Saturday, 16 August 2014

Tadmarton Heath and Grimsbury Reservoir: lots of young birds

Tadmarton Heath is an area of high ground (just under 200m elevation) about three miles south west of Banbury.  Part of the area has been developed as a golf course of the same name.  On the eastern side of the golf course, a nature reserve has been established by the Banbury Ornithological Society. I made my first visit on Monday evening, joining a BOS field trip.  I have since returned twice in the morning and am finding it a very enjoyable place to spend an hour or so looking for birds and other wildlife.  The main habitat is rough grassland with bramble and willow scrub. There is also a strip of land that is cultivated and sown with a "wild bird mix".
wild bird mix strip, Tadmarton Heath nature reserve
The views across Banburyshire are also impressive.  The original idea came from the desire of the BOS to establish a nature reserve for farmland birds.

On my visits to Tadmarton Heath this week the highlight has been great views of sparrowhawks. They have nested in the adjoining woodland and the young birds are almost constantly calling and practising their flying skills. The adults are busy hunting along the hedgerows!
juvenile sparrowhawk
My early morning mid-week visit was also rewarded with a tree pipit calling as it flew over - a scarce bird in our area, they formerly bred but are now just seen on migration.  This morning I also had good views of marsh tits and willow warblers.  Several pairs of whitethroats nest here and I enjoyed watching an adult and youngster feeding together in the dried stems of hogweed.
adult (on the right) and juvenile whitethroat
 I also photographed the UK's largest cranefly, Tipula maxima, in one of the boggy areas - quite spectacular for a cranefly!

I have also managed a couple more visits to Grimsbury Reservoir where plenty of sand martins and swallows are stopping off on their migration. Today, around sixty sand martins were swarming over the water and a few stopped to rest of the barbed wire perimeter fence.  Quite a few are juvenile birds (with very scaly plumage) and at least one was bearing a metal BTO ring.
juvenile sand martin with metal BTO ring on right leg
two juvenile sand martins
juvenile sand martin - note pale edges to feathers creating a scaly pattern
adult sand martin - no scaly pattern or buffy feathers
juvenile swallow
About twenty swifts were also present, plus the little ringed plover that has been around for a few days now.
adult goldfinch, Grimsbury Reservoir
Completing my round up, yesterday (Friday), I ran home through the Upper Cherwell Valley, where the goldfinch flock has grown to 120 birds feeding on a huge patch of thistles close to the flood bank. Five yellow wagtails and three common terns flew overhead, three grey herons were dotted along the route, and four cormorants roosting in the riverside trees.

Finally, back in Upper Wardington, we have an exceptional number of starlings around the village at the moment, with a flock of about 200 birds gathering on our rooftops today.  The vast majority are juvenile birds, indicating a very successful breeding season indeed.
a noisy group of juvenile starlings gather on the rooftop

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