Hobby by Andy Last
In what would normally be the start of the summer birding doldrums June delivered what was quite possibly the biggest county bird news of the century... The female Bearded Tit seen on Otmoor at the start of the month was considered by most as unseasonal however on the 10th the thinking rapidly changed with the discovery of two juvenile birds.Young birds moult in to their adult plumage through July with a post breeding dispersal taking place within the following autumn and winter. There have been disputed historical records of breeding pairs along the Thames prior to 1838, however if it could be proven, this would constitute the first breeding record within Oxfordshire.
one of two juvenile Bearded Tits on Otmoor (c) T.S
A Hoopoe was reported near Marston in flight over the A40 on the 2nd with a possible sighting earlier in the day at Stanton St John.
Five Black Terns graced Farmoor Reservoir on the 7th in what has so far been a poor year for these enigmatic birds. A singing Tree Pipit near Pishill on the 10th was a surprise discovery of what is now sadly, a difficult bird to catch up with in the county.
Eclipse Garganey Otmoor (c) Pete Barker
A Dipper was reported near the Cascade within the Blenheim Palace gardens towards the end of June
and it's easy to speculate that this is possibly the bird displaced from Crawley Wier/Witney over the winter. The female Marsh Harrier was seen throughout the month on Otmoor with a second bird in the south of the county seen intermittently until the 29th at least.
Quail numbers gradually increased through June with up to 9 birds heard in various locations on the Downs and at least two calling males 'wet lippin' at Otmoor RSPB. Turtle Doves continued to enthral visitors to the moor with numbers peeking at four.
A returning female Redstart found at Farmoor on the 29th reminds us that at least for some within the avian world, autumn is just around the corner.
Back in Time – Chumming for Black Grouse
by Paul Chandler
On the 6th March 1993 our team took a late winter trip to Scotland on a twitch for a Ross’s Gull near Inverness but unfortunately after the long journey north it turned out not to be there (though fortunately I had seen one in 88 in Devon). We hired a car from a local dealer where my daughter then worked, a Ford Granada automatic, a bit of a novelty back then so we all had a drive of it during our trip. Geoff and Roger Wyatt, Martin Hallam, Justin Taylor and myself all went north and decided to make a week end of it so after dipping the gull we continued up to Grantown on Spey to clean up on some Scottish specialities.
We arrived at Grantown and booked in to a B&B and then went to one of the local hotels to get some food and a few beers, as luck would have it there was a two piece band performing in the hotel that night complete with a drum machine, guitar etc, doing covers of pop songs from the 60’s and 70’s which fortunately or unfortunately (depending on your view) we all knew the words to, so as the beer flowed so did our vocal prowess led by our choirmaster Geoff. We even complimented vocally the drum machine intros and sang along with just about every track they played and at one point the guitarist broke a string but we managed to fill in on the song until the guitar was restrung. Come the end of the night we even got applause from band themselves and some of the audience - needless to say we were well oiled!
This was one of several trips to Scotland we made for various rarities and we must admit that apart from the birds (‘cos they are in our notebooks) the memories of the rest of the trips tend to be rather vague and especially as influenced by alcohol. On one trip we camped in Grantown cemetery for a night as we could not get a B&B, luckily it was not Halloween that night.
Anyway, the following morning we are out early, all with various degrees of a hangover and Roger being particularly worse for wear. One of our target species was Black Grouse as Justin had not seen them before so we started a tour of potential sites. Every now and again we would have to stop for one of the passengers to get out of the car and regurgitate some of the previous nights intake. Now at one point Roger said “stop the car”, he opened the passenger door and immediately regurgitate and at that point two male Black Grouse flew from right to left over the car that proves the point that “chumming” and for Black Grouse inland can work. Some irony here also as in the back seat Martin was sat on one side of the car and saw them, me sat on the other side saw them but Justin sat in the middle missed them and he was the one who needed to see them! However we did see some more on the trip so Justin did get his Black Grouse.
Overall we had a pretty good week end with Crested Tit, Scottish Crossbill, Golden Eagle, Ptarmigan, Red Grouse, Black Grouse, Snow Bunting, Iceland Gull, Goshawk, Hen Harrier, Capercaillie, thousands of Pink-footed Geese, a Snow Goose, many Common Eider and a several Red Squirrel.
Thanks to Geoff Wyatt for his input on this one.