Monday, 31 December 2012

Happy New Year

2012 End of year.
As previously mentioned in an earlier post the year started with drought conditions and is now finishing with floods. This year is now the wettest on record and is ending on a wet and windy note also along with silly winter temperatures of 12ºc!
A steady year species wise but disastrous for many breeding birds with the wet spring causing a lack of insect food etc, also butterflies had a bad year due to the weather conditions.
One hundred and twenty bird species noted in the parish this year a little down on previous years, twenty mammals, three reptiles, three amphibians, twenty three butterflies and fourteen dragonflies (that I know of); I do not have figures for other species.
Most other wildlife was on a par with previous years, a few more sites for Common Lizard found and amphibians seemed to do well. An interesting note of a Smooth Newt found swimming around in a bowl of water put out in a garden for a pet dog.
A good autumn passage of Common Redstart that turned out to be county wide and quite unprecedented in modern times, as opposed to a protracted autumn passage of Northern Wheatear that was disappointing.
A Turtle Dove and a Tree Sparrow were noted for the first time in a few years but only briefly.
Several highlights (for me) were the six White Storks that arrived on Cholsey Hill on the 26th April, a Great Grey Shrike out Lollingdon way on the 21st December and a pair of Cetti’s Warbler possibly breeding on Cholsey Marsh, first time since the mid-90’s.
The Storks were the first record for Cholsey and the Shrike was the third record (1966 and 2002 being the previous), neither stayed around for very long in Cholsey. However the Storks stayed in Oxfordshire for a time and many local birders managed to see them and the shrike may still be somewhere in South Oxfordshire.
The Storks were first seen on the 17th April near Abberly in Worcestershire; at that point, there were nine White Storks, then 6 seen near Colwyn Bay and Holywell in North Wales before tracking back and being seen on Cholsey Hill. From there they were tracked over Moreton, Didcot and Abingdon before settling down in the Newbridge/Standlake area where unfortunately one of them died after hitting some power lines.
They were then seen in East Sussex (Sidlesham) and tracked across Hampshire to Dorset and seen over Weymouth and Portland (the day after I left Portland) and then flew to Mordon Bog in Dorset on 6th May. I have no further information from that point.
Thanks to all who have contributed to the blog in 2012, Tony Williams, Tony Rayner, Brian Wyatt, Roger Wyatt, John Lucas, Michael Pocock, Badger, Richard Broughton, Ben Hobbs, Gerry Quinn, Bob Dryden, Paul Rainsden and a few I may have missed,
Cheers everyone! Have a good 2013.

One of the following you will find in Oxfordshire in 2013......which one?

The top one is Salvin’s Albatross and the bottom one is Campbell Albatross both pics taken in Kaikoura NZ a couple of years back.

Salvin's Albatross

Campbell Albatross

The middle pic taken by Roger Wyatt........ Cheers mate!

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Finches and Blackcaps

Sunny at first then overcast and rain, 7º, light to moderate WSW.

Ventured out close to home this morning and saw more people than birds but that is the holiday season for you!
The garden was more productive though, several Lesser Redpoll turned up on the feeders with around a dozen Goldfinch and three Greenfinch and around fourteen Chaffinch feeding on the grass around the feeders, the odd Blackbird visiting and feeding on the sultanas along with a Song Thrush and a Blackcap that appeared today (possibly Richards as he lives just over the road).

Several Wood Pigeon, three or four Collared Dove and a Stock Dove on and off through the afternoon, a Great-spotted Woodpecker and a Treecreeper noted, regular Blue and Great Tit and one or two Coal Tit and several Long-tailed Tit all visiting and the usual Robin, Wren and up to three Dunnock present.
I have an update on some birds at South Moreton today from Michael Pocock, around one thousand Lapwing and up to one thousand six hundred Golden Plover and a count of twenty-three Common Snipe.

Also three Blackcap (2 & 1) feeding in a garden near Queens Road for the past two weeks, also nine Blue Tit today.
Thanks for the info Michael.

                     A poor pic of one of the Redpolls, apologies!

