Sightings and Photos

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31th August: WRYNECK Lark Hill...9th Sep OOS '68 Years of Studying Tits in Wytham'...10th Sept Ox RSPB 'Pineapple Peril for Paleartic Migrants'...

Saturday, 5 September 2015

Otmoor Sept 5th

Whinchat - Noke farm
Redstart - Long Meadow
Marsh Harrier

Standlake Pit 60 AM

1 Ruff
1 Green Sandpiper
3 Juvenile Little Grebe
Good numbers of Swallows and House and Sand Martins

Friday, 4 September 2015

4th September: Burgess Field - WRYNECK

Yet another county WRYNECK, this time in Burgess Field. One was seen by James Grant in the south east corner of Burgess Field at around 5 pm " in a line of trees along one of the open fields". I've requested more details which I'll post here in due course.

Farmoor - Friday 4th am.

4 Dunlin,
4 Common Sands,
Ringed Plover,
3 Ruff,
c25 Yellow Wags,
2 Swift.

Otmoor.A.M. 4th September.

1 Marsh Harrier
2 Cettis Warbler (one at the Noke End the other by wardens hut)
2 Snipe.
Raven (over)

(Stoneshank & Jim Hutchins)

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Lollingdon Hill 3rd September

Spotted Flycatcher 2
Little Owl

Crowmarsh Gifford 3rd August

Tree Pipit over this morning
Siskin 12

(per The Wickster)

Pit 60: 3rd September


Green Sandpiper

Common Sandpiper

Otmoor 3rd Sept Evening

7 Snipe
1 yellow wagtail (h)
3 chiffchaff

1 hobby juv (per RL)

Farmoor late afternoon - 3rd Sept

3 Dunlin (juv)
2 Common Sandpiper
1 Ringed Plover (juv)
(all along causeway on F1 side)
Ringed Plover (juv)

Dunlin (juv - 2nd Sept)

Garsington: 3rd September

2 Spotted Flycatcher: In Churchyard. 14:00.

Colin Oram

Rushey Common area, 3rd September

Common Sandpiper 2
Green Sandpiper 2
Egyptian Geese 2
Lots of Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps
Little Grebe 4
Yellow Legged Gull 2


Farmoor AM 3rd September

3 Little Grebe (1 juv)
3 Dunlin
2 Black terns

Dunlin © Jim Hutchins

Dunlin © Jim Hutchins

Stanford-in-the-Vale: 1st September

Spotted Flycatcher

Jed Cleeter

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Grimsbury Reservoir: 02nd September

Black-tailed Godwit, in evening
4 Spotted Flycatchers
3 Siskins

Courtesy and copyright of John Friendship-Taylor

Otmoor Sept 2nd AM

1st Screen
1 Common Sandpiper
8 Snipe
Marsh Harrier
Cettis Warbler
Water Rail

1 Wheatear
Yellow Wagtails overhead

4 Hobbies

                                                                                    PR & PG

Bicester Wetlands 2nd September

Little Egret 2
Green Sandpiper 10
Dunlin 1
Eurasian Sparrowhawk 1m

Willow Warbler 5
Common Chiffchaff 7
Blackcap 3
Common Whitethroat 1

Access to the reserve requires a key available from the B.O.S

Farmoor. 2nd. September. Morning.

2 Dunlin.
2 Ruff.
2 Ringed Plover.
Common Sandpiper.
2 Kingfisher.             Per.  Dai and T.S.

Spotted Flycatcher.   Per.  S.Y.

No sign of Little Stints.

Ringed Plover. (a).
Ringed Plover. (j).

Port Meadow: 2nd September

Port Meadow
5 Siskin
2 Yellow Wagtail
Little Egret

Adam Hartley

Cowley: Car works: 2nd September

Cowley: Car works
Peregrine: Chasing Pigeons around BMW Mini site. 07:20.

Colin Oram

Tuesday, 1 September 2015


Little Stint

Ringed Plover

Ringed Plover

Sand Martin
Sand Martin

Black Tern

Farmoor - late 1st September

In addition: 60+ Yellow-legged Gulls
                    3 Common Gulls
                    5 juv islandica Black-tailed Godwits

Wytham Wood: 1st September

Wytham Wood
12 Siskin
Spotted Flycatcher

Mark Merritt

Otmoor 1st Sept Evening

1 Green Sandpiper (first screen)
Cetti's warbler (second screen)
5+ Snipe
Yellow wagtail over
Sparrowhawk attacking starling roost
Lesser whitethroat

Farmoor 1st September

It's the magic number... Ringed Plover, Little Stint & Dunlin
courtesy of Mark Merritt.

