Monday, 20 September 2021

Wildlife BCN Summer Leys :: 18 September 2021

I set off for the Wildlife Trust BCN Summer Leys reserve in the dark and fog followed by Kevin Heath - due to the light traffic we made the journey in c.50mins. We headed straight for the Pioneer Hide to see if we could connect with the visiting bittern and were soon in prime spots as first in residence - it wasn't too long before we were joined by a couple of others. To be honest this didn't look good; a medium fog enveloped the site and there was little change of seeing the other banks for a while yet. We could see some of what was on the water and watched a great white and two little egrets feeding close to one another, the little egret however squabbled each time they got close.

Great white egret

We waited patiently making notes as new species came into view, keeping an eye on the reeds close to us and on the bank to our left - this is where the bittern had fed some of the previous day. A couple of snipe could be seen feeding in the close channel and on the water's edge, front left. The sun had risen and worked to try and clear the fog - success ebbed and flowed with banks of fog rolling in again to degrade the view once more. After an hour or so it was almost possible to view the features on the opposite bank.

View from the Pioneer Hide

Kevin called a kingfisher on the reeds behind us and before we could get on it, it departed although it did result in me spending a bit of time scanning the birds between the wigeon, only resulting in an addition of a little grebe. Around 50 mute swans could now be seen out near the public footpath on the far bank. I turned back and we could see four or five reed bunting working to and fro along the reeds in front, and saw another snipe preening below in the channel. A reed warbler then passed in the reeds immediately in front picking off food from the various areas of scrub. At times it contorted to feed from its perched position, darting to pick off its prey just within reach.

Reed warbler
Reed warbler
Reed warbler

A shout went up as the kingfisher briefly landed on the water level post to our right and we all swung to take a photo. Unfortunately, the visit was too short and it was off. As the sun started to have more impact the great white egret started to entertain more but was also chased around by one of the grey herons. While they both had success the great white egret seems to be happy feeding on quite small fish but the grey heron looks for a more substantial meal as shown in this photo from Ricky Sinfield later in the day.

Great white egret
Great white egret
Great white egret
Great white egret

Out in front, the fog had largely receded, and a ruff had now dropped in with the wigeon and lapwing - they all stood preening in the sun. It had been four hours since we arrived and so we decided to stretch our legs and make a circuit of the water. The bittern wasn't playing ball.

Ruff

We encountered blackcap and heard bullfinch but didn't see anything of note until we were part way along the public footpath - a hobby over, but only a fleeting view as it disappeared behind the bushes and over the water. W stopped at the little footbridge opposite the entrance back into the reserve but couldn't see anything from there either. As we passed through the gate a common darter dropped on the wooden horizontal and posed for a photo - I complied.

Common darter

We made our way round and decided to call it a day with no certainty that the bittern was even still on site. Its presence was later confirmed with some photos from Dan Beaman. Oh well ... it was a nice visit anyway with 42 species recorded.

Thursday, 16 September 2021

Draycote Water :: 12 September 2021

A ruddy shelduck has been present at Draycote Water since mid-August but had been elsewhere on the water when I visited, searching for a visiting ferruginous duck that had already departed. The ruddy shelduck was still being reported and so it was about time I made an effort to connect.

I set off but the site doesn't open too early and so it wasn't until 8.25am that I set out from the car park - I'd paid for 2hrs of parking and hoped I'd be able to find the bird by then. I reached the reservoir perimeter and started an anti-clockwise rotation. Within a couple of tens of meters, I scanned back along the shore beyond the Visitor's Centre and found the ruddy shelduck resting on the water's edge. I retraced my steps and approached to take a couple of photos, the bird perched on one leg - it wasn't at all phased.

Ruddy shelduck

So now I had logged the bird with 5 minutes I wondered what to do next, deciding to make a quick full clockwise rotation in the hope that I'd find something of note. I counted little egrets as I went and had a total of 16; they were quite mobile and there could have been more. In the trees by Biggin Bay I heard a jay call above me and stopped to investigate - I could see the bird but obscured by branches and foliage. As I watched, a treecreeper dropped into a tree beside and I then heard great spotted woodpecker behind - both the GSW and jay both flew and I had views of both but wasn't able to get a photo record.

Although I spotted 34 species there was nothing else to highlight and noted that I'd eventually on my wanderings covered 5.5 miles - it is not like me to keep up that pace. The ruddy shelduck was feeding in front of the Visitor's Centre on my return and I could resist another snap. I was happy to have seen it but slightly disappointed by the lack of new species despite large numbers on the water and water's edge. Next time.

