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, 31 December 2015

2015 Review and Highlights

2015 was the Big Bird Year for Grimsbury Reservoir promoted by Banbury Ornithological Society. This was one of the main reasons I finally got around to starting this blog. With increased promotion and more people visiting the reservoir we managed to record an outstanding 126 species over the year at Grimsbury Reservoir, the Woodland Nature Reserve and Upper Cherwell Valley (U.C.V.). I set an unofficial target of 120 species at the start of the year and when this was reached I raised the bar again and rather optimistically went for 130. With a few more ‘easy’ species that were not recorded this year it may have been possible. However, let’s not dwell on what wasn’t seen but marvel at what was, including several species not recorded here ever before or not for many years. Thank you to everyone who contributed with records and photographs. Any records submitted to me directly also went to the B.O.S. but if you do have any others outstanding, please do submit them to the B.O.S. as all records are important.

Courtesy and copyright of Roger Wyatt
The year started with some excitement, as on the last day of 2014, a probable Siberian Chiffchaff was found in the Grimsbsury Woodland NR. This, along with the continued presence of the Willow Tit, attracted many observers and although it is a hard subspecies to confirm with complete certainty many observers were satisfied it was a Siberian Chiffchaff. The Willow Tit was present up to the start of May and was observed singing on several occasions but then was not seen through the summer. Breeding in the area was unconfirmed again and a single bird reappeared in September, with two birds being seen sporadically till the end of the year. Up to three Common Chiffchaffs were also present in the early winter period and one in the late winter period.

Courtesy and copyright of Dave Fuller
Courtesy and copyright of Derek Lane
Goosanders continued to be attracted to the reservoir in the early and late winter periods with a maximum of six in each period. Although, there was a lot of movement of these birds and in December up to three drakes and five redheads were recorded over the month. Other more unusual wildfowl recorded included Shelducks on two occasions, a Red-crested Pochard, a Mandarin, a Goldeneye and small numbers of Wigeon and Teal. A Brent Goose was recorded in December and is rare enough that it was one of the best birds of the year.

Shelduck and Brent Goose courtesy and copyright of John Friendship-Taylor
Common Pochard
courtesy and copyright of Derek Hales
Waders were well recorded this year with Common Sandpiper (peak of six) being the commonest but Little Ringed Plover recorded relatively frequently and Dunlin recorded several times, including twice in December. Some scarcer waders were two Redshanks, a few Oystercatchers, Greenshank, Green Sandpiper and a Black-tailed Godwit that stayed in the area for some time but only roosted at the reservoir. A Sanderling bought in during the autumn storms is a great record and is in my opinion the best bird recorded in 2015.

Little Ringed Plover, Oystercatcher and Black-tailed Godwit courtesy and copyright of JFT
It was a great year for gulls and, although increased effort definitely aided in more records, there were some really good sightings. The only record of Great Black-backed Gull was of three flying over in January, Kittiwake was recorded twice in March, a juvenile Little Gull in August, two Mediterranean Gulls (Aug and Nov) and many Yellow-legged Gulls between August and October (including up to 6 on a few occasions). We also had fun reading colour-ringed Black-headed Gulls tracing some back to Lithuania, Denmark and Germany.

Kittiwake courtesy and copyright of JFT
An Osprey seen migrating over in August was a case of perfect timing for two lucky observers. A Nuthatch recorded in July was a generally common species that is very rarely recorded here and a Ring-necked Parakeet was recorded infrequently from July to October was the first for the site. A Little Tern made a very brief appearance in May and Black Terns were recorded twice (one group of five). Other very notable sightings were Arctic Tern, Stonechat, Water Rail, Hobby, and Little Egret. The autumn period was really productive for Redstarts and Spotted Flycatchers and we even had another Black Redstart in November. Siskins started migrating back through in July and after being almost completely missing last winter were present through to the end of the year with infrequent sightings of Lesser Redpoll.

Courtesy and copyright of Jason Coppock. Please view at 720p HD 

In the U.C.V. there were some fantastic records. The most notable of these was a Wood Sandpiper at the new Borrow Pit pool in July. A Marsh Harrier was recorded going over on migration in July. Up to three Whinchats were present from July through to September. Two Tree Pipits stayed two days in August. Two Shelduck were record and were assumed to be the same ones as at the reservoir. Barn Owl was recorded a few times in the early winter period and Stonechats were present again in the late winter period. Some good numbers of Lapwing and Golden Plover were recorded (mostly flying over) in the late winter period too. 

