Tuesday, 18 June 2019

More rain!

Overcast then rain, 17°, light SW.

Pretty quiet out today. A quick check on the Spotted Flycatchers before making my way out to Lollingdon.

A few Swift feeding around the hill and 3 Mistle Thrush present.

Chiffchaff, Yellowhammer and Corn Bunting still singing well, other species not so frequent.

Little Owl and Grey Heron nearby and another Grey Heron in the meadow this afternoon.

Mammals: Stoat carrying small prey.

Butterflies: a few each of Speckled Wood and Meadow Brown. Yesterday Marbled White, Large Skipper and Small Skipper (per Alan Dawson and Tony Rayner).

Moths: Cinnabar Moth, and a Garden Tiger recently (per Ed Munday).

Marbled White (Alan Dawson)
Scarlet Tiger (Ed Munday)
Grey Heron

Sunday, 16 June 2019

Marsh Fritillary

A Marsh Fritillary butterfly found today by Alan Dawson is a first record in recent times for this rare butterfly.

I am unable to find any documented records for this species in the Cholsey area but could well have been around early last century.

Adults feed on nectar primarily on Betony, Bugle, Buttercups, Cuckooflower, Dandelion, Hawkweeds, Knapweeds, Ragged Robin, Thistles and Tormentil.

Its caterpillar food plant is Devil’s-bit Scabious (also Field Scabious and Small Scabious) and habitats have been destroyed or fragmented over years and this has led to its disappearance from many former habitats.

Is this a wanderer, a release or a bona fide resident? Food plant will be looked for!

Update: Alan Dawson found no Devil's-bit Scabious around the site where this butterfly was found and as it is a female and less likely to wander it has been concluded that this was probably a release!

 Marsh Fritillary (courtesy Alan Dawson)

Week end pics

some good wildlife pics from Cholsey this week end. Thanks to Niall, Cathy and Alan for their photos.

Barn Owl (courtesy Niall Hammond)
Pyramid Orchid (courtesy Cathy Block)
 Common Frog (courtesy Alan Dawson)
Small Heath (courtesy Alan Dawson)
 Mute Swan family (courtesy Alan Dawson)

Friday, 14 June 2019

Spotted a Spotted and another Spotted

Sunshine and showers, 16°, breezy SSW.

Spotted Flycatcher is almost another lost species to Cholsey. However it appears we may have a breeding pair in the village. The location is being withheld to prevent disturbance which is fair enough and this will be the first in approx. 5 years since they last bred in the village.

A flurry of Swift (20+) and House Martin (12+) over Lollingdon Hill today moving ahead of a rain shower that passed over and a few more Swift on the back end of the shower feeding over the hill.

Other sightings very much the same as Wednesday and mainly very static out there at the moment.

Evidence of an active Barn Owl out at Lollingdon as some fresh pellets found (per TW).

The Swallows breeding out at Lollingdon have 3 adults currently hunting for food. It is not unknown for young from the previous year to stay with the parents and help with rearing duties on the current brood. This may well be the case with these.

Mammals: Brown Hare.

Butterflies: 2 Small Tortoiseshell, 2 Speckled Wood and 3 Meadow Brown.

Small Tortoiseshell
Common Spotted Orchid growing in the garden.

Wednesday, 12 June 2019

Between the Rains

Overcast with rain on the way, 15°, light NNW.

After 2 days of rain I went out this morning and just got back before the rain started again.

2 Spotted Flycatcher found today, probably passage birds moving through (still some Spot Flys arriving on the south coast).

The “songscape” still dominated by Yellowhammer, Corn Bunting, Common Whitethroat, Chiffchaff and Blackcap and a single Willow Warbler, Reed Bunting and 2 Lesser Whitethroat (1 seen, 1 heard).

A Raven and a Little Owl out at Lollingdon and a Goldcrest singing in the brook meadow.

3 Lesser Blackback Gull associating with Corvids in the pig fields and a single Black-headed Gull flew over.

Mammals: Brown Hare.

Tuesday, 11 June 2019

The importance of Gardens

Gardens now make up 10 million acres of land in the UK more than all the nature reserves put together, roughly 15% of the UK land mass. With 27 million gardeners we can make a difference.

Our wildlife is in serious decline – let’s give it a helping hand, be sympathetic to wildlife.

Gardens are now a major refuge for wildlife if we manage them accordingly.

