Thursday, 5 February 2009

A Farmoor Iceland Gull

No major birding trips to report on since the Slimbridge outing, with the proper winter weather and a bit more work than usual meaning that my birding has been confined to local trips.

As is now usual at the weekends, I get to take L, our two year old son out on a birding trip on a Saturday morning whilst my VLW (very lovely wife) helps our younger daughter with her homework. Two weekends ago I did a little circuit out to the west of Oxford, first to Dix Pit which L enjoys as he can look at all the trucks and diggers whilst I look at the birds. I was hoping for some ruddy duck as well as the red-head smew but all I managed was a very distant and hazy view of something which could have been a ruddy duck but I wasn't happy enough with the view. Next on to Standlake to the West Oxford Sailing Club lake where a large number of red-crested pochard had recently been reported. Sure enough when I pulled up I managed to count 43 which is an amazing total for what is a comparatively small lake. One could view them from the comfort of the car I only had to get out as L wanted to use his potty! Finally on to Tadpole Bridge which is a know hot spot for tree sparrows. L was by this time asleep so I parked by the bridge and nipped out. Pretty quickly I found a few and got back into the car to head home. I later learnt that there are some feeders in the car park and that someone else saw at least 25 birds there the same day.

I've taken to going running each day now and now allow myself a couple of hours off at lunch time for my run and lunch. Naturally enough I take my bins on my run and often (or rather always) choose to go somewhere interesting bird-wise. Last week I had a couple of runs at Otmoor: very muddy but I managed to see the over-wintering ring-tail hen harrier and also a barn owl quartering over the reed bed. I've yet to catch up with the bittern that's been seen there but there's still time.

The following weekend I decided to take L up to Churn on the downs in order to catch up with some downland birds for the year list. I was particularly keen to see a merlin there as well as grey and red-legged partridges. The weather was surprisingly nice that morning with a bit of sun and not too much wind: it can be pretty dismal up on the downs in poor conditions. Despite careful scanning of all the fence posts and fields I couldn't find any merlin nor any partridges. All I managed was a single corn bunting, a flock of 10 or so yellow hammers, a few stock doves, loads of lapwings, golden plover, starlings and a few kites. I did managed to take a few photos which came out ok.

A corn bunting

A yellow hammer

Another yellow hammer
A kite feeding on some carrion

This week the snow and ice has meant that I've not been able to go for a run though I have managed a walk most days. A trip to Otmoor looking for a merlin was unsuccessful. Yesterday, work meant that I was indoors for most of the day and when my cousin needed a lift to the station late afternoon I decided to bring my birding gear and head on up to Farmoor Reservoir afterwards. I wanted to have a look through the gull roost as a juvenile Iceland Gull having been found there yesterday by the "resident" patch worker and gull guru there. Several other birders had had the same idea so there were five of us trawling through the massed ranks of gulls looking for the bird. It wasn't until after 5pm when the light was really starting to go that someone found it. I did manage to see it and could make out the primaries though it was a rather dark bird and I am finding that in the half light I can no longer focus as well as I used to so it was not easy to discern. Still a tick's a tick and it was nice to see such a comparatively uncommon gull in Oxon. All we need now is for a glaucous to turn up.

The year list has felt as though it has rather stalled over the last few days with just the very welcome iceland gull sighting since the end of January.

2009 National Year List:
101 peregrine 23/01/2009 Port Meadow
102 red-crested pochard 24/01/2009 Standlake, West Oxford Sailing Lake
103 tree sparrow 24/01/2009 Tadpole Bridge
104 hen harrier 26/01/2009 Otmoor
105 barn owl 29/01/2009 Otmoor
106 skylark 30/01/2009 Port Meadow
107 corn bunting 31/01/2009 Churn
108 iceland gull 04/02/2009 Farmoor Reservoir

2009 Oxon Year List stands at 97 with the addition of the same birds as above as well as a yellow hammer from the Churn trip which I already have on the national list.

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