Wednesday, 23 September 2020

Farmoor Reservoir :: 20 September 2020

We arrived mid-morning to find that parking fees were still not active and that there must be some event as there were a lot of cars and vans. It turned out that there were many seniors there and perhaps some sort of competition - a couple of the sailing boats sported GBR on the sails.

We strode out and set off across the causeway. Initially it didn't look good until a turnstone landed on the F1 side ahead of us. I noticed a young chap ahead who'd presumably been watching it ahead. It fortunately stayed put an I took a few shots. The chap headed down to us and watched (Thomas Miller - @temiller17) as the turnstone fed around the waters edge. Thomas said he'd just seen a ruff fly off across F1 and that there were a couple of ringed plover and a dunlin about.


We moved on and soon came across one of the ringed plover, accompanied by a dunlin. The dunlin initially fed but then decided on a bit of shut eye, leaving the ringed plover to stand guard. We spotted the other ringed plover behind us on the causeway but didn't head back.

Ringed plover and dunlin

We opted to drop down onto the river and made our way along, seeing little of interest. We did see some interaction between male brown and migrant hawker dragonflies, and a few other species I didn't immediately ID.

In the trees by the turn away from the river we came across a vocal cetti's warbler - I stopped to see if I could get a photo but each time I saw it perch, it moved on before I got the camera on it.

We went back up onto the reservoir and continued round F1 in the hope of locating the ruff, but of course we didn't.

Sightings for today (33) included: black-headed gull, blackbird, blue tit, carrion crow, cetti's warbler, chiffchaff, coot, cormorant, dunlin, dunnock, great crested grebe, great tit, greenfinch, grey heron, grey wagtail, greylag goose, herring gull, lesser black-backed gull, magpie, mallard, moorhen, mute swan, pied wagtail, red kite, ringed plover, robin, rook, swallow, tufted duck, turnstone, willow warbler, woodpigeon and wren.

Sunday, 13 September 2020

Sutton Park, West Midlands :: 12 September 2020

Today was the day I was booked to transport my youngest daughter to her University digs, in prepartion for what is likely to be a strange final year. With one of her French friends already resident (isolating there for the last few weeks), it was time for the rest of them to return and prepare.

Having executed my duties, it was time to return home and join the caravan down the M6. I'd hoped to get away at a sensible hour and fortunately I did. By 4.45pm I was pulling up in the car park at Sutton Park. In my favour I had talked with @old_caley the night before, as he had visited at the end of August - he had given me a pointer as where to target: "Enter via Boldmere Gate next to Powell’s Pool. Park at the Flying Field car park and alk north west across grassy field aiming for grass tracks between scrub. Between Crown Plantation and Hurst Hill on map. RBS is in the area of scrub and crab apple trees".

I did as instructed and bumped into another birder with similar directions. When we reached the target area there was no one else to be seen and so we headed our seperate ways, searching for the bird. After a short time I noticed a guy with a camera walking the other way - he indicated the bird was quite a bit further on now but pretty vague about where he'd been - very odd. I looked for the chap I'd been talking to but he was nowhere to be seen.

I set off and after about 10 minutes of searching I spotted a chap with a scope on the other side of some gorse - I reached him and shortly after was on the bird. After a few photos I spotted the chap I'd met earlier and went to wave him up to where we were.

Red-backed shrike

The bird was very obliging and I spent a while with it - a life tick for me after all!

Red-backed shrike

My next challenge was how to explain on the 'phone that I would be leaving for home AFTER the time when I said I'd already be there ...

Red-backed shrikeRed-backed shrike

Monday, 7 September 2020

Grimsbury Reservoir, Tysoe and Balscote Quarry :: 06 September 2020

I'd seen reports of osprey and various flyover flocks in the early morning and thought I'd amble down to Grimsbury Reservoir for a walk. As I arrived Sandra Bletchley messaged the Birding WhatsApp group to say the Resevoir was alive with fisherman and boats - it might have put me off but I'd just stepped out the car and was walking through the gate. Who should I meet coming the other way but Sandra - she hadn't really enjoyed the visit due to the disturbance and said she understood why others had visited early.

I made my way round and didn't see anything until I reached the path to the canal. Just to the right was a whitethroat - in the light I initially mistook it for a lesser whitethroat but it eventually showed as common. Whitethroat

I walked through the wood and down onto the canal towpath without seeing anything unusual. It wasn't until I came back to the reservoir, up the path to where I'd found the whitethroat, that I spotted some siskin in the tree canopy. Initially I counted at least five but then could see there were at least eight.


