Monday, 27 May 2019

Farmoor Reservoir & Bicester Wetlands :: 27 May 2019

Bank holiday Monday today and so I asked her indoors if she'd like to go out for a stroll around a reservoir or wetland. We had read that sanderling, dunlin and red-crested pochard had been recorded at Farmoor Reservoir last night and thought that would be good.

We arrived to find the car park almost empty. Unfortunately so was the reservoir. SwiftWe didn't find anything on the causeway and I resorted to trying to take a photo of the swifts cutting through the air like bullets - the fact they were in the sky rather than over the water didn't help avoiding them appearing like silouettes. Soon we spotted there were a couple of sand martins too.

We dropped down in the Pinkhill reserve and saw both sedge and reed warbler, and a fly-by great spotted woodpecker. We climbed back up to the reservoir and headed across the causeway and a spot of lunch.

On the way home we dropped into Bicester Wetlands - the gate was locked and it looked like it had only been Alan Peters that had visited over the weekend. Green woodpeckerSaw a few warblers but had been hoping for green sandpiper but none were present. There were views of a green woodpecker to cheer us.

Just one of those days.

Sightings today included: black-headed gull, blue tit, canada goose, carrion crow, common tern, coot, cormorant, gadwall, great crested grebe, great spotted woodpecker, green woodpecker, greylag goose, house Martin, lapwing, magpie, mallard, mute swan, pied wagtail, reed bunting, rook, sand Martin, sedge warbler, swift, whitethroat and woodpigeon.

Sunday, 26 May 2019

RSPB Otmoor :: 26 May 2019

It was due to drizzle thought e late morning / early afternoon so I set off after breakfast to see if I could eventually catch up with a turtle dove at RSPB Otmoor. Willow and sedge warblers as I headed to the bridleway and the cattle pens. Already I could hear cuckoos to my left. I reached the cattle pens to find a couple of joggers both dressed in luminous pink facing Greenaways, with two dogs off their leads. As I approached they asked whether I knew the species of the bird ahead of them. Having only just arrived I located the bird and found it was my long awaited turtle dove - Turtle Dovehoorah! I lent them my bins and they were excited to know they had seen it. Soon they were off running again.

Added more sedge warbler along the bridleway, and then reed warbler too. I was distracted by the incessant calling of cuckoo along the hedgerow - great views but almost all were in flight, and out of range before I had my camera on them. I managed to take my eyes off the hedgerow long enough to see a weasel bound across the path and into the reed bed to my right.

Marsh harrier, redshank, snipe and Linnetvarious duck species all at the first screen. Soon drops of rain started to fall and I turned to make my way back to the car park. Before I reached the kissing gate leading to the bridleway, I heard what promised to be the reeling of a grasshopper warbler. Unfortunately it stopped and I wasn't able to locate the source. As I searched, cetti's warblers called from behind me and I managed to see them only when they alighted and took off down the path and back into the hedgerow. Swifts, swallow and house martin passed overhead and linnet dropped into the branches and brambles ahead.

More cetti's on the bridleway but I couldn't see them at all. The rain got heavier and became a drizzle by the time I turned into the car park.

Species (49) today included: black-headed gull, blackbird, bullfinch, canada goose, cetti's warbler, chaffinch, chiffchaff, collared dove, common tern, coot, cormorant, cuckoo, gadwall, garden warbler, goldfinch, great crested grebe, great tit, grey heron, greylag goose, house Martin, jackdaw, lapwing, linnet, mallard, marsh harrier, moorhen, mute swan, pheasant, pochard, red kite, redshank, reed bunting, reed warbler, robin, rook, sedge warbler, shoveler, skylark, snipe, swallow, swift, teal, tufted duck, turtle dove, whitethroat, wigeon, willow warbler, woodpigeon and yellowhammer.

Sunday, 19 May 2019

Farmoor and Grimsbury Reservoirs :: 18 May 2019

The weather was forecast to start dry but then break out into localised showers, some heavy, in the later morning - so I decided to head to Farmoor Reservoir early - @old_caley had posted photos of three sanderling the night before and given the weather, I hoped they might stay over. I'd opted against Grimsbury Reservoir where @987jonty had found sanderling the day before but it had departed - unlikely two days running?

DunlinI arrived by 7.45am to find that I was in a queue to enter as the gates were still locked - it turned out that there was a fishing match later in the morning and at least 14 cars and one scooter were all on the grid. While I waited I changed shoes so as not to waste time; who knew when a shower might come. At 8.00am the gates opened and we filed in.

