Monday, 26 October 2020

Bucknell Woods :: 26 October 2020

The forecast unexpectedly changed and it appeared that it was going to stay dry. We jumped into the car and headed for Bucknell Woods as we hadn't walked there for a while. The road from the A43 was blocked due to roadworks and so we had to circle round through Towcester to come in from the other direction.

Heading up the main path from the car park there were a number of goldcrest and then more as we reached the crossroads and our right turn. We also had blue, coal and great tits and then a treecreeper. Walking on we heard and then briefy saw a chiffchaff and then again more goldcrests.

The sky released some rain and we took cover in the trees. As we waited a flock of circa 15 birds headed over and called when they were out of view. I'm pretty sure these were the crossbills that have been there for the last few months - still there! Another treecreeper appeared to our right.




The rain fell again and we opted for a shorter route than usual, returning back to the car. Just before we reached the exit a small flock of redwing caught our eye and yet another treecreeper, this time one of a pair.

Sunday, 25 October 2020

WkWT Brandon Marsh :: 25 October 2020

The clocks went back overnight and so getting up at 6.45am was easier than usual - it was even light again! I took her indoors a cuppa and had breakfast. We were on the road and entered the code on the keypad to get in before the general public. There were already a dozen car in the car park as we drew up.

A flock of goldfinches greeted us as we put on our boots and a dunnock sang from the trees. We set off on our usual circuit: around Grebe Pool, through New Hares Covert and Swallow Pool. As we passed though New Hares Covert we came across a couple of jays, followed by a treecreeper and then a goldfinch. We also had a bullfinch over and a single redwing.


Overlooking the golf course a buzzard stood on the fairway, presumably feeding on worms or looking for his ball. We heard cetti's warbler but again couldn't get a view - a repeat of yesterday.

Common buzzard

We looked into the Wright Hide and it was empty, so we popped in - the doors have been taken off, there are hand-sanitiser bottles on entry (and exit), and the shutters are all propped open. The scrape looked much as it always does and there was nothing of note. I'd hoped for either )or both) siskin or redpoll in the trees above but found neither. We rounded the corner as a young couple marvelled at a tame robin who appeared to be happy at an approach to within a meter.

Passing the Jon Baldwin Hide we considered not going in as there appeared to be a couple of people already in residence. They beckoned to us saying that a kingfisher had just flown to the bushes opposite; it had been fishing right outside the window. Soon it flew to a pole and gave clear but slightly distant views. It then relocated into a couple of distant bushes and eventually gave us a flypast view.


We walked to the end of the path (Steetly Hide) adding a few more views of jay, and on the way back a kingfisher briefly landed to our left in the flooded channel.

Sightings (33) included: black-headed gull, blackbird, blue tit, bullfinch, buzzard, carrion crow, cetti's warbler, chiffchaff, coot, cormorant, dunnock, gadwall, goldcrest, goldfinch, great tit, greylag goose, jay, kingfisher, lapwing, long-tailed tit, magpie, mallard, moorhen, mute swan, redwing, robin, rook, shoveler, treecreeper, tufted duck, wigeon, woodpigeon and wren.

Saturday, 24 October 2020

RSPB Otmoor :: 24 October 2020

I set off for RSPB Otmoor soon after sunrise and after 10 minutes of driving started to think I shouldn't have bothered - the windscreen wipers sweeping the rain from the windscreen. I did think about turning back but hey, it might not yet be raining at Otmoor I thought. Amazingly, it wasn't.

I walked from the car park and eventually stopped at the feeder staion to see if anything showed - I waited for a few minutes but nothing more than the usual tits, pheasant and chaffinch so I continued on. On the bridleway I heard cetti's warbler but as is mostly the case with this species, I didn't even get a fleeting glance - it wasn't the only ocassion this happened today.

I came upon a mixed flock of tits which on investigation included goldcrest and chiffchaff. Some of the Otmoor Massive passed in the opposite direction and mentioned that they'd seen upwards of 20,000 starling leave the roost and that there were large numbers of both lapwing and golden plover; they'd also seen a peregrine hunting in these flocks.

In the pools on Greenaways I managed to pick out eight snipe. This was only possible due to the fact that one flew in and allowed me to see them move about as it joined. Without this I probably wouldn't have been able to see them in the scrub.

I reached the fence overlooking Big Otmoor and spotted a stonechat feeding from the barbed-wire fence. It was joined by a chiffchaff that mirrored the feeding habit of the stonechat, dropping to the grass and returning with insects.

Chiffchaff and stonechat

In the distance I could see a sizeable flock of golden plover and decided to make for the 1st Screen. To my left I could see the stonechat continuing to feed and two wrens that hopped between the reeds and brambles.


The flock of golden plover joined with another that had taken to the wing and came my way, high but almost over. Great to see such good numbers and hopefully replicates the early spring when the flocks were 5,000+ and glistening in the sun - no change of that today!

