Monday, 10 January 2022

Abingdon STW & Thrupp Lake :: 08-09 January 2022

It was forecast to rain this Saturday morning but there looked to be a 2-hour window where it may only be a light drizzle. Having been unable to get out to see the Pallas's warbler at the Abingdon STW on Friday due to commitments at work, I wanted to have a go just in case it departed - Kevin Heath was of the same mind. Having checked the travel time on Google Maps, I met Kev at 7.00am - I have a memory of it taking about 45 minutes to get to Abingdon Tennis Club in the days I played league matches there. Kevin had suggested we leave a little later and he was right - at that time of the morning we got there significantly faster than Google Maps had predicted. We put on walking boots, swigged our coffee, and made our way down Peep-o-Day Lane. The Oxon Birds blog had given instructions as to where the most likely viewing points would be, and I'd double checked them with Nick Truby; he'd been the previous day and taken some really cracking photos, posting them on Twitter.

We found the spot where people must have been camped the previous day, the ground broken up and muddy - we surveyed the area without success. What we did notice were the very large numbers of goldcrest and chiffchaff - in fact more chiffchaff than you could shake a stick at, perhaps 30? We toiled through the morning with an increasing number of people joining in but with no one picking up the bird.

At least 2½ hours passed before someone found the bird in the hedge scrub between the lane and the water treatment works. As they indicated where they’d seen it, I found that I couldn't pick up the bird before it was lost. A few minutes later another birder picked it out further down the lane and we relocated - before we could lock on, it took to the wing and all I saw was the bird flying further left again – I couldn’t make a positive ID but we were sure it was our target - it was again lost from view.

A hunt began with people searching the local vicinity. On the basis that we hadn't seen it return, Kev made his way further and further down the lane. I wondered if he'd gone too far and was on the edge of the group when I received a WhatsApp call from Kev to say he'd found it. We all shot to the end of the lane and a couple of birders glimpsed it as it made its way away from us, eventually stopping in an oak amongst some alders - siskin and goldfinches all around. At this point it started climbing but there was frustratingly no way to focus the camera on the bird and so I resorted to my bins and managed to catch a fleeting view as it rose flycatching - I could now say I'd seen it but only just.

The rain started to fall heavily but Kevin and I made a last circuit to see if we could locate the bird - almost everyone else left. Kevin had seen the bird quite well but I'd seen it fleetingly. Soon we were off too having also added green woodpecker, grey wagtail and meadow pipit to the year list.


The next morning we repeated the exercise, meeting just a little later - it was going to be a nicer day and hopefully the Pallas's warbler would be easier to spot in this light. On the way we stopped off at Thrupp Lake and had a short look for the ringed necked duck. We couldn't see it but had good views of five Egyptian Geese being chased by a black-headed gull and then chasing one another. As this was just a brief visit, we kept moving and walked along Thrupp Lane to see if we could see any woodland birds missing from our year lists – we saw two male and one female bullfinch feeding at the entrance to the lake and I couldn't resist taking a photo as these were my first of the year. We picked out goldcrest, jay, great spotted woodpecker, and redwing. I heard a mistle thrush but couldn't lay eyes on it then also enjoyed numbers of fallow deer from Thrupp Lane, on the opposite side from the lake.

Fallow deer

We relocated to Abingdon SWT and approaching the spot we had last seen the Pallas's warbler the previous day, we bumped into Dylan Parry-Davies. He passed on the bad news that the bird had shown really well about an hour before in the bushes beside the lane - he'd managed some photos. They were great but we were a bit annoyed that we'd delayed our arrival.

There were the same large numbers of chiffchaff showing, but fewer goldcrests. Siskins adorned the alders but there was no sign of any redpoll or imporatntly the Pallas's warbler. We searched up and down the lane but couldn't locate the bird - news came that the bird had been found in the wood at the western end of the lane. We walked down and joined a group waiting where the bird had been seen, but eventually left and started another circuit.


We reached the eastern end of the lane and turned back onto Peep-o-Day Lane meeting Mark Pidgeon coming the other way. We'd met recently at Thrupp Lake for the ring-necked duck the previous weekend - he joined us as we made our way back for yet another circuit. Kev picked out a treecreeper above us, my first of the year.


Dan and Trish Miller called to see if I was planning on visiting Otmoor as they had been watching a jack snipe in the cut reeds beyond first screen and could give viewing details. Instead they decided they would come down and join us in Abingdon and when they arrived they bumped into Ewan Urquhart - they'd heard that someone thought they'd spotted the warbler in the hedge again and passed the details on to us - we headed back and sure enough in 5 minutes or so we were on the bird. These were my best views, but I was still unable to get in a position to take a photo - hedge, branches or fence getting in the way or stopping me getting a focus lock. I abandoned the attempt and decided to enjoy the view through my bins. As the bird foraged it was occasionally lost and often relocated by Kev.

We couldn't stay any longer and it would already be late lunchtime before we got back - that killer photo will have to wait. I'm not sure whether I'll get another chance, but fingers crossed.

1 comment:

  1. Great account Kyle. Keep trying for that photo, the bird will likely stay around all winter. You'll get lucky!