Friday, 6 May 2022

Greenham Common & Balscote Quarry :: 01 - 02 May 2022

Charlotte wanted to visit her aunt in the Royal Berkshire hospital in Reading but once complete we decided to go for a walk around Greenham Common - sort of on the way home! - it wasn't the best day and there was intermittent drizzle. We parked up at the control tower car park and set out in an anti-clockwise rotation. We were surprised at how quiet it was (from a birding perspective) and really only had linnet, other finches, tits etc until we got to the far (west) end. There we started to see stonechat but from the path always distant.


Chiffchaff called, as did willow warbler. They didn't really show well enough for photos, but I took some anyway - nothing to stand out. We stopped to look at another rather splendid male stonechat when a pale - grey - meadow pipit dropped into the scrub in front of us. It immediately went to ground as dogs off the lead passed the edge of the scrub, soon followed by the owner. Off in the trees behind a garden warbler sang and sat enough in the open to snap - such an icon of of spring. A single wheatear showed on top of a gorse bush but again was flushed by passing dog walkers.

Meadow pipit
Garden warbler

I had a moment of hope as a bird rose singing, with a different voice to skylark. Reviewing the distant photos with friends I'd found a woodlark! The drizzle got heavier and more persistent, and we rushed on picking up only a green woodpecker. It was a nice walk, cut short by the rain and I left a bit disappointed that I hadn't seen Dartford warblers or seen/heard nightingale - maybe too much activity on a bank holiday weekend, and with rain to boot.

I didn't rush to get up on the bank holiday Monday but by 8.00am I'd seen that a bar-tailed godwit had dropped into Grimsbury Reservoir. I thought that it would be unlikely to stay long due to disturbance from walkers, dog walkers and fishermen. Sure enough, by 8.27am it was flushed by a fisherman and left west. Photos by John-Friendship Taylor and Dave South did justice to a stunning bird - must say I was a little jealous and started wishing I'd tried - Nick Truby had and arrived a few minutes after the bird had departed - I think I would have been in the same position.

At 9.35am news broke that the barwit had appeared at Balscote Quarry and was feeding on the far shore. I was scheduled to be packing ready to head for Stansted Airport for a business trip early on Tuesday morning. Damn, I couldn't resist it and I quickly visited to add this to the species seen in the Banbury Ornithological Society survey square. I arrived to find Steve Holliday and Mike Prentice in position - I joined them and attempted to take some photos down in the base of the bowl and on the far side of the water. Edwin Barson turned up and tried to do the same. Watching the bowl we added two yellow wagtails, three LRPs before the lapwing decided to have a go at the barwit - it evaded easily and despite being given the opportunity it decided not to depart but just relocate.

Bar-tailed godwit
Bar-tailed godwit
Bar-tailed godwit

Sandra and Adrian Bletchly arrived (having been just too late at Grimsbury Reservoir). We had a very pleasant chat, but I really did have to go and pack. While I was away Balscote Quarry enjoyed a few visitors with both whimbrel and wood sandpiper. This work thing really does get in the way.

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