Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Upper Wardington: welcome back golden plovers

I'm arriving home in time to catch the last hour of the sun's rays across the village.  I've been keeping an eye on the large arable field known as "Top Dawkins" - it is on your right as you approach the village from the A361.  When the field was ploughed a few weeks back a large flock of gulls descended in a feeding frenzy.  This evening the scene was more tranquil, a light scattering of new green shoots poking through the bare soil and catching the angled evening light.

Scattered across the field is a party of golden plovers, newly returned from the upland breeding grounds.  A delight to see.  I have time to get home, fetch the telescope. and enjoy them in close up.  83 in total.

They keep their distance so the photo captures the moment but not the detail.
golden plover

two herons over the reservoir
Earlier in the day a quick walk around Grimsbury Reservoir enabled me to capture a couple of grey herons in flight.   Not much else to report -  a few meadow pipits, couple of chiffchaffs and a blackcap.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Grimsbury Reservoir: Herons in the mist

A quieter week for birds so far, but some nice atmospherics early morning providing a pleasing waterscape to frame the heron.
grey heron; misty morning
misty reflections with buoy

A juvenile dunlin has been around too, plus a few meadow pipits, chiffchaffs and a single blackcap.
juvenile dunlin, there's food in the green slime!

reflections from Mondelez
Very little on the water itself, just a few mallard - not even a grebe or a cormorant.
pied wagtail enjoying the sunshine

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Grimsbury Reservoir: ruff, dunlin and common sandpiper

A delight to find my first Grimsbury Reservoir ruff this evening.  A very elegant wader, this one a juvenile, with a juvenile dunlin (moulting into winter plumage) for company.
ruff and dunlin
I say the ruff is an elegant wader - long legs and neck, short/medium length bill, smart plumage - but this one did have a bit of a limp.  This bird will most likely have hatched out somewhere in the arctic fringe and is making its way south - perhaps to the west African coast.

Close by were a couple of juvenile grey wagtails and a common sandpiper.
Earlier in the day I took a new macro lens out for a play and got a couple of nice images in the centre of Banbury.
sweet chestnut fruit ripening, People's Park, Banbury
Oxford ragwort flowering behind RSPB Office, Banbury

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Grimsbury Reservoir and Balscote Quarry: chiffchaffs in every direction

This must be very close to the peak time for chiffchaff migration through our area.  They are very evident, calling from hedges and trees with the occasional burst of song.  A misty Grimsbury Reservoir was otherwise pretty quiet, though a common sandpiper was running along the concrete shoreline and a few meadow pipits were about. I stopped to capture the dew laden spider's webs.
The chiffchaffs, at least three, had gathered in the tall crack willows near the boating club, also notable for a gathering of song thrushes - at least six.  The whitethroats so common in August are all gone, but a single blackcap remains.

In the evening a trip to Balscote Quarry nature reserve was very relaxing and enjoyable, and a chance to soak up some warm milky sunshine.  I had hopes of getting lucky and finding a wryneck.  Of course no such luck this time, but at least six chiffchaffs were dotted around the perimeter hedgerows and a very shy lesser whitethroat was tucked into a bramble patch.  
chiffchaff at Balscote Quarry
Some very smart tree sparrow boxes have just been put up, hopefully the tree sparrows will move into these and leave the sand martin tower to the sand martins!  
the new tree sparrow housing estate
Other birds included ten yellowhammers and a couple of juvenile kestrels.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Upper Wardington: meadow pipits move in, whinchat moving through

Rather a lot of time spend at the desk this weekend so it was good to get out for a run this afternoon, binoculars in the rucksack.  Heading eastwards towards Eydon, my best sighting was a whinchat doing what whinchats like to do - perch on a post and watch over a nice weedy field margin, ready to pounce after an insect.

Navigating through field after field of no doubt very valuable equines, then a herd of cows with a bull, I came across a bizarre situation where a right of way crosses a patch of woodland with some long abandoned wartime buildings (near Chipping Warden).  A dispenser with protective glasses had been erected and an advisory notice requested people wear them while walking along a right of way.  The reason being this wood has been taken over by some sort of shooting activity group.  Needless to say I did not comply, but won't be too keen to go back.  Can that be legal?

Returning to much more benign surroundings closer to Upper Wardington, a flock of about thirty meadow pipits lifted from a hilltop stubble field.  These birds are very much more common than just  a week or two ago, with flocks passing through our area on migration from our uplands to milder climes, most likely Spain.  Now that sounds like a good idea...

Yesterday, a brief stop at Balscote Quarry nature reserve, produced another flock of meadow pipits and a light passage of swallows and house martins.  The wetland areas are now pretty much dry, but there is still quite a lot to see and the feeders are just about to be re-loaded for the autumn season.  So still worth a look if you are in the area.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Upper Wardington: lesser black backed gulls pile in behind the plough

Quite a busy day, making the most of glorious sunshine.  An early morning visit to Grimsbury Reservoir was pretty quiet so I took the opportunity to photograph a few plants.  A lesser whitethroat also posed quite well for me.
juvenile grey wagtail
lesser whitethroat

do I need to label these? dandelions
great crested grebe
Indian balsam
Next stop was Tadmarton Heath, where initially there was little to see until near the end of my visit I located the main flock of birds and a good selection of warblers, including garden warbler.  If you visit at the moment, take time to find the bird flock - they seem to work their way around the wooded and scrubby edge of the reserve.  I also came face to face with a fox.
poppy in the wild bird strip

garden warbler
Back in Upper Wardington late morning a large flock of gulls had gathered in a large arable field where the stubble was being cultivated.  I went back a little later to identify and count the gulls - the majority were lesser back-backed (over 500) and about a hundred black-headed gulls and just two common gulls.  Also in attendance was a red kite, three lapwings (my first to a while) and a few skylarks.
gulls flock in behind the plough
lesser black-backed gulls

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Well done Birdguides website: coverage of Conference for Nature

Last week Sir David Attenborough gave the keynote speech at the Conference for Nature in London. 
There is a really good piece on the Birdguides and Guardian websites. Well done to them.

