Sunday, 8 October 2017

Wardington: a gathering of Buzzards

Common Buzzard
My birding highlight of the past few days has been the daily gathering of Common Buzzards in a large arable field known at "Top Dawkins", between Wardington and the A361.  My peak count in the past three days has been an incredible 33 birds, scattered across a large expanse of bare cultivated land.  Daily there are between 15 and 25, each bird waiting to pounce on anything that moves, presumable in most cases this will be an earthworm.  This event reflects the amazing success of Common Buzzards in our area in recent years, firmly establishing themselves as our most numerous raptor.
Five of the buzzards
Quite a pale individual this, but there is at least one bird that is much paler and a couple that are very dark chocolate-brown.
Golden Plover have also returned to this field - just three so far - hopefully more to come over the winter period.  I also saw my first Redwings of the autumn this morning. at Bicester Wetland Reserve.

Finally, a few images of my recent trip to a somewhat windswept Shetland: some birds that we can dream about possibly finding in our local area!
Yellow-browed Warbler
Red-breasted Flycatcher
Purple Sandpiper
Sea stacks at Eshaness

Saturday, 16 September 2017

Grimsbury Reservoir: Grey Phalarope gallery

Much excitement at Grimsbury Reservoir this week with the discovery of a Grey Phalarope on Monday evening by John Friendship-Taylor.  Within a hour, a small gathering of local birders had assembled to enjoy great close-up views.  This ocean-faring wader was one of several blown off course by recent gales and taking temporary respite on our inland lakes and reservoirs.  The first ever recorded at Grimsbury, and only the fourth in the BOS recording area. 

It stayed for four days, enabling many to catch up with it, and no doubt many thousands for full frame images were taken!  It spend nearly all it's time feeding along the eastern shore of the concrete-lined reservoir, continually picking around for tiny food items. Incredibly confiding, it was content to walk or swim within a metre or so of the anglers and photographers sitting along the shoreline. I took a series of photos during it's stay in different weather and light conditions.  Here are a selection:

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Banburyshire: early autumn reflections

Grey Heron, Bicester Wetland Reserve
The transition from summer to autumn has happened pretty quickly - nights are cooling down rapidly, birds are on the move and hedgerow fruits have ripened.
A few calm and sunny early mornings created nice conditions for photography, especially for waterbirds with mirror-like reflections in the water.
Little Egret, Boddington Reservoir
Grey Heron, Bicester Wetland Reserve
Grey Heron, Grimsbury Reservoir
Grey Heron, Grimsbury Reservoir
 Even the cows at Bicester Wetland Reserve got in on the act:

A single juvenile Black-tailed Godwit was spend the past few days at Bicester Wetland Reserve, quite at home wading around in the gloopy mud and showing well.  The first two photos were taken just after dawn this morning in the lovely glow of early morning light.

Last weekend, Yellow Wagtails were on the move and I was really surprised to discover a flock of 35 just outside Upper Wardington, with about a dozen Pied Wagtails.  A couple of Meadow Pipits were also around, my first of the autumn.  This weekend, there were lots of Meadow Pipits in fields on the high ground above the village, though the Yellow Wagtails were down to just one or two birds.

Out and about in the farmed countryside, birding highlights have been limited - a Redstart, a couple of Lapwings, a few small flocks of Linnets and the occasional Tree Sparrow.  I did manage to sneak up on a Yellowhammer that seemed very relaxed and unconcerned about my presence, and captured some nice close-ups.
Yellowhammer near Farnborough

Bicester Wetlands scene, early morning
Bicester Wetland at sunset
Boddington Reservoir

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Bicester Wetland Reserve: dawn and dusk

I have made a few early morning and evening visits to Bicester Wetland Reserve in the past month.  It is a great time to visit, especially in the morning when the light is behind you, but evening is good too, with birds becoming more active towards dusk.  The reserve is  "key holder only" site because it sits next to a Thames Water treatment works and within part of the security set-up.  This means you need to join the BOS first, then get an induction from the voluntary warden Alan Peters, before being entrusted with a key.  It is well worth it, especially if you live close by and can call in regularly.

