Wednesday, 21 January 2009

A Trip to Slimbridge

I'd been vaguely thinking about another trip down to Slimbridge for a few days in order to pick up some year ticks. Currently as well as the usual geese there were two bonus ones present in the form of a brent goose and 6 tundra bean geese. With the arrival of a green-winged teal there (which I still need as a lifer) and with a great-grey shrike showing in Cirencester, all these birds were too good to pass up so I decided to make the trip down there. My plan was to head to the Zeiss hide first where the green-winged teal was supposed to be and then over to the Holden tower for the various geese that were about. I would then make the return journey via Cirencester to see if I could find the great grey shrike. The journey down to Slimbridge was rather atmospheric, with a bit of a frost on the ground and quite foggy in places though with some nice sunshine. However it took a bit longer than it should have as I was stuck behind a slow lorry on a single carriage way road for a fair while so I arrived there at around 10am.

I arrived at the Zeiss hide to find only a couple of other birders, neither of whom had found the green-winged teal so I was going to have to work for this bird. The warden had informed me that there were about 1200 teal on the reserve so that was a good number to search through. I diligently worked my way through them all first right to left and then back left to right without finding it at all. I was, however, struck at how great a birding location it was though: there were teal, wigeon, shoveler, a few gadwall, some shelduck and a few tufted duck and mallards present on the duck front. There were numerous lapwings with some dunlin mixed in. In the background a few dozen white-fronted geese and some bewick's swans could just be seen in the neighbouring field. Added to that, a bittern flew in from the nearby South Finger hide where it had been showing off and dropped into a reed bed before soon flying back again, giving me a good view of it in flight. A flock of curlew flew in and settled in front of the hide as well and I thought that I briefly heard a cetti's warbler singing in the reed bed immediately in front of the hide. All in all a marvellous location even if it wasn't yielding up any vagrant teal.

I next went over to the Holden hide to find a lot of birders and a warden present. Fortunately the warden was able to give a summary of what was present so it saved a bit of time on scanning. The party of 6 tundra bean geese were present on their own on the Dumbles slightly to the left of the hide. Immediately in front on the Dumbles were a large number of lapwings, dunlin and some bewick's swans. To the right in the Tack Piece (which I also viewed from one of the other hides) were large numbers of geese including: the white-fronted, barnacle, grey-lag, canada and the single brent. There were also good numbers of redshank, curlew, dunlin, most of the different duck species and a few spotted redshank. I spent only a short period of time doing some digiscoping as the light wasn't that good any more.

A Bewick's Swan on the Tack Piece

A Sleeping Spotted Redshank on the Tack Piece

At the Robbie Garnett feeders, someone had just seen the water rail so I hung around for some 20 minutes or so to see if it would re-emerge but it didn't. I then headed back to the Zeiss hide to have another try for the green-winged teal. There were lots of birders in the hide there and quite a chatty atmosphere. Apparently someone had come into the South Finger hide (where the bittern had been showing extremely well) and said that the teal had be "showing well" back at Zeiss, leading to a mass exodus. As we all scanned the flock we wondered what "showing well" meant in this context when there are over one thousand birds to look through. Despite our massed efforts no one could find it and on the Slimbridge web-site that evening it was reported as not having been seen all day.

I decided to head off towards Cirencester and the great grey shrike before it got too dark. Some half an hour or so later I pulled up in a layby off a busy dual carriage way where I could see a couple of birders staring into the neighbouring field. On asking I was informed that it had been seen some ten minutes ago. We all started scanning and walking along the layby till someone found it again. It was quite distant and rather dark by now but I had a go at digiscoping it, getting at least a record shot. I then headed back home, tired but most pleased with the day.

The Cirencester Great Grey Shrike taken in near darkness at IS0 1600 at about 75 yards.

Despite dipping out on the green-winged teal, a very successful trip to Slimbridge with a good number of year ticks. I now have the full compliment of geese (excluding rarities). It would be great to get some of them in Oxon as well for the county list but geese are not an Oxon birding strong point. Amazingly, with the national list I have already reached the 100 mark in just 21 days, whereas last year it wasn't until mid March that I managed to reach this total. I think that this is largely coming from experience in knowing now where to go to get different ticks and also in having spent more time out and about birding so far this year though that tends to fluctuate accordingly to my work schedule.

2009 National Year List
092 shelduck 21/01/2009 Slimbridge
093 curlew 21/01/2009 Slimbridge
094 white-fronted goose 21/01/2009 Slimbridge
095 Bewick's swan 21/01/2009 Slimbridge
096 bean goose
(tundra) 21/01/2009 Slimbridge
097 brent goose 21/01/2009 Slimbridge
098 barnacle goose 21/01/2009 Slimbridge
099 spotted redshank 21/01/2009 Slimbridge
100 great grey shrike 21/01/2009 Cirencester

2009 Oxon Year List still stands at 88

Monday, 19 January 2009

A Short-eared owl & a pink-footed goose

After the excitement of the waxwings it was back to county year listing and with this in mind I'd drawn up a target list of winter species that I wanted to see within the county as a priority. One of these was short-eared owl, by no means an easy county bird but I was informed that if one goes to East Hendred Downs then it's possible to get them there as the county boundary actually runs along the end of Bury Down in Berkshire which is a know hot spot for SEO's. Indeed my fellow county year lister JC (who must be quite a few ticks ahead of me by now) saw a couple up there a week or so ago so a few days ago I went up there to see if I could pick them up.