I headed straight for the causeway and instantly saw a yellow wagtail fly in a circle, landing on the edge of the causeway ahead. It was gone moments later. I walked with one of the regulars and we came across a single common sandpiper and three dunlin. I had a go at photographing some of the swifts but gave this up as a bad idea. Black ternAs I got to the end of the causeway I scanned the water to find a black tern fishing in the centre of F2 that I'd missed before - only common terns previously. I strolled back and talked with a guy from Swindon who had his scope on them and said there were three now resting on the deck of a boat.

Nothing else was showing so I decided on a circuit of F2. There was little to excite but I did see three more common sandpipers and a flyby from a male sparrowhawk.

I returned to the Visitors Centre and found it was buzzing with fisherman, sailors and families. Black ternI decided to stop for a coffee and a wee croissant. The woman behind me was one of the fisherman in the match and was buying tea and some snacks for her teammate; apparently he had arrived with no food or drink. She assured me he had brought his rod, reel and flies! I sat outside and watched as the match fisherman were all instructed on match rules and logistics. Soon they were off and headed in every direction to get the best spot.

When I'd finished my coffee I returned to the causeway and bumped into the chap from Swindon again, now with a younger lad Egyptian geese- he was indicating the various species on view. The single common sandpiper on the causeway had increased to four, perhaps the others I'd seen earlier? The staff had moved the boat that the black tern had been resting - they weren't initially visible. Soon I found then gaining height on the far side of F2, eventually appearing to leave north. I continued down the causeway only adding a pair of Egyptian geese.

I checked my phone as I thought I'd heard a text and found it was something on the Banbury Birders WhatsApp Group - Gareth had located a sanderling at Grimsbury Reservoir. I told him to keep it there and I'd be back soon. SanderlingAs soon as I sent the message, the black terns appeared and crossed onto F1, surveying the water and eventually crossed back to F2. At least this gave me the opportunity to get a couple of photos.

I jumped in the car and drove up the A34 and M40 to Banbury. As I left the motorway some heavy rain set in and I wondered if I was in for a soaking. As it happened, the rain reduced to a drizzle and I got on the water relatively dry. Ahead of me was Dave Fuller and I eventually caught up with him as he reached the sanderling - tick! It was feeding on the western shore, turning as it got close to a fisherman and repeating the pattern. As Dave and I talked and watched, the sanderling got actually quite close to the fisherman and unfortunately he chose this moment to get out his chair to crouch near his fishing rod. The sanderling took off and rose higher as it went over the trees and river. Shame. That has been two different sanderling in two days, at least with possibly a third sighted.

Sightings (27) at Farmoor Reservoir included: black tern, black-headed gull, buzzard, carrion crow, collared dove, common sandpiper, common tern, coot, cormorant, dunlin, egyptian goose, gadwall, great crested grebe, grey heron, greylag goose, herring gull, house Martin, magpie, mallard, mute swan, pied wagtail, sparrowhawk, starling, swallow, swift, woodpigeon and yellow wagtail.

Sunday, 12 May 2019

Crookham Common :: 11 May 2019

On Friday I had asked @987jonty about where he saw his nightingales, and before he could answer, @Stormvogel99 suggested Crookham Common. I'd not quite registered the name when @old_caley told me that is where he had gone for his record this spring - I'd not heard of it before but I checked it out and it is only an hour away, near Newbury and Greenham Common. @987jonty suggested his were further away at Thrapston, and I also saw that two males were singing at Rutland Water. I opted for Crookham. Nightingale

I rose early and was onsite by 8.30am. I took a little minute to locate the car park as I turned right instead of left at the previous junction. This was a largely wooded area.

I listened for calls but to start with there was no nightingale. A cuckoo called from across the road. I eventually headed right, looking at the road. Within 20m I heard a nightingale call and immediately saw two fly into the undergrowth and got my first (and best) photo. I followed the birds along the path as they went into deeper undergrowth. I had a few goes at picking them out as they sang from there. Nightingale

I decided to have a look at the common as I was there. Lots of brambles, gorse and not surprisingly stonechat (male, female and some juvenile). I started out and came across several linnet, lesser and common whitethroat, chiffchaff, willow warbler and several tit species.

On the return leg I had more views of stonechat and a red kite circling above the small pools of water. I also heard deer in the bushes, grunting away. As I walked on the path, alongside the road, I saw signs warning of deer - accurate then. Red kite

I should explore the area further and will definitely have another visit here.

