Sunday, 26 January 2020

Port Meadow :: 25 January 2020

This was my first ever visit to Port Meadow and was inspired by the recent sightings of Caspian gull. Grey wagtailI parked up at Walton Well Road car park and headed towards the flooded fields, not really knowing where I was headed. I bumped into another chap who asked where the wigeon were and I had to admit I hadn't got the foggiest. As I passed the trees on my right there were views of grey wagtail and numbers of chiffchaff - possibly my earliest ever.

As I approached the gate, I spotted a sparrowhawk coming low across the water and sweeping left along the tree-line. This spooked a large number of wigeon and teal out onto the water - they added to an incredible collection of Chiffchaffwigeon and a smaller number of teal. On the far bank were a few hundred lapwing which occasionally took to the air to join substantial flocks of BH gull.

Through the gate I had redwing in trees across the meadow and buzzard and red kite above. I set up the scope and scanned the water picking out shelduck (5) and pintail (at least 4). I scanned the gulls but couldn't identify anything unusual.

I turned back, through the gate, and set up watch. A couple of other birders turned up and as we chatted, goosander (3) appeared. Long-tailed tit fed behind and a flock of golden plover passed over. Golden plover

After an hour I was running out of parking fee and headed back to the car, passing Adam Hartley (Gnome) on the way. As I stepped into the car a small flock of geese flew in from my left - I'd packed away all my kit and from a distance they looked like Canada geese - reports later suggested 150 barnacle geese had been there and perhaps these were the first of an influx. I didn't see any reports of anyone picking up the Caspian.

Sightings (31) included: black-headed gull, blackbird, blue tit, buzzard, Canada goose, carrion crow, chiffchaff, gadwall, golden plover, goosander, great tit, grey wagtail, greylag goose, herring gull, lapwing, lesser black-backed gull, long-tailed tit, magpie, mute swan, pied wagtail, pintail, red kite, redwing, robin, shelduck, shoveler, sparrowhawk, teal, wigeon, woodpigeon and wren.

Sunday, 19 January 2020

WkWT Brandon Marsh :: 19 January 2020

It was another sunny day and so I decided to go out birding again, this time choosing WkWT Brandon Marsh - it has been ages since I was last there.

Lesser redpollI arrived to find the car park rammed and only just squeezed in to the overflow - people after me would have to park in the coach park or down the lane. I didn't stop as I went through the Visitor Centre and followed my usual circuit. With the heavy frost overnight the ground was solid and so slipping on mud wasn't the issue, it was the ice.

After Grebe Pool, New Hares Covert and Swallow Pool, I stopped at the Wright Hide. I could see many gadwall, some teal, lots of black-headed gull but no sign of the great white egret. I'd need to go round to the Great white egretEast Marsh Pool hide to get a different viewpoint.

As I headed from the hide I spotted some birds in the treetops and in a likely feeding spot for redpoll. Mostly goldfinch and blue/great tits. Looking from the other side though I picked out one bird which was a more likely candidate - hidden by branches at first, it eventually showed and yes it was a redpoll. Little smile.

Got round to the EMP hide and easily picked out the great white egret. I watched it for a while and then scanned around picking out juvenile common and herring gulls. There were also two shelduck. The water was partly frozen so there was little chance of anything feeding near to shore. A muntjac deer was seen feeding on the opposite bank.

I dropped into the hides beyond but didn't add anything of note.

Sightings today (36) included: black-headed gull, blackbird, blue tit, buzzard, carrion crow, chaffinch, coal tit, common gull, coot, cormorant, dunnock, gadwall, goldfinch, great tit, great white egret, grey heron, herring gull, kestrel, lesser redpoll, long-tailed tit, magpie, mallard, moorhen, mute swan, pied wagtail, reed bunting, robin, rook, shelduck, shoveler, stock dove, teal, tufted duck, wigeon, woodpigeon and wren.

Saturday, 18 January 2020

Aynho to Souldern Wharf :: 18 January 2020

I'd attended the Banbury Ornithological Society talk on Monday which described Alan Peters' time birding in Columbia during 2018. PintailHis talk covered all sorts of terrains visited, as well as discussed drugs and the various fighting factions. The meeting made me consider where I should go this weekend - no not Alan's bit, but the call out which indicated that there were (4) pintail in the floodplains by Souldern Wharf. Just the ticket.