It was my first time visiting East Hendred and I found it very windy and decidedly bleak up on the downs. I was greeted by the cheery sight of a pair of stonechats as soon as I arrived as well as a couple of red kites (my first of the year) flying over the nearby fields. With nothing else showing I decided to stray across the county border into Bury Down to see what I could see before returning to the Oxon side to see if I could find any SEO's as it got later. There was precious little on the Berkshire side either apart from more stonechats, a single kestrel, the odd fly-over meadow pipit and a single yellowhammer. There were no owls to be seen on Bury Down that afternoon and none back on the Oxon side either. I thought back to last summer and how it had been alive with birds and bird song then, a remarkable contrast to now. Still there was something reassuringly wintery about the landscape and it's bleakness which I rather enjoyed.

Interestingly enough, that very afternoon, someone managed to see a short-eared owl in Burgess Field Nature Reserve, which is part of my local patch. They used to be spotted regularly there but had not been seen now for several years so it was encouraging to have a confirmed sighting so close to home and I hoped that it would mean that I wouldn't need another trip up to the wilderness that was East Hendred, until the weather warmed up a little at least. The next day therefore I went out on to Port Meadow to check what was on the floods (a few redshank, ruff and dunlin) before heading over to Burgess Field. Whilst there I met up with a long-time birder who used to have Port Meadow as his local patch and visit it every day before he moved elsewhere (so you might say that he was my predecessor). We decided to look for the owl together as well as seeing if we could flush a jack snipe from the pools. Unfortunately it was rather dry and not very snipey so we had no luck with the latter objective though I did see a juvenile sparrowhawk whilst trying. At the end of the bog stomping session we met the lady who'd seen the owl the previous night. After a brief chat we headed off in opposite directions and almost immediately the short-eared owl flew up in front of us, turned round and headed rapidly off over the railway line that runs alongside the reserve. A most pleasing sight for ourselves and also a couple of other birders who'd come out to look for the bird and saw it at the same time as we did.

The next day was Saturday and as usual I had L, our two year old son, for the morning. I was going to drag him around Otmoor once more but a (the?) reader of this blog sent me an e-mail saying that there was a pink-footed goose by the Thames at Streatley in Berks. Consequently I thought that it would be more interesting to pop down to take a look at it rather than going to Otmoor so we headed off in that direction. We stopped briefly at the cress beds at Ewelme to see if we could see either the water rail or the over-wintering green sandpiper but all we saw was a grey wagtail. We went on to Streatley, parking by the church as I'd been instructed, and we walked along the Thames path north towards Cleeve Lock where the goose was supposed to be located along with some egyptian geese. Some 20 minutes or so later, with a somewhat muddy push chair, we arrived at the field north of the lock in which the goose was supposed to be located. I scanned the field and could see no geese and only a dog walker with his two dogs in the middle of the field. I did also notice someone with a camcorder in the field filming something across the river and a quick glance revealed some geese on the opposite bank so I made my way closer and discovered that the pink-footed goose was present on the other side of the river together with seven egyptian geese. Now it so happens that the county boundary runs along the river so by being on that side the birds happened to be in Oxon, which was most fortuitous for my county listing efforts. I took some digiscoping shots and fortunately the sun was shining and the birds were comparatively close, separated as they were by just the width of the river.

The pink-footed goose straying over into Oxon.

On the way back I called JC and told him about the bird. He quickly headed off in his car and in fact I met him back at the church as I was about to leave so he managed to get the bird also.

It was nice to see such a comparatively rare county bird and very lucky that it was on the right side of the border. The year list is ticking along nicely at present and I even managed finally to catch up with the Blenheim Mandarins. They were skulking at the back of their usual pond near Combe Gate at Blenheim and when I arrive they quickly moved under the over-hanging trees making them virtually impossible to see. I can now understand how I could easily have missed them in the past.

2009 National Year List
084 red kite 15/01/2009 East Hendred Downs, Oxford
085 yellowhammer 15/01/2009 Bury Downs, Berks
086 short-eared owl 16/01/2009 Burgess Field NR
087 grey wagtail 17/01/2009 Ewelme Cress Beds, Oxon
088 egyptian goose 17/01/2009 Goring, Oxon
089 pink-footed goose 17/01/2009 Goring, Oxon
090 siskin 19/01/2009 Oxford Canal, North Oxford
091 mandarin duck 20/01/2009 Blenheim, Combe Gate

The Oxon county list is three less than this (bittern, waxwing and yellowhammer).