Golden plover

At the 1st Screen there were good numbers of wigeon and gadwall. Over the reedbed, two female marsh harriers quartered from left to right. Flocks of golden plover and lapwing danced over The Flood. Several cetti's called to the left, right and behind.

Marsh harrier

There were then a few spots of rain and so I decided to make my way back. Along the bridleway, I saw two couples heading the other way. One couple appeared to have bins and a camera and those on the inside by the fence moved past as the others stopped for a photograph. I realised the couple taking photos were Mr and Mrs @old_caley. I stopped for a catch-up and we saw the tit flock pass us by, again with chiffchaff and goldcrest. We eventually went our separate ways but immediately I spotted a bittern take to the wing and fly off towards The Flood / 1st Screen. @old_caley followed after it.


@old_caley had mentioned that he'd seen a redpoll and a marsh tit at the feeding station and so I stopped there on the return. After about 5 minutes the marsh tit flew in from the left and onto the feeders. The rain started again, and this time a bit heavier. I opted to head for the car and journey home, rather than to The Pill where some interesting birds have been seen of late. Maybe next time.

Sightings (41) included: bittern, black-headed gull, blue tit, buzzard, canada goose, carrion crow, cetti's warbler, chaffinch, chiffchaff, coot, *****, dunnock, fieldfare, gadwall, goldcrest, golden plover, goldfinch, great tit, grey heron, greylag goose, kestrel, lapwing, long-tailed tit, magpie, mallard, marsh harrier, marsh tit, mute swan, pheasant, red kite, redwing, reed bunting, robin, rook, snipe, starling, stonechat, tufted duck, wigeon, woodpigeon and wren.

Sunday, 18 October 2020

Farmoor Reservoir :: 18 October 2020

There was a shout early doors that a mandarin duck (juv) had dropped into Grimsbury Reservoir - I didn't see the message straight away. When I was ready to leave I sent a reply asking if it had stayed but unfortunately it departed after just 20mins. Charlotte and I decided for a walk at Farmoor Reservoir instead.

Very few boats on F2 but around 25 people on the eastern corner of F1 by the causeway learning to paddle board. Nothing at all on the causeway and still the rock pipits eluded me. There were a handful of tufted ducks - hundreds of coot and great-crested grebe. In the grey calm this tuftie looked isolated - a bit of an arty shot for me!

A female scaup was on the western side of F2 but we decided to stop our circuit there and dropped down to the river. A group had been swimming in the river and were dressing as we appraoched - brrr. Onto the river and we saw a kingfisher skim near to the oposite bank and ahead - we looked but never caught up with it.

We had three cetti's warbler calling at various points, and a single fleeting view - looks like I'll not have a photo of one this year. Redwing and bullfinches fed in the trees and bushes on the opposite bank.

We looped back to head for the Pinkhill reserve and came across a female blackcap feeding on berries. There was probably more than one but we decided not to wait and confirm.

A little disappointed I haven't found these pesky rock pipit on several visits - the meadow pipits at the water treatment works are far more obliging ...

Sightings (27) included: blackcap, bullfinch, carrion crow, cetti's warbler, coot, cormorant, great black-backed gull, great crested grebe, great tit, grey wagtail, greylag goose, herring gull, kingfisher, lesser black-backed gull, little grebe, magpie, mallard, meadow pipit, mute swan, pheasant, pied wagtail, redwing, robin, rook, tufted duck, woodpigeon and wren.

Saturday, 17 October 2020

Pauline Flick Nature Reserve :: 17 October 2020

Her indoors had decided to join a 10km walk for MIND, the mental health charity, so I decided to have a walk around a local Nature Reserve that I've not visited before - the Pauline Flick Nature Reserve near Great Rollright (Chipping Norton).

Pauline Flick Nature Reserve

The old Banbury to Chipping Norton Railway line was dismantled in the early 1960s. This section of the old railway was donated to the Banbury Ornithological Society who manages the site for the benefit of wildlife.

Many species of plant, bird, mamamal and insect have become established and the Society aims to maintain and enhance the diversity of wild species while providing access to the general public.

I parked across from the entrance in a spot between two gates that didn't block access to either. Despite ocassional rain over the last week the ground wasn't muddy but I donned walking boots anyway - they would just get wet from the grass. I could hear great and blue tits, blackbird and wrens but nothing of significant note. There were blue, great and coal tits on the feeders and a walk-by pheasant below them.


At the old crossing I looked across the field and saw three buzzards soaring with a single red kite.

I turned to look back along the track and noticed a moth struggling to get away from a wasp. I watched and filmed the wasp subdue then disect the moth. Quite a sight at miniture scale.

Continuing on, a buzzard was resting in the treetops but must have heard me coming as it took to the air and headed away from me and down the path. I could hear buzzards calling to my left and wondered if it was my bird now interacting with the others I'd seen earlier.

I heard some birds calling and looking up saw eight fieldfare over; two split off and diverted over the path and out to distant trees.

