Blog Header Text

For questions you can contact Adam at: adamchartley "at" gmail "dot" com or Jason at: jasoncppk "at" yahoo "dot" co "dot" uk

Monday 4 March 2024

February Review


February, typically a quiet month, has proved to be a fairly productive month one way or the other. With the addition of five more species added to the county year list it now stands at 134 for 2024. There were two major surprises bookending the month, a county mega in the early part of February followed by a very early migrant at the latter end.

Having been spoilt for choice in the last few years when it comes to vagrant American wildfowl, you’d expect the county to have a bit of a gap between the next visit of a Nearctic wanderer. During a dramatic spell all four commoner American duck species were seen in the space of three months across late 2022 and early 2023, with three species remarkably available in a single day. The first of these species to fall in late 2022 was a Green-winged Teal, the first since 2018, but unlike its successors was a brief and untwitchable record. So when a seemingly settled, albeit distant, Green-winged Teal was found on the 11th February at Days Lock it felt that this maybe a long stayer, or at least long enough to connect with. A thorough search that afternoon resulted in the briefest of views at some distance for a few observers and would prove to be the last sighting before disappearing for good. With the amount of habitat available and the abundance of Teal flocks in the county it wouldn’t be a surprise if this bird remained unseen in the county for the duration of the month and with that the wait for a widely available bird continues into its 6th year.

Green-winged Teal Pit 60 2018 

The next surprise for the month came on the 23rd February when an extremely early Sand Martin rocked up at Otmoor, quite possibly regretting its life choices. This record completely smashes the previous early record for this species by well over a week, which came on the 2nd March 2019. Typically the species arrives the 2nd week of March with the median arrival date since 2000 being the 15th, although the last couple of years have started to see sporadic early arrivals in early March. This record came on the tail of several records across the south and southwest all potentially pushed north by strong weather systems in Africa earlier in the month. With meteorological Spring now upon us the next two weeks should see the first proper push of migration back into the country and the county and I am sure I am not the only one who can’t wait!

Short-eared Owl Otmoor rspb courtesy of Richard Stevens


Another possible sign of things to come was the arrival of the year’s first Black-tailed Godwit picked up during the WEBS count at Otmoor on the 26th. Also on site during the same survey was huge count of 234 Dunlin, likely remnants of the large flock from late 2023 still lingering in the county and maybe bolstered by birds moving in from the coast or further afield. That being said, 142 were also present here on the 12th with smaller counts at other sites during the month. This species was also present on Port Meadow thoughout the month, mostly in small numbers though there was a count of 67 on the 24th. Birds were also seen at Pit 60 in the middle of the month where six were here on the 16th.

Otmoor Oystercatchers courtesy of Paul Wyeth.

Jack Snipe continued to be recorded sporadically in the county and was almost certainly not a true representation of this typically elusive species presence in the county. Bicester Wetlands continued to host a bird although it was only observed on the 10th and not again in the month. Northmoor, Waterstock and Weston-on-the-Green all hosted birds this month, typically all single observer and brief sightings on the 17th, 27th and 28th respectively. Ruff also continued to be recorded in February and as with January all records came from Otmoor where two birds were recorded on the 14th and a single still here on the 20th.  

Another Ringed Jack Snipe on Port Meadow

Woodcock records came only from a single site this month. Boarstall Decoy continued to host a healthy number of birds within its perimeter with seven birds recorded here on the 2nd thanks to the sustained efforts of the local patcher there.  Green Sandpiper were recorded from only three locations this month. Curbridge on the 4th, Sutton Courtenay on the 13th and Bicester Wetlands on the 19th all hosting single birds. Over at Farmoor the wintering Common Sandpiper continued to enjoy the concrete bowl as its winter home throughout the whole of February. 

Farmoor Common Sandpiper courtesy of John Workman

Other than that, the month was fairly quiet wader wise with the returning breeding birds the major highlight of February. Curlew returned back to Otmoor at the back end of last month, with the haunting and enigmatic call once again part of the sites soundscape. Several more were then seen this month with up to five here on the 26th. Pit 60 and Farmoor also saw transiting birds, hopefully returning locally to breed in the wider landscape. Redshank were also on Otmoor and Farmoor this month, whilst seven sites enjoyed the noisy return of Oystercatcher throughout the month. 

Otmoor Curles courtesy of Luke O'Byrne

Wildfowl etc

Aside from the briefest of visits from across the pond of a certain yank Teal the major highlights this month came from long-staying birds and the odd rarity popping up also. A lone Brent Goose made an appearance at Otmoor on the 9th and was again seen on the 12th, but with news slow to get out was not enjoyed by a wider audience in what can be a difficult bird to catch up with on an annual basis. The four White-fronted Goose continued into the early part of the month with the last sighting coming on the 3rd, having assumed to have left the county for somewhere further north. The birds then reappeared briefly on the 25th before not been seen again the rest of the month.

Brent Goose Otmoor rspb courtesy of Julian Parfitt

The long-staying Great Northern Diver finally appeared to have left the county with the last sighting coming the 24th, leaving the record well intact for the record staying bird a couple years ago and I suspect that will take some beating. Scaup also continued its long stay on Farmoor and even was joined by a 2nd bird on the 7th. This 2nd bird was probably the individual present on Dix Pit on the 5th, although there is a suspicious gap from the 4th – 7th of the long staying bird at Farmoor. In any case both birds were then present on Farmoor from the 7th through until the very end of the month. 

