Sunday, 31 March 2013

The hills

Sunny spells, 5º, light E.

Two Wheatear still on Lollingdon hill along with two Pied Wagtail and a handful of Meadow Pipit, not a lot else around.

Approximately two hundred Golden Plover seen over Cholsey hill probably from the Moreton flood area.

Saturday, 30 March 2013


Sunny spells, 4º, light wind.

For the first time this year the Blackcaps have not shown in the garden, I know it’s only today but I am assuming they have now left as at least one has visited every day this year with up to five in the garden over the last few months, three and two ♀, (the French ringed male, the locally ringed male, an unringed male and assuming two different females)!
The that TW had in his garden has not been seen for four days.

As mentioned in earlier posts the Blackcaps in the garden initially found suet/fat balls to their liking but soon settled on exclusively sultanas as their preferred food and occasionally apple.
Judging from reports in the village there have been double figures wintering in Cholsey, however there must be some movement between areas depending on weather and food availability so possibly no more than twelve birds.

According to some information from RB fifteen different Blackcaps were ringed in a Somerset garden since last November supporting movement in areas.
We now await our summer visiting Blackcaps.

Friday, 29 March 2013


Sunny spells, 4º, light NE, a little milder as a few insects in the air today.

Still at least two Wheatear on Lollingdon hill, if there was a third today it may have been over the top where there is no access, also a few Meadow Pipit around, fifty Fieldfare and three Redwing.
The flooded field is drying rapidly but still up to fifty Lapwing and a few Black-headed Gull there.

A Blackcap in the garden today to add to the two ,s, she must be new as she was feeding on the suet balls whereas the ’s although initially on suet balls discovered the sultanas and have fed exclusively on them ever since.

Thursday, 28 March 2013


Overcast, 3º, light to moderate NE, at least the birdbath was liquid today!

A brief visit to Lollingdon hill today produced my first Wheatear with three present and struggling to find any insect food. One Wheatear was noted systematically dissecting some sheep droppings, presumably looking for insect larvae and seemed successful.
Tony Williams was on the hill this morning and no Wheatear present so they must have just arrived this afternoon!

A Buzzard present, eight Starling flew over and a distant flock of around one hundred and fifty Lapwing flew towards the downs.
A lot of gulls in the pig fields but too distant for ID.

Brian Wyatt had three Raven in Cholsey yesterday.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

The Fudgie Duck and the Fauvette à tête noire

Overcast, 4º, light to moderate NE, colder in the wind.

The Ferruginous Duck was showing again today so I decided to make a visit and although it showed only intermittently, it did come out of the reeds a few times but stayed distant. However it spent most of the time in the reed bed out of site or partially hidden.
A lot of other ducks and geese around also Water Rail, Curlew, Redshank, Common Snipe and a lot of Lapwing also noted.

We now have some info on the French ringed Blackcap that RB caught and ringed back on the 5th Jan this year.
Fauvette à tête noire

Michael Pocock having 3 Blackcap visiting garden feeders (2, 1) and a male this morning had yellow pollen on its face and the assumption is that it has been feeding on the nectar of Mahonia flowers from a bush nearby.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Cold and quiet

Overcast, 1º, light ENE.

Cholsey marsh was very quiet today the only bird of note was a Chiffchaff in the Sallows. The river is still high but not over the banks and the marsh is still draining in to the Thames at several places but still quite flooded.
Lollingdon hill was still quiet and fewer numbers of thrushes than yesterday and the flooded field held around one hundred and fifty Lapwing.

Blackcaps still feeding in the garden, I doubt they will be leaving until the weather changes, a Sparrowhawk seen in the meadow this afternoon.

The Ferruginous Duck still present on Otmoor.
Sad to see a dead Barn Owl along the Wallingford bypass today.

Monday, 25 March 2013

Here and There.

Just a few words on today’s weather........Bloody Freezing!

