Friday, 31 May 2013

Not a lot going on.

Sunny, 21º, light winds.

A pleasant day after all the crud weather we have had this week, not been out much this week either due to other circumstances.
A visit to Lollingdon hill was uneventful with just the usual breeding species present and a couple of Grey Partridge present.

Cholsey marsh is unchanged according to other observers with most warblers settling down and a Willow Warbler in song north of the marsh.
An adult Stock Dove turned up in the garden this week with two juveniles, also young Dunnock, Robin and Blackbird around the garden and a Great-spotted Woodpecker, Mallards and Moorhen still frequent visitors.

A few butterflies around today, Holly Blue, Small Tortoiseshell, Brimstone, Peacock and Small and Large White but no Dragonflies or Damselflies yet.
Pipistrelle and Hedgehog active around garden this week in the evenings.

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Starlings, a scarcity (in the garden).

Sunny, 16º, light wind.

For the last few days several Starlings have appeared in the garden (max 4 ad and 1 juv) and a couple of adults have been foraging and collecting food in the garden for the last three days so presumably nesting nearby. The five that turned up are the first in the garden since last autumn, will see if they stay around! Quite a few around the village so far this spring.
Elsewhere has been rather quiet with little on Lollingdon hill except for the local breeding species, Cholsey marsh very similar.

A Speckled Wood butterfly in the garden on Thursday was the first of the year and at least two Hedgehog regular in garden.

A pair of Yellow Wagtail on Cholsey hill.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

A Dip!

A dash to Farmoor this evening for a Whiskered Tern (2nd for Oxon?) but unfortunately it had moved on very quickly, heard initially and then just flew through to the River Thames and disappeared and was not present when I/we got there!

However a pleasant evening with Swifts swooping low over the causeway in the setting sun and five Sanderling present on the causeway.
Several Common Tern present, Sand Martin and House Martin also there.

Good to see Nick, Dai, Badger, the Wickster, Lew, Debs, Bob, Brian and Pat Wyatt!


 Swift in the setting sun



Monday, 20 May 2013


Overcast, muggie, 17º, light NNW.

A walk around Lollingdon and the Lees produced very much the same as last week, a lot of insects about but few butterflies.
Quite a few Stock Dove noted and one seen in display flight, a Peregrine seen flying overhead towards the village and later one heard calling but not seen, also a Kestrel.

Around a dozen singing Yellowhammer in the area spread around the various hedgerows, and with eight singing Reed Bunting and seven singing Corn Bunting the buntings appear to have a good representation in the area.
Whitethroat and Chiffchaff frequent and the odd Blackcap and Garden Warbler around, also two Yellow Wagtail.

A flock of sixteen House Martin over Marymead today with five Swallow and two Swift and more Swifts over the village
A single Lapwing seen in fields between the Fulscot bends and South Moreton today.

 Corn Bunting

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Lollingdon hill and the garden

Sunny spells, 17º, light WSW.

A visit to Lollingdon hill this afternoon proved quietish, five singing Corn Bunting, three Yellowhammer and two Whitethroat, two pairs of Linnet present, a Great-spotted Woodpecker  and a couple of Swallow.
Done some gardening this morning and hearing high flying Buzzard (4) displaying overhead and a couple of Red Kite over, a Whitethroat heard singing along with a Yellowhammer, Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Goldcrest and a Mistle Thrush, also a Great-spotted Woodpecker calling.

Several Swallow and House Martin feeding overhead and the usual visitors to the garden still around, Moorhen, Mallard, Stock Dove  and a brief visit from two Long-tailed Tit, and a Kingfisher flew upstream along the brook.
Other garden visitors today were Song Thrush, Carrion Crow, Blackbird, Robin, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Wren, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch,

Yesterday a Hobby over Cholsey hill and a Yellow Wagtail flew across the road there, also a Barn Owl still present in the parish.
A few of the garden visitors


Thursday, 16 May 2013

1st Cuckoo of the year!

Sunny spells, 14º, negligible wind.

A visit to Cholsey marsh early morning saw the mist over the river and a slight frost at 04:15, then a sunny morning with cloud moving in later and a couple of rain showers later in the day.
The marsh is still very wet, not been like that for a few years and the growth seems to be several weeks behind.

Two Tawny Owl calling to each other in the trees at Little Stoke on the opposite bank just prior to dawn.
My first Cuckoo of the year heard and it moved on fairly swiftly over the marsh and towards the village, a good number of Sedge Warbler singing along with two Reed Warbler, several Chiffchaff, Garden Warbler, Blackcap and Whitethroat, two Lesser Whitethroat further upstream and a single Willow Warbler on the other side of the river, also three Song Thrush in song on the marsh.

