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.

Thursday, 30 April 2015

30th Apr 2015

John visited at lunchtime today and there was a definite increase in Whitethroats with at least five singing. The two Common Terns were back and a second summer Herring Gull briefly. This evening John also had a Garden Warbler along the river and even more Whitethroat. A Peregrine flew over from the east leaving to the north.

I visited later in the evening, with the main aim to try look/listen for Grasshopper Wabler in the Upper Cherwell Valley, but didn't get any. There is one nearby at Hanwell Fields so hopefully we can get one here too. There was a Little Ringed Plover at the reservoir and several Sedge Warblers singing in scrub all across the patch. At the Borrow Pit pool eight Mute Swans came in to roost and there were Black-headed Gulls gathering to roost.

Bats were foraging around trees and scrub in several areas so I will go out with the bat detector soon to try and see what species we have.

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

29th Apr 2015

Well, the high expectations for today were perhaps a bit too optimistic and the dreams of more birds for the year list were simply that. John and I visited three times today between us and failed to turn up anything particularly interesting.

This morning was the quietest and it seemed that the wind I had hoped to bring birds in, had actually taken birds away! There was only one Common Sandpiper present and a few hirundines. A single Little Ringed Plover was also present. The Linnets are still hanging around feeding on the dandelions and Starlings are flying to and fro foraging for food to take to their nests.

John visited at lunch time and two Common Terns had appeared, but were no longer there in the evening suggesting they were birds on passage and not the same two that have been around in recent days.

This evening there was a decent number of hirundines (all three common species) feeding over the reservoir and looked great in the bright sunshine. There seemed to be a few more Whitethroats churring in the reservoir side bushes. Two Little Ringed Plovers were now present and a female Yellow Wagtail had dropped in, but I failed to get a picture of it in focus!

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

28th Apr 2015

An afternoon visit today and all I can say is that 'the usual' birds were present. Two Common Terns and three Common Sandpipers were the highlights. A female Tufted Duck has joined the male and John had two Little Ringed Plovers earlier in the day.

The weather tomorrow looks interesting so hopefully that brings us something more to report on.

Monday, 27 April 2015

27th Apr 2015: Oystercatcher

A stunning Yellow Wagtail was at the reservoir bank by the sailing club this morning, beaming in the morning sunshine. Two Common Terns and two Common Sandpipers were still present, both seemed to be a pair with the terns presenting fish to each other and the sandpipers calling to each other and chasing each other around. A single drake Tufted Duck was on the the reservoir, trying to look inconspicuous among the grebes but not really achieving that. A few hirundines dropped in and fed over the water.

An unusual sighting this morning was a single Greylag Goose circling over the reservoir, but choosing to fly west instead of stopping. However, maybe only one minute later another two appeared and did stop in. Greylags really aren't common here, so it was unusual to get what seemed to be two occurrences in such a short space of time.

John visited at lunchtime and had another year tick, this time an Oystercatcher. They are not a guaranteed species every year so a good addition. It was disturbed by the grass cutting activity and didn't stay too long.

Sunday, 26 April 2015

26th Apr 2015: Little Egret and Garden Warbler

This morning another addition was made to the year list almost as soon as I had arrived. I had parked up and just walked round to the boot of my car and looked up to see a Little Egret flying over to the north east. It wasn't flying at much of a height so I hoped it would drop in to the reservoir or the river but it must have carried on over.

At the reservoir there were circa sixty hirundines hawking low over the water. Mostly Swallows but a few each of Sand Martin and House Martin. Over the course of the morning the Swallows lifted higher and left and were steadily replaced by more House Martins. By late morning there was around forty. Two Common Sandpipers patrolled the reservoir edge but are extremely shy! Oddly there were eight Great Crested Grebes, I really would have thought they should be somewhere else nesting by now but maybe they are still passing through.

Ian Rowe had a Garden Warbler singing in the scrub by the river at lunch time, which is another first for the year. There were plenty of Whitethroats around today and one Willow Warbler still singing along the river. Blackcaps and Sedge Warblers are singing from most suitable habitat but the Chiffchaffs seemed rather quiet, maybe they are busy nesting. We are still waiting for our first Lesser Whitethroat and with a bit of luck we will get Grasshopper warbler too.

