Sunday, 5 November 2017

Pit 60, Letcombe Bassett 4 Nov & Australia (all of Oct)!

In case anyone was wondering where the Tall Birder was... Well, I'm now back in Oxon after a great month in Australia! The contrast has been pretty marked, in terms of weather, season, temperature and birds! From a hot early spring, we have fast forwarded to typical dank, cool mid autumnal English conditions, while the birds have gone from being exotic, colourful and above all NEW, to the usual...

Pit 60 in the rain was not the greatest welcome back, being very quiet with only a fly past Kingfisher (showing no sign of stopping at the perches in front of the LL hide) and a distant Little Egret of any note.

The cress beds at Letcombe Bassett were slightly better with a closer Little Egret, Kingfisher and Grey Wagtail.

Little Egret (c) Letcombe Bassett

Now we also saw Little Egrets in Australia, but they weren't exactly the highlight of the trip! More later on this superb birding destination in a trip report on my website - once I've waded through all the masses of images I took!

However, here is short taster of things to come:

Crimson Rosella

Satin Bowerbird  at bower

Regent's Bowerbird

Rainbow Pitta

Saturday, 23 September 2017

Farmoor: 21 September

A helpful text from Badger, received while at work, first alerted me to the Red-necked Phalarope that had been found earlier that day. As I still work full time, it is difficult to drop everything and chase after rarities, unlike many others in the county it seems!  But having missed the one at Bicester two years ago, I was keen to add this one to my ailing county list. So managing to escape slightly early from work, I  had to first dash home for all my optics and then head up to Farmoor. Consequently it wasn't until around 17:45 that I arrived in the car park (i.e. only just over an hour before sunset).

Walking up onto the reservoir bank, it wasn't long until I found a departing birder who told me that the bird had fortunately moved away from the NW corner of F1 (which is about the furthest point from car parking there is at the res) to the much closer NE corner. Arriving shortly afterwards, the phalarope was characteristically bobbing around in the "surf" at the water's edge. Only two others were in attendance. They then shortly departed, so I had the bird all to myself briefly. 

Initially the bird was very much silhouetted against a low sun which wasn't conducive to good photography, but when this sank into cloud, the light was much softer which helped with these shots. Unfortunately I only had about 30mins on the bird before it became too dark for pics - even so these were taken at ISO 3200, in an effort to keep the shutter time to a minimum.

This bird was rather more cooperative, and just a bit closer than last weeks Osprey!

 Go to my website for a larger image
Go to my website for a larger image


Red-necked Phalarope (juv)

Saturday, 16 September 2017

Radley Lakes: 16 September



With the Grey Phalaropes having departed, an early-ish morning visit to Radley Lakes seemed the best idea. Arriving at the Osprey's favoured site just before 8am, I found a number of birders had already arrived and were looking at the bird which was sitting in a tree over the far side of the lake:

Osprey in tree

At around 08:45 it took off, caught a fish (out of sight behind an island) and then disappeared, all in a remarkably short space of time (about 20 sec)! Photos were somewhat distant, so heavy cropping was needed. 


Osprey in flight
See also my website for larger images

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Thin pickings: 9 September

Ever hopeful of migrants at this time of year, I again tried Farmoor, where, unlike last week, it was feeling distinctly autumnal. Walking over the causeway, I met Bob & then  Dai who reported a Ringed Plover at the far end, a Common Sand somewhere about and a couple of Wheatears, as well a Shag or two. 

Well by the time I reached the causeway end, I had seen no waders and the weather at the Pinkhill hide was apparently too cool for any dragonflies. Walking the long way back round F2, I found nothing within photo range, so departed without having taken a single shot!

The day was however partially saved by a last minute diversion to the lay-by at Letcombe Bassett cress beds, where I found that the Little Egret was back, probably for the winter. As I arrived it was very close, but it took fright before I could get the camera on it. Fortunately,  it didn't fly too far though...

Little Egret

While I was waiting in vain for it to come closer, a Kingfisher flew past and a Grey Wagtail appeared. 

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Farmoor & Folly Park Pond: 2nd September

A quick call to Dai on arrival at Farmoor confirmed that up to 5 Shags present, with one on the F1 side of the far end of the causeway. En-route along the causeway there was a male Yellow Wagtail. The Shag was very inactive, just sitting (or lying there) and very tame. Not the most exciting subject, but a genuine Oxon rarity.

juvenile Shag 
Go to my website for a larger image.

Thereafter, I tried the Pinkhill Hide which was again good for hovering Migrant Hawkers. As last week, there were also a few Common Darters around.

Migrant Hawker

It then clouded over and the dragonflies disappeared, so I retraced my way to the causeway, to find two Shags including the original in exactly the same spot (was it unwell?) and a more lively individual in the water. This allowed photos of the whole bird without the concrete, but they would have been better if the sun had been out.

A more lively juv Shag in the water.
Again go to my website for a larger image.

I then walked back the long way round F2 and spotted two Wheatears on the western side, one initially on the fence.

At Faringdon Folly Park Pond, the sun had come out again and the placing was buzzing with Odonata! The usual Small Red-eyes were again out on the floating vegetation but better was a single male Emerald Damsel in the vegetation on the near side of the pool. Other species included Migrant Hawker, Southern Hawker and Brown Hawker, as well as the usual darters (Common & Ruddy).

