Sightings and Photos

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To Submit Photos or Video to this blog please email jasoncppk 'at' or adamchartley 'at'

Feb 3rd Black Redstart & Ring-necked Parakeets, Oxford City...Talks: OOS: Bumblebees 13th February

Friday, 22 February 2019

standlake: 21st February

Common garden birds I know but I thought it was nice to see that spring is coming!

Thursday, 21 February 2019

Blenheim: Blenheim Lake: 21st February

Blenheim: Blenheim Lake
Great White Egret
Pintail: drk.
Tawny Owl: Called once at 0940.
Cetti's Warbler: As reported on 17th and 20th.

Derek Evans

Balscote: Balscote Quarry: 21st February

Balscote: Balscote Quarry
Curlew: First of the year flew in at 17.30. Steve H and Mike Pollard .

Steve Holliday

Oxford 21st

Barracks lane:
Oystercatcher, flyover heard on my cycle home. 6:00 pm.

Sent from my iPhone

Otmoor: 21st February

8 Curlews today  - (6 Big Otmoor, 2 Barn Field)

Rushey Common lake, 21st February

Great White Egret
Oystercatcher  2
Song Thrush-- in song!
Brimstone butterfly


Port Meadow: 21st February

Port Meadow
Goosander: fem. On bank with mallards next to Godstow lock.

Thomas Miller

: 21st February

Peregrine: SU4388. 13:00.

Leo Bateman

Port Meadow WeBS Count 21st February

Black-headed Gull     700    
Cormorant     1    
Golden Plover     1    
Grey Heron     1    
Greylag Goose     98    
Lapwing     27    
Lesser Black-backed Gull     9    
Little Egret     1    
Mallard     12    
Moorhen     5    
Oystercatcher     1    
Redshank     8    
Shelduck     5    
Teal     150    
Wigeon     620    

Total number of species: 15    
Individuals: 1639


A329 near Moulsford: 21st February

A329 near Moulsford
Brambling: Fem briefly on seed feeder, ousted by a Robin! SU5985. 08:50.

Mike Amphlett

Wednesday, 20 February 2019

Port Meadow: 20th February

Port Meadow
Caspian Gull: 2w.

7 Shelduck

Thomas Miller & Adam Hartley

Standlake Pit 60: 20th February

Standlake Pit 60
7000 Starling: Murmuration of at least 7k pre roosting. Aural backdrop included Cetti's Warbler (FOY) and Dabchick singing and Water Rail squealing.

Mick Cunningham

: 20th February

Shenington Airfield
Stonechat: fem. Along hedge line and fence posts at end of old runway. SP366433. 09:05.

Steve Holliday

Standlake Pit 60: 20th February

Standlake Pit 60
Curlew: Just flown in to pit 60. Spring has sprung?

Mick Cunningham

Wychwood: 20th February

2 Common Crossbill: Flying over pines calling. Probably more but only 2 for definite.

Mick Cunningham

Blenheim Park 20th February

Great white Egret 
Little Egret 4
Pintail 2
Water Rail 
Cetti's Warbler

Tuesday, 19 February 2019

Towersey 19th February

2 Stonechat: Pair on roadside hedgrow south of old railway bridge. SP732046.

David Stracey

Port Meadow: 19th February

Port Meadow
9 Shelduck
6 Golden Plover
2 Redshank

Derek Evans

Oystercatcher courtesy of Adam Hartley.

Pit 60, 19th February

Great White Egret
Goosander 2f

Clackers, Mrs Clackers, A State

Henley Rd GPs 19th February

Smew r/H still at Henley Rd GPs on east side 
Blackcap Cholsey courtesy of Paul Chandler.

Balscote: Balscote Quarry: 19th February

19th February

Balscote: Balscote Quarry
26 Lapwing: In fields and on wetland. 09:15.

Peregrine: One circling and drifting north. SP374395. 11:30.

Steve Holliday

: 19th February

Brookes Harcourt Hill
Short-eared Owl: Seen flying directly south west quite high up, about 150 - 200 metres? Heading towards location SEO has been seen regularly over last month. Looking on a map could possibly be feeding between A34 and Binsey?? SP484049. 08:30.

Ian Marriott

Monday, 18 February 2019

Port Meadow: 18th February

Port Meadow
10 Shelduck
4 Redshank
2 Yellow-legged Gull: 1w 2w.
2 Oystercatcher

Adam Hartley, Thomas Miller, Ton Yeh

Henley Road GPs: 18th February

Henley Road GPs
Goosander: f. 14:45.

John Kearns

Pit 60 Standlake 18th February

Great white Egret (per RBA) 

Bicester Wetland Reserve 18th February

2 Green Sandpiper -first of the year at reserve
1 Cetti's Warbler

Alan Peters and Bill Foley

Blenheim: Blenheim Lake: 18th February

18th February

Blenheim: Blenheim Lake
Great White Egret: Viewed from the Grand Bridge. 08:25.
Little Egret 3
2 Pintail: drk.

(per Derek Evans, Dave Doherty)

Sunday, 17 February 2019

Farmoor Reservoir: Pinkhill: 17th February

Farmoor Reservoir: Pinkhill
Kingfisher: Seen from Shrike Meadow Hide. SP435063. 11:30.

Jez March

Courtesy of Jez March.

Letcombe Regis 17th February

Lesser Spotted Woodpecker @ 1440 - some weak drumming, then seen flying from high up in alder. SU389869. Area around reservoir is private, however parts can be viewed from Wantage to Letcombe Regis footpath.

Tawny Owl

Henley Road GPs: 17th February

Henley Road GPs
Goosander: fem. Near smew. 13:55.
Smew: Same area as two weeks ago seen with Bert.Alan. 13:55.