Ruddy sheelduck

RSPB Otmoor :: 11 September 2021

I grabbed a roll and bacon, made a flask of coffee, and set off to arrive at RSPB Otmoor by sunrise. In the car park I met up with Kevin Heath and as we prepared to set out with scopes, bins and a camera a nice lady turned up and promptly headed out onto the reserve ahead of us. She had bins in her hand and so it was likely a birder and wasn't just unable to sleep and fancied a walk. We followed behind but she appeared to be on a mission and was soon out of view. We made our way to the bridlepath and looked out to see what was around - the answer was not much.

We pressed on and by the bench we could see three hunting kestrel hovering over Greenaways. Behind, 11 cattle egrets landed in the grass alongside the cattle - appropriate I suppose - occasionally their heads would pop up enough to see a few at a time but largely they were concealed. A single little egret fed in one of the closer pools.

Not far past the bench the woman we had seen earlier returned and reported that she'd not seen much of note and was off - a swift visit! - we'd not even made it to the gate and path to 1st screen yet; a single snipe and then another two flew over. When we did get to the gate and crossroads we opted to visit the hide and were pleased to see a single cattle egret following a cow around. A fallow deer was feeding with the cows and later we were told that it seems to think it is one of the herd.

Cattle egret
Cattle egret
Fallow deer

After a short time a herd of humans entered the hide to view the cattle egrets that had relocated over the bridleway. This group contained Peter Barker, Mark Chivers and Derek Lane. They didn't stop long and headed for 1st screen - with not much else in view we followed suit. We arrived at first screen and joined those already in residence, immediately seeing another cattle egret on the island directly ahead. After a short while it was joined by a little egret and after that another cattle egret.

Cattle egret
Cattle egret

As we waited (hoping for the flock of cattle egrets to drop in for a brush up) a kingfisher attempted to land on the branches in the water immediately in front of the hide; unfortunately it must have spotted us and made for the reeds instead, out of view and very shortly out and away. A large number of ducks circled and dropped into the pool and shortly six garganey were identified. It is great to see so many of the fledged birds survive. On the various islands dozens of snipe were resting or feeding on the water's edge.

Garganey
Snipe

Kevin and I decided to have a look at 2nd screen and on the way saw bullfinch, chiffchaff, goldfinch, various tits and reed warbler. At the screen we were disappointed not see more but there was a show from a rather attractive sedge warbler which gave me something to photograph. We could only take so much excitement and headed back to first screen passing the regulars coming the other way. We briefly stopped again at 1st screen, until the others had trudged back too and decided to go and have a look in Long Meadow.

Sedge warbler

Stopping at the gate by the cattle pens we looked out over Greenaways and spotted the three kestrels still hovering and hunting. After a few minutes we added a couple of hobbies hunting across the far hedge and field margin on our side. It was great to observe their interactions and then as they rose, dived and hunted low across the field.

Hobby

Now on Long Meadow we searched for common redstarts, finding instead a group of at least four lesser whitethroat. They were in the left hedgerow as we headed for the walled structure and they regularly flew to a few of the bushes in the meadow itself. As they did, they landed and disappeared into the foliage (as they usually do) rarely giving an opportunity for a photo - by now the haze had started to build and it was a job to get close enough for a photo of any note.

Lesser whitethroat

In time we tired of watching them and resumed our hunt for redstart. It took 10 minutes or so but eventually we had at least three birds and two of them were confirmed males. We watched as they danced between the bushes and dropped beside feeding. At one point Kevin gestured towards a redstart on a side branch in view but I got the wrong bush and it had moved before I understood where to look - I tried again as the bird dropped to the ground but it refused to show prominently - the heat haze was now unworkable and so unless it landed in front of us, I wasn't going to get a decent shot. We just watched instead, at least until another chap joined us and then headed off further down the meadow.

Common redstart
Common redstart

Time for home said Zebedee.

Monday, 13 September 2021

North Oxfordshire :: 07 September 2021

We had dinner early as my wife was due to play a tennis match locally and this set me up to have a wander around a local village to see if their little owls were still on site. I parked close to the path and made my way along, talking to a few locals who were out, predominantly walking their dogs. It appeared that no one could say they'd seen the birds in the week since one of the other local birders had posted their continued presence. I reached the tree they live in to find it empty. Undeterred I stood and waited with the last of the light disappearing as the sun fell below the roof line of the village houses.

