Sunday, 5 October 2014

Upper Wardington: golden plover studies

Early morning brought the first autumn frost then a lovely sunny start to the day.  I decide to cover three of my local patch sites.  I start close to home, watching the golden plovers at Top Dawkins, a large arable field on the edge of Upper Wardington.
golden plover flock coming in to land
The golden plover flock seems to have reduced in number from the eighty plus earlier in the week - about forty now.  A couple of small flocks fly in while I'm watching, so it is likely there are more around, using other fields nearby.  I try to get some better photos, and have some great opportunities as the flocks flew overhead.
The birds have a favoured area near to a large greenhouse in the northeast corner of the field, and a few venture fairly close to the road, giving great views through the telescope but a bit far for my telephoto camera lens.  They start to feed quite actively, there seems to be a good supply of invertebrate food.  Oilseed rape is starting to grow rapidly: in a few weeks it will probably be too tall and dense for the plovers to feed amongst, and they will have to move on.  So I need to make the most of their time here.
Also feeding in the oilseed rape field are about twenty skylarks, two buzzards and a scattering of lesser black-backed gulls.  One of the buzzards jogs across the field looking for worms, not the feeding style we expect from this master of the air!

Moving on to Grimsbury Reservoir, all seems pretty quiet.  Fishermen are out in force, not along the shore of the reservoir, but dotted along the adjacent river Cherwell.  Then a surprise - a brightly coloured duck flies into view - I rapidly recognise a drake Mandarin duck.  He flies in the direction of the river and is gone.  I'm left wondering if the fishermen disturbed it from the river, which offers some attractive habitat for this tree nesting duck.  I'll make sure I check the river more closely next time.  A kingfisher also catches me by surprise, perched on the reservoir perimeter fence.  It flies off across the reservoir and I loose it for a couple of minutes, then it appears again, flying off towards the river with a small fish in beak.  The grey heron is in no such rush and allows me some nice views and a chance to capture more misty morning images.
buoy with rising mist
My final stop is Tadmarton Heath. It is my first visit for a while.  It is very noticeable that the warblers, so plentiful in early September, have pretty much gone now, I don't even hear a chiffchaffs.
Tadmarton Heath viewed from road approaching from Lower Tadmarton
It feels very "between seasons": the summer birds have gone and we are still waiting for the winter influx of thrushes and finches.  But there are still buzzards to enjoy plus jays, roe deer and green woodpecker.
juvenile buzzard

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