Ralph Watts

East Hendred: East Hendred Downs: 17th February

17th February

East Hendred: East Hendred Downs
6 Brambling: At least 6 in with a large Chaffinch flock, in the Beech trees next to the car park. SU455851. 12:30.

Churn: Railway bridge
Stonechat: SU509832. 13:30.

Michael Violette

17th February, Port Meadow

2 Oystercatchers
3 Shelduck

per Mary MacDougall

Sonning Eye GPs: 17th February

Sonning Eye GPs
2 Oystercatcher: On the rowing course bund. 13:35.

Marek Walford

Henley Road GPs: 17th February

Henley Road GPs
Smew: rh. 12:25.

Marek Walford

Blenheim: Blenheim Lake: 17th February

Blenheim: Blenheim Lake
Cetti's Warbler: Calling loudly and clearly visible close to 7 Arches bridge.
Great White Egret
Little Egret
27 Grey Heron: At least six active nests on the island.
84 Gadwall
3 Shoveler
Pintail: male.
40 Teal
190 Mallard
4 Little Grebe

Bob Pomfret

Dix Pit 17th Feb

c20 Goldeneye

Sent from my iPhone

Pinsley Wood 17th Feb


Marsh tit
GS Woodpecker
Green woodpecker

Sent from my iPhone

Saturday, 16 February 2019

: 16th February

Raven: found by Luke Marriner. SP703070.

Stonechat: on sheep pens. found by Luke mariner. SP703070.

3 Meadow Pipit: on Flood edges. found by Luke marriner. SP703070.

Snipe: flushed from river bank. Found by Luke Marriner. SP703070.

Nick Marriner

Warburg Reserve: 16th February

16th February

Toad Hall Garden Centre
2 Siskin: SU763845. 12:00.

Warburg Reserve
15 Lesser Redpoll: SU719879. 14:00.

Toad Hall Garden Centre
2 Siskin: SU763845. 12:00.

Michael Violette

Port Meadow: 16th February

Port Meadow
2 Caspian Gull: 1w and 2w. Same birds as seen on 9th February.

Thomas Miller

2w Caspian courtesy of Thomas Miller

Rushey Common 16th Feb

1 Shelduck
2 Oystercatcher
2 Goldeneye

Tar Lakes:
1 Green Sandpiper

Sent from my iPhone

East Hendred: East Hendred Downs: 16th February

East Hendred: East Hendred Downs
2 Short-eared Owl: 2 flushed, but 4-5 hunting actively there a week ago according to a birdwatcher I met.
Raven: over fields towards Leckhampton.
2 Brambling: At least 2 with chaffinches along copse by carpark.
4 Grey Partridge: 3 + 1 flushed on gallops.
3 Stonechat: 1m2f.

Anthony Cheke

Linch Hill (LWV Pit 18): 16th February

Linch Hill (LWV Pit 18)
Great White Egret: Feeding before leaving west 4 12pm.

Mick Cunningham

A329 near Moulsford: 16th February

A329 near Moulsford
Brambling: Fem, foraging beneath sfh feeder. SU5985. 13:55.

Mike Amphlett

: 16th February

Egyptian Goose: Usual field alongside River Thame. SP605004. 11:00.

Stephen Lockey

Yarnton Mead: 16th February

Yarnton Mead
Stonechat: male. 08:00.

Derek Evans

Henley Road GPs: 16th February

Henley Road GPs
Smew: rh. 11:15.

Marek Walford

Standlake Pit 60: 16th February

Standlake Pit 60
2 Oystercatcher: First of year?

Mick Cunningham

Friday, 15 February 2019

Botley Oxford 8th February

Unconfirmed report of Rose-coloured Starling 
Still in Botley on the 8th February (per RBA). 

Port Meadow: 15th February

Port Meadow
Caspian Gull: 1w. Same bird seen on 9th February.

Thomas Miller


Merlin : Lollingdon Hill
2 Stonechat : Lollingdon Hill
2 Raven : Lollingdon
Barn Owl : a dead individual found south west of Cholsey village

Warburg Reserve: 15th February

Warburg Reserve
Brambling: In Holly Tree - hanging around with chaffinch's. 11:05.

John Kearns

Port Meadow: 15th February

Oystercatcher: on the floods near Burgess Field NR gate
Pochard: reported by Dave Doherty this morning - a good record for the Meadow

2 Redshank

Adam Hartley

Ashbury: 14th February

14th February

Baulking Pit
Grey Partridge: SU323908.

15th February


Mark Merritt

Farmoor 15th February

Great White Egret  1
Stonechat  2

Marcham: 15th February

Siskin: m. Pleased to see my first Siskin for a long time and on my garden feeder. 10:01.

Dave Higginson

A329 near Moulsford: 14th February

A329 near Moulsford
Brambling: Fem back again, foarging with Chaff's H Sprogs. SU5985. 09:30.

Mike Amphlett

Thursday, 14 February 2019

Balscote: Balscote Quarry: 14th February

Balscote: Balscote Quarry
Stonechat: male. 15:00.

Mike Prentice

Shenington 14th February

Shenington Airfield
74 Golden Plover: In arable field alongside old runway. SP364433. 08:50.

Steve Holliday

Burnt Platt & Environs: 14th Feb.

8 Brambling
9 Siskin
5 Marsh Tit
2 Raven
Tawny Owl (daylight hooting)
Many Jays including a flock of 12.
Red Kite Oxford Canal Kidlington courtesy of Julie Dickson.

Wednesday, 13 February 2019

Kingston Stert: 13th February

Kingston Stert
Stonechat: Male by Kingston Stert Farm.