I reached the end of the path by the blocked tunnel and to the "rigs excavation". This western end of the reserve is more natural with the underlying rock structure remaining partially exposed.

The natural bedrock of this area is layered limestone dating from the Jurasic period. This natural geology has been exposed and given a R.I.G.S. designation (Regionally Important Geological Site).

Limestone is common in the area, including at some special local sites. Situated on a high ridge separating the counties of Oxfordshire and Warwickshire, the Rollright Stones, a worn and weathered local Oolitic limestone, are arranged in an almost exact circle. The Rollright Stones site not only consists of a stone circle, but also associated with the complex is a standing stone over the road in Warwickshire called the King Stone - close to an unexcavated Bronze Age barrow, and a collection of stones - the remains of a burial chamber called the Whispering Knights.

I didn't add anything of significance on the return. Sightings included: blackbird, blue tit, buzzard, carrion crow, chaffinch, coal tit, fieldfare, great tit, magpie, pheasant, red kite, robin, woodpigeon and wren.

Monday, 12 October 2020

Farmoor Reservoir :: 11 October 2020

Her indoors was off to play a tennis league match against Goring (in the afternoon) and so I had a leisurely morning and then lunch with my eldest. The day was set fair, although temperatures likely to be circa 13°C - there was to be little wind though.

The car park was busy again on arrival and the new parking scheme was still not up and running, so another freebee. Winsurfers adorned F2 and the "taxi drivers" watched on. I set off over the causeway, noticing that the water level is lower than it has been of late.

About halfway across I came across two dunlin feeding happily on the waters edge on the F2 side, not worried about the people already admiring them. I joined and took a few snaps. Ahead I could see someyhing right on the waters edge, about ¾ of the way across the causeway, this time on the F1 side. It turned out to be another dunlin.


I turned left round F2 and stopped to look at the mass of coot and great crested grebe - a couple watched on. On the rafts were black-headed, great-black backed and herring gulls.

I dropped fown to the river and immediately felt relaxed as I strolled along the bank in the sunshine - just so still. A couple of kayaks paddled by and as they did, a kingfisher flashed by, rising high to pass over the treetops toward Pinkhill.

A rather handsome kestrel sat in a tree, quite interested in what was happening below. Eventually looking my way I took a few shots - bit of kestrel photo weekend.


I heard cetti's warbler but on this ocassion I didn't have good views. A blackcap joined a flock of long-tailed tits feeding on the path back to the Pinkhill hide but nothing else showed.

I completed my visit with a circuit rounf F1 with only grey/pied wagtails and a handful of meadow pipit to show for it.

Meadow Pipit

Sightings for today (34) included: black-headed gull, blackcap, blue tit, buzzard, carrion crow, cetti's warbler, coot, cormorant, dunlin, goldfinch, great black-backed gull, great crested grebe, grey heron, grey wagtail, greylag goose, herring gull, kestrel, kingfisher, lesser black-backed gull, little egret, little grebe, long-tailed tit, magpie, mallard, meadow pipit, moorhen, mute swan, pheasant, pied wagtail, red kite, robin, tufted duck, woodpigeon and wren.

Saturday, 10 October 2020

Borough Hill, Daventry :: 10 October 2020

I set off to see if the long-staying black redstart at Borough Hill, Daventry would give itself up, or if it would be another Saturday morning curse. Just when I was about to enter Byfield from Banbury, around 8 red-legged partridge scattered from the road as I approached; they were a bit slow and so I had quite a good view.

As was the case when I visited last time, there was a wind blowing but it wasn't very cold. Boots on and camera locked-and-loaded I set off in search of the "eastern perimeter fence". I turned at the end of the metal fence hoping for a view but nothing showed, until @987jonty appeared from the other end of the facility. We chatted and watched linnet, meadow pipit, stonechat and a kestrel around us.

Black redstart

We split and headed in opposite directions to see what we could find. As I reached the far end of the fence I flushed a single bird between me and the fence - I watched it circle and raised my bins to see it land out in the field. I could swear it had a red/orange flash at the rear.

Meadow pipit

Heading back I saw a bird fly off toward where @987jonty stood. I got closer and could see the black redstart on the fence to his left and that he hadn't yet spotted it. I attracted his attention and pointed to where the bird was showing - in 30s we both had cameras on it.

Black redstart

Black redstart

We watched as it hopped arond various structures and fences and then again as it fed around two concrete pads. It turned out to be quite a showy bird. Eventually @987jonty had to go as he had only planned for a short drop-in visit.

Black redstart

I followed the bird around for a while with views in several different spots: from trees, in scrub, on walls and on the ground. I also searched around hoping for another bird on migration but no other species were showing.

This was a very productive area and I'm sure any remaining passage will be good here.

Sightings for today included: black redstart, blue tit, carrion crow, chaffinch, cormorant, goldfinch, kestrel, magpie, meadow pipit, reed bunting, robin, skylark, stonechat, woodpigeon and wren.