Xmas update, the rainy season!

Wet, wet, wet and up to 12º!

Not been out birding since before xmas mainly due to the weather, it has certainly been the wettest year I can recall. Drought conditions at the beginning of the year then a very wet year especially now. The ground is very waterlogged at the moment with many fields either partially or completely flooded.

News from Tony Williams, John Lucas and the Eastender.
Still large numbers of Lapwing (1000+) and Golden Plover (500+) in the area, mainly on the floods at South Moreton but moving around the area. Also a Ruff still present at South Moreton.

Many winter thrushes still around, several thousand of each Fieldfare and Redwing feeding in the fields.
The Eastender has had several Lesser Redpoll feeding in his garden and up to three have been seen feeding in a garden near the allotments in the village, up to fifty Yellowhammer in the Eastender’s garden recently eclipsed the Redpoll and five Grey Partridge also!

Monday, 24 December 2012

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all of you who have contributed and read, and I hope  enjoyed, the blog this year...................Thanks.

                           Song Thrush from last winter

Sunday, 23 December 2012


Overcast, 10°, light to moderate SW.
Out over the farmland again today but slightly north from the last few days a more open area and not so waterlogged, however streams and ditches very full.
Again lots of Lesser Blackback Gull and Black-headed Gull feeding in the fields and plenty of Fieldfare and Redwing in the area.
A couple of small flocks of Yellowhammer and quite a few Blackbird (50+) and Song Thrush (20+) along the hedgerows, two Common Snipe and a few Skylark noted.
Two Stonechat seen, they have been in the area for a while now but not always visible from the footpaths, also a Peregrine seen alighting on one of the pylons.
A couple of Bullfinch in the millennium wood again.
Two Mistle Thrush seen along Church rd and a Coal Tit singing and both eventually turning up in the garden a little later, the Great-spotted Woodpecker, Stock Dove and a Treecreeper also frequenting the garden today along with other regulars.
The fields just North West of Cholsey hill at South Moreton are very waterlogged again with many gulls present and in excess of one thousand Lapwing there in the past few days, also several small flocks of Golden Plover but not sure of numbers involved. Thanks to Tony Williams for some of the info.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

No sign of the Shrike!

Rain, 8º, light W.

Out for two and half very wet hours this morning looking for the Shrike but not found, also a pheasant shoot in the area so everything jittery.
A couple of Bullfinch seen in the Millennium wood and several flocks of Golden Plover and Lapwing in the area.

Plenty of gulls still around on the floods and five Common Gull seen, twenty plus Pied Wagtail and seven Grey Partridge noted, also several hundred Fieldfare and Redwing.

A Sparrowhawk seen soaring over the meadow this afternoon and Robin and Song Thrush singing near garden.

Friday, 21 December 2012

Great Grey Shrike

Sunny spells. 10º, light W.

A patch tick for me today in the form of a Great Grey Shrike, I missed the last one in 2002 on Lollingdon hill as I was out of the county at the time.
I decided to walk out to Lollingdon as it had been raining for the past two days and needed to get out. The footpaths were very damp and muddy; some were ankle deep in water.

 I got out to Lollingdon and rather than walk out via Aston I turned back and headed back towards Cholsey, thinking of getting back to the Bullshole and then out to the Lees. A few hundred metres back a Great Grey Shrike flew up on to the hedgerow in front of me, I think it was as surprised as I was and it then flew off down the hedge. I tried to get a couple of photos but it was too distant so I tried to close on it but it was very flighty and eventually flew across the fields and settled in a tree even further away. I could not cross the field, as it was flooded so I had to go back the way I came, in the mean time making a few phone calls.
Halfway back I noticed the bird had left the tree and was nowhere in sight I continued to look and was joined by Brian Wyatt and a couple of other birders later but no luck, very frustrating not to have got a photo but enjoyed seeing the bird.

Grid ref of first sighting was SU864575.

