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'

Jan 18th Hen Harrier Gramp's Hill...2 Whooper Swans Stadhampton...Caspian Gull Port Meadow...12th Whooper Swan 2 nr Dorchester...10th Black Redstart Harwell...9th Slavonian Grebe Farmoor Res...1st Siberian Chiffchaff Abingdon Sewage Works...

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

September Highlights and News

Great Skua Otmoor RSPB courtesy of Chris and Ann

Headline Birds
After a lean first half of the year in the county we're making up for it in the second. September was a good month with quite a few proper scarcities to talk about.

The star bird of the month award has to go to a couple of Yellow-browed Warblers. Birders will no doubt be aware that this year is turning out to be another big influx year with large numbers hitting the east coast far earlier than usual. Fortunately we've had some trickle down through the county though sadly the two birds we've had didn't exactly make it easy for those county birders who were trying to see them. The first one turned up at Lark Hill near Wantage on the 22nd. It was twitchable though apparently only after putting in several hours of waiting after which it showed briefly for about thirty seconds. The second turned up in Wolvercote on the 25th when one lucky birder heard it calling as he was cycling by and managed to get good views of it though it wasn't subsequently seen again. Finally there was a report of a "possible" in a garden in Cowley on the 30th.  This bird has always been rather rare in the county with something like only half a dozen records prior to 2013 when in another big national influx three were seen that autumn. Given the prevailing easterlies at present I wouldn't be surprised if we get a few more sightings in this coming month as well.

A Great Skua was a most unusual find at Otmoor on the 15th and it hung around long enough for several county listers to rush down to the first screen and get it on their lists.

Great Skua Otmoor RSPB courtesy of Pete Roby

The juvenile Purple Heron has obviously found Otmoor RSPB to it's liking as it has now clocked up seven weeks at the site. It has reverted to the elusive behaviour that is typical of its species and is only seen occasionally in flight but it's nice that it's stuck around for such a long time and is a testament to the great habitat at Otmoor.

Purple Heron Otmoor RSPB courtesy of Tezzer

Purple Heron Otmoor RSPB courtesy of Badger (please view at 720p HD)

Another large long-staying scarcity is the adult Great White Egret at Standlake's Pit 60 which hung around for the whole of the month. A "probable" of this species was also reported at Blenheim on the 16th. Rounding off the "large bird section", four Spoonbills were briefly at Pit 60 mid afternoon on the 18th though were gone by the early evening.

Great White Egret Pit 60 courtesy of Steve Burch

Finally, we're down to the "good county birds" section where the Red-necked Grebe stayed at Farmoor until the 13th and the Black-necked Grebe was at the same location until the 16th.

Red-necked Grebe Farmoor reservoir courtesy of the Gun-slinger

The Marsh Harriers continued to beguile Otmoor visitors throughout September. A ringtail Harrier species was seen at Otmoor on the afternoon of the 14th although unfortunately it had gone before a confirmation of its identification could be made and so will remain a probable Hen Harrier.

It was a fantastic month for Ospreys in Oxfordshire with several sightings over the course of September although ascertaining actually how many birds were involved in the 'sprey-fest' is by no means conclusive as individuals can have the tendency to hang around sites for a few days. The first report was from Rushy Common on the 4th then from Farmoor on the 5th, the 8th, the 9th, and the 18th, at Otmoor on the 13th and at Abingdon Marina on the 15th with a probable at Blenheim on the 18th.

Osprey Otmoor RSPB courtesy of Eddie McLaughlin
The juvenile Peregrine took up residence on Otmoor at the start of the month and remained throughout with individuals recorded at Rushy Common on the 7th, Kingston Bagpuize on the 9th Blenheim on the 19th and at Pit 60 on the 23rd.

Hobby were still being seen regularly at the RSPB Otmoor reserve until about the third week with at least two birds at Millet's Farm near Frilford on the 8th. Singles were recorded at Grimsbury reservoir on the 7th with a bird seen chasing hirundines over Kingston Bagpuize on the 9th, at Lark Hill on the 11th and at Rushy Common on the 11th, at Littleworth on the 24th and Wantage on the 25th and two birds were also seen at Port Meadow on the 11th.

As our summer falcons prepare to leave us for another year the first of the winter falcon arrive in the shape of Merlins on Otmoor RSPB from the 24th.

Wildfowl & Herons
The second female Common Scoter of the autumn arrived at Farmoor on the 2nd and stayed until the 3rd.

Common Scoter Farmoor reservoir courtesy of Ewan
The only Garganey record so far this autumn came from the Rushy Common nature reserve with a bird present from the 4th until at least the 11th.
Garganey Rushy Common courtesy of Badger
Otmoor's group of Mandarin had vacated the reserve by mid month but a single eclipse male showing up at the Bicester Wetlands reserve from the 7th-10th constituted the first record of this species at the reserve.

Mandarin Duck Bicester Wetlands courtesy of Nick Truby
The first Pintail of the autumn arrived at Otmoor on the 11th with this number rising to five by the 21st. At least one Bittern remained at Otmoor throughout the month although sightings had become more sporadic. The wide ranging flock of free flying Snow Geese roamed the Oxfordshire airspace from the fourth calling in at Farmoor and surrounding fields and at Dix Pit near Stanton Harcourt at the start of September.