I continued round and spotted chiffchaff, grey wagtail and 107 Canada geese. However, Sandra was right that there was too much disturbance to find anything on or around the water and so I headed home for lunch.

At lunch I was reading the WhatsApp group posts and saw that a few people had posted photos and sightings of a wheatear at he Sun Rising Natural Burial Ground and Nature Reserve near Tysoe. We have friend that lives in the village and so we called to say we'd drop in for a socially distanced coffee, after a visit to the reserve. Having never been there before it took us a while to work out where we were to look but eventually located the wheatear. The weather and walk we really nice, and so was the coffee and company.


We packed up to head home but decided to drop into Balscote Quarry on the way. There had been mention of yellow wags and I can't buy a sighting at the moment. I scanned the floor of the bowl but couldn't pick one out - there were sand martin and swallows, plus a kestrel. I lowered my bins and saw a bird cruising away from me and realised it was a marsh harrier. It dropped down on the far side of the water and had a drink - a juvenile. It was mobbed by a couple of crowns but wasn't for moving. Almost straight away a mixed flock of about twenty swallows and house martin dropped in and hunted across the bowl. In a couple of minutes the marsh harrier was up and flying away across the Stratford Road - as quickly as they'd arrived, the house martin and swallows also departed. Wow, what a lucky visit! - even managed to get a few photos from circa 150m and not too out of focus.

Marsh harrier

Marsh harrier

Sightings for the day included: blackbird, blue tit, buzzard, canada goose, carrion crow, chiffchaff, cormorant, great tit, grey wagtail, house martin, kestrel, magpie, mallard, marsh harrier, moorhen, mute swan, pied wagtail, rook, sand martin, siskin, swallow, tree sparrow, wheatear, whitethroat, woodpigeon and wren.

Wednesday, 2 September 2020

Bucknell Wood :: 02 September 2020

We'd arranged to meet a friend and go for a walk in Bucknell Woods. I carried my camera although I wasn't likely to do much actual birding. We'd originally planned to meet in the afternoon but work plans had required a late rearrangement - in the end this worked out for us as it rained after lunch.

I spotted chiffchaff and great spotted woodpecker as we started out, and later was glad to find a flock of at least 15 crossbills in the same place I'd seen them before.

Common crossbill

The crossbills were quite mobile, overhead crossing the path from tree to tree but eventually congregating together.

I didn't pick out anything particularly unusual, but didn't really hunt as I might have done if I'd been on my own; then again that wasn't the point today.

Tuesday, 1 September 2020

Napton Reservoir :: 01 September 2020

I'd got plans in the afternoon, including a call for work, so decided to stay local and try a bit of morning birding. I decided on a visit to Napton Reservoir as I hadn't been for a while. It turned out to be a sunnier morning than I'd expected - when I got out the car I could see a few fisherman already in situ. A number of hirundines cut through the air - it is always good to have sand martin on any day out.

I made my way around, anti-clockwise. In the trees to my right I saw some movement and through my bins picked out a willow warbler. It was mobile and disappeared back in to the foliage, but soon appeared to land on the perimeter fence - the fence is relatively new and I think is to protect the reservoir (and fishing club) from otters. I moved left to get a clearer view and realised it was in fact a female common redstart; almost immediately the willow warler took to the wing and flew far left.

Common redstart

The redstart stayed just a minute then flew away into the distant hedge. I could hear calls from the opposite side of the field and spotted the male feeding.

I then found a reed warbler in the far reed bed just before another birder appeared from the gate into the righthand fields. He commented how quiet it was on the site but I pointed him to where I'd just seen the redstart. I then waited by the narrow channel to see if I could spot any warblers. I didn't see any more but movement drew my attention to a water rail skulking in the edge of the reeds. I think this is my first for the year!

I had to get home but stopped to talk with one of the fisherman. I remember talking to him last time I was there and that he worked at JLR Solihull, although he is currently on furlough. I enjoyed the chat and ended up late leaving.

Sightings (21) included: black-headed gull, blackbird, blue tit, canada goose, carrion crow, coot, great crested grebe, house martin, kestrel, magpie, mallard, moorhen, redstart, reed bunting, reed warbler, robin, sand martin, swallow, water rail, willow warbler and woodpigeon.