Sat on the bench at the northern end of the reservoir I noticed a few micro moths around the bench. Andy Mackay identified them for me (via twitter) as Esperia sulpherella. A fairly common species, the larvae of which feed on dead wood. From here I could hear the Willow Tit singing in the woodland. I later located him and it appears he has still not found female company.

In the Upper Cherwell Valley I came across two Roe Deer bucks, but this time managed some pictures before they departed. There are Cuckoo Flowers out in some number now, particularly along the flood alleviation bund. At the Borrow Pit pool two Tufted Ducks remain and there are four Coots. Two of the Coots have finished constructing their nest and one bird is sitting on eggs.

Later this afternoon Steve Holliday reported two Common Terns were at the reservoir and there had been four species of gull present with Black-headed Gull, four plus Lesser Black-backed Gulls, three Common Gulls and a Herring Gull. A single Little Ringed Plover was present.

Saturday, 25 April 2015

25th Apr 2015

Late morning today and not a lot to report really. Two Common Sandpipers and five House Martins seemed to be new in, the latter hawking fairly high over the reservoir. Two Little Ringed Plovers were chasing each other around and a Brimstone was flying around near to the woodland entrance.

I managed to find some Bluebells, but they are not quite fully out yet.

Friday, 24 April 2015

24th Apr 2015

My early morning visit didn't quite go as I had imagined it today and the birds definitely didn't have the same plan as me anyway! 

A single Common Tern was present resting on a bouy, but was continuously harassed by the Black-headed Gulls until it eventually flew off high to the north east. There were four Whitethroats, with two in the bramble scrub at the north east end of the reservoir behaving like a pair.

A Yellow Wagtail flew over north and as I was leaving a handful of Sand Martins dropped in. A lone Little Ringed plover was along the western bank and a Greenfinch entertained for a minute, song-flighting near the water treatment works.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

22nd & 23rd Apr 2015 Reed Warbler

The last two days have been a mixture of both cloudy chilly weather and for the most part, yet more stunning sunshine. The bird life was of a very similar fare to recent days and despite many inland water bodies having decent sized groups of Arctic Terns, Little Gulls and a variety of waders, we seem to have been bypassed... so far!

Wednesday 22nd saw at least 2 Little Ringed Plover, a Common Sandpiper and in the evening, a nice gathering of hirundines in gloomy, chilly conditions. The flock comprised around 40 House Martins and 10 Swallows. Other oddities from my visits in both morning and evening were an early morning Jay again and a 2nd-summer Herring Gull flying through.

Today the clear highlight was a Reed Warbler singing in riverside scrub right next to the car park. Gareth tells me the species is a bit of a patch mega and the first he has had since 2010! (Although there are more records from Tim Clark and others from the Upper Cherwell Valley). This is bird number 94 on the Grimsbury year list. 100 is looming!

Also on site, a male Whitethroat was in song, presumably another new arrival with the last and only sightings from back on the 16th.

There was another large flock of around 100 hirundines first thing, different to the one from the night before. These were mostly made up of Swallows, with a small smattering of Sand and House Martins. As is standard at the moment 2 Common Sandpipers and 3 Little Ringed Plover were also present.


Tuesday, 21 April 2015

21st Apr 2015

A very quiet day today on the bird front on what was a stunning, sunny day. Butterflies were out in force, including several Orange Tips on the wing and a Small White, my first of the year along the western edge of the reservoir.

For the first time in quite a while, there appeared to be no Common Sandpipers on site, however popping in on my way home this evening, two Little Ringed Plover were in situ and the Willow Tit was very vocal, showing along the SW edge of the wood. A lonely House Martin also went through.


Monday, 20 April 2015

A few recent images from Grimsbury

I promised Gareth I'd contribute to the blog in his absence this week so here I am! Spring migration has been a real stop, start affair so far and with such fine weather today and tomorrow, couple with NE winds, bird movement will probably be fairly limited for the time being. Fingers crossed for Gareth nothing too unusual drops in while he's away!

