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, 31 March 2015

31st Mar 2015: Windy Willow

In the extreme weather there were no out of place wind blown visitors at the reservoir. There are at least four Grey Wagtails around at the moment and the males are looking absolutely dapper. There were sixteen Common Gulls and two Lesser Black-backed Gulls behaving very much like a pair. The coot is still present and a Kingfisher was along the river.

In the shelter in the wood it was surprisingly warm! The Willow Tit is still around but is still on his own, it doesn't seem likely that a female will be joining him any time soon. Getting ready to leave in the car park there was a Blackcap singing in the car park but I couldn't locate it.

Sunday, 29 March 2015

29th Mar 2015

A quick visit this morning before the wind and rain worsened. Chiffchaffs were singing away in the rain and the grebes were displaying. It reminded me that although the conditions aren't too nice for us, to them the need to continue courtship and find a mate means that it is just another day. I was hoping for some downed migrants but itt was actually rather quiet apart from another Little Ringed Plover dropped in briefly. Oddly it came in from the north east and left to the south west.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

28th Mar 2015: Spring Colour

Occasionally I go out to try and record all birds seen and heard on the patch, whether common species or not. I try to do this once a month but actually don't manage to do it every month. Today I went out and recorded forty-five species around the reservoir, woodland and Upper Cherwell Valley. In all honesty there was very little of note so this is a pretty reasonable number of species. I also made a bit of effort to record some plants.  I needed the practise but the blog needed some spring colour too!

Hairy Bittercress
There are now Chiffchaffs spread well over the patch and there were seven singing today. A few Goldcrests were singing but the overwintering birds seem to have cleared out. There are several Reed Buntings singing from suitable breeding habitat which is promising. Four Bullfinches are of note as I hadn't seen any for a while and two Linnets flew over.

Lesser Celandine
Sat by the reservoir for a while hoping for something to pass through and the only thing of particular interest was Meadow Pipits going north. There were streams of gulls passing overhead and a few small groups dropping in the bath and drink before moving on. Mostly Common Gulls but a few Lesser Black-backed too.

In the Upper Cherwell Valley, at the Borrow Pit pool, there were ten Tufted Ducks and seven Coots. A Lapwing flew over, so maybe there are a few on territory near by. There are fresh Otter spriants under the railway bridge and the two brick canal bridges, so they are still quite active in the area. Several bumblebees were also active today. I assume they are Buff-tailed Bumblebees but I didn't get a good enough look at any of them to confirm that.

Common Dog Violet - traditional purple
Common Dog Violet - less common white
I was hoping for a singing Blackcap or some hirundines to pass through but it didn't happen. Next weekend for sure!


Friday, 27 March 2015

27th Mar 2015: Spring Passage

An early visit this morning as migration is well under way and it looked possible that conditions might deliver a few fresh migrants. Walking up the bank between the river and the reservoir there was at least five Chiffchaffs, three singing and two more feeding in the low vegetation by the path.

Scanning around the reservoir there wasn't a lot of note. The Coot still present and eight Great Crested Grebes still, pairs sometimes displaying to each other but not quite the full show yet. Stood scanning again I heard a plover call, Little Ringed Plover. As I looked around high and low the calls got more frequent but I couldn't see them. I eventually found them stood on the west hand back up the embankment on the grass. I managed to watch them feeding for a short time but a Crow spooked hem and they left high to the north.

A few small groups of Meadow Pipits and wagtails were also passing overhead on their way north. There are at least three Reed Buntings singing today and a displaying Greenfinch was nice to watch.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

26th Mar 2015

Just a quick look this evening for any wind blown strays. Nothing of particular note though. I'm surprised that there is the Coot still. It may not seem that significant but I very rarely see Coot on the reservoir and they normally don't hang around, so it's a good record really. There were several calls from Chiffchaffs along the river as I walked up and a flock of 19 Common Gulls moved through. Not a lot else though.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

25th Mar 2015: Lesser Redpoll

Some sightings today from John Friendship-Taylor and Graham Soden:

John had a Lesser Redpoll in the wood feeding with the Goldfinches and another Redpoll sp. fly over north. He also confirmed a White Wagtail (female) this morning. Another visit later in the day and he had a Peregrine over low going east.