Saturday, 17 January 2009

Greenfield Waxwings

My original plan for this year was not to spend so much time running around getting ticks for the year list but instead to go after birds that I still need for my life list. So far however, I seem very much focused on the year list which is proceeding much faster than last year, but also on my Oxon year list. A fellow Oxon birder and I seem to be "going for it" this year though I don't have quite the dedication that he does and when offered the chance to look for a bittern that had been seen at Radley lake the day after the trip that I'm about to describe I whimped out and did some work instead. I think that he's already several species ahead of me but we're very much working together as a team so it's great to have help in finding local stuff. Anyway, as I was saying my original plan was to concentrate on birds that I still need for the life list, especially stuff that I should really have and waxwings is very much one of those birds. I know that I didn't see any as a boy and last year was a poor waxwing year so I didn't have the chance. This year however has been a good one and I've keenly been watching on Bird Guides to see how close they are. Unfortunately they've mostly been annoyingly just too far for me to feel it's worth making the effort (see I'm just not obssessed enough) at about 50 miles away but also in an awkward direction from Oxford with no direct fast road (e.g. Herts). Recently some were reported 38 miles away at Greenfield in Beds, still a rather indirect route from Oxford but more within my comfort range. Now it turns out that my VLW (very lovely wife) had been talking of visiting the Ikea at Milton Keynes and it had not escaped my attention that this was not too far from Greenfield so I suggested that we went over there one week day whilst our two daughters were at school: I would drop her off whilst nobly taking L our two year old son on a drive to Greenfield. So on Tuesday this is what I did.

The journey there was uneventful apart from getting rather lost on leaving Ikea and heading off south instead of north. However I soon corrected myself and after about half an hour found myself at the village of Greenfield pulling up at School Lane where the waxwings were supposed to be. Lo and behold they were indeed there in a tree opposite where I had parked but as I was getting my digiscoping gear set up they flew to a tree behind the house though still just in view and then further away out of sight. Whilst I'd now seen the birds I was most disappointed as I understood waxwings to be most obliging photographic subjects. I decided to go and scout around to see if I could find them elsewhere in the village but did not succeed. However as I returned, there they were on the television arial of the original house. I set up my gear again and this time they were happy to pose for a good ten minutes before flying again so I got plenty of pictures (though the light was not good) and some video footage as well.

Three of the five birds present
Then there were two...

...looking the other way.

Some video footage of the Greenfield waxwings. To view a larger version of this footage click here.

The journey back was uneventful and my VLW had had a successful shop so an all-round excellent day.
I was so pleased finally to catch up with these charismatic birds. All I need now is to find some in Oxon for the county year list.

2009 National Year List
081 waxwing (Lifer) 13/01/2009 Greenfield, Beds
082 goosander 14/01/2009 University Parks, Oxford
083 stonechat 14/01/2009 Burgess Field NR

The Oxon county List is two less (missing bittern and waxwing).

Monday, 12 January 2009

Hunting Hawfinches

I got a call from a fellow Oxon birder who, like me, is keenly working on his Oxon year list. He suggested that we go looking for the hawfinches at Blenheim Palace at the weekend and needless to say I didn't need much persuading.

We were due to rendezvous at 08:45 at the Bladon gate of the park and whilst waiting I saw a nice male goldcrest in a yew tree, a nice year tick. The ground was pleasantly frosty though the weather was much warmer than the recent long spell of arctic conditions that we'd been enduring. We walked over to the Palace Gardens to the "usual" viewing point and set ourselves up watching the tree tops. I was keen to get a photo so had my digiscoping gear all set up and ready. Whilst waiting we saw several stock doves and a green woodpecker both year ticks. After only about 30 minutes we both simultaneously picked up a single hawfinch which flew into the tree top we'd been watching. It stayed for a little over a minute or two, enough to get the scope on it and even to fire off a few digiscoping efforts though unfortunately the bird was facing away from us so I didn't get its impressive bill in the shot.

A hawfinch in the Palace Gardens

Pleased with our success we next drove round to Combe Gate to see if we could find the Blenheim Mandarins. Regular readers of this blog (if there are any!) will know that I had a great deal of trouble seeing these birds towards the end of last year so I was keen to have another go. I was a bit concerned about whether the pond might be frozen over though parts of the main lake were now ice free. As we pulled up at the gate we met a fellow Oxon birder so we went round to the pond together. On the way we managed to find a nuthatch and a jay for the year lists.

The pond itself was completed frozen over and duck free so we decided to head back the other way to see if they were on the main lake. On the way we had a good look out for willow tits which this other chap reckoned could be had in the area though they are now a very scarce county bird. We walked slowly carefully inspecting all the small birds and managed to see a marsh tit (conveniently calling to identify itself), a few coal tits and a sparrowhawk which made a kill. There were also a couple of circling buzzards making their mewing calls.

We next decided to walk in a circuit around to the bridge and back again hoping for, amongst other things, some bramblings. We managed a couple more close marsh tits and by the monument I picked out a huge corvid which we all agreed was a raven, a county first for me. The lake itself held lots of gadwall and a few tufted ducks but the arm of the lake which often holds the mandarins when they are not on their pond, was frozen solid and there was nothing to be seen there. There were also no bramblings to be found anywhere. We headed back to the cars slowly, hearing another marsh tit calling as we did so.