2 Little Stints along the causeway at 15:30 but no further sign by early evening.

2 Ringed Plover
9 Dunlin
2 Whimbrel
1 Common Sandpiper
4 Black Tern
19+Yellow Wagtail 
4 Swift

(per Dai & Ian Smith)

Waders in flight courtesy of John Reynolds

Grimsbury Reservoir: 01st September

Black-tailed Godwit, in evening
8 Swifts

Upper Cherwell Valley

3 Whinchat
No Tree Pipits today

Grimsbury Birds

Sutton Courtenay 1st September

Sutton Courtenay Old Pits

Curlew Sandpiper: juv. On drained pit feeding in pool nearest yellow pumping machine. 15:00.

(per Gerry Quinn)

No further sign of Curlew Sandpiper by late afternoon but:

Dunlin (juv)
Green Sandpiper
Common Sandpiper

(per Lew)

Lark Hill 1st September

No sign of Wryneck 12:30 - 13:00.

Lesser Whitethroat
6 Wheatear

August Highlights

Wryneck at Lark Hill

Introduction & Headline Birds
So that's August finished already - where has the time gone? It was amazing to see the pick-up in bird sightings as we finally got shot of July - almost as if someone had flicked a switch to turn them back on. Thankfully we've had a few decent birds this month to write about with the stars of the month, two lovely Wrynecks, leaving it until the 29th before the first made an appearance. The first of these cryptic and enigmatic little woodpeckers arrived at Otmoor along the path from the kissing gate to the first screen, it lingered long enough in the afternoon for one or two straggling county listers (mentioning no names...but he spends a lot of time on Otmoor) finally to get it on their list. Sadly though there was no sign of it the next day. The second bird arrived at Lark Hill near Wantage on the 31st two years to the day of the last Wryneck at the same site found by the same person.

Wryneck Lark Hill 31st August (please view at 720p HD)

After that comes a juvenile Red-necked Grebe found on the evening of the 25th at Farmoor though sadly it didn't stay. Whilst this species has become pretty regular over the last few years, probably due to the efforts of just one bird which uses Farmoor as a stopping off place in each direction on its migration, a juvenile plumaged bird is a rarity indeed in the county.

Red-necked Grebe Farmoor courtesy of Nic Hallam
Next on the headliners list is last month's star bird, the Churn female Red-backed Shrike which made it into August before disappearing.

Lastly there was a Black-necked Grebe, also at Farmoor on the 5th though that too didn't stay.

Black-necked Grebe courtesy of Tezzer


Ospreys were seen at Farmoor on the 19th and the 26th and at Grimsbury reservoir on the 25th and over the Upper Cherwell Valley on the 31st. A ringtail Harrier was reported at Otmoor RSPB on the 18th and on the 29th. The four Marsh Harriers, including the two young, remained on Otmoor but sightings became more sporadic as birds moved away from the reed beds. An early Merlin was seen at Lark Hill on the 17th with another seen near Blewbury in the same week.

Gulls and Terns

It was a good month for Black Terns. Two arrived at Farmoor on the 1st with singles seen on and off at the reservoir over much of the month. Seventeen birds briefly stopped off at the same site on the morning of 22nd with an impressive 26 arriving on the last day of the month. Five of these dusky Marsh Terns were also seen at Grimsbury reservoir on the 14th with single birds at Pit 60 on the 23rd and at Sonning Eye Gravel pits on the 29th.

22 Black Terns at Farmoor courtesy of Lew

Black Tern Farmoor courtesy of Mark Chivers

An Arctic Tern arrived at Farmoor on the 14th and remained until the month's end being joined by two more on the 31st. A juvenile Little Gull was a great find at Grimsbury reservoir on the 23rd with another juvenile at Farmoor from the 23rd being joined briefly by a second juvenile on the 30th.

Little Gull Farmoor courtesy of The Gun-slinger
An adult Med Gull was nice to see at Grimsbury reservoir on the 2nd with up to two juveniles amongst the Farmoor roost over the month. Another Med Gull was discovered loafing in a field near Upper Wardington on the 23rd keeping company with two Yellow-legged Gulls. Yellow-legged Gulls were also at Grimsbury reservoir on the 15th, 20th and three on the 28th. At least fifty four were amongst the Farmoor roost on the 17th. An Adult Caspian Gull was amongst the roost at Farmoor on the 29th.

Med Gull Grimsbury Reservoir courtesy of Gareth Blockley

A pair of Curlew Sandpipers arrived out of the rain at Farmoor Reservoir late afternoon on the 31st. Two Little Stints arrived and almost immediately left again at Farmoor reservoir on the morning of the 25th.

An impressive four Wood Sandpipers graced the county with their presence during August with two present on Otmoor on the 9th, a single bird on the old gravel pits at Sutton Courtenay 9th-15th and a further bird at the Bicester Wetlands Reserve on the 23rd which stayed until at least the 30th.

