Sunday, 5 February 2017

Banbury and the Cherwell Valley: Waxwings and Pintails

Saturday was another great day to be out and about, especially after the early morning cloud cleared through and blue skies prevailed.
After some enjoyable local birding in the morning, I decided to call in to Osterley Grove in Banbury on my way home, to see if a small flock of Waxwings I located on Friday afternoon were still present.  Turning into the cul-de-sac, the flock were immediately in my view - crowded together on a TV aerial (ten birds in total, two more than yesterday).  I parked-up and was able to spend a good amount of time watching the birds as they fed on the white berries of an ornamental Sorbus (a type of Rowan).  They also spent time on the roof and drinking from the gutter!
Knowing many birds have been colour-ringed this winter in the Aberdeen area (in fact I'd just read an article about their movement on the Birdguides webzine), I checked though the flock and sure enough one individual showed a brightly-coloured combination of rings.
Local people were really interested in the birds and tolerant of the trickle of birders passing through.
drinking from the gutter
the colour-ringed Waxwing was not one of those that posed so well for the camera!
Later in the afternoon I took a walk along the Oxford Canal south of Aynho Wharf where plenty of birds had been attracted to the floodwaters in this beautiful part of the Cherwell Valley.  Two flocks of Lapwing, totalling 1000 birds, was very impressive but the undoubted highlight was two small groups of Pintail, one of my favourite ducks, increadibly elegant and beautiful - and really quite scarce in our area.  So to see them locally, and in such a lovely setting, was a real thrill.
Cherwell Valley looking north from Aynho Wharf
Cherwell Valley in flood
these extensive foodwaters are a magnet for wildfowl
Pintails - two drakes and a duck - "phonescoped" in failing light!


Sunday, 29 January 2017

Banbury: Urban Collared Doves

A pair of enterprising Collared Doves have taken to nesting on top of traffic lights in the centre of Banbury, somewhat appropriately, opposite the Three Pigeons Inn!  Presumably, incubation and chick-rearing benefits from the warmth of the light bulbs below.
I noticed them nesting in the same place last year but never got around to photographing them, so when I spotted them using the same traffic light last week I decided to make the effort this year.  It is also pretty amazing that they can successfully raise young in the middle of winter. 
I managed a short visit this morning before the rain set in today, and captured some nice images and video clips of an adult brooding the chick, then the chick alone in the nest. These birds are extremely tolerant of people using the pedestrian crossing below them.
I've also seen this behaviour in Adderbury, and checking on-line, there are quite a few other records of this happening across the country.
On the drive home afterwards, I also encountered a nice mixed flock of Lapwings and Golden Plover feeding on sheep pasture (not a common sight around here), also very good numbers of Redwings and Fieldfares.  A Red Kite drifted overhead and Tree Sparrows chattered in the hedgerow trees.
Collared Dove chick in the nest - already quite a good size and not too far off fledging

Adult feeding the chick
the nest is right next to this Inn

Lapwings, Golden Plovers and Common Gulls near Upper Wardington
more of the lapwings - the flock numbered over 200 birds
Lapwings, Golden Plovers and Sheep

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Queensland 2016 No.2: Atherton Tablelands, Lake Eacham & Hasties Swamp

Yungaburra is a great base for exploring some of the best and most accessible places in the Atherton Tablelands.  As well as the Platypus in Peterson Creek, there is plenty of wildlife in and around the small town, and close by is Lake Eacham, part of the Crater Lakes National Park.  The crater within which Lake Eacham sits is covered with rainforest and easily accessible via a circular trail.  You can also swim in the lake (which we did, briefly, as it was quite cold!).  We visited twice and saw a good range of birds plus the Musky Rat-Kangaroo, a primitive marsupial.  I got a brief, close-up view of a male Victoria's Riflebird (one of my three target species) right beside the entrance road, unfortunately just as a cyclist passed by and disturbed it.  Quite a stunner.  Later in the trip I saw several female birds and glimpsed a couple more males, but this turned out to be my best view.  If you stay in the lodges next to Lake Eacham you are much more likely to get good views.
Musky Rat-Kangaroo, Lake Eacham
Grey-headed Robin, Lake Eacham
Pale-yellow Robin, Lake Eacham
Spotted Catbird, Lake Eacham
Lake Eacham
Also quite close-by is Hasties Swamp National Park, a fairly small area of wetland that has been protected from drainage and has become a honeypot for waterbirds.  The wetlands are easily viewed from a tower hide. We seemed to hit the reserve just at the right time for Plumed Whistling Ducks - there were thousands crowded along the shoreline creating quite a cacophony of whistling calls.    There were also large numbers of Magpie Geese and a selection of herons and egrets.
Hasties Swamp
Plumed Whistling Ducks
Magpie Geese
Pacific (White-necked) Heron, Hasties Swamp

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Chacombe: Glaucous Gull

Adult Glaucous Gull, Chacombe - I think this is the first in the BOS area since 2010
This was a great weekend to be out and about in Banburyshire - crisp, cold and generally sunny.  Today I was able to spend most of the day out in the field, aiming to visit a couple of sites with the hope of finding Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, a bird I have yet to encounter in the BOS recording area.  Needless to say I failed in my main quest, but there were more than ample rewards - some special places with surprising numbers of birds, and an icing on the cake towards the end: finding a splendid adult Glaucous Gull, amongst the gull gatherings in Chacombe.  The Glaucous Gull was not too unexpected as several have been seen recently in Warwickshire but it is still a very scarce bird here. Fortunately Gareth was parked just 100m down the road, and obligingly it flew towards him and landed in a pasture field where we enjoyed a prolonged view before it took flight yet again.  This was not the last we saw of this bird as it arrived at Boddington Reservoir to join the gull roost there, just as the light was failing - a very good spot by John.

early morning light on the edge of Chacombe - frost on the ridge and furrow pasture
Wroxton College - rear view
Wroxton College - front view

Ravens over Radway
Wild bird food strip near Radway - 100s of buntings (mostly Yellowhammers) plus a few Tree Sparrows
Adult Glaucous Gull - flight shot (canon slr + 400mm lens)
Adult Glaucous Gull - phone-scoped.  Also in this area: an adult Caspian Gull, a first winter Great Black-backed Gull and five Tree Sparrows
Fieldfare, Chacombe - one of my best phone-scoped efforts so far
Wren, Wroxton College
gates often get in the way!
but not always  - Fieldfare (heavily cropped photo!)
Yesterday afternoon I walked southwards down the Oxford Canal from Aynho Wharf, to see what birds were left on the receding flood waters of the River Cherwell.  The day before yesterday there were good numbers of Wigeon and Teal reported, plus a few Pintail.  This afternoon the wildfowl numbers were lower and the Pintail had left, but there were plenty of thrushes and a Buzzard that was happy to let me point my lens towards it!  Also a lovely sunset.
Buzzard on a barn roof
Pollarded willow
Middle Cherwell Valley at sunset

wildfowl and gulls on the floodwater (which had mostly frozen over)