This is no Farmoor, Otmoor or Port Meadow. This is Grimsbury. It's Grim up north!

There is a running total year list in the link above.

Please send in your bird sightings to the B.O.S. and/or to me directly for inclusion on the blog. If you have some photos you would like to contribute please let me know (contact via the comments box on the right if you do not have my email already). Thank you.

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

2014 Review and Highlights

A fantastic year with a total of 113 species recorded during 2014 at Grimsbury Reservoir, the Woodland Nature Reserve and Upper Cherwell Valley. This number is down to a few extra dedicated observers and some luck, with several cracking new species that haven’t been recorded here before.

The year started well with up to 4 Goosanders seen regularly and several dabbling duck species using the reservoir and flooded fields. A pair of Stonechats wintered in the river valley which they haven’t done for a few years. A Green Sandpiper, fairly uncommon to the area, and up to 20 Snipe using the flooded fields. The ringed Mute Swan (BAP) was still present up until spring at least. A ringed Lesser Redpoll was of interest, but of course the ring details could not be read. A splendid summer plumaged adult Mediterranean Gull was seen one evening in March with a pre-roost gathering of Black-headed gulls.
Mediterranean Gull
Spring came along with Chiffchaff singing on 11th March. Soon followed by the hirundines and other warblers and wagtails. Several White Wagtails were recorded and the first Yellow Wagtail on 2nd April following strong southerly winds. Sparrowhawks danced over the woodland and probably bred there or nearby as juveniles were present later in the summer.

Yellow Wagtail

Common Sandpipers, Little Ringed Plovers, Dunlin, Common Tern and Swift all joined the list of birds recorded on their passage north. A rather unusual sighting was a Green Sandpiper at the reservoir, a habitat I wouldn’t expect that species to use.
Summer tends to be rather quiet here but a chance to record the species that have stayed to breed. Amongst the breeders this year was Grey Wagtail, Lesser Whitethroat, Sedge Warbler, Starling and Stock Doves. Two pairs of Curlew were present in the Upper Cherwell Valley and may have bred. Coots and Little Grebe made use of the new pool and although now almost resident there, there was only one sighting of each at the reservoir. Little Ringed Plovers bred at a site nearby and a juvenile stayed at the reservoir for quite some time at the end of the summer. A Little Egret was in the area July to September entertaining people as it stalked the shallow reservoir edges.
The hirundines
Lots of Dragonflies and Damselflies were recorded this year, mostly at the new pool, and I hope to make more effort to record them from now on.
Beautiful Demoiselle (from 2008)
Autumn is a great time for bird watching and this year was quite special. Spotted Flycatchers, Redstarts, Whinchats and a Tree Pipit were all recorded during their journey to warmer wintering destinations. Willow Tit is also being recorded after an absence of nearly two years and were present till the end of the year.
Redstart - courtesy and copyright of Mike Pollard
Willow Tit - courtesy and copyright of Andrew Last
It is often the time when more waders stop to fuel up too. Two Greenshank were seen flying around the reservoir but they didn’t land, though they must have found somewhere settle as they were heard over the two following days too. A Grey Plover flew over early one September morning. More Dunlin were recorded and a peak of 8 common Sandpipers was pretty good. A Ruff stopped in for a few days, often in the company of a Dunlin.
A juvenile Black Tern was around for a few days and was seen heading off high to the south west. Several more Mediterranean Gulls were seen, making it a really good year for them, and Yellow-legged Gulls were around till early winter.
Black Tern
Mediterranean Gull - courtesy and copyright of Mike Pollard
An outstanding find was of 2 Great Skuas flying through in October. Conditions were perfect for them to turn up inland and almost predictable, but to actually see them is another thing. My choice for bird of the year! On the same day a Little Gull was also recorded in the gull roost.
Great Skua - courtesy and copyright of Mike Pollard
Winter came along and Goldeneye, Mandarin and Little Owl were added to the year list. A Black-headed Gull ringed in Denmark was seen. Barn Owls are now regular in the river valley and even a Short-eared Owl on one evening. A Black Redstart took a liking to the water treatment works and was often seen fly-catching from the high structures. A Water Rail was seen along the river and wintering Chiffchaffs (including a Siberian Chiffchaff) were in the woodland with the roaming feeding party.

Black Redstart
Siberian Chiffchaff

31st Dec 2014: Siberian Chiffchaff

Well, the start a new blog on the last day of the year. There will be more blog construction and posts over the start of 2015 but this is how 2014 ended:

Very cold! As I walked up to the embankment of the reservoir it was very still and quiet. Part of the river where the flow has been reduced and quite a lot of the surface of the reservoir were frozen over.

There was little more than 'the usual' on the reservoir itself. Though two displaying Great Crested Grebes showed that spring is not all that far away. A couple of Common Gulls joined the few dozen loafing Black-headed Gulls.