The Farmoor Great Northern Diver courtesy of Trudi Rowland

Shelduck came from five sites this month, with the highest count of seven coming from Port Meadow on the 18th. Four were also at Cote on the 6th with the remainder of the sites recording either single or pairs of birds. Goosander were only at the one site this month with Port Meadow hosting up to six birds sporadically. Goldeneye were at four sites this month, all with a westerly distribution in the county. Dix Pit continued to be the best site for numbers where up to nine were on the 18th, although Pit 60 also hosted eight birds on the 3rd and 17th. Farmoor and Cassington GPs were the other two sites that hosted a pair and single respectively.

Mandarin were only at two sites, both within the Blenheim area where a pair were observed at both ends of the month. Red-crested Pochard were reduced to 12 birds on Dix Pit this month, in a similar vein to the resident population of Snow Geese quite where all these birds go after the winter, I’d be keen to know. Rounding off plastic corner, a quite remarkable record of a brood of seven Egyptian Goose goslings/ducklings (?) were here with adults on the 5th. A whole six weeks prior to the previous year which saw birds with young on the 24th March, just showing how truly mild this winter has been.

Returning Hybrid to Otmoor courtesy of Mark Gosling 

Herons, egrets etc

Cattle Egret were at six sites this month, continuing their almost omnipresence within the county for the last 12 months and beyond. The flock was still going strong and upwards of 25 birds in their favoured pasture fields by Wytham on the 15th. With singles, pairs and trios observed at other sites across the county with Otmoor, Days Lock and Sutton Courtenay continuing to be sites that hosted birds. New sites to host birds were Witney Lakes, Ickford and Cassington. Great White Egret were amazingly recorded from at least from 19 sites this month. With ever more rain falling into the county this month, presumably birds were being pushed around by the rising and falling of water levels across Oxfordshire. For once no sites recorded more than two birds, probably as an effect of the number of birds moving around the county and competition for the best foraging areas.

Wallingford Great White Egret courtesy of Alan Dawson

Crane continued at Otmoor this month with up to three present on the 7th. A pair were seen flying over Shrivenham towards Swindon on the 11th, whilst another pair or possibly the same pair were seen moving back across the county at Dix Pit on the 16th.  

Otmoor Cranes courtesy of John Workman

Gulls and Terns

A very quiet and disappointing month for our lovers of all things gulls this month with only one notable record of any species. A single Adult Caspian Gull was seen at Rushy Common on the 9th, although the record was made especially notable by the fact the bird was apparently missing a leg. This distinctive feature unfortunately didn’t mean the bird was recorded anywhere else though, with no further records this month.


Records of Waxwing continued unabated in February with up to nine sites hosting birds. The most reliable of these sites was in Abingdon with a small flock of nine birds present from the 10th until at least the 27th. The lucky finder was even able to get these onto his garden list, surely the dream of all birders across the county. 30 birds were reported at Kidlington on the 10th but as with previous records of mega flocks the birds were not forthcoming and no sign was found of them subsequently. Kirtlington Golf course had 10 birds on the 11th whilst Whitecross hosted 6+ birds on the same day, showing that at least three flocks were present in the county at the same time. Bodicote saw the return of birds on the 12th joined by a few more this time around and they even continued at this site until at least the 18th. A local PWC patch also had some luck when eight birds were present on Thrupp Lane on the 12th. Brightwell-cum-Sotwell was the next site to host birds where two were seen on the 14th and again on the 28th and offered the chance to bag a rare combination of possibly catching site of both a Waxwing and a former Prime Minister, both with fairly questionable hairdos. Adderbury and Wooton were the final two sites to host birds with five at the former and 2 at the latter on the 15th and 27th respectively. 

Above and below, the Abingdon Waxwings courtesy of Ewan Urquhart

Waxwing Bodicote courtesy of Wally Warburton

A cracking male Black Redstart was another nice early addition to the county year list, with one present in the garden of lucky residence in Chipping Norton on the 8th. Those able to react quick enough were treated to some nice prolonged views of the bird feeding with Pied Wagtails on the pavements outside the housing estate, but unfortunately the bird did not linger for wider enjoyment. A single Hawfinch was a fleeting record coming from Buckland Warren on the 4th with no further sightings on from the initial record. The site however did produce some nice opportunities to observe a not always straightforward bird in the county in the form of a small flock of Crossbill. Four were here from the 10th until at least the 12th. A cracking flock of 15 were also at Cowleaze Wood on the 17th.  Brambling were recorded at only four sites this month with the most coming from Blenheim once again where a much reduced flock of seven were seen on the 7th. Chipping Norton, Wantage and Begbroke were the other sites to host 2-3 birds. 

Buckland Warren Crossbill courtesy of David Hastings

The Port Meadow Siberian Chiffchaff was much more elusive this month though was seen on a few occasions.


Siberian Chiffchaff on Port Meadow courtesy of Ben Sheldon



Otmoor hosted all of the notable raptor action this month The wintering ring-tailed Hen Harrier continued to be recorded sporadically with sightings on the 3rd, 16th and 19th. A lone Merlin was recorded here on the 25th, which ends a slightly disappointing winter for the species within the county borders. A single Short-eared Owl was also seen hunting the site on the 26th and 29th  

Otmoor Short-eared Owl courtesy of Richard Stevens

Patchwork challenge






Aston eyot

Ben Sheldon




Ardley ERF

Gareth Casburn




Dix pit

Simon Bradfield



Marsh Tit (Patch first) & Great White Egret

Grimsbury reservoir

Gareth Blockley




Lye valley

Tom Bedford




River Thames

Geoff Wyatt



Green-winged Teal (!) – 6 pointer

Sutton Courtenay

Conor MacKenzie




Port Meadow

Thomas Miller




Radley GP’s

Ian Elkins



Great White Egret, Marsh Harrier & Waxwing


Glen Pascoe



Brambling & Marsh Tit

South Hinksey

Alex Figueiredo





Alan Dawson





No comments:

Post a Comment