After about 20 minutes and a few chats with passing locals, I was thrilled to see a single little owl hop into the righthand branches, soon followed by another two behind. After 5 minutes or so one of the birds took to the wing and flew off in the direction of the village and was soon lost from view.

Another 5 minutes past and I could see there were still two little owls in the tree but then one left and I was left with the original owl I’d spotted. The whole time the birds were almost completely in silhouette, but a few features were still visible. As it was almost dark the final bird flew out into the field and then circled across the path and away behind me. Great to see they are still around, and it was good to see them on the move to head out hunting. It is amazing the information contained in the photos – it was really too dark for photos but I could resist.

Little owl
Little owl
Little owl
Little owl

Friday, 10 September 2021

Pitsford Dam :: 05 September 2021

I rose late and had a leisurely breakfast finding nothing on the message boards. I had thought of visiting Otmoor to see the little stint reported the previous day; on checking there had been no report at the end of Saturday and the bird on Pitsford Dam had also gone AWOL.

At about 11.00am I picked up a report that the Pitsford little stint had returned so dropped everything and jumped in the car, parking in Brixworth Country Park. It didn't take long to walk from the car park to the dam and I could see a small bird along the water's edge - it turned out to be a pied wagtail, as did the next three or four birds. I was getting to the valve tower when two birds came into view, and they turned out to be the target little stint and a ringed plover. I stopped and watched as the two fed in the green algae - they seemed to have no issue in finding food and fed continuously.

Little stint
Little stint
Little stint
Little stint
Little stint
Ringed plover

I monitored the other birds but couldn't find anything out of the ordinary so started back. With only a few tens of meters to go I spotted a bird on the edge which turned out to be a juvenile yellow wagtail. A short visit but a year tick of little sting - what a little stunner!

Yellow wagtail

Tuesday, 7 September 2021

Farmoor Reservoir :: 04 September 2021

Another earlyish start for a Saturday morning and a visit to Farmoor Reservoir with Kevin Heath. We scanned the water and apron as we made our way toward the causeway mainly noting the regulars, other than a yellow-legged gull on the pontoons. Only halfway across the causeway did we come upon a wader on the water's edge. It was a single dunlin and it allowed a close approach for a photo. Standing still it would even walk past us as it fed - it must be something to do with the causeway but species that would normally flush if approached seem happy to have people close. A couple of common sandpiper bucked the trend.

Dunlin
Yellow legged gull
Grey heron

We continued to the end of the causeway where Kevin picked out two Egyptian geese to our left on F2. In front of us we had two little egrets noisily chasing around a statuesque heron. Behind a couple of yellow wagtails appeared and then a common sandpiper. We saw a couple of birders pass around F1 and they stopped, looking as if they may have spotted something - we headed that way.

Common sandpiper
Common sandpiper
Yellow wagtail
Grey heron little egret
Grey heron

Before we got far, we picked out a number of birds in a bush down the slope to our left. We could see a number of blackcap, chiffchaff, whitethroat and goldfinch and spent a while watching them flit about and feed. We set off again seeing that the two birders were still ahead, although they shortly parted and one headed our way. When we drew level, we found it was Thomas Miller and he told us they had actually not been looking at anything in particular. He had though seen a Caspian gull earlier and appeared to be searching to see if he could relocate it - we tagged along as there didn't seem too much point in finishing F1 at present.

We turned back onto the causeway and could see Ewan Urquhart in the distance - Thomas went off to talk with Ewan and behind us a juvenile ruff dropped in. I took a couple of distance shots, but it let us approach - apparently it had been present over the last five days or so and had been very obliging. When Thomas and Ewan caught up with us they mentioned that there were now three dunlin down the causeway - we went to look and stopped to view the ruff again on our return.

Ruff
Ruff
Ruff
Ruff

We opted to make a circuit of F2 but found no sign of the Egyptian geese from earlier. However, the ruff flew past and landed behind a woman seated on the perimeter wall but was flushed by a jogger before we got close. We had a further sighting of yellow-legged gull and c.70 cormorants over and on the water - quite a fishing party. We completed F2 and stopped for a coffee and a bacon baguette before heading back across the causeway and round F1, finding mostly hirundines.

Chiffchaff
Sand martin house martin swallow

We finished up watching blackcap, whitethroat and spotted flycatcher in the bushes before making our way to the cars stopping only to view a little egret that paid us no attention from the pomtoon.

Little egret