Monday, 31 August 2020

RSPB Otmoor :: 30 August 2020

We didn't rush out so arrived at the reserve at about 10.30am. We planned to skip down the Roman Road to Saunder's Field to catch up a male restart that has been showing very well - @old_caley had posted some nice photos the night before. As we entered the car park, we came across Dan and Trish Miller who told us that there was a cattle egret on Greenaways; for the avoidance of doubt (ID), it was hanging about with the cattle. In addition, they mentioned that they'd seen two cranes drop into the reed bed beyond. A quick change of plan.

We made it to the bridleway and fortunately the egret was showing and Cattle egretfollowing a cow as it fed. Eventually the cow lay down and the egret dropped down into a hollow. It showed briefly but not as well as when we'd arrived. No sign of the cranes but a jay could be seen working it's way along the far hedge line. We all waited and hoped that the egret would hop onto the back of one of the cattle, but no such luck.

We decided to go back to our original plan and headed for Saunder's Field - amazing that we've never been there before - perhaps we will need to plan for a full circuit someday.

We'd been given instructions as to where we'd find the bird, but as we arrived another birder was marking the spot. As he left, he appeared to be rather pleased with is encounter - ours was to be just as good. What a showy fella'. Although he came and went, he visited frequently and often gave clear views - not at all like the redstart I'd seen in Long Meadow recently.




We noticed a kestrel hunting along the hedge and out into the field, dropping on prey in the mown grass. At one point we saw it leaving the top of the hedge again (or so we thought), and as we watched it danced around in the air - it became obvious that there was small bird wheeling around. It didn't manage to evade capture and when we got the camera and bins on it, it turned out to be a different bird - a hobby.

We made our way along the hedge with both red kite and kestrel dropping to the ground to our right and came across a number of chiffchaff.


Time was getting on and we had planned to have lunch with the girls at home, so turned back. We reached the end of the Roman Road and could see that the cattle had relocated to this end of Greenaways, and so had the cattle egret. We decided not to take the fast route back in the hope of spotting the cranes. Nothing as we made our way along the bridleway, but as we stood by the cattle pens we managed to pick them out.

Sightings (28) included: blue tit, carrion crow, cattle egret, cetti's warbler, chaffinch, chiffchaff, crane, goldfinch, great tit, grey heron, greylag goose, hobby, house martin, jay, kestrel, linnet, magpie, mallard, marsh harrier, moorhen, pheasant, red kite, redstart, swallow, swift, woodpigeon and wren.

Draycote Water :: 29 August 2020

An early morning post on Twitter suggested that the ruff and turnstone from the previous day were still present; in addition an osprey had passed through, although by the time I got there it would likely have departed. With 20 shags blown off course and present for a few days, it was worth a visit.

The main car park was full already and the overflow was filling up too - not the greatest sign, but I suppose it was a bank holiday Saturday. I decided on a clockwise circuit and it was to prove a costly mistake. No sign of the turnstone or ruff in the most likely spot, and I bumped into a birder who asked if I'd seen the osprey. Apparently it had been back and had gone down the other end about 10 minutes before. I trained by binoculars and could just pick it out, and not too far from shore - bugger, if only I'd gone the other way (which I almost always do).

I reached the inlet and found two cyclists who were excitedly watching some birds. I joined them in watching a family group of four kingfishers, feeding from the railings and concrete walls. They were in no hurry to leave. A few people stopped and I shared my binoculars with an older couple. A joy to spend time with these birds rather than just seeing them cutting across the water.



I eventually moved on and came across a mixed group of shag, cormorant and Canada geese. CormorantI was taking a few shots of the shag when the was a commotion out in the water. A cormorant was making for shore but was being mobbed by another cormorant. The lead cormorant had obviously caught a fish but was unable to swallow it down and the other was looking for a bit of the action. Eventually they reached shore and it was obvious that it was struggling to deal with such a large fish - too much is never enough! Eventually it returned to the water and swam off - I wonder if it suceeded in getting it down.

I met a young guy, coming from the other direction, who said he'd done exactly the opposite to me. He'd been on the far bank as the osprey passed by and had some good shots - I hope he tags the photos so I can see them later ...

Coming through the trees at Toft shallows, I came across a mixed tit flock which also appeared to contain chiffchaff and goldcrest. As I watched, a couple of spotted flycatchers hunted high in the trees behind.

