Sunday, 22 April 2018

RSPB Otmoor :: 21 April 2018

It was a beautiful morning and the temperature was set for 23C by lunchtime - although 13C when I left, there would be no need for a coat today. RSPB Otmoor hosts cuckoo in the summer months and so, having heard of their return, I was off to catch a glimpse, or just hear their calls.

As I got to the car park (08:30) it was absolutely full and there I met a rather grumpy looking gentleman in camouflage gear. CuckooI asked if he had been lucky with any shots but he replied how he was annoyed at having seen great pictures of wheatear on the Oxon Birding Blog but they weren't around this morning.

The next guy I met was in a better mood and enthused that I would be unlucky not to see cuckoos this morning as he had 5 encounters in his time there. At the feeders grasshopper warbler reeled but I couldn't locate them through my bins.

Walking along the bridleway I could hear sedge and reed warbler but only caught short glimpses of sedge [#110]. Sedge warblerA couple of people were staking out a dead tree, hoping that the cuckoo would stop there on it's next passage along the tree line. I continued on and very shortly after watched the cuckoo [#111] land in a distant tree - waiting were I was it flew left and then towards me, landing in a tree ahead. Fortunately I was close enough to get off a few shots before it moved on. A single snipe drummed overhead.

A significant flock of linnet were feeding and resting in the trees around the hide but I didn't stay there long; as I left a yellowhammer dropped into the tree ahead.

Common lizardHeading to the first screen I talked with a woman I'd parked next to in the car park and she passed on that a whimbrel had been spotted out on Big Otmoor. Just visible over a ridge this was another year tick [#112], almost right behind it was a barnacle goose [#113], lying down but sticking up it's head. More sedge then as I got to the first screen a reed warbler [#114] sang and climbed the reeds to my right - just as I managed to get a focus through the reeds it took to the wing and flew off.

Looking back down the path I could hear and see the cuckoo in trees near where I had seen it, then it flew right and into some very tall trees and I lost it when it left.Willow warbler

Marsh harrier and red kite quartered the reed bed but again no bittern here. Onto the second screen I picked up willow tit, joining in with the throng of chiffchaff. Nothing much at the second screen but as I returned I could hear the bittern boom but couldn't see it anywhere - I waited but it stayed hidden.

I stopped at the first screen and watched the common lizards for a few minutes before heading back to the bridleway. As I went through the gate there were a few people watching sedge in the brambles opposite; Lesser whitethroatI joined them and as we watched we saw a lesser whitethroat [#115] hop by.

Skylarks rose from Greenaways and in the distance a lone hobby [#116] worked the far hedgerow. A curlew flew past and stopped briefly between Greenaways and Moorleys, too far away for a decent photo. Heading back I then added common whitethroat [#117] - a showy bird hopping between trees and the overhead cable.

It was noticeable that I didn't hear the cuckoo again as I walked along the bridleway to the car park - early is obviously best at present. Common whitethroat

Sightings today (47) included: barnacle goose, black-headed gull, blackbird, blackcap, blue tit, buzzard, canada goose, carrion crow, chaffinch, chiffchaff, coot, cuckoo, curlew, dunnock, gadwall, goldfinch, great crested grebe, great tit, greylag goose, hobby, lapwing, lesser black-backed gull, lesser whitethroat, linnet, magpie, mallard, marsh harrier, moorhen, mute swan, pheasant, pochard, red kite, redshank, reed bunting, reed warbler, rook, sedge warbler, shoveler, skylark, snipe, teal, tufted duck, whimbrel, whitethroat, willow warbler, woodpigeon and yellowhammer.

Balscote Quarry :: 19 April 2018

This Banbury Birders WhatsApp Group is proving to be the sure way to communicate what is going on around town. Tonight we had an update that there was a short-eared owl hunting across Balscote Quarry. A few of us shot over but by this time a buzzard had flushed the bird and it had moved over the field edge and out of sight, not to return. Just our luck.

While there it would be rude not to look and I added little ringed plover [#108] to the year list. As the sun dropped below the horizon most left, until just @Vanellus26 and I remained. The final bird of the day was a barn owl [#109] sitting on the screen on the other side of the water, flying only 10 feet or so then returning to the sit on the screen. Another barn owl popped it's head out the box but soon disappeared.

A few pipistrelle bats fed between the trees as we packed up and left.

Friday, 13 April 2018

Grimsbury Reservoir :: 12 April 2018

Black-necked grebeAnother breakfast time tweet from @987jonty and another visitor to Grimsbury Reservoir in Banbury, this time a summer plumage black necked grebe [#107]. A great find and a beautiful bird.

Initially @987jonty said he though it was a female tufted duck, head down and resting, as it was hanging out with a male tufted duck. He realised what it was as he got nearer. It favoured the NE end of the reservoir and was reported to be calling frequently and at lunchtime had a good feed, diving near the edge.

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Grimsbury Reservoir :: 10 April 2018

It was raining at breakfast time and I was still weary from a badminton match the night before so I decided not to venture to the reservoir. However, by the time I got to work there were reports that the scoter had gone but a common sandpiper had turned up.