David Stracey

Otmoor: 13th February

Bittern: On the ground in Greenaways, walked across the field to the reedbeds. Stopped and looked around a few times. 17:00.

Tim Ault

Otmoor: 13th February

6 Pintail: 4 males, 2 fem. Five on the mere plus one on Big Otmoor. 12:00.
Raven: Car park area. 12:00.
Merlin: fem. Bird of the day. Arrived onto Big Otmoor. Rested on the ground for a few minutes then flew fast and low and no more than a foot of the ground heading straight for the resting Golden Plovers. All birds on Big Otmoor took flight in response. Spectacular! 12:00.

John Edwards

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Otmoor rspb 12th February

Drake Aythya hybrid (presumably the Farmoor bird) from the 2nd screen early afternoon.

Oxford 12th February

Courtesy of Ewan Urquhart
Courtesy of John Workman

Female Kingfisher courtesy of Ewan Urquhart

Port Meadow: 12th February

12th February

Port Meadow
400 Wigeon
100 Teal
Little Egret
4 Golden Plover: High over. 08:05.
30 Lapwing
2 Redshank: Along the river. 09:35.

Derek Evans

Standlake Common: am 12th February

Pit 38
Great White Egret

Pit 60
14 Pintail
2 Oystercatcher
9 Goldeneye

Standlake: 12th February

Nuthatch: On feeders in my garden. If I'm not mistaken, nuthatch is a rare bird in standlake? The only bonus of being stuck in working at study desk.

Mick Cunningham

Port Meadow, Saturday 9th February

A belated post here of 3 Caspian Gulls found in the Port Meadow roost on Saturday by Thomas Miller. More details and more photos on the Port Meadow blog.

All photos courtesy of Thomas Miller

Harwell Laboratory: 12th February

Harwell Laboratory
2 Brambling

Mark Merritt

Monday, 11 February 2019

Farmoor Res 11th February


Gadwall 8
Little Grebe 7

Snow Geese 96 feral flock

Barn Owl 1
Water Rail 2
Kingfisher 2
Common Snipe 10+

Standlake: 11th February

Blackcap: fem. At garden feeder.

Mick Cunningham

Chipping Norton: 11th February

Chipping Norton
Brambling: fem. Feeding again with Chaffinch and Greenfinch at 41,The Leys. 12:30.

Steve Akers
Long-tailed Tit Kingham courtesy of Ewan Urquhart.

Chipping Norton: 11th February

Chipping Norton
Brambling: male. SP298254. 10:30.
Raven: Came over low and cronking as I was observing the Brambling. Possibly more Brambling here with Chaffinch, but shy and elusive. SP298254. 10:30.

Steve Akers

Blenheim Park 11th February

Great white Egret 
Little Egret 2
Siskin 20+

Otter seen from the Grand Bridge. 

Harwell Laboratory: Rutherford Laboratory: 7th February

Harwell Laboratory: Rutherford Laboratory

Mark Merritt

: 9th February

9th February

Baulking Pit
2 Yellow-legged Gull: SU322908.

10th February

Baulking Pit
4 Yellow-legged Gull: SU322908.

Mark Merritt

Sunday, 10 February 2019

Chipping Norton: 10th February

Chipping Norton
Brambling: fem. Returned to feed in our back garden at 41,The Leys. 15:45.

Steve Akers

Rushey Common lake, 10th February

Red Crested Pochard  21m 14f may have been more hidden
Egyptian Goose  2
Great Black Backed Gull
Lapwings c45 over

Clackers & Mrs Clackers

Otmoor 10th February


Barn Owl, perched on fence post at back of car park field but resolutely stayed put and would not put on a flying display!

Oxford Christ Church 10th February

Black Redstart 1stw/f still on south side of the college at midafternoon (per RBA).

Chipping Norton: 10th February

Chipping Norton
Brambling: male. Again in this small stand of Beech alongside minor road W of CN. Elusive once disturbed. Lots of birds feeding here today. SP298254. 12:00.

Steve Akers

Standlake Common: 10th February

Great Egret, 1 Pit 38 & 1 Pit 60
Stonechat 2, Pit 38
Oystercatcher 2, Pit 38
Raven 1
Peregrine 1
Pintail 5, pit 60

Wootton nr Woodstock: Hordley Farm: 9th February

Wootton nr Woodstock: Hordley Farm
2 Woodcock

Bob Pomfret

A329 near Moulsford: 10th February

A329 near Moulsford
Brambling: Fem back again, for ca.10 mins. SU5985. 11:35.

Mike Amphlett

Saturday, 9 February 2019

Balscote: Balscote Quarry: 9th February

Balscote: Balscote Quarry
Little Egret: Seen by Dave Fuller. Also adult peregrine, 4 teal and 4 snipe. 15:30.

Steve Holliday

Chipping Norton: 9th February

Chipping Norton
Brambling: fem. Feedin on ground on black sunflower sees also got with Chaffinches in our back garden at 41, The Leys. 14:30.

Steve Akers

Otmoor rspb. 9th. February

2. Marsh Harrier.
Water Rail.
1,500 Golden Plover.
Cetti's Warbler.
6. Snipe.
7. Yellowhammer.
Water Rail.

Oxford: Christchurch Meadow: 9th February

Oxford: Christchurch Meadow
Black Redstart: 1w/female. Continuing to show extremely well on the southern wall of Christ Church.

Thomas Miller

Photo courtesy of Thomas Miller

A329 near Moulsford: 9th February

A329 near Moulsford
Brambling: Fem, in hedgerow and foraging amongst Chaffinches and H Sprogs. A short vist. SU5985. 12:00.