Much larger groups of fishing little grebe than I've seen of late, with groups of up to eight all around the water.

Sightings (37) included: black-headed gull, blackbird, blackcap, blue tit, canada goose, carrion crow, chiffchaff, coot, cormorant, goldcrest, goldfinch, great crested grebe, great tit, grey heron, grey wagtail, greylag goose, house martin, kingfisher, lesser black-backed gull, little egret, little grebe, long-tailed tit, magpie, mallard, moorhen, mute swan, osprey, pied wagtail, rock dove / feral pigeon, sand martin, shag, spotted flycatcher, swallow, swift, tufted duck, woodpigeon and wren.

Thursday, 27 August 2020

Farmoor Reservoir :: 26 August 2020

We wanted to have a walk on the flat as Charlotte had injured her back at the weekend; she is still recovering and suggested a visit to Farmoor Reservoir. Although I'd been at the weekend, you just never know what may be on the causeway - yesterday a juvenile knot.

The new parking measures have still to be turned on and when we arrived the car park was relatively busy - it turned out to be related to the sailing club lessons for boats and windsurfing on F2.

Still no sightings of yellow wagtail at the water treatment works but still a few house martin and swallows hunting there - we set off across the causeway. No waders but nine mute swan along the water's edge. The only notable change from the weekend was a larger number of cormorant (couldn't pick out any shag amongst them - big fall across the region at the weekend) and more sand martin than you could throw a stick at. Two ringed plover skimmed the water's surface out across F1 and out of sight.

Sand martin

Again, there were large numbers of coot gathered at the western end of the causeway and we paused to decide what to do. We dropped down to the river, passing the Shrike Meadow hide (still closed). We walked along the river and encountered a large mixed flock of tits (long-tailed, great, blue), joined by chiffchaff and a treecreeper.

We paused on a bench and watched as a canoe was paddled by leisurely, making use of the relatively fast flowing current. A red kite scouted the field opposite.

We followed the river and turned onto the Pinkhill Reserve, then back up to the reservoir edge. Charlotte's back was getting tired and so we called it a day and made for the car, seeing only a single common sandpiper flushed by another group ahead of us.

Sightings (27) included: black-headed gull, blackbird, blue tit, carrion crow, chiffchaff, common sandpiper, coot, cormorant, great crested grebe, great tit, greylag goose, herring gull, house martin, lesser black-backed gull, long-tailed tit, magpie, mallard, mute swan, pied wagtail, red kite, robin, ringed plover, sand martin, swallow, treecreeper, tufted duck and woodpigeon.

Sunday, 23 August 2020

Farmoor Reservoir :: 22 August 2020

The morning was getting on and if I didn't shake a leg I'd not go anywhere for a bit of birding. I jumped in the car and headed for Farmoor.

Outside the café people readied for what I presume were lessons in boats, while others prepared their windsurfing kit - a bit of a strong wind for that! In the small harbour there we dozens of coot.

I set off toward the causeway but decided to have a scan in front of the water treatment works first. I was hoping for a yellow wagtail but no such luck. Presumably there were enough flies but just no YW on site - this is a favourite spot. Instead, I had swallow skimming the grassy slope and house martin above. A couple approached from the opposite direction and were flushing a common sandpiper in my direction. As we became equidistant then it unfortunately circled round behind them and far out of reach.

Onto the causeway and it appeared to get even windier. F2 was very choppy while F1 was a bit calmer - likely that if anything was sheltering from the wind on the causeway, it would be on the F1 side. Sure enough, just past the first wooden structure, a diminutive dunlin fed on the water's edge. It appeared to be very conscious of my presence and you could feel the desire to flee, but it continued feeding in relatively close quarters. Not another bird on the causeway.


On the rafts I had both common and yellow legged gulls and further massive groups of coot. Four sand martin circled as they passed over, generally heading south. I dropped down to the lower path and started a circuit of F1 and had chiffchaff plus a small flock of goldfinch feeding on the seeding plants. Back up on the reservoir a couple of gulls could be seen with something on the bank; as expected, it was the carcass of a fish. As they ate, a red kite passed over but didn't attempt to dispace them.

As I made my way back from here I encountered various groupings of common sandpiper, from singles to six; as they flew in various directions and didn't always land in sight, I was never sure of the total tally - they never allowed any close approach and were often disturbed by family groups coming in the opposite direction.

