Wednesday, 31 August 2011

No wildlife posts this week

Apologies for the lack of wildlife posts this week but I have been working on the Bunkfest in Wallingford all week and into this week end.

      Building the south stage in the “Krinny” Wallingford with Bob Wyatt

Friday, 26 August 2011

Rain stops play!

Light to heavy rain, the odd sunny spell, 14º, light to fresh W.

After around 16 hours of rain and the odd thunderstorm, I managed to get out this evening for a few hours before the next lot of rain arrived.

Just a trip to Lollingdon Hill, did not produce much except for 9 Linnets and 12+ Yellowhammers.

Again a lot of corvids around, Rooks (100+), Jackdaws (30+) and the odd Carrion Crow and 100+ Gulls seen distantly on Cholsey Downs.

A couple of Chiffchaffs around the garden and a single Willow Warbler.

First 4 pics are Yellowhammers, last pic is of the sun glinting off a carpet of cobwebs on manure heaps.

Thursday, 25 August 2011


Sunny spells, 20º, light S.

Did not get the rain forecast for today but nice and sunny! Rain now forecast for tomorrow!

2 Willow Warbler and 5 Chiffchaff in trees at Marymead today.
2 Spotted Flycatchers in Lollingdon in the hedgerow behind one of the paddocks and several more Chiffchaff around, plus a single Blackcap.

Several Migrant and Southern Hawkers seen along with a few Common Darters.

Both Large and Small White Butterflies, Red Admiral, Comma and Gatekeeper seen.

Tawny Owls and Hedgehogs in garden tonight.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Wheatears and Yellow Wagtails

Sunny, 20º, Light S.

Rather quiet day today, migrants thin on the ground. 5 Chiffchaffs, 3 Whitethroat, 1 Blackcap.

Also 2 Chiffchaffs in the garden today.

Lollingdon Hill quiet, 1 flyover Yellow Wagtail.

Farmland almost as quiet, 2 Reed Bunting, 3 Yellowhammer and a few Linnet.
Manor Farm produced today’s highlights with 4 Wheatear and 14 Yellow Wagtail. Also a good number of Swallows around the farm and 12+ House Martins around Marymead/Church road.

As of late a steady flow of Gulls (all Lesser Blackbacks as far as I could tell) heading on to the downs and many Corvids around.

Another trip up to Lollingdon Hill this evening did not add much to today’s birds, 3 Kestrel hunting over the hill, plus a Buzzard and 2 Red Kite.

Interestingly the Gulls were all headed in the opposite direction from this morning. Most Gulls were heading in a NNE direction, presumably heading for roost sites at Dorchester, Farmoor etc. However, some were heading due east. Not sure where they would be heading to?

Weather changing, more cloud cover and a stiffer breeze this evening. Heavy Rain forecast overnight.
                           The same Wheatear above and below.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Wallingford Bunkfest 2011, 2nd to 4th Sep

Not wildlife but a local music festival that I’m involved with.

Wallingford Bunkfest, a relatively small but increasingly popular late summer folk music festival, takes place in Wallingford, Oxfordshire, UK and combines a broad range of folk music, dance displays, a beer festival and the local (Bunk) steam railway.
Main area is the Kine Croft, with other events in the Town centre and various pubs, and locations all over Wallingford. Over 20 different locations!

Its good fun, a great family event, so come along if you can.

A few pics from last years event.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Herring Gull, new for the year in Cholsey

A brief visit to Lollingdon Hill around midday proved negative for migrants, only Rooks, Jackdaws, a couple of Carrion Crows and 2 Magpies.
However a lot of Gulls following a plough close to Cholsey Downs, on taking a closer look I found at least 4 Herring Gulls with a flock of c200 Lesser Blackback Gulls.

This takes the species year list to 120 for 2011.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Marymead Garden

After about 4 hours of moderate rain, the sun is out again.

2 species that are scarce in the back garden decided to visit today, 4 House Sparrows, (2 adults feeding 2 young) and a Magpie on the feeders.

