Saturday, 17 June 2017

North East Poland - May Trip Report

I spent 5 nights in the famous birding region of north east Poland in May, with three in the Bialowieza forest area and two in the marshes of Biebrza. I didn't come across any widespread devastation in Bialowieza and managed to see my three target species (Collared Flycatcher, River Warbler and Thrush Nightingale), although views of all were frustratingly brief with limited photo opportunities.

In Biebrza, I found Aquatic Warbler at the renowned Dluga Luka boardwalk without any difficulty. My first visit in the late afternoon was successful - so no real need for my subsequent dusk and dawn returns.

A trip report is now available on my website, with full details of sites visited and illustrated with some of the photos I took.

Here is a brief taster! To see a gallery of my better trip images, click here.
Red-backed Shrike in Bialowieza 
White-winged Black Tern in Biebrza
Aquatic Warbler in Biebrza
Citrine Wagtail in Biebrza

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Upper Thames Valley: 10 June

I went on another walk along the Thames today mainly looking (unsuccessfully again!) for Clubtails - although I did get a glimpse of a dragonfly flying away at bush-top height that might conceivably have been one!

Despite the wind and not particularly overcast conditions there were some damsels and one Emperor to be seen, but nothing unusual.

Birds provided more interest with a pair of Curlew coming quite close to the path briefly.


Curlew - goto my website for larger images

On my return, I tried for a few rather closer pics using the 100-400 mk II lens with an extension tube, which seemed to work OK hand held, demonstrating what a versatile (and portable) lens it can be:

Banded Demoiselle (showing signs of wear)

Saturday, 3 June 2017

Otmoor 3 June 2017

I took a break from the Clubtail survey today after two unsuccessful trips to the upper Thames (Radcot/Tadpole Bridge) and decided it was high time for a visit to Otmoor. Arriving well after 09:00, I was surprised to find some the regulars had only just got there as well, and we all had a wander along the Roman Road in brilliant sunny conditions.

Very quickly someone spotted some elusive butterflies high up in the tops of the bushes on the west side of the track. They were really difficult to follow in flight and almost impossible to see when settled, as they were nearly always facing end-on or horizontal - presumably to make the most the sunlight. Eventually sufficiently clear views were obtained and it was decided these were Black Hairstreaks. These seem to be very early this year, as they are not normally on the wing until late June, according to my book. This was a new butterfly for me! There must have been more then the two that were the most seen at any one - at least 4 I would guess and maybe more. But no pics - they weren't showing any sign of coming lower while we were there.

Further on at the end of the Roman Road, at the corner with bridleway, there was a female Beautiful Demoiselle and then just a few yards along the bridleway, there was a male that posed quite well for photos. That was more like it!


Beautiful Demoiselle

I then switched into bird mode and tried for photos of the Turtle Dove. There was nothing doing at the cattle pens, but it was purring away well in the usual Oak Tree beyond. On my return, it was still there. At one point a Woodpigeon flew into the same tree whereupon the Turtle Dove started vigorously displaying at it! Seemed like a case of mistaken identify and a sign that this was an unpaired bird so far?

Turtle Dove

Out over Greenaways there were several Hobbies zooming around, and a Marsh Harrier. I couldn't however spot the large grey birds with long necks that were reputed to be there.

Along the bridleway, there was an impressive range of Odonata, including numerous Azure Damselflies, Large Red Damsels, 1 Blue-tailed Damsel, Red-eyed Damsels, Four-spotted Chaser and just one Hairy Dragonfly seen briefly in flight only.  On the path to the first screen, there was one teneral Ruddy Darter.

The first screen was quiet but there was a distant male Wigeon which seemed an unusual June find.

I didn't see anything very different on my return, by which time it was cloudier and possible more windy as well. There was however this striking, tiny bug at the eastern end of the bridleway that I reckon is probably a Red-and-black Froghopper. Anyone of a different opinion?!

Red-and-black Froghopper (probable)

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Tadpole Bridge to Radcot: 14 May

Following my successful start to the Clubtail count yesterday in their stronghold around Goring, today was an exploration into the Upper Thames where recent records have been much less frequent.

Starting at Tadpole Bridge, our aim was a one way walk to Radcot, which involved a two car manoeuvre. Things started amazingly well with this adult right by the track within c. 200m of the bridge!


Clubtailed Dragonfly just W of Tadpole Bridge

Unfortunately thereafter there was no further sign of emerged insects nor exuviae, despite plenty of scanning of any man made structures.

Notable birds along the way included at least 2 pairs of Curlew, CuckooGrey Wagtail at Rushey Lock, Sedge Warbler, Whitethroat and Lesser Whitethroat.

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Goring 13 May

With the Black-winged Stilts having departed, it seemed time to start my participation in the BDS Clubtail count. I parked in the public car park in Goring and then walked down to the river and along to the railway bridge which is a famous Clubtail site.

As I went, I was looking for exuviae, as these are said to be easier to locate early in season than the adults. I was surprised to almost immediately find two - on the top of a low wooden post by the waters edge. Thereafter I found three more at two different locations before I reached the bridge itself. All were on man made structures - either wooden posts or walls that go down into the water.

