Sunday, 31 July 2011

Cholsey Marsh ringing

1.5 hrs ringing at Cholsey Marsh produced four Bullfinches, two Chiffchaffs, a Willow Warbler and Blackcap, and two juv Wrens. Two Kingfishers were on the river and 2 Jays were also on the Marsh. Just one Sedge Warbler seen/heard.

Moorhens on the brook have a new brood at Causeway House, at least 5 young. The pair at the school pond still have at least one half-grown young.

Sparrowhawks at the school have at least one large fledgling. Kingfisher still daily on the Brook.

Ref: Swifts, a handful in Wallingford on 29th and a couple over Cholsey on 30th.

Thanks to RB for the info.

Saturday, 30 July 2011

What turned Cholsey Brook Blue?

On Tuesday 26th July, a 300m + stretch of Cholsey Brook turned a bright blue. Several people alerted the Environment Agency who took samples, the conclusion they came to was that a local landscape company was tasked with taking down a diseased Horse Chestnut tree in the meadow and some chippings, leaves, and conkers got into the brook and caused a reaction that turned the water blue. The colour dissipated after several hours.

Everyone involved stated that they had never seen this before and some remain sceptical, however no environmental damage was observed and life in the brook appears normal.

On checking the internet, I came across this explanation.

 “According to Wikipedia, conkers were used in the past in France and Switzerland for whitening hemp, flax, silk and wool. They contain a soapy juice, useful for washing linens and milling caps, stockings, etc., as well as fuelling (a step in the cleansing process) woollen cloth. For this, twenty conkers were enough for six litres of soft rain or river water. (Hard well water did not work!) They were peeled, then rasped or dried, and ground in a malt or other mill. The conkers were then steeped in cold water, which soon became frothy, as with soap, and then turned milky white. The liquid had to be stirred well at first, and then, after standing to settle, strained or poured off clear. Linen washed in this liquid, and afterwards rinsed in clear running water, became “an agreeable light sky-blue colour”. The process was also useful in removing spots from both linen and wool, never damaging or injuring the cloth.”

That is probably the answer.

Fortunately the concentrations in the brook were low, had they been higher and persisted for several days it would have been toxic to fish and possibly other life in the brook!

Apologies for the quality of the pics, they are a photo of a photo but you can see the colour the brook became!

Friday, 29 July 2011

Have our Swifts left early?

Overcast, 20º, light NW
Most of our Swifts appear to have gone, none noticed in Cholsey, Wallingford or Didcot today although 3 seen in South Moreton, but the majority seem to have left. Approximately 2 weeks earlier than normal.

Having stated the above there were 8 over Wallingford last evening seen from the Green Tree garden, but fewer than usual!

Approximately 60 Black-headed and 10 Lesser Blackback Gulls on school playing field. Green Woodpecker and 2 Song Thrush in the meadow and a Treecreeper in garden.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Aves, Insecta and Reptilia! and a crime writer

Sunny, 24º, light N.

Marymead to Winterbrook then along the Thames to the 4 Arches and back.

A single Mute Swan on the Thames and around 40 Canada Geese, 8 Red-legged Partridge and a family group of 7 Grey Partridge (2 ad + at least 5 young).
6 Great-crested Grebe on the river and a single Grey Heron.

A Hobby seen carrying prey, 9 Kestrels in several locations and a Sparrowhawk near Church road.
Around 40 Black-headed Gulls loafing on the school playing field and 2 flying upstream along the Thames.

4 Lesser Blackback Gulls following a plough near Cholsey Hill and a singleton flying up river.
A first for me this year in Cholsey were 2 Common Terns fishing along the Thames near Winterbrook. Do not think they have ever bred in Cholsey but I usually see them along the river late summer, they may breed in Wallingford or Benson!

Quite a few Stock Doves along the river (c12) but very few Swifts seen today and up to 6 Kingfishers seen. Green Woodpeckers appear to be very vocal at the moment with 10+ seen or heard and only 1 Great-spotted Woodpecker seen.

More than average Swallows seen today virtually all family groups feeding or resting along the course of the river.

Cholsey Marsh quiet, noise wise, only a brief song of a Sedge Warbler heard Blackcaps, Whitethroats (several family groups), Chiffchaffs and a single Lesser Whitethroat seen. A few Goldcrests in with some of the Tit flocks and the odd Treecreeper.
Several Jays heard on the opposite bank of the river.