Later in the day a walk out to Lollingdon and the farm land out to the west of the village, Whitethroat was the common warbler with fourteen noted in song, a few Chiffchaff and Blackcap and two Garden Warbler also heard in song. A Hobby seen out at Lollingdon and a flock of thirty plus Swift over the hill and three Lesser Blackback Gull flew east.
Other species noted were six Sedge Warbler and a Reed Warbler along the “reedy” stream and six Reed Bunting along the dyke and a few singing in fields of Oil seed Rape. Two pairs of Yellow Wagtail noted in usual breeding areas and several Yellowhammer, Corn Bunting and Linnet in usual locations, Song Thrush and Mistle Thrush also seen.

Finch numbers down in the garden with four Chaffinch, and two of each Greenfinch and Goldfinch, several Blackbird and a Song Thrush (Blackbird and Song Thrush both seen collecting food) still visiting along with a Moorhen, two Stock Dove and up to six Mallard.
Goldcrest, Chiffchaff, Blackcap and Mistle Thrushin the meadow and a few Swallow overhead and very few House Martin (one nest site being visited).

Reed Bunting
 Corn Bunting

Monday, 13 May 2013


Sunny spells and showers. 10º, fresh SSW.

Another cool and windy day but back in Cholsey this time, a brief visit to Lollingdon hill produced zilch but a heavy rain storm.
Back in the garden a fairly well grown juvenile Rook had turned up, possibly lost and blown from the rookery about 100 metres away. It sat calling in a bush for most of the evening and later I saw a couple of adult Rooks fly by a few times and by 20:00 it had gone, so I guess it had flown off, hope it made it OK.

The winds over the last week have taken its toll on the Rookery with a few dead young seen underneath, around thirty nests altogether.

Hedgehogs active in garden.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Portland, final day.

Sunny spells, 10º, fresh W.

A quiet week by Portland standards for May, also windy and cold, however a good week and thanks to Martin Cade, the Prof and Joe and the other guests at the Obs for making it an enjoyable week, Ta!
Left around midday to head back to Cholsey but got in a sea watch from the Obs, one Pomarine Skua, one Great Skua, a Great Northern Diver, Auks, Kittiwakes, Gannets and Fulmars.

Minimal land migrants, a Yellow Wagtail, and a couple of Willow Warbler, also two Peregrine seen.
Look forward to an autumn visit.

Friday, 10 May 2013

Still cold, still windy!

A few sunny spells, 9º, fresh W.

Land migrants were almost non-existent today, a couple of Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff and a Spotted Flycatcher.
The sea provided a few goodies but they were few and far between, three Pomarine Skua, six Arctic Skua, one Great Skua, one Red-throated Diver, a Great Northern Diver, two Balearic Shearwater and just a few Manx Shearwater, Gannet and Kittiwake.

Around a dozen Swift and twenty plus Swallow in and I missed the Serin that graced the garden briefly!
The coldest and windiest May I’ve known here at Portland and one of the quietest for migration. Still there is always next time.

A Grey Seal seen off the east cliffs.

 Grey Seal

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Cold and Windy

Sunny but windy and as the day progressed cloud cover, rain and wind gusting to force 8 SW, 10º dropping to 6º. The coldest May I recall here.

Land migrants were virtually non-existent today with two Willow Warbler, two Chiffchaff and a Yellow Wagtail (there were some migrants in more sheltered areas on the island).
A sea watch from the Obs was preferred as we could shelter from the wind but ventured down to the bill late afternoon and braved the wind and spray.

For the amount of time put in there was little reward, however, a Hobby in off the sea, approx ten Swift, twenty odd Swallow through, one hundred plus Manx Shearwater, one Balearic Shearwater, approx one hundred “comic” Tern, (for those who are not birders “comic” refers to either Common or Arctic Terns that are not identified specifically) two Great Northern Diver, two Whimbrel, two Pomarine Skua, five Arctic Skua, five Great Skua and many Gannet and fifty plus Fulmar.
Most of the sea birds were a fair way out and not easy to photograph in the wind!
Arctic Skua
Pomarine Skua (possible fault bar with tail)
A dispute between 2 Great Blackback Gulls


Wednesday, 8 May 2013

A change in the weather

Weather very variable, dawn was wet, milder and overcast and as the day progressed the wind became stronger, a few showers, murky and then sunny and a fresh SW wind, temp between 14º initially and 10º later.

