|Juvenile Great northern Diver Farmoor courtesy of Richard Tyler|
December is not normally one in which to expect a great deal bird-wise so its nice to be able to report a few interesting snippets this month. This month has been mostly all about Great Northern Divers with up to four of these cracking birds gracing our county. The first (a juvenile) arrived at Farmoor on the 2nd, being joined by a second juvenile on the 9th and then amazingly a third, adult bird, turned up on the 27th and all three lingered until the end of the month. Yet another juvenile was found on a Stanton Harcourt fishing lake from the 5th until at least the 12th where it was seen feeding predominantly on American Crayfish.
Continuing what has been a good autumn/winter so far for Great Grey Shrikes, a one day bird was seen on the 16th at Appleton near Cumnor though sadly it didn't linger.
|Great grey Shrike Appleton courtesy of Debbie White|
|Our star Phalaropes|
On the 21st a real county Mega, a Little Auk, was found in a puddle on Rope Way, Chipping Norton. It appeared to have a broken wing and was taken into care though sadly it died. Had this bird been found in a healthy state on one of the county's waterways this would have initiated a mad stampede as many in the lower half of the county listing table still need this delightful species for their county lists.
|The Little Auk|
The two Marsh Harriers remained on the RSPB reserve all month.
|Marsh Harrier on Otmoor courtesy of Rad Ramsey|
A probable Hen Harrier was seen near Eynsham on the 31st - sadly this species has become very scarce over recent winters.
A Short-eared Owl was reported from Thame sporadically over December with a pair hunting over Otmoor on the 11th; singles were also seen near Eynsham over the month and at Farmoor on the 4th. Merlin were reported from Didcot on the 6th, at Otmoor on the 14th, at Buscot on the 17th, within the Blenheim Park estate on the 23rd and a female was at Farmoor also on the 23rd.
|Short-eared Owl near Eynsham courtesy of Moth Clark|
With the warm weather continuing through December there has been a distinct lack of much gull action so the discovery of a very fine 2nd winter Caspian Gull on Port Meadow on the 28th was very welcome.
|Caspian Gull 2nd winter courtesy of Gnome|
A Brent Goose was a superb find at Grimsbury reservoir on the 3rd but unfortunately it was only a one day bird.
|Brent Goose Grimsbury Reservoir courtesy of John Friendship-Taylor|
Talking of geese, at least fifty Barnacle Geese stayed on Port Meadow for a day on the 15th - presumably part of the Home Counties category C population.
|Cat C Barnacle Geese Port Meadow courtesy of Gnome|
|Whooper Swan family near Cholsey courtesy of Lew|
Three Shelduck were on Port Meadow on the 27th with the number rising to five by the end of the month. There were also two of this handsome duck on Farmoor Res on the 31st. A pair of Common Scoter (the first of the year in the county) turned up at Farmoor reservoir for the day on the 13th.
|Common Scoter Farmoor Reservoir courtesy of Simon Dowell|
A redhead Smew arrived at the Henley Road gravel pits on the 4th with the female Red-breasted Merganser present again at the same site on the 15th. Talking of Sawbills, five Goosander on the Cherwell near Marston on the 10th. Ten of this species roosted on Port Meadow on the 10th with the number rising to 17 on the 21st and the 31st. In addition five Goosander were on Grimsbury Reservoir on the 18th.
|Goosander on the Cherwell courtesy of Neil Long|
A 1st winter male Goldeneye was a surprise discovery at Port Meadow on the 29th. Forty Red-crested Pochard at Standlake on the 29th remains the highest total this winter period. A drake Mandarin was at Farmoor on the 7th with the now regular bird remaining at the Ewelme cress beds over the month.
|Mandarin Ewelme Cress Beds courtesy of the Gun-slinger|
Nine Ruff arrived on Port Meadow on the 27th and stayed until the end of the year. Two Jack Snipe bobbed amongst their more common counterparts at the Bicester Wetlands Reserve on the 16th. Woodcock were seen regularly on Otmoor at dusk flying out from Morleys with an individual also seen at Iffley on the 8th. Five Redshank (the highest count within the county this month) were at Port Meadow on the 14th. Also on the 14th was an unseasonal fly-through Curlew at Farmoor. A single Dunlin was at Banburys Grimsbury reservoir on the 14th
Brambling were seen at Lambourne on the 6th with at least one bird still amongst the Finch and Bunting flocks on Otmoor from the Wetlands Watch hide mid-month; at least one Brambling was near Kingston Bagpuize on the 26th. A large flock of up to fifty Redpoll was along the river Thame near Cuddesdon mid month. Wintering Stonechats were at Crog Hill on the 20th with at least two on Otmoor in December. Six Ring-necked Parakeets were zooming around Henley's skies on the 16th - unfortunately these colourful birds are seldom reported away from what is their county stronghold.
The Christmas Quiz
We were going to announce the winner of the Christmas Quiz today but as we've only had two entries so far we thought that we'd extend it for a few more days. It's a bit harder than last year but with the prestigious title of "King of the Quiz" up for grabs it would be rude not to give it a go!
The Annual End of Year Video
It's time once again for the annual Gnome Studios photo montage set to inappropriately heavy music. If this doesn't get you pumped up for your New Year's Day county bird listing then nothing will!
Finally it only remains for us to wish you a very Happy and Bird-filled New Year
Badger & Gnome