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.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

27th Jan 2015: Wigeon

A visit to the reservoir today reminded me of why I like patch birding so much. It was a nice morning and I virtually had the place to myself. The reservoir was reasonably quiet and the wood had all of it's usual suspects, but a few things turned up that just make working a patch rewarding.

When I say the reservoir was quiet, it had pretty much all the species that have been seen recently but nothing new or unusual to perk my interest. I walked past fairly quickly to get to the woodland to check through the feeding flock of birds I could hear at its edge.

As I got to the wood most of the flock moved over to the over side of the river. Willow Tit, Siberian Chiffchaff, two Chiffchaffs and all the supporting cast. The Treecreepers have joined in the dawn chorus now and two were singing today. A female Sparrowhawk went over causing all the birds to dive into cover and it was soon chased off by a Crow. This was all very nice but it wasn't anything new. With this being my last chance to get out this month I began to settle on the thought that this was it for January, let's look forward to next month. The birds started getting higher in the trees again and as I was scanning a flock of five ducks very high in the sky caught my attention. I couldn't make out enough detail from below but they looked like Wigeon. I watched as they turned to fly back up the river valley and saw the upper wings, they were Wigeon. A new species on the year list.

As I carried on up into the river valley a Buzzard flew in and sat on the hedge around 10 m in front of me. It was a fantastic view but, as always, as soon as I reached for the camera it was off. There was a good flock of Meadow Pipits feeding in the grass on the bund and I estimated at least 50, if not 60 birds. As I walked along two Snipe flushed up out of the wet grass and off into the sky. As I tracked them I spotted a flock of around 100 Lapwings going over quite high. There wasn't a lot going on at the new pool or around the fields so I left to return to the reservoir. Just as I was about to go under the motorway bridge two Skylarks went over and off to the west. Another welcome year tick. 

Back at the reservoir, and not a lot different to earlier, I decided to just sit for a while and watch. Several small groups of gulls came and went. A Buzzard went over and, like the Sparrowhawk earlier, was seen off by the Crows. I was starting to day dream when a dog walker surprised me and  asked 'what are those ducks flying round then?'. So far today I'd only seen Mallards and I almost instinctively said that. However, I looked over and it turned out to be another two Wigeon circling the reservoir but for some reason didn't settle and they went off to the east. I normally only get a few sightings of Wigeon a year and I had two just today.

A pretty good patch visit and I left with two main thoughts - 1) look up more and 2) never write the day off before it's really got going.

Monday, 26 January 2015

25th Jan 2015: Otters!

Sightings from Colin Wilkinson:

Siberian Chiffchaff and Willow Tit still in the woodland. Also a Red Kite over the wood (another new one for the year).

Courtesy and copyright of Colin Wilkinson
The best sighting however, has to be that of two Otters! They were foraging in the River Cherwell under the fallen willow by the wood, just behind where Colin was stood watching the birds feeding. He managed this record shot of one of them before they disappeared upstream.

Otter! Courtesy and copyright of Colin Wilkinson
There has been signs that Otters are in the area for several years now. It doesn't take much effort to find spraints or footprints along the river bank or the canal. However, actually seeing them is great! But seeing them in the daytime and getting a photo as well is absolutely fantastic!!

Thank you

Saturday, 24 January 2015

24th Jan 2014: Raven

I had a good romp around the patch this morning. It was no where near as cold as it was yesterday and yet at times the wind was quite bitter. However, it was a pleasant morning in brilliant sunshine.

There was very little to speak of on the reservoir itself today. There was four Great Crested Grebes back and I found myself wondering about their movements. There has been seven around for much of this year, then yesterday there was just one (when the reservoir was frozen over) and today four. Are they the same birds that had gone and come back, somehow knowing the reservoir was ice free again, or are they new birds that are moving from frozen pools elsewhere?

I spent a bit of time in the wood and although the Siberian Chiffchaff was present it was very elusive today. After I had been watching it feeding by the railway embankment it flew into the centre of the wood and I didn't see it again. There are at least two, if not three, Common Chiffchaffs still in the wood too. As I was watching a Raven flew over uttering it's deep guttural cronks - another new one for this year.

I was attempting to get some shots of the birds in the wood as they busily fed. I'm still getting used to a new camera and though I am fairly happy with these photos, I would like better.