They seemed to be easier to find than I had feared.

Clubtail exuvia

At Goring Railway bridge itself I found someone else on a similar quest! He had found six exuviae along the wall under the bridge.

So a successful start to the Clubtail count with records of exuviae from three different 1km squares - SU59080, SU5979 & SU6079.

If this inspires you to join in the count, I'm sure it isn't too late - just get in touch with the BDS organisers ASAP.

Even if you are not participating in the survey, if you find any Clubtails or their exuviae in Oxon, please let me know and I will add to my dedicated page on my website.


Saturday, 6 May 2017

Farmoor - 6 May

Back in good old Oxon, so where better to go in early May than Farmoor where all sorts of waders and the Bonaparte's Gull had been reported during the week...

I arrived at gate opening time (08:00) and decided to head along the causeway looking for waders and other migrants. There were plenty of screaming Swifts overhead and one solitary Yellow Wagtail that immediately departed.Further on the only waders on show were two summer plumaged Dunlin, one of which was brighter than the other. Fortunately, my encounter with these confiding birds coincided with a very rare brighter spell


Dunlin - click here for a larger image.

Next up was the Pinkhill hide which was also quiet, apart from a Cuckoo calling in the bushes and trees along the river. It then gave a brief flight view as it moved elsewhere. Sedge and Reed Warblers were also singing away but I didn't see either.

With a tentative report of the Bonaparte's Gull, Black Tern and Turnstone along the southern shore of F2, I decided to head off in that direction. Walking by the river, I spotted a couple of Common Sandpipers, and a little further on by Shrike Meadow there was my first Whitethroat of the year.

Arriving in the vicinity of the southern end of F2, I found 2 flighty Turnstones, 1 Common Sand and a few disgruntled birders who reported no sign of the Gull nor the Black Tern. And so it was - no sign of either. It was also distinctly cool and unspring-like! Time to depart...

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Mid Wales 29 April - 1 May

We had a good bank holiday weekend in Wales despite a noisy hotel (Elan Hotel) and mediocre weather. The highlight was the excellent Gilfach Reserve which is run by the Radnorshire Wildlife Trust. We last visited here three years ago but our visit this time was somewhat different with only the Otter Hide providing much in the way of photo opportunities.

I spent some time here over three visits, with the early morning one being most productive for the Pied Flycatcher. The late afternoon produced the Dipper and Nuthatch, while an early afternoon session produced nothing at all!



A delightful Pied Flycatcher. Click here for a larger image
Dipper on the stream
Nuthatch
Go to to my website for larger versions of all the above

The courtyard wasn't productive for photos, apart from this Common Pipistrelle bat that surprisingly appeared in the late afternoon, well before dusk and allowed itself to be photographed!

Common Pipistrelle

Friday, 14 April 2017

Lark Hill 14 April

One of at least 3 Wheatear this afternoon on the mown grass around (and on top of) the underground reservoir:


Goto my website for a larger image


Wheatear - taken though the tall chain link fence


Saturday, 8 April 2017

8 April: A quiet Farmoor & Rushy Common

Last week Farmoor seemed to turn some reasonable photo opportunities, judging by the Oxon Bird Log, so I thought it was time for a visit - my first in some time.

Arriving just after the 08:00 opening time, the causeway was shrouded in mist with almost zero visibility. However by the time I'd got half way across it had mostly lifted but didn't reveal much. A Common Tern flew past, and the light was absolutely superb for photography, but all I could find to point the lens at were Great Crested Grebes, none of which were particularly close-in. Disappointingly, there were no waders, wheatears, nor any wagtails (other than Pied) - probably due to the splendid sunny, settled weather!

Great-crested Grebe. 
Visit my website for a larger image.

Reaching the western bank and turning south, there was a Willow Warbler in the bushes at the top of the zig-zag path, and a Blackcap near the concrete path. Walking past Shrike Meadow, I was surprised to hear the unmistakable song of a Lesser Whitethroat. Even more surprising was that it was singing from an exposed, if distant perch, in the still fairly early morning sun. 
Lesser Whitethroat

Pinkhill had little of interest near to the hide but there were distant Cetti's and Sedge Warbler songs. Returning along the causeway there were five Red-crested Pochards (4m & 1f). That was about it! 

From the latest reports on the Oxon Bird Log, it seems I could well have walked past the Bonaparte's Gull!

As it was still only mid/late morning, I decided to head over to Rushy Common to see if the Avocets were still present. They weren't, but Tom Wickens kindly pointed out a lone Mediterranean Gull among the Black headeds. There were also two Egyptian Geese over the far side, and then flying around. Also, from the car park there were several Sand Martins over the new pit on the opposite side of the road when I arrived, but they didn't appear to stay long and were gone when I returned to the car.

Saturday, 1 April 2017

1st April

Looks like I guessed right - the Black-necked Grebe had gone from Farmoor this morning, and I went for these delightful birds instead. It is several years since I've seen one in Oxon - well before my camera days!

Firecrest in Oxon!
To see slightly larger images go to my website