Sightings and Photos

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13th May Garganey Pit 60...Black-necked Grebe Farmoor Reservoir...6th May Wood Sandpiper Balscote Quarry...5th May Avocet Rushy Common...Osprey Farmoor Res-Port Meadow-Blenheim...

Wednesday, 5 January 2005

Lower Windrush Valley Gravel Pits Complex

This is a complex of gravel excavation pits located to the west of Oxford along the Windrush Valley. The most well known pits are Dix Pit and Pit 60. For more detailed information on some of the pits see the Lower Windrush Valley Project blog or the OOS LWV site page

Map courtesy of David Dunford

Sunday, 2 January 2005

Otmoor Site Guide

Blogs: Otmoor Birding, The Otmoor Blogger

The Otmoor basin forms the floodplain of the River Ray. It is a natural wetland that in the past flooded during the winter and then gradually dried out during the spring and summer to sedge, reed beds and water meadows. The people in the surrounding villages harvested wildfowl and fish and during the summer they grazed and hayed the meadows. More recently the land was drained and fields were given over to arable farming. A large area was owned by the Ministry of Defence and this area remained as wet rough grazing.

The RSPB has acquired almost one thousand acres in the area and have set about returning this to lowland wet grassland, which is the preferred breeding habitat for Lapwing, Snipe, Redshank and Curlew. In addition they have created a fifty five acre reed bed, encouraged scrub in some areas and developed scrapes and wet features throughout the site. There is a car park, a large hide, two viewing screens and several permissive footpaths. It forms a very extensive reserve. The list of species recorded here is well over two hundred and includes some notable rarities including: Glossy Ibis, Lesser Yellowlegs, Purple Heron, Great White Egret, Marsh Warbler, Red Footed Falcon and Spoonbill. In a normal year we would expect to see over one hundred and fifty different species. The seasonal sections below give an indication of what one might expect to see during the year.

Access Instructions
From the Headington roundabout on the ring road on the east side of Oxford (SP555074) take the minor turn-off signposted for Barton, just before the turn off that heads towards the M40. Follow this road for about 3km until you come to a cross-roads. Here turn left and then immediately right, signposted for Beckley village. Keep straight along this road and at the church follow the road round to the right.  Just past the Abingdon Arms pub keep straight on when the road bends round to the right. This will be Otmoor Lane which should be followed all the way down to the end where it turns to the left and the car park entrance is immediately on the right (SP569126 ).

 Map of the Field Names - original (c) Dave Dunford


Spring and Summer
From late March onwards the focus is on arriving migrants that stay and breed and on passage birds. During this period and throughout the summer it should be possible to both see and hear ten species of warbler, amongst them: Grasshopper Warbler, Garden Warbler and Lesser Whitethroat, as well as the commoner species, and all of them breed on the reserve. Cuckoos parasitise Reed Warbler nests and are frequent here. This is one of the last reliable sites in Oxfordshire for Turtle Doves and there are usually at least two pairs present. At the very beginning of May there is normally a large influx of Hobbies and for a week or so just after they have arrived there can be up to twenty birds feeding over the fields before eventually dispersing to breed. There are usually a couple of pairs that breed here and remain throughout the summer. They can be seen most days hawking dragonflies over the fields and ditches from mid morning onwards. Marsh Harriers visit throughout this period but as yet have not stayed to breed.

From early March Lapwings will be holding territory and displaying and they will be joined by Redshank, Curlew and Snipe. Snipe can be heard drumming right through to July. Little ringed Plovers and Oystercatchers usually attempt to breed on the moor in most years, with occasional success. Garganey is present in good numbers although confirming breeding is difficult with such a secretive duck. Other regular breeding species are large numbers of Skylarks, Reed Buntings, Bullfinches and the commoner hedgerow birds.