Mike Amphlett

Badbury Hill: 9th February

Brambling 3+, m&2f feeding with Chaffinches below beeches at top of hill

Henley Road GPs: 9th February

Henley Road GPs
Smew: r/h. Still present just east of island. 12:50.

Roger Stansfield

Friday, 8 February 2019

Port Meadow: The Perch: 8th February

8th February

Port Meadow: The Perch
Kingfisher: Feeding from trees overhanging river upstream from the Perch. Good views for 5 mins from Port Meadow bank looking across the river. 14:30.

Port Meadow
Redshank: Feeding along the river bank opposite the Perch. SU494078. 14:45.

Andrew Siantonas


4 Raven: Henley Fairmile area (2 days running)

Oxford: Aston's Eyot: 8th February

Oxford: Aston's Eyot
2 Peregrine: 2 within sight of each other, circled over and drifted off northwards - first record for the site. 14:30.

Anthony Cheke

Oxford - South Park

Belated news of a pair of peregrines hunting over South Park, 15:30, 7 February.

Bicester Wetland Reserve 8th Febuary

140 Teal
5 Wigeon
4 Shoveler
5 Gadwall
3 Little Grebe
2 Heron
230 Starling

3 Roe Deer

Alan peters
Key Holder Reserve

Wednesday, 6 February 2019

Port Meadow: 6th February

Port Meadow
Mediterranean Gull: 1w. The usual bird.
3 Yellow-legged Gull: ad, 3w & 1w.

Adam Hartley & Thomas Miller

Otmoor RSPB 6th February

Drake Shovelers

Peregrine 1
Marsh Harrier 1
Cetti's Warbler 2m
Golden Plover 1000+
Northern Shoveler 50+

Oxford: Christchurch Meadow: 6th February

Oxford: Christchurch Meadow
Black Redstart: f. still on the Christ Church buildings frontage 3.15pm, despite massive tourist disturbance.

Anthony Cheke

Henley Road GPs: 6th February

Henley Road GPs
Smew: rh. with ATB and RS. SU738752. 12:30.

Ray Reedman

Blenheim Park 6th February

Great white Egret 2
Little Egret 4
Egyptian Geese 2
Raven 2
Marsh Tit 6

Standlake Common: am 6th Feb

Pit 27
16 Goosander

Pit 28
6 Goosander
5 Red-crested Pochard

Pit 38
Great White Egret

Pit 60
2 Pintail
5 Goldeneye

Tuesday, 5 February 2019

Chipping Norton: 5th February

Chipping Norton
4 Snipe: All seen near Cornwell on extensive area of freshwater marshy land near small lake - most Snipe seen here - possibly wintering birds. SP280267. 10:30.

Steve Akers

Henley Rd GPs 5th February

Smew (rh) still present on first pit on the right 16:30 (per RBA). 

Port Meadow: 5th February

Port Meadow
Mediterranean Gull: 1w.

Thomas Miller, Adam Hartley

Grimsbury Reservoir: 5th February

Grimsbury Reservoir
Goosander: male. On reservoir along with 29 tufted ducks. 10:45.

Steve Holliday

Monday, 4 February 2019

Otmoor Unofficial WeBS 4th February

699 Canada Geese
27 Coot
16 Gadwall
140 Golden Plover
3 Grey Heron
69 Greylag Geese
475 Lapwing
1 Lesser black backed gull
59 Mallard
8 Moorhen
6 Mute Swan
10 Pintail
2 Pochard
83 Shoveler
244 Teal
27 Tufted Duck
2 Water Rail
294 Wigeon
2 Marsh Harrier
3 Red Kite
1 Sparrowhawk

Farmoor Fieldfare

Courtesy of John Workman

Sunday, 3 February 2019

Harcourt Hill 3rd February

Courtesy of Ian Marriott.

Between Harcourt Hill and the Hurst
Short-eared Owl: Seen in this location now on three separate occasions. Photos from today posted on Otmoor and Farmoor birding on facebook. SP490039. 17:00.

Ian Marriott

Courtesy of Ian Marriott.

East Hagbourne 3rd February

East Hagbourne
Little Egret: Standing in Hacca's brook (Tadley stream). SU527883. 10:30.

Christine Reardon

Oxford: pm 3rd February

Ring-necked Parakeet University Parks

Black Redstart Christchurch College

University Parks Oxford 3rd February


Rose ringed Parakeet 2 (pair)
Sparrowhawk 1f  in display flight
Greater Spotted Woodpecker 3

Foxholes Reserve: 3rd February

Foxholes Reserve
2 Raven 11:00.
8 Woodcock 11:00.

Tony Chatt

Wytham Wood: 3rd February

Wytham Wood
Woodcock 14:00.

Nick Suckling

Iffley: Iffley Meadows: 3rd February

Iffley: Iffley Meadows

Thomas Miller

Henley Road GPs: 3rd February

Henley Road GPs
Smew: S/W corner left of island . With Richard Sajdak and one other birder. 12:05.

Ralph Watts

Ardington 3rd February

8+ Brambling in wood approx 1/2 mile S of Ardington
Crossbill (over E)
Blackcap (m)
Fieldfare 200+

Little Egret and 11+ Little Grebe at Lockinge Lake

Kelmscott 3rd February

No sign of the Whooper Swans within the Mute Swan herd in fields off of Langley Lane nr Kelmscott at 11:20.