There was one other trip to report on: down to Otmoor but still during the big freeze. Everything was covered in rime frost (frozen fog) and was very beautiful but the reserve was almost complete birdless, the highlight being a trio of redpolls seen at very close range from the car on the drive down Otmoor Lane. I did manage to see a greater spotted woodpecker on the feeders which was a year tick for me.

So a few more year list ticks, all also Oxon ticks:

2008 Year List (National)
069 bullfinch 09/01/2009 Chalbury Rd, Oxford
070 pheasant 09/01/2009 Oxford Canal
071 greater spotted woodpecker 10/01/2009 Otmoor
072 goldcrest 11/01/2009 Blenheim
073 stock dove 11/01/2009 Blenheim
074 green woodpecker 11/01/2009 Blenheim
075 hawfinch 11/01/2009 Blenheim
076 nuthatch 11/01/2009 Blenheim
077 jay 11/01/2009 Blenheim
078 sparrow hawk 11/01/2009 Blenheim
079 marsh tit 11/01/2009 Blenheim
080 raven 11/01/2009 Blenheim

My Oxon year list is identical to the national one except for not having bittern and so is currently standing at 79.

Thursday, 8 January 2009

A Calvert Bittern

Now that I've had a year's experience at year listing my intention is to make a real effort to see the birds that I ought to at the correct time of year. For example, in Oxon ring ouzels are usually only seen on the spring passage so it's a question of making the effort to get to likely locations when they are likely to be seen. There are a number of winter birds that I want to see and bittern was one of them. Last year it wasn't until mid December that I saw one and that was partly fortuitous so this year I decided to nip into Bucks where they have several over-wintering bitterns. The closest one to me was at the BBOWT reserve at Calvert so today I started work early so that I could take some time off in the afternoon for a bittern hunt.

I arrived at the hide at about 2:45pm to find four other birders there. One had been there since 10 in the morning and was staked out with a 600mm lens, looking to get a good bittern photo. He'd seen but not photographed a bittern earlier and had taken a nice one of a water rail which had been showing earlier. There were quite a few gulls around and I soon picked out a nice yellow legged which was close enough to the hide so that one could even see the leg colour in the water. I had a go at digiscoping it but the light was poor and I got only one half-decent shot. Someone else had found a caspian gull in the pre-roost flock earlier but in a brief scan I couldn't find it myself.

The adult yellow-legged gull showing close to the hide

We settled down to wait and it got quite sociable in the hide with general chit-chat. As it was noticably milder today there were more small birds flying around which kept us occupied picking them out. At one stage a lovely mouse climbed up a rose hip stem about 2m in front of the hide and took a single hip from the top before scampering back down again. At about 3:30 the bittern suddenly flew out of the right-hand reed bed and across to the left-hand one. All in all a few seconds of viewing and not enough for any photographs but a clear view of the whole bird as opposed to the previous glimpses that I had had at Slimbridge. We carried on waiting at at about 4:30 with it now getting pretty dark, it flew up again and showed itself for a few seconds before climbing up the reed stems and settling down to roost. Again a few seconds of viewing. After that it probably could have been picked out from the reeds in its roosting spot but for the fact that it was so dark one could hardly see a thing. Still it was very nice to see such a secretive bird again.

A few more ticks for the year list with bittern nicely ticked off very early in the year. I was also pleased to get coal tit in the garden so early on as they are not common visitors there.

2008 Year List (National)
059 greenfinch 05/01/2009 Garden
060 feral pigeon/rock dove 05/01/2009 Port Meadow
061 canada goose 06/01/2009 Garden
062 coal tit 06/01/2009 Garden
063 rook 06/01/2009 Yarnton
064 linnet 06/01/2009 Oxford Airport
065 reed bunting 07/01/2009 Oxford Canal
066 collard dove 08/01/2009 Edgcott, Bucks
067 bittern 08/01/2009 Calvert, Bucks
068 gadwall 08/01/2009 Calvert, Bucks

Friday, 2 January 2009

Here we go again - another year List.

So here we go with another year list. I feel that I have learnt a lot since my first one last year so it will be interesting to see how I get on this year. This year I am going to pay more attention to my Oxon county list (last year 163 ticks) as well as aiming to get some more easy lifers ticked off and my life list up to a more respectable level.

In the same way as I did last year, my year list started off by staring out the window at the garden. I have quite a few bird feeders up now and especially with the cold weather we have quite a variety of garden birds visiting. The highlight of the first day was a nice pair of lesser redpolls seen from the bedroom window in the garden. Last year I rather struggled with this bird so it was great to get it on the first day especially I've not seen one in the garden for quite a few years.

The next day I decided on a trip to Dix Pit with my two year old son, L, in tow. He likes going there because of all the trucks and lorries that he can look at while I look at the birds. I wanted to get the red head smew while it was still there so a chilly but sunny morning found me scanning the pit whilst L looked for trucks from the warmth of the car. I was not having much luck finding it when a birding colleague turned up: he'd used the excuse of doing some recycyling to pop down for a quick bit of birding. Fortunately he managed to find the smew when it emerged from behind the nearest island briefly. I endeavoured to get a digiscoped shot of it but it ducked back behind the island too quickly. Apart from quite a few water fowl ticks there was a smart yellow-legged gull in amongst the other gulls.

