Sightings and Photos

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Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Otmoor. Evening.

Seven Ravens over. (family group?).

Standlake pit 60, 4th August

Greenshank 2
Little Ringed Plover 2
Green Sandpiper c3
Common Sandpiper c4
Little Egret 2
Oystercatcher 2
Three separate family parties of Goldcrests all containing several juvs

Clackers + AC

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Grimsbury Reservoir: 2nd August

Mediterranean Gull
Hobby, over this morning (per Clive Payne)

Yarnton: 1st August

OTHER SPECIES: Common Pipistrelle. Flying around the garden at 13.30. Probably a juvenile it rested under a windows ledge of the house for 5 minutes before taking to the wing again. 13:30.

Nick Suckling

Farmoor Aug 2nd (08:00 - 11:05)

Black Tern - 1 adult (mobile between F1 and F2) present until 10:45 at least
Common Tern - 15 (several Juv's)
Yellow Wag - 3
Whimbrel -1 (over)
Ringed Plover -1
Dunlin - 2
Common Sandpiper - 2
Great Crested Grebe - 133
Teal - 1 female
Raven - 5

Dai and Dave Lowe

Saturday, 1 August 2015

Stonesfield: Stonesfield Common: 1st August

Stonesfield: Stonesfield Common
9 Whitethroat
Lesser Whitethroat
3 Blackcap
2 Raven
4 Bullfinch
2 Marsh Tit

Paul Wren

Churn: Ridgeway: 1st August

Churn: Ridgeway
Red-backed Shrike: fem.

Gareth Blockley

Churn: 1st August

Red-backed Shrike: fem. Still present at 3.30pm. Could be a bit elusive and moving up track to east away from old field centre. SU522825.

Michael Pocock

Standlake Pit 60: 1st August late morning

1 Green Sandpiper
1 Common Sandpiper
1 Greenshank
Lapwing - large numbers
Common Terns
Little Egret
Greenshank (c) Stephen Burch
Click here for higher res image

Otmoor Sat !st August am

4 Marsh Harriers (2 juvs)
Green sand
4+ Spotted Flycatchers ( 2 Juvs )
Bittern / Bitterns
No sign of GWE
4 Little Egrets

Bark et al

Farmoor. Morning.

Swallow and House martin collecting nesting material.

Barn Owl.

Churn 1st August

R-backed Shrike still near old field study centre c12:00 (per Gareth Blockley)

Rushey Common area, 1st August,early am

Common Sandpiper 5
Green Sandpiper 4
Buzzards 8+


Farmoor Reservoir 1st August

Black Tern 2 over F2 08:00 (per Dai Johns)

Upper Cherwell Valley 1st August

No sign of the Wood Sandpiper on the Borrow Pit by 07:38 (per Gareth Blockley)

July Highlights

Female Red-backed Shrike Churn courtesy of Wayne Bull

July is traditionally just as bad as June on the bird front. However, whereas last month there was almost nothing to report we've actually had a smattering of good headline birds this month. Add to this the first returning waders and some good county breeding news and it's not been too bad at all.

We start with the belated news of a one day mega which was seen and filmed at the start of June. A fantastic female Two-barred Crossbill was found within Bagley Woods in an area with no general access. Despite further searches by the finder, this second for Oxfordshire was unfortunately not seen again. Video grabs courtesy of Jason Gosling.

The star bird of the July has to be the female Red-backed Shrike which was discovered at Churn on the 25th. Remaining faithful to the area just to the east of the old research station a succession of admirers came to pay homage to it. This species is very rare for the county and indeed if it hadn't been for the lovely one-day male bird at Otmoor last year, half the county listing table would have been up there like a shot. As it was, it was a good opportunity for those who missed the last one to get it on their list.

Please view at 720p HD

Second on the headline list is a probable Black Kite at Hanwell Fields near Banbury on the 7th. Indeed if this had been anything more than a fly-over seen by a single observer who admits to not being familiar with this species, it might well have taken the top spot - after all, almost everyone on the county list needs this bird. We had a definite record of this species earlier in the year though that one was as elusive as this one turned out to be with no further reports after the initial sighting.

Thirdly, on the 30th a Great White Egret turned up at Otmoor and stayed until the end of the month at least. Whilst this is now one of the commoner county scarcities it's still good to have them on the list.

