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.

Monday, 31 August 2015

31st Aug 2015: Sanderling!

With continuing north easterly winds and rain from the early hours of the morning I got up and out early to see what it delivered. As I walked up I could see a lot of ducks on the water and counted 137 Mallards (and two farmyard mallards). Now that they have moulted and don't hang around in the day as much it was good to find they are still roosting here in reasonable numbers. There was also two smaller ducks that were probably Tufted Ducks but all of the ducks flew before I could confirm that. There was disappointingly little else. A Yellow Wagtail flew over and I decided to move on. As I was leaving a Willow Warbler gave a little burst of song, so there was obviously some migrants in.

As I left another birder arrived and I later found out it was Ian Rowe. He didn't see much but reported a probable Sanderling he heard it and saw it fly across the reservoir through the rain. Later he checked and confirmed it as a moulting adult Sanderling based on plumage and call. This is a great record and the only other one I know of was from May 1966!

With news of the probable Sanderling and interest in the Tree Pipits from a couple of county birders, I returned later in the morning for another look. There had been some more birds arriving through the morning and there was now a Common Sandpiper and around 90 hirundines (but unfortunately no Sanderling). There were mostly Swallows but also at least 25 Sand Martins and a few House Martins. Another Willow Warbler was in song and a Common Whitethroat called but other than that passerines were keeping well hidden in vegetation. A juvenile Yellow-legged Gull was loafing with Black-headed Gulls at the pontoon.

In the Upper cherwell Valley at least one of the Tree Pipits were still present along with the three Whinchats. There were three Tufted Ducks and I noted how there was only one yesterday and the additional two were probably the ones from the reservoir earlier.

Photo taken on the 30th
Dave Lowe visited in the afternoon and confirmed two Tree Pipits were still present.

This evening I received emails from Steve Holliday and Tim Clark who had been out in the area in the afternoon. Steve saw  two Cormorant, two Heron, 45 plus Mallard, 25 plus Black-headed Gulls, a juvenile Common Gull, eleven plus Lesser Black-backed Gulls, a Swift, Grey Wagtail, two Pied Wagtails, 25 plus Swallow, 20 plus Sand Martins and a House Martin, five Goldfinch, one Greenfinch and two Linnets.

Tim had been in the area of Peewit Farm, Little Bourton and saw an Osprey heading south down the Upper Cherwell Valley. The second this autumn and showing that birds must use the valley on migration and what must be missed when no one is looking. He also had a Wheatear in the farmyard there.

Sunday, 30 August 2015

30th Aug 2015: Tree Pipits and Ringed Plover

John and I arranged a late afternoon into evening visit today. With the wind coming from the north east and a lot of rain earlier in the afternoon there was potential for some interesting birds around.

John arrived before me and was scanning through the gulls already gathering. As I walked up a Spotted Flycatcher was still along the fence line at the southern end of the cattle field. As I got to John he showed me a picture of a juvenile gull on the back of his camera enquiring as to my opinion on it's ID. I immediately said Mediterranean Gull and was a bit unhappy about missing by a matter of minutes. As we watched we picked out a couple of Yellow Legged Gulls (adult and juvenile). We were both also a bit unhappy that there were no waders, no terns or any other interesting passerines.

Courtesy and copyright of John Friendship-Taylor
We walked up to the Upper Cherwell Valley to check the Borrow Pit pool for waders, but there was nothing. The Wheatear and three Whinchats were busily feeding in their usual areas and the Whinchats were much more confiding than usual. As we scanned around watching the Whinchats John spotted a pipit sat on the fence and before I'd even really seen the bird he exclaimed 'Tree Pipit!'. The bird sat for a few seconds and John managed a few photos, before it flew to the trees further back. I thought two birds flew up but didn't see what the other one was. They moved again and we confirmed both as Tree Pipit and got further good views. Even though I have had this species fly over before in the autumn it is really nice to see some landed here and see them reasonably well too.

