Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Upper Cherwell Valley: wood sandpiper

A quick blog post with a pic of the very smart wood sandpiper I discovered this evening feeding around the edge of what has become known at the "EA Borrow Pit" (the Environment Agency borrowed the clay to build the flood defences, creating the pool).  It is proving quite attractive to waterbirds in small numbers, especially common sandpipers.

Arriving at the pool my attention was drawn to a small wader on the far shore, but it was not bobbing up and down as common sandpipers are want to do, so I gradually crept closer and recognised this as a wood sandpiper - lovely markings, especially on the wing coverts.  The wood sandpiper is less than annual Banburyshire, and is only seen during spring and autumn migration.
wood sandpiper

A little earlier I caught up with the adult dunlin present since yesterday, feeding along the concrete shore of Grimsbury Reservoir.  A very confiding bird,  I was able to get a couple of pics reaching over the top of the perimeter fence.

Back-tracking to last week, an early morning visit to Tadmarton Heath was good value, lots of whitethroats and linnets.  Few butterflies, but a very approachable small skipper.  Andy Turner was ringing on site and was catching good numbers of birds, and reported trapping a tree pipit there recently.
small skipper

I also stopped to photograph the giant bellflower that grows in the woodland near to the reserve entrance gate.  It was just starting to go over, but a spectacular sight none the less.
giant bellflower

Sunday, 19 July 2015

High summer with waders and butterflies

Been travelling around the Midlands a lot this past week, and almost everywhere I've been able to enjoy watching waders... and if not waders, then some butterflies.  Many waders are on their return migration from breeding areas to the north, heading for their wintering sites and sometimes stopping off en-route in our area.

Last Wednesday, the opening on the new RSPB centre in Sandwell Valley co-incided with the arrival of a very smart breeding plumaged dunlin, which my photo does little justice to!
On Thursday evening, a quick march around Middleton Lakes before the annual volunteer's BBQ enabled me to snap a few pics of a couple of gorgeous black-tailed godwits on the Jubilee Wetland's east scrape.
black-tailed godwit

black-tailed godwit

On Saturday morning, Ryton Wood SSSI, a Warwickshire Wildlife Trust ancient woodland nature reserve was full of butterflies, with good sightings of white admiral and numerous silver-washed fritilleries.  And  a rather unusual buttercup.
silver-washed fritillary
buttercup with "double" flower

This morning a quick walk around Grimsbury Reservoir was not rewarded with any waders, but nice views of the pair of common terms that have been present for a few days. 
common tern

The River Cherwell flowing alongside the reservoir is a lot lower than normal, I will talk about this another time, but it has left many yellow water-lilies high and dry!
yellow water-lily
water-lilies high and dry (ish)
Then a fairly quick visit to Bicester Wetland Reserve (which I had all to myself) was very enjoyable too, with nine green sandpipers and a dozen lapwings.  Canada geese always seem to get in on your photos here!
green sandpipers
lapwings and Canada geese

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Tadmarton Heath: marbled whites and field roses

A few days back I was able to make an early morning visit to Tadmarton Heath - in lovely sunny conditions.  The wild bird cover sown in the spring is growing well, a different mixture to last year which we hope will attract more finches and buntings this winter.  A few dazzlingly scarlet poppies caught my eye.
field poppy
A couple of marbled white butterflies were on the wing and one posed very well for some close-up shots. 
marbled white
Scattered across the hillside, clumps of beautiful white field roses were in full bloom, their petals covered in droplets of dew.  Cattle are now grazing the pasture for the first time in a couple of years and are starting to attack some of the abundant tree and scrub regeneration.  Lots of linnets here too, they love the brambles and gorse.
field rose

Meanwhile, in the back garden, my summer tidying revealed a gathering of newts under one of our patio pots - not too far from the pond where they breed. I took a few pics then carefully covered them with a small slab of stone supported by a few pebbles to stop them getting squashed.  Hopefully they were able to relocate overnight.
smooth newt
smooth newts
With wader breeding season draws towards it's end I made a further (possibly final) visit to the part of the Upper Cherwell Valley favoured by our curlews.  Just a single bird remained where at least two pairs held territory during the spring.  Their favoured meadows have been cut for silage and created some good feeding condtions, not just for curlew, but for hundreds of rooks, jackdaws and startlings.

Meanwhile, down the valley at Otmoor an event of considerable Ornithological importance has taken place.  If you have not heard the news, go straight to the Otmoor Birding blog.