It's all gone rather quiet recently in the county. Whilst the usual summer birds are in and breeding away, there has been a dearth of passage migrants over the last couple of weeks. In particular, my local patch Port Meadow has had hardly a wader on it and the floods are fast drying out. I realise now that was rather spoilt last year for my first full year back at birding in that the floods in June topped up the Meadow flood waters so that they were there for the whole year. I suspect that this year, especially with a hot summer forecast, the Meadow will dry out and I will be left patchless for the second half of the year.
I've been going down to Otmoor one lunch-time a week to catch up with the birds that I need there. There was still reed warbler to get out of the ten warblers - I'd heard them on the local patch at the Trap Ground reed bed but they are impossible to see there. Also, I still needed marsh harrier and turtle dove. I've taken to combining the visit with my lunch-time run so I carry my binoculars with me and run around Otmoor, listening out for bird song as I go and scanning the reed bed for harriers when I get to there. A couple of recent trip there were successful in getting reed warbler along the main bridle path and some good views of a female marsh harrier hunting over the reed bed. So now I just need turtle dove from there and I'm "done" for Otmoor summer visitors.
Yesterday, I had just come back from another fruitless visit down to the Meadow when I realised that I'd not yet turned on my mobile. When I did I had several texts from various local birders telling me that there was a nice influx of passage waders at Farmoor reservoir. Cursing myself for having left my phone off and hoping that I'd not missed them I russled up a quick breakfast and got L (our two year old son) ready to take him up to look at the boats (which is what Farmoor is know for). We arrived in time to meet a couple of local birders leaving the causeway who assured me that the birds were still there. A short walk along the causeway soon revealed a mixed flock of 15 turnstones, 9 sanderling and a couple of dunlin, resting on the windward side of the causeway (why didn't they take shelter on the leeward side I wondered). I was able to take some reasonable photos of them which fortunately came out ok. I did also see a common sandpiper flying around and later found out that apparently there were 5 about as well as some ringed plover which I'd not seen.
A turnstone on the causeway, unfortunately facing the wrong way
some huddling sanderling
The mixed flock of birds
It just shows how quiet things are at present in that these waders were quite exciting to see! Still the lists are ticking along at a reasonable pace. In fact my county list for the whole of last year was only 166 and I've nearly reached that already. My fellow county year lister is some 7 birds ahead of me which is a great effort. Unfortunately there are not many easy ticks left. I have a list of birds that I might reasonably expect to see within the county and there are 16 possible ones left out of the summer and passage migrants. Some of these are tricky to find such as redstart and tree pipit where you just have to get lucky. In addition there are two winter birds that I missed: merlin and woodcock which would make 18 possibles. This gives me a target end of year tally of 175 added to which will be any unusual birds that decide to pop into the county. I can see now just how hard it would be to get to 200 birds. The previous unofficial record is 193 which apparently included "heard only". I have a heard only tawny owl which I could add to the list at the end of the year if I don't manage actually to see one.
Just reading back that last paragraph I can see that this county listing can get quite obsessive! I'm really enjoying catching up with all the county birds and I've added at least 15 birds to my county life list already but I don't think that I'll persue it quite so actively next year - it's all a bit too stressful!
Oxon County Year List 2009
154 reed warbler 01/05/2009 Otmoor
155 marsh harrier 06/05/2009 Otmoor
156 turnstone 07/05/2009 Farmoor Reservoir
157 sanderling 07/05/2009 Farmoor Reservoir
National Year List 2009
189 reed warbler 01/05/2009 Otmoor
190 marsh harrier 06/05/2009 Otmoor