Sunday, 29 March 2020

Moorhen & Treecreeper

A few photos from Alan in the past few days of a Moorhen foraging the bottom of a pond and often completely submerging itself.

And a Treecreeper giving a tree a thorough workover.

Saturday, 28 March 2020

Back in Time – Skinny dipping on Scilly

Isles of Scilly October 1994, most of us had been going to Scilly every October since the early 80’s and had become the annual birding holiday to see UK rarities and an excellent social occasion and this year was no exception.

However this one had a different twist to it. As usual one night we were down the Mermaid pub partaking in a few beers when a dare was put to us by a Mrs Deborah Lewington and was “who fancies a skinny dip” as the night was well under way and quite a few drinks had been consumed we agreed, just for a laugh and not expecting what would follow.

At chucking out time we all made our way down to Porthcressa beach, fortunately is was a fairly mild night and the sea was quiet. If I recall correctly there was quite few of us there, Ian & Debbie Lewington, Martin Hallam, Kim Talbot, Geoff, Roger and Brian Wyatt, Pete Pool, myself and several others.

As is usual after consuming a few alcoholic beverages your inhibitions go out the window and four of us stripped off in front of the waiting audience (Myself, Geoff, Pete and Brian) and walked down the beach and waded in to the sea.

After about five minutes of general splashing around and having a laugh I was just about to come out of the sea when I noticed a red dot in the middle of my chest. My first thought was either I’m being targeted by a sniper or someone had a camera on me and as the former was very unlikely I did a swift u-turn and started to wade back out in to the sea and at that moment a photo was taken and fortunately for me the photographer only got a rear shot.

Geoff stayed in the sea happily swimming around but Brian and Pete were exposed to full frontal shots as they left the sea. These photos were subsequently shown at a later SODOFF* meeting during a slide show much to the embarrassment of us few whom had been exposed and to the hilarity of the audience present at the meeting.

As I said what followed was somewhat unexpected as Debs had arranged with George Reszeter (R.I.P. He of the Oxford paparazzi and well known bird photographer) to capture the episode on camera.

Am not sure of the author of the following but someone wrote a poem that was published in a subsequent SODOFF journal along with the photos.

“A plot was hatched one night on Scilly

In a pub by a young lady called Debbie

The dare was given and duly accepted

To streak “cressa” beach with parts presented

At closing time they left the pub

And joined members of the SODOFF club

They staggered down towards the bay

As George and camera came their way

As midnight came on Porthcressa beach

The SODOFF lads did dare to streak

George was there with camera proud

And the SODOFF lads did then unshroud

They streaked the beach and into the sea

As George flashed his camera and smiled with glee

The assembled crowd looked on and hooted

As Pete and Brian were caught undiluted

Paul and Geoff were not so blighted

As George’s camera could not get sighted

The lens scanned the beach in search of privates

But only found rear ends or fuzzy targets

The next day came and photos went around

A few red faces were then to be found

People smiled with knowing looks

We hope the pics don’t get in any books

Another memorable Scilly has been and gone

With ticks and streaks what more could go on

Scilly ’95 is already booked

Let’s do it next year we’re all hooked”

A great poem which captured the moment well!

The birds that year on Scilly were noted for a fair number of scarce migrants but the star of the two weeks was the Yellow-browed Bunting that appeared on St Agnes on the 21st October, it was in a small garden and we had to queue to see it. I was birding on St Mary’s with Martin Hallam when the news came over the CB and we did not hear the “bunting” bit and so assuming it was a Yellow-browed Warbler we ignored the call as we had already seen a few of those but when the follow up message came through we looked at each other and then the adrenalin started to flow and then a quick dash to the quay at St Mary’s to get the boat to Aggie. Also notable that year was a Radde’s Warbler on St Mary’s and a Dusky Warbler on St Agnes.

SODOFF’ers have been going to Scilly since the late 70’s and an honorary SODOFF’er Pete Colston had been going since the 50’s and it’s only in the last few years that we have not been going on a regular basis. Some of us shared a flat for the two week period when we were there that housed six but we have had up to ten in particularly good years and during the 90’s SODOFF had a considerable presence on the islands through October. Scilly still pulls in good vagrants but not in the quantity that it used to but still a beautiful place to visit.

*SODOFF, South Oxfordshire District Ornithological Fellowship of Friends.

No photos for obvious reasons 😁

Thursday, 26 March 2020

Garden Birding

Sunny, 13°, light NE.

Have been watching the garden for the last couple of days and not venturing out and not doing too bad. Fortunately we overlook Whitehead Meadow and so have a good vista to look out on.

