots of bullfinch around the car park, joined by good numbers of blue and great tit. From here there wasn't much evidence of any movement in the sky but I could hear some distant geese calling. Soon these were seen in The Closes. Golden ploverNothing unusual at the feeders I continued on and wondered if it was quiet and it was going to be "one of those" Saturday mornings. As I got closer to the hide I was greeted by a very large flock of golden plover taking off from Big Otmoor. The number on Big Otmoor alone has been estimated at 2,500 and as high as 5,000 on the whole site.

Into the hide and distant flocks could be seen - good numbers of linnet and reed bunting. As I waited the flocks got closer and were joined by chaffinch, dunnock and yellowhammer. As I sat a large fox ran past on The Closes side and crossed towards Greenaways.

Through the gate and towards the first screen I got better views of the golden plover, sharing the field with large but lower numbers of lapwing. At regular intervals they both were spooked and took to the air creating a swirling mass of birds - great to watch and be directly under.

From the first screen I had three marsh harrier, a pair and a juvenile female. It appears all the others have left the reserve. Joining them were large numbers of red kite across to the trees and hedgerow beyond. At one point I thought I had spotted the hen harrier but unfortunately not. A handful of snipe could be seen in their usual spot. No sign of bittern (three seen over the last weeks) nor water rail.

Rather than continuing onto the second screen I opted for a return toward the hide and a look along the path between Ashgrave and Big Otmoor. As I walked I could feel the mud getting deeper and wetter and wondered if this was a good idea ... up popped a female stonechat to be added to the year list, then wigeon. A group walking in the opposite direction suggested it might not be worth continuing on as nothing special had been seen further on.

Marsh titAs I approached the turn for the feeders I could see a goldcrest flying and hovering beside branches ahead. At the feeders I then added marsh tit.

A pleasant visit and added 12 species to take me to #70 for the year.

Sightings (41) included: black-headed gull, blackbird, blue tit, bullfinch, buzzard, canada goose, carrion crow, chaffinch, cormorant, dunnock, goldcrest, golden plover, goldfinch, great tit, grey heron, greylag goose, lapwing, linnet, long-tailed tit, magpie, mallard, marsh harrier, marsh tit, moorhen, mute swan, pheasant, pied wagtail, pochard, red kite, redwing, reed bunting, robin, rook, snipe, starling, stonechat, teal, wigeon, woodpigeon, wren and yellowhammer.

Sunday, 7 January 2018

WkWT Brandon Marsh :: 06 January 2018

Still the first week of the year and my second outing. This time there was no specific bird in my sights but it had been quite a while since I went to WkWT Brandon Marsh so off I set. It was a cold morning with ice covering the car and the temperature still below freezing. Gentle set off aware that black ice may be an issue with Kat’s wide rear wheel drive.

On the hill up the Southam Road, atop a tree on the right, sat a peregrine - perhaps the same one noted by Gareth (@Grimsburybirding) recently. Nothing else of note on the remaining journey.

Through the Visitor’s Centre and onto the path JayI immediately caught sight of a jay. I stopped to observe and to my surprise the bird flew left and into a tree where I could see it better. As I headed for New Hare Covert I saw the jay again and followed it onto the waters edge where it flew on further than I could follow. I continued on and within another couple of minutes I saw two jay and had some reasonable views although not great photos due to poor light.

As I reached the tall trees at the centre of the New Hare Covert I saw treecreeper and while watching this also found goldcrest; last year I couldn’t buy a Goldcrestgoldcrest sighting but no such problem this year. More sightings of the jays but becoming more distant. As I turned to walk between Swallow and East Marsh Pools, looking down the gated lane I could see a mixed flock which comprised Siskin, goldfinch and a couple of dunnock and reed bunting.

From the Wright Hide I saw a fine male goldeneye and shoveler ducks, but none of the snipe or wigeon listed in the last week.Nuthatch

Nothing else of note around the rest of the reserve other than the constant presence of goldcrest across all areas. More treecreeper too. The rain started while I was in the Carlton Hide but fortunately became intermittent and allowed me to get back to the car without getting too wet. From the Visitor's Centre I also added nuthatch and willow tit.

Back via Bicester Village I also added buzzard, red kite and collard dove taking my year list to 59.

Sightings on the reserve (37) included: black-headed gull, blackbird, blue tit, bullfinch, canada goose, carrion crow, chaffinch, coal tit, coot, cormorant, dunnock, goldcrest, goldeneye, great spotted woodpecker, great tit, greenfinch, lapwing, long-tailed tit, magpie, mallard, moorhen, mute swan, nuthatch, pheasant, red kite, redwing, reed bunting, robin, rock dove / feral pigeon, shoveler, siskin, teal, tufted duck, willow tit, woodpigeon and wren.

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Draycote Water :: 02 January 2018

On a mission to add hawfinch to the 2018 year list and so returned to Draycote Water - Hawfinchseemed to be the best chance of getting the tick (although @987jonty reported one still at Thenford Church yesterday). Charlotte decided to join me, on the understanding that we visited the café in the Visitors Centre.

Green woodpeckerStarted with lunch then down into the park to see if we could find the hawfinch. Green woodpecker [#20] standing out on the grass in the playground and mistle thrush [#19] calling from the trees started us off and we soon had our bird - the hawfinch [#25] but in the shadow of the copse on a very gloomy day. We also had a beautiful pair of bullfinches and a large mixed flock of fieldfare and redwing.

Up onto the waterside and we had goldeneye, goosander and a little grebe showing off it's catch. Quite a few dead gulls along the side of the water was upsetting to see. At the turn we saw good numbers of teal, although in the cold I couldn't spot the hybrid green-winged found a few days ago by @wildrainsbrook.

Little grebeA quick coffee and hot chocolate then back home.

Sightings (31) included: black-headed gull, blackbird, bullfinch, carrion crow, coot, cormorant, dunnock, fieldfare, gadwall, goldeneye, goldfinch, goosander, great crested grebe, green woodpecker, hawfinch, kestrel, lesser black-backed gull, little grebe, long-tailed tit, magpie, mallard, mistle thrush, moorhen, pied wagtail, redwing, robin, song thrush, teal, treecreeper, tufted duck and woodpigeon.