My main aim was to spend some time in the woodland to observe and get pictures of the 'odd' Chiffchaff that has been present since at least the 29th. A Chiffchaff wintering here is quite unusual and Mike Pollard reported one on the 24th. At least two have been here since the 29th and when I saw them together one struck me as being different. I had my suspicion that it may be a Siberian Chiffchaff but was not at all confident to report it as one.

It is a bird that stands out, especially when seen next to the Common Chiffchaff it seems to hang around with. I reported it to the Oxfordshire Going Birding website and the Oxon Bird Log as this: 'The 'different' bird was paler and greyer, almost white below and grey-brown above, none of the warm buff colouring and only a bit of yellow plumage on the wing that I could see.'

A fellow Banbury birder, Tim Clark, saw it yesterday too and remarked how strinking the bird looks. 'certainly very striking in it's paleness - grey-brown above and off-white below - and overall very cold looking. I watched it for over a minute actively feeding with a regular collybita Chiffchaff, compared with which it was almost completely unalike.  Perhaps most interestingly though was that I was first drawn to it by a frequent, monosyllabic 'pee/peep' call which instantly struck me as different. Unfortunately once I had quickly located the bird it had stopped calling, though I have little doubt it was the bird I had heard.'

So I spent three hours in that wood this morning, joined by Clive Payne, searching and searching but the bird was no where to be seen! I saw the Common Chiffchaff and a Willow Tit in the the roaming feeding parties. There was also a pair of Sparrowhawks interacting with each other over the wood between their hunting fly throughs. I was just about to give up when the bird was seen happily feeding away in the sunshine!

The last of these photos I posted on the Oxon Bird Log earlier in the day and Ian Lewington (Oxfordshire County Recorder) and Jason Coppock have both been in touch to say it looks fine for a Siberian Chiffchaff. A great end to 2014.

Happy New Year and let's hope for a fantastic 2015!

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

2013 Review and Highlights

A total of 102 species were recorded during 2013 at Grimsbury Woodland Nature Reserve, the reservoir and immediately surrounding fields.

Great Crested Grebes displaying late winter
Due to the woods’ small size and location it doesn't get too many outstanding species but it does have an interesting assemblage of common species. It often gets good numbers of Siskin and several Lesser Redpoll in the winter periods. The early winter period of 2013 was particularly good for these species. A wide variety of common warbler species breed in the wood. The first to arrive is Chiffchaff (10th March) followed by several others including Garden Warbler. Sadly one of the star species (particularly for Oxfordshire), Willow Tit, seems to no longer be present in the wood with the last record in September 2012. A dead Barn Owl, which probably perished in the poor weather, was found in the wood in January but is an encouraging sign they are still hanging on in the general area. Tit flocks congregating together in the autumn attract passing warblers and often Spotted Flycatchers, which were recorded here in August.  

Spotted Flycatcher
The most obvious breeding species here is Rook with 43 nests counted in the rookery. Evidence of other species breeding was a bit under recorded but a Long-tailed Tit nest was found in early spring. There are now 12 nest boxes in the woodland as nine new boxes were installed to join the three put up by Thames Water. Hopefully these boxes will increase the woodlands breeding population.

The reservoir attracts a range of species particularly on passage but doesn't hold the duck species that it once did. Apart from Mallards, all other duck species are scarce at best, so a drake Red-crested Pochard in January and pair of Common Scoter in March were a couple of the star species for the year. 

Red-crested Pochard
Common Scoters
The most regular wader species recorded here is Common Sandpiper and any other species are always a nice surprise. This year Oystercatcher, Dunlin, Ringed and Little Ringed Plovers, and Green Sandpiper were seen, but in my opinion the best species of the year was a flock of eight Whimbrel recorded in April. 

Little Ringed Plover
Passage migrant passerines included White Wagtails, Rock Pipit and Redstarts. Other passing species included Merlin, Arctic Tern, Osprey and Little Egret.

White Wagtail
The surrounding fields offer varying interest through the year. This year a pair of Little Owls took up residence and stayed through to May – indicating they may have bred but this was not confirmed. Snipe gather in the wetter fields in winter and in January were accompanied by at least one Jack Snipe. Grasshopper Warbler is often heard reeling in the spring time but breeding is not in evidence.

Of interest, two BTO ringed Mute Swans were recorded in the area in 2013. Both had orange rings on the right leg with black letters – one BAP and one BBG. BAP was ringed in Stratford-upon-Avon and BBG has not yet been confirmed.

Mute Swan
Other species of note include regular signs of Otter along the River Cherwell and Oxford Canal and a Clouded Yellow butterfly seen at the reservoir in August.

Otter footprint
Otter spraint