In the Upper Cherwell Valley there were at least ten Stock Doves and a few birds coming and going (two Buzzards, a Kestrel, Cormorants and gulls) but otherwise it was relatively quiet. I didn't note any piptis or thrushes that have been around recently. There is now two Coots on the new pool and I wondered if they would stay and breed again this year.

Friday, 23 January 2015

23rd Jan 2015: Frozen over

I only made a quick visit this morning before work just in case any of yesterday's ducks were still around, or even if more had moved in. The reservoir was almost completely frozen over though, with the only open areas in the middle where two Mute Swans were keeping it ice free and bits of the north eastern end where it was more sheltered.

There was only one each of Great Crested Grebe and Canada Goose and I expect there to be no other ducks until it thaws. The gulls were loafing around on the ice instead and there were seven Common Gulls.

So overall not a lot to see today, however I did see a Collared Dove which is new for the year list.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

22nd Jan 2015: Shelducks

Some records from today, new birds for the year:

3 Shelduck, a good bird to get on the reservoir and year list (patch gold!). Present up until lunch time but not this afternoon - John Friendship-Taylor / Roger Wyatt
1 Tufted Duck - Tim Clark / JFT

The regular Goosander is also still present.

Thank you

Courtesy and copyright of Roger Wyatt
Courtesy and copyright of John Friendship-Taylor

Sunday, 18 January 2015

18th Jan 2015: More on that Chiffchaff

A nice crisp winters morning today and when the sun came out it was quite pleasant. There are more and more signs that spring is on the way with many woody plants coming into bud and most of the Hazel trees have catkins out (although some still have leaves on). Grey Wagtail joined the dawn chorus today and look like a pair setting up territory.

The wood was quiet today, until the sun came out that is. The first time I went round there was very little activity and it was quite odd considering the activity that there has been recently. Only a singing Song Thrush broke the eerie silence. I did manage to find the Siberian and Common Chiffchaff (more on that later) but otherwise it was a bit dull to be honest.

I only had a quick look in the Upper Cherwell Valley today. I bumped into Clive Payne, who was doing the B.T.O. WeBS count, so I joined him for a short time. There was a Coot on the 'new pool' but we couldn't track down the Teal that were reported yesterday. Clive told me that a Peregrine has been seen over the U.C.V. in the last week. So that's two new species on the year list.

Back in the wood the sun had come out and along with it birds seemed to be feeding everywhere. The big Long-tailed Tit troop and it's associates were back out in force and we soon located the Willow Tit on call but didn't actually see it.

So, more on the Siberian Chiffchaff. Here is your chance to look away if you have already seen enough of it!

I spent a bit more time trying to photograph it today, still not entirely happy with the photos that I have so far (still not happy!). Stood in the almost silent wood early morning, I watched it foraging in a bramble bush on the railway embankment. Then it called! I haven't definitely heard it call before today. It called again and again, however it wasn't calling with the classic monosyllabic tristis 'peep', 'eep', 'ihp' or however you want to write it. It called with a upward inflected 'hweet', just like a Common collybita Chiffchaff.

I was rather disappointed as I had read the only way to definitely identify a tristis was on call. Mike Pollard had said last week that he heard it call like collybita but as we were stood with Roger Wyatt and he said tristis sometimes calls like collybita, I wasn't too worried.

So what does this mean? I text Ian Lewington and he said opinions on call are changing all the time and a Dutch tristis ID'd from DNA analysis called like a collybita. He encouraged me to listen to it more, saying there is more to learn. When I got home I searched for more information on this subject and there are several documented cases where Chiffchaffs that fit Siberian race on looks yet they call like Common (or Scandinavian abietinus) race.  It is not yet know if these birds are Siberian birds that call differently to what is expected or birds from where the races hybridise.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

17th Jan 2015

Sightings for today:

At the reservoir (per Steve Holliday) -
Seven Great Crested Grebes, seven Cormorant, 17 Mallard, a Sparrowhawk and two Lesser Black-backed Gulls. No sign of the roaming feeding party in the wood.

In the Upper Cherwell Valley (per Mike Pollard) -
Five Fieldfare (on the year list at last!) with c. 120 Redwings, two flocks of Meadow Pipit totalling c. 50 birds, three Teal on the remaining flooded grassland, along with two Herring Gulls and about 100 Common Gulls.  17 Cormorants in the trees.

