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22nd Aug Four Common Scoter Grimsbury Reservoir...Mediterranean Gull Farmoor Reservoir...13th August Osprey Stanton Harcourt and Otmoor...11th August Adult WHITE-WINGED BLACK TERN Farmoor Reservoir...Great White Egret Ewelme Cress Beds...

Sunday, 1 January 2017

December Highlights and 2016 video review

Bittern Otmoor RSPB courtesy of Nick Truby

























Highlights
Undoubtedly the highlight of December were the two tundra Bean Geese found within the goosey
flotsam & jetsam at Standlake on the very last day of the year. These nationally scarce geese were
last recorded nearly seven years ago at nearby Aston on the 21st of January 2010.

One of two Bean Geese Standlake courtesy of Badger

Other than our star geese, the final month of the year has been a rather low key affair which actually somewhat mirrors the whole county birding year. There have been a number of points of modest interest but nothing really outstanding or out of the ordinary.

In terms of national scarcities there were the usual Great White Egrets still about with one or two birds throughout the month, mostly around the Standlake gravel pit complex, though occasionally ranging as far as Rushy Common. Another bird was seen at the Baulking Pit on the 1st.

Great White Egret Standlake Common courtesy of Jim Hutchins
That other stalwart of winter scarce birds, the Great Grey Shrike, was recorded a few times in the county. There was one on the Ridgeway near Churn on the 3rd, one seen briefly at Barford St Michael airfield on the 8th and one was reported near Harwell (though this might allude to the wintering bird across the border at Cow Down).

In terms of good county birds there was a Siberian Chiffchaff at South Stoke sewage treatment works on the 26th. This sub-species is now becoming pretty much an annual over-winterer around the county sewage works.

Siberian Chiffchaff South Stoke sewage treatment works courtesy of The Gun-slinger
As you'd expect for the time of year there was quite a bit of county goose action. A possible Brent Goose was seen over Otmoor on the 8th. 125 Barnacle Geese flew in to Port Meadow at last light on the 19th though they flew off pretty soon the next day. These are no doubt the feral Home Counties birds which occasionally pay us a visit during the winter months.

The Barnacle Geese on Port Meadow courtesy of Gnome


The free flying feral Snow Goose flock was again back within Oxon airspace above Farmoor reservoir on the 7th with the flock totalling twenty three though this number rose to an incredible seventy six on the 12th.

Snow Geese Farmoor reservoir courtesy of John Workman

Some of the 76 Snow Goose flock Farmoor reservoir courtesy of Dai
Finally there is a single Waxwing to report with one flying over Farmoor reservoir car park on the 4th


Raptors

A male Hen Harrier was seen near Letcombe Bassett on the 20th with the two ringtail Hen Harriers still at the Otmoor RSPB reserve at the start of the month. At least a single bird was still present at the end of the year, as were the usual three Marsh Harriers. Wintering Merlin were again noted at The Devil's Punchbowl on the 4th and sporadically on Otmoor through December. Singles were also found at Stanford-in-the-Vale on the 1st, Green Down near Letcombe Bassett on the 20th and on the outskirts of Kingston Bagpuize on the 28th. Peregrines remained at Otmoor this month with two birds seen at the Chinnor cement works on the 7th. Another pair were at Standlake on the 18th and singles were encountered on the Downs at Scary Hill on the 19th and at Barford St Michael on the 20th. Two Short-eared Owls were a great discovery at Baulking pit on the 18th and is a new site for the species within the county. A single Shortie was also seen at Wantage on the 22nd.


Wildfowl & Herons

A stunning drake "nun" Smew was a welcome discovery on the 18th on pit number 38 at Standlake and was still present on an adjacent pit until the end of the month. 

Smew Standlake courtesy of Badger
Goosander reports seem somewhat down on last winter (or are perhaps they have been under-reported) with the only records consisting of seven birds at Standlake from on the 4th, fifteen at Port Meadow on the 16th and four birds at Grimsbury reservoir on the 29th. An impressive two hundred and seven Red-crested Pochard were counted at Standlakes pit 28 on the 4th.

After an absence for some months in the county Shelduck were seen on Port Meadow on the 14th and on Otmoor on the 15th-16th. Six Egyptian Geese spent a morning on Ashgrave and were the first record of this south Oxon speciality on Otmoor since 2013.  The family party of four White-fronted Geese stayed faithful to the RSPB Otmoor reserve throughout the month.

White-fronts Otmoor RSPB courtesy of Paul Greenaway

At least three Bittern seem to be wintering at Otmoor and its easy to become blasé about seeing these rare and enigmatic birds within the county.

Bittern Otmoor RSPB courtesy of Tezzer


Waders

Two Dunlin were present at Cassington gravel pits on the 11th and at Port Meadow on the 14th-21st. Redshank were noted at Port Meadow from the 6th with two present from the 8th until the end of the month. Green Sandpipers were wintering at the old Chinnor cement works at the start of December with three birds at Cassington gravel pits on the 11th and single birds were still being regularly seen at Rushy Common, Bicester Wetlands and Ewelme cress-beds. Three Woodcock were seen at the north Oxfordshire Foxholes reserve on the 4th with a single bird at the Pill grounds on Otmoor on the 5th and two near Moorleys on the 14th



Gulls
Caspian Gull were well represented this month: there were two 1st and a 2nd winter bird seen at Didcot Landfill on the 4th; an adult was at Port Meadow on the 3rd with a 2nd winter present on the 9th & 19th and a 3rd winter present at the same site on the 16th. In addition a 2nd winter Cass found at Grimsbury reservoir on the 23rd was an excellent first for the Banbury reservoir.


Caspian Gull 1stw Didcot Landfill courtesy of Lew

The Art of Birds

This month Paul has spent some time on Otmoor amongst the beautiful but often overlooked Fieldfare.






The Annual Oxon Birding Review

Turn up your speakers & enjoy!




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