Shotover 3rd Feb


5 Siskin over
Great spotted woodpecker
c60 Redwing

Sent from my iPhone

Oxford Christ Church College 3rd February

Black Redstart 1stw/f still present on south side of Christ Church College 10:47 (per Dave Lowe) 

Henley Rd GPs 3rd February

Smew (redhead) still present at the Henley Rd GPs at 09:35 on first pit on the right in the S/W corner (per Hugh Netley)

Saturday, 2 February 2019

Christ Church Oxford 2nd February

Black Redstart @ Christ Church 1100-1130am

Pinsley Wood 2nd Feb

11:15 - 14:45

2 Marsh Tit
5+ Great Spotted Woodpecker
6+ Nuthatch
5+ Treecreeper
8 Common Buzzard
c60 Linnet
1 Raven

Standlake Common 2nd Feb

3 Goldeneye
5 Goosander
1 Pintail

1 Goosander

2 Goosander

Yarnton Mead: 2nd February

Yarnton Mead
160 Barnacle Goose: Feral birds.
2 Egyptian Goose: Pair.
2 Bar-headed Goose: pair.
2 Goosander: pair.
Stonechat: fem.

Derek Evans

: 2nd February

Didcot Landfill
2 Shoveler
3 Great black-backed Gull

50 Shoveler
Barn Owl

Michael Violette

Port Meadow: Wolvercote Allotments: 2nd February

Port Meadow: Wolvercote Allotments
Knot: Just outside the south side of the allotments. 14:30.

Colm O Caomhanaigh

Worton: 2nd February

4 Pintail: SP460112. 15:30.
7 Pochard: SP460112. 15:30.
4 Goldeneye: SP460112. 15:30.
Kestrel: f. SP460112. 15:30.

Malcolm Teal

Standlake Pit 60 2nd February

Great white Egret reported. 

Oxford University Parks 08:30 to 11:45 am - 2nd February

Ring-necked Parakeet using tree hole

2 Ring-necked Parakeet along path to Edgeway Road
2 Goosander
6 Bullfinch
Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming
No sight or sound of LSW

per PL, SH

Christ Church College Black Redstart in afternoon

Henley Road GPs: 2nd February

Henley Road GPs
Smew: rh. On the heronry lake, beyond the island. First of the winter here. 12:25.

Marek Walford

Christ Church College Oxford 2nd February

Black Redstart 1stw/f still present on South Side of Christ Church College 12:28 (per Paul & Vic Wren, Ewan Urquhart). 

Stock Dove Stonesfield courtesy of Paul Wren.

A329 near Moulsford: 2nd February

A329 near Moulsford
Brambling: fem. Fem, perched in hedgerow, then foraging spilt seed with Chaffinches and House Sparrows... where's the other 4,999,999!? :-). SU5985. 11:05.

Mike Amphlett
Fieldfare Bicester courtesy of  Nick Truby.

Thame: W: 2nd February

Thame: W
Lesser Redpoll: In garden with Goldfinches. 08:30.
2 Blackcap: Back in Ivy/Hawthorn scrub as in previous years in garden. 08:30.

Nick Marriner

Friday, 1 February 2019

: 1st February

4 Woodcock: SP622158. 12:00.

Colin Oram

: 30th January

Peregrine: male. SU4388. 12:30.

Leo Bateman

Kelmscot 31st January

2 Whooper Swan with herd of Mute Swans off minor road between Clanfield and Lechlade yesterday.

(per Barry Hudson)

Wings and Roundabout

The January Review

Hawfinch courtesy of Bill Lester
As the new year got under way the best scarcity action was concentrated into the early days of January, after which things settled into a more familiar pattern mid-month. This is not often a stand-out time for true notables anywhere and so it proved later in the review period despite cold weather setting in. Much of the interest then surrounded Gulls, but not entirely.

"Whole Lotta Rosy", courtesy of Alex White

My previous round-up alluded to a possible lively start to 2019, and so it seemed when last November's Rose-coloured Starling was re-found and photographed on 2nd in Botley, west Oxford. This was again at a private address where the following day four Oxon birders searching for the scarcity were very kindly invited in by the householder, and so were able to record it on our community's behalf. Understandably their impromptu host's generosity did not extend to then accommodating a full scale twitch. But our undoubted bird of the month must be out there still and hopefully may become viewable more publicly before winter's end.

Rose-coloured Starling - photo courtesy of Ewan Urquhart -
video courtesy of Badger

Two of December's absentees from the county soon followed in the first week of January, to build the new month's momentum. A Great Northern Diver that settled at Beale Park, just across the county border with Berkshire, did the decent thing by swimming at intervals through a cut onto the River Thames and into Oxon water. Thereupon it soon became the month's most photographed bird. But none of the snappers managed to kidnap their subject and transfer it to the more usual location of Farmoor Reservoir.

Great Northern Diver, courtesy of Nick Truby

Instead the latter site played host to a second county scarcity, Iceland Gull that was viewed there a number of times from 3rd, before being photographed at nearby Dix Pit on 14th.

Iceland Gull (2w) at Dix Pit - photo courtesy of Roger Wyatt -
video from Farmoor courtesy of Nic Hallam

January was generally a good month for our gullers, with Caspian Gull of various ages being recorded sometimes regularly from five places: Didcot landfill, Dix Pit again, Port Meadow, Farmoor Reservoir and the Lower Windrush Valley (LWV) GPs through to month's end. A Mediterranean Gull was also present at some of those sites, and in the Port Meadow roost a number of times between 16th and 25th.

Caspian Gull (adult) at Dix Pit, courtesy of Roger Wyatt (above)
and a 2w at Port Meadow (below), courtesy of Thomas Miller

Mediterranean Gull (1w) at Port Meadow, courtesy of Thomas Miller

On a different note a Black Redstart was discovered at and around Christchurch College, Oxford on 19th. Over the days that followed this rather dapper small passerine proved to be as photogenic as Oxon's previous varsity black red at Lincoln College in February 2017. Elsewhere around the colleges a pair of Peregrine stayed faithful to Magdalen College Tower, while two Ring-necked Parakeet remained in the University Parks.

