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Dec 8th 3 White-fronted Geese Days Lock...2nd Slavonian Grebe still Farmoor Reservoir... Nov 2 Scaup Farmoor Res...16th Yellow-browed Warbler Crawley...2 Great white Egret Grimsbury Res...14th Water Pipit Farmoor Reservoir...13th Black Redstart still at Chinnor...12th Black Redstart Harwell...20th CATTLE EGRET Chimney...

Thursday, 1 August 2019

June / July Review

Black-tailed Godwit over Otmoor, courtesy of Norman Smith

These usually quieter birding months of mid-summer lived up to their reputation in 2019, with no real county "headliners" being recorded. Much of the interest for this review period surrounded waders, while breeding and passage passerines also featured and some large, long-legged birds made news of their own.

Prominent amongst visiting waders were Black-tailed Godwit. That smart species in its rust-brown summer plumage paid little regard to the "birding doldrums" as these months are sometimes termed, being recorded at several sites. Movement continued through June, with two "Blackwits" visiting Otmoor on 20th, seven there on 30th, and a single at LWV Pit 60, Standlake on 26th.

Black-tailed Godwits at Farmoor, courtesy of Dai John (above)
and Jeremy Dexter (below)

In early July there were more sightings with two at Pit 60 on 1st then again on 11th, and five at Farmoor (2nd). Otmoor hosted an impressive 24 of these birds on 18th July, then three more on 21st.

Farmoor Avocets, courtesy of Dai John
click on any image to enlarge

But June's birds of the month had to be the three Avocet that visited Farmoor Reservoir on 3rd, being seen in flight over F2 then settling by the causeway before all too quickly moving on. Sanderling were still heading north in the first week of June, their attractive breeding plumage being a sought after sighting for county birders in any early summer.

Farmoor Sanderlings, courtesy of Ewan Urquhart

Little Ringed Plover enjoyed a good Oxon season. This rather charming little wader was reported fairly regularly from LWV Pit 60, Chinnor Cement Works and Farmoor Reservoir. Hopefully breeding might have taken place at two of those sites.

Little Ringed Plover at LWV Pit 60 (above), courtesy of Steve Burch
and Chinnor Cement Works (below), courtesy of Mark Mallinson
Early July is usually when Green Sandpiper numbers begin to build. A first record from their main county stronghold, Bicester Wetland Reserve came as early as June 26th, then numbers grew through July to a peak of 10 birds by 24th. Common Sandpiper including juveniles were also logged at a number of sites through this review period, with a best count of six at Rushey Common on 27th.

Green Sandpipers at BWR, courtesy of Nick Truby
Juvenile Common Sandpiper at Pit 60, courtesy of Jim Hutchins

As July moved towards its close Farmoor watchers began to gather to monitor the new return passage season. Dunlin, Redshank, Ringed Plover and Turnstone were all amongst the other more regular waders recorded to month's end. To round things off nicely a Knot dropped in on 31st, then very briefly at dusk a Wood Sandpiper (see post above). The first Black Tern of late summer, a juvenile flew through the reservoir briefly on the morning of 27th. Meanwhile, what are thought to be locally bred juvenile Curlew were frequenting RSPB Otmoor at this time.

Turnstone at Farmoor Reservoir, courtesy of Ewan Urquhart
Juvenile Curlew on Otmoor, courtesy of Peter Barker

Sadly, Otmoor's annual summer pair of release scheme Common Crane failed to raise any young again in 2019. Things appeared to progress well for more than 30 days after the birds' arrival this year, before the worst was realised. The reasons for this are not fully understood, but surely the much loved visitors must enjoy better breeding fortune in the not too distant future.

Otmoor's pair of Common Crane, courtesy of Peter Barker

Another large, long-legged item, Great White Egret returned to the county at one of its more regular sites, LWV Pit 60 on 13 & 14th July. Last year they had an exceptional autumn in our midst and we will all be hoping for more of the same in the months ahead.

Great White Egret at Pit 60, with Little Egret (right) and Grey Heron,
courtesy of Steve Liptrot

Amongst other more notable sightings, Quail were heard from no less than five locations: at Sydlings Copse, near Beckley (6th June), Otmoor (27th & 2nd July), then Lowbury Hill (8th), Chadlington (16th) and the Devil's Punchbowl area of the Downs (27 & 28th). Three Garganey visited Port Meadow on 9th June. Mediterranean Gull were logged at Farmoor Reservoir on 4th June then near Otmoor a day later, and a juvenile was seen at Farmoor on 30th. Yellow-legged Gull returned to Farmoor through July being the first large Gull to do so each year.

Yellow-legged Gull at Farmoor, courtesy of Nick Truby

Little Owl has been observed at a site near Cholsey in south-east Oxon over recent months, and at this quiet time is worthy of mention. Barn Owl was also reported herein during the review period. Where raptors were concerned, Hobby and Peregrine each produced a number of records across the county. And Ring-necked Parakeet continued to announce themselves in Marston Ferry Meadows and over Oxford city centre.

Little Owl, courtesy of Paul Chandler, and
Barn Owl, courtesy of Brian Walker

The North American House Finch is a popular cage bird, indicated here by a blue ring. This novelty item was visiting a garden in the north of the county in the latter part of July.

House Finch, courtesy of Anthony Fowler
Of the more usual July passerines, Spotted Flycatcher was reported from three different sites between 12th and 28th. The earliest southbound Redstart was seen at Lollingdon Hill, near Cholsey on 8th, together with a Whinchat; then three more of the former at Otmoor a day later. Two further "Fire Flirts" passed through the first of those sites on 15th, then more were seen on the Downs and at Lollingdon again from 27th to 31st.

Spotted Flycatcher and Redstart, courtesy of Paul Chandler

For a second consecutive year a juvenile Stonechat was observed at the RSPB Otmoor reserve on 20th July, suggesting that breeding is taking place in the wider Otmoor basin. And more Redstart continued to be recorded in the vicinity until month's end as late summer passage progressed, with a best count of at least 11 in family parties on 21st

Juvenile Stonechat at Otmoor, courtesy of Peter Barker

Lastly, on 24th June an unseasonal Siskin was spotted in flight over the Oxford crematorium along the road from Risinghurst to Otmoor. But I amongst others of the Oxon birders gathered there wondered if this calling bird might be a Stoneshank. So long old buddy, Paul Greenaway you will be missed.

Peter Law

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