Green Sandpipers have been ever present all month, with at least five birds normally feeding around the main scrape that is overlooked by the first hide.  They have a wonderful call that echoes across the reserve, often given when they take flight and chase each other around the pool.  A few Snipe have joined them in the past few days, with three this morning -  generally keeping a low profile, half hidden on a grassy bank, occasionally wading out into the mud.

Two Green Sandpipers
I have also been treated to some great views of Roe Deer recently.  Earlier in the week I saw a very fine looking Roe Deer buck, sitting on the recently cut grassy bank beside the pools.
Roe Deer buck
This morning the doe and her kid walked along the entrance road, just below the hide, giving me some great views.  The hide really works a treat in situations like this.

Roe Deer - doe andkid

Roe Deer kid
Roe Deer doe portrait
You often have the reserve to yourself, which is helpful when you get the chance to gradually creep up on a feeding bird like this juvenile Goldfinch, which was much too happy feeding on these thistle seeds to notice my ever advancing telephoto lens....
Juvenile Goldfinch
Another nice reward for my recent evening visit was seeing a juvenile Water Rail emerge from the vegetation that fringes the pool, just as dusk was gathering.  This is the first year that Water Rails have been proven to breed here and I think this was only the second sighting of the juvenile so far.

To finish off this post here are two recent images taken at Grimsbury Reservoir:

This flock of four Common Scoters found by John Friendship-Taylor earlier in the week.  They stayed just a couple of hours or so, just long enough for a few locals to catch up with them.  This was a new bird for me in the BOS area and certainly the highlight of August birding in the local far.
Common Scoter - three drakes and a female
This Robin is a juvenile bird moulting from spotty juvenile feathers into the full "red breast".
juvenile Robin (spotty juvenile feather remain on the head)

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Bicester Wetland Reserve: Mediterrannean Gull + Oxford Swift Tower: voting underway!

Last Sunday evening I made a trip down the M40 to spend a couple of hours watching Green Sandpipers and seeing what else was about at the Bicester Wetland Reserve.  It was nice to have the place to myself and I spent quite a bit of time watching and sketching a couple of the sandpipers from the first raised hide.  I decided to save my flask of tea for the new hide the overlooks Cattle Bridge Pool.  I settled into the new hide, poured a cuppa and started looking at the birds on the pool - then suddenly realised one of the small group of Black-headed Gulls was distinctly different - a juvenile Mediterranean Gull.  It was busy feeding with the other gulls, constantly on the move, occasionally stopping to preen and take a short flight.  They are still pretty scarce birds in our area, although their UK breeding population is increasing quite rapidly and breeding has now been recorded in Northamptonshire.  Turned out this was the first record for the reserve and a nice addition to the steadily growing list.
Juvenile Mediterranean Gull
with adult Black-headed Gull
Juvenile Mediterranean Gull
Oxford Swift City - please have a look at the three original designs shortlisted and place your vote:

This male linnet looked tiny perched on one of the benches at Grimsbury Reservoir last Saturday!
Finally, this is a nature blog and should cover much more than birds.  I couldn't help stop and admire the fine display of  "Chicken of the woods" beside the path through Grimsbury Woodland reserve at the weekend, an amazing bright orange and yellow.
Chicken of the woods - Laetiporus sulphureus

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Cattle Egrets breeding on two RSPB reserves this year

Remember those Cattle Egrets that were discovered near Caulcott during the BOS short day count back in January?  They were part of a significant influx that culminated in the second and third records of successful breeding in England.  The first to be "made public", back in May, were a pair at RSPB Burton Mere Wetland.  
Two of the Banburyshire Cattle Egrets, January 2017

Now, it has also been reported that five pairs have also bred at Ham Wall RSPB reserve in Somerset, raising at least nine young.  With a small colony rapidly established - at a site with several other heron species - maybe they can become a more permanent fixture as a UK breeding bird.  If they do, it may be just a matter of time before they spread northwards and start breeding somewhere in our area.

Cattle Egrets have a very wide distribution around the world and can provide a great spectacle, for example when they gather in large flocks before roosting in a favoured clump of trees:
Cattle Egrets  - Daintree River, Queensland, August 2016