The birding year drew to a quietish close in Oxfordshire for 2018, mirroring a recent national picture in which truly notable species were at a premium. Most of what was being recorded further afield could be described as good mid-winter birds for the counties concerned, but here we rather missed out on much of it.
Our birds of the month for December must be the pair of Bewick's Swan that visited LWV Pit 60 at Standlake on the afternoon of 16th. But as at around the same time a year ago they had gone on their way by morning. This brought the Oxon year list to 205 species, a relatively modest total that possibly reflects above averagely dry conditions through much of 2018, as well as continued loss of sites and bird-attracting habitat.
|Bewick's Swans - photo courtesy of Jim Hutchins - video courtesy of Badger|
If 12 months ago we had the Hawfinch winter, this present season might be termed the Crossbill winter. The difference is all December sightings of the latter came from just one location, that being Buckland Warren near Faringdon. There the captivating quality and general chutzpah of this uncommon passerine ensured they remained a popular draw to year's end.
|Common Crossbill - photo courtesy of Steve Burch - video courtesy of Badger|
Our wintering pod of Great White Egret continued to stand out in ones and twos, at locations mostly to the west of Oxford. But white-winged Gulls were as conspicuous by their absence in the county. A male Hen Harrier first sighted at Otmoor on 20th and more times from 28th was possibly the month's raptor highlight. It has yet to be determined whether the last-named might be the returning bird that matured there in recent times, but hopefully it will stick around into the new year.
|Golden Plover flock over Noke Sides, Otmoor, courtesy of Peter Barker|
Things were otherwise largely a matter of spectacle over scarcity. Regular rainfall through much of the month re-created the conditions for concentrations of Golden Plover, Lapwing and dabbling Ducks county-wide. Good sized parties of Goosander and Red-crested Pochard at Standlake GPs were also a pleasure to behold as in any deep mid-winter. But despite a fair smattering of Smew across southern England, and not too distant Great Northern Diver, neither of those notables paid Oxfordshire their respects this December.
|Hawfinch, courtesy of Alan Dawson|
Seasonal Finches were out there for the finding, with Brambling and Siskin reported regularly and Redpoll too though less often. The first Hawfinch pictures of the winter emerged from Nettlebed in the Chilterns where a very welcome five individuals were logged on 27th.
|Siberian Chiffchaff (Ssp tristis), courtesy of Roger Wyatt|
Also over the Christmas period another wintering passerine Siberian Chiffchaff was photographed in it's regular haunt, Abingdon Sewage Works where a tiny number are present each year. But Waxwing have seemingly yet to notice where our county is in 2018/19.
The remainder was largely a continuation of what was recorded in November. Fortunately end of year lulls in previous seasons have sometimes been followed by a lively opening to the new year, so here's hoping. It remains for me to wish all contributors and visitors to Oxon Birding a prosperous, busy and bird-filled 2019. Happy New Year everyone.
|And so say all of us!|
The Traditional Gnome Review of the County Year
Turn Up Your Volume!
New Site Write-ups
We're very lucky to have received a comprehensive write-up of the Chinnor Quarry site from Nick Marriner and David Stracey which we've posted to the blog in the County Site Guide section.
Do take the time to check out this great little site with bags of potential.
If you'd like to do a write-up of your favourite site which isn't presently covered then please
do let us know.
|Part of the new Chinnor Quarry site guide|