Started off with a visit to Lollingdon hill which was rather barren of birds, Robin, Great Tit and Blackbird. However the meadows behind the hill were rather active with a large flock of mainly Fieldfare, Redwing, Starling and Song Thrush (400, 200,100, 10+), and a lot of chattering that normally precedes migration with the Thrushes.
The flooded field at the rear of the hill held seven Dunlin, a Ringed Plover, two Common Gull and around one hundred Black-headed Gull and a few Lapwing. I have been keeping an eye on some of the flooded fields locally and was hoping for a few waders and struck lucky today. The pig fields held quite a few gulls around the flooded areas.

I had an email from Tony Rayner for a possible "Hobby" today over Cholsey and one was recorded in Hampshire yesterday!

Then I got a text confirming the presence of a Ferruginous Duck on Otmoor, so as I had not seen one in the county since 1989 I thought why not!
Forty minute drive through Oxford to Otmoor then a fair walk out to the second screen where it had been seen. On arriving Rog, Badger and Gnome, plus a couple of others were already there but the duck was showing very intermittently so I decided to stick around.

I stayed until dusk but the duck did not show again, possibly with the water levels so high it could just swim off through the reed beds and stay out of sight!
Having not seen the duck there was a few other birds, around eight species of duck, a few geese sp, Little Egret, Lapwing, Golden Plover, Redshank, Bittern, Dunlin, Water Rail, Barn Owl and a Marsh Harrier that appeared late afternoon. Also a flock of mainly Fieldfare, with Redwing and approximately two hundred Starling all chattering away in a field behind us while we were looking for the elusive duck.

A few pics of the Marsh Harrier and Barn Owl © Roger Wyatt and a distant one of the Dunlin © Paul Chandler

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Where is spring?

The weather just recently has been rather unseasonal with cold north easterly winds, snow, rain, overcast conditions and temperatures hardly getting above freezing.

Some of our early migrants are in with the odd Wheatear, Chiffchaff and Sand Martin and even a few Swallow noted yesterday in Dorset and a Swift and scarce Red-rumped Swallow on the Isles of Scilly but the ariel insect feeders will be having a hard time finding food because there are very few insects around at the moment and these condition are forecasted to go on for at least another week. Considering this time last year when temperatures were in the 20’s and shorts were the dress of the day.
The Blackcaps that frequent the garden over the winter here have usually migrated back east by now but they are still here although blackbird and Chaffinch numbers are down suggesting they have moved out in to their breeding areas?

The local Blue and Great Tits are busy investigating the nest boxes here but no sign of any nest material being taken in yet.

A lot of fields around are flooded again and conditions underfoot are quite soggy so we may get a few waders showing up, still quite a few Golden Plover around Cholsey hill and the Moreton floods but Lapwing numbers are down but Redwing and Fieldfare still around in good numbers.

I have noticed one of The Carrion Crows collecting nesting material (moss) yesterday so they are building and the Rookery nearby is in full swing and it looks as though some are sitting on eggs.

Two Song Thrush, the Pheasant, two Stock Dove and a Moorhen are still visiting the garden along with the other regulars and a pair of Moorhen seen mating in the meadow recently.

Just a note on House Sparrows here at Marymead, there is a small population of around a dozen birds. I hear them often, they visit a few feeders in the front of Marymead and are frequently in a neighbour’s garden just 20 metres from all the feeders but very rarely are seen visiting them where most of all the other birds feed and I cannot figure out why yet.
 A reminder of days when the sun shone!


Thursday, 21 March 2013

Blackcaps still present

Cloudy, 4º, light ESE, rain later.

Another day of no birding again but the garden fairly active and both Blackcap noted again today along with the Pheasant, two Stock Dove and a Moorhen with the other regulars.

The "unringed" Blackcap.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Quiet and poor weather

Overcast, misty, 3º, no wind.