On passage there will be Wheatears, Whinchats, Redstarts and the occasional Ring Ousel. In addition we always expect to see a number of different passage waders although these are much more weather dependent. Quail are heard most years but seldom seen. Hirundines and Swifts are always noticeable taking advantages of the hatches of flies from over the water bodies and the insects around the cattle, that are brought on to graze the fields once the Lapwing breeding season is over.

Whooper Swans (c) Badger

Autumn and Winter
Another passage takes place in early autumn and birds seem to have much more time to feed up and improve their condition before moving on, now that the breeding imperative has gone. As our breeding migrants leave their place is taken by winter visitors, notably Redwings and Fieldfares. It is at this time that we have a major influx of wildfowl most noticeable amongst them very large numbers of Wigeon and Teal. At the height of the winter there will be well over a thousand of each of those species present. There will also be large numbers of Gadwall, Shoveler, Tufted Duck, Pochard and Pintail. Water Rails that are present all through the year become easier to see at this time of the year. Large flocks of Lapwings and Golden Plovers can be seen over the moor during the winter often in flocks of over a thousand. A Starling roost will usually develop in the first winter period and numbers have been as high as fifty thousand birds. They roost in the reed bed and can put on the most spectacular displays. The roost and its display can disappear in a matter of days as the flocks move on. Bitterns have been present during the last six winters and Bearded Tits are becoming a regular autumn attraction.

Male Hen Harrier (c) Roger Wyatt

Whitefronted Geese are a regular visitor in the late winter period often in company with the resident Greylags and Canada Geese. Winter swans are also possible but less regular and less reliable.
Merlin, Hen Harriers and Short Eared Owls are regular winter visitors and join Peregrines, Common Buzzards, Kestrels and Red Kites as the raptors to be seen. Ravens, present throughout the year are much more likely to be seen at this time.


A visit at any time of year will be interesting. As well as the birds there are a wide range of different Butterflies and Dragonflies. They are often present in very large numbers when compared to the countryside at large.

There are many mammal species that are regularly seen here most notably Brown Hares and Otters.
I hope that you enjoy your visit at whatever time you choose to come.

Peter Barker

Saturday, 1 January 2005

Radley Lakes

Radley Lakes (c) Radley Village web-site

E: Thrupp Lake
F: Bullfield Lake or "the fishing lake"
G: The Ash Pit
L: Longmead Lake
M: Orchard Lake

Thrupp Lake is good for wintering waterfowl, including Smew occasionally & roosting gulls

The Ash Pit is unfortunately more or less dried up now

The whole area is good for dragonflies and damselflies

Farmoor Site Guide

Map (c) Dave Dunford

Farmoor reservoir is located just south of Farmoor village which is due west of Oxford city. The B4044 will take you to Farmoor village and at the roundabout turn onto the B4017 towards Cumnor. The main access is at Gate 3 on the right-hand side after about 500 yards which is located at about here. Park in the main car park and walk up the ramp to the reservoir. From 2013 onwards parking charges are enforced of £2 per day or £20 for a season ticket, the latter can be bought from the on-site wardens. From the reservoir bank one can walk around the perimeter of both reservoirs or along the Cauesway between them.
There are serveral hides which are now all free to access (they used to be locked by a key). There is one on the Causeway, and one overlooking Farmoor II and the Shrike Meadow scrapes.

Typical Species

Winter: Possible Diver species, chance of Slavonian or Black-necked Grebes, Goosander, Goldeneye, Smew, Glaucous Gull, Iceland Gull, Caspian Gull,Med Gull  Bittern, Jack Snipe, chance of Water Pipit.

Slavonian Grebe (c) The Paranoid Birder

Spring/Autumn: Passage Terns inc Black, Sandwich and Little Terns, Little Gull, Garganey, passage waders including Bar & Black-tailed Godwit, Grey Plover, Rock Pipt, occasional Snow Bunting.