The fields and the footpaths in the area are very soggy and muddy so if anyone thinking of looking tomorrow please ensure you have good footwear and keep to the public paths please.
A lot of Fieldfare and Redwing in the area and twenty plus Pied Wagtail on a flooded field and a couple of Common Snipe.

Around fifty Lesser Blackback and Black-headed Gull and two Common Gull noted along with two Lapwing flocks, one of twenty three and another of fifty plus.
Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Buzzard and Red Kite all seen, also a Peregrine seen distantly that put up a lot of gulls and corvids near Aston Tirrold.

Song Thrush and Coal Tit singing along Church rd today in the sunshine.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Rainy days and Redpolls.

Rain, 9º, light SE.

Another rainy day so no birding and decided to do a little Xmas shopping!
Before going out I was looking out in the garden and there were at least five Lesser Redpoll (2 and 3 or more /juv) present on the nyger seed feeders along with ten plus Goldfinch.

Have noticed today that the river Thames is rising again and the fields at South Moreton are flooding extensively again! A lot of flooding in the south and south-west of England.

A Muntjac Deer foraging in the garden tonight, clearing up some of the spilt seed under the bird feeders and investigating the flower beds!
Some record shots, it was raining and the windows were wet unfortunately.

A really bad pic of the Muntjac in the dark!

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

The Heavy mob.

Wet ’n’ windy, Rain, 6º, light to moderate SE.

A day for staying in and catching up with some domestic chores and observing the garden.
As well as the smaller species such as the Finches and Tits, the so-called “heavy mob” were in abundance in the garden today. The two Carrion Crow dominated along with fourteen Wood Pigeon, six Collared Dove, two Stock Dove and a Moorhen.

A visit of a couple of Lesser Redpoll again today associating with the Goldfinch, hope these become more regular. In addition, the two Treecreeper seen again today working the garden trees in a very systematic way and several visits by a Great-spotted Woodpecker.
There are over thirty different types of bird feeders at Marymead and the ones situated at the front attract a couple of species that we do not get in the rear of the garden or very rarely. These are House Sparrow, Starling and Pied Wagtail.

                                   Carrion Crow
                                   Stock Dove
                                   Lesser Redpoll and Goldfinch

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Buntings, an Owl and a Warbler

Cloudy but bright, 6º, light variable wind, looks like a wet day tomorrow!

After a busy day decided to go to Cholsey marsh to check the roost and was rewarded with some good birds!
One hundred and twenty plus Corn Bunting this evening, visibility was good and they were coming in from all angles, flocks of between five and fifty. Some behaviour noted, whether this is an anti predator strategy or not the buntings would fly over the roost site and settle in trees up to five hundred metres away and wait until the light was waning before going to roost!

Approximately twenty Reed Bunting, five Meadow Pipit all roosting in the reeds and surprisingly six Starling seen to go in also. A small number of thrushes, less than one hundred roosting in some of the trees on the marsh, Blackbird, Fieldfare, Redwing and Song Thrush.
At least three Water Rail heard and a Cetti’s Warbler seen and heard and a Barn Owl hunting over the marsh briefly, the first for a long time, unfortunately by the time I got to my car to get the camera out (I had only just put it away) it had gone.

Two Cormorant flew upriver and again large numbers of corvids (500+ Rook and Jackdaw) roosting a few kilometres away.
As the weather has become milder recently fewer birds have been visiting the garden, however a Treecreeper still daily along with the Great-spotted Woodpecker, Stock Dove and variable numbers of Long-tailed Tit to name but a few.

One of the regular garden visitors, Collared Dove.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Cold and misty.

Misty, 0º, no wind.

Another murky day so went for a walk to the west of the village via Lollingdon, most fields still partially flooded and frozen. Many winter thrushes now feeding in the fields as virtually all the berry crop has gone, over five hundred of each Fieldfare and Redwing seen in total along with over one hundred Blackbird.
Twenty plus Song Thrush noted but most of these feeding in the leaf litter along the hedgerows and two Mistle Thrush noted.