Have visited Lollingdon hill for the last few days but it’s been pretty dire, rain, snow, wind and cold so not much at all birdwise, the odd Song Thrush and Fieldfare has been about it.
However the meadows to the North West have held good numbers of thrushes with today numbering around one thousand, mostly Fieldfare with around one hundred Redwing and a flock of around one hundred Starling.

Also Great-spotted and Green Woodpecker, and a partially flooded field nearby held sixty eight Black-headed Gull and a Grey Heron. With the weather as it is I doubt I will be seeing any migrants soon!
The garden has still been busy but with less numbers of Blackbird and Chaffinch, both Blackcap still visiting.

A few Daffodils out in the garden but winter still has a grip!

A Great-spotted Woodpecker from yesterday.

Friday, 15 March 2013

Big Bird

Just had a Tawny Owl in the trees outside my living room window (21:40)

Somewhat bigger than the usual birds on the feeder!

Wheatear: Cholsey hill, 14th Mar

Wheatear yesterday on Cholsey Hill also 3 Corn Bunting. (per Ian Burgess)

Wheatear is the 147th species seen in Oxfordshire so far this year.

14th March

Sunny spells, 6º, light W
Magpie in the garden feeding on the suet balls, first time they have visited and not been hassled by the pair of Carrion Crows that have their territory here. I can’t say for certain but I think the male Crow is new (judging by certain behaviours I’ve noted and assuming the male was the aggressor) and may not be as aggressive or territorial as the other one and therefore tolerates other corvids at the moment.

Stayed in for most of the day due to work being done at home but managed another brief visit to Lollingdon hill, unfortunately very quiet. A single Fieldfare, two Song Thrush was all that I noted on the hill. Eighteen Lapwing flew over heading north and a lot of movement of corvids (Crow, Rook & Jackdaw) backwards and forwards and a flock of around fifty Black-headed Gull seen thermalling then flew east.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Med Gull

Sunny spells, 6º, light N, getting milder

Roger Wyatt found a 2nd winter Mediterranean Gull in the gull flock on the pig fields on the other side of the A417 near Lollingdon Hill (south-west of the hill).

First confirmed record for Cholsey.

By the time I got there the gull flock had dissapeared, so a quick look on Lollingdon hill produced a Chiffchaff and a singing Song Thrush.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Still cold

Sunny, 3º, Mod NE, slightly milder today but wind chill dropped the temp to below freezing, a few very light snow flurries.

Another day in today due to some work going on at home, the garden busy again and a few Redwing noted in the meadow and a Goldcrest singing in the front garden.

Had to drop over to Wallingford this afternoon and on the way back there were approximately five hundred Golden Plover on Cholsey hill.

Bob Wyatt saw a Barn Owl along Hithercoft tonight on a fence post.
A selection of todays garden visitors.
 Blackcap and Robin
 Blue Tit
 Song Thrush

Monday, 11 March 2013


Sunny spells, light snow flurries (none settling), -1º, moderate to fresh NE,  -8º in the wind! A change on Thursday.

Did not get out today as I had certain other things to do but Roger Wyatt was along the river and found a pair of Mandarin Duck, they flew towards the Four Arches railway bridge.
As I was in most of the day I was also watching the garden, not much change but an increase in Chaffinch numbers to over twenty, also birds visiting more frequently presumably needing to “fuel up” more frequently in this cold weather. The Pheasant has found the feeding tray with sultanas on but he is a bit too big to stay on for long!

Some excellent pics of the Mandarins © Roger Wyatt (Cheers mateJ)

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Every picture tells a story

Overcast, 2º, moderate NE, pretty cold in the wind.

A brief hour long walk this afternoon around the north western edge of the village, no sign of yesterdays Stonechat and very little else about, only birds of note was a flock of approximately four hundred thrushes, Fieldfare & Redwing, a few Skylark and Meadow Pipit noted, the Manor farm area leading up to Cholsey hill was pretty desolate with most birds seen closer to the village.
The garden still busy especially with the weather getting colder and I am sure I spotted a few flakes of snow! A Mistle Thrush singing in the meadow this morning and Goldcrest heard singing near bunk bridge.