Gulls & Terns
A juvenile/1st winter Caspian Gull was seen at Didcot landfill on the 4th and bore a ring indicating a Polish/German origin, unfortunately gull numbers in general at the site continue to plummet with some speculation that birds are opting for the Theale gravel pit complex in Berkshire instead.

Caspian Gull Didcot Landfill courtesy of Lew

A Black Tern remained at Farmoor reservoir from the 1st with two birds present on the 9th-16th.

Black Tern Farmoor reservoir courtesy of Richard Tyler

Two Sandwich Terns were a superb find at Sonning Eye gravel pit on the 5th with a single at Farmoor reservoir also on the 5th. Three Sandwich Terns were present at Farmoor on the 16th. Finally an Arctic Tern was at Sonning Eye on the 5th

Sandwich Terns with Black-headed Gull Farmoor reservoir courtesy of Dai

An Avocet gave birders the run around during its brief stay at Farmoor reservoir on the morning of the 19th. A Grey Plover was seen over Otmoor RSPB on the 6th with perhaps a second bird over on the 9th. Four Golden Plover were seen on Otmoor on the 15th with thirty plus birds seen at Lark Hill on the 22nd. A fine pair of Knot stopped off at Farmoor reservoirs causeway on the 7th with a single bird present on the 12th

Knot Farmoor reservoir courtesy of Mark Chivers

A juvenile Little Stint also arrived along the Oxford reservoirs causeway on the 9th-12th

Little Stint Farmoor reservoir courtesy of Dai

A pair of Turnstones showed up at Farmoor on the 10th with an impressive eleven seen the next day. Two further birds were at the res on the 17th. Four Sanderling stopped off for bed and breakfast at Farmoor on the 13th.

Sanderling Farmoor reservoir courtesy of John Reynolds
Greenshank continued to show well at Standlake's Pit 60 throughout September with singles recorded at Farmoor reservoir on the 3rd and at Rushy Common from the 7th with two birds on Otmoor from the 3rd. Two Ruff flew over Farmoor reservoir on the 3rd. Snipe wasted no time on Otmoor in taking advantage of the much reduced water levels in front of the first screen with numbers peaking at 98 on the 20th. Two Snipe along the causeway at Farmoor on the thirteenth was an unusual location for this species.

Another good month for Redstarts within the county with birds seen regularly at Lollingdon Hill near Cholsey (including three on the 1st and 13th) whilst at Otmoor up to eleven birds could still be found flicking about Long Meadow on the 3rd. Single birds were also noted at Stonesfield Common on the 3rd, at Lark Hill on the 11th and 19th and at Port Meadow on the 11th.

Stonechats continued to filter back across the county border over the course of September with a single bird noted on Otmoor on the 4th rising to six birds by the 22nd. Meanwhile a pair was seen at Sarsgrove on the 21st. It was a good month for Whinchat in the county: a singleton was at Lollingdon Hill on the 1st, 6 were present at Otmoor on the 4th and 3 were at Lark Hill on the 9th with this number rising to nine birds on the 11th. The highest count was at least sixteen birds recorded at Otmoor on the 11th whilst singles were at Balscote Quarry on the 18th and at Preston Crowmarsh on the 25th

Whinchat Otmoor RSPB courtesy of Andy Last

Five Spotted Flycatchers were at Lollingdon Hill on the 1st with up to three birds seen at Denton on the 6th and at Grimsbury reservoir on the 7th. Nine Wheatear at Lollingdon Hill on the 1st remained one of the the highest counts this month, eclipsed only by an incredible eighteen at Lark Hill on the 11th whilst two birds were at Farmoor on the last day of the month.

A Tree Pipit was seen in the Upper Cherwell Valley on the 7th in what is becoming one of only two regular annual sites in the county, the other being within the Harwell Laboratory grounds which hosted a single bird on the 9th. Fly-over birds were also recorded at Port Meadow on the 8th, at Lark Hill on the 11th and at Kingston Bagpuize on the 23rd with an individual on the 6th tee at Witney Lakes Golf Club on the 17th!

Tree Pipit Upper Cherwell Valley courtesy of Gareth Blockley 
Two Rock Pipits were once again back along the causeway on the 30th with a single bird flying over Kingston Bagpuize on the 29th. A Willow Tit report from Chinnor on the 15th was encouraging for this dwindling Oxfordshire species.

Possibly the most intriguing report this month concerned the report of a Dipper near Kidlington on the 1st from someone familiar with the species. Unfortunately despite searching there were no further
sightings by month's end.

The Art of Birds

For September Oxonbirding's artist in residence Paul Tomlinson has turned his attention towards one of  our commonest but often overlooked passage waders...the diminutive Dunlin.


New screen opened at the Rushy Common Nature Reserve

This new screen will give key holders the opportunity to see the North West side of this fantastic reserve, not easily viewable from the current hide.