Courtesy and copyright of John Friendship-Taylor
Courtesy and copyright of John Friendship-Taylor
As we walked back through the wood to the reservoir a Siskin flew over south with a couple of Goldfinches. We watched the gulls come and go and although there were not as many Lesser Black-backed Gulls as previous nights there were more Black-headed Gulls. The Mediterranean Gull came back in and we enjoyed good views and commented about how similar they are to juvenile Common Gulls and how this one seems to have softer features and a 'kinder' face than most Med Gulls. It wasn't until I posted our sightings on the Oxon Birding blog, and someone pointed out the picture I posted was of a Common Gull that I realised the Med Gull was actually a Common Gull. Oh well, we live and learn!

Whilst we were scanning the gulls. A Ringed Plover flew in and circled round. It did land for a short time on the western bank but was soon off on it's way south west again. Five Swift came over and fed over the river for a short while. Most of the gulls had actually left at this point but we were waiting in hope that more would come in. A Ring-necked Parakeet was calling away near the canal so, assuming it is the same one as recent weeks, it is hanging around in the area. Many more (several hundred at least) large gulls did fly in towards dark but none of them stopping on the water. They seemed to be going to roost on the roof of the new warehouse and into the area of the Beaumont industrial estate.

Saturday, 29 August 2015

29th Aug 2015

A late morning visit for me today, which lasted into early afternoon. It was a great morning and I was hoping the sun would coax out the possible Redstart from yesterday, but it wasn't to be.

There were four Spotted Flycatchers though. They were along the fence at the southern end of the cattle field, between the water treatment works and the cattle field. They were entertaining to watch but were always distant. There were lots of Chiffchaffs around calling constantly but few other warblers. The occasional tacking gave away the presence of some but I didn't actually see them to confirm species.

In the Upper Cherwell Valley five Swallow flew over south and there were at least two Yellow Wagtails. The Wheatear and three Whinchats were all present and in the usual spots. There was a Common Whitethroat too.

With the sun out there was a good number of dragonflies and damselflies out. I saw Brown Hawker, Common Darters and what I think were Southern Hawkers. There were also Banded Demoiselles, Common Blue , Red-eyed  and Blue-tailed Damselflies. Quite a few were ovipositing, so there should be even more next year.

GULL WARNING - Look away now if you are fed up of hearing about and looking at gulls!

There were two juvenile gulls at the reservoir over lunch. One was definitely a Lesser Black-backed. The other, I am am fairly sure (and hopeful I have it right), is a juvenile Yellow-legged Gull. Again if anyone wishes to comment please do.

28th Aug 2015

Allan Jones visited this afternoon and saw two Kingfishers together fishing in the river and three Swifts were in the area. Up the valley at the Borrow Pit pool the Wheatear was on the rocks.

This evening walking up the eastern bank I could hear a bird calling from the eastern bank. I couldn't see it but it sounded like a Redstart. On searching for it I saw the bird below, hardly conclusive and another probable Redstart I haven't managed to confirm.

Yes, I mean the blob on the fence!
There was reasonable gathering of Lesser Black-backed Gulls again today but even though there was no obvious disturbance they were quite unsettled and every so often would fly up off the water. There was not as many as the previous night but there was more variety with an adult, a second calender year and a couple of juvenile Herring Gulls. There was an adult/near adult Yellow-legged Gull fairly early on and by the time I left there were three.

Colin was there too and we discussed the juveniles that appear to be Yellow-legged Gulls. We think they are but no one here is very confident with them, so if someone would like to come and have a look and let us know please do... I have a few photos below if anyone wants to offer some thoughts on them.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

27th Aug 2015: Green Sandpiper

The day started early and finished late. I was actually out at dawn and dusk, but not the entire time in between!


I made the effort to get up there early today and I was rewarded with a really nice sunrise and some good birds but nothing particularly great or new. There was a lot of bird activity from common resident species but as I walked along the river there was very little activity from warblers and I think many had cleared out from the last couple of days. I saw Mike who had had a Garden Warbler though, so they haven't all left. There were four Grey Wagtails at the reservoir and two more further on along the river. A Kingfisher popped in to the reservoir for a short while but was mainly along the river. A single Common Sandpiper flew around calling, disturbed by the presence of myself and a few early morning joggers. A Sand Martin flew in and fed over the water for a little time before heading on south, then a few more passed through and by the end of the morning I had seen thirteen going through.

