Sightings and Photos

To submit sightings to this blog if you are not an authorised contributor please use the Going Birding service.
To Submit Photos or Video to this blog please email jasoncppk 'at' or adamchartley 'at'

Dec 5th Cattle Egret Standlake...2nd White-fronted Goose Cote...Nov 30th 19 White-fronted Geese Farmoor Reservoir...7 Whooper Swan Otmoor rspb...23rd Brent Goose Farmoor Reservoir...14th Grey Plover Otmoor rspb...11th Brent Goose Farmoor Res...10th Black Redstart Harwell...2 Whooper Swan Thame...8th Iceland Gull Appleford GPs...Great northern Diver...2 Little Gulls Farmoor Reservoir...1st Cattle Egret Balscote Quarry...Oct 30th Yellow-browed Warbler Farmoor Reservoir...25th GLOSSY IBIS Port Meadow...

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Whiskered Tern

There have to date only been two Whiskered Terns recorded in the county. The first was a five day stayer at Standlake in 1970 though back then it was part of Berkshire. The second record, found on Friday 25th April 2014 at Otmoor, was therefore to all intents and purposes a county first. It was first seen at about 2pm by a chap called Paul Thomas at the first screen at Otmoor RSPB but he at the time he had just thought that it was a colourful Common Tern. He did mention it to RSPB staff Zoe Edwards and Adam Reid who went to check it out at 16:30. They then came back to the office with their photos and checked with the field guide before calling the warden Joe Harris who went to check it out. He then called Peter Barker and Ian Lewington with whom he discussed the ID before the official news went out at 6pm. There then followed a mad scramble by many of the county birders to get down to see it before it got dark. Some fourteen county birders connected before it flew off high to the north about an hour before dark. Two birders who had just missed it stayed on and they reported that it returned at last light and looked like it was going to roost. Quite a crowd of birders were there at dawn the next day though sadly there was no sign of it.

Local blog write-ups can be found on Black Audi Birding & Gnome's Birding Diary

Some great photos of the Whiskered Tern (c) Terry Sherlock

Friday, 9 January 2009

Lesser Scaup

Lesser Scaup: 12th November – 28th December 1994

Back in the 1990s I regularly watched the Edward Richardson Reserve on the northern edge of Lechlade, just over the border in Gloucestershire. It constituted two main pools, one with extensive dead trees close to housing on the southern side and a more open, less disturbed pool overlooked by a hide. The reserve remains largely unchanged to this day, although the old ramshackle hide has gone and it is further hemmed in by housing. During autumn the muddy edges to the main pool attracted waders, and in winter the open water was often frequented by teal and a few diving duck. On 12th November I made a quick stop at the hide late afternoon on the way home and immediately picked out what appeared to be a drake Lesser Scaup with the tufties and pochards. In those days this was a very rare bird indeed, with just six previous records so the identification needed plenty of time, careful note taking and expert input from Jon King and Ian Lewington to ensure that the more likely hybrid candidates were fully excluded. Luckily it stayed at the reserve over the next few days enabling the identification to be clinched, including views of the all important upperwing pattern and bill detail. On 15th November it was seen to roost at nearby Little Faringdon GP which is on the right side of the county boundary thus becoming the first record for Oxon as well as Glos!

During the latter part of its stay the bird ranged more widely out into the eastern section of the Cotswold Water Park to the west of Lechlade as well as occasional forays back onto the Little Faringdon GP, you had to be quick (or make many visits) to catch up with it in the county! Accepted by BBRC as the 7th record for Britain.

Stuart Thomson

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Red-rumped Swallow Farmoor May 1997

A minor influx of Red-rumped Swallows was under way in early May with several birds recorded around the UK. The closest being near Guildford in Surrey. As it's a favourite species I decided to finish work early and take a trip down to see it. I got just a short way along the A34 before grinding to a halt in heavy traffic. It was also raining quite hard and pretty miserable. I decided to abort the journey and go to Farmoor. After all the conditions were ideal and there were Red-rumped Swallows about so why not at the reservoir.......