Wood Sandpiper Otmoor RSPB courtesy of John Reynolds
Greenshanks were well represented with birds noted at Rushy Common and Pit 60 on the 1st with the count rising at the latter site to three on the 23rd. Two birds were also seen at Clattercote reservoir on the 23rd, and two were on Otmoor briefly on the same date. Grimsbury hosted this species on the 13th and 25th with an impressive nine counted at Farmoor reservoir on the 23rd. 

Greenshank Pit 60 courtesy of Steve Burch

A Turnstone was along the causeway on Farmoor reservoir on the 2nd and 15th with three reported on the 5th and 23rd. Away from Farmoor, a bird seen at Rushy Common on the 14th was a great record.

Turnstone Farmoor Reservoir courtesy of Tezzer
A Black-tailed Godwit was on Otmoor on the 8th and 22nd with four Ruff  present on the 12th, testament to the water levels being allowed to drop in front of the 1st screen, unfortunately and somewhat frustratingly water levels were allowed once again to rise by the month's end. A single bird was at Farmoor on the 17th keeping company with three fine Bar-tailed Godwits which unfortunately didn't linger. Single Ruff were at Farmoor on the 13th with three birds there on the 14th; three juveniles were at Pit 60 on the 22nd

Ruff Farmoor Reservoir courtesy of Peter Law
Seven Ringed Plover which touched down at Farmoor on the 21st constituted the highest count for the month. Single Whimbrel were seen over Farmoor on the 1st, 14th and 23rd. Green Sandpipers were widely reported with the highest counts being eleven at Pit 60 on the 23rd and thirteen at Bicester Wetlands Reserve on the 23rd. A Sanderling arrived at the Farmoor on the 11th with another individual at Grimsbury Reservoir on the 31st. Nine Dunlin at Farmoor on the 23rd remains the largest count so far of the autumn


Two Bitterns remained at Otmoor RSPB throughout the month. The rather unseasonal female Goosander remained on the main lake within Blenheim Park. Three Shelduck were at Farmoor on the 19th.

Shelduck & Little Egret Farmoor Reservoir courtesy of Dai John


At least two Turtle Doves were still being reported sporadically on Otmoor though as yet there has been no sign of any juveniles this year. A single bird was again seen between Bicester and Bucknell on the 25th.

A juvenile Cuckoo was at Nutwood Down on the 16th with a single reported at Otmoor on the 18th.

Pat Galka captured this superb series of Kingfisher photos at Otmoor RSPB

It's been a good month for Redstarts: a single birds was seen on Stonesfield Common on the 1st with a juvenile in Long Meadow Otmoor on the 6th with four birds there on the 10th and an impressive twelve present within Long Meadow on the 31st. Two birds were present around Lollingdon Hill over much of the month with four birds present on the 18th with a further two present at the Devils Punchbowl on the 22nd and at Little Wittenham on the 22nd. Single birds were at Balscote Quarry Reserve on the 9th, at Farmoor on the 10th and 27th and at Pit 60 on the 23rd with at least two birds present at Chimney Meadows on the 16th.

Fantastic video clip of a stunning male Redstart at Stonesfield Common courtesy of Paul Wren

Two Whinchats were at the Upper Cherwell site near to Grimsbury Res on the 15th and 23rd rising to three on the 27th. Double digit counts of these charismatic little chats were spread over the Otmoor reserve throughout the month. Two Whinchat were also present at Lark Hill on the 17th with single birds at Harwell Lab on the 19th and at Lollington Hill.

Whinchat Otmoor RSPB courtesy of John Reynolds

Three Crossbill flew over Kingston Bagpuize on the 7th. Away from their stronghold around Henley, Ring-necked Parakeets were seen at Shillingford Bridge on the 15th and again near Banbury at Grimsbury Reservoir on the 25th.

Four Tree Pipits went over Sutton Courtenay on the 25th with two birds present at the Upper Cherwell Valley site near Grimsbury reservoir on the 30th-31st,a single bird flew over Harwell Labs on the 28th. Nineteen Yellow Wagtails remained the highest count at Farmoor this year but was eclipsed by up to fifty birds feeding amongst the cattle on the Pill grounds on Otmoor on the 22nd.

Wheatear and Wagtails Lower Farm Otmoor courtesy of Jim Hutchins

Looking ahead to September

Looking back on past Septembers in Oxon over the last fifteen or so years has been a rather mouth-watering experience. Certain themes stand out immediately with lots of Wryneck and Honey Buzzard records as well as several Richard's Pipits, Sabine's Gulls and Grey Phalaropes. There were a few wrecked sea birds as well with a Manx Shearwater and a couple of Leach's Petrels seen historically in the coming month. Other past Oxon September records include: White-winged Black Tern, American Black Tern, American Wigeon. Ring-necked Duck, Spotted Crake, Pallid Harrier, Citrine Wagtail, Lapland Bunting and Red-backed Shrike.  Finally there are the "padder" scarcities with Great White Egret, Spoonbill, Glossy Ibis and White Stork all having been seen. So plenty to hope for - let's pray that the birding and weather gods are kind to us!