Courtesy and copyright of JFT
Otters were seen by three different observers on three different occasions. Although signs of them being present in the area are common, to actually see them and to see them well enough to get photographs is almost unbelievable.

First picture courtesy and copyright of Colin Wilkinson
Another species that caused a stir was White-legged Damselfly. I don’t think this species has been recorded here before and is generally rare in Oxfordshire so several people were keen to come and see them.

Thank you again to everyone for contributing with sightings and photographs, it is very much appreciated.

31st Dec 2015

I had my last walk around for the year this morning starting at dawn, with John joining me a little later. It was a little chilly to start with but as the sun came out it turned into a very pleasant morning. 

There were six Goosanders (1 drake) to start with, but this soon reduced to four as two of the redheads had left before John got there. There was also eleven Great Crested Grebes this morning, which is a good count for here. 

The wood was busy this morning with lots of activity from the roving tit flocks and associated species. I got incredible views of the Long-tailed Tits within a couple of metres but failed to get decent pictures. Several Siskins and a few Bullfinches were also busy feeding in the wood. The Chiffchaff was around again today calling from the scrub just north of the railway bridge. A Sparrowhawk made a couple of appearances out the back of the wood too, one time coming up from the riverside.

The valley was rather quiet really and for several days now there has been nothing but gulls on the Borrow Pit pool. There were at least two Herring Gulls around today with the Black-headed and several Common Gulls. A few Meadow Pipits flushed from the wet grass.

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

29th Dec 2015

I was out early today, not quite first light but before sunrise. The dawn chorus is really building now, with Song Thrushes putting in the most effort but as the sun came out more and more birds were singing. If I had been asked yesterday how many Song Thrush were around I would probably have said around six, but this morning proved that wrong with at least double that singing.

To start with there was not a lot around at the reservoir, with the only birds of note being seen on my way back to the car park. Two redhead Goosanders had arrived and a Chiffchaff was calling along the river. In the wood there was a few small flocks of tits and the usual entourage here and there but it was generally quiet.

Under the railway bridge there were two fresh Otter spraints, which were definitely not there last night, so there is an Otter or two quite active in the area again. In the Upper Cherwell Valley there was a Yellowhammer and a Skylark that were slightly different from the norm. The Skylark actually giving a brief burst of song too. A single Lapwing flew over and there were several large gulls moving around.

Courtesy and copyright of Dave Fuller

Monday, 28 December 2015

28th Dec 2015

This afternoon I met John for another good walk and search for birds. Things really are getting desperate for the end of the year!

We didn't see much at all. There was at least seven Siskins along the river that provided some entertainment for a short while. A single redhead Goosander was on the reservoir but that had gone before we left. A single Herring Gull (assuming it was the same one) flew over several times but there was few other large gulls around. The roost was tiny too, possibly only a maximum of 200 Black-headed Gulls and a single Common Gull.

We did find a very fresh Otter spraint under the railway bridge and saw two Roe Deer though, so it was all doom and gloom...

Courtesy and copyright of John

Sunday, 27 December 2015

27th Dec 2014

John and I had a good walk around the patch this morning. The walk, unfortunately, matched the weather and was rather dull and we got soaked through for little reward. To be honest other than three redhead Goosanders at the reservoir and at least ten Meadow Pipits in the Upper Cherwell Valley there was really nothing of note.

Thursday, 24 December 2015

24th Dec 2015

I was out for a late afternoon visit today. I met Mark in the car park and we walked and talked and had a catch up.

There were four Goosanders today (1 drake) and a few gulls gathering but not much else. We went through to the back of the wood to listen for Willow Tits, but they were not apparent. A Kingfisher did shoot across the river and a Roe Deer skulked around the far bank, but it was also quite quiet here.

I continued up the Upper Cherwell Valley to see what was around, surprised by how light it was. A couple of Snipe flew around and a Pheasant flushed from by the river, but there were none of the owls or woodcock I was really hoping for. The moon was putting on a fantastic show though.

