Sunday, 11 April 2021

Balscote Quarry & Grimsbury Reservoir : 09-11 April 2021

I arrived at Balscote early on Friday but found Mike Prentice already present. On the water he'd located a ringed plover and yellow wagtail which showed on the closest island, over the top of the gorse. It was my first visit since the viewing area had been modified a little and I liked it - much better setup for scopes and for general viewing of the "big sky'. I set up the scope and locked onto the plover but was confused as this one was a little ringed ... aha there were two birds, one of each species.

Ringed and little ringed plover
Ringed plover and yellow wagtail

All the usual suspects were there and there was a surprise appearance from a single remaining female brambling, still hanging on in there. The jays seem to be getting bolder and two could be seen and were calling regularly. At one point it looked like one was going to land on 'Steve's perch' but it caught sight of me and veered off. Soon nine sand martin were swarming around the tower and hanging on - hopefully we shall have a breeding colony this year. I posted that I'd had a great morning on the WhatsApp group and seen 38 sepcies before breakfast (8.30am) - this prompted a suggestion from Mark Ribbons of a pre-breakfast challenge when John Friendship-Taylor pitched in that he'd reached 43 earlier in the week.

Sand martin

I returned at sunset and was entertained by the birds going to roost. What a spendid evening.

Balscote Quarry

I was back at Balscote again on Saturday morning, but not until 6.45am - this time Mike Prentice and Iain Brown had beaten me to it and asked 'what time I called this?' - very funny!

The ringed plover had flown off the evening before but the yellow wagtail remained and there were fewer sand martins - a single swallow passed over. I took a photo of a flock of golden plover that regularly took to the wing in the field SSW of the reserve and later I counted the birds to find the peak flock was 255 strong. There were three lapwing but eventually two relocated leaving just a single male.


Several chiffchaff called and an individual regularly sat in the trees behind. A couple of willow warbler also called with one passing through the blackthorn bushes at the rear of the viewing area.


Mike and Iain moved on but I stayed hoping to get somewhere near John's total of 43 before breakfast. Tim Price and Mark Ribbons both dropped in and were going to have a look at Grimsbury Reservoir and the pools alongside the M40 - rather a grand title for some flood puddles but they are holding several ringed and little ringed plovers, green sandpiper, yellow wagtails, mipits, etc. As it got close to my time to leave, one of the jays dropped in at the rear of the feeding area and gave good views. Finally the regular red-legged partidge waddled in, taking my total to 43. On the way home I added a house sparrow and a raven for a total of 45 - I had a roll and bacon to celebrate.


At lunchtime I noted that Mark Ribbons had found a common redstart at Grimsbury Reservoir and had got the news out. Unfortunately I was heading out to sit in a back garden with some friends for a chat - at least until it snowed! No twitch for me.

Sunday morning arrived and I was again out early and bumped into John F-T as we parked cars at Grimsbury Reservoir. We made for the west bank and found a yellow wagtail and a meadow pipit on the shore. Looking back to the sailing club we could see a single common sandpiper - my first of the year.

Common sandpiper

In the big oak tree by the gate into the water treatment works, John picked out c30 hirundines perched on the branches - not a sight you see often here - they usually use the fence or railings. Strolling on we stopped to look at several birds flitting around the bushes and eventually one flew out and perched low in the reservoir perimeter fence - it was a common redstart - result. We stalked the bird as it fed and eventually got good views, but my photos were a bit flaky - disappointed when I opened them at home later. Five white wagtails also showed.

Adrian Tysoe appeared and we watched the redstart as it made it's way along the bushes to the left of the path. At the end of the straight path it vanished and we made our way around to the plantation to see if it had relocated there or if a second was still present. Mike Pollard and Iain Brown then joined while Kevin Heath passed through - we couldn't relocate the bird. Mike, Kevin and John all left and Iain and I made our way back down the western shore. When we got to the bush we had first found the bird in, it flew right and out to the copse in the field beyond.

As we left we connected with the common sandpiper again and this time we had five yellow wagtails. Mike Curnow, Clive Payne, Adrian and Sandra Bletchly were all arriving as we reached the cars.

At home I read that Anthony Fowler had been heading for Grimsbury Reservoir through Hanwell Fields when he'd spotted a male common redstart, which became two. The one at Grimsbury was still showing and so there were three in total. I couldn't resist going to see if I could find these and perhaps get a better photo. Leaving my car I found Mike Prentice drawing up and we soon connected with one of the birds. As we watched, Kirsty Brannan appeared from the playing field where she'd been following both birds. The redstart entertained, dropping onto the ground in full view and perching in various bushes and trees, and at one point it bathed in the ditch behind which held a small amount of water. I headed home for lunch.


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