Predictably the place was heaving with hirundines and with a chilly westerly wind blowing and steady rain falling they were feeding low over both reservoirs. I headed up to the top of the causeway and began checking through about 300 Swallows feeding in the lee of the wind, many directly under the lip of the wave wall. The birds were flying directly towards me and doubling back an forth. Within just a minute or two one bird stood out, it had a neat black 'beret' and just as I was taking this in, it flipped round to reveal a glorious pinky white rump! I enjoyed having the bird to myself for a while and then alerted the various keen local birders.

Photo (c) Nic Hallam

Happily it proved to be a most obliging bird. It remained for five days, the predominately cold wet weather effectively preventing it from leaving. It was quite faithful to the south western corner of F.1. were some excellent photographs were taken by local lensman George Reszeter. It was also seen perched on the wave wall and the wire fencing of the reservoir perimeter. It gradually became more elusive as the weather improved and was last seen out in the middle of F.2. on the evening of 12th May.

This was the first record for Farmoor and Oxon and at the time was still a "BB Rarity". It has since come off the list but despite several influx years still remains the sole record.

Reproduced by kind permission of Nic Hallam.

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Surf Scoter Farmoor 27th March 1998

“Every Friday afternoon since the early nineties, I have been making a routine walk around F1. On 27th. March 1998 I was walking towards the car park when a bird flew overhead. Gathering my scattered thoughts together, and with my eyes finally connecting to my brain, I realised that I had just seen a drake Surf Scoter! This was a species I believe had only been sighted inland in the UK on just a few occasions.
With mounting panic I hurried back to F1 hoping that the bird had landed and not just flown over, stopping now and then to scope for this rarity. I had retraced my footsteps back to half way along the causeway without a sighting at this point. Dejected and miserable that I had not found the bird, I sadly walked again in the direction of the car park. Pausing to look at some Goldeneye, and admiring a splendid male I was amazed to see the Surf Scoter amongst them!
A second panic attack, what if it flies off without anyone else seeing it, would I be believed? My journey to the car park seemed to take for ever. Looking around desperately for a warden to access his phone. (this was in my pre- mobile days.) and without finding one, I hurried home to use my land line to spread the news.
The first people I contacted were Peter Allen and Steve Heath. Steve phoned Ian Lewington who quickly spread the word. My last sighting of the celebrity was on the evening of fourth April when he allowed me to get within ten metres of him as though as a farewell gesture. Oh if only I had had a digital camera in those days!”

© Dai John, Oxford, 8/12/08.

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Baikal Teal

Baikal Teal: 22nd – 24th December 2002

I visited Dix Pit near Stanton Harcourt at lunchtime on 22nd December 2002 to count the wildfowl having noted a significant influx of dabblers in recent days. There were again large numbers of duck present and whilst working my way through the flock I noticed a bird with a prominent white vertical stripe between the breast and flanks. My initial thoughts were of Green-winged Teal, but at distance the head pattern didn’t look right for this species and the undertail coverts were wholly black and separated from the rear flanks by another prominent white vertical stripe.I then recalled a recent article on the Minsmere Baikal Teal which I thought also showed a white foreflank stripe so made a couple of phone calls, eventually finding Steve Heath at home to whom I could describe the bird whilst he checked a field guide.

As I ran through the features it became clear that these fitted Baikal Teal, and whilst clearly a drake, at this stage I thought the subdued nature of the head pattern was indicative of a first winter bird moulting into adult plumage. After research the plumage best fitted an adult male moulting out of eclipse - eastern ducks typically emerge from eclipse a month or two later than western birds.During the course of the afternoon the bird attracted a small crowd of interested locals and drifted a little closer to allow better viewing on this day and also on 24th December. Despite searching on 26th, 27th and 28th I did not see the bird again. It is likely to have departed as it arrived with the influx of Teal and Wigeon.The bird kept in close company with the mixed flock of Teal and Wigeon, was wary and kept away from the banks. When preening it gave the occasional wing flap and was seen to be fully winged and unringed. The record was accepted by BBRC in 2010 and is the third British record, following on from the first, shot in Essex in 1906, and the Minsmere bird in 2001.