Happy Christmas everyone, I hope it's a good one!

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

23rd Dec 2014

It was quite a busy day at Grimsbury for observers, with Mike Pollard, Steve Holliday, Alan Peters, John and I all trudging the paths in search of birds. Collectively there were quite a few birds seen but nothing to really get excited about. Being out in the sun is always a pleasure though.

At the reservoir the two redhead Goosanders were present, along with seven Great Crested Grebes, a Kingfisher and c.45 Black-headed Gulls. Two Bullfinches were around and three Treecreepers were seen together in the wood. Siskins were heard and seen in a few places but numbers seem to be fluctuating quite a lot at the moment. In the Upper Cherwell Valley Mike had five Herring Gulls and a few Lesser Black-backed Gulls. Mike also had c.20 Lapwings flying over and later John and I had another c.100 over. This is the most we have ever seen here and I wonder if these are 'local' birds we are seeing or birds that are still on migration. Raptors were well represented today with Kestrel, Buzzards, Sparrowhawk seen a few times and a Peregrine flyover.

Courtesy and copyright of John

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

22nd Dec 2015

John spent his lunch at Grimsbury today, again searching every corner for another elusive year tick. There were two redhead Goosanders on the reservoir and another ringed Black-headed Gull. This one had a white ring with the alpha/numeric combination of AF939. John has emailed the scheme coordinator for exact details, but it seems this bird was ringed in Germany in the same scheme as another bird we had earlier in the year (AF400).

Courtesy and copyright of John
There was not a lot else to report unfortunately. We will still try everything to attempt to get to 130 species though, we live in hope!

Monday, 21 December 2015

21st Dec 2015

Steve Holliday and John visited today.  Between them they managed to see two redhead Goosanders, a female Tufted Duck, five Great Crested Grebes, five adult Common Gulls, eight Lesser Black-backed Gulls and a Grey Wagtail. There was also two Siskins in the wood.

Sunday, 20 December 2015

20th Dec 2015

I was out with a good friend today, Allan Jones. He hasn't been out to Grimsbury few a few months at least. He must be a good omen as we had quite a good day, either that or the good weather meant there were more birds around.

Virtually as soon as we got to the reservoir a Red Kite drifted over and departed to the south west. As it went over it put most of the gulls up and later the sailing boats ensured the rest disappeared. Soon after the Red Kite had gone a flock of 19 Lapwings flew over and we saw the three Goosanders near the northern end of the reservoir.

Two Kingfishers were active along the river and one perched up and showed really well in the sunlight. An Otter spraint was under the railway bridge, which was new since yesterday and shows they are still quite active in the area. There was no sign of the Willow Tits today but there was a Chiffchaff calling near the river.

In the wood we saw at least six Siskins and heard at least one Lesser Redpoll, but all were flighty and and we weren't sure of exact numbers. Searching for the Willow Tits again a flock of around 300 Golden Plover wheeled around above us. I assume they had been flushed from one of the nearby fields and were searching for somewhere else to settle.

Oxfordshire birders Ian Smith and Ben Carpenter visited today too, in search of Willow Tits. Unfortunately they didn't see them but they did see the Danish ringed Black-headed Gull, VK40. Ian emailed the ringer and so we now have details for this bird. It was ringed as a pullus in 2011 on the Hirsholm island. It has only been recorded three times since, all at Grimsbury and it seems to be settled in the area for the winter.

Saturday, 19 December 2015

19th Dec 2015

John and I met up today to have a good look around. Of course we were desperately trying to find something new for the year, but that didn't happen. Despite that there were a few notable sightings.

To start with on the reservoir, there were two redhead Goosanders and a drake Tufted Duck. A third drake Goosander had arrived as well before we left.

In the Upper Cherwell Valley we found the two Willow Tits in the scrub just north of the wood, near to where the two parts of the river join back together. Further north there were at least six Meadow Pipits around the banks of the flood alleviation scheme. On our way around we noted how few large gulls were around but we did see at least two Herring Gulls.

Friday, 18 December 2015

18th Dec 2015

Today John discovered the Goosander flock had grown by one again! There were five (3 drakes) present during his lunchtime walk. There was also a Willow Tit in with a large tit flock in the south east corner of the wood.