In the Upper Cherwell Valley a Hobby was perched up in a tree by the river and flew right across my path heading west. At the Borrow Pit pool there were the, now almost resident, Wheatear and three Whinchats.


John visited on his lunch break and saw three Spotted Flycatchers again. Two were along the the fence at the southern end of the cattle field and one was by the river just past the entrance. He did note that there was very little else around though.


John and I arranged to meet up this evening for a good search again. To start with it seemed rather quiet but things picked up towards the end.

A few gulls had gathered but were mobile due to people and dogs being present. There were also people gathering at the sailing club so we thought the chance of more gulls gathering was very slim. We walked to the Upper Cherwell Valley where a Yellow Wagtail flew over. We looked at the pool to find two Common Sandpipers and the chats were still in there favoured areas.

As we returned and approached the reservoir again there were c.20 Lesser Black-backed Gulls settled at the northern end and a quick scan through revealed an adult/near adult Yellow-legged Gull. It didn't stay long through as the sailors were pushing further up with the boats and it left but with some of the Lesser Black-backs but some stayed on the bank.

As the sailing finished Lesser Black-backed Gulls started to gather again. Sometimes they would be disturbed and fly off to the roof of the new warehouse and some settled on the water treatment works, but many came back through the evening. I roughly counted 200 at one point but more kept coming in. We managed to pick out a couple of juvenile Herring Gulls and a few probable juvenile Yellow-legged Gulls but we were not very convinced on those.

As we were watching the gulls a Common Sandpiper flew in from the north, which was possibly one of the birds from the Borrow Pit. A Greenshank flew in from the south, circled the reservoir a few times but eventually left to the north. We are wondering if this is the same bird as seen recently that spends its day somewhere nearby and comes back to the reservoir or Borrow Pit to roost or if it has been a new bird each time. If it is the same bird I can't think where it might be spending the day. The best bird though, was a Green Sandpiper that flew over north and possibly to the Borrow Pit. Green Sandpiper is a much rarer bird here than it should be really so this was a really nice find. Eight Swifts and around half a dozen Swallows were forging over the wood and river before dispersing again.

Just as John was leaving he picked out another adult/near adult Yellow-legged Gull so I stayed a little longer to see what would come to roost. Through until darkness more and more Lesser Black-backs kept coming in and my biggest estimate count of birds on the water was 800 and with all the other birds flying around and on the roofs there must have been over 1000 there tonight. I picked out a second adult/near adult Yellow-legged and a few more probable juveniles but by this time the light was very poor. It was odd that there were very few Black-headed Gulls this evening though. I didn't count them but there was probably only around 25 maximum early evening and around 10 by the end of the night.

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

26th Aug 2015

Colin Wilkinson visited this evening and saw two adult Yellow-legged Gulls in with the Lesser Black-backed Gulls.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

25th Aug 2015: Osprey

John Friendship-Taylor: Well, it's been a very interesting day at Grimsbury and the continuing indifferent weather is providing us with some great birds!

This morning was a rare window of good weather so, with an inkling that birds maybe on the move before the rain hit later on, I gave the reservoir a visit before work. There were plenty of active migrants about including several Willow Warblers, Blackcap and a handful of Swifts overhead. I soon saw Mike Pollard along the western side of the reservoir. He had also had Chiffchaff and Whitethroat on his wander round as well as a couple of Sand Martin. We soon had a Lapwing fly over north, not a common bird here.

Mike then headed back to his car and I wandered towards the northern end of the reservoir to have a quick look around there before also heading off to work. A large bird then appeared soaring over the wood. An Osprey!! I quickly took a few pics before getting straight on the phone to Mike. Thankfully he got onto it! Sadly the fish at Grimsbury weren't to the Osprey's liking and it slowly gained height cruising almost due south. But wow, how exciting!

Walking back to the car park with Mike we added a Lesser Whitethroat and a big female Peregrine cruising around towards the south east over the pylons. 

