Sunday, 2 October 2016

Upper Wardington: return of the Golden Plovers

With so many of our summer migrants now departed it was nice to welcome back for the winter the first small party of Golden Plovers, four birds to be precise.  I anticipate this flock will quickly grow in number over the next few weeks.  The plovers were some of the first birds I encountered on an early morning drive around the local farmland which was considerably better than anticipated, with Skylarks, Tree Sparrows and Grey Partridges all showing themselves.

The Golden Plover have returned to their favoured field on the edge of the village, a site called Top Dawkins. This autumn, the cereal stubble has not been ploughed (as normally happens), and it looks like oilseed rape has been directly drilled into the stubble.  At the moment this is good habitat for Skylarks - some birds even producing short bursts of song this morning - and Grey Partridge (four birds yesterday).

Further on, between Chacombe and Thenford, another large field had a group of thirteen Grey Partridge.  I think some, if not all, of these birds derive from released stock.  Sadly though the fields favoured by breeding Lapwings are already over ankle-deep with Oilseed Rape growth, so won't be suitable for them in 2017.  I am hopeful they may just move to an adjoining field, time will tell.  More positive and perhaps most surprising was a noisy flock of about twenty five chattering Tree Sparrows in a roadside hedge - the largest flock I've seen locally for a few years.
Oilseed Rape growing in fields normally favoured by breeding Lapwings

A late afternoon visit to Bicester Wetlands reserve was enjoyable, nothing too unusual but nice to find a Stonechat, plus a couple of Snipe and three Green Sandpipers.
Wildfowl numbers are also slowly building up, including about seventy Teal and a few Shoveler and Wigeon.

I've been out and about in the local countryside over the past three weeks, some long runs taking me off the beaten track.  There have been some nice birding moments -
  • Red Kites flocking around cereal stubble just after combining,
  • A huge flock of Meadow Pipits finding cover in autumn stubble (I estimated three hundred birds)
  • A single Hobby flushed from a dead tree 
  • A gathering of at least two hundred House Martins swooping about the sky searching for insects as they head south.  
I've also made a couple of visits to Boddington Reservoir where water levels are currently quite low, exposing mudflats and an island has appeared, much favoured by roosting gulls.  A spectacular rainbow was also memorable.
Misty Boddington Reservoir
Rainbow at Boddington Reservoir
Red Admiral feasting on a windfall apple in our back garden
A juvenile Wigeon has joined the Mallards at Grimsbury Reservoir!

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