Common sandpiper
Common sandpiperCommon sandpiper

Back at the water treatment works, swallows and house martin continued to feed but now joined by a single swift.

Sightings (27) included: black-headed gull, blackbird, carrion crow, chiffchaff, common gull, common sandpiper, coot, cormorant, dunlin, goldfinch, great crested grebe, greylag goose, herring gull, house martin, lesser black-backed gull, magpie, mallard, mute swan, red kite, reed bunting, sand martin, starling, swallow, swift, tufted duck, woodpigeon and yellow-legged gull.

Monday, 17 August 2020

Grimsbury Reservoir :: 17 August 2020

By 7.10am I had an update of drake common scoter at Grimsbury from Mike Pollard @mikepnature. Weather is quite unsettled and these events are always possible - lets hope for more this week!

I had a scheduled appointment at 9.00am and so was limited to a quick drop-in to the reservoir. Fortunately Mike had indicated that the best bet was the eastern bank and so I wasted no time and located the bird at the north east corner. Initially sleeping, noisy walkers and a close pass from tufted ducks gave me an opportunity for a photo ... harsh lighting but good to see it before the dog walkers scared it off.

Common scoter

Also present was a little egret which for me is a rare sighting on the site.

Lets hope for more as migration takes hold.

Monday, 10 August 2020

Bucknell Woods :: 09 August 2020

It was a hot one and I'd opted to do a bit of gardening in the morning then washed the car - the first time since February half term.

Dropped into Bucknell Woods again and predictably came across the chiffchaff which appear to be regulars by the entrance to the wood. Onwards I could hear some frantic blackbird calling and as I approached I could see a great spotted woodpecker climbing through a tree - soon departing. The blackbirds didn't stop calling and when I got level I could see it was two males but niether paid any attention to me. Not sure what that was about.

As I scanned the treetops afew coal tit passed through, then a couple of nuthatch.

More chiffchaff along the path and then eight crossbills over. While watching butterflies a very large wasp or hornet bothered them. Turning for home I had the eight crossbill over again but away from my intended path.

A shame I didn't get any improved views of crossbill but a nice walk nonetheless.

Saturday, 8 August 2020

RSPB Otmoor :: 08 August 2020

Another hot day forecast and so we opted for a trip out in the morning. RedstartI've not caught up with any restarts so far this year and so we decided to try for some in Long Meadow, by RSPB Otmoor. We dropped the car in the car park and made our way back down Otmoor Lane. We found a flock of linnet and another of goldfinch before reaching the entrance to the meadow - we were then surprised by how overgrown the entrance was, at least to the stile.

We started out and soon came to some of the bush habitat that the redstarts like here. Sure enough, there was a male singing but almost as soon as we saw him, he saw us and departed, stage left. We tried to follow but in vain.Redstart

We continued down the meadow and sighted five more and heard more. Those that we saw and managed a record photo of were all females.

On one occasion, while waiting for a singing restart to show, I spotted a lesser whitethroat skulking in the undergrowth beside the fence. Fortunately for me it popped out long enough for a quick snap.

Not many species to report but that wasn't the point today.

Sightings included: blackbird, carrion crow, goldfinch, kestrel, lesser whitethroat, linnet, magpie, red kite, Lesser whitethroatredstart, robin, rook and woodpigeon.

Monday, 3 August 2020

Whistley Wood & Bucknell Wood :: 31 July - 02 August 2020

On Friday last I decided to use the last day of my carryover annual leave as it was due to expire. NuthatchWe opted to make a visit to Whistley Wood in the morning - better to be in woods, rather than out in the open with the temperature due to reach 34°C; by lunchtime. We headed immediately right and round the perimeter.

There wasn't a lot of action until we encountered a nuthatch - as we watched a number of tits fed in the same tree and a spotted flycatcher appeared on the opposite side. It was the last time we had close views of 3+ flycatchers as they skipped high in the tree canopy. In the woods we saw larger numbers of speckled wood butterflies. A nice walk but only a moment of excitement. Willow warbler

A couple of visits to Bucknell Woods then followed on Saturday and Sunday, the first on my lonesome and then with the missus. For the past couple of weeks there have been reports (initially by @987jonty) of crossbills - up to 21. Walking up the path from the main entrance I found a few chiffchaff and willow warbler. I continued to scan the treetops of fir trees but no joy, at least until I approached one group of trees only for a small flock of 14 crossbills to take to the wing. They circled but then away and out of sight.