With the promise of more good birds, both Mike and I visited for a little while post work. There was a considerable amount of rain for quite a while initially. There was little to be found although I did see my first Spotted Flycatcher distantly in the large bit of hedge on the west side of the cattle field which was nice!

The rain relented and the evening cleared a little. Following this, Mike picked up a Greenshank flying along the western shore. I too then picked it up from the other side of the res as it began calling. Sadly it didn't stop and headed off to the north.

Meeting up with Mike, we had an impressive three Spotted Flycatcher (distant shot of one below) in the same area as before plus the sporadically-seen Ring Necked Parakeet distantly on the far side of the cattle field, impressively picked out by Mike! A rather worthwhile couple of visits today!

Monday, 24 August 2015

24th Aug 2015

A day that looked so good on paper turned out to be rather disappointing. With a few people out at different times of the day we saw some good birds but nothing that would raise the pulse too much.

Clive and Jim had been round this morning before I got there and had seen a Hobby fly over and a Willow Tit along the river. There were three Common Sandpipers at the reservoir before they were flushed by the contractors mowing the grass and a Tufted Duck was loafing with the Mallards. I found a Spotted Flycatcher amongst a large congregation of foraging tits, warblers and finches near the entrance but failed to see much else.

John visited at lunch time but it was very quiet. So it was down to this evening to find something. John started well with a few Willow Warblers, a good number of Yellow Wagtails moving through (fifteen, in two groups ten and five) and a few hirundines moving. Up at the Borrow Pit pool in the Upper Cherwell Valley he had three Whinchats, a Wheatear and three Common Sandpipers (probably the same three from this morning).

I joined the search a bit later but possibly too late. The passerines had either all gone to roost already or were just keeping themselves tucked away and very quiet. There was nothing at the reservoir and the few gulls that were around all left. So, soaking wet and a little uninspired I decided it was time to call it a day.

Heron from Sunday. Courtesy and copyright of Dave Fuller

Sunday, 23 August 2015

23rd Aug 2015: Spotted Flycatchers and Little Gull

There was not a lot going on at Grimsbury this morning, in fact I hadn't seen anything of note until I was at the Borrow Pit in the Upper Cherwell Valley. The two Whinchat and the Wheatear were still present. The Whinchats are definitely not confiding birds but good views can be had with a bit of patience. There were at least five Yellow Wagtails near the pool but moved from there to the pasture over the canal. Around five Swallows went over south whilst I was there, but there may have been more moving as I only looked up for them when I heard one.

On the way back along the river a large flock of tits and warblers had Chiffchaff, Willow Tit, Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat, Blackcap and Goldcrest. The biggest surprise was that there was a Willow Tit with them. I assume this is the same one that was present earlier in the year but if it is, where has it been for three months?

Back at reservoir there were two Spotted Flycatchers in the big hedge through the cattle field. They were flycatching (funny enough...) from the bare cattle grazed branches around the pollarded willows.

Afternoon Update:

A quick visit this afternoon after some rain to see if anything had dropped in was actually fortuitous for a change. A juvenile Little Gull was present and seemed fairly settled but frustratingly as soon as I had sent the news out to a few people, it flew up from the water higher and higher and left high to the west. A Swift flew through south and as I tracked it the Little Gull flew back in. News out again... Mike turned up just as I was leaving but unfortunately the gull had left in the time between me leaving and him getting to the reservoir.

Friday, 21 August 2015

21st Aug 2015

Mark Ribbons visited the Upper Cherwell Valley again this evening and saw two Wheatear around the Borrow Pit pool and a Little Egret was present. I wonder if this is the same little Egret from earlier in the month that is ranging around the wider area or a new one.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

19th & 20th Aug 2015

John Friendship-Taylor: Wednesday 19th was very gloomy and in fact, a little chilly. Great for passing migrants you might think, however with the wind firmly blowing from the south, bird movement was rather limited.

A visit in the evening produced a Yellow Wagtail flying south calling, 5 Swifts lingered and a House Martin zipped through. A fair number of gulls were about but nothing different from the usual gathering of Lesser Black Backs and Black Headed.

The local flock of Canada Geese is also now frequenting the reservoir more regularly with around 30 birds about, together with a distinctive Greylag X Canada hybrid.

