On Saturday morning I was just contemplating the day ahead when my mobile went. It was Peter Barker on Otmoor saying that he'd just seen a female bearded tit in the reedbed. I thanked him for the update but said that it was probably going to be tricky to get down there, weekends being more devoted to family activities. However, when a few minutes later he rang back to say that nine further bearded tits had just flown in I decided that L needed to get out for some fresh air. I informed my VLW that I was going to take L out for a walk and that I would stop in on the super market do the shopping on the way back. With this double offer of an L-free morning and the shopping to be done she was most pleased with this arrangement! I got everything ready, including some snacks to keep L occupied (a vital part of ensuring a happy birding experience with L) and we set off for Otmoor.
I chose to come in via Noke as they were mending Otmoor Lane though I later realised that the works didn't actually start until Monday so I could have parked at Beckley as usual, not that there is much in it distance-wise. Once at the first screen by the reed bed I got in touch with Peter who said that they were walking along towards the second screen but that they'd not actually heard the birds for some time. I elected to stay at the first screen and did some tape luring from my mobile. Initially I was pretty sure that I heard some "ping" responses but after a while they stopped so I stopped playing the recording. There was not much else around to be seen: the kingfisher flew in and spent a few minutes on his favourite perch before darting off; two green sandpipers and a dunlin were flying around at the back of the channels and there were the usual ducks dotted around the place. When Peter returned we elected to walk along the bank to the south-east corner of the reed bed where the birds were first seen. Normally one can't go along this route but as work is presently being done on the bridleway this way and the diagonal path across Greenaways were open to the public. We walked most of the way towards the diagonal path, straining our ears for "pings" to no avail. As we returned however we heard the distinct call and a female bearded tit flew out out of the reeds and ducked back in again. It flew around and called for several more minutes before it went quiet again. Very pleased to have connected with this lovely little bird I decided that I needed to head off in order to get the shopping done. On the way back a rather dark stonechat was flitting around in the hedgerow and a buzzard was soaring overhead.
Readers of this blog will know that on Tuesday I'd gone to pick up my mother-in-law (and nipped over to see the Brown Shrike at Staines Moor) and she'd been staying with us all week. This afternoon she was due to go home and I nobly offered to drive her back. Whilst there I thought that it would be rude not to pop in to see the Brown Shrike again whilst I was in the neighbourhood. There were not anything like the numbers of visitors this time as previously though there were noticably more family visitors with reluctant wives, children and girlfriends being dragged along to stand around in the cold whilst their men-folk watched the bird. I did some more photography and this time there were no problems with heat haze due to the rather overcast and gloomy conditions which forced me to go up to ISO 800 in order to get any sort of shutter speed at all. I managed one decent shot and a bit of video footage which would have been great had it not been for a branch which partially obscured the bird. Still it was very nice to see this rarity once more.
The brown shrike once more.
Some good quality video footage somewhat spoiled by the branch in the way of the bird.
Another county year list and indeed county life tick from the bearded tit. I also realised that when compiling my list of sub-species last blog entry, I'd made no mention of the recent American White-fronted geese that were at Blenheim a few weeks ago. They were of course another Phil Barnett find and apparently had first been seen as juveniles on Otmoor a few years ago but no one knows where they've been since or what their provenance is. They didn't stay around for long at Blenheim though they may be back. As I've now got white-front goose for the county list from the Greenland birds I don't need to worry about the provenance of these American birds though apparently it is almost unheard of for them to be kept in captivity so they could be genuine vagrants who were blown over here as juveniles and have been stuck ever since, perhaps even migrating up and down on this side of the Atlantic instead (which has been known to happen in such circumstances).
The extended white forehead is one of the key points that marks these birds out as American white-fronts though there is some debate as to which particular sub-species they are.
Oxon County Year List 2009
182 Bearded Tit 17/10/09 Otmoor (County Lifer)