Later that day I nipped out to Port Meadow to see what sort of state it was in with the current cold weather and managed to see the four main over-wintering waders there. This was fortunate as a day or two later the floods were completely frozen over and birdless.

The following day was cold but beautifully sunny so I took L out to Farmoor to enjoy the sunshine as well as to pick up the over-wintering great northern divers and the first winter scaup pair which were still there. I failed once again to see the water pipit there - I've not seen it for quite a number of trips now though I've never made a special effort for it. There was an over-wintering common sandpiper also present which was nice to see so early in the year.

I also took the opportunity to try out some new digiscoping equipment: I am testing out the Swarovski DCA digiscoping adaptor as opposed to the DCB that I used for the latter half of last year. This one is a more conventional adaptor that attaches to the camera and which you fit over the scope eye-piece as opposed to the DCB which attaches the camera on a sort of arm which swings down over the scope. I had a go at one of the divers though they are extremely difficult to photograph when feeding (which this one was) as they spend so little time on the surface before diving again and often coming up a long distances from where they go down. Despite only getting off 3 shots (which is very few for digiscoping where you need safety in numbers to ensure that you get something in focus) I managed to get a shot of it I am really pleased with.

One of the over-wintering great northern divers

Anyway here's the list so far (and these are all Oxon ticks so the Oxon list is identical).

2008 Year List
001 Carrion Crow 01/01/2009 Garden
002 Wood Pigeon 01/01/2009 Garden
003 Starling 01/01/2009 Garden
004 Goldfinch 01/01/2009 Garden
005 Blue Tit 01/01/2009 Garden
006 Dunnock 01/01/2009 Garden
007 Robin 01/01/2009 Garden
008 Blackbird 01/01/2009 Garden
009 Jackdaw 01/01/2009 Garden
010 Great Tit 01/01/2009 Garden
011 Chaffinch 01/01/2009 Garden
012 Leser Redpoll 01/01/2009 Garden
013 Black-headed Gull 01/01/2009 Garden
014 House Sparrow 01/01/2009 Garden
015 Redwing 01/01/2009 St. Margeret's Road, Oxford
016 Magpie 01/01/2009 Kingston Road, Oxford
017 Song Thrush 01/01/2009 Garden
018 Long-tailed Tit 01/01/2009 Garden
019 Mute Swan 01/01/2009 Wolvercote
020 Mallard 01/01/2009 Wolvercote
021 Shoveler 01/01/2009 Wolvercote
022 Pied Wagtail 01/01/2009 Kingston Road, Oxford
023 teal 02/01/2009 Dix Pit
024 wigeon 02/01/2009 Dix Pit
025 coot 02/01/2009 Dix Pit
026 moorhen 02/01/2009 Dix Pit
027 pintail 02/01/2009 Dix Pit
028 tufted duck 02/01/2009 Dix Pit
029 goldeneye 02/01/2009 Dix Pit
030 pochard 02/01/2009 Dix Pit
031 grey heron 02/01/2009 Dix Pit
032 cormorant 02/01/2009 Dix Pit
033 lsr black-backed gull 02/01/2009 Dix Pit
034 gtr black-backed gull 02/01/2009 Dix Pit
035 herring gull 02/01/2009 Dix Pit
036 common gull 02/01/2009 Dix Pit
037 yellow-legged gull 02/01/2009 Dix Pit
038 fieldfare 02/01/2009 Dix Pit
039 buzzard 02/01/2009 Dix Pit
040 kestrel 02/01/2009 Dix Pit
041 smew 02/01/2009 Dix Pit
042 great crested grebe 02/01/2009 Dix Pit
043 mistle thrush 02/01/2009 Port Meadow
044 lapwing 02/01/2009 Port Meadow
045 golden plover 02/01/2009 Port Meadow
046 meadow pipit 02/01/2009 Port Meadow
047 black-tailed godwit 02/01/2009 Port Meadow
048 ruff 02/01/2009 Port Meadow
049 redshank 02/01/2009 Port Meadow
050 dunlin 02/01/2009 Port Meadow
051 snipe 02/01/2009 Port Meadow
052 wren 02/01/2009 Port Meadow
053 grey-lag goose 02/01/2009 Port Meadow
054 blackcap 03/01/2009 Walton Manor, Oxford
055 common sandpiper 03/01/2009 Farmoor Reservoir
056 great northern diver 03/01/2009 Farmoor Reservoir
057 scaup 03/01/2009 Farmoor Reservoir
058 little grebe 03/01/2009 Farmoor Reservoir

Thursday, 1 January 2009

Review of the Year

So that's my first year list finished. I was hoping to be able to get merlin in at the end but some illness in the family meant that I was house-bound looking after our two year old son. Still I am more than pleased with my final tally of 222 which included an astonishing 54 lifers or technical lifers (where I can't remember whether I had seen it previously as a boy).

It' s been very nice to look back over the year and to be reminded of all the great birds that I've seen. It's also been good to see how my photography has developed from a very dodgy first digiscoping effort of a garganey through to my present efforts. The photography side of things I've found surprisingly rewarding, not least because it makes the blog much more interesting to read.