House Sparrows are frequent in neighbouring gardens but not here that often, not sure why. In addition, Magpie has been seen in the meadow and nearby but not in the garden.
Coal Tit heard.

At least 2 Tawny Owls in the Lime Trees (Tilia platyphllos) in the garden at 21:30
Regular visitors are still Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Wren, Robin, Blackbird, pair of Carrion Crows and Dunnock.

There are 14 feeders in total in the back garden, with mixed seeds, Nyger seed, Sunflower hearts, Peanuts and fat balls.

2 Grey Squirrels in garden today and 3 Common Darters, a Migrant Hawker and 2 Brown Hawkers hunting in the meadow.
             L to R, Greenfinch, juv Goldfinch, Great Tit, adult Goldfinch

Migration on the Hill

Lollingdon Hill 06:00 to 08:15

Sunny, 15º, light S.

An early start paid off on the hill today, visible migration evident with the following.

8 Yellow Wagtails (all flyovers), 3 Stonechat, 1 Whinchat, 2 Redstart, 1 Willow Warbler, 3 Whitethroat, 3 Yellowhammers, 1 Corn Bunting. (The latter 2 being resident species).

A steady flow of Swallows, with a few House Martins all moving in a southerly direction and an unexpected surprise with 5 Sand Martins also.

A lot of “corvids”, mainly Rooks in the surrounding fields and 200+ Lesser Blackback Gulls. Also 2 Skylarks, a Kestrel, a Great-spotted Woodpecker, 8 Stock Dove.

Friday, 19 August 2011

Lollingdon Hill +

Sunny spells, 20º, light SW.

Lollingdon Hill and the Lees.

There were several of us out today but at different times.

Lollingdon Hill produced a good quality of species today with 2 Raven, 100+ Rook,3 Stonechat, 3 Wheatear, 1 juv Whinchat, 2 Green Woodpeckers, 2 Kestrel, 3 Blackcap, 6 Whitethroat and a Hobby.

A single Willow Warbler seen near Lollingdon and approx 10 Stock Dove, also 2 Goldcrests with a Tit flock.

The Sedge and Reed Warblers breeding along the “Reedy Stream” appear to have left now as no sign, seen or heard.

Small numbers of Swallows and House Martins on the move, mainly family groups of 4 to 6 but c 20 Swallows still around Manor farm and House Martins noted visiting a successful (this year’s) nest site regularly at Marymead might prove to be raising a second brood.

For the first time this year, (I Think), I saw more Buzzards (10), than Red Kite (7).

A steady flow of Lesser Blackback Gulls overhead all heading towards the Downs.

2 Jay seen out by the Lees and a scattering of Yellowhammer, Skylark, Linnet and Reed Bunting around the fields in the area, also 1 Corn Bunting.

Both Green and Great-spotted Woodpeckers seen.

Another Raven was seen flying south over Cholsey Church (maybe one of the 2 seen earlier or another individual).

Cholsey Church area had a small finch flock of Chaffinch, Greenfinch and Goldfinch (approx 20 birds), may have been feeding on an area that has been left uncut and is producing a fair bit of seed from the grasses and other plants there.

Thanks to TW, JL and JR for some of the info, plus myself.

Little Egret north along the brook over the school on Thusday pm. RB

A Hedgehog and 2 Pipistrelles in the garden last night.

2 Brown Hawker dragonflies, 2 Common Darters and a Migrant Hawker seen.

A lot of Small White Butterflies, plus Red Admiral, Speckled Wood, and Gatekeeper.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Hornet Robberfly

The Hornet Robberfly, Asilus crabroniformis, is a species of predatory insect. It is one of the largest flies in the United Kingdom. It feeds on grasshoppers, dung beetles and other flies. Unlike an actual hornet, the Robberfly only has one yellow patch on its abdomen and one pair of wings. The larvae are believed to feed on dung beetle larvae and other detritivores (Typical detritivorous animals include millipedes, woodlice, dung flies, slugs etc).