Little Gull (c) Matt Prior

Port Meadow Site Guide

Blogs: Port Meadow Birding 


Port Meadow is a large area of common grassland to the west of Oxford which is bordered by the Thames to the west, the railway line to the East and Wolvercote village to the north. Its main attraction from a birding point of view is when it floods in the winter. A large number of duck over-winter on the floods and depending on the amount of water present, at times there can be attractive mud flats which attract over-wintering and passage waders. To the north-east of the Meadow lies Burgess Field Nature Reserve, built on an old rubbish tip, which consists of scrub land and specially planted hedgerows.

Grid Reference     Access from SP501072 or SP501078.

Below is a Google Map of the Patch with the various key locations labelled.

Directions and parking    

The main access point to the Meadow is from Walton Well Road, at the end of which is a car park. From the Walton Well Road car park there are a couple of paths across the Meadow, one heading west towards the river and one heading north along a part-metalled track. Taking this latter path leads north to the main flood area. The entrance gate into Burgess Field NR is at the end of this track. There is also a second access point via Aristotle Lane which enters the Meadow by the Trap Ground allotments. However parking is limited here and at peak access times (school start and end times) vehicular access over the canal bridge is restricted by rising bollards.

From the West: coming into Oxford along the Botley road, keep straight on past the station passing the Royal Oxford Hotel on your right. The road then bends round to the left. At the traffic lights turn left into Walton Street. Continue down Walton Street for a few minutes until you come to a mini-roundabout with the Victoria pub on the right and "Peppers Burgers" on the left. Turn left here into Walton Well road. Go over the canal bridge and immediately afterwards as the road bends right turn off left over the railway bridge. At the bottom of the road is a carpark on the left.

From the North: take the Woodstock road south from the ring-road until you come to St. Margaret's Road on your right. Turn right here and at the other end is a mini-roundabout. Turn left here into Kingston Road. Follow this road for a couple of minutes until you come to a second mini-roundabout. Turn right here into Walton Well Road and follow the instructions above.

Public transport    

From the centre of Oxford take the 17, 17A or 17C bus and alight at the Longworth Road stop (by the "Grog Shop"). Walk down Longworth road and at the bottom turn right into Walton Well Road and go over the canal bridge. Follow the instructions for driving from there on.


Winter: Over-wintering ducks include: Widgeon and Teal in large numbers, Shoveler, Gadwall, Pintail, Common Shelduck and occasionally Ruddy Shelduck. There is a large resident flock of Canada Geese and feral Greylag Geese which occasionally entices various other geese such as pink foot, bean and barnacle geese to drop in. Over-wintering waders can include Ruff, Redshank, Dunlin, Lapwing, Snipe and often large numbers of Golden Plover. There's usually a reasonable number of over-wintering gulls which can occasionally throw up a rarity. There's always the possibility of a Peregrine flying over, attracted by the large numbers of other birds. On Burgess Field Redwing, Fieldfare, Siskin, Stonechat, Snipe and occasionally Jack Snipe can all be seen.

Port Meadow attracts its fair share of rarities: this Lesser Yellowlegs 
spent nearly a month on the floods in October 2010

Spring/Autumn: Stopping briefly on passage one might expect Ruff, Redshank, Dunlin, Ringed Plover, Little Ringed Plover, Black and Bar-tailed Godwit, Oystercatcher, Curlew, Little Stint, Whimbrel and Greenshank though it's possible for anything to turn up. Garganey can be seen in March and April. Common and Arctic Tern can pass through as can Little Gull. Yellow and White wagtail and Wheatear are also possible in the surrounding fields. In Burgess Field Barn Owls can be seen hunting at dusk.

Another rarity was this American Golden Plover in November 2012

Summer: if the floods all dry up then there is relatively little of interest on the Meadow itself. However whilst the floods remain there is always the possibility of something interesting dropping in. In Burgess Field there are a variety of warblers including Grasshopper Warbler.

Residents in Burgess Field include Skylark, Green Woodpecker, Reed Bunting and a variety of common finches.

On the river Thames itself especially amongst the back waters are Great Crested Grebe, Little Grebe, Grey Heron, Grey Wagtail and Kingfisher.