At lunchtime the rain had stopped so I jumped in the car and made a quick visit. As I got round to the reservoir I could see @987jonty ahead - he had just arrived and we went round the circuit together. Across the water you could see grey wagtail and the common sandpiper [#105]. It was quiet on the water but as we walked down between the river and reservoir there were good numbers of chiffchaff, willow warbler, plus goldcrest and blackcap [#106].

Another blackcap appeared as we left the site, as did a grey wagtail.

Monday, 9 April 2018

Grimsbury Reservoir :: 09 April 2018

I was just about to leave the house for work when I received an update from Twitter - @987jonty had been out early again and had found a Common scotercommon scoter at Grimsbury Reservoir. I packed up my stuff, jumped in the car and dropped in on the way to the office.

As I arrived and parked, I met Mike Pollard. We walked round to the west bank and could already see a black duck in the middle of the water [#101].

We could see @987jonty further round and he made his way to us - the bird had spent the entire time in the middle of the water. As we watched swallows [#102] and house martins [#103] circled, picking up flies as they went.

We all set off for work but @987jonty and Mike suggested they might drop in after work, Grey wagtailMike on his way to the BOS meeting. In fact, when I returned at lunchtime, Mike was there and I'd just missed @987jonty. The scoter was in exactly the same position - too far for a good photo. I didn't see the little ringed plover that had been there just minutes before I arrived but did see a grey wagtail [#104].

Sunday, 8 April 2018

Wroxton Abbey :: 08 April 2018

It had just started to rain when I read the message from Mike Pollard on the Banbury Birding WhatsApp group - Nuthatch6 hawfinch between the entrance to the grounds and the main building. I duly arrived but was unsuccessful in finding the group - Mike did say they were shy ... instead I watched nuthatch, chiffchaff and a drumming greater spotted woodpecker. Rained throughout but I didn't seem to get that wet.

Sunday lunch awaited and true to form (lunchtime and spring) we had good views of a male sparrowhawk in the back gardenSparrowhawk; initially it was sitting on one of the feeder poles (no way to attract lunch) and then for quite a while on the fence. He showed considerable interest in a greenfinch which arrived in a nearby tree but presumably the odds of covering the ground and catching it were not good.

Sightings at Wroxton (16) were: blackbird, blue tit, carrion crow, chaffinch, chiffchaff, great spotted woodpecker, great tit, house sparrow, jackdaw, mallard, mistle thrush, mute swan, nuthatch, robin, starling and woodpigeon.

Grimsbury Reservoir :: 07 April 2018

I haven’t found time to be out birding locally all month so decided to head down to Grimsbury Reservoir for a Chiffchaffquick circuit. It was surprisingly warm, reaching 17C.

First sighting was not a bird but a fox, waiting and watching in the field to the west of the reservoir. No sign of the hirundines reported by @grimsbury_birds earlier but a peregrine over, headed towards the Mondelez factory.

Chiffchaffs [#99] were very vocal and quite a few near the bridge between the river and the train tracks. Willow warblerA pair of buzzards circled above.

Halfway back to the car I found the willow warbler pair [#100], quite high in the trees but helpfully singing (eventually).

Perhaps I’ll need to get up earlier and catch the early visitors.

Sightings (23) included: black-headed gull, blackbird, blue tit, buzzard, carrion crow, chaffinch, chiffchaff, collared dove, dunnock, goldfinch, great tit, jackdaw, long-tailed tit, magpie, mallard, mute swan, peregrine, pied wagtail, robin, rook, willow warbler, woodpigeon and wren.

Seamill :: 03-05 April 2018

It has been a while since I got up to Scotland to see my parents. Booked the family into the Seamill Hydro Red-breasted merganserbut for the first three days it rained. From the hotel room it was possible to watch the shoreline and soon I had added red-breasted merganser to the year list.

Thursday was forecast to be set fair so I got up early and was on the beach before 7.00am. Initially no sign of the pair of mergansers but a photo of a bird flying over the waves turned out to be the male. Small flocks of rock pipit teased in the half light and skylark and meadow pipits regularly rose in song and dropped back to earth.

Before heading off to my parents house SkylarkI got another view of the female merganser, in the water and on the wing.

The work on the retaining wall between the hotel and the burn is now complete but there was no sign of the dippers. Sand martins through and the year list progressed to 98 - I wonder what will take me to 100?

Sightings (42) included: black-headed gull, blackbird, blue tit, carrion crow, chaffinch, collared dove, common gull, cormorant, curlew, dunnock, eider, gannet, goldfinch, great black-backed gull, great tit, greenfinch, grey heron, herring gull, hooded crow, house sparrow, jackdaw, lesser black-backed gull, magpie, meadow pipit, mute swan, oystercatcher, pied wagtail, red-breasted merganser, redshank, robin, rock dove / feral pigeon, rock pipit, rook, sand martin, shag, shelduck, skylark, song thrush, starling, teal, wigeon and wren.