One field held five Common Snipe, a Grey Heron and a stream that ran along the edge had two Teal and seven Mallard present.
The fields on and around Cholsey hill held several hundred Golden Plover and Lapwing all spread out and foraging the partially frozen fields with again many winter thrushes present, also several small flocks of Starling.

A couple of species counts today on my walk, twenty-three Robin and eighteen Wren noted, not sure whether those figures will be meaningful in any way but may be useful to check back?
A few Kestrel, ten plus Buzzard and Red Kite were the only raptors noted today.

The garden had a rarity today (for the garden that is) in the shape of a Starling that seemed to enjoy the suet balls and sultanas, also the Great-spotted Woodpecker again and a flock of fourteen Long-tailed Tit arrived mid-afternoon and stayed for around five minutes before moving on and the same flock returned several times late afternoon. All the other usual garden visitors present.

Tawny Owls vocal in garden last night.
A couple of Waxwing in Wallingford last weekend and a flock of twelve in nearby Pangbourne (Berkshire) today.

                                       Long-tailed Tits
                                  European Starling
                 Great-spotted Woodpecker and European Goldfinch
                                  European Starlings

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Cold and frosty morning.

Foggy, 0º, negligible wind.

Not as foggy as yesterday but still cold, only some garden updates today as had to go out for the day.
Topped up garden feeders prior to daylight and put some apples and sultanas out.

At least twelve Blackbird present at any one time most squabbling over the apples but enough to go round, a Song Thrush also visited and settled for the sultanas out the way of the Blackbirds.
Two Treecreeper put in an appearance along with a small flock of Long-tailed Tit (6), also two Coal Tit and the usual Great (4) and Blue Tit (6).

The usual Wood Pigeon (14), Collared Dove (4) and two Stock Dove in the garden along with up to fourteen Chaffinch, four Greenfinch and six Goldfinch.
And of course the pair of Carrion Crow.

                                   Blackbird and Chaffinch

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Cold and Foggy

Foggy, 0º, no wind.

Cold and foggy, temperature did not get above freezing all day, Cholsey marsh still draining out in to the Thames in places. Forecast for -6º tonight and then a lot milder with high winds and rain for the week end, balmy British weather!
A check on Cholsey marsh at dusk to count species roosting there, just over sixty Corn Bunting counted coming in to the roost but unable to see any coming in from the south due to the poor visibility so may well have been more, twenty plus Reed Bunting and a couple of Meadow Pipit there as well.

Two Common Snipe flew from the marsh and at least three Water Rail heard, quite a few Redwing several Blackbird and Song Thrush feeding on the icy surface of the marsh, have not noted this feeding behaviour before!
A couple of Pied Wagtail heard flying over but did not see if they landed nearby, several Black-headed Gull flew downriver, a Grey Heron flew upriver and a Little Grebe on the river. A Great-spotted Woodpecker in the trees near the marsh and a lot of Corvid calls heard overhead and in the distance, Rook and Jackdaw, probably going to a nearby roost.

A single Siskin flying overhead.

News from Tony Rayner - Twenty Lapwing in field above Ilges lane today, ten Siskin and a Lesser Redpoll in the Italian Alders in Caps lane recently and five Yellowhammer in garden along Wallingford road.

                       A couple of Corn Bunting pics from the summer.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Falcated Duck at Farmoor, Oxfordshire.

Cloudy, 2°, light WNW.
An adult male Falcated Duck found at Farmoor today, if found to be a genuine vagrant will be a first for the county. It was unringed and fully winged so maybe a good candidate.
Falcated Duck is an East Asian species that breeds over much of south-east Siberia, Russia, south to northern Mongolia, China, and Japan.
Also at Farmoor, one Slavonian Grebe, three Greater Scaup, Goldeneye, Shovelor with the many Tufted Duck and Mallard.

Falcated Duck Photos below © Roger Wyatt (Cheers Rog)

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Thrushes still prominent.

Overcast, 0º, light to mod SSW, felt colder.