Generally, A. crabroniformis can be found in woodland clearings and well-drained areas of heaths and downs covering Southern England and South & West Wales. It is reliant on the availability of rabbit or cattle dung.

However, there is a thriving colony in a Cholsey garden, the highest count being of over 30 individuals.

It is a member of the robberfly family Asilidae, subfamily Asilinae and is included in the list of endangered species in the British Isles.

Thanks to Tony Rayner for the info.

Mammal trapping in the garden today turned up pregnant/lactating Bank and Field Voles and Pigmy Shrew. Two female domestic Mallards appeared on the brook together with 12 piebald ducklings (one brood or two?).
Thanks to RB for info.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Lollingdon Hill.

Sunny spells, 20º, light W.

A few hours spent on Lollingdon Hill today, but rather quiet!

However there was 1 Wheatear present, 1 Kestrel, 3 Buzzards soaring overhead, a Green Woodpecker and a Willow Warbler, Whitethroat and Great-spotted Woodpecker in the hedgerow.


                                A Bracket fungus (not sure what species)

Cholsey Marsh.

I would like to echo the thoughts about Cholsey Marsh that have been mentioned in the “Forty” magazine (Cholsey’s excellent publication). Apparently BBOWT (Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Naturalist Trust) are the owners of the Marsh or at least lease it from the landowner. It is flagged as a “Nature Reserve” however, there appears to be no management plan, no warden and no consultation with local people!

Cholsey Marsh is a unique and rare habitat along the Thames and reflects the ancient environment that was once common along the banks of the Thames. I personally have recorded over 120 species of bird on or near the Marsh (Hen Harrier, Slavonian Grebe, Garganey, Cettis’s Warbler and Long-eared Owl to mention a few rarer species) and it is also a haven for several species of Dragonfly, Moth (of which 370 species have been recorded) and Butterfly. Also Snakes, Frogs, Toads, Lizards, many species of insect and not to mention plants, some of which may be scarce in the area.

The Marsh is an important roost in the area for Corn Bunting, a declining species in the UK, with up to 180 birds roosting regularly in the winter months.

It is also a breeding area for Cuckoo, Reed Warbler, Grasshopper Warbler, Garden Warbler and Sedge Warbler, plus several other commoner species.

With much emphasis on conservation these days, this site is worth preserving, especially with the development of “Cholsey Meadows” the old Fairmile Hospital site, which lies less than a kilometre from the Marsh. There are several of us who visit the Marsh on a regular basis and we have a good working knowledge of the area and its wildlife.

So how about it BBOWT? Come and take a look! Talk to us! And let’s look after it!

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Chain saw sculpture

                                     Cholsey Flower Show 2011
                                   Sculpture by 3DWood

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Quiet and Wet.

Overcast, showers (some heavy), 17º, light WSW.

Some time spent dodging rain showers and clearing up some rubbish at Cholsey Marsh, (beer and cider cans, empty cans of sweet corn, plastic bottles, household rubbish and curtains).

Cholsey Marsh very quiet, 2 Willow Warbler, 1 Chiffchaff, 1 Reed Warbler, a few Sedge Warbler (1 feeding young). Great-spotted Woodpecker heard.

A Common Tern flew downriver and several Swallows and House Martins overhead. A few Black-headed and Lesser Blackback Gulls overhead as well.

A single Water Shrew seen.

Lollingdon Hill – 5 Kestrels, not much else.

Marymead – Swallows and House Martins frequent overhead also a Sparrowhawk overhead then another shortly after in the garden scattering everything at the feeding station.

Appears a Collared Dove may have been taken in the garden by a Sparrowhawk judging by the amount of feathers around. Treecreeper in garden again.


