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

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Saturday, 18 July 2015

18th Jul 2015: Marsh Harrier!

Today was just one of those days, a day that patch workers know and love. I have to be honest, there are numerous days when nothing seems to change and every visit seems the same but then you have a day that gives you a reward, boosts your spirits and keeps you going back for more.

It started with a Redshank at the reservoir, not a rarity by any stretch but a good bird for Grimsbury. They don't tend to stay long when they visit, so maybe more pass through but leave before they are seen as they evade disturbance form fishermen, dog walkers or whatever else they take a disliking too. This was supported by a Common Sandpiper and two Common Terns, around ten Swifts and three Grey Wagtails. Not a bad start.

The sandpiper and shank together

I went straight out under the railway bridge in search of the Common Lizard I saw yesterday. It wasn't out today but there were several Brown Hawkers coming out of their roosts in the vegetation and dozens of Small Skippers on the wing. I doubled back through the wood to walk up the canal into the Upper Cherwell Valley. Not a lot happening in the wood but lots of calls from family parties and fledged juveniles.

As soon as I walked under the M40 bridge I saw a bird of prey coming towards me at around 60 m hight. Before I had looked through the binoculars I thought it was a harrier and on looking confirmed it was a Marsh Harrier. I took a couple of photos and looked again. It was a juvenile bird, so I'm guessing it is a bird dispersing from the breeding areas in the north west. It started banking to the east so I took a few more pictures. It was now beginning to be obscured by the hedge so I ran back to the gate by the M40 to get up onto the bund of the flood alleviation scheme. I got there and I scanned around and.... nothing! I think it must have carried on east and into Northamptonshire. As far as I know, this could be the first record for the Grimsbury / the Upper Cherwell Valley area (other than a dubious report from January this year), but I would be interested to know if someone could confirm that. This was undoubtedly the highlight of the day but there were more good birds to come.

Onto the Borrow Pit pool a juvenile/female type Pochard was keeping company with a female Tufted Duck, my first of the autumn. There was a further fifteen Swifts feeding here and they were joined by a single Sand Martin that is most likely on it's migration south. I was thinking of the harrier, so I optimistically scanned around the sky. I was surprised to come across a kettle of eight birds high above me. It turned out to be five Ravens, a Red Kite and two Buzzards. The Ravens must of been a family group and went off to the west. The Kite and Buzzards carried on circling until, for some reason, they suddenly all lunged at each other and tumbled down together for a few seconds. They broke off and the Kite went off east and the Buzzards continued their circling.

So other than the Marsh Harrier (and some would argue even the Marsh Harrier) nothing too rare but in the context of the patch itself, and even the area, a really good assortment of birds today. For a becoming bored patch worker it was really exciting stuff!

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