Emerald Damselfly

Migrant Hawker

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Farmoor & FFPP 26 August 2017

Very very quiet birdwise at Farmoor today, but at least I finally caught up with the Ruddy Shelduck which was loafing around in the NW corner of F2, commuting between the causeway and the western bank.
Ruddy Shelduck
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There were also almost zero birds at Pinkhill, but as the morning wore on and it got a little warmer and sunnier, out came various dragonflies, including 2-3 Migrant Hawkers, Brown Hawker and Common Darters. The hide seemed to be the place to attempt flight shots, as one was sometimes hovering reasonably close for a few seconds at a time.

Migrant Hawker

On my way back, I again  diverted to Faringdon Folly Park Pond, but whenever I go there it seems to cloud over.  Even so, there was some Odonata activity with more distant Small Red-eyed Damsels on the floating vegetation, plus both Ruddy and Common Darters closer too. When the finally the sun came out, so did the hawkers, with several Migrant Hawkers and one Brown Hawker. Not the best site for photography though, and all the locals attempting to fish don't help - not a good substitute for the much lamented Shellingford Pit.
Ruddy Darter

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Pit 60 & FFPP: 19 August

Pit 60 from the Langley Lane Hide was really quiet this morning and produced almost nothing of interest in a wait of about 1.5 hrs. A good number of Sand Martins over the water was about it. Even the Little Egret, reported earlier, didn't show.

So I then tried the North Shore hide which is usually even worse, but this time there was a bit of interest in this solitary Common Sandpiper on the island in front of the hide, and a brief fly through Sparrowhawk

Common Sandpiper
Go to my website for a large image.

Thereafter I paid a brief visit to Faringdon Folly Park Pond, but this was during a dull spell and Odonata activity was limited to a few Small Red-eyes on the floating vegetation, a couple of Ruddy Darters and some Blue-tailed Damsels. No sign of the Emerald Damsels reported recently by Ian Smith and Bill Haynes.

For all the latest Odonata news in the county, go to my latest news page on my website.

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Farmoor etc 12th August

I arrived at Farmoor slightly after its opening time to be told there had been no sign so far of the adult WWB Tern seen yesterday up until the evening. It sounded like it had gone, and sure enough nobody on the causeway had seen any sign of it.

After some time there, there didn't seem to be much point in staying any longer - despite a good number of hirundines and the odd Swift zooming about. Hence I made my way down to the Pinkhill Hide and, forewarned, entered the code now needed for the new lock. The scene before me was very different from earlier in the spring - with tall vegetation and several new pools immediately in front of the hide. Consequently, the views of the main area of water at the back were very obscured. The pools looked promising for dragonflies but the conditions were nothing like good enough for them, so as usual there was nothing to see!

I then decided to head down to the southern end to try to find the rather smart Ruddy Shelduck that had been present recently. However there was no sign of that either, so I had to make do with the pair of Egyptian Geese.

Egyptian Goose. Go to my website for a larger image

Thereafter I visited Ewelme Watercress beds for the first time, but of course there was no sign of the Great White Egret seen yesterday - hardly surprising given the compact size of this site, and its proximity to some surprisingly busy local roads.

On my return, I stopped off very briefly at Lark Hill in Wantage and was pleased to find a couple of Wheatears hopping around on the mown gross that covers the underground reservoir. It is a shame it is surrounded by a tall chain link fence! 

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Faringdon Folly Park Pond: 5 & 6 August

This is a new site for me, which I decided to try this weekend, following Bill Haynes' stunning records of 60+ Small Red-eyed Damselflies, and various other Odonata, just a few days ago.

It is in a somewhat surprisingly urban location, very close to the new housing estates that have appeared recently in Faringdon. There is a small parking area at SU294948 from where is a short stroll to the pond which is used for fishing. There is a path that circumnavigates it, but the best spot for the SREs seems to be on the floating weed/moss off the nearest bank.

On Saturday morning, in a brief visit, abruptly curtailed by heavy rain, I found only 1 Small Red-eye but there were several other species around, including 2 late Emperors (one ovipositing) over the far side, Common Darters, inc a tandem pair also ovipositing, and Azure and Blue-tailed Damsels.

This afternoon there was no rain but conditions were far from ideal with only occasional sunny intervals. Nevertheless there were several SREs on view (perhaps 20+).  I spent some time trying for photos which were far from easy as they were some way out on the weed, and rarely presented themselves sideways on. Also there was one Brown Hawker, a few Blue-tailed Damsels and the odd Common Darter.

So with the sad demise of Shellingford Pit, it seems that this urban pond is now the premier site in the County for Small Red-eyes!

Small Red-eyed Damselfly

For all the latest news on dragonflies and damselflies in Oxfordshire, see the current sightings page on my website.

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Pit 60: 15 July 2017

A dull morning at Pit 60, with a heavy shower of rain which failed to bring in any migrants apart perhaps from several Sand Martins hawking over the water.

Interest today was mainly limited to the 5 Oystercatchers present, that were being very vocal at times with much excited displaying taking place. It seems a bit late in the season for this! When I arrived at the LL hide, two were on the island just in front of the island and I managed to open the shutters cautiously without disturbing them. One briefly posed under the wooden "archway" before they both flew off:

Under the arch!

In flight - at a challenging speed for the 500f4 & x1.4TC!

In the middle of another display "run"

Just as I was about leave, one of the Common Terns, that had hitherto been right down the far end, suddenly alighted on one of the posts in front of the hide, which allowed this shot to be taken (from inside the hide!):

Common Tern - go to my website for a larger image