Black Redstart - photo courtesy of Thomas Miller -
video courtesy of Badger

The Best of the Rest
Our several wintering Great White Egret remained a feature of this log, with records still flowing from Blenheim Park, LWV Pit 60 at Standlake and other sites mostly to the west of Oxford. Another white long-legged item, White Stork was reported from Frilford on 19th then the following day near Harwell, but was presumed to be an escape.

Great White Egret at LWV Pit 60, courtesy of Steve Burch

Where wildfowl were concerned, two Common Scoter visited Farmoor briefly on 8th; and two pairs of Mandarin were noted on the River Thames near Pangbourne on 9th. Elsewhere Goosander, Goldeneye, Shelduck, Pintail and Red-crested Pochard all stood out from the more frequent and numerous wintering duck at sites across the county. The category C home counties Barnacle Goose flock maintained a presence around Oxford, while growing numbers of Egyptian Goose offered sightings in different places.

Goosander on the River Thames, courtesy of John Workman

There were a few early wader records with Green Sandpiper at Ardley (2nd) and Sutton Courtenay GPs (7th), a Ruff at Otmoor from 25th till 28th, and an Oystercatcher at Farmoor on 29th. Woodcock were flushed from various locations through the month including Moreton near Thame, and Boarstall áround where an impressive nine went up on 19th. And all the while swirling Golden Plover and Lapwing flocks remained a feature of the winter rural landscape across our county.

Peregrine at Pit 60, courtesy of Andy Last

Less frequent raptors were represented by Peregrine at LWV Pit 60 (13th), Lollingdon Hill (18th), the Downs, Otmoor and elsewhere; while Merlin records came from Otmoor again from 6th, Port Meadow a patch tick on 12th and Yelford also on 12th. RSPB Otmoor's male Hen Harrier continued to put in appearences at intervals, while the resident Marsh Harriers delighted their audience there as always. Reports of Short-eared Owl came from Chipping Norton (8th), Otmoor (23rd) and a number of other sites.

Sparrowhawk - a "Gun Slinger" special - courtesy of Roger Wyatt

Stonechat at Otmoor, courtesy of Jeremy Dexter

To end with some small passerines, Stonechat are worth a mention, with records coming from several locations county-wide. Common Crossbill were sighted at Blenheim Park on the first two days of January, then again on 23rd; while the regular flock remained at Buckland Warren throughout. Wintering Blackcap visited gardens in Standlake and Eynsham towards month's end. And Brambling continued to be found frequently, especially around Chipping Norton in north Oxfordshire.

Ring-necked Parakeet in central Oxford, courtesy of Badger

So now just one more month of winter remains before the first spring migrants begin to arrive. Is there still time for Waxwing, Great Grey Shrike or Smew to feature herein, and might that Rose-coloured Starling reveal itself to more Oxon birders? Keep searching everyone!

Peter Law

by Mick Cunningham


Badger is seemingly still desperate for copy for the blog. So, he asked me to do an article with field sketches, topic my choice. This is it. I moved to Standlake from the Yorkshire Pennines in spring 2017. Oxon birding is definitely different from watching upland birds near my Yorkshire home and migrants at Spurn. With effort, I could see Goshawks annually relatively nearby. But I'm told even some active Oxon birders still need it for the county such is its rarity here.  Before and after the Foot and Mouth outbreak in 2001, friends would monitor breeding Goshawks and some had licenses to ring the young. I've never visited a nest but would alert friends to displaying birds. This resulted in some nests being found, which proved I got the ID right. Sometimes!  Persecution was rife. Goshawks often disappeared soon after starting to display. When Foot and Mouth broke out in February 2001, access to the countryside was restricted and remained so until September, coinciding with Goshawk breeding season. We could not monitor the birds that year. My sites were near/on keepered moors. All these pairs disappeared. It was a decade before a Goshawk was seen in these areas again.


Even when present Goshawks were STILL hard to see. I mostly saw them distantly, performing spring display flights. I think this is how most birders see Goshawks in the UK. So this article reflects my experience, focusing on identification at a distance in spring. I hope it might be useful to those seeking Oxon Goshawks in the next few months.  But I'm happy to be corrected on any of the below. Excuse occasional 'SHOUTY' capitals. The blog doesn't allow formating. I must thank photographer friends for photos: Andy Butler (all photos except displaying Sparrowhawks), Dave Pennington (displaying Sparrowhawks). The photos are copyrighted.


Not discussed as these are easy to ID if plumage is seen well ie accipiter-shaped, brown/ginger brown uppers, with heavy brown/ginger-ish streaks on a pale background below. Sparrowhawks are barred below at all ages.


I had hoped to use photos of distant Goshawks but the rise of DSLRs means photographers only save close up images.  And no-one seems to photograph displaying Sparrowhawks. Nevertheless, I hope the photos below illustrate some points I make. And I've also reproduced some of my amateurish field sketches which I hope show what the birds look like from afar ie plumage is barely mentioned.


It seems unfashionable to admit to any difficulty separating DISPLAYING Sparrowhawks from Goshawks. But I know some avid raptor watchers who still struggle with this. It certainly challenges me. Both species display at the same time of year. And their displays are (nearly?) identical. I don't know of any display flight- action that differs between them. Moreover, there is always a surfeit of female Sparrowhawks in any population. And it is these, the bigger sex, that display most in that species. So, I find displaying Sparrowhawks are the most Goshawk-like and I think the literature underplays the risk of confusion arising from this. It's easy to be confident at known 'Gos' sites; much less so elsewhere where Sparrowhawks are common.