I reached the crossroads and turned left, immediately spotting a female cossbill land in the top of a distant fir. CrossbillAnother four circled and disappeared into the trees beyond. Soon it left and headed in the direction the small flock had taken. As I was getting close to where I'd parked the car, a family of goldcrests were feeding. The parent seemed to be looking a bit rough but the young were in good form, following obediently and being fed regularly.

Arriving back at the car there were five large dragonflies hawking around the cark park and the road immediately ahead. I'd often heard people talk of visiting this wood and am glad I'd now managed to follow suit. Goldcrest

The next day and we decided that another morning walk would be good and so I thought I'd show Charlotte Bucknell Woods - well I had enjoyed my visit the day before.

Walking up the first path we again found a few chiffchaff and willow warbler, but there were no crossbill where I'd seen them the day before. A rather showy roe deer crossed the path and was a real treat. A spotted flycatcher chased around the trees to our right but didn't wait for it's photo call.

Roe deer

On a long path parallel to the road we saw someone ahead scanning the treetops and it turned out to be @987jonty. He was watching around 18 crossbill and said he'd heard some siskin too - never laid my eyes on those. Once we'd had a chat and @987jonty had moved on, we watched a pair of spotted flycatcher hunting in the trees directly in front of some crossbill.

Spotted flycatcher

There was also an array of butterflies along the side of the pathsas we walked, including common blue, large skipper and (I'm told) silver-washed fritillary. We really enjoyed the visit and so I'm sure we will be back soon.

Sightings in Whistley Wood included: blue tit, carrion crow, great tit, long-tailed tit, nuthatch and spotted flycatcher.

Sightings in Bucknell Wood included: blackbird, carrion crow, chiffchaff, common crossbill, goldcrest, goldfinch, great spotted woodpecker, great tit, jay, red kite, spotted flycatcher, willow warbler, woodpigeon and wren.

Monday, 27 July 2020

Wildlife BCN Summer Leys :: 27 July 2020

Before lockdown my wife's car was booked in for a service and we had to push it back due my travels to work in Russia. Scheduled for my return it was then postponned due to the Covid-19 lockdown. Today was the day for it to eventually get it's service, some five months overdue. We take it back to the garage we bought it from and so we found ourselves in Northampton at 10.00am.

The rain had been falling in Banbury and all the way to Northampton - we therefore had no real plan as to what we'd do. Having handed the car in we opted for a drive and to sit looking at the meadow by the car park at Wildlife Trust BCN's Summer Leys Reserve.

We turned into the car park and the rain had slowed to a few spots; as we parked up, it stopped altogether. We decided that we should make the most of this interlude and jumped out my car, then headed across to the main body of water. From there we could see c.27 swifts, large numbers of common tern, 26 mute swans, 31 cormorant and 19 greylag geese. A few house martin appeared in amongst the swifts. As we peered to the opposite side we spotted a lone green sandpiper, then two great white and four little egrets.

Common tern

The sun decided to make an appearance so we opted to take our chances and go for a bit of a walk. We reached the Paul Britten Hide (looking back towards the Pioneer Hide) and could see a third great white egret, several sand martin and, in one corner, a single oystercatcher. As I took a photo of the great white egret, a grey heron in the background could be seen handling an eel that it had just caught.

We went on further to the next viewing screen, but didn't spot anything more of significance. As we returned to the car park, drops of rain started to fall and as we drove off the rain started falling again - our timing was impecible!

Great white egret

Sightings (30) included: black-headed gull, blackbird, canada goose, carrion crow, common tern, coot, cormorant, goldfinch, great crested grebe, great white egret, green sandpiper, greenfinch, grey heron, greylag goose, house martin, lapwing, little egret, little grebe, long-tailed tit, magpie, mallard, moorhen, mute swan, oystercatcher, sand martin, starling, swift, tufted duck, woodpigeon and wren.

Nether Worton :: 19 July 2020

It was forecast dry and so Charlotte and I decided to take a bit of fresh air. YellowhammerI'd previously enjoyed a walk with my eldest daughter around Nether Worton and suggested we take the same route. We set off along the gated road and enjoyed butterflies to our left and right. As we passed the turn for Over Worton I suggested we look for a path that made a future circular walk in the other direction.