Today (Thursday 20th) was a mixture of cloud with the odd quick burst of sun. I visited this morning before work and again this evening on my way home.

This morning a Peregrine cruised through NE, while the SW corner of the reservoir was alive with birds with several Song Thrushes, Blackbirds & Greenfinches, together with a smart Lesser Whitethroat, a Whitethroat and a showy Willow Warbler. The reservoir was pretty quiet with a single Great Crested Grebe and usual gaggle of Mallards. As I left, a juvenile and an adult Common Tern dropped in calling loudly, both have been visiting the reservoir on and off in recent days.

This evening produced a few nice things with a really nice gathering of big gulls drawing in 3 adult type Yellow Legged Gulls, together with at least 70 Lesser Black Backed Gulls. A Yellow Wagtail was also heard, going to roost in the scrub on the west side of the reservoir 

I also took a walk down to the Borrow Pit on the other side of the M40 which turned out being worthwhile, seeing both a Wheatear around the rocks on the NW side of the pit (presumably the same one seen there in recent days), plus a nice Whinchat flicking around the weed heads. I heard 1 or 2 Yellow Wagtail here too, plus 2 Little Grebe, 2 Tufted Duck, 3 Coot and a couple of Mute Swans.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

17th Aug 2015

Mark Ribbons visited the Upper Cherwell Valley this evening. The juvenile Wheatear was present at the back of the Borrow Pit but there were no Whinchats. A female Sparrowhawk was perched on a fence post and there were five Swifts.

Sunday, 16 August 2015

16th Aug 2015

I called in this evening, mainly in the hope of there being gulls around but also to see if there was anything else around. A few gulls were gathering but the vast majority were going to settle on the roof of the new warehouse buildings to the north. John noticed this behaviour the other week but there was more movement between the two sites then.

During the time I was there Chiffchaffs were calling away and I heard a Kingfisher along the river again. There was a Wheatear along the western bank, which was occasionally quite confiding but by that time it was far too dark for photos. Around five Swifts were present at dusk and seemed to fly straight through south, but they could be local birds still in the area. A visiting birder had seen a Common Tern earlier but that had gone before I was there.

Saturday, 15 August 2015

15th Aug 2015: Whinchats

After being away and the recent weather system producing a flurry of good records I wanted to get out and give the patch a good grilling today. Although none of the Black Terns were still present this morning there was a lot of interest around and evidence of other migrants that had probably arrived in the last couple of days.

The most obvious birds were the number of warblers around this morning. The majority were Chiffchaffs, mostly along the river but there were birds pretty much everywhere and there must have been well over twenty around. Along the river were at least three Willow Warblers including two singing birds. Blackcaps appeared to be in every bit of scrub but their presence often only given away by their tacking calls. There were many Whitethroats around and a few Lesser Whitethroats also.

A decent gathering of gulls built up over the first hour I was there with peaks of around 150 Black-headed and 75 Lesser Black-backs. In amongst them was a Yellow-legged Gull which I believe is a third winter bird. I suspected a couple of the juveniles were also Yellow-legged to but couldn't quite convince myself of that.

A few Swifts passed through south, as did a couple of Swallows and a House Martin. A Yellow Wagtail was heard but not seen so may have just flown over. Two Cormorants were still around and a female Tufted Duck was loafing in amongst the Mallards. A Kingfisher was heard flying along the river.

In the Upper Cherwell Valley a flock of c.30 Goldfinches were feeding on the thistle heads the other side of the river. A Common Sandpiper flew from the Borrow Pit pool and was seen again later on the river. There were Canada Geese, Mute Swans, a Tufted Duck, Coots and a couple of Little Grebes on the pool. The Canada Geese had a Canada/Greylag hybrid with them which could be the bird that has been at Balscote Quarry for a while, if there isn't one still there.

Around the back of the Borrow Pit I found two Whinchats perched on the dead dock stems, the first for the Autumn and hopefully there will be more. A juvenile Wheatear was foraging around the rocks and at least six Yellow Wagtails were in the area.