I slept late and had a leisurely breakfast before heading off and parking by the Great Western Arms, by Aynho Wharf. I put on walking boots and set off past the boats and several fisherman. PintailI talked to one who lamented at the lack of curlew which he said used to be visible from just where he sat. Several of the boat owners appeared to have hung out feeders which attracted the usual array of small birds. Across the river a great-spotted woodpecker landed in the tree, worked its way upwards, and then headed off in the opposite direction to where I stood.

Red kites and buzzard spooked the gulls but there was no specific species of interest as I went along. It was an enjoyable walk as the weather was bright, but on the cold side.

Red kiteEventually I reached Souldren Wharf and decided to forge onwards as there were at least gulls visible in the floods ahead. As I had almost cleared the trees on the right I saw a pair of duck in the floodwater and sure enough they were pintail. As I noted this down a flock of ducks flew passed and then circled back, heading south. I was amazed to see that it was a flock of 12 pintail. Made my day.

The kites could be seen in trees, on fence posts and on the wing. As I made my way back I started to encounter a flock of redwing feeding in the trees on my side of the canal - up to 20 or so. As the red kite soared past again, several small birds darted around a bush and allowed views of dunnock, blue tit, wren and house sparrow. More of these could be seen on the other side of the canal, near the farm.

A little muddy but the visit paid off with numbers of pintail I'd only hoped that I would see.

Sightings (28) included: black-headed gull, blackbird, blue tit, buzzard, canada goose, carrion crow, coal tit, dunnock, great black-backed gull, great spotted woodpecker, great tit, greylag goose, house sparrow, jackdaw, lesser black-backed gull, magpie, mallard, moorhen, mute swan, pheasant, pied wagtail, pintail, red kite, redwing, robin, rook, woodpigeon and wren.

Wednesday, 15 January 2020

Cotswolds :: 15 January 2020

I snuck out of the office after lunch, when the boss wasn't looking, and headed for the Cotswolds. Red-legged partridgeOne of the other boys had been to see some short-eared owls and I fancied a go; the afternoon weather forecast was as good as it was likely to be for the foreseeable future.

Near Naunton, I spotted red-legged partridge in a field and stopped for a look. Fortunately there was somewhere I could pull in safely.

I continued on and found the site. Must have been a dozen cars in view. I got out and talked with one of the guys and it appeared the owls were not really showing yet. After about 20 minutes, dark clouds arrived and the rain started to fall. Boxing haresIt didn't last long but the sun was less evident afterwards. Kestrels and red kite could be seen over the fields and a solitary stonechat sat atop a dry-stone wall.

Behind us, someone spotted a couple of hares beginning to box. They charged around between bouts.

Eventually, after a wait of over an hour, we spotted a short-eared owl and eventually it showed close enough for a photo - not close or in good light but pleased to have had reasonable views. After this we could see that there were in fact two SE owls. Before we all packed up, two barn owls also joined in quartering the field, although by now the light had given up.

Short-eared owlShort-eared owl

Short-eared owlShort-eared owl

Tuesday, 14 January 2020

RSPB Otmoor :: 12 January 2020

After spending a lovely lunchtime with friends on Saturday, we decided Sunday should be a birding day. SparrowhawkLooking at the weather and time available we decided to head for RSPB Otmoor. The road was closed between Islip and the first Beckley turn and so we had to detour through Woodeaton and Elsfield. Flooding was still very evident all around this area.

Shoes on, we marched down the track and paused at the feeding station. A sparrowhawk was running circuits around the feeders and trees, only minutes apart, and trying to catch anything dropping off the feeders. We watched over a dozen attempts but it failed on each pass - I tried a couple of photos but it was just too dense to allow a tight focus. A jay and great spotted woodpecker flew to our right. Golden plover

Nothing by the side of the bridleway but we could see cloud of birds over Big Otmoor. Over the fields we could see flocks of golden plover and lapwing; estimated at c.5,000 and c.4,000 respectively. Occasionally they would all rise and fill the sky above - almost like glitter against the sky and even more so when dark clouds passed over - eventually this attracted a peregrine who failed to catch either species and it cruised off to try its luck elsewhere.