Graham had a Willow Tit in the Woodland. Hopefully this is a good sign!

Thank you

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

24th Mar 2015: Little Ringed Plovers... and another Kittiwake!

This morning the sun was shining and even though there was a cold breeze it felt like a brilliant spring day. There were three or four Chiffchaffs singing around the reservoir to reinforce the fact that spring has now well and truly sprung.

As I walked around I spotted two small waders fly across the reservoir and land on the western edge. Two Little Ringed Plovers! I really like these little plovers and I'm always happy to see them return in spring.

As I walked around there was a Grey Wagtail singing at the reservoir edge and Song Thrushes collecting nesting material. I think the wind was putting some species off from singing but there was a general background song. A few Meadow Pipit calls were heard as they passed unseen overhead.

I scanned through a flock of Black-headed Gulls that were gathered. I was only really checking for ringed birds and not expecting much, but as I scanned through came across a stunning adult Kittiwake! This is the second one this month now but only the third I have ever seen here. Others managed to see it and it was present till lunch time at least.

Monday, 23 March 2015

23rd Mar 2015

I only had a very quick look late afternoon as I was short of time. There was a coot that is possibly the same one as last week. There also seemed to be more Pied Wagtails and I estimated 15 in total. Two of these seemed to be possible White Wagtails but they weren't obvious candidates and I didn't really check them well enough to confirm. It wont be long before there are really obvious candidates passing through.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

21st and 22nd Mar 2015

It seems like it was rather quiet over the weekend. However, Dave Fuller sent through these photographs, both taken along the river:

Thank you

Courtesy and copy right of Dave Fuller
Courtesy and copy right of Dave Fuller

Thursday, 19 March 2015

19th Mar 2015: Sand Martin and Mandarin

John Friendship Taylor and Graham Soden have been out today. There was the first Sand Martin of the year seen over the reservoir and a drake Mandarin Duck on the canal. Both are new for the year list, which is growing rapidly! Two Teal were also on the reservoir which is good as they seem to have been a bit thin on the ground this winter.

Thank you

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

18th Mar 2015

More Chiffchaffs were seen today by Mike Pollard and Alison Parry. Mike had at least six around the reservoir at lunch time (see his bolg here) and Alison had two at Grimsbury Green. they are obviously actively moving through now.

Thank you

Monday, 16 March 2015

16th Mar 2015: Departing Redwings

Just a quick walk around the reservoir for me early this morning. It was my last chance to visit the patch for a week so any updates whilst I'm away would be appreciated and I will get them onto the blog as soon as I can.

There was little of note today. The lone Goosander duck was present and there was a metal ringed Black-headed Gull, but I couldn't read the details. There was a decent number of Redwings around, much more than on recent visits. It is likely these are birds that were now moving back north. It was hard to get a number as they were mobile and mostly hidden in thick scrub but I estimated around 40. They were very vocal and a couple of birds were starting to sing.

Saturday, 14 March 2015

14th Mar 2015: chiff-chaff chiff-chaff

This morning was overcast and there was cold north easterly wind. The day would have been rather dull had it not been brightened by Chiffchaff song. There were two singing from bushes around the reservoir and seems like they are migrants fresh in. With others being reported it seems safe to assume these birds are migrants.

There were two other notable sightings this morning. The first was a Coot on the reservoir, this being notable as they are rather uncommon here even though they are now fairly regular in the Upper Cherwell Valley. The other being a Mink along the river, unfortunately not a good sighting!

The Rookery in the wood is really busy with activity now with most nests having birds attentively working on the nest and some possibly ready to lay eggs.

Other nesting corvids noted so far this year are Carrion Crow and Magpie. This Magpie nest is being constructed in the trees around the car park.