The level of the Thames has dropped but it is still flowing relatively fast and still a lot of flooding in adjacent fields, also quite icy in most places and many of the flooded areas still frozen over.
Thirty-two Pied Wagtail on an icy flooded area near Bow Bridge there were more in an adjacent field but no visual on them, could only hear them calling, also ten Cormorant in their usual rest tree.

Thrushes prominent here with Plenty of Fieldfare and Redwing, around twenty Blackbird and three Song Thrush.
Cholsey Marsh busy and at least two Water Rail heard and five Common Snipe seen, the marsh is still quite waterlogged and the path is mainly navigable with wellies on.

Again, many thrushes here as well with over thirty Blackbird and five Song Thrush and a single Mistle Thrush noted along with approximately a hundred of each Fieldfare and Redwing. At one point, the thrushes went in to panic mode and in a short while I noted a Sparrowhawk sat in some bushes, it then flew off across the river. A Tufted Duck on the river and thirty plus Mallard present.
Rather chilly on Lollingdon hill and again thrushes in evidence, over twenty Blackbird and six Song Thrush noted here along with a few Fieldfare and Redwing. Many gulls feeding in local fields (Black-headed and Lesser Blackback) and six Common Gull seen, three adults and a first winter and then two more adults.

The garden has been busy today with an increase in Greenfinch and Blackbird (probably word has gotten around about the apples and sultanas for the Blackbirds) along with ten plus Goldfinch, two Jay briefly and a Great-spotted Woodpecker and Stock Dove again. The pair of Carrion Crow have been more frequent in the garden since the onset of the colder weather. Woke up just before daylight this morning and hearing Tawny Owl calling, Robin singing and a Grey Heron passing overhead.
A Red Fox also seen on my travels today.

                                   Pied Wagtail
                                   Ice skating
                                   Red Fox

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Snow but not for long!

Sunny, 2º, light to fresh NW, a light scattering of snow.

A chilly day, the snow mostly disappearing by lunchtime except on the surrounding hills but only a thin layer, expected to get to minus five tonight.

Eight Magpie seen near the Millennium Wood.
Quite a few winter thrushes around, less than of late but still several hundred each of Fieldfare and Redwing, forty plus Blackbird, twelve Song Thrush and six Mistle Thrush scattered around, five of the Song Thrush were together as a small flock.

Two Peregine seen with a kill (Wood Pigeon) and double figures of Buzzard and Red Kite and a couple of Kestrel noted.
A single Green Woodpecker seen and several Yellowhammer, Skylark and Meadow Pipit. Lesser Blackback Gull and Black-headed Gull seen frequently on iced flood areas and two Grey Heron noted.

The floods at South Moreton have also seen a Merlin and a Ruff this week and Chiffchaff and Blackcap both seen in the village in the last few days.
Thanks to Tony Williams for some of the info.

Something I had not noted before was a Black-headed Gull foraging in Wallingford town centre prior to dusk!
Around a dozen Roe Deer noted in various places.

                                   Lesser Blackback Gulls

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Garden and South Moreton

Have not been out birding for several days due to various circumstances but have some observations from driving around locally and the garden.

The weather has turned colder now we are in to December and the garden feeders are being attended far more frequently. Goldfinch are prominent with numbers growing and several Greenfinch have started to turn up regularly, up to six Blackbird feeding in the garden now it has got colder and an irregular Song Thrush. Will put a few apples and sultanas out tonight. The usual Wood Pigeon and Collared Dove along with one or two Stock Dove, other regulars include approx ten Chaffinch, a Robin (always singing at dawn), Wren, two or three Dunnock and a Great-spotted Woodpecker that feeds frequently on suet balls. Blue, Great, Coal and Long-tailed Tit also regular visitors.
Even though the level of the Thames has dropped, the floods at South Moreton are still widespread and it is still attracting large numbers of birds. At peak times there are approx several thousand Gulls, mainly Lesser Blackback Gull and Black-headed Gull. Still a large plover flock with roughly five hundred of each Lapwing and Golden Plover but may well be more, also some Common Snipe and what looked like several Dunlin and a few Teal. The area I watched from has a limited view and some areas are distant so there may be other species present and numbers may be higher.