I was bored
Moorhen in the garden a few days ago

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Walk to Wallingford.

Overcast, 6º, little wind, progressively getting colder with a chance of snow next week! Roll on spring!

Took a walk to Wallingford again this afternoon along the “Bunk line” was not expecting much and was surprised to find a Stonechat along the fence line by the railway near Cholsey SF.
Three Great-spotted Woodpecker in a dispute in the tall trees by the SF and two Mistle Thrush and several Pied Wagtail feeding there.

Six Lapwing in a nearby field, a few Meadow Pipit and Skylark present also, I could also see a large flock of Gulls, Lapwing and Golden Plover in the distance over the Moreton floods, presumably put up by something or someone. Quite a few Magpie around with a group seven seen.
Two singing Goldcrest in the Winterbrook area and a few House Sparrow present also two Nuthatch in the trees on the Cholsey side of Bradford Brook where it enters the Thames.

The garden has been busy again today, the two Song Thrush, two Blackcap, two Mallard, two Stock Dove and two Moorhen (all twos) amongst the other regular visitors and a couple of Magpie seen in the meadow.

Bradford brook still running fast

Friday, 8 March 2013

Cholsey hill

Has not stopped raining all day, 10º!

Corn Bunting back on Cholsey hill looking rather soggy sat in the lone tree on the hill.

Wet and Dull

Overcast, misty, 10º, moderate to light rain, light E.

A walk out to Lollingdon hill today in the vain hope of an early migrant but as usual no luck. Light rain all the time I was out and quite muddy conditions en route. Small flocks of Redwing and Fieldfare and a few Starling mixed in, most sat in tree tops chattering away, also a small flock of eight Song Thrush, seen feeding in close proximity to each other and eventually flew off together so I assume they were migrants passing through. Around twenty other Song Thrush noted but all in ones or twos and along hedgerows.
A few Yellowhammer and Reed Bunting around and two Corn Bunting singing on Lollingdon hill.

The garden still hosting the pair of Mallard twice a day and the pair of Stock Dove still regular, two Song Thrush also regular and the two Blackcap still present although they should be leaving sometime this month presumably for Eastern Europe. A couple of pairs of Blue Tit are inspecting the nest boxes in the garden, all the other regulars still present also. A Grey Heron heard regularly flying over at dawn most days recently.
A couple of Starling, a handful of House Sparrow and two Magpie frequently in the front garden of Marymead.

The first few common spring migrants have now started to reach our shores. The first Sand Martin was reported in Suffolk on 2nd March, followed by the first two Northern Wheatear on 5th in Devon and Ceredigion. Today brought the first confirmed sighting of Barn Swallow on the Isles of Scilly. Courtesy Rare Bird Network.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Nocturnal visitors

A couple of nocturnal visitors to the garden recently well after midnight, sorry for the poor quality of the images but unable to use flash for obvious reasons. Can only rely on external lighting!

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Butterflies & Birds

Sunny, 15º, yes 15º, a T-shirt day, light S!

A good day weather wise and several species of butterfly on the wing, Brimstone, Peacock and Comma all noted, first butterflies of this year also a couple of Buff-tailed Bumble Bee seen.
Back to the birds, I walked along the Bunk line to Winterbrook, ten Lapwing in the meadows there, the last breeding site in Cholsey for them, also a few Meadow Pipit, Skylark and Yellowhammer.

I got to the river at Bradford Brook and managed to walk the length of the Thames path for the first time this year, still a bit soggy in places but mainly dry (rain due tomorrow though).
A  Shoveler and a couple of Tufted Duck on Carmel lake a couple of Nuthatch in the gardens near Bow Bridge and one maybe two Marsh Tit in Bow wood along with a couple of Long-tailed Tit also both Green and Great-spotted Woodpecker.