The walk to Winterbrook by the side of the “Bunkie Line” produced 20+ Linnets, several Greenfinch, 2 Reed Bunting and 6+ Yellowhammer.
Other species: Mallard, Pheasant, Red Kite, Buzzard, Moorhen, Coot, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Skylark, House Martin, Pied Wagtail, Dunnock, Robin, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Blackbird, Wren, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Magpie, Jackdaw, Rook, Carrion Crow, Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Bullfinch.

Only Mammals seen were 2 Brown Hares and several Rabbits.
Almost tripped over a Grass Snake at Cholsey Marsh looked down and one was passing between my feet, not quick enough with the camera unfortunately. Yellow collar very conspicuous and was around a metre long, probably a female.

Brown Hawker dragonflies very common today with Common Darter, Common Bluet and Banded Demoiselles also seen.
A good quantity of Butterflies around today of 15 species, Small Skipper, a single Large Skipper, Brimstone, Large White, Small White, Green-veined White, Small Tortoiseshell, a single Small Copper, Common Blue, Peacock, Comma, Speckled Wood, Gatekeeper, Meadow Brown and Ringlet.

Also several 6-spot Burnet Moths and a lot of Ladybirds (2-spot, 7-spot, 10-spot and Cream-spot), Meadow and Field Grasshoppers common!
As I am writing this (16:00 BST) a Sparrowhawk just took a Starling in the garden! Starlings are scarcer than Sparrowhawks in the garden.

In garden recently, male and female Great-spotted Woodpecker and Treecreeper frequently and a confrontation between 2 Carrion Crows and 3 Mallards! Mallards won.
A Green Woodpecker twice in the past few days, in addition Tawny Owls quite vocal at night in the meadow and garden.

                                     Grey Heron



                                          6-spot Burnet Moth

Plaque on “Agatha Christies” old house in Winterbrook, Cholsey, just passing and took the pic.

                                  Sparrowhawk with Starling.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Spotted Flycatcher

The Spotted Flycatcher is a “red data” species, which means the population, has declined over 50% in the last 25 years; in fact, the decline is probably closer to 70%. Therefore, it is good news that a pair in the village has successfully fledged two young and there is possibly another pair in the parish breeding this year.

Also a report that requires verifying that Barn Owls have been seen in the parish. There used to be around three pairs about 10 years ago but have become very scarce. The only record I have from last year is one hunting over Cholsey Hill one evening last autumn.

A small colony of Green-flowered Helleborine (Epipactis phyllanthes) has been found in the parish. Hardly the prettiest of Orchids but an interesting plant and becoming rare. (per TW)

A Common Darter dragonfly in the garden today.

                       Spotted Flycatcher © The Paranoid Birder

Friday, 22 July 2011

Raptors +

Sunny spells, 20º, light NW.

Lollingdon and the Lees.
A day of raptors today, 3 Kestrels and a Peregrine Falcon near Lollingdon Hill, then a field of recently cut oil seed rape had 21 Red Kites and 3 Buzzards in or over it, in addition Sparrowhawk and Hobby seen.
Yellowhammers still singing, had around 7, also a few Reed Buntings and 2 Corn Buntings.

Several (8) Whitethroats seen (a few carrying food) and 2 Chiffchaffs but other warblers not very conspicuous at the moment although a Blackcap singing in the meadow early this morning.
Several Sedge and 1 Reed Warbler seen along the course of an overgrown stream.
A Yellow Wagtail seen feeding fledged young.

Approximately 15 Stock Doves noted out near Lollingdon and a few Skylarks.
A single Black-headed Gull on the playing field with a few Wood Pigeon.

Both Green and Great-spotted Woodpeckers seen and heard.
Only dragonfly seen today was a Brown Hawker.

Butterflies, Large and Small White, Common Blue, Ringlet, Gatekeeper, Brimstone, Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell, Comma, Speckled Wood, Meadow Brown.
Great-spotted Woodpecker in garden, that make 3 separate individuals visiting.

Although muddy underfoot some streams and ditches are low or dried up.
                            13 Red Kites, another 8 were on the deck

                                          Sedge Warbler

                                          Large White

                                          Common Blue

                                           Yellow Wagtail


Thursday, 21 July 2011

Meadow and Garden.

Cloudy, 19º, light NE. Fairly heavy rain later.