The basics of display by the two species are well known and involve:

  • Circle soaring over territory: with fluffed out white undertail coverts (tail flagging)
  • Slow (wavering) flying around above a territory with exaggerated, slow wing beats reaching above and below the body line, often with tail flagging
  • Rising high in the air then performing a series of more or less shallow undulations ie flapping upwards then losing height by closing wings, and repeat
  • At its most extreme, the above becomes a 'sky dance', as the bird climbs high then plunges down fast on closed wings until it 'bounces' back up to repeat the move before finally plunging into the trees below at speed.


Thia dreaded phrase means there's no silver bullet feature that separates these species in the field.

What Didn't Work for Me

  • Size: in direct comparison, every Goshawk I've seen was smaller than ... the sky! I rarely saw another species nearby for comparison. Judging size at distance can be hard. Sparrowhawks in slow motion display look much bigger than hunting ones.
  • Prominent undertail-coverts: both show these when displaying. But see below
  • Display flights, too similar (same?)
  • Head pattern: female Sparrowhawk's head pattern is similar enough to Goshawk's for the smaller species to look hooded at a distance
  • Chest bump: some Sparrowhawks show this
  • Head projection: sometimes didn't work

What Did Work (In Combination)

  • Goshawks sit out at top of trees when on territory. Barrel-shaped body (wide-hips) and pallid under plumage is then evident. I've never seen a Sparrowhawk sit out.
  • Overall flight shape: Goshawk - yes it's usually cruciform. Sparrowhawk - yes, it's usually T shaped. BUT there are squatter Goshawks and rangier looking Goshawks (viewing angle? Display postures?)
  • Contours: Goshawks to me are muscular, lumpen looking with bloated outlines. Weightlifters. Sparrowhawks, generally built more like a sprinter - though sometimes with chest bump.
  • 'Rear end' structure difference: USEFULL! Goshawk has wide hips, Sparrowhawk is narrow hipped
  • Tail shape: Goshawk tail USUALLY has rounded/blobby ended tip, but ALWAYS (?) wide at base. On some, the tail looks short. Sparrowhawk tail base narrows at base, tail tip has sharp, clean cut corners, squared off.  Usually looks long.
  • Body shape: Goshawk, deep from chest, through belly to broad hips. Sparrowhawk, shallow bodied, flat belly runs into narrower hips
  • Wing-shape: Goshawk broad but (somehow!) long too, arm longer and broader than hand. Hand tapers.  A bit Honey Buzzard-like. Sparrowhawk (except when displaying) impression is broad: arm and hand of similar proportions; hand doesn't narrow
  • Head projection: Goshawks is longer because thick NECK, runs into longer, triangular 'head'. Sparrowhawk neckless, shorter, rounder head projection (more Kestrel-like)
  • Underparts plumage: with experience, Goshawk has more pallid appearance.

The above will be 'old hat' to many, but will be illustrated in photos and sketches below. There are two speculative separation features from my experience I'd like to explore: the pattern of the underwing for adults, especially the wingtip, and the extent of the 'tail flags' in display.


During 2015 - 2016 I occasionally saw dusky tips on the UNDER outer primaries of two ADULT Goshawks which soared at medium distance, a bit like on adult Levant Sparrowhawk. I saw it on a bird I saw abroad too. I never saw it on birds I identified as Sparrowhawks. I considered writing to 'BB' to propose this as a possible ID feature for adult Goshawks. I never did, partly because it wasn't always evident. I wondered if the appearance depends on: lighting; how spread the primaries are; individual variation, or was less evident on less mature adults eg 3cy birds. But, when present, the birds were always Goshawks. Only when I read the latest Forsman Bible (2016), did I realise that the darker bars on the under outer primaries of FULLY adult Goshawks' contrast with the paler inner primaries and secondaries. On Sparrowhawk there is no such contrast. I planned to test this out, but moving to Oxon in 2017 scuppered that. What causes this difference between the species? The basic underparts' plumage of female (and non-orange male)   Sparrowhawks, and all adult Goshawks, is the same. The bodies, underwing-coverts, and underwing flight feathers all show darker bars over a paler ground colour. There are subtle differences. Compared to fully adult Goshawks, Sparrowhawks' bars are both darker and thicker and the paler ground colour less 'white' . The dark bars on the under secondaries and inner primaries of fully adult Goshawks are fine, almost like a 'watermark', and the ground colour of these feathers is also very pale, as it is on the outer primaries.  Hence, the contrast with the much darker bars on the outer-primaries. Field tests are needed but, if seen, dark wingtips could be a good pointer to Goshawk as part of the 'whole suite' approach. AND CONTRAST IS OFTEN MORE MARKED AT DISTANCE.

NB in fact, the Goshawk flight feathers are also paler than the underwing coverts but I find it harder to see this, a lot of the time.

Pallid Underparts: to me, adult Goshawks (especially older adults) often look   PALLID below when compared to Sparrowhawks. This is because, like the flight feathers, the underbody and underwing coverts have finer bars and a paler, whiter, ground colour than Sparrowhawks'.


Many birders cite prominent white undertail coverts as a pro-Goshawk feature. BOTH species fluff out WHITE undertail coverts in display. And I think the prominence of Sparrowhawks' flags can be enhanced by the sun/your eye, when distance means their duller underparts' markings coalesce to form a contrast against the white flag. Arguably, there's less contrast on the paler bodied adult Goshawk.

