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!