Thursday, 17 December 2015

17th Dec 2015

John was out at lunchtime today and there were four Goosanders (3 drakes) but not a lot else to report.

Courtesy and copyright of John

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

16th Dec 2015

John and I managed a quick walk around at lunchtime today. There was not a lot around but there was the three Goosanders still. I carried on to have a quick look around half of the wood, but it was dreadfully quiet. There was some fresh Otter spraint under the railway bridge though.

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

15th Dec 2015

There were three Goosanders (2 drakes) at the reservoir today when John was out for his lunchtime walk. I'm not sure where these birds are travelling to back and forth but it seems likely they are the same birds that go to Boddington Reservoir.

Monday, 14 December 2015

14th Dec 2015

At lunchtime today John had a Dunlin. Another one in December, is really really unusual for Grimsbury!

Courtesy and copyright of John Friendship-Taylor

Friday, 11 December 2015

11th Dec 2015

Well, it would be fair to say this has been a quiet week. John has been out a few times but there has been nothing of note at all.

Mark was out at lunch time today and had a drake Goosander but it was gone by early afternoon. There was also at least six Siskins around.

Courtesy and copyright of Mark Ribbons
Later in the afternoon I had a quick walk around. There were still Siskins along the river and I heard a Lesser Redpoll but didn't see it. Under the railway bridge there was a fairly fresh Otter spraint. There was a reasonable number of Black-headed Gulls building up to roost too with a few each of Lesser Black-backed and Common Gulls.

Sunday, 6 December 2015

06th Dec 2015

I was out for a good walk around today, but there was not a lot to get excited about. There was a lot of gulls flying over and gathering on the reservoir, so it was back to scouring through them for anything decent. At the peak there was up to 40 Commons, 20 Lesser Black-backs and the ubiquitous Black-headed Gulls. There was at least a couple of adult Herring Gulls that came through. There was also another one at the Borrow Pit pool with a second winter bird.

Other highlights were a Raven over that had a little tussle with a Crow as it passed, a Kingfisher that zipped through along the river, a handful of Siskins around the river and in the wood and four Little Grebes at the Borrow Pit pool.

Mark was out at the reservoir at dusk and there was a redhead Goosander present.

Friday, 4 December 2015

04th Dec 2015

John visited late morning today and I had a quick look around late afternoon. There was no sign of the Brent Goose today, unfortunately. John had a Raven fly over north and a Chiffchaff calling from the hedge through the cattle fields. There was not a lot else around today though.

Thursday, 3 December 2015

03rd Dec 2015: Brent Goose!

John had visited the reservoir at lunchtime yesterday, but there was nothing much to report. Today was a very different story though. It really highlights the fact that an interesting bird could turn up at any time 'out of the blue'.

The outstanding highlight of today was a juvenile Dark-bellied Brent Goose that had decided to join the Canada Geese. It was first on the reservoir and then moved with the Canada Geese to feed in the cattle field. The only other records of Brent Geese here that I know of are of eight flying over in December 1987 and one being present in January 1988. So this is a rare bird here. When I saw it it appeared to be hobbling and may have an injured leg. This won't stop it from leaving but may encourage it to stay around for a short while.

Photos courtesy and copyright of John Friendship-Taylor

The next bit of quality was a Dunlin that John heard calling as it flew in. It settled briefly at the reservoir before heading off high to the east. It is quite unusual to have one at this time of year as they are usually seen here in spring or autumn passage. There was also a Peregrine that flew over north.

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

01st Dec 2015

The last few days of November were very quiet and as a result there were no blog posts. This morning was still fairly quiet but there was enough to spur me on to do a blog post.

The highlight of the morning walk was two Willow Tits. These were in the scrub along the river just to the north of the wood. With no sightings for a few weeks it was good to see they were still here, although I didn't manage any good photos.

Otherwise, there was a Tufted Duck on the reservoir and a few Siskins over. It was amazing to see the Wood Pigeons leaving the roost in the wood. They come streaming out by the hundreds and then you realise they all managed to find a space in there to roost in the first place.

As I left a large grey mantled gull flew through south. I didn't see enough of it to confirm the identity so it will go unidentified unless anyone wants to have a crack at it.. it appears to have a slight band on P5 but has quite thick wedge of black on the primaries...