This evening, there were 3 Little Ringed Plover again in residence, together with a lone Common Sandpiper. Blackcaps really have now arrived in force. I saw with at least 3 courting a female in a single bush this evening. Competition appears fierce in the world of a Blackcap!

In the meantime, here are a few of my images from the last few days at Grimsbury:

John F.-T.

White Wagtail

Common Sandpiper



Sedge Warbler

20th Apr 2015

A Common Tern was at the reservoir this morning. I watched it diving for and catching small fish several times and it seemed fairly settled in. The only other sighting of note I had this morning was of a Grey Wagtail collecting nest material.

Saturday, 18 April 2015

18th Apr 2015: Butterflies

It was a thoroughly pleasurable day to be out for a walk today, despite the cool north easterly breeze. There was nothing too exceptional to be seen but there was so much spring life it was just a joy to be outside.

There were rather disappointingly few birds around the reservoir but the numbers of butterflies out on the wing was great. I saw my first Large White and Orange Tips of the year for here, along with several Peacocks and well over twenty Small Tortoiseshells.

Sedge Warblers were still singing away late morning and I thought I had a quick glimpse of a Garden Warbler but I couldn't be sure.

In the Upper Cherwell Valley a Roe Deer popped out of some scrub very close to me but, typically, as soon as I reached for the camera it saw me and bolted. I found a broken Song Thrush egg which I assume must have been taken by a predator, perhaps a corvid.

Kirsty Brannan had two Common Sandpipers on the Borrow Pit pool earlier in the morning and when I got up there there were now three. They seemed much more settled here than they are around the reservoir and far less flighty. There are four Coots on the pool and one pair are busy collecting nest material, so hopefully they breed successfully here again this year. A group of raptors thermalling high above turned out to be three Buzzard and a Red Kite.

Friday, 17 April 2015

17th Apr 2015

I managed two visits to Grimsbury today. Early morning there were at least five Sedge Warblers singing from the scrub along the river, one Common Sandpiper and one Little Ringed Plover. By the time I left a Sand Martin and two Swallows were zipping around but not a lot else had come in.

John managed to see a Jay, which is notable as they are normally only seen here in the autumn and winter. Alison Parry also saw two Common Gulls, which is also notable as there hasn't been any around for some time now and there probably wont be many more until they return in the autumn.

Late afternoon I was happy to see a Curlew fly over north east. One had been seen earlier in the year and Mike Pollard knows of some in the Cherwell Valley but I hadn't seen any here till today. There were three Little Ringed Plovers, calling constantly and it appeared to be two males displaying to a female bird. The hirundines had built up in number through the day and mostly Swallows (c. 30) there was also a few House Martins and Sand Martins with them.

Derek Lane emailed me this picture of a Heron along the river that had managed to catch a Pike. It is of a fairly substantial size for the bird but managed to get it down!

Courtesy and copyright of Derek Lane
Courtesy and copyright of Derek Lane
If anyone can identify this plant for me I'd be grateful. It is growing on the wall near the entrance to the reservoir. It might be a stray cultivated plant but I'm interested to know what it is.

Ivy Leaved Toadflax (Thank you, Stoneshank)

Thursday, 16 April 2015

16th Apr 2015: Whitethroat(s)

An early morning visit today seemed successful, but it looks like I was too early and the days best migrants just hadn't dropped in yet! There were now three Sedge Warblers singing from scrub along the river. Around the reservoir there was six Common Sandpipers (three flew off north), three Little Ringed Plovers (two flew off north) and 12 Swallows (of which, eight flew north)... there's a pattern emerging here.

John was there approximately 30 minutes after me and he had a Common Tern (through north), a Yellow wagtail (through north), lots of hirundines (through north) and three Wheatears along the western bank.

Later in the day  there was a Whitethroat in the scrub along the railway embankment (Michael Hewitt) and John had another Yellow Wagtail and a Whitethroat in the south west corner of the reservoir.

There is definitely a good load of birds migrating (through north!) now...