Thank you

Friday, 16 January 2015

16th Jan 2015

Some of yesterday's sightings - per Ewan Urquhart on the Oxon Bird Log:

1 Siberian Chiffchaff and 1 Common Chiffchaff in the roaming feeding party in the wood and 1 Goosander on the reservoir.

There wasn't a lot going on during my brief visit this afternoon. The Goosander being the only bird of note.

Kestrel - on the look out

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

14th Jan 2015: Gone Fishing

A reasonably early morning visit today and it seemed that everything was out to catch a fish or two. There was a Kingfisher perched just off the sailing club, two Herons, a Goosander (not the two that have been reported over the last few days), six Great Crested Grebes and fourteen Cormorants.

The Goosander seemed to be quite successful in catching small 'silver fish', probably Roach, near to the pontoon. Every time it resurfaced with a catch the Black-headed Gulls would fly in and see if they could steal a free meal. The Cormorant count was the highest I have had there for a while. I enjoy watching their movement across the reservoir, a synchronised wave as they all dive and surface within a few seconds of each other.

In the woodland a Jay was screeching away and the roaming feeding party was busy as ever. It was nice to hear Mistle Thrush singing and until Mike Pollard had said he'd had them, I'd somehow seemed to not register their presence. They are a difficult bird to get here, sometimes only recorded once a year.

A Green Woodpecker was in the Cherwell valley and made it on the year list and I counted eighteen Meadow Pipits feeding in the long grass. Back down the canal a few House Sparrows were also new to the year list.

Just as I was making my way back to the car park a flock of eighteen Lapwing went over and appeared to land in the fields by the A423. I will have to go and check if there are more there or even any Golden Plovers.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

13th Jan 2015

Some sightings today from John Friendship-Taylor:

2 Goosanders, Siberian Chiffchaff, Common Chiffchaff and Coal Tit.

Thank you

Monday, 12 January 2015

11th Jan 2015: Willow Tit 2

One of the other people enjoying good views of the Willow Tit on Sunday was Roger Wyatt. He kindly sent me these pictures of Willow Tit to put on the blog.
For anyone who doesn't know of him already he has the ability, it seems, to take a fantastic photo of anything he sees. However, we all know it takes a lot of dedication and patience to get shots like these.

Thank you.

Courtesy and copyright of Roger Wyatt
Courtesy and copyright of Roger Wyatt

Sunday, 11 January 2015

11th Jan 2015: Willow Tit

It was a beautiful morning today and, even though the wind was still quite strong and cold, if you were in a sheltered spot in the sun it was really quite pleasant. Almost spring like!

The reservoir had the same birds as recent days. The Goosander was back, there was seven Great Crested Grebes and the usual Mallards, Canada Geese and gulls were all present.
Note - Mark Ribbons had two Goosanders this afternoon.

In the wood I found the Chiffchaffs feeding along the low scrubby vegetation along the river by the railway bridge. There are now at least three there with the Siberian tristis type and two Common Chiffchaffs. It was good to see them all together and to see the Siberian type well but not in bright sunlight. It's a shame my photography skills do not really do the bird justice.

Siberian Chiffchaff

Common Chiffchaff

Whilst I was watching them the Willow Tit came along too. We then had a game of hide and seek as I tried to photograph it. The tit definitely won but I got one photo I was happy with. A bird of prey went over causing all the birds to became agitated and alarm call. It was possibly a Peregrine but went over far to fast to confirm.

Willow Tit
I proceeded up into the Cherwell Valley and although it was rather quiet I managed to add Stock Dove to the year list, with at least six in the trees. A flock of around 300 Woodpigeons also went over north east and may be heading back to northern woodlands for spring ready to breed.

Saturday, 10 January 2015

11th Jan 2015

Steve Holliday emailed to let me know the Common and Siberian type Chiffchaffs are still in the woodland with the tit flock and that the Goosander was still at the reservoir this morning. He also had 102 Canada Geese, which I think is the largest count so far this year.

I went for a brief visit this afternoon to have a walk with Tom Coyne and his family. The Goosander was still present but flew off to the north while we were there. As we were leaving a Mute Swan flew into the reservoir. This is, rather surprisingly, new for the year list and actually notable for it's absence up until now.

