Tuesday, 5 October 2021

Farmoor Reservoir :: 03 October 2021

I arrived at Farmoor Reservoir not long after sunrise and met up with Kevin Heath. There was no time to waste, and we made straight for the causeway to see if anything had dropped in overnight - we didn't want to chance any disturbance and the birds being flushed before we got there. Over the water on F2 there were hundreds of house martins and a few swallows cutting across the water. Quite a spectacle!

We made our way along the causeway and initially could only pick out pied wagtails but by ⅔rds of the way across, we could see a pair of rock pipits ahead. In general, they are fairly common along rocky coasts but generally not found inland. They are usually resident, and only perform short movements, yet here they were on their traditional brief migration window. As we approached, they kept a constant distance from us and allowed no closer views or photos. Eventually they took to the wing, out across the water where we could see there were in fact three.

Rock pipit

We reached the end of the causeway and were a bit disappointed that there were no waders at all. We stopped to talk with Dave Lowe who was scanning the water and skies for any birds through - he mentioned at least 50 meadow pipits had gone over already. We scanned the water on both F1 and F2 finding a collection of gulls: great black-backed; yellow-legged; herring; black-headed; lesser black-backed. What a neck on those great black-backed gulls – real bruisers

Great black-backed gull
Yellow-legged gull
Herring gull

A couple of little grebes were feeding close to shore and seemed to be diving at a very high frequency - perhaps to do with the depth of the water? They are such attractive little birds.

Little grebe

We decided to make a pass round F2 and soon encountered a few meadow pipit, the first down in the grass. It made for an interesting photograph with the water/dew from the previous day's rain. After a handful of meadow pipit dropped in behind the scrub and fence line to our right, an individual briefly hopped onto the fence giving us a decent view.

Meadow pipit
Meadow pipit

Ahead we could see a flock of barnacle geese and as we approached a vehicle came from the other direction, sending them up and away down towards the river - thanks muchly. At least I got some photos before they departed. We retraced our steps and dropped down to the Shrike Hide hoping to see a kingfisher - someone recently posted a photo of one on the post and I hoped to be lucky - I wasn't. Leaving the hide a cetti's warbler was "giving it large" and I stopped to see if it showed. It called a few more times and then dived into a nearby bush giving me only the briefest of glances and zero chance of a photo - such a change from their showy nature in the spring. By the water works we hadn't seen anything of note but could hear a warbler in the tree beside us. We watched as a reed warbler flew across the river and into the reeds beyond - a late record for me.

Barnacle goose
Barnacle goose
We circled round past the Pinkhill Meadow hide to find that, probably due to Covid restrictions, the reeds to the front of the hide are so tall and dense that none of the pools are visible – we didn’t stay long. We climbed back up to the reservoir and the end of the causeway - as we paused, we could hear the call of a kingfisher and started to investigate - it sounded like it came from below the grate and the chamber below. After a few minutes of fruitless searching, I saw it as it flew passed the building and down towards the river. Minutes later we could hear the call again and the slight echo from the chamber below - a further few minutes past and Kevin called as a kingfisher flew over our heads and again towards the river - we could continue to hear calls from the river for a short while after. Following this excitement, we then focussed on some small birds on the narrow bridge between the end of the causeway and the works building. One very pale looking chiffchaff landed intermittently on the railings and a series of great tit and dunnock fed around the same area. I couldn’t get a photo of the chiffchaff as it paused only for a couple of seconds each time. Fortunately, another chiffchaff appeared in the same area and stayed long enough for better views and a photo.

We decided to make our way back across the causeway and hoped something may have dropped in. It was however obvious that the hirundines had all departed and the water was now choppy - a strong breeze was blowing. Other than gulls, coot, pied wagtails and grebes there was nothing to see. We stopped at the cafe for a coffee and Kevin gave me grief for ordering a caramel latte, while he had a manly white coffee. We passed the valve tower and stopped to take picture of a little egret perched on the fence - it looked precarious and comfortable at the same time.

Passing the clearing between the trees on the left we stopped on a bench to see if there would be any new species in the scrub and found that the birds didn't want to show – each time they relocated at speed into the depths of the bushes - frustrating from an ID point of view, but we picked out the usual suspects.

Not the greatest list of species seen this time (still 44) but an enjoyable visit and good to catch up with these inland rock pipit.

Little egret

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