Sunday, 15 July 2018

Wardington: Yellow Wagtails, plus Bicester Wetland Reserve.

Yellow Wagtails are still holding territory in one of our local wheat fields so I grabbed the opportunity to take a few images in the early morning sunshine yesterday.  The male wagtails looked stunning against the more subtle straw-coloured hue of the ripening wheat.
Male Yellow Wagtail in field of wheat

I drove on down to Bicester Wetland Reserve, where the mirror calm conditions were ideal for watching the waterbirds, including eight Green Sandpipers (all adults) and two juvenile Little Ringed Plovers.  Nice to see a couple of juvenile Lapwings, probably raised locally.  The Thames Water lagoon next to the reserve also held a dozen Teal and a family of six Little Grebe chicks.  I hadn't realised Little Grebes can lay as many as six eggs in a clutch.  Reed Warblers were busy feeding fledged chicks and both Whitethroats and Chiffchaffs were also carrying food.   
Grey Heron, Canada Geese with Mallards and Green Sandpipers further back
Juvenile Lapwing

Reed Warbler feeding juvenile
Juvenile Little Ringed Plovers
Green Sandpiper and Little Ringed Plover

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Banburyshire: Yellowhammer survey working well plus some bonus birds

The BOS Yellowhammer survey fieldwork is nearly complete and has been both productive - in terms of finding Yellowhammers - and very enjoyable.  I have managed to complete four of the one-hour surveys, each covering a different 1Km square in my local area to the northeast of Banbury.  Both morning and evening the Yellowhammers have been singing well and have been easy to record.  More on the survey findings at a later date, but the good news is that they are still widespread in our area and in some areas of wildlife-friendly farmland they appear to be doing quite well.

The fieldwork gave some good opportunities to photograph the male Yellowhammers while they perched on a favourite song post or wire. 
Singing male Yellowhammer
Male Yellowhammer with food
Male Yellowhammer

One of the survey squares had a couple of small lakes with three broods of Tufted Ducks and a family of Little Grebes
Female Tufted Duck with a larger duckling

One survey square near Thenford was good for Yellowhammers, but also had a couple of pairs of Yellow Wagtails breeding, right in the middle of a field of winter wheat.
Male Yellow Wagtail

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Banburyshire: BOS Yellowhammer Survey this July - help needed

male Yellowhammer
Yellowhammers are still a reasonably common sight in the local countryside, but their population is on a downward trend.  They are Red-listed in the latest “Birds of Conservation Concern 4”.  The BOS can monitor their changing fortunes though annual surveys (Winter and Summer random square surveys and the BTO’s Breeding Bird Survey (BBS)). However, we are lacking more detailed information on their distribution and density across the BOS study area, therefore we are carrying out a specific Yellowhammer Survey during 2018.

In England, Yellowhammers declined by 26% from 1993 to 2015, and 33% locally, based on a linear trend from the BOS summer breeding surveys. The situation is even worse for the period 1977-2015, with a 62% national and 76% local decline in abundance based on our Winter Random Square Survey. Thus, it appears that our local Yellowhammers have been affected by environmental changes as much as those across the rest of  England, hence our interest in performing a more detailed study.

The survey covers a 1km square and takes an hour to complete.  Survey squares have been selected at random but we ensure the squares contain suitable habitat and are reasonably accessible.
Map of the survey area and available survey squares
The survey period is the first half of July, at which time Yellowhammers are still singing and are readily detected.
To request a square, please send an email to the BOS recorder (Mike Curnow) at, specifying the square number of your 1st and 2nd preference. We will then send a confirmation email along with the survey form to complete.

Also recently: the mass emergence of the Banded Demoiselle and Beautiful Demoiselle damselflies along the River Cherwell is always a delight to observe!

Male Banded Demoiselle

Mid-Cherwell Valley near Somerton - great habitat for demoiselle damselflies and Reed Warblers
And finally, another Black Tern image from Boddington Reservoir, this time last Sunday when two birds spent the day constantly flying around and around the reservoir on a predictable circuit which gave regular but tantalisingly brief opportunities to photograph them.
Black Tern