Courtesy of  Badger

As hinted at above, there's been some good county breeding news to report. Firstly a pair of Marsh Harriers have raised two young at Otmoor - the first county breeding record in a long long time. It's a testament to the great habitat that the RSPB have created on the reserve. Secondly there is belated news of a male Nightjar that was seen on territory in the south of the county at the end of June on private land. This is a very rare bird for the county, chiefly of course due to lack of suitable breeding habitat so it's great to have one churring in the county once again.

Male Nightjar Oxon courtesy of  R.M.Clunes
Finally the two Common Crane from the WWT reintroduction program have remained at Otmoor throughout July. This pair did try to breed at Otmoor though sadly either the eggs or the young were predated on the nest (possibly even by the Marsh Harriers!).

Away from the Otmoor reserve, a Marsh Harrier was a superb discovery within the Upper Cherwell Valley on the 18th before flying in to Northants. An early Osprey flew south over Farmoor reservoir on the 12th with a possible reported near Appleton on the 15th.

Terns & Gulls

Obviously this is a quiet time of year for terns and gulls but there are a few snippets to report. An unusual report was group of five Sandwich Terns seen flying south along the Thames at Wallingford Bridge on the evening of the 1st.  Another surprise Tern discovery for July was an Arctic at Farmoor on the 7th. A 2nd year Common Gull was at Grimsbury reservoir on the 1st. Yellow-legged Gull numbers started to rise at Farmoor from early on in the month with at least eight present on the 21st.

Yellow-legged Gull Farmoor courtesy of Gareth Blockley

As was mentioned in the introduction, we're starting to see a trickle of waders returning from their breeding efforts. The first Wood Sandpiper of the year dropped in to Otmoor on the 20th with a second individual arriving on the Borrow Pit in the The Upper Cherwell Valley on the 28th and staying until at least the 30th

Wood Sandpiper Upper Cherwell Valley courtesy of Mike Pollard

Two Ruff arrived at Otmoor on Ashgrave on the 16th with a pair of Whimbrel gracing Farmoor on the same date. A Turnstone and Sanderling dropped in to Farmoor on the 24th with the latter staying until the 25th. 

Ruff on Otmoor by Badger

Sanderling Farmoor courtesy of Nick Truby
The largest flocks of Black-tailed Godwits in the county this month consisted of  eight at Otmoor on the 5th-7th and another group of eight at Farmoor on the 26th. Apart from that, single birds were seen at the B.O.S Bicester Wetlands Reserve and at Standlake Common's Pit 60 and again on Otmoor on the 19th-20th.

Black-tailed Godwits Otmoor courtesy of Tezzer
Green Sandpiper numbers climbed throughout July with four birds present around the Tar Lakes/Rushy Common area on the 14th and four present at Pit 60 on the 22nd. The highest count was at the Bicester Wetlands reserve with a superb ten birds on the 23rd. Redshank numbers reached an impressive ten at Farmoor reservoir on the 20th with first Greenshanks of the autumn touching down on Otmoor on the 25th-26th and at Pit 60 at the end of the month.

Green Sandpiper Pit 60 courtesy of Jim Hutchins


A Garganey arrived right on schedule amongst the assorted eclipsed ducks in front of the first screen on Otmoor on the 21st. Less predictable was the feral Ruddy Shelduck which spent a few hours also on Otmoor before relocating to Farmoor reservoir the next day. A Bittern was being seen regularly in flight above the reed beds throughout July at the RSPB reserve

Feral Ruddy Shelduck Farmoor courtesy of Dai

Garganey Otmoor courtesy of John Reynolds

Passerines & Miscellaneous

A Ring-necked Parakeet was seen at Grimsbury reservoir on the 19th before heading off south towards Banbury; it was seen again subsequently at the res on the 27th. At least three Grasshopper Warblers kept reeling away on the Otmoor RSPB reserve over the month with regular birds heard near Sandford on Thames throughout and at Hanwell Fields. 

Grasshopper Warbler Otmoor courtesy of John Reynolds

Spotted Flycatchers were being seen along the Roman Road on Otmoor and in the nearby village of Beckley, breeding was confirmed within Blenheim Park, Shotover and Ducklington. 