Crop harvesting has started this week on Cholsey Hill, the combine chugging away until rain stopped play.

Following the brook from Marymead through the Brook meadow crossing the bridge in to the playing field to Jubilee Wood then on to the Bullshole. Did not go too far as rain was threatening.
A Sparrowhawk seen being mobbed by Swallows and House Martins. 2 species heard still singing today were Chiffchaff and Yellowhammer and a Buzzard calling nearby.

At least 2 Tawny Owls calling from the meadow last night, the usual “hoo hoo” call and a responding “Ke-vick”.

2 Great-spotted Woodpeckers in the garden today, an adult female and a juvenile and a Green Woodpecker heard in the meadow.

In addition, a Song Thrush family of 2 adults and at least 2 young being fed in the garden, is this a second brood or another family?

At around 7 this evening I heard several Blackbirds creating in the garden, on looking out the window I saw a male Sparrowhawk with a juvenile Blackbird. The Sparrowhawk was on top of its prey; wings spread and there were 2 other Blackbirds nearby and looked as if they were attempting to attack the Sparrowhawk. I rushed to get the camera but by the time I got back, it had gone. I kept hearing alarm calls and assumed the Sparrowhawk had taken its prey somewhere nearby and out of sight to consume. Around 30 minutes later I saw the Sparrowhawk fly from the trees hotly pursued by 2 Blackbirds.

4 to 5 Mallards in garden recently in the evenings and another Hobby flyover yesterday.

A Hornet seen recently in the garden.

Just learning the bass line of the Stereophonics “maybe tomorrow” and a few other tracks. My girlfriend is a singer and has a friend who plays guitar. All we need now is a drummer! I see a few jamming sessions happening!

Monday, 18 July 2011

Bits and pieces.

There's a Kingfisher regularly on Cholsey Brook now, seen/heard almost daily as it zips along over Chruch Rd bridge and past the school.

The Moorhens still had 2 large (almost fledged) young last weekend, but another bird brought 2 small young over from (presumably) the dried up pond at the school, trying to reach the Brook. The resident Moorhen chased it off, leaving the young stranded in a garden all afternoon. No sign since, although an adult was defending some young (heard) from a juv Grey Heron that was stalking them at Church Rd Bridge on 15th.

A hedgehog was also at the bridge on 15th, and there was a brood of recently-fledged buzzards north of Lollingdon Fm.
(Per RB)

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Sunny days!

Sunny, 23º, light WSW.

Walked to Wallingford along the Thames path yesterday (15th), Cholsey marsh was quiet, the odd Sedge Warbler, Whitethroat and Blackcap heard, 2 Sand Martin flew down river and a Kingfisher heard. The Mute Swans near the marsh are down to 2 cygnets, which means 2 have gone missing whereas the ones near Wallingford still have 4 cygnets!

Another Kingfisher seen near the Oxford University boathouse in Wallingford and a Pied Wagtail feeding along the bank.

3 different Black-headed Gulls along the river, these should become more frequently seen now as some have left their breeding sites and are feeding along the river.

3 Kestrels hunting in various spots and approx 6 Great-crested Grebe on the river including 2 juvenile birds.

4 Green Woodpeckers seen/heard and 2 largish (c30 to 40 birds) Tit flocks seen, predominantly Long-tailed.

There has been some Wader movement in the county recently (Black-tailed Godwits in particular) and with the 2 Sand Martins moving downriver probably heralds the beginnings of return migration. There has also been a trickle of Sand Martins and Swifts flying out to sea at Portland, Dorset.

Quite a few Dragonflies today, majority were Brown Hawkers (c8), also a couple of Blue Hawkers, a Common Darter, a Four-spot Chaser, a Blue Emperor and a smallish Hawker unidentified. Common Bluets and Banded Demoiselles.
9 species of Butterfly seen.

16th July

Today has been quite wet with light to heavy rain this morning. We need it! Brightened up later.

A couple of Mallards have turned up in the garden, an adult female and 2 juveniles, no sign of the adult male(s) as yet.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

A quiet week!

Sunny spells this week, minimal rain, temp average 20º.

Have not been out in Cholsey for a few days for various reasons, however have been birding in other areas but that’s for another blog!

The garden recently has two Wrens vying with each other; I think there may be two territories overlapping. Their song and aggressive behaviour towards each other may suggest this.