Golden ploverWe dropped into the hide to see what was showing there and added close views of linnet, bullfinches, chaffinch and reed bunting. Waiting here we scoffed our sandwich lunch before moving on to the first screen. Here we picked out a few snipe on a small island and numbers of gadwall. Over toward Noke more golden plover and lapwing could be seen.

We moved on again towards the second screen and encountered a hare, allowing us good views. Around the same area we also watched a muntjac deer feeding on the bank, leaving as a group came in the opposite direction. A kestrel landed in the treetop ahead but a couple were walking ahead of us and as they approached it took to the wing and departed.Hare

On our right, in the reduced edge, a pair of stonechat kept level with us. Entering the second screen the stonechat showed very well right in front of the hide. A marsh harrier quartered the distant reed bed and more golden plover and lapwing flocked in the sky. More than a dozen pochard slept or dived ahead. Good views of red kite directly above.

On the way back we bumped into the Millers and stopped for a chat while standing in a pool of mud. The was a constant stream of people heading in the opposite direction to us, presumably hoping and preparing for a starling murmuration.Stonechat

Sightings (43) included: black-headed gull, blackbird, blue tit, bullfinch, buzzard, Canada goose, carrion crow, chaffinch, collared dove, coot, dunnock, gadwall, golden plover, goldfinch, great spotted woodpecker, great tit, grey heron, greylag goose, jackdaw, jay, kestrel, lapwing, lesser black-backed gull, linnet, long-tailed tit, magpie, mallard, marsh harrier, moorhen, mute swan, peregrine, pheasant, pochard, red kite, reed bunting, robin, snipe, sparrowhawk, starling, stonechat, tufted duck, wigeon and woodpigeon.

Monday, 6 January 2020

Draycote Water & DIRFT3 :: 04 January 2020

The first weekend of the new year out birding, and a prompt start. I didn't want the disturbance to reduce my chance of seeing the great northern diver (GND). Great northern diverFortunately, as I got to the waters edge by the Visitor Centre, I spotted the GND well out from the pontoon but visible. It was diving regularly and for long periods.

I decided to make an anti-clockwise circuit and at Farborough Spit found the two scaup sleeping. There were good numbers of goldeneye and little grebe.

Coming round Toft Bay I saw bullfinches and goldcrest, actively feeding. The hovering action of the bullfinches eating seeds was matched by the goldcrests in the small cloud of flies. Bullfinch

Not much else to report until a number of goosander off Draycote Bank, and then a couple of little egret. More goldcrest feeding from brambles in clouds of flies. The scaup had relocated to Draycote Bank, still asleep and hanging with a significant number of tufties.

I bumped into another birder who hadn't seen the GND at the Visitor Centre. I mentioned to him that I'd seen it when I set out and he joined me on my return. As we passed the Sailing Club we could see the GND diving well offshore and heading left towards Draycote Bank - he was pleased to connect. Goldcrest

Sightings at Draycote Water (39) included: black-headed gull, blackbird, blue tit, bullfinch (4), buzzard, canada goose, carrion crow, coot, cormorant, dunnock, fieldfare (9), gadwall, goldcrest (4), goldeneye (31+), goosander (8), great black-backed gull, great crested grebe, great northern diver, great tit, grey heron, greylag goose, jackdaw, lapwing, lesser black-backed gull, little egret (2), little grebe (10+), long-tailed tit, magpie, mallard, pied wagtail, redwing, robin, rook, scaup (2), song thrush (3), teal, tufted duck, woodpigeon and wren.

I grabbed a sandwich from the Visitor Centre and headed off to DIRFT3 where a great grey shrike had been resident since mid-November. I'd been told where to park off the A5, at the entrance to a bridleway. Another couple were arriving at the same time and as we headed along the bridleway we came across Martin Swannell (@alanthetortoise) heading in the opposite direction. He explained how to avoid the flooded track and that the shrike had been showing well. When we got halfway up the hill I saw the bird on a tree with a couple watching and taking photos. Before we got level the bird was off and a birder came across the slope to the right.