Shaving Brushes: I have often seen displaying Goshawks flagging so much that the undertail coverts stick out sideways from the bird, looking like old-fashioned shaving brush bristles. I have never seen this on a Sparrowhawk. Has anyone else? If shaving brushes are present, I will definitely check for pro-Goshawk features.

Wrap-around White Rump: sometimes, the flags extend sideways so much they curl-up to wrap around the rear of the body. This creates an impression of a gap or white rump effect, reminiscent of a ringtail harrier. Again, I've never seen either on displaying Sparrowhawks.


I don't usually rely on flight action to separate these accipters during courtship display season. Reasons include the similarity of display flights, when Sparrowhawks often use a slower, heavier flight actions, and the fact that the literature is contradictory on non-displaying flight action. Some authorities state Goshawks' wing flaps are stiffer than Sparrowhawks', others say they are more elastic.  I rarely see Goshawks in non-display flight so cannot confirm that, during level flight, they do NOT lose height when gliding between flaps as the literature says. I have seen Sparrowhawks lose height between flaps though, as per the literature. At best, I find Sparrowhawks' flaps more buzzy and more frantic than the Goshawk's slower, heavier flop that I noted the few times I saw birds in direct flight.


This section uses photos, sketches and captions to highlight identification features.

Above: Sparrowhawk. Note T shape structure. Broad wings, even though primaries tucked in for hunting flight. Arm and hand about equal lengths. Evenly barred flight feathers,  short kestrel-like head projection. Square ended tail and narrow 'hip' area behind rear edge of wing.

Above: displaying Goshawk. Male of a study pair.  Shape, not too dis-similar to the Sparrowhawk above. I think (but can't be sure) that the most 'Sparrowhawk-shaped' Goshawks are often males, though flight attitude can give this impression. Compare underwing with Sparrowhawk. Note very pale inner wing versus the darker barred outer-primaries.  I wonder if light conditions make these bars burnt out or are they less prominent on some individuals/younger adults? The rear end is evenly wide from hips, through tail to tip. The tail-tip is bevelled..

Above: displaying Sparrowhawk. Note how fluffed undertail coverts subtly alter the undercarriage profile, making it deeper at the rear 'hip'' end, and giving the illusion of a short-ish tail. These are Goshawk features. In silhouette, at a distance, this was identified as a Goshawk by birders not as close to it as me and the photographer.

Above: Field sketches of Sparrowhawk cf the notes classic Sparrowhawk shape, like a T square. Though note reference to sometimes looking longer winged. I think the body length relative to head projection and tail length looks shorter on Sparrowhawk than Goshawk but I could be wrong. Hence notes attempting to measure this. Sparrowhawk features are slim 'hips' where tail joins body and the sharply etched contours of the tail, including, sharp corners. In normal postures, the 'arm and hand' of Sparrowhawks' wings look about equally broad and in the usual rather 'panicky fast flapping flight gives the impression of a single mobile unit (Goshawk 'hand' articulates more from arm?).  

Above: field sketches of Sparrowhawks displaying, diving, and in level flight (tails a bit long). In a full slow flap display or a display soar, the wings can look somewhat longer than expected. Whether slowness creates an illusion of length I'm unsure. It does make Sparrowhawks look big though. Even so, the 'body' is still relatively slim, including at the rear, the head projection is still short, and the tail tip square cut. 

Above: displaying Sparrowhawk. Note short head projection and slim profile with shallow chest and belly.

Above: displaying adult Goshawk. The darker wing tip catches the eye, especially on uppermost wing. Try Squinting or hold at arm's length for an idea of how this might look on distant birds as light shines through the water-marked inner wing. Wing shape is reminiscent of Honey Buzzard. Broad arm bulges at the rear and arm looks longer than hand (usually about equal on Sparrowhawk). Hand tapers. Head projection made up of thick neck and long, triangular head. Tail tip on this bird could be seen as square.

Above: Goshawks in profile.   On left hand adult see pale inner wing versus darker wing tip. Even without this, both birds have deep body from chest, through belly to 'hip' area just behind rear edge of wing.   

Field sketches: Goshawks displaying at distance (and a Sparrowhawk soaring). This is a relatively tricky Goshawk. At a cursory glance, not too dissimilar to Sparrowhawk in some attitudes. Other Goshawks have more protruding, cone-shaped 'head projections', even deeper undercarriages than here, and more obviously long wingss. But Goshawk characters are there. Note subtly 'bloated' lines. Shot putter not sprinter. Tail tip rounded. Head projection drawn a bit short and round for many Goshawks, though some can look as drawn. Body from breast,  to belly and hips, deep and wide. Note upper bird's wing-shape  versus Sparrowhawk. As often said, narrower hand can resemble a Peregrine which Sparrowhawks don't (usually). Level flight bird looks like a short-tailed harrier.

Field sketches NOTE MY PUZZLING OVER 'MUZZY' DARK TIP TO THE PRIMARIES. Goshawks in slow display flight, and soaring. I find soaring posture hard to draw accurately. Bird at bottom was seen attacking a woodpigeon. The bottom birds in each set of sketches show Goshawk's crucifrom shape, not T square. Plus Goshawk's 'Norman helmet' head projection. The hunting bird's wings had more curvy contours as noted at the time, presumably as it flexed and flapped in pursuit of the pigeon.


Every year, I had to 'relearn' how to ID Goshawks. And there were still some disant/fleeting birds I had to leave as accipiter sp. I'll bet Oxon Goshawks are like Yorkshire ones, only likely to be seen at a distance and mostly whilst displaying. So I hope some of the above is useful. If not, let me know how to ID them because I need Goshawk for Oxon!