Young Spotted Flycatcher courtesy of Tezzer

The first Redstart of the autumn- a superb male was found flicking around Long Meadow on Otmoor on the 11th with a further two males near Pit 60 on the 12th, with single birds Grimsbury Reservoir on the 27th and at Lollingdon Hill on the 29th. 

Redstart Grimsbury Reservoir courtesy of John Friendship-Taylor
An early Whinchat was on Otmoor on the 17th but unfortunately didn't linger. A Wheatear was also an early arrival on the reserve on the 23rd. What was presumably the second wave of migrant Quail where to be heard on Otmoor on the 5th with up to five calling males near Blewbury on the 9th and a single bird calling at Churn on the 26th until months end.

Marsh Harriers breed successfully in Oxfordshire  

Please view at 1080p HD

Rarities aside, the most exciting news this month (and arguably of the year) is the the successful breeding attempt by a pair of Marsh Harriers on the RSPB Otmoor reserve.
There was some initial confusion as to sexing one of the birds due inpart to the male birds retarded moult but through Pete Barkers continued suspicions and Ian Lewingtons Jedi like identification skills, the pieces finally fell in to place.

"I have frequently referred over the last few months to the pair of female Marsh Harriers that were going through a deal of nest building and half hearted courtship displays. It was widely assumed that these were a pair of females producing a practice nest. This is a behaviour often seen in raptors. Last Sunday instead of the familiar two birds there were three and then by Tuesday there were four. The two new birds were not chased away by the resident pair but were seen to interact with them. The “new “ birds were uniformly coloured with pale yellow caps and chins, in fact classic juvenile freshly fledged plumage".

Pete Barker 

Male late winter
The male bird had been seen over the reserve from at least the start of the year the picture above
shows it still in its juvenile plumage.

Male early spring
The nick in one of the birds primaries on the right wing could be seen in a succession of pictures taken over the first half of the year and helped to determine it as the same individual.

Above and below showing primary on right wing with nick.

Birds will suspend a moult when nesting to conserve energy which is why our males identity remained a mystery for so long.

After nesting harrier moult proceeds very quickly as seen in the more recent photo above.
In this picture you can see the four new second generation inner primaries as it starts its acquire its adult male plumage.

Male above and female below

This is the first  recorded breeding in Oxfordshire since the early nineteenth century. 
The Birds of Oxfordshire ( Brucker ,Gosler and Heryet) says in the species account, quoting Aplin (1889)..... “In Dr. Lambs time (1814)it was the most common hawk in the marshes around Newbury and it may have bred in those days around Otmoor

Class of 2015 one of the juveniles

With thanks to Ian Lewington in compiling this piece
Photographs courtesy of John Reynolds.

The Happy Isles
by "Clackers"

Although, as a latecomer to birding, I'd missed the heydays of the late 80's and 90's on the Isles of Scilly, our trips in the early 2000's saw us pick up on some excellent rarities and 2005 was among the best. As usual we travelled down on the Friday and jammed into a Long-billed Dowitcher at Drift Reservoir and a couple of real Cornish Chough in one of the valleys.

On the Saturday morning we quickly dropped our bags in the house we were renting and set off to clean up the goodies that were lingering on St Mary's. These took the form of a Paddyfield Warbler in the allotments, a Red-throated Pipit on Porthellick Downs and an immature Blackpoll Warbler at the entrance to Lower Moors. Oh, and while we're at Lower Moors, let's have a look at the Sora Rail, not a lifer for me but another stunning transatlantic rarity, all the more so at about 10 feet from the hide we were crammed into.

Sunday dawned with no news of the Radde's Warbler that had been seen, briefly, in another of the allotments. In fact it was one of those ' ho hum' days on Scillies with merely a Red Backed Shrike, Hoopoe and 2 Ring Ouzels, all on Penninis Head and a Firecrest in Carrig Dhu gardens. It also saw the start of an influx of Black Redstarts with 2 on Porthloo beach and another near Longstones cafe. On Monday 8 more were at the riding stables, 3 at the top of Holy Vale and another 2 at the hospital. Heaven knows how many were scattered around the islands, it's one of those events that makes birding special. Excitement came momentarily at Carn Vean. However after a well organized walk-through in front of over 200 birders, the possible Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler turned out to be a Sedge Warbler!!