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

15th Apr 2015

John Friendship- Taylor has been to the reservoir today. the biggest bit of news is that the Willow Tit is still present in the wood and although he was displaying there is no sign of a mate unfortunately. Four Common Sandpipers and two Little Ringed Plovers were at the reservoir and there was also now two Sedge Warblers singing.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

14th Apr 2015: Sedge Warbler and Yellow Wagtails

This morning I had high hopes of fining a Sedge Warbler, in fact I had exchanged a few messages with John about it the night before. So along the river I was very happy to hear the scratchy notes of a Sedge Warbler singing away.

It had obviously been a good night for birds to migrate over as there was also four Common Sandpipers busy feeding around the reservoir shore and a big flock of hirundines. The sandpipers were moving around together as one little flock if disturbed. It is hard to get a accurate count of hirundines but I estimated sixty Sand Martins and saw one House Martin and there were several Swallows.

Later in the day John visited and reported there were five Common Sandpipers. He also had two Yellow Wagtails over the cattle field and another White Wagtail.

Monday, 13 April 2015

13th Apr 2015: Common Tern

It was very foggy this morning and the only thing of note I detected was four Willow Warblers singing. Annoyingly it seemed to clear up soon after I left. Steve Holliday had a Swallow go through north this afternoon and there were five Great Crested Grebes (I could only see two in the fog!).

However, it was the evening when the birds were putting on a show today. John Friendship-Taylor had a Common Tern briefly. Which is new for the year and the 90th species to make it onto the year list. That is a fantastic number so early in the year, so I really hope it continues!

Courtesy and copyright of JFT
He also saw a White Wagtail and four Little Ringed Plovers again this evening. One of the plovers is ringed but it is impossible to get any details from it.

Courtesy and copyright of JFT
Courtesy and copyright of JFT

Sunday, 12 April 2015

12th Apr 2015

There were two Common Sandpipers this morning reported by Mike Pollard. Both were still present a bit later in the morning but were very wary and flew around a lot. A Willow Warbler was singing from the car park but was the only one I heard so the others must have moved on. There were four Great Crested Grebes today so some fresh arrivals and a single Little Ringed Plover was present still. At least ten each of Swallow and Sand Martin were feeding high over the reservoir with the odd one dropping to feed over the cattle fields.

Brown-lipped Snail. Courtesy and copyright of Dave Fuller

Saturday, 11 April 2015

11th Apr 2015: Common Sand and mini fall

This morning's forecast was looking good, not for human enjoyment unless you want to look for grounded migrants! Rain showers were predicted for the early hours of the morning, pre-dawn, that would clear up for a few hours with heavy showers post-dawn.

I headed out for 07:00 and the first bird I heard getting out of the car was a Willow Warbler singing. Great! A very good omen, I thought, and a sign of how the visit would pan out. Before I got to the reservoir I'd heard another two Willow Warblers and several each of Chiffchaff and Blackcap. It was looking like there had been a mini fall.

Marsh Marigold by the River Cherwell
At the reservoir there was a Common Sandpiper, but it was very unsettled flying around several times to avoid being too close to any people or dogs. There was a single Swallow feeding over the water. As I made my way around I heard more Willow Warblers and although hard to be sure there was at least another three singing and possibly another two calling birds. It started to rain lightly and three more Swallows flew in to feed. I was making my second circuit of the reservoir and another six Swallows and eight Sand Martins dropped in.

Off into the woods there were another two Willow Warblers singing, so I made that a count of at least eight and probably ten plus. In the Upper Cherwell Valley, during a heavy rain shower five Swallows and two Sand Martins dropped in to feed over the Borrow Pit pool.

Back at the reservoir there was a swarm of feeding hirundines, occasionally stopping to rest on the fence before bursting into the sky again. Three House Martins had joined the flock and there was now approximately forty Swallows and twenty Sand Martins. A fantastic sight and one of the things I enjoy most about birding in spring.

Four Little Ringed Plovers were present again this evening with what appears to be two pairs squabbling noisily. The Common Sandpiper was still present and about fifteen Swallows foraging over the river and trees. 

Friday, 10 April 2015

10th Apr 2015: Willow Warblers

John Friendship-Taylor had 1 or 2 Willow Warblers this morning, it's very good to get them back!