For more have a look at the RSPB website too.
Very relevant to the state of nature in Banburyshire just at the moment, with so much development planned for our area, to quote from Birdguides:

Sir David went on to cite the "great new challenges" that can be answered by three elements in society: "naturalists, who can tell you what's happening, who understand species and their requirements; politicians, who can help ensure legislation goes through; ... and business executives, [who] in myriad ways help and make sure businesses take account of what goes on around them and [who can] ensure products are in sympathy with the demands of the natural world.

That is the crux of the challenge for us: we need to be taken seriously by business and politicians if we are to have any chance of rebuilding biodiversity across the landscape, so it is not just confined to flagship nature reserve projects distant from us.   Can we find a way to make sure the new Cherwell Local Plan helps achieve this ambition rather than  just doing the minimum for greenspace requirements?
Meanwhile.....out in the field, autumn migration continues with birds heading south.  My highlight today was hearing blackcaps singing during a walk around Hanwell Fields "Common" this morning, then later in the evening seeing two wheatears hopping around the cattle grazed field at Grimsbury Reservoir.

Friday, 5 September 2014

Upper Cherwell Valley: gathering of the yellow wagtails

My first evening run home for a while was well worth the effort.  First stop Grimsbury Reservoir, where a kingfisher decided to sit on the concrete shoreline, perhaps a few perches would help them?  An elusive redstart finally showed itself properly after giving me the runaround with brief glimpses.  Thence under the motorway to the EA flood defence area, where the newish pool is attracting little grebes - the flock has now increased to eight birds.  Two whinchats were in exactly the same place as last weekend, presumably the same birds?  But a little further on another two; they have found this stretch of weedy grassland to their liking.  In the adjoining cattle grazed meadow a flock of yellow wagtails called loudly. The cattle then decided to run across the field, disturbing the wagails, the flock flying up in a "shreeping" group, allowing me to count thirteen before they disappeared back down into the tussocks of grass.

This blog is not just about birds but rarely do I mention mammals, but this evening I also has nice views of roe deer and a fox.  Roe deer are quite common in the local area and particularly 
favour the floodplain grasslands.  

Rewinding back to the earlyish morning, I also saw lesser whitethroat and garden warbler in slightly misty conditions at Grimsbury Reservoir.  A few meadow pipits and swallows also flew over on migration.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Hanwell Fields - scrubby grassland on edge of town with lesser whitethroats

Hanwell Fields is a recent housing development on the north edge of Banbury.  On its northern flank is an area that has been allowed to "re-wild" into rough grassland with scattered scrub and some nicely overgrown hedgerows.  It is a popular dog walking site, but also attractive to birds and other wildlife.  And at the top of the hill you get great views across Banbury and the Cherwell Valley.

Yesterday I made my first proper visit, partly to see how some of the new housing proposed for Banbury will impact this area.  At the moment the scrubby hillside is not allocated for houses, so there is a glimmer of hope it could be protected as a local greenspace/nature site.  There will be new housing either side and ecologist consultants are already out looking for signs of reptiles and amphibians as part of their environmental assessment.

Highlight for me were a couple of lesser whitethroats, my first for a while.  There were also numbers of yellowhammers, plus a few reed buntings, whitethroats and bullfinches. A flock of about twenty meadow pipits flew over, on their migration south - my first of the autumn but we should expect quite a few more over coming weeks - there are an awful lot of them in our uplands! At the bottom of the slope it is quite marshy and a small reedbed has established, now home to a few reed warblers - including adults feeding newly fledged chicks.

This morning I returned to Grimsbury Reservoir and an otherwise quite walk birdwise was very much improved by a group of three wheatears, especially when two hopped onto the fenceline a posed for my camera.
two wheatears (one very blurry)
Tadmarton Heath, quinoa is the brightly coloured "crop"
In the evening I returned to Tadmarton Heath where marsh tits were much in evidence - two juveniles and at least one adult.  The wild bird crop is ripening nicely, the quinoa adding a splash of vibrant colour.  A flock of fifty swallows flew over heading south.  House martins are still flying around the golf club house.

Monday, 1 September 2014

Grimsbury Reservoir: terns move on but redstart turns up

Grimsbury Reservoir was pretty much bereft of birds in the early morning drizzle.  Not even a pied wagtail.  Just a grey heron, a few mallard and a pair of Canada geese.   The black tern and common terns have moved on. 

I returned in the evening in glorious sunshine and it was much more interesting, the highlight for me was my first redstart at the site, and third locally this autumn.  I snatched a couple of pics as it moved along the fenceline next to the grazing cattle.
female/immature redstart, a touch of the Tom Daleys here?
a more elegant pose
A robin was also harassing it just a little, keen to defend it's corner of the fenceline.  A greenshank called overhead but I couldn't spot it, similarly a kingfisher whistled from the river but remained hidden from view.  Also my first visit for a long time with no swallows, martins or swifts - they have headed off south.  No doubt there will be some more but I would expect much smaller numbers from now on.