I decided to have a walk around Spiceball Park while I was out, hoping to find some Redpolls or Siskins. I didn't find any but a flock of 25 Greenfinches was a nice consolation prize. I haven't seen any locally for a couple of months now and certainly not in any number.

I found the holes and runs of Field Vole through the grass and as I traced the runs there was a vast network of pathways and holes.

Field Vole runs and holes
A decent list of mammals (or signs of) have been recorded at Grimsbury already this year, but I have forgotten to mention them up till now. So far Roe Deer, Muntjac, Badger, Grey Squirrel, Rabbit, Fox, Otter, Mink and Field Vole have been recorded.

Thursday, 8 January 2015

08th Jan 2015: Goosander

Unwilling to head out in the rain this morning, I waited till this afternoon to make my visit. It sounded like the birds were happy with the afternoon sun too, as several species were in full song.

Scanning over the reservoir I counted seven Great Crested Grebes and checked through the other birds for anything interesting. A nice drake Goosander was right out at the far end. A new species for the year list. This is probably the same bird that was seen occasionally through December last year.

I spent most of the time in the wood just stood watching the roaming feeding party. It is mostly Long-tailed Tits with several Great and Blue Tits and sometimes joined by Willow and Coal Tit. The Long-tailed Tits were very vociferous and spent a lot of time chasing each other around. Maybe they are getting ready to pair up? Treecreepers and Goldcrests are around and the latter seems to be quite numerous. The two Chiffchaffs (including the Siberian type) are still there too.

On the way back to the car park I scanned through the gathering gulls. There was only Black-headed and Lesser Black-backed there today, but I did spot this ringed Black-headed. Unfortunately though, it was only metal ringed and I couldn't get the details.

 Several other common species were added to the year list taking the total up to 47.

Monday, 5 January 2015

05th Jan 2015

I have had emails regarding two new species for the year list both seen on the 05th:

A Herring Gull seen at the reservoir - John Friendship-Taylor
A Jay seen in the Upper Cherwell Valley - Michael Hewitt

Thank you

Sunday, 4 January 2015

04th Jan 2015: B.O.S. Short Day Count

The first Sunday of the year is traditionally the timing of the B.O.S. short day count. It involves teams of birders setting out to record as many species of bird as they can in one of the twelve 10 km squares that the B.O.S. area covers. The count is over an eight hour period from 8am to 4pm. For more information see here.

I decided to cover SP44, which completely coincidently includes Grimsbury Reservoir, woodland and the Upper Cherwell Valley. The par score set for number of species to see in this square was 58. A fairly difficult target to hit if certain species were not seen on the day.

Fog made it hard work!
We saw a total of 56 species. A Common Chiffchaff in the woodland at Grimsbury was the only notable bird really.
Note - I have been informed another team covering SP44 saw the Willow Tit on Sunday.

Other species of note were two Stonechats at Hanwell Fields, Goosander (drake) at Clattercote Reservior and 17 Wigeon and 13 Teal at Farnborough Park Lakes.

Saturday, 3 January 2015

03rd Jan 2015: Barn Owl

Today was my first opportunity to make a quick visit to part of the patch. I went to the Upper Chewell Valley late afternoon hoping to see Barn Owls that have been seen more frequently recently and I still hold out hope of a Short-eared Owl too.

It was a successful visit with one Barn Owl hunting over the long grass alongside the River Cherwell. It was quite late so no chance of a photo but it's pale form obvious in the bright moonlight.  A female Kestrel was also hunting in the area and heard (but unfortunately not seen) were several Snipe and some Teal.

Thursday, 1 January 2015

2015 Big Bird Year!

The Banbury Ornithological Society (B.O.S.) are promoting Grimsbury Reservoir for a big bird year in 2015. The purpose is to try to record as many species as possible in the year - for some more information please see the website here.

Recent years have been good with just over 100 species and 2014 the best so far. However, I'm sure with some more effort from old and new observers that number could be higher!

If you visit there and see some birds, please send the records in to the B.O.S. directly, to me or to one of the other regular visitors. All records will be useful for the area, even if you think they are only common species.

It's not just birds either, it would also be interesting to get records of all flora and fauna in the area. So if you spot anything whilst out, let us know.

Thank you and Happy New Year