Allan Jones and Graham Soden reported hirundines gathered this evening. There was four Swallows and two Sand Martins and although nice, they are not the numbers that would normally be gathered at this time of year. Sand Martin especially seem to be thin on the ground.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

09th Apr 2015: More Little Plovers

John Friendship-Taylor made two visits to Grimsbury today. In the morning there was a single Little Ringed Plover, a single Swallow through and four Tufted Ducks (3 drakes). He did make a point to say that they were not the Ring-necked Ducks relocating from the south of the county!

In the evening there were four Little Ringed Plovers. There really seems to be a lot moving through but I have wondered if there may be some settled in the area that keep returning to the reservoir to feed.

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

08th Apr 2015: Promise of more to come

Early this morning it was still and bright and the water was like a mirror, absolutely stunning.

Despite conditions being great for migrants and the south and west coast seemingly heaving with new arrivals in the last few days there is little action here. A Little Ringed Plover was on the western bank, and was seen shortly after 8 am flying to the north west having been flushed by a dog walker.

However, there was a report of two on the western bank again at noon (Ian Rowe). So maybe there were a few through today? There were a few obviously new Blackcaps around with at least three singing birds dotted around in the scrubby areas.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

07th Apr 2015: Redshank

A quick walk round early morning and this evening. This morning there was a thick fog and I nearly didn't bother but was rewarded with a Redshank. Ian Rowe had also seen shortly before me. It was mobile and seemed to be trying to get away from anywhere with people and dogs and I last heard it flying off north into the fog. A Blackcap was singing from scrub along the river near the north of the reservoir.

Late morning John Judge had a Red Kite over near the M40 that went over towards the reservoir.

This evening there was very little around. There was actually only one Great Crested Grebe so the others have obviously moved on to find suitable breeding habitat.

Monday, 6 April 2015

06th Apr 2015: Otter and House Martin

A very special day for me at Grimsbury. I have never seen an Otter in England before today so to see one here and to see one so well is just amazing!

I had walked up the river side path around the reservoir, and although there were lots of birds migrating over there was actually nothing grounded. Through the morning c.200 Meadow Pipits had gone over, generally in groups of 2 to 10 but there was a group of c.20. A few small groups of Wood Pigeons totalling c.60 birds and a few Skylarks were moving too.

In the wood I spotted the Willow Tit in the messy vegetation over the river near the fallen willow tree. I was trying to get a photo of two Grey Wagtails feeding on the edge of the river when something disturbed the water by the fallen tree and made some big ripples. I froze.... Knowing that Otters are frequenting the area, but also knowing there has been a mink around too I wasn't sure what it was going to be. Scanning up and down the river I couldn't see anything until the unmistakable shape of an Otter appeared under the railway bridge! (I didn't get a picture of the Grey Wagtails...).

I found out that Otters can swim rather fast under water, but managed to track it all the way up river to the M40 bridge and the flood alleviation scheme, seeing it at close range in the small river channel several times. It fished in the area between the M40 bridge and flood alleviation scheme for a few minutes as I watched and then amazingly it turned around and swam back towards me. It came closer and closer and eventually climbed out of the river onto the bank about 2.5 m away from me!!

I think it is a young individual, it seemed small and obviously not that shy! It slipped back into the water and downstream and I departed into the valley to leave it alone.

In the Upper Cherwell Valley I met Colin Wilkinson and we watched a Barn Owl hunting for a few minutes. Walking back we discussed the Otter sightings we'd now both had and Colin got the impression that the two Otters he'd seen in January were two cubs or immatures, so it's possible these are the animals hanging around in the area. Colin also kindly showed me the Long-tailed Tit nest that he'd located in the brambles between the reservoir and the wood. 

I decided to head back into the wood as I hadn't really covered it before the Otter showed up. A Blackcap was singing right in the middle of the wood and seems to be the first one holding territory. Walking back to the car park, all of a sudden a mist dropped over the reservoir. It made some of the passing Meadow Pipits drop lower and a House Martin and Swallow flew through north together. A Mistle Thrush was singing near to the water treatment works and another Blackcap was singing in the scrub by the river.