Wednesday, 10 August 2011


Courtesy: The Wildlife Trusts

Hedgehogs, (Erinaceus europaeus), occur in almost all areas of the UK, except some of the Scottish islands. They tend to be scarce in wetland areas, pine forests and the highlands, where suitable food and nesting sites are harder to find. They have adapted well to life in cities, and are common in many suburban areas.

Hedgehogs are easily recognised, as they are the only British mammal covered in spines. Each hedgehog has as many as 7,000 spines covering its back and sides, and when threatened, it curls into a ball, so that the spines offer protection. The chest and belly are covered in coarse grey-brown fur.

Beetles, caterpillars, earthworms, slugs and snails are the hedgehog's favourite food, but the diet is varied and they will also eat cereals, pet foods, and fresh meat. They can weigh up to 1.5kg. A male hedgehog heavier than this is overweight and needs to diet! Before hibernation, a hedgehog should weigh at least 0.5kg to survive the winter.

Hedgehogs are mostly nocturnal, and can travel long distances in their nightly forages for food, but they may remain in one nest for several days before moving on. The young are born between May and September, in litters of four or five. Hogs have been known to live for up to 14 years, but in the wild, most will die after two years.


Hedgehogs avoid the coldest times of winter by hibernating, usually between November and early April, depending on the weather. If it is warm enough and there is enough food, hedgehogs do not hibernate at all. During hibernation, the animal's body functions slow down, almost to a standstill. Heartbeat decreases from 190bpm to 20bpm and body temperature drops from 35°C to 10°C. This helps them conserve energy.

Hedgehogs build nests called hibernacula in which to overwinter. Favourite sites for these are under timber buildings, in piles of brushwood or leaves, or in compost heaps. If the weather changes during hibernation, or the animal is disturbed, it will wake and may move on to build a new nest.

Helping hedgehogs

Hedgehogs are the gardener's friend because they eat slugs, snails, and other pests that damage plants. You can encourage hedgehogs into your garden by leaving piles of leaves and twigs around for them to nest in, or by making a purpose built shelter. Food should be put out at sunset, so that flies cannot lay eggs in it. If the food is not eaten by morning, it should be collected. A good hedgehog diet would include tinned pet food, chopped peanuts (not whole ones) or crunchy peanut butter, raw or cooked meat leftovers, muesli and a small amount of vegetables. They should not be fed on bread and milk if they are captive and cannot find other foods; this gives them diarrhoea.

Threats to hedgehogs

Most of us see more dead hedgehogs than live ones. Their natural defence of rolling up into a ball is, of course, useless against road traffic. The best way to reduce hedgehog road casualties is to drive more slowly, especially at night when hedgehogs are most active.

In the garden, hedgehogs may nest in long grass, and are sometimes injured by strimmers and lawnmowers, so check long grass before you cut it. Slug pellets can be deadly to hedgehogs too, but if you encourage hedgehogs into your garden, they will eat the slugs. Bonfires can sometimes conceal a sleeping hedgehog, so check underneath before lighting.

Litter is dangerous to hedgehogs. They can become entangled in plastic rings that hold cans together, or become wedged in yoghurt pots or empty tins. Dispose of litter carefully and | squash all your tin cans before recycling them.

Despite all these hazards, the biggest threat to hedgehogs is habitat loss. Over the last 30 years, agriculture has favoured large fields and the habitats of the hedgehog, particularly hedges, have been lost. Pesticide usage also puts pressure on hedgehog populations. With more hedgehog-friendly gardens however, the mammal's future should be secure.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Green Woodpecker

                        Juvenile Green Woodpecker in the Meadow
                                   Brown Hare

2 Pipistrelles hunting over the garden tonight.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Lazy days

Sunny spells, 23º, light SW

A leisurely walk out to Lollingdon and return via the Lees. Fairly quiet with a few Yellowhammers around, Chiffchaffs and Whitethroats.
A family group of Yellow Wagtails (2 ad and 3 juvs). A single Corn Bunting and a few Reed Buntings. The “reedy stream” had 5 Sedge Warbler, 1 Reed Warbler a couple of Whitethroats and Reed Buntings along it.
Another Yellow Wagtail heard flying over the church.