A lot of emphasis at this time in growing flowers for pollinators such as Bees and Butterflies. But how about plants and areas for their eggs and larvae to develop for without these there will be no Bees and Butterflies.

We tend to forget about ecology, the big picture! And we are not talking just insects here. We need to think about birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, invertebrates etc.

Plant native whenever possible, leave areas undisturbed, wild areas, areas for wintering insects, add a water feature, dead wood, the odd rock, diversify, as little or as much as possible depending on your garden size. If big enough try a wild flower meadow?

Put a hole in your fence (for Hedgehogs etc. to move through), put up nest boxes, Bug hotels, feed the birds.

Think about biological controls, Aphids? Encourage Ladybirds! Let nature do the work.

Consider not using poisons, pesticides, herbicides and slug pellets as these have a detrimental effect on the environment and your health.

Cut hedges outside of the breeding season, take caution in using strimmers (a lot of Hedgehogs killed or injured by these) and leave an area around the base of trees not strimmed. Consider Toads and Frogs wintering in compost bins when digging out.

Just be mindful!

Give it time to work, nature is great at balancing with your help.

For further info: Here

Once a gravel drive.....now (courtesy Mark Bradfield)
courtesy Julie Berk

Monday, 10 June 2019

Cholsey's lost birds

Whilst most of our bird species have declined by an average of 50%, some are now noticeably absent from Cholsey.

Declines are linked to changing farming practices, mechanised farming, pesticide and herbicide use, habitat loss, hunting on migration, disturbance and climate change.

We have over the years lost a few while some hang on by a thread. My records/information maybe incomplete so any further information welcomed.

Most notable of these are:

Corncrake: Decline started in the late 19th century with the advent of mechanised farming and subsequently loss of suitable habitat and subsequent pesticide use.

Spotted Crake: once common along riverside meadows and now absent. The last record being in 1957. Hunting in the 18th & 19th century along with other factors put paid to this species.

Northern Lapwing: One species hanging on by a thread but probably not for much longer. Back in the 1960’s I recall myself and Brian Wyatt collecting chicks for Bill Campbell (Cholsey School headmaster) to ring and then releasing them back where we found them in fields next to Bunk bridge along Church road.

A few still nest near the Bunk line but that area has been designated for gravel extraction so that habitat will be lost. They are still regular as winter visitors.

Common Snipe: once common on wet meadows and marsh land, their drumming courtship flight could be heard over Cholsey Marsh (1970’s & 1980’s) and the marsh land between Cholsey and Aston Tirrold (1960’s). Change in land use (drainage) and disturbance are some factors in its demise. Seen regular in small numbers now as a winter visitor.

European Nightjar: never common but a few pairs used to breed on Cholsey Downs back in the 1960’s. Changes in land use and disturbance have played a part in this species now being absent.

European Turtle Dove: again a regular summer visitor in Cholsey. You could hear its purring song on still summer days up until the 1970’s. The bird is so rare in Oxfordshire now that reports are now not publicised. I used to see flocks arriving in spring on the east coast and autumn gatherings as near as Dorchester of 100+ birds but alas no more!

Hunting around the Mediterranean region and intensive agriculture are 2 of the main reasons this species is in rapid decline throughout Europe.

Lesser-spotted Woodpecker: once a regular species in Cholsey into the 1980’s. There were 3 pairs I was aware of along my river walk back then plus several more around the village. According to the BTO, competition and predation by Great-spotted Woodpecker and the decline of small bore dead wood suitable for foraging are a few causes of its rapid decline. This species is in decline across Europe

Nightingale: An enigmatic species that was a regular summer visitor to Cholsey. Its decline was well underway by the turn of the 20th century with habitat loss and it never recovered.

Marsh Tit: once regularly encountered along the river near Winterbrook and Bow Bridge but yet again this species disappeared during the 1980’s. there have been records of one or two breeding pairs present in the 1990’s and apart from the odd sightings of individuals with Tit flocks recently no further records in Cholsey.

Red-backed Shrike: A scarce but regular breeder in Cholsey up to the 1960’s. I recall Bill Campbell showing me a breeding pair near Westfield road in 1963 and that was possibly the last sighting of this species in Cholsey. This species is now virtually extinct as a breeding species in the UK. Habitat loss and prey species decline has had a major effect on this species.

Tree Sparrow: another species that was once common in Cholsey with 10+ breeding pairs and good numbers wintering on farmland. Between the 1970’s and 1990’s The UK population then crashed by 93% and this was reflected in Cholsey with just a handful of records in the last 20 years.