Stuart Thomson

Monday, 5 January 2009

Buff-Bellied Pipit

Buff-bellied pipit (c) Mike Flemming

More photos on Farmoor Birding July-December 2007

All Records of Buff-bellied Pipit in Oxon
  • 2007 8th-10th October, Farmoor Reservoir. Bird was also reported on 12th at Port Meadow briefly (Birding World 20 (10): 407, photo), (British Birds 100: plate 325), (British Birds 101: 555, plate 281)

Sunday, 4 January 2009

Bonaparte's Gull

May 2000 Bonaparte's Gull (c) George Reszetter

April 2009 (c) Nic Hallam

All Sightings of Bonaparte's Gull in Oxon

  • 2009 Farmoor Reservoir, 11th-18th April.
  • 2007 Farmoor Reservoir, 1st-summer, 1st to 9th May. (British Birds 100: plate 158); (Birding World 20 (5): 186 );
  • 2006 Farmoor Reservoir, first-winter, 17th–20th April, (British Birds 100: 717)
  • 2000 Farmoor Reservoir, first-summer, 17th to 18th May (Birding World 13 (5): 175) ; (British Birds 93: plate 190), (British Birds 94: 477, plate 264 )

Saturday, 3 January 2009

Franklin's Gull

A montage of the 2007 bird, found in the roost. Fortunately it turned up again the next night, allowing many birders to see it

The 2002 Franklin's Gull, in active moult as seen by comparing the two photos

All Sightings of Franklin's Gull in Oxon

  • 2007 Farmoor Reservoir, adult, 10th to 11th November. Nic Hallam (British Birds 101: 546)

  • 2002 Farmoor Reservoir, adult, 17th to 28th August. Nic Hallam (Birding World 15 (8): 313), (British Birds 96: 574)

Friday, 2 January 2009

Lesser Yellowlegs

The Port Meadow Lesser Yellowlegs, October 2010 (c) Nigel Forrow

All Records of Lesser Yellowlegs in Oxon
  • 2010 Port Meadow, juvenile 14th Oct to 8th Nov. Adam Hartley
  • 1999 Otmoor, 25th May. Jason Gosler
  • 1998 Otmoor, adult, 29th Aug to 5th Sep. (British Birds 92: 577)
  • 1983 Banbury Sewage-farm, 1st winter, 2nd to 18th Dec. (British Birds 78: 551, plate 258)
  • 1970 Stanton Harcourt Gravel-pits, 1st to 17th Oct. (British Birds 64: 351)

Finder's Description Oct 2010: Port Meadow (Adam Hartley)
"I'd been down to visit a client in Surrey that morning and had intended to some birding down there. However the meeting had dragged on too long so in the end I came straight back feeling rather frustrated so to clear my head I went down to Port Meadow to check out the patch. It was very overcast and gloomy though with little wind down by the floods. I had just started my scan when I came across a couple of waders: one was the ruff which had been there for a few days now but the other bird I couldn't immediately recognise. It superficially looked like a wood sandpiper with a brown speckled back but the jizz and proportions were all wrong. After I while I was able to make out the bright yellow-orange legs and I realised that it was a lesser yellowlegs that I had in front of me. I gave Nic Hallam and Jason Coppock a call and they came down to confirm the ID but it was getting too dark by this time for anyone else to connect that evening. There were a few anxious county birders that night, hoping that it would stay and quite a few people were there at dawn to look for it. Fortunately the bird seemed to like the floods and stayed for almost a month in the end and lots of visitors from far and wide were able to come and admire this cracking bird."

Adam Hartley

Some video taken on the last day that it was seen.

Thursday, 1 January 2009

Past County Rarities

Write-ups of Past County Rarities: click on the link below for details. More to follow soon!

Port Meadow Lesser Yellowlegs (c) Steve Burch. See the write-up for more info.