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.