The new screen.
This superb and evolving reserve has played host to a great list or rarities over recent years including Temminck's Stint, American Wigeon and Great White Egret. Keys are available at the very reasonable price of £10 via the Website or by contacting the project office on 01865 815426, the key will also allow you to access both of the hides at the nearby Standlake Common's Pit 60 reserve what a bargain!

Rushy Common is part of the Lower Windrush Valley Project and is accessed off Cogges Lane between the B4449 and Cogges.

Oxford to become England's "Swift City"

The RSPB and its partners were granted £83,700 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for a new Oxford ‘Swift City’. The two-year project will maintain current swift nesting sites in the city and add 300 further sites onto new and existing buildings, in an effort to combat a decline in the swift population in recent years.

This iconic aerial migrant bird, which lands only to breed and can fly at least 560 miles a day gathering food during the breeding season, nests almost exclusively in urban areas. But the birds face an uncertain future. Numbers in the UK have fallen by 38% since 1994.

One possible cause of the swifts’ decline may be losses of nesting sites, as old buildings are renovated and new builds do not include spaces for them to nest. To address this, the project will research Oxford’s present swift populations and nest sites, and use this information to work closely with builders and planners to maintain them and also incorporate new sites into the city’s infrastructure.

Oxford has a long scientific and cultural association with swifts. The swift colony nesting at the Oxford University Natural History Museum has been intensively studied by the Edward Grey Institute of Ornithology since 1948; one of the longest continuous studies of a single bird species in the world.

The Oxford community will be vital to the success of the project. Volunteers will be needed to help monitor swift numbers. Wildflower plots will be planted in green spaces and gardens to increase public awareness of the need to rebuild food-webs across habitats, and a showpiece ‘Swift Tower’ is planned, that will combine new nest sites with a public arts project.

Charlotte Kinnear, local RSPB Conservation Officer, said: “Like much urban wildlife, swifts are under pressure in the UK. HLF funding of this exciting project gives us the opportunity to study swift nesting and feeding habits more closely and to involve the local community to monitor and protect them. We hope that as well as improving the outlook for swifts, lessons will be learnt which can be applied to species recovery plans for other urban wildlife.” 

Starting in January 2017, the RSPB will work alongside partners including Oxford University, The Oxford University Museum of Natural History, Oxford City Council, Thames Valley Environmental Records Centre, Environment Resources Management and the local Wildlife Trust to improve the breeding prospects of swifts in the city.

Chris Jarvis, Education Officer at The Oxford University Museum of Natural History, said: “We already provide an extensive educational programme for local schools and are very much looking forward to extending this work with the Swift City project. It will also enable us to introduce more children to our resident swifts during the summer!”

Mai Jarvis, Environmental Quality Team Manager, Oxford City Council said: “We are delighted that the Oxford Swift City has been chosen for support from the HLF. We believe that by involving the local community in the project we will help to connect the city’s residents more closely to their natural environment and increase their awareness of the importance of urban wildlife.”

All of the organisations involved in this project would like to thank HLF for their very generous support. Without it, this project would not be able to happen.

How to Blog via E-mail
by Gnome

Those readers who either have blogs of their own or who are authorised bloggers here on the Oxon Birding Blog, may not be aware that it is possible to set things up so that you can posts things on your blog via e-mail. It's particularly handy when out in the field and you want to put some news out on the Oxon Birding Blog and you don't want to have to fiddle around with the intricacies of the Blogger interface on the tiny screen on your smart phone. Here's how to set it up:

1. You have to be signed into your Google account first. You'll know that you are because when you go to your blog you'll see the "New Post  | Sign Out" options in the top right-hand corner of your log.You should also see the orange Blogger B in the top left-hand corner, looking something like this:

2. Click on "B" icon which takes you under the hood to show you a list of all the blogs that you have access to, something like this

3. For the blog you want to set up e-mail posting for, you need to click on the drop-down arrow on the right-hand side and select "Settings". If you own the blog you will get a lot more options than the two I'm showing here but Settings will always be the last option.

5. Once you've clicked on "Settings" what happens next depends on whether you own the blog or are just a contributor. If you own the blog then you will see the follow list down the left-hand side of the page. You want to select the "Email" option here

If you are just a contributor then you will immediately be taken to the "Author options" page anyway and can miss out this step.
6. This brings up a page with options about using e-mail. Quite what the page is called depends on whether you own the blog or not but the substance will be the same.
What you need to do is to fill in the "secretWords" bit with some words that no one is likely to guess. Say for example I choose "mysecretblog" as my secret words. I then click on the "Publish email immediately" option instead of the "Disabled" one.

Make sure that you remember to click on the "Save Settings" button after you've done all this otherwise you'll have wasted your time.

How to Use it
It's very straight-forward once you've set it all up. Simply send an e-mail to your special address, which in my example would be The subject of the e-mail becomes the post title, the e-mail content becomes the main body of the post and any attachments are assumed to be photos which are displayed at the end of the post.

The only thing that you need to be aware of is that if someone else gets hold of your secret words then they can post on the blog in your name simply by sending an e-mail out to the appropriate address so it's best to keep the details secure.


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