Saturday, 4 July 2009

Back on the Downs

Whilst a few waders (oystercatchers and green sandpipers mainly) are starting to be seen within the county there is still not much around so this week I've made a couple of evening trips to the downs. I needed quail for my county and national year lists and I wanted to see if I could get some better photos of some downland birds. Both evenings the weather was superb and the light pretty good for photography. I find the downs very atmospheric in the summer: it's the remoteness of it all, the fact that you can hear sounds a long way away and the beautiful gently rolling countryside which all appeal to me. There were plenty of butterflies around: ringlets, marbled whites and meadow browns making up the bulk of them. In my two trips I covered quite a lot of area and I reckon there were at least seven singing male quail in the area. Unless one happens to stumble across one and accidentally flush it the only way of seeing a quail is to tape lure it and as I've already seen one previously, I am reluctant to disturb such rare breeding birds in this manner so in my year lists quail are given special dispensation that they only need to be heard to be ticked. I am still thinking about whether to count heard-only in my lists though there's only one possible left now (a long-eared owl) that fits this category. I'll wait to December to see how desparate I am to include it as a tick! The first trip up there I heard a young tawny owl making its begging call from within a cops so on the second trip I decided to take a closer look. The copse itself is private and inaccessible but a path runs down one side and with a bit of peering through the bushes I did in fact manage to see the owlet, which was reasonably advanced and able to fly, calling from within a tree.

A red-legged partridge. Both partridge types are plentiful on the downs

I think that this is a spotted orchid.

A pyramid orchid.

A corn bunting.

Another corn bunting. Their jangling song is an integral part of the summer downland experience.

A linnet.

A yellow hammer.

Another couple of ticks for the year lists.

Oxon County Year List 2009
168 quail 29/06/2009 Downs (heard only)
169 tawny owl 03/07/2009 Downs

National Year List 2009
203 quail 29/06/2009 Downs (heard only)
204 tawny owl 03/07/2009 Downs

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