So what have been the hightlights for me? For me the most rewarding thing of 2008 was probably finding the Temminck's Stint on my local patch. As something which I found myself I feel much more satisfied with this than twitching some mega (e.g. stilt sandpiper). I find that twitching is not very rewarding: it's just a matter of turning up at the right place and if you're lucky the bird is there and you tick it off. Having a huge life list is just a matter of time and money and personally I don't have the inclination to be driving all over the country like a lunatic to see some great rarity. I should say that I am more disposed towards "local twitching", turning up to see a local bird rather than having to slog half way across the country. l am discovering that "local" for me means Oxon, Bucks or Berks. For similar reasons I also enjoyed the American Golden Plover which was once again on my local patch and which I had an accidental hand in finding. There were also three good holidays (from a birding point of view) to Crail, to Wales and to Cornwall which all gave me the opportunity to see interesting birds that I would not otherwise have seen and to boost my year list.

All in all a most satisfying return to birding and I look forward to an even more rewarding 2009. Below is the completed year list.

Species Date Location
001 Goldfinch 01/01/2008 Garden
002 Chaffinch 01/01/2008 Garden
003 Collard Dove 01/01/2008 Garden
004 Wood Pidgeon 01/01/2008 Garden
005 Blackbird 01/01/2008 Garden
006 Great Tit 01/01/2008 Garden
007 Robin 01/01/2008 Garden
008 Blue Tit 01/01/2008 Garden
009 Dunnock 01/01/2008 Garden
010 Magpie 01/01/2008 Garden
011 Jackdaw 01/01/2008 Garden
012 Carrion Crow 01/01/2008 Garden
013 Redwing 01/01/2008 Garden
014 Blk-headed Gull 01/01/2008 Garden
015 Lsr Blk-bkd Gull01/01/2008 Garden
016 Starling 01/01/2008 Garden
017 green finch 01/01/2008 Walk to port meadow
018 moorhen 01/01/2008 Walk to port meadow
019 mallard 01/01/2008 Walk to port meadow
020 mute swan 01/01/2008 Walk to port meadow
021 house sparrow 01/01/2008 Walk to port meadow
022 widgeon 01/01/2008 Walk to port meadow
023 lapwing 01/01/2008 Walk to port meadow
024 golden plover 01/01/2008 Walk to port meadow
025 shoveler 01/01/2008 Walk to port meadow
026 pintail 01/01/2008 Walk to port meadow
027 pied wagtail 01/01/2008 Walk to port meadow
028 gadwall 01/01/2008 Walk to port meadow
029 ruff 01/01/2008 Walk to port meadow
030 blackcap 02/01/2008 Garden
031 Kestrel 02/01/2008 Drive to Warwickshire
032 Common Buzzard 02/01/2008 Drive to Warwickshire
033 Coot 02/01/2008 Draycote Water
034 Tufted Duck 02/01/2008 Draycote Water
035 Little Grebe 02/01/2008 Draycote Water
036 Goldeneye 02/01/2008 Draycote Water
037 Meadow Pipit 02/01/2008 Draycote Water
038 Pochard 02/01/2008 Draycote Water
039 Teal 02/01/2008 Draycote Water
040 Goosander 02/01/2008 Draycote Water
041 Grt Crstd Grebe 02/01/2008 Draycote Water
042 Canada Goose 02/01/2008 Draycote Water
L 043 Lesser Scaup 02/01/2008 Draycote Water
044 Cormorant 02/01/2008 Draycote Water
045 Pheasant 02/01/2008 Moran Bagot
046 Song Thrush 04/01/2008 Garden
047 Long-tailed Tit 04/01/2008 Garden
048 Grey-lag Goose 05/01/2008 Port Meadow
049 Feral Pidgeon 05/01/2008 Summertown
050 Stock Dove 06/01/2008 Port Meadow
051 Dunlin 06/01/2008 Port Meadow
052 Herring Gull 06/01/2008 Port Meadow
053 Gtr Blk-Bkd Gull06/01/2008 Port Meadow
L 054 Iceland Gull 06/01/2008 Port Meadow
055 Gtr Sptd Wpker 07/01/2008 Canal at Frenchay Rd
056 Mistle Thrush 07/01/2008 Port Meadow
057 Sky lark 07/01/2008 Port Meadow
058 Sparrowhawk 07/01/2008 Kingston Road
059 Wren 08/01/2008 St. Margret's Road
060 Grey Heron 12/01/2008 Drive to Dix Pit