Friday, 13 March 2015

13th Mar 2015: Red-crested Pochard

A brief walk round for me this afternoon produced a cracking drake Red-crested Pochard, the Goosander and eleven Great Crested Grebes. The Red-crested Pochard is, of course. another species new for the year and I believe it is the third record for the reservoir. It was still present late afternoon (several observers).

Some other sightings came in this afternoon from Mark Ribbons, Alison Parry and Allan Jones:

Chiffchaff, two Kingfishers, Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers (up to three) and five Herring Gulls.

Thank you

I found a Vanguard binocular lens cover by the river today. If anyone has lost one please get in touch and I will arrange getting it back to you.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

11th Mar 2015: A Five Raptor Day

The reservoir was reasonably quiet today and no sign of the anticipated early Sand Martin... it won't be long! The remaining lone Goosander (duck) was busy fishing and a few Common Gulls were the main interest on the water itself. Watching the sky for anything passing by paid off and I saw an immature Peregrine go over south west and later on a Red Kite go over west. These two species, along with Kestrel, Buzzard and Sparrowhawk, made it five species of raptors seen today. Not something you get very often at Grimsbury.

In the wood it was interesting watching the pairs of birds go around establishing or reinforcing their territories. The Long-tailed Tits especially seem more like individual pairs now and the troop disbanded for another season. Whilst watching I was treated to a snippet of Chiffchaff song. I always have trouble assigning the first singing bird I hear each year to a category of either; local wintering bird, relocating wintering bird or a fresh migrant. As there has been Chiffchaff wintering locally this year and it's a bit early for migrants, I can only assume it is a wintering bird that has just started singing.

Courtesy and copyright of Dave Fuller
There was a lot of Stock Dove activity today with four at the reservoir, one in the wood and about eleven in the Upper Cherwell Valley. Several of them were at potential nesting places in mature trees or on the ledges underneath bridges.

Also in the Upper Cherwell Valley two Little Grebes were on the Borrow Pit pool, along with two Tufted Ducks and four Coots, and are the latest addition to the year list. A gathering of Black-headed Gulls here were picking off freshly emerging insects - probably flies of some sort.

Mike Pollard also had a Common snipe fly over this morning - possibly from the cattle field.

Monday, 9 March 2015

09th Mar 2015: Siskins

Some sightings for John Friendship-Taylor this morning:

Just one Goosander today (a duck) but ten Great Crested Grebes. The Water Rail was along the river again and there was seven Siskins in the Alders (good to get some at last!). There was also some fresh Otter footprints under the rail bridge.

This Buzzard flight shot was taken by Dave Fuller in late February.

Courtesy and copyright of Dave Fuller

Thank you

Sunday, 8 March 2015

08th Mar 2015

Sightings today from Mike Pollard:

A Chiffchaff still present in the wood and and pair of Long-tailed Tits nest building in the bramble scrub near the wood entrance.

Thank you

Saturday, 7 March 2015

07 Mar 2015: Buff-tailed Bumblebee

A visit mid afternoon to enjoy the warmth of the brilliant sunshine!

The sun had spurred on some spring behaviour from invertebrates and birds. In the wood I saw a newly emerged queen bumblebee (I'm 99% sure it was a Buff-tailed) prospecting for a nesting site. There was also quite a lot of singing and territorial disputes. The Chaffinches were really having a go at each other and two Coal Tits were singing with full force at each other. I even heard the Willow Tit singing and as I stood and listened I got the full repertoire of calls and songs, including the rasping buzzing 'sub-song' I haven't heard before today.

As I was leaving the gulls were just starting to gather and I followed the line of gulls dropping in upwards. There were some that were only tiny dots in the sky so must have been a few hundred meters up at least. I stood and watched them whiffling down to the water for a while but no unusual species in the mix today!

Friday, 6 March 2015

06th Mar 2015: Water Rail... and Kittiwake!

This mornings headline bird was a Water Rail. However, that was soon overshadowed by the real headline of the day... a Kittiwake found at lunch time by John Friendship-Taylor!