A turnaround today with a moderate fall of migrants on the land, on the sea I managed singles of Pomarine, Arctic and Great Skua (more of each were seen, see the PBO website for more details) and seventeen Common Scoter but as there were a few more land migrants around I did not spend too long on a sea watch.
A Hobby in off the sea, ten plus Willow Warbler, five Chiffchaff, ten plus Whitethroat, six Garden Warbler, two Blackcap, three Reed Warbler, four Sedge Warbler, three Spotted Flycatcher, three Whinchat, two Redstart, two Yellow Wagtail and a single Wheatear, also a Peregrine, Sparrowhawk, Buzzard, two Whimbrel and two Raven. Minimal passage of Swallows and a couple of Swift. (good to see you JR)

 Spotted Flycatcher
Dunnock (lacking carotenoids?)


A distant video grab of the Pomarine Skuas from yesterday evenings sea watch. Cheers Lew.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Another surprise

Sunny, 12º, light E, still cool in the wind.

Another day where the land migration was minimal, a few Willow Warbler, a Chiffchaff, a Reed Warbler, “singing” Water Rail and five Wheatear noted. A very light passage of Swallow and five Swift.

The morning sea watch was light with a flock of “comic” Tern feeding off the bill and two Roseate Tern present again. A Great Northern Diver, fourteen Bar-tailed Godwit and five Common Scoter.
The evening sea watch produced another surprise with two Long-tailed Duck passing by, also two Pomarine Skua, and an Arctic Skua, a distant Great Skua, one hundred and twenty plus “comic” Tern, one Roseate Tern, ten Manx Shearwater and two Whimbrel, plus the usual Auks, Gannets, Fulmar etc.

The resident Little Owl
two Guillemots and a Razorbill
The A-team sea watchers

Monday, 6 May 2013

Roseate’s save the day.

Fog, 14º, light E, quite cool still.

I awoke this morning at 04:45 to the sound of the lighthouse siren going and on looking out the window the bill was shrouded in fog, so, back to bed again. Eventually getting up at 07:30, still foggy so showered and had breakfast. The garden was very quiet with no migrants obvious a little later a Sedge Warbler was heard and a couple of Willow Warbler seen. The fog still shrouded the east of the island but was clearing to the west; therefore we could not see the sea to the east from the observatory.
I took a walk down to the bill to try and find a few waders that were present and eventually found a few Rock Pipit, three Purple Sandpiper, a Common Sandpiper and two Oystercatcher. A walk later in the top fields found a single Wheatear and a few singing Whitetroat and around a dozen Swallows but that was it, still foggy.

It wasn’t until around 16:00 that the fog cleared the east of the island and the sea was then visible so a sea watch was in order. A few went down to the bill (approx 1km from the Obs) and took a radio with them. Shortly after a call went up for a skua passing the bill which we then saw and the rest is as follows over the next four hours. The skua was an Arctic Skua followed later by three more (incl a pale phase bird), more chat on the radio and a Great Northern Diver and good numbers of “comic” Tern of which around forty were identified as Arctic Tern and the rest as Common Tern by the bill observers. We then had a call that a Roseate Tern was feeding of the bill and try as we could we could not identify it from the Obs at that distance among the other feeding terns, however we did find a Black Tern amongst them. After another call we drove down to the bill but in the five minutes it took to get there the tern had moved on but a Red-throated Diver and a Pomarine Skua flew by, a reasonable result. We came back to the Obs and decided to have dinner but around thirty minutes later we had another radio call to say there were now two Roseate Tern feeding off the bill. So, jumping in the car again we got down to the bill and this time the two terns were still present thankfully, which we then watched for several minutes before they moved on! Also around twelve Manx Shearwater, eight Whimbrel and six Bar-tailed Godwit passed by. By the time we got back to the Obs dusk was here so that was it for the day. A very slow but ultimately successful day.
Just another note I walked out the Obs at around 21:40 only to see an owl fly down the drive and loop over the garden, I only saw it in silhouette but it was likely to be a Long or Short-eared Owl, more likely the former. We will look for it tomorrow.

 Purple Sandpipers in the fog
Rock Pipit

Bar-headed Goose

Bar-headed Goose on the Thames at Cholsey, probably an escapee from the “Beal Trust” at Pangbourne.
Thanks to Peter Holland for the pic.

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Sea vs Land

Sunny, 14º, cool W wind.

Another day where the sea proved more interesting than the land where migrants were thin on the ground except for a good fall of Wheatear with well over one hundred seen.
Other land migrants were singles of Lesser Whitethroat, Blackcap, Reed Warbler and a flyover Tree Pipit, six Willow Warbler, two Chiffchaff and six Whitethroat, also a Peregrine, Kestrel and two Raven.