061 Common Gull 12/01/2008 Dix Pit
062 Red-cstd Pochard12/01/2008 Dix Pit
L 063 Caspian Gull 12/01/2008 Dix Pit
064 Bewick's Swan 12/01/2008 Chimney Meadows
065 Fieldfare 13/01/2008 Hillesden
066 Bullfinch 15/01/2008 Trap Grounds (next to P&J's)
067 Siskin 17/01/2008 Canal behind Southmoor Road
068 Rng-nkd parakeet18/01/2008 Canal behind Hayfield Road
069 Goldcrest 18/01/2008 St. Margret's Road
070 Rook 18/01/2008 Marston Ferry Road
071 Red Kite 21/01/2008 Appleford
072 Linnet 23/01/2008 Oxford Airport
073 Grey Partridge 23/01/2008 In fields on the way to Steeple Aston
L 074 Rng-necked duck 26/01/2008 Foxcote Reservoir
075 Kingfisher 26/01/2008 Foxcote Reservoir
076 Green wdpcker 26/01/2008 Foscote, near Foxcote
L 077 Whooper Swan 26/01/2008 Hillesden
078 Stonechat 01/02/2008 Burgess Field Nature Reserve
079 Brambling 03/02/2008 Blenheim Park
080 Reed Bunting 10/02/2008 Otmoor
081 Snipe 10/02/2008 Otmoor
082 Corn Bunting 10/02/2008 Ridgeway: Berkshire downs
083 Short-eared Owl 10/02/2008 Ridgeway: Berkshire downs
084 Yellowhammer 10/02/2008 Ridgeway: Berkshire downs
085 Tree sparrow 11/02/2008 Tadpole Bridge
086 Redshank 16/02/2008 Port Meadow
087 Ringed Plover 18/02/2008 Wide Water Lagoon, W. Sussex
088 Black Redstart 18/02/2008 Shoreham Old Fort
089 Turnstone 18/02/2008 Shoreham Old Fort
090 Grey Plover 18/02/2008 Shoreham Estuary, W. Sussex
091 Little Egret 18/02/2008 Piddinghoe, E. Sussex
L 092 Blk-neckd Grebe 21/02/2008 Staines Reservoir
093 Shelduck 26/02/2008 Port Meadow
E 094 Ruddy Shelduck 02/03/2008 Port Meadow
L 095 Smew 05/03/2008 Cotswold Water Park
L 096 Scaup 05/03/2008 Cotswold Water Park
LR 097 Great Bustard 05/03/2008 Foss Cross, Wiltshire
098 Barn Owl 10/03/2008 Burgess Nature Reserve
099 Chiffchaff 13/03/2008 Trap Grounds
100 Little Stint 13/03/2008 Port Meadow
101 Oystercatcher 15/03/2008 Port Meadow
102 Sand Martin 16/03/2008 Port Meadow
103 Curlew 16/03/2008 Port Meadow
104 Barnacle Goose 17/03/2008 Port Meadow
105 Nuthatch 19/03/2008 Blenheim Park
106 Treecreeper 19/03/2008 Blenheim Park
107 Grey wagtail 19/03/2008 Wilstone Reservoir
108 Med Gull 19/03/2008 Wilstone Reservoir
109 Jay 23/03/2008 Knaphill
110 Water pipit 24/03/2008 Farmoor Reservoir
111 Garganey 24/03/2008 Farmoor Reservoir
112 Willow Warbler 30/03/2008 Port Meadow
L 113 Hawfinch 02/04/2008 Blenheim Park
114 Gt Grey Shrike 02/04/2008 Half Moon Plantation, Gloc
115 Raven 02/04/2008 Half Moon Plantation, Gloc
116 Swallow 02/04/2008 Near Moran Bagot
117 Marsh Tit 02/04/2008 Moran Bagot (Sherwoods)
118 Ltl Rngd Plover 04/04/2008 Port Meadow
119 Blk-taild Godwit05/04/2008 Port Meadow
120 Hen Harrier 05/04/2008 Otmoor
121 Coal Tit 10/04/2008 Bassenthwaite, Dodds wood
L 122 Osprey 10/04/2008 Bassenthwaite, Dodds wood
123 Eider 11/04/2008 Crail Harbour, Fife
124 Fulmar 11/04/2008 Crail Harbour, Fife
125 Rock Pipit 11/04/2008 Crail Harbour, Fife
L 126 Common Scoter 12/04/2008 Crail, Fife
127 Gannet 12/04/2008 Crail, Fife
L 128 red-thrtd diver 12/04/2008 Crail, Fife
129 shag 12/04/2008 Crail, Fife
130 purple sandppr 12/04/2008 Crail, Fife
L 131 long-taild duck 12/04/2008 St. Andrew's Bay, Fife
132 razorbill 13/04/2008 Crail, Fife
133 kittiwake 14/04/2008 Fife Ness, Fife
L 134 velvet scoter 15/04/2008 Fife Ness, Fife
135 Peregrine Falcon15/04/2008 Guardbridge estuary, Fife
136 wheatear 15/04/2008 Guardbridge estuary, Fife
137 red-brstd mrgnsr15/04/2008 Guardbridge estuary, Fife
138 guillemot 17/04/2008 Fife Ness, Fife
139 Egyptian Goose 21/01/2008 Appleford
140 yellow wagtail 19/04/2008 Port Meadow
141 house martin 20/04/2008 Port Meadow
142 hobby 20/04/2008 A44 between ring road and A34 junction