Loss of hedgerows and planting of winter cereals contributed to its downfall.

Cirl Bunting: another regular species breeding in Cholsey up until the mid-1960’s.

One of the last pairs bred not 200 metres from where I now live and Tony Williams recalls seeing one close to his garden.

Back in the 1930’s it was a common species of lowland farmland and known as the “Village Bunting”. Changing farming practices, habitat loss and pesticide use has played a significant part in the disappearance of this species throughout the UK.

Remarkably the RSPB launched a conservation program for Cirl Buntings and a small self-sustaining population now exists in Devon and are rarely seen elsewhere.

Cirl Bunting (courtesy Tom Stevenson)
 Lesser-spotted Woodpecker
Turtle Dove

Saturday, 8 June 2019

Breezy day

Sunny with a moderate breeze, 16°, fresh SW.

A wet day yesterday and overnight but the rain sorely needed.

A visit of a Muntjac Deer racing around the garden yesterday. Too fast to get any decent pics, just managed a couple of it disappearing into undergrowth.

The Great-spotted Woodpecker family have been visiting regularly over the last few days with 2 parents and 2 young.

Wednesday, 5 June 2019

An unusual one!

Mainly cloudy, 17°, light SW.

An unusual record this morning of a singing Reed Warbler in the Millennium Wood and still singing in roughly the same spot when I came back this afternoon, 3.5 hours later. I wonder if this is an example of 1st summer bird on a practice run north?

I’ve had this discussion down at Portland Bird Observatory with the “Prof” and Martin in past years and here I quote from a blog entry by Martin from the 31st May this year.

“If ever there's a characteristic sound of the late spring at Portland it has to be the constant chuntering of a Reed Warbler; we have some ringing evidence to suggest that these late arrivals include a lot of the previous year's youngsters that are presumably making exploratory trips northward way after the main passage of breeding adults has finished. For whatever reason they always seem perfectly happy to sing all day in inappropriate habitat and it's an odd feature that they're often rooted to the same bush or tree they pitched up in: we didn't ever see/hear today's bird at the Obs leave one small clump of trees - it was singing there at dawn and it was still singing there when we left at the end of the afternoon”

Source: Martin Cade and Professor Pete Morgan.

Some activity over the hill today with approx. 100 Swift and c8 House Martin moving south. Local movement? Failed breeders moving south? Or something else?

2 Raven drifted high north over the hill, calling as they went.

Pied Wagtail feeding around the garden today and a Goldcrest singing late afternoon.

Mammals: Brown Hare, Roe Deer and Short-tailed Vole.

Reps: 1 Common Lizard.

Butterflies: Holly Blue, a single Red Admiral and several Speckled Wood.

Monday, 3 June 2019

Slow start to June

Sunny intervals, 18°, light SSW.

Relatively quiet out at Lollingdon again. A bonus of the first Curlew of the year heard and seen flying west from Kingstanding Hill area.

A Kestrel hunting on the hill and the usual birds present and 2 Lesser Whitethroat heard singing.

5 Stock Dove in the garden today!

Dragonflies: Banded Demoiselle and Azure Damselfly.

Butterflies: A few unidentified Whites, Brimstone, Orange Tip, Peacock and Speckled Wood.

 One of the many Common Whitethroat around.

 Mistle Thrush
Song Thrush, post bath!
Red & Black Froghopper (courtesy Alan Dawson)

Friday, 31 May 2019

Where are our Yellow Wagtails?

Overcast, 19°, light SW.

Still cannot find any Yellow Wagtail locally. Apart from a few passage records this spring we have one record of a female collecting nest material. In past years we can have 6-8 pairs in the parish. What’s going on?

On a plus side I counted 11 singing Yellowhammer between the village and Lollingdon hill today. Also a Reed Bunting and 4 Corn Bunting.

A few fields still being cut for hay and 15 Red Kite and 3 Buzzard scavenging over the fields. 

Apart from the usual just a female Sparrowhawk noted.

Mammals: 2 Short-tailed Vole and several other small rodents (incl an unidentified Shrew) possibly vacating the fields being cut.

Butterflies: 3 Speckled Wood.

 Yellow Wagtail (archive photos)

Black-headed Cardinal Beetle (courtesy Alan Dawson)

Wednesday, 29 May 2019

A wet one!

Cloudy with rain, 12°, light SSW.