Sightings included: black-headed gull, blackbird, blackcap, blue tit, buzzard, canada goose, carrion crow, chiffchaff, coot, cormorant, dunnock, goldfinch, jackdaw, lapwing, lesser whitethroat, linnet, long-tailed tit, magpie, mallard, nightingale, red kite, robin, stonechat, swift, whitethroat and woodpigeon.

Grimsbury Reservoir :: 10 May 2019

The weather was on the turn and so I thought it was an ideal opportunity to do a bit of birding at Grimsbury Reservoir before work. I arrived just after 7.00am and found the water to be enveloped by a fog. On the pontoon there were five common sandpiper but no hirundines on the reservoir, or across the cattle field. Red-rumped swallow

I decided on a circuit, passing Ewan Urquhart (@Stormvogel99) as he sat on the bench. Families of grey wagtail fed their young on the eastern edge and birdsong was prolific. As I started my second circuit I could see there were now six common sandpipers on the pontoon.

At about 7.35am, four swallows appeared and I prayed that this was the start of an influx, which would contain the red-dumped swallow. Sure enough, not 10 minutes later, there it was. Ewan, myself, and two visitors (one heading to Straford, the other to Froome) Whinchatwatched as the swallows and sand martins began hunting and eventually perching on the perimeter fence.

As they spooked and headed out onto the water, we saw @987jonty coming round the corner and he was suddenly interested in something, drawing out his camera - we joined him and found it to be a whinchat. We all decided to follow it round the reservoir as it eventually crossed to the eastern bank.

As we reached the landing point we could hear and then see some garden warbler, then had a fly past from a single hobby. At least two families of grey wagtail fed on the bank and on the river.

As we left, four common sandpipers rose from around the bridge.

Monday, 6 May 2019

WkWT Brandon Marsh :: 06 May 2019

A bank holiday today so I thought I'd have an early breakfast and head out to WkWT Brandon Marsh. Reed warblerEver hopeful I looked for the whinchat reported on Friday but it hasn't been seen since Saturday morning - wasn't around as far as I could see. I had considered going down to Farmoor Reservoir, and just to wind me up, they reported a whinchat on Shrike Meadow.

I made straight for the East Marsh Hide and on the way came across a single muntjac deer in the trees. It casually moved on each time I caught up with it but eventually out of view. As I got to the first junction a chiffchaff called from the trees to my right - the only one I heard today.

Reed warblerWhen I arrived at the hide I took the seat in the left corner. I'd heard a Cetti's warbler calling in this area as I approached the hide and opened the shutter to the front, but also the one to the side.

There were few birds around the scrape or even on the water. Those in the air easily outnumbered them - sand martins and swallows, plus common tern. As time went on a number of house martins joined in the hunt.

Every now and then a very confident robin would land on the window edge, not a foot from my face. It made me jump a couple of times. Of note on the islands and scrape were a little ringed plover and a Cetti's warblercommon sandpiper. Cuckoos called but showed very poorly. A muntjac deer fed in the reeds to the right of the hide. I also enjoyed a fly-through kingfisher, the blue flashing in what sun there was.

A sedge warbler flitted between the reeds and a nearby hawthorn, singing its heart out. Occasional burst from a whitethroat also added to the melody. Soon I was able to see a Cetti's in a nearby bush, and later again in distant reeds - unusual for me to get a sighting. Watching for the Cetti's also drew my attention to reed warblers dashing around. Several whitethroat on the way back to the Visitor Centre - had Cetti's warblerto get back as I was having lunch with her indoors and shopping in the afternoon.

Sightings (34) included: black-headed gull, blackbird, blue tit, canada goose, carrion crow, cetti's warbler, chiffchaff, common sandpiper, common tern, coot, cormorant, dunnock, gadwall, grey heron, greylag goose, house martin, kingfisher, lapwing, lesser black-backed gull, little ringed plover, magpie, mallard, moorhen, mute swan, oystercatcher, reed warbler, robin, sand martin, sedge warbler, swallow, tufted duck, whitethroat, woodpigeon and wren.

Sunday, 5 May 2019

RSPB Otmoor :: 05 May 2019

This morning I rose early (for the weekend) in order to visit RSPB Otmoor - ideally to see the turtle dove. Should have called ahead as it was out ... apparently no one saw it all morning. Lesser whitethroatThe supporting cast put up a good show, and I added hobby to my year list. Will have to undertake my annual pilgrimage again.

From the car park I could hear cuckoo calling, and as soon as I was through the first kissing gate, I could hear a lesser whitethroat - it showed well. As I was anxious to see the turtle dove, I didn't waste any time getting up to the bridleway along Greenaways. It was surprising to see the feeding station bereft of birds.