143 sedge warbler 21/04/2008 Abingdon sewage works lakes
L 144 cetti's warbler 21/04/2008 Abingdon sewage works lakes
145 grsshpr warbler 22/04/2008 Burgess Nature Reserve
146 whitethroat 22/04/2008 Burgess Nature Reserve
147 arctic tern 22/04/2008 Port Meadow
148 swift 25/04/2008 Farmoor Reservoir
149 common tern 25/04/2008 Farmoor Reservoir
150 common sandpiper25/04/2008 Farmoor Reservoir
L 151 reed warbler 26/04/2008 Rainham Marshes RSPB reserve
L 152 avocet 26/04/2008 Rainham Marshes RSPB reserve
153 little gull 29/04/2008 Farmoor Reservoir
154 black tern 30/04/2008 Farmoor Reservoir
L 155 whimbrel 01/05/2008 Port Meadow
156 garden warbler 02/05/2008 Burgess Nature Reserve
L 157 dotterel 02/05/2008 Bury Down, Berks
158 greenshank 03/05/2008 Port Meadow
159 red-lgd prtrdge 03/05/2008 Otmoor
160 cuckoo 03/05/2008 Otmoor
161 turtle dove 08/05/2008 Otmoor
162 lsr whitethroat 08/05/2008 Otmoor
L 163 marsh harrier 08/05/2008 Otmoor
L 164 wood sandpiper 13/05/2008 Port Meadow
L 165 red-footd falcon14/05/2008 Cornation Pit, Stewartby, Beds
L 166 Temminck's Stint15/05/2008 Port Meadow
167 sanderling 16/05/2008 Port Meadow
L 168 crossbill 19/05/2008 Crowthorne Wood
L 169 wood lark 19/05/2008 Crowthorne Wood
170 wood warbler 19/05/2008 Crowthorne Wood
L 171 grt white egret 21/05/2008 Farmoor Reservoir
172 tree pipit 29/05/2008 Wyre Forest
173 sptd flycatcher 30/05/2008 Wyre Forest
L 174 pied flycatcher 30/05/2008 Wyre Forest
175 dipper 30/05/2008 Wyre Forest
176 dartfd warbler 08/06/2008 Caesar's Camp, Swinely Forest
177 nightjar 08/06/2008 Caesar's Camp, Swinely Forest
178 woodcock 08/06/2008 Caesar's Camp, Swinely Forest
L 179 ruddy duck 21/06/2008 Otmoor
L 180 stone curlew 25/06/2008 Not-disclosed
181 little owl 25/06/2008
L 182 quail 02/07/2008 Not-disclosed
L 183 long-eared owl 02/07/2008 Not-disclosed
184 green sandpiper 03/07/2008 Port Meadow
185 mandarin duck 08/07/2008 Shardeloe's Lake, Bucks
L 186 hoodd merganser 16/07/2008 Radipole Lake, Dorset
L 187 yell-legd gull 19/07/2008 Farmoor Reservoir
188 manx shearwater 03/08/2008 Penbryn beach
189 chough 04/08/2008 Cardigan Island
190 tawny owl 05/08/2008 Tan y Llan, Penbryn
L 191 great skua 07/08/2008 Penbryn beach
LE 192 snow goose 07/08/2008 Penbryn beach (NB probably an escapee)
193 sandwich tern 08/08/2008 Ynylas NNR
194 common redstart 16/08/2008 Calvert, Bucks
L 195 red-nkd phal 21/08/2008 Saul Warth, Glouc.
196 spotd redshank 21/08/2008 Saul Warth, Glouc.
L 197 stilt sandpiper 21/08/2008 Coome Hill Meadows, Glouc.
198 whinchat 30/08/2008 Burgess Nature Reserve
199 grey phalarope 05/09/2008 Farmoor Reservoir
200 knot 09/09/2008 Port Meadow
L 201 Ferrug Duck 23/09/2008 Calvert, Bucks
202 Water rail 27/09/2008 Otmoor
203 Bar-tld godwit 06/10/2008 Christchurch Harbour
L 204 Am Goldn Plover 15/10/2008 Port Meadow
L 205 Bearded Tit 21/10/2008 Farlington Marshes
L 206 Ring-billd Gull 21/10/2008 Gosport
L 207 Cattle Egret 24/10/2008 Somerset
L 208 Bluethroat 26/10/2008 Land's End
L 209 Firecrest 26/10/2008 Trevilley Farm, Sennen
L 210 Y-browd warbler 27/10/2008 Penberth, Cornwall
211 Brent Goose 27/10/2008 Marazion Beach, Cornwall
L 212 Pink-ftd Goose 31/10/2008 Hayle Estuary, Cornwall
L 213 GN diver 05/11/2008 Farmoor Reservoir
214 jack snipe 07/11/2008 Calvert, Bucks
L 215 red-nkd grebe 07/11/2008 Draycote Water
L 216 bean goose 14/11/2008 Hillesden
L 217 willow tit 21/11/2008 Combe Wood
L 218 American Wigeon 29/11/2008 Lower Farm GP, Berks
L 219 Slavonian Grebe 06/12/2008 Brogborough Lake, Beds
220 Lesser Redpoll 14/12/2008 Farmoor Reservoir
221 Wht-frtd goose 18/12/2008 Simbridge
L 222 bittern 18/12/2008 Simbridge

L = Lifer or tecnical lifer
E = prob. escapee
R = release scheme bird