One of the couple I'd arrived with eventually spotted the bird well right and we all made our way to where he stood. Reasonable views but always distant - the light had also deteriorated. I stayed and watched for over half-an-hour with two kestrels quartering the area, a distant buzzard and two peregrine over. It appears that I was late for the best views. If I get the opportunity I may return and try for a better photo.

Thursday, 2 January 2020

Farmoor Reservoir :: 02 January 2020

Star Wars matinée with friends after lunch, so I just managed a brief visit to Farmoor Reservoir early doors. Thought we were in luck when another chap and I watched some tufties, thinking we'd already got on the scaup, only to realise it was a tufted duck, possibly of questionable parentage.

Slavonian grebeOff across the causeway and very quiet. From a distance I saw grebes diving but they turned out to be little grebes. Looked good though as two blokes were sitting on the reservoir wall at the end of the causeway - by the time we reached the rafts we could see the Slavonian grebe. I spent a good 20 minutes watching and hoping it might get closer. Unfortunately the grebe had other ideas and stayed near the rafts, ocassionally swimming under and even further from the perimeter wall. I did take some photos but the light wasn't great so pleased to have captured something. Totalled 7 little grebe along the causeway and in this corner of F2. Slavonian grebe

I wandered around to both hides: by the river, and Pinkhill - but nothing of note there.

Back on the shore and the remaining birders said there had been no change with behaviour. I decided to make a quick circuit of F1 to see if I could locate the scaup. It wasn't until I reached the valve station that I found them - a pair cruising just beyond the assembled tufted ducks.

Shame I didn't have time for a better look, or to go onto Otmoor but I did tick the two species I'd been hoping for. Scaup

Species today (31) included: black-headed gull, blackbird, blue tit, buzzard, canada goose, carrion crow, chaffinch, coot, cormorant, dunnock, fieldfare, goldfinch, great crested grebe, great tit, greylag goose, herring gull, kestrel, little grebe, long-tailed tit, magpie, mallard, mute swan, pheasant, red kite, reed bunting, robin, rook, scaup, slavonian grebe, tufted duck and wren.

Wednesday, 1 January 2020

Seamill & West Kilbride :: 29 December 2019

Our festive visit to Scotland to see family gave me an opportunity for a walk along the beach. The sunrise was at 8.49am and so I had to forgo my usual pre-breakfast departure. So after breakfast I took an hour and a half to stroll along the beach and coast. Although not a cold temperature, the wind chill was significant.

Water pipitDropping down onto the beach, my eyes were drawn to a black and grey bird landing to my right - normally this would be jackdaw but on this occasion it was a hooded crow; this is unusual for me on this stretch of the beach and usually only seen on the fields by Fairlie or entering Adrossan. It was accompanied by a single carrion crow and followed by a number of jackdaw.

The gulls were in their usual haunts with black-headed, great black-backed, lesser black-backed, herring, black-headed and common gulls in attendance. In the murk offshore gannet could be seen wheeling over the water. Meadow pipitCormorant and shag were feeding in the waves off the rocky outcrops. No sign of dipper in the burn - that is the last two visits I've not seen them. Water pipit fed amongst the seaweed, along with meadow pipit.

In the field next to the Waterside Inn, there was a flock of curlew (14) that took to the wing, circled and dropped back down - three more showed on the rocks. Rock pipits flew along the rocky outcrops to my right but never close enough to get a good photo.

I stopped before the Waterside Inn and scanned the rocky outcrop. I spotted a turnstone and then more, seven in total. Purple sandpiperAs I watched, they were joined by two purple sandpipers. I spent the next 20 minutes watching them as they fed on the waters edge. Terrific to stand and watch - I even forgot the wind.

The sea was now almost in and a group of seven redshank welcomed me back to the outflow from the burn. Back to the Seamill Hydro hotel to pack up and head off to see the family.

Sightings (31) included: black-headed gull, blackbird, buzzard, carrion crow, collared dove, common gull, cormorant, curlew, gannet, great black-backed gull, herring gull, hooded crow, house sparrow, jackdaw, lesser black-backed gull, magpie, mallard, meadow pipit, mute swan, oystercatcher, pied wagtail, purple sandpiper, redshank, rock dove / feral pigeon, rock pipit, rook, shag, starling, turnstone, water pipit and wigeon.