I stopped to look In front of the cattle pens but no luck there. I turned and had views of a drumming snipe overhead, and a pair of skylark out across Greenaways. Sedge warblerSince my last visit, many more sedge had joined the reed warbler to my right. A single hobby was cruising in the distance - very early in the morning?

Past the bench I heard a cuckoo ahead of me. Before I could reach its perching spot, it flew off across the bridleway and over to the path towards the first screen. By the kissing gate I could see a rather showy sedge warbler entertaining a couple of photographers.

Nothing special on the way to the first screen. From the screen we had numbers of swifts, a couple of swallows, a single sand martin and later a couple of house martins. WhitethroatThere was the constant call of a cuckoo from far over the reeds, lapwings mobbing a red kite but nothing to add to the year list. I headed back.

Back down the path I had good views of whitethroat and reed bunting; then more views of sedge warbler. A cuckoo dropped into the trees behind me but as I turned it was off and disappeared over (and into?) the reeds beyond.

I stopped several times to see sedge and reed warbler and eventually got a decent view of a singing reed warbler. A singing chiffchaff also showed well.

Reed warblerI checked out the trees and around the cattle pens, but no sign of the turtle dove. A pair of linnet fed on the seed. I turned and looked out across Greenaways and could see two hobby resting on posts - I suppose it was still a little early for them to reach peak activity levels.

I waited to see if the turtle dove would show and had another view of cuckoo, but still not good enough for anything other than a record shot.

Further views of various warblers as I walked back to the car, and added a pair of bullfinches as I left.

ChiffchaffSightings (44) included: barnacle goose, black-headed gull, blackbird, blue tit, bullfinch, canada goose, carrion crow, chaffinch, chiffchaff, coot, cuckoo, dunnock, gadwall, goldfinch, great tit, grey heron, greylag goose, hobby, house martin, lapwing, lesser whitethroat, linnet, long-tailed tit, magpie, mallard, moorhen, mute swan, oystercatcher, red kite, redshank, reed bunting, reed warbler, rook, sand martin, sedge warbler, shoveler, skylark, snipe, swallow, swift, teal, tufted duck, whitethroat and woodpigeon.

Saturday, 4 May 2019

Grimsbury Reservoir :: 04 May 2019

An early breakfast and off to Grimsbury Reservoir for another shot at the red-rumped swallow - at least it wasn't raining like last night!

Red-rumped swallowI decided to start on the west side and managed to find it near the pontoon, but shortly lost it as it ventured to the north end. I started a circuit but didn't locate it again. At the far south east I could see a group of birders setting up and continued on to there - Mr & Mrs Truby were part of this congregation and after not too long we were on the bird. It was favouring the area around the pontoon, to the first buoy to the north. We watched as it continued this circuit. Cold though when the sun went behind a cloud. Three common sandpipers were often seen flying to the waters edge, behind the concrete edging to the reservoir on our right.

After a while, some of the Oxford boys left and reappeared on the West Bank - watching we could see the RRS was now running a circuit closer to that side - we decided to follow. In the end it was a good decision and we were afforded much better views - on one occasion it flew within a few meters above our heads. Magical.

Friday, 3 May 2019

Grimsbury Reservoir :: 03 May 2019

I was replying to emails at work from early and eventually decided to go to the kitchen and get a coffee, just before 9.00am. While waiting for the kettle to come to the boil, I found that @987jonty had posted in the WhatsApp Group - "RED-RUMPED SWALLOW at Grimsbury!!". In reply there were various posts of astonishment including the obvious "Ruddy Hell !!!!" and "I'm on my way!". I dropped everything and headed for the door. Red-rumped swallow

I got to the reservoir and opted to turn right - wrong. As I got passed the sailing club I saw that birders were on exactly to opposite side of the reservoir to me - I had to do the long circuit. I got there and it didn't take long to spot the bird. Helpfully it also landed on distant railings so that we could see it standing still. It had landed right beside some arriving Oxford boys who managed to take advantage of their luck - I expect to see that they have the best photos/videos from today. I had been talking with Mike Pollard and we opted to walk closer. I took a couple of record shots. Good numbers of sand and house martin, swallow and swifts. Unfortunately it took off and I had to leave as I had to get back to work.

The RRS left late morning and wasn't seen over lunchtime. At teatime to appeared to have returned and so after dinner I popped back. I saw the bird again but also got rained on. @old_caley turned up having been in Welsh woods for the day and has now reached #206 for the year. We had a sparrowhawk through which caused some excitement amongst the collected hirundines.

Left as the light was giving out.