Hen Harrier Day
by Richard & Lyn Ebbs

Courtesy of Roger Wyatt
 In the summer of 2014 we decided it was time to do more than just sign petitions and start actively campaigning about the shamefully small number of hen harriers allowed to survive in our uplands. We decided to join the rally at Derwent Dam on 10 August even with a forecast (accurate) of torrential rain. Thus, we became paid-up members of the Sodden 570.

Having done it once, it was natural that we would want to join the campaign again this year, especially as there were no storms forecast. But this time we signed up for the whole weekend: Hen Harrier Eve in Buxton and Hen Harrier Day at Goyt Valley.

At the Buxton event the commitment of the organisers and contributors was very heartening, from young conservation enthusiast, Findlay Wilde, to RSPB CEO, Mike Clarke. Findlay’s contribution last year was an eight-foot tall hen harrier called Harry; this year he brought along a giant gin trap, poison bottle and a grouse butt all made from expanded polystyrene.

Mike Clarke spoke about the unsustainability of game shooting, not just activities on the grouse moors but also the huge imbalance caused by releasing 50 million ‘gamebirds’ into the countryside every year – the same biomass as all the wild birds in the countryside. We were entertained with poetry, book readings, a conversation with a conceptual artist and a review of the travels of a six-foot hen harrier called Henry.

There was a reprise of some of the speeches the following day. Several hundred of us gathered at Goytsclough Quarry, a steep-sided, tree-lined valley, bright with wild flowers and alive with birds and insects, contrasting with the patchwork of burnt and green heather on the hillside behind us.

Charlie Moores, from
Birders Against Wildlife Crime (BAWC), compèred the event. New speakers on Sunday were Jeff Knott from RSPB and Jo Smith from Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, sharing Findlay’s grouse butt with Henry Hen Harrier. 

The stalwarts of both events were, of course, Mark Avery and Chris Packham. They both spoke with great passion, backed with good scientific evidence, about why there is no place for sporting activities that depend for their success on destroying biodiversity and, above all, the illegal persecution of raptors.

We came away determined to carry on the campaign and were encouraged to see that in the next few days more of the main-stream media were talking about grouse shooting as a contentious issue not an acceptable tradition.

The petition on the Government’s website to ban driven grouse shooting, started by Mark Avery, passed 12000 signatures on 12 August. Hopefully, as more people hear about it and read Mark’s book “Inglorious: Conflict in the Uplands”,

Hen Harrier Day in future years will be spent celebrating the successful return of the hen harrier...

Chris Packham not pulling any punches.

Far More Positive Birding Developments

Following years of observing, listening and questioning the Oxon Birding scene, I met last week with the Farmoor Reservoir Rangers, to suggest possible ways to engage the wider public in the 'Estate', based around all matters birdy.  Immediately came the news that Hanna joins the Thames Water team  today (1st September) looking after Pinkhill Reserve and similar high value habitats.  Also,  work to rebuild the Pinkhill hide is imminent.  

Head Ranger Chris has immediately welcomed many ideas and suggested even more.  Having checked back with some key people I can already report: improvements to the Causeway Hide will begin this week; Ian Lewington has kick-started a small reference library on site and Badger has committed to text alerting the Rangers immediately that Pink-backed pelican (or similar) lands on F2, so they can prepare!   Also, it should be possible to resume passerine feeding in 'fully' accessible public viewing points with Dai John and his friends managing  that operation with the Rangers.  

Barry Hudson can supply recommended seed choices to fill that 'hunger gap'.  Very interesting times lie ahead and I would encourage those interested in being part of the process, offering up your comments and suggestions to The Rangers or birders already mentioned and others involved like Andy Last and Mark Chivers.  Lines of communication have been opened up, so please use them.

Ian Smith

Calling all 'Birdsworths'

Have you a birding tale to tell? A story of birding daring do, an EPIC twitch or simply a story of an encounter with one of our feathered friends. If so we would love to hear from you...

Monday, 31 August 2015

Farmoor roost 6.30-8.20pm

                                                              22 Black Terns still

                                                            54 Yellow-legged Gulls

                                                                   1 juv Med Gull (in the dark!)
2 Great Black-b Gulls
11 Yellow Wagtails
Belated report: An ad Caspian Gull filmed in the dark on one of the towers on FII on Saturday (29th) before being booted off by a big Mich.