A bit of a damp squib out there today. One of the fields out at Lollingdon was being cut for hay and had 14 Red Kite and 2 Buzzard cruising overhead hoping for any tit bits driven out by the cutter.

Apart from that there was little activity as a consequence of the weather. 2 Little Owl present and 2 Lesser Whitethroat singing, (1 Little Lollingdon).

Butterflies: a single Speckled Wood.

Lesser Whitethroat (library photo)
Male Bullfinch (courtesy Alan Dawson)
Male Banded Demoiselle with Mayfly prey (courtesy Alan Dawson)

Monday, 27 May 2019


Cloudy with few sunny spells, 17°, light W.

Fairly quiet around the hill today and quite breezy, Skylark and Corn Bunting in song with the odd Yellowhammer and Common Whitethroat joining in.

2 Lesser Whitethroat in the area along with several Blackcap.

A Raven flew west over the hill and 300+ Corvids in the pig fields. Mainly Rook and good numbers of Jackdaw and the odd Crow.

2 Jay made their presence known as a Buzzard passed close overhead.

On returning another Swallow alarm call alerted me to a Hobby that flew over the garden approx. 20 second later.

Mammals: Short-tailed Vole, Brown HareWeasel and Roe Deer.

Reps: a single Common Lizard.

Butterflies: Brimstone, Orange Tip and Peacock.

 Brown Hare (courtesy Alan Dawson)

Dad & Junior
Red-eyed Damselfly (courtesy Alan Dawson)

Friday, 24 May 2019

Alans Wanderings

A few photos from Alan Dawson this week.

Yellow Wagtail. Appear rather scarce around Cholsey this year. Please email me if you see any in the area. Ta
Small Blue

A few additions to the year lists this week not mentioned previously, with Large Red Damselfly, Red-eyed Damselfly, White-legged Damselfly and Small Blue butterfly. 

Thursday, 23 May 2019

Swift Walk

Wallingford Wildlife Group are carrying out an RSPB Swift survey this summer and to help people to familiarise themselves with Swifts and potential confusion species held a “Swift Walk” earlier this evening.

Swifts spend most of their lives on the wing, they eat, sleep and mate on the wing. Once a young Swift leaves the nest it may not land for 2-3 years when it first breeds.

As you may be aware Swifts are in serious decline as there breeding sites are not available in modern buildings and renovated buildings as well as a decline in insects they feed on.

For further information follow the link: Swift Facts

Approx. 20 people turned out for the walk.

We started off at St Mary's Church in Wallingford where Swifts are quite obvious overhead and then a walk along the River Thames to an area next to the Oxford University boat club building.

Fortunately the weather was kind and we managed to see several Swallows and House Martins and were able to highlight the differences between the species.

As well as the above species we also saw a very showy Common Tern, Grey Wagtail, Pied Wagtail, Cormorant, Kingfisher, and Black-headed Gull and heard a Willow Warbler and Blackcap amongst others.

Thanks to WWG for organising this event.

photo courtesy BTO

Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Stay optimistic!

Mostly sunny, 19°, light SW.

I always go out with a certain amount of optimism hoping to find something unusual, especially at this time of year.

There have been rare and scarce birds turning up recently, especially at coastal sites and islands and to a lesser extent large bodies of water.

However here in middle earth we can boast no such species, in fact the walk out today was very quiet indeed.

The best I could muster was a singing Lesser Whitethroat out at Little Lollingdon and a Little Owl being mobbed by a couple of Blackbird.

The hill was very quiet with just the usual resident and summer visitors around.

There has been very little passage noted this spring as if we have been bypassed with birds getting directly to their breeding areas.

Still, ever hopeful that a rare or scarce one will turn up one day!

The Song Thrush is back in the garden and singing well and Nuthatch visiting more regular and a Coal Tit heard singing nearby.

Dragonflies: a single Broad-bodied Chaser flew past me near Cholsey brook and a Brown Hawker flew through the allotments on Station road and a Club-tailed Dragonfly, Hairy Dragonfly and Broad-bodied Chaser between Cholsey Marsh and Bow Bridge (per Alan).

Butterflies: Brimstone, Green-veined White, Orange Tip, Small Copper, Brown Argus, Common Blue, Holly Blue, Red Admiral, Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock and Speckled Wood.

 female Broad-bodied Chaser (courtesy Alan Dawson)
 Newly emerged Mayfly (courtesy Alan Dawson)
Silver-ground Carpet (courtesy Alan Dawson)
 Collared Dove