Hirundines started to appear around 07:30 and continued until approximately 19:00, well over one thousand Swallow, twenty plus House Martin and two Sand Martin, also six Swift.
The sea saved the day with two sea watches, one first thing and an evening one. These produced five hundred plus “comic” Tern with several feeding flocks of the bill, two Great Skua, eight Arctic Skua and three Pomarine Skua, in addition, ninety three Common Scoter, a Great Northern Diver, five Red-throated Diver, three Manx Shearwater, a Balearic Shearwater, two Shelduck, two Bar-tailed Godwit and a Whimbrel.

A single Puffin seen with the other Auks by the west cliffs.

  Herring Gull on the bird table

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Skuas and Swallows

Sun and cloud, a little rain, 14º, fresh W, a cool and windy day.

The land was quite dire today with very few migrants around; two Willow Warbler, a Whitethroat, a Wheatear and a Redstart were the only species of note.
Hirundine passage started a few hours after dawn and continued until around midday when it dried up, mainly Swallows with several hundred passing over, a few House Martins and a couple of Sand Martins.

Also eight Swift, four Hobby and a Whimbrel in off the sea a Raven and a couple of Sparrowhawk noted.
The sea passage was it little more obvious today with all three Skuas passing, four Great Skua, five Arctic Skua and a Pomarine Skua, also approximately fifty Manx Shearwater, sixteen “comic” Terns, twenty plus Common Scoter, a Great Northern Diver, two Red-throated Diver plus Fulmars, Gannets, Guillemots, Razorbills and a few Kittiwakes.

All in all a fairly quiet day.
A couple of the regular obs garden birds. Greenfinch and Great Tit

Friday, 3 May 2013

Portland, Dorset and a senior moment!

Sunny, minimal cloud, 16º, moderate WNW.

Arrived at the Bird Observatory on Portland early afternoon and started to unpack my gear and realising I had forgotten the most important item, binoculars! What a *******!
Fortunately the Prof loaned me a pair of Leica binoculars for me to use for the duration of my stay here. I remembered everything else but the bins are still on my bookcase at home. I normally keep my camera and bins in a bag together but took them out last night to clean them and did not put them back!

It’s rather quiet today down here, sunny but a brisk cool wind. A trickle of Swallows and the odd House Martin moving through, a walk in the top fields produced ten Willow Warbler, two Whitethroat and two Redstart ( & ) and little else, a few bits and pieces in the garden, a couple of Willow Warbler, a Chiffchaff, a Blackcap and a re-trapped Garden Warbler that was first caught a week ago that has presumably stayed around or is deciding to go back until the weather warms up a bit more and a Raven seen.
The sea has been very quiet just the odd Manx Shearwater and Gannet seen.
Willow Warbler

Thursday, 2 May 2013


Sunny, 16º, light NW, a pleasant day!

An afternoon spent around the Lollingdon area again and joined by Bob Wyatt today, the hill again relatively quiet with just a couple of Whitethroat along the hedgerow and a few Linnet, also Yellowhammer and Corn Bunting present, a Grey Heron over and the usual Buzzard and Red Kite in the area.
The fields to the north of the hill had up to three Lesser Whitethroat, another Whitethroat, at least one Blackcap, a Garden Warbler, a Chiffchaff and a couple of Song Thrush.

At least one and possibly three Yellow Wagtail seen and six Swallow.
A Common Lizard seen briefly that must have been basking in the sun and disappeared in to cover on our approach.

Butterflies notable today with Brimstone, Small White, Peacock, Orange Tip, Red Admiral, Holly Blue, Small Tortoiseshell.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

May Day

Sunny, 14º, light winds, still a bite in the wind but warmer.

Gardening done for this week so a few hours spent around Lollingdon and the hill today, no Wheatear but a couple of goodies in the shape of two Whinchat (1 not sure on the other, too sunny) on the hill that disappeared as quickly as they appeared to arrive! (There have been several on the downs near the hill recently).
The hill also had three Whitethroat and a Pied Wagtail present but not a lot else.

A Lesser Whitethroat singing in the meadow to the north of the hill along with a Whitethroat, two Blackcap, a Chiffchaff and several Stock Dove cooing away.
Good butterfly numbers today with Brimstone, Small White, Peacock and Small Tortoiseshell.

TW had a Holly Blue yesterday near the 4 Arches railway bridge, also the Harris Hawk seen again along with several Reed Warbler and Garden Warbler.
Also another report of a good passage of Swallow and House Martin along the Thames.

The Mallards visiting the garden frequently, feeding and resting up, also Moorhen, Stock Doves and a Song Thrush frequent and a Blackcap and Chiffchaff in the meadow.


Mallards feeding in the garden then resting up