Sunday, 18 January 2015

Upper Cherwell Valley: receding flood proved attractive. Also: a further search for willow tits proves successful (in the end)

Heavy rainfall at the back end of the week created the first sheets of water across the Upper Cherwell Valley this winter and I decided I must take a look on Saturday morning.  After a grey start, sunshine eventually swept across the valley and enabled me to take some nice landscape shots of the icy scene.
the main flood, with the River Cherwell in foreground
meander created as part of the new flood defence scheme
Birds were not too obliging though!  I enjoyed photographing the icy patterns in the grass: layers of glassy ice, frozen into place overnight, then left high and dry as the flood receded.

The floods don't stay around for long, so you need to respond to the event.  The flooding does seem to attract flocks of gulls quite rapidly, especially common gulls (about a hundred), also a couple of herring gulls.  The usual flock of mallard were joined by three teal; a single snipe took flight. Closer to the flood bank, a large flock of redwings wheeled around deciding were to feed next.  They like the fields near the M40 roundabout for some reason!  May be to do with the overgrown hedgerows that have a few berries left.  Two largish (twenty plus) flocks of meadow pipits rose from the edge of the grassy flood banks, grey herons prowled the tussocks grass looking for voles, cormorants watched on from the tree top roost (seventeen of them).
alder catkins and "cones" from last year
By Sunday afternoon the water was gone and the bright green of the grazing pastures once more dominated the scene.

Sunday afternoon was also calm and sunny. I decided to see if I could find any willow tits in the small scubby woodlands in the Northamptonshire part of the BOS recording area.  Using my phone to play snatches of call and song, I was fairly optimistic I would get a response.  I tried three likely spots, one where I have been successful in the past, but no joy.  In the end, I decided to call in to Boddington Reservoir, known to be a good current site.  A short walk from the car park, just next to the yachting club, I had my first and only response - and a good view too.  I walked further on into the very wet woodland but the light was starting to fade; a kingfisher shot past and six teal dabbled with mallard in the marshy reservoir margins.
reedbed reflections at Boddington Reservoir

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