Birdwise, there have been 39 species in, over or near the garden, including Chiffchaff, Grey Wagtail, Sparrowhawk, Buzzard, Coal Tit, Nuthatch, Jay, Green Woodpecker, Tawny Owl and Canada Goose to name a few.

A few butterflies present with many Brimstone, 2 Small Tortoiseshell, an Orange Tip and a Comma but none staying too long.

Plenty of Hoverflies around but none staying still, so no id’s yet.

A single Spotted Bee-fly seen briefly.

Female Blackbird
One of the four Stock Dove that regularly visit.


A few of the butterflies photographed by Alan over the last few days.

Holly Blue, Comma, Small Tortoiseshell and Peacock.

Wednesday, 25 March 2020

Back in Time - 1984 First time on Scilly!

Saturday October 13th 1984 was my first visit to the fabled Isles of Scilly, Brian Wyatt and I spent a week the previous October (83) in Norfolk seeing a Roller and a couple of other rarities but also heard about all the rarities turning up on Scilly and we then decided to go there for a week next autumn (84) to see what all the fuss was about.

We left Oxfordshire early morning for an uneventful drive to Penzance and then took the 2½ hour boat trip over to Scilly on the Scillonian III and were rewarded with several Great Skua and Sooty Shearwater and other sea birds on the way across.

Back in the 80’s there were a lot of birders, maybe a thousand or so on the islands in October so a lot of birds got found and little escaped attention.

Arriving on Scilly around 12:30 we made for the camp site on the Garrison on St Marys to put the tent up and then back down to some birding. As the technology was not around at that time we would ask anyone with a CB “what’s about” or look on the notice board outside the Porthcressa cafe to find out what was where.

As there were some Dotterel on the golf course we decided to take a walk up there first and were rewarded with 3 of them feeding on the fairways, we also had a Red-breasted Flycatcher on the way up there. As we had time we then did some of our own birding and subsequently found a juvenile Ortolan Bunting that we did not know was present and then bumped in to a Short-toed Lark that had been around on Peninnis head for a few days. Not a bad start to the first day of birding on Scilly, then to the Mermaid pub for a few pints and a meal and then the weary trek up to the garrison and the tent. The final entry in my notebook for that day just says “knackered”.

Sunday dawns with news of a Yellowthroat on Bryher, so an early boat over to catch up with an American vagrant and was then seen frequenting an apple tree close to one of the beaches, then another boat for a visit to Tresco where we caught up with Yellow-browed Warbler and Firecrest, then St Agnes for a Blackpoll Warbler, Woodchat Shrike and a Little Bunting and then back to St Marys for Red-rumped Swallow, Tawny Pipit and Common Rosefinch................Not bad for 2 days on Scilly so far and even more knackered!

The rest of the week proved just as fruitful with Monday furnishing a Pectoral Sandpiper on St Mary’s and a “Grey-headed” Wagtail possibly of Scandinavian origin and then a Dusky Warbler on St Agnes frequenting the fruit cages.

The Tuesday was another amazing day with the Short-toed Lark and Dotterel again, also 2 Turtle Dove and a Lapland Bunting and another mega of an Olivaceous Warbler on St Marys, which I believe subsequently turned out to be an “Eastern Olivaceous Warbler”.

And so it continues with Wednesday bringing a Bluethroat and a Rock Thrush and on Thursday a Rustic Bunting and a Richard’s Pipit of note and back home on the Friday.

Along with other common late migrants such as Whinchat, Black Redstart, Western Yellow Wagtail, Wheatear, Swallow, Firecrest, Common Redstart, all of the "common warblers", Spotted and Pied Flycatcher, Snow Bunting etc seen throughout the week, it made for a brilliant weeks birding. Also that week falling in love with the islands, I have been to many islands and archipelagos throughout the world and Scilly remains one of my favourites.

That week also started my “triad” of species that I sought on every visit to Scilly; they were Yellow-browed Warbler, Firecrest and Red-breasted Flycatcher and I managed to see them on all but one visit.

With 11 new species seen and 104 species seen in total that week I was thinking “I will definitely be coming back again” which I duly did every October for the next 25 years!

Monday, 23 March 2020

Birds & Butterflies

Sunshine, 12°, moderate SE.

A Grey Wagtail flying around the garden this morning prior to my walk out to Lollingdon.

The Hill was relatively quiet, 2 Kestrel hunting, 10 Fieldfare and 4 Song Thrush feeding and a singing Yellowhammer and Reed Bunting.