On Tuesday, the disappearing Radde's Warbler was found again, still in the allotments. On Scillies these are small gardens enclosed by thick hedges, on the side of the hill outside Hugh Town and the narrow paths between them make viewing positions at a premium. More by luck than judgement, I was in such a position, staring into an apparently birdless garden but was assured this was where it was last seen. As usual in these things, time seems to stand still as once again, around 100 birders were quietly staring and hoping for a sighting of another mega rarity. After maybe 30 or 40 minutes, I noticed movement in the far corner hedge and concentrated my efforts on this one section. Within 5 minutes a small brown warbler with a large and prominent creamy white eye stripe crept out of the base of the hedge for all of 5 seconds before slipping back into cover. 'I'm on it' I blurted out and then 'pretty sure that was it' just to cover myself. 'Where abouts?' said a voice to my left, 'are you certain?' said a voice to my right. I looked up from my 'scope to see my neighbours only to find our esteemed county recorder, Lew, to my left and king of Rare Bird Alert, Dick Filby , to my right. This could be the end of my birding credibility!! Fortunately I've always been able to register markers when looking at rare birds and so replied , 'far corner of the allotment, there's a yellow dead leaf at ground level and two orange leaves just above it, the birds a foot or so to the right'. Incredibly, as I uttered these immortal words, our skulking little Siberian chum crawled out into the open and for around two minutes, gave crippling views to all present before easing back once more into the hedge. An almost audible sigh of relief came from the gathered masses and particularly from me, sandwiched as I was between two supreme birders and frankly, in a hugely embarrassing position had I got things wrong.
The rest of the week was typical Scillies: good birds if not mega rarities, but who could turn their nose up at Jack Snipe, Merlin, Little Bunting, Yellow Browed Warbler and Barred Warbler. There was even the annual ultra-mega rumour where 300 birders gathered at dawn on Morning Point to watch several grown men stumbling through gorse and brambles in an attempt to prise out a supposed Allen's Gallinule - unsurprisingly unsuccessfully.

Happy, happy days.

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...

Friday, 31 July 2015

Churn 31st July

Red-backed Shrike No sign after 8.10pm, but met a birder who said it had been seen earlier in the evening.
Quail: 1 heard.

Michael Pocock

Otmoor 31st July

Great white egret still, feeding in the ditch along the diagonal track on Greenaways.

Also Raven, Yellow wagtail, 2 Juvenile Marsh harriers and Sparrowhawk over reedbed.

Spotted Flycatcher: in car park. 18:45.
2 Grasshopper Warbler: Moorleys. 18:30.

(per Peter Law)

Great white Egret from the 1st screen courtesy of Alec Nightingale

Pit 60 31st July

Green Sandpiper
Common Sandpiper
Little Egret 4
Common Tern 5 (1 juv)

(per Jim Hutchins)

Canada Goose photo courtesy of Jim Hutchins

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Churn 30th July

Red-backed Shrike (f) still near old field study centre at 20:00 please park near
railway bridge and walk along concrete road.
Quail (h)

(per Tom Mabbett)

Otmoor.A.M. 30th July.

Great White Egret please view at 720p HD
Great White Egret. (digi-binned at 50 yards).

Great White Egret showing well from the first screen at 20:20-20:45 and appeared to go to roost.

Bittern 1+
Little Egret 3+
Marsh Harrier 3
Grasshopper Warbler 2 Moorleys

Upper Cherwell Valley 30th July

Wood Sandpiper still on the Environment Agency Borrow Pit c15:00 (per Peter Law).

Sutton Courtenay Old Pits: 30th July

2 Green Sandpiper 11:00.
2 Little Egret

(Gerry Quinn)

Rushey Common main lake, 30th July

Common Sandpiper 2
Green Sandpiper

Linnet on Otmoor courtesy of Tezzer

Churn: 30th July

30th July

Red-backed Shrike: fem. Still today around the old field study centre. SU:521827. 11:00.

Otmoor: RSPB reserve
Great White Egret: Seen this afternoon from the cattle pens at the far end of the track towards the reed bed. Very mobile, earlier over the reed bed several times. 14:45.

John Edwards