Saturday, 29 September 2007

Grey Phalarope & Arctic Skua - Farmoor Reservoir, Oxon. 29th September 2007.

Grey Phalarope.

With a record number of Sabine Gulls being found around the UK this month it was only a matter of time before one turned up at Farmoor reservoir. Early this morning a juvenile was found in the south-east corner of F2 feeding with a first winter Little Gull, both birds continued to feed together until they both departed at 11.30am. A Juvenile Arctic Skua also joined the melee early morning and was in the south-west corner of F2 reservoir at around 2pm.The Sabines Gull is the forth record for Oxfordshire and Farmoor.

By the time I made it to Farmoor the Sabines Gull was long gone along with the Little Gull it was associating with. As I made my way along the causeway I soon caught up with a group of birdwatchers that were looking down to the waters edge of the F1 reservoir, I soon realised that they were watching 2 birds metres from the causeway and I looked to see a juvenile Grey Phalarope and juvenile Knot feeding along the edge of the reservoir. They were both very confiding and remained metres away from us for the time that I was there.

While watching the Grey Phalarope the juvenile Arctic Skua suddenly re-appeared and flew across the causeway and over towards F1 reservoir, it flew across to the west side of the reservoir and then settled on the water in the North-west corner. It stayed on the waters surface for around 10 minutes and then took off, it circled higher and higher before drifting off westward.

Added To My Year & Life Lists.

172. Grey Phalarope
173. Arctic Skua

Wednesday, 12 September 2007

September Local Sightings

I cleaned all the feeders out and gave them a good scrub-up in anticipation of an Autumn rush, boy was I wrong, over the last month they have been extremely quiet with the only sightings being a single male Greenfinch, single Female Chaffinch and the odd Great Tit. It remained quiet until the 26th when 5 Goldfinches came to the feeders and have been visiting daily since, a number of Jackdaws are using the peanut feeders. I know there can be a lull in activity when birds are going through moult and are often hidden away in the hedgerows, there is also a wide range of food amongst the hedgerows at the moment.

A number of Badgers were seen over the first week of September around the cottage, presumably visiting nearby gardens for worms etc late at night. 10pm On the 9th we almost ran one over as he ran out in front of the car and along the driveway, we followed slowly behind it as it trotted along the drive in front of us and then crossed over towards the nearby field. Since then not one has been seen.

The Little Owls are still present perched in a number of their favorite spots but with a lack of sun they are often only heard. A number of Tawny Owls have been calling near to our cottage and from the nearby woods, they seem to have had a good breeding year. On the 5th 2 Tawny Owls were perched on telephone poles at the top of Shogmoor lane, Frieth and on the 6th of September a single Tawny Owl was perched on the same post, this continued on and off for most of September at 7.45 - 8pm. Another was heard calling at mid-day on the 12th at Kingwood,Stoke Row.

A Chiffchaff was heard calling from the orchard at around 1pm on the 12th, no doubt a bird on return passage. October usually sees a number of Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler passing through the garden.

Red Kite numbers seem to be averaging 4 to 6 birds throughout the month along with 4 Common Buzzards. A male Sparrowhawk was circling over the cottage on the 21st, and a dead female sparrowhawk was found next to the cottage in the paddock, on closer inspection the head had been removed but the rest of the bird was intact.

4 Red-legged Partridge passed through the garden on the 23rd and plenty of Pheasants about, a single juvenile Green Woodpecker is still feeding on the lawns. A single Wood Pigeon is in most evenings to drink from the bird bath and have a quick wash and a Wren is roosting inside an air brick on the outside of the cottage. Rook, Crow and Jackdaw numbers all seem to be increasing slowly and can be found in most of the fields next to the cottage, maybe due to sheep grazing in them.The Jackdaws have again started hanging off the peanut feeders.

On my way home on the 25th a Stag had been hit by a lorry on the Skirmett to Hambleden road, they often cross the road with no warning from the fields near the Luxters farm turning from where they usually graze. A number of people were helping but it didn't look too good.

Wednesday, 5 September 2007

August Garden Sightings.

The Badgers have finally returned and have been seen late at night searching for food around the gardens, they haven't been seen for nearly a year and I was worried that something had happened to them. We had 6 visiting the garden on a regular basis during the winter of 2005 and I managed to film them through the living room window, it was truly an incredible experience to be able to watch them so close, sadly most sightings these days are of dead Badgers on the roadside.


A few deer have passed through with very young fawns, stopping to feed on the grass in the paddock outside our house, a common sighting throughout the year sometimes in numbers of 40+ but seldom seen with their young.

On the feeders have been Nuthatch, regular visits from 2 Marsh Tits, Long-tailed Tits have been passing through in family groups, no sign of the usual Goldcrest's that are often in the conifers. Both male and female Bullfinches have been seen regularly along the hedgerows nearby although not it the garden. Red-legged Partridge can often be seen and heard crossing the gardens and out in to the surrounding fields, no sign of any young or family parties.

Great-spotted Woodpeckers have raised 2 young and are occasionally on the feeders and bird bath during the day, the Green Woodpeckers on the other hand have raised 3 young and are regularly feeding on Ants on the lawns and paddocks around the cottage, they seem to favour the freshly cut lawns to feed on. A single juvenile Green Woodpecker is often found in our garden searching for food on our lawn which gave me the opportunity to film it while it fed.

Juvenile Green Woodpecker

One of the highlights of the month is certainly the regular sightings of both Little and Tawny Owls, the resident Little Owls have raised 2 young and can often been seen together in their favored perching places.They have often been sat out sunning themselves when the weathers been good, I watched all 4 or them sat in the orchard in the afternoon sun,the young were perched quietly whilst the adults searched for worms and beetles to feed them. They seem to be in and around the garden most nights often sat on the bird bath calling to each other.

Little Owl

Tawny Owls have been heard and seen over the last month on a regularly basis with calling birds being heard most nights in the area, one seems to favour the top of our cottage and is often "hooting" in the early hours. Mid-August brought a great view of a Tawny Owl hunting outside our cottage window late one evening, my girlfriend and I both watched as an adult Tawny perched quietly on the paddock fence searching for prey, it made 5 attempts to catch food from the long grass beneath it and was successful at least 3 times, the prey swallowed whole in one go leads me to believe they were probably voles rather than mice although both seem to be present in good numbers. It flew to each post in turn and remained transfixed searching the ground below, I continued watching it for at least 10 minutes with the aid of the outside light before it disappeared into the darkness. An hour later it could be heard calling from the trees nearby. Views like that are truly priceless and I was extremely lucky to film it from the front door without disturbing it.

Tawny Owl

A small Bat keeps doing flybys over the garden, At the beginning of August it was often flying while it was still light, I tried to film it but it's much too quick for me.

A Stoat was seen "dancing" around one of the gardens in mid-August but remains very elusive, I had a very brief view as one darted across the garden in October 2005 but didn't hold out much hope of seeing it again. That soon changed when I walked out to my car on Friday 24th and came face to face with a Stoat, it took both of us by surprise and we both froze checking each other out, it soon turned and headed off towards the orchard and I watched as he headed off into the long grass. My closest view previously being at Hambleden Lock when one ran out of the undergrowth next to the backwater and continued towards me, it stopped 10ft away sniffed the air then disappeared in to the undergrowth.

August Highlights



Tawny Owl

Little Owl