Just one Fieldfare seen today.
A good day for the larger Raptors a lot of high altitude interplay between Buzzards and Red Kites today and a few Kestrel and Sparrowhawk seen, also some higher altitude movement of Gulls noted.

Cholsey marsh is still quite wet and a few Teal and Common Snipe present, two Kingfisher nearby and a couple of Great Crested Grebe on the river.
A pair of Mallard in the garden this evening and a pair of Moorhen this morning and a Goldcrest singing nearby.

Some news from the South Moreton floods, a Meditteranean Gull recently and a Black-tailed Godwit, Dunlin, approx eight hundred Lapwing, six hundred Golden Plover and one hundred and twenty Teal today. Thanks to Bob Wyatt for the info.

One thing that struck me today was the appalling amount of rubbish that has been left after the flooding on the marsh, a lot of plastic that has drifted down but a lot that has been dumped by visitors and fisherman, empty bottles of spirits and beer, beer cans, coke cans, carrier bags, polystyrene cups, the ubiquitous plastic bottles and discarded fishing line and tackle, I’m sorry to say! I even heard the other day of a fridge/freezer seen floating down the river. Please take it with you and don’t dump it in our country side!
Some of what was there I managed to gather in one spot and arrange for it to be collected and disposed of by the site manager at Cholsey Meadows. Thanks.

There has also been some illegal fishing taking place on that stretch, if noted please call the Environment Agency on 0800807060.

Monday, 4 March 2013


Sunny, 10º, light ENE, a pleasant day at last, still a little chilly but quite a few insects on the wing, so it must be getting milder!

The farmland walk again, not a lot about but just nice to be out in the sunshine, a few Reed Bunting and Yellowhammer back in their breeding sites and a Yellowhammer singing in Lollingdon, a flock of forty Lapwing flew west over Lollingdon hill and a few flocks of gulls passing over.

Quite a few Skylark around with over fifty seen and several in song also thirty plus Meadow Pipit.
Small numbers of Fieldfare and Redwing noted along with several Song Thrush, five pairs of Mistle Thrush and lower numbers of Blackbird than of late.

Two pairs of Grey Partridge and a pair of Red-legged Partridge seen, also a   Sparrowhawk noted, two Kestrel, five Buzzard and eight Red Kite.
One of the garden Robins.

Sunday, 3 March 2013


Sunny spells, 4º, still a cold wind blowing, hope the weather changes soon!

A mixed day, went to Goring this morning to watch my daughter take part in a 10K race in which she completed in a very creditable 59 mins 12 secs, not bad for her first one!
Then went on to Lollingdon Hill apart from a single Raven two hundred plus Fieldfare and a Robin singing there was not much else.

Then went to Wantage to photograph some very colourful furniture for a friends blog, that she had recently finished painting, I then received a text to say some Waxwings had been seen in Blewbury, as it was on my way home I thought I would take a look.
On passing through Blewbury I noticed someone staring up in to a tree which said to me that they were still present. Parked the car and went to take a look and yep, nine Waxwing present, they were feeding on some haws from a couple of rose bushes and drinking from some puddles in a garden next to the main road through Blewbury.

I made a few phone calls and a little later Tony Williams arrived, a few passersby also stopped to take a look. We watched them until 17:10 when they flew off towards the Downs.

A very rewarding day in more ways than one and thanks to Alan Dawson who found the Waxwings!
Back home a Great-spotted Woodpecker has been drumming in the meadow recently and a Green Woodpecker has been very vocal. More song noted this last week with Blackbird, Wren, Dunnock all singing regularly along with the Robin and the Blackcap(s) still practising.

See Richard's Blog for other stuff in or near the garden as he is just over the road from me and the Rookery is between us!

 Hope the pics are not too boring but I have included a dozen of these stunning birds concluding with some of the Waxwing just before they flew off, sat in a tree and highlighted by the setting sun.