Also 2 Song Thrush present, probably for the Blackberries that are starting to fruit at the moment and there appears to be a cache of snails in the garden somewhere as there is rather a lot of broken shells in a particular spot.
2 Juvenile Robins in garden.

The usual other visitors still include Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Blackbird, Blue and Great Tit, Blackcap, Great-spotted Woodpecker, Wood Pigeon (incl a few juveniles) and Collared Dove, also the usual Swifts, Swallows and House Martins overhead. A new species for the garden this week was a Hobby that drifted over being pursued by a few Swifts. I would not have noticed this but I heard a few alarm calls from the Swallows and Martins, which prompted me to look around for a predator and then saw the Hobby.

A few Pipistrelle hunting in the meadow on and off overnight recently.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Marymead Garden

Sunny spells, 18º, light S, a few light rain showers.

A Treecreeper seen this morning moving along the line of trees in the garden in typical fashion, landing close to the base of one tree then working its way up, then moving on to the base of the next one etc.

Other visitors today were the usual Goldfinches (4+), Greenfinches (6+) and Chaffinches (6+), several Wood Pigeon, 2 Collared Dove, Wren, Robin, Dunnock, Blue and Great Tits, Blackcap (singing), Blackbirds, a single Song Thrush and a Great-spotted Woodpecker.

Strange how the local House Sparrows and Starlings visit feeders at the front of Marymead but do not visit my feeder in the garden at the rear. Maybe not enough visibility due to the trees in the back garden? That does not explain the presence of other species feeding though.

The usual House Martins (c8), Swallows (4+) and several Swifts feeding overhead on and off through the day.

Up to 3 Hedgehogs in the garden most nights.

The 2 Carrion Crows that are in the area visited now and again throughout the day and spent most of the time in the meadow. They do not appear to have bred this year yet?
Every evening they spend around an hour in the meadow in very close proximity to each other. Maybe a bonding experience?

An adult Black-headed Gull flew through the meadow this morning and the odd Red Kite and Buzzard overhead. 2 Mistle Thrush and up to 10 Blackbirds in the meadow and a Moorhen feeding in the meadow close to the brook.

Goldcrests, Coal Tit and Long-tailed Tits heard.
                     Great-spotted Woodpecker and Goldfinch


                          The pair of Carrion Crows in the meadow this evening.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Damsels, Dragons and Butterflies.

Sunny, 24º, light SW, giving way to light rain later and temp dropping to 16º.

Not too much bird activity today, Grasshopper Warbler and Lesser Whitethroat at Cholsey Marsh. 3 Kestrels around and a flyby Black-headed Gull and Cormorant.
A Kingfisher near Bow Bridge and 2 at Cholsey Marsh.

Around 5 Brown Hawkers, 2 Blue (southern) Hawkers, and quite a lot (c20) Common (Blue Damsel) Bluetails and around 12 Banded Demoiselles.

2 Silver-washed Fritillaries again, plus Meadow Brown, Green-veined, Large and Small Whites, Holly Blue, Small Tortoiseshell, Red Admiral, Ringlet, Marbled White, Large Skipper, Gatekeeper, Comma and first Painted Lady of the year.

A colony of Pyramid Orchids found, around 30 plants present at this site.

The second House Martins nest at Marymead has fledged with at least 2 young flying.

Long-tailed Tit and Goldcrest in the garden today along with the usual visitors and a Blackcap singing, Song Thrush and Great-spotted Woodpecker regularly visiting and a Moorhen briefly, 2 Mistle Thrush in the meadow.
A Red Kite came down in the garden this afternoon briefly, certainly put the Squirrels to flight.
A Kestrel settled on the bird feeding station this evening flushing everything.
                                   Common Bluetail


A view of the meadow from the garden, Cholsey Brook runs along the right hand side.

Monday, 4 July 2011

Ringing at Cholsey marsh

A few sightings from Sunday morning, while ringing at Cholsey Marsh:

In the net: Reed Warbler, Whitethroat, Robin, Blue Tit, Wren, Song Thrush, Chiffchaff.

Not in the net! Common Tern, Kingfisher, Grasshopper Warbler, Muntjac, Roe Deer,

Grey Partridge calling along Westfield Rd (far side of the Railway Bridge).

(per RB).

Hummingbird Hawk Moth seen in a garden in West End recently.