I had set my alarm for 6 am this morning aiming to get to the reservoir at dawn. That didn't happen and I found myself wondering leisurely along from the car park at 9 am. The usual suspects were on the reservoir with three Goosanders, six Great Crested Grebes and half a dozen Common Gulls. Along the river a Grey Wagtail was feeding along the exposed mud bank and a Reed Bunting was singing away.

In the wood the Willow Tit showed really well, but very briefly. It just seems to melt away into the vegetation and is not seen again. It is starting to look like it hasn't got a partner which is a shame, but maybe over the next few weeks it will be joined by another.

Graham Soden and I were checking the Otter prints under the railway bridge and I scanned up to look at the Mallards on the river and just as I did I caught sight of a Water Rail skulking through the reeds. This is a good species for here and the low water levels probably made it easier to see. I wonder if it is the same bird I saw in December last year.

In the Upper Cherwell Valley there was around twelve Meadow Pipits in the grass, two each of Kestrel and Buzzard and some Fieldfares going over. The Borrow Pit pool had five Coots and three Tufted Ducks. I'm hoping the Coots stay to breed again this year. Walking back through past the reservoir I note there are now sixteen Common Gulls and the fact that they must be on the move...

Well, I had only been home long enough to have a coffee and check my emails when news came through from John of an adult Kittiwake at the reservoir! I got my things back together as quickly as I could and was soon enjoying views of it and getting some photos. It crossed my mind that I might have overlooked it this morning but there were much fewer gulls than earlier and I think it must have come in with the latest group to stop by. A fantastic find - it is only the third one recorded here I think.

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

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

04th Mar 2015: Stonechat

I visited the reservoir late this afternoon in the hope of catching up with a male Stonechat for my personal patch year list. It was found earlier in the day by John Friendship-Taylor and I'm pleased to say it was still there when I went (but rather distant - so luckily John got a shot earlier.). This is species number 72 for the year list and a sign of things to come. There were three Goosanders still present (one drake) and some movement of gulls through at the reservoir. John also had the Willow Tit and a Chiffchaff in the woodland.

It is difficult to know whether to class the Stonechat (and the Curlew seen by Reg and Mike on Tuesday) as spring migrants or not. Although they aren't considered by a lot of people a true migrant, they are definitely on the move back to breeding places. They may have only been wintering further south in the UK and be on the way to northern England or Scotland or they may have wintered in a country further south and be on their way to a country further north. The exact details we will never know..

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

The water levels in the river have been lowered by the Environment Agency so that they can undertake an inspection of the channel. The low water level has exposed some fresh sediment which is the perfect place to look for animal prints. The Otters have obviously been in the area within the last 24 hours as there were three fresh spraints under the railway bridge and lots of fresh footprints in the mud. I could clearly see the direction they had moved in and they had been out and back to the water twice but it was difficult to confirm the number of animals.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

03rd Feb 2015

Sightings today from Graham Soden:

Peregrine, Willow Tit, Goosander and Kingfisher.

Thank you

Monday, 2 March 2015

02nd Mar 2015: Grimsbury on the Radio

Reg Tipping (B.O.S. chairman and Grimsbury Woodland NR warden) and Mike Pollard (B.O.S. conservation officer) were joined at Grimsbury this morning by Lilley Mitchell from BBC Radio Oxford on the Howard Bentham breakfast show. There were there to discuss the local wildlife and the conservation effort to try and keep Willow Tit in Oxfordshire. You can hear them on the breakfast show here at 21mins, 57mins, 1hr 20mins and 1hr 56mins.

They managed to see Willow Tit, three Goosanders and had the first Curlew of the year fly over. Yesterday (Sunday evening) Mike and I were also at the reservoir checking the gull roost and although there were large numbers of Black-headed Gulls (estimated 1000 birds) there was nothing more exciting amongst them.

Courtesy and copyright of Mike Pollard
Courtesy and copyright of Mike Pollard
Courtesy and copyright of Mike Pollard
Thank you