We walked to the end of the road and from the corner could see a family group of whitethroat flying back and forward across the road between trees on our right, and the hedge on out left. Just on from here we could hear skylark in the fields and then had a yellowhammer over. There were also a couple of warblers in the bushes by the stream but we couldn't see them well enough for an ID but think they were reed warlber.

We turned left along a track and left again to circle the hill, now passing through crops of barley. It had rained the night before and so our shoes soon started to pick up mud. As we crossed a small stream we entered a small coppice and heard a number of species of which goldcrest and blackcap we our best. The goldcrest stayed out of reach and thwarted any decent photo. We stepped out from the trees to see a jay on the wing to our right, flying along the treeline and landing in some distant trees - although we saw movement we couldn't get a good view of the bird.

We forged on an when getting back close to the gated road we had better views of yellowhammer and a skylark that was trying to draw us away from it's nest. We had more butterflies here and some interesting flying beetles.

Back onto the gated road we spotted a green woodpecker in the gardens to our right, but the sighting was only fleeting and again no photo possible.

Finally, as we approached the church, I could see two spotted flycatchers on the wires to the left side of the road. As we got closer thet flew off with one heading down the driveway of the ajoining cottage. As I reached the driveway, I was surprised to see the bird sitting waiting on the gate. I took a couple of photos before it left and then took a couple of steps forward, in hope that the bird might return. It did, not one minute later - what a confiding specimen! A magical encounter.

Spotted flycatcher

The species we noted (21) on our walk included: blackbird, blackcap, blue tit, buzzard, canada goose, carrion crow, goldcrest, goldfinch, great tit, green woodpecker, grey heron, jay, lesser black-backed gull, red kite, rook, skylark, spotted flycatcher, swallow, whitethroat, woodpigeon and yellowhammer.

Sunday, 21 June 2020

Nether Worton :: 20 June 2020

Having dipped spotted flycatchers at Whistley Wood earlier this morning, I ventured out again. Spotted flycatcherWell Arsenal were on the the TV and he indoors had settled down to watch. I decided to try another site - the one suggested by @old_caley previously. It did sound like it would be a good shout for spotted flycatcher at Nether Worton as Nick (@@old_caley) had said "You should try Nether Worton Church and adjoining cottage. Easy parking and birds are obvious in trees at the edge of the small paddock next to the church and also on the wires and aerial of the cottage."

The Domesday Book records that until 1066 one Leofgeat held the manor of Ortune, probably at what is now Nether Worton. After the Norman Conquest of Spotted flycatcherEngland an estate of three hides and half a yardland at Worton passed to William the Conqueror's half-brother Odo of Bayeux. By 1086 there were 15 households consisting of 10 smallholders and five villagers. The earliest parts of the Church of England chapel of ease of St James are 12th-century Norman and 13th-century Early English.

The church was easy to find and only 8½ miles from home. I got out the car and waited for around 20 minutes before a spotted flycatcher flew over me from the church and onto the wire behind. In no time it had a butterfly in its beak and took no time in devouring it. Spotted flycatcherHaving fed, it seemed to be in no hurry to leave and was happy for me to walk underneath taking photos.

After a minute or two it left, landing in the tree in front of the church/cottage, still in view if looking down the drive. I managed to take a number of photos before it retreated further back into the tree and out of sight. Quite a magical encounter. Success!

The road that runs past the church continues on along a gated road and so I think it may be an idea to look at some Ordinance Survey maps of the area and try having a walk here - the area was very attractive.

Whistley Wood :: 20 June 2020

My wife suggested we do a spot of birding in the morning and I thought that I'd make a concerted effort to see spotted flycatcher. GoldcrestOn the Banbury Birders WhatApp Group someone had asked where good spots were in the local area and two that stuck in my mind were Nether Worton (courtesy of @old_caley) and Whistley Wood (courtesy of @987jonty)- probably due to their unusal names. One stipulation was that, wherever we went, we shouldn't be walking in long grass (due to the frequent rain over the last week) and that there was somewhere to have a decent walk. I therefore opted for Whistley Wood as I had never been the Nether Worton and didn't know if we could easily create a circular walk.