I haven't mentioned much about anything other than birds recently, mainly as there hasn't been much around. So today it was nice to see several fresh second generation Common Blue butterflies. There were Common Darters, Brown Hawkers and Common Blue Damselflies around and a blue hawker I didn't get a good view of but think it was a Southern Hawker.

Friday, 14 August 2015

14th Aug 2015: Black Terns

I went for a walk around during mid morning. My only 'reward' was a thorough soaking! A single Swallow was foraging widely around the area and a Cormorant was fishing. There were up to 35 Lesser Black-backed Gulls coming and going, but other than that there was very little else at all.

That was until John visited at lunch time, I swear he has the Midas touch when it comes to birding! He phoned me with news of a Black Tern at the reservoir and by the time I had got there that news changed from one bird to  three birds being present. A great number for the reservoir and a great record for the year list. The birds were all adults in moult and were busy feeding away over the water. Occasionally they could be heard calling, either to each other or when chased by one of the gulls. I got some terrible record shots whilst I was there, but it turns out they are very hard to get a good photo of!

John also had a Common Tern initially with the Black Terns, but that must have flown on south. There was a juvenile / first winter gull that from a distance looked good for Yellow-legged Gull but I didn't have a chance to have a closer look before it left. A Common Sandpiper dropped in while John was there and a juvenile Little Ringed Plover dropped in while I was there (that may be the same birds from yesterday). There was also a second Cormorant present.

Evening Update:

John returned this evening to find that FIVE Black Terns were present.

Later Evening Update:

Colin visited but didn't see the Black Terns, so they must have left at some point between John leaving and Colin arriving. There were four Common Sandpipers though and a group of three Common Terns that passed over very high, obviously migrating, making a bee-line for the
southern horizon.

Thursday, 13 August 2015

13th Aug 2015: Greenshank

John Friendship-Taylor: Today was a pretty miserable one, largely consisting of heavy cloud and showers. I nipped up at lunchtime, somehow dodging the rain for a quick visit. I was rewarded with a rather mobile juvenile Wheatear along the western side of the reservoir. The only other thing worth mentioning was a female and juvenile Blackcap feeding together on elderberries out in the open near to the reservoir entrance.  

This evening, I had a bit of time to kill after work so headed down again for an hour or so and I'm glad I did! Walking along the western side I picked up a Greenshank calling loudly on the other side of the reservoir. It took me a few seconds to pick it up but eventually got onto it as it flew across the reservoir and off high to the SW. A nice unexpected record, just a shame it didn't hang around.

The Wheatear was still about, and nearby a nice juvenile Little Ringed Plover was feeding along the western shore. A very good chance this was raised locally too. An adult Common Tern appeared briefly, as did a juvenile Herring Gull with several Lesser Black Backed Gulls. Finally to finish off the sightings, a Siskin flew over north calling loudly. A very worthwhile visit!

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

10th and 11th Aug 2015

John Friendship-Taylor: I visited the reservoir twice on Monday (10/08). The weather was rather contrasting, being very drizzly and cloudy at lunchtime,  however sunny and mild during the evening.

Rather surprisingly, the damp conditions failed to materialise anything really of note other than a flyover flock of 5 Cormorants, a bird I've not seen here for a while and a Willow Warbler within a small tit flock along by the river.

The evening saw a constant flow in and out of gulls, with particularly good numbers of Lesser Black-Backed Gulls, well in excess of 30 birds, as well as a good smattering of Black Headed gulls too. A 1st-winter Herring Gull also popped in for a short while. Star bird though for the day was a juvenile Peregrine arriving from the north, causing havoc amonst the gulls! It gradually cruised through SW, briefly attacking a juvenile Lesser Black Backed Gull mid-air, before continuing on. A nice record and makes you wonder how close by it had been raised.

Today (Tuesday 11/08), closeby, I had a Hobby flying north over the M40 Banbury junction on my way to work, while waiting at the traffic lights!

I again visited at lunchtime and this evening. Gulls were not in as greater numbers as the previous day and overall there was very little about of note. However, what was nice was the appearance of 2 presumably migrant Lesser Whitethroat, moving around the perimeter bushes towards the SW corner of the reservoir.