Several hundred gulls seen at a distance at the foot of the downs, along with a large corvid flock and Wood Pigeons. They were feeding in some recently ploughed fields and the pig farms.

A pleasant afternoon spent in the garden reading, Swallows and House Martins overhead most of the time and 3 Swifts spent around 5 minutes with them. Several Buzzards and Red Kites calling overhead as well. A Sparrowhawk flew from a tree in the meadow and a Hobby drifted overhead.

A Great-spotted Woodpecker feeding in the trees but did not come to the feeders.

The young Robin in the garden has now attained a redbreast and both adults are still around, wonder how long it will be around or will it be driven off to find its own territory. The family group of Dunnocks regularly in the garden and a Wren, a frequent visitor. A Coal Tit heard on and off throughout the afternoon.

Late afternoon a flock of around 20 Black-headed Gulls turned up and settled on the school playing field.

Very few butterflies seen, Meadow Brown, Gatekeeper, Small White, Red Admiral, Common Blue.

A single buck Roe Deer seen.

A report of a Wheatear at Silly Bridge last week.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Avian Pox: Public help required

The public are being asked to report sightings of garden birds riddled with lesions as scientists reveal that avian pox is spreading across the UK. Avian pox has been recorded in bird species such as House Sparrows and Woodpigeons for a number of years, but its recent emergence in Great Tits is causing real concern as the birds develop more severe symptoms of the disease. Scientists from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and the University of Oxford recorded the first occurrence of the disease in Oxford last year. Prior to this, affected birds had most often been sighted in Surrey, Kent and Sussex. The researchers are now calling on the public to report sightings of garden birds with symptoms of avian pox to the RSPB Wildlife Enquiries Unit to help the research team track the spread of the disease.

(Warning: this article contains images that some readers may find upsetting.)

More @

A wet one!

Overcast, heavy to light rain, 20º, light to fresh SSW.

Relatively quiet day due to the weather. A Common Tern along the river at Cholsey Marsh, a few Sedge Warbler heard calling, several Chiffchaff, 1 Willow Warbler, 1 Reed Warbler and 2 Blackcaps seen, 2 Kingfishers also present. A trickle of Swallows and House Martins feeding over the marsh and generally moving down river.

A steady movement of Gulls today, mainly Lesser Blackback Gulls (150+) and a handful of Black-headed Gulls. No particular direction of movement though, maybe looking for open fields that have been harvested or being ploughed?

A single Kestrel on Cholsey Hill and 3 on Lollingdon Hill.
The garden has been relatively quiet this week and is mainly visited by Finches at the moment, Chaffinch (4 to 6)  Greenfinch (up to 8) and Goldfinch (c6), both Blue and Great Tits making up the rest.

A Green Woodpecker present in the meadow.

British Birdwatching Fair 19th - 21st Aug

Welcome to the Birdfair!

Friday 19th – Sunday 21st August

The British Birdwatching Fair is the world’s first and largest international birdwatching Event.

The Birdwatching Fair is held at Egleton Nature Reserve, Rutland Water.

Described as the birdwatchers Glastonbury, Birdfair encompasses the whole spectrum of the birdwatching industry whilst at the same time supporting global bird conservation. There are hundreds of stands selling the latest products for wildlife enthusiasts. You will find everything from scopes to sculptures, binoculars to bird food, e-guides to eco-holidays.
More @

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Green Sandpipers.

Some migration at Cholsey Marsh today (2nd Aug) - 2 Green Sandpiper and a Snipe along the river, with passage Garden Warbler, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Reed Warbler and Sedge Warbler caught during ringing.

There was a single Swift over Boshers yard at 3.15 yesterday (1st Aug).
Thanks to RB and IB for the above info.

Green Sandpiper is a first for Cholsey this year. No Swifts seen today over Cholsey!

Yellow Wagtail over the garden this afternoon.