More singing Chiffchaff around with numbers just getting into double figures now and Treecreeper singing in the Millennium Wood.

A Mistle Thrush in song and a Great-spotted Woodpecker drumming.

The warmer weather has brought out the insects with several Brimstone butterflies on the wing and 3 Peacock, 2 Small Tortoiseshell and a Comma.

A couple of Spotted Bee-fly also noted.

Tony Rayner recorded the first Small White of the year and a reptile count of 7 Grass Snake and 36 Slow Worm. And 3 Redwing in a neighbours Beech tree.

Alan was also out today on the other side of the village. Chiffchaff, Corn Bunting, Yellowhammer, pair of Treecreeper, a Peregrine, a female Sparrowhawk with prey and Black-headed and Lesser Blackback Gulls.

Brimstone and Comma butterflies.

 Skylark (courtesy Alan)
 Black-headed Gull (courtesy Alan)
 Lesser Blackback Gull (courtesy Alan)
Small White (courtesy Tony Rayner)

Sunday, 22 March 2020

The Birds & The Bee Flies.

Sunny. 10°, moderate breeze ENE.

A day to catch up with a bit of gardening and a nearby Chiffchaff singing regularly and seen foraging around the garden and a couple of Brimstone flew through.

Alan has been out and about with Bella this week end and managed to get some good shots of Birds and Insects.

 Spotted Bee-fly
Dark-edged Bee-fly
 Little Owl
 Nesting Red Kites

Friday, 20 March 2020

Grass Snake, Chiffchaff, Wheatear & Hare

Mainly cloudy with a few sunny spells, 9°, breezy NE.

3 Wheatear (all males) on Lollingdon Hill today and a pale Common Buzzard and a Peregrine overhead.

A few Meadow Pipit and 2 Pied Wagtail moving through and a handful of Fieldfare seen.

4 Chiffchaff feeding together on the north side of the hill and several singing en route and a Chiffchaff in the garden this afternoon.

TW has had 4 Blackcap (3f & 1m) wintering around his garden feeding mainly on apples.

Mammals: Brown Hare & Roe Deer.

Reps: Grass Snake.

Quite a few photos today. Firstly one of three Grass Snake in Tony R's Garden.

Secondly a series of Chiffchaff pics.

Thirdly a few pics of the Wheatears

Fourthly, a Hare that came towards, became aware of something, then sussed it and was gone.

Thursday, 19 March 2020

Little Mix

Overcast with drizzly rain, 7°, light NW.

Not a particularly good day for going out today.
So a mix of a few pics from the last few days.

 Buzzard in the rain (courtesy Alan Dawson)
 Barn Owl Cholsey Marsh (courtesy Alan Dawson)
Oak Beauty (courtesy Tony Rayner)
Wren foraging in the garden

Wednesday, 18 March 2020


Overcast, 13°, light to breezy SW.

First Wheatear of the year seen today, not on the hill as anticipated but out in a field between Little Lollingdon and the railway.

The hill was relatively quiet although a few Buntings present with a couple of singing Corn Bunting and several Reed Bunting and Yellowhammer present and a Kestrel hunting.

A few Gulls flying over and congregating on a wet area by the pig fields. Included a Herring Gull, 9 Common Gull, 100+ Lesser Blackback Gull and a few Black-headed Gull adding to the hundreds already there.

Greenfinch (bat like) display flight seen, Little Owl calling again and 100+ Fieldfare seen and 5 singing Chiffchaff.

A sizable flock of waders (200+) seen distantly from the hill consisted of both Lapwing and Golden Plover flying high east.

Mammals: Brown Hare and Roe Deer.

Monday, 16 March 2020


Sunshine, 11°, light SW.

What a lovely day out there today, and warm enough for butterflies to be on the wing.

Quite a few Chiffchaff in song today with 3 out at Lollingdon, 1 Whitehead Meadow, 1 near Church and another near the School. 3 more from Cholsey Marsh and the Barn Owl hunting. Per Alan.

At least 3 Raven present in the Lollingdon area and Kestrel and Sparrowhawk noted and a Little Owl heard calling.

A handful of Fieldfare on Lollingdon Hill and a small number of Meadow Pipit overhead and several Skylark in song.

Great-spotted Woodpecker, Coal Tit and Nuthatch still visiting the garden along with the usual.

Mammals: Brown Hare.

Butterflies: 5+ Brimstone and the first Small Tortoiseshell on the wing.

 Mistle Thrush
Peregrine on Cholsey Hill yesterday (courtesy Alan Dawson)
My attempt to photo a flying Brimstone from approx 50 metres.