|Whooper Swans, Blenheim Park|
Buzzards were already out in the fields looking for food as I set off just after sunrise. A covey of eight Grey Partridges flew up from the minor road towards Thenford, so I stopped and found a few dozen Redwings and Fieldfares feeding along the hedgerow, with Chaffinches and Yellowhammers. A stop at Thenford Church in the slight hope of a Hawfinch produced a Siskin and a Raven, plus lots of Greenfinches and calling Green Woodpecker.
A quick visit to Croughton Quarry was rewarded with a fine view of a frosty pool but few birds, just a single Tufted Duck.
|Croughton Quarry - small pool|
By ten I'd arrived at my main morning destination, Bicester Wetland Reserve. The pools were still slightly frozen in places, but small groups of Teal were dotted around the edge, with a few Shoveler mixed in. A Cetti's Warbler sang briefly from the reedbed. Strimming was in progress near the main hide so I quickly moved on towards the Cattle Bridge Pool hide. A couple of Meadow Pipits and Skylarks flew over. Looking from the hide, a couple of Teal were tucked into the edge, then I spotted a snipe half hidden in the rushes opposite the hide. It looked very small and a stripy head pattern indicated Jack Snipe. Annoyingly I'd left my telescope in the car, but as the bird looked very settled I took a few record shots and jogged back to get the scope. It was worth the effort as after a while the Jack Snipe woke up and started it's unique bobbing behaviour.
|Jack Snipe - looking alert|
|Jack Snipe - bill tucked in|
My next stop was Northbrook, a small area of wildlife rich farmland near Upper Heyford. Normally reliable for Corn Buntings, none were immediately in evidence, but a small group of Golden Plover were keeping a low profile in the middle of a huge cereal field. I decided not to linger as I wanted a good amount of time at Blenheim.
Blenhein Palace is of course world renowned and one of the UK's major tourist destinations.
|Information about the £40 million restoration project|
I then remembered to look for the Whooper Swans. They were further on, feeding right next to the Grand Bridge, almost continually up-ending and searching for food items in the muddy lake-bed. They are occasional winter visitors to our area, breeding in Iceland and a few places in Scotland.
|Whooper Swans beneath Vanbrugh's Grand Bridge|