Juvenile marsh titWe were late setting out and reached the layby on the B4525, by the entrance to the wood, at about 9.30am. Above us flew a single house martin and as soon as we got through the gate a male bullfinch fed in the tree to our left. As far as my wife was concerned, the morning was therefore already a success! There was a lot of birdsong but nothing to give away a spotted flycatcher. I heard a call to our right and thought it was possibly a jay, or had I mistaken a magpie. Suddenly my wife doubted that she'd locked the car and, as we hadn't gone far, she doubled back. As I waited a jay flew passed and landed in a tree ahead - I saw my wife returning and waved her to hurry back - she Juvenile marsh titarrived in time to see it hopped through a few nearby trees and then it gave us good flypast views.

We followed the paths encountering chiffchaff, goldcrest, song thrush and the normal woodland birds. When we reached the far end, some of the paths were blocked as (as the signs said) this part of the wood was "under new ownership". We worked our way around and eventually down a glade with grassy edges and a few meadow plants. There were numbers of flies, bees and butterflies - including large skipper and ringlet.

At the final corner, before we ran parallel to the road and the layby ahead, we stood to watch a party of blue and great tits - some juveniles amongst them. We watched and found that in the scrub below there were two tits foraging. I started to take photos and watching I concluded they were willow tit as they had pure white all round the collar. Later I found out that there was a developing white spot on the upper bill and this is a tell-tale sign that we had actually seen juvenile marsh tit (Richard Broughton @woodlandbirder provided an article he'd written on the subject.

Despite not finding a spotted flycatcher, this was really great place for a spot of birding and a walk so we will be back again I'm sure.

Sightings (22) included: blackbird, blackcap, blue tit, bullfinch, buzzard, carrion crow, chaffinch, chiffchaff, coal tit, dunnock, goldcrest, great tit, house martin, jay, marsh tit, mistle thrush, nuthatch, red kite, robin, song thrush, woodpigeon and wren.

Sunday, 14 June 2020

Farmoor Reservoir :: 13 June 2020

It had seemed to be a long week and decided that we would take advantage of the predicted good weather on Saturday morning for a walk at Farmoor Reservoir. WhitethroatArriving at just after 8.20am, we found that the gates to the car park were still closed and a sign displayed indicating that they would be opened at 10.00am. I had seen that the site had reopened but not that the gates wouldn't be opened until later than the usual 08.00am. We parked back down the road and walked along the public footpaths running alongside the site.

Walking between two hedgerows we made our way from the north of the site to the west, encountering chiffchaff and large numbers of blackcap - initially all males, but eventually adding females. After crossing the small burn that runs from the river, we entered into Garganeyopen space. This proved to be a wider and more enjoyable way onto the site and offering more open scrub land. We then saw whitethroat, sedge and reed warbler, and reed bunting. Whitethroat were in abundance with family groups chasing around several bushes and others singing from atop small trees.

We saw a couple ahead of us and followed them up from the path onto the west side of F1. The water was quite still with only a gentle breeze. There were few species on the water's edge: coot, mallard and a couple of pied wagtails. We soon came to the western edge of the causeway, and as we looked at the assembled greylag geese, a single small duck Garganeytook off and landed amongst the geese on the other side of the causeway. We ventured onto the causeway to find it was the male garganey (eclipse plumage). Despite the initial flight, it was then happy to stay for photos - feigned shyness.

We decided to make a circuit of F2 and were surprised at how few gulls there were; mainly just the black-headed gulls nesting on the rafts. Eventually we did see a common tern but not the numbers we are used to seeing here - perhaps we are later due to the lockdown. We added grey wagtail, red kite, buzzard and chaffinch in and over the trees to our right.Great-crested grebe

As we approached the final stretch to the sailing club, they had obviously opened the gate to the car park (around 9.40am) and in came a stream of cars - they all soon were on the banks and setting up rods, some already casting by the time we reached them. We didn't add anything new over the causeway, perhaps due to the two family parties ahead who had decided to have at least one member walk along the wall on either side.

We reached the car after around 2½ hours on the paths and having covered 4.7 miles.

Sightings (34) included: black-headed gull, blackbird, blackcap, blue tit, buzzard, carrion crow, chaffinch, chiffchaff, collared dove, common tern, coot, cormorant, dunnock, garganey, goldfinch, great crested grebe, great tit, grey wagtail, greylag goose, magpie, mallard, mute swan, pied wagtail, red kite, reed bunting, reed warbler, sedge warbler, snow goose, song thrush, stock dove, whitethroat, willow warbler, woodpigeon and wren.