Monday, 17 April 2017

Banburyshire and beyond: spring in full swing

April is a great month to be out in the field, which can make it even harder to keep up with the blogging!  Our resident birds are busy nesting, and some are already raising young.  And our migrants are arriving in ever greater numbers, returning to their favoured haunts to breed or just passing through on their journey north.  Many flowers and trees are looking their best too - meadows full of fritillaries and cowslips, copses and hedgerows bursting with cherry and crab apple blossom.  I've been able to spend a good amount of time out and about, mostly in the local area but with a few trips just beyond,  here are some of my highlights .....

male Little Ringed Plover, Grimsbury Reservoir, 5 April
Female Little Ringed Plover, Grimsbury Reservoir, 5 April
Chiffchaff, Tadmarton Heath BOS nature reserve, 7 April
Snakeshead Fritillaries, Clattinger Farm Wiltshire Wildlife Trust nature reserve, Cotswold Water Park, 8 April
one of the fritillaries, 8 April
Red-necked Grebe, Daventry Country Park, 9 April
pair of Red-necked Grebes and single Great Crested Grebe, Daventry Country Park, 9 April
Red-necked Grebe, Daventry Country Park, 9 April
Eurasian White-fronted Goose, Daventry Country Park, 9 April

Song Thrush with ornamental cherry blossom, Grimsbury Reservoir, 10 April
Long-tailed Tit gathering spiders webs, Grimsbury Reservoir, 10 April
collected and ready to use!
Woodpigeons, Grimsbury Reservoir, 11 April
female Mallard on her nest at Grimsbury Reservoir , 13 April
male Blackcap in Ash tree, Tadmarton Heath BOS nature reserve, 16 April
Mistle Thrush, Tadmarton Heath Golf Course driving range, 16 April
Mistle Thrush, Tadmarton Heath Golf Course driving range, 16 April
Horsetails emerging, Tad
male Grey Partridge (female nearby), Upper Wardington - on strip of bare tilled ground that has attracted up to 7 passage Northern Wheatears in the past week.
Sand Martins at Farmoor Reservoir near Oxford, 17 April - where there were also my first Swifts and House Martin of the year (but no Bonaparte's Gull, I think I was about an hour too late!)
and finally....
male Great Bustards, Salisbury Plain (Great Bustard Project tour), 8 April
male Great Bustard, Salisbury Plain, 8 April

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Edge Hill Wood: Wood Anemones

Great to be out in the field today, calm conditions and increasingly sunny with really beautiful light in the evening.  Spring flowers are starting to look their best, especially Primroses and Wood Anemones.  I stumbled across a wonderful display of anemones whilst exploring the strip of ancient woodland that covers the scarp slope of  Edge Hill overlooking Radway, in south Warwickshire. 
Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers are numerous here, as are Nuthatches and Goldcrests, you can also find Marsh Tits, whilst often overhead are Buzzards, Ravens and Red Kites.  There are plenty of big old trees with lots of dead wood, which is great to see as it is so important for wildlife, yet is often quite a rare sight in our local woodlands (all too often it is tidied away).

Wood Anemone
Wood Anemones by the thousand....
Obelisk, with The Grange in the background

Slightly surprisingly, Marsh Marigolds are at home in the woodland too

Two Tree Sparrows, back garden feeders, Upper Wardington
Male House Sparrow (left) and Tree Sparrow
The sparrow shots I took using my ipad to remotely trigger the shutter, enabling some better close-ups that I would otherwise be able to get.
I also called in to Balscote Quarry BOS nature reserve briefly, where a pair of Lapwings are nesting already, and a pair of Little Ringed Plovers are behaving territorially.  In a neighbouring arable field, a flock of Golden Plovers are still present, having spent the winter in the area.  Their numbers seem to be dwindling rapidly though, as they start to head back north (most likely Scandinavia) - I counted 360 last weekend and only 75 today.  Some are coming into breeding plumage and looking very smart indeed. 

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Oxfordshire: State of Nature 2017 launched

This week has seen the launch at Blenheim Palace of a landmark publication that captures the current state of the county's nature.

Inspired by the national State of Nature, this report has been two years in development and includes a marvellous compendium of facts, figures and case studies, contributed by numerous individuals and organisations. 

The report's overall findings are that sadly the overall trend is towards loss and decline in nature, especially for farmland and woodland wildlife, but it also gives clear direction on the way forward needed to reverse this trend and highlights the action required across many sectors. 

Essential reading for anyone with an interest and concern for nature in Oxfordshire, it is also beautifully produced and includes images taken by many local photographers.

Led by Wild Oxfordshire, the report is available in two formats on the Wild Oxfordshire website - a Highlights report and Full report.  Do look at both.  The Full report in particular is a great source of information about who is doing what, and where.  The Oxford Mail has given it some great coverage.

If you don't have time to start reading the reports today please do have a look at this four minute film.

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Queensland 2016 No. 3: Mt Hypipamee

Mount Hypipamee is one of the best and most accessible places to connect with many of the special birds and marsupials in the Atherton Tablelands.  It is part of the extensive Wet Tropics World Heritage Area.  We made two visits - the first was early morning and the second was an evening spotlighting trip led by Alan Gillanders.

Driving up in the early morning we hit several belts of fog and I wondered if we were in for a damp and dreary start.  Fortunately, as we drove up into the rainforest the fog disappeared and soon we were parked up next to a large grassy clearing in the forest.  Following directions from Alan, we carefully made our way into the rainforest and located a particular spot that was well hidden in the lush vegetation - the display ground of the Golden Bowerbird - one of the endemic birds of the Atherton Tablelands. 

We waited for about 15 minutes, then suddenly the male bowerbird appeared and immediately started tending his bower.  A stunning looking bird, his bright yellow and olive plumage glowed within the muted greenery of the rainforest.  He was soon carefully arranging clumps of grey lichen around the bower.  In low light conditions within the depths of the rainforest, photography was challenging, but I managed to capture a few record shots. 

Golden Bowerbird
We had this stunning sight to ourselves for about ten minutes, then a group of photographers appeared - slightly off course and heading straight for the bower!  I managed to avert the risk of damage to the bower and redirected them to our vantage point.  We decided to leave them too it and retreated back towards the road, then, fortuitously, the bowerbird perched on a branch just above us for a short while and enjoyed a final view of this wonderful bird.
Golden Bowerbird
We then spent time exploring the trails that lead further into the rainforest, past waterfalls and onwards to a very deep crater lake.
Crater viewpoint

Golden Whistler
We returned in the evening to join a spotlighting tour led by Alan Gillanders.  This is a great way to see many of the nocturnal marsupials and learn about their behaviour and ecology - highly recommended.  We visited two different habitats - rainforest and the drier eucalypt forest.  I was especially thrilled to see my first ever Tree Kangaroo, but the sheer variety and beauty of these endearing marsupials was really amazing to see.
Lumholtz's Tree Kangaroo
Squirrel Glider
Yellow-bellied Glider
Lumuroid Ringtail Possum
Coppery Brushtail Pussum