Monday, 9 November 2009

Forest Hill Rose-coloured Starling & Farmoor Black Redstart

It's been an exciting few days in the county with the discovery of a county first in the form of a juvenile rose-coloured starling at Forest Hill and also finally a twitchable black redstart after several vague or inaccessible sightings over the last few weeks.

To start with on Friday I went back to Grimsbury Reservoir in Banbury to have another try for the willow tits that had recently been seen there. I'd deliberately chosen a very still day with little wind and also went reasonably early in the morning and there were plenty of birds around along the river there with flocks of mixed tits, goldfinches and siskins to be seen. There was also a female stonechat on the reservoir perimeter fence. However despite my best efforts there was neither sight nor sound of any willow tits either along the river or along the canal. I did meet the original finder of the birds whose local patch it was and he confirmed that the locations where I'd been looking were correct. To rather add insult to injury, on the following two days a pair of willow tits were seen along the river by visiting birders so it looks like I was rather unlucky. I'll just have to make yet another trip there in order to get my tick.

The next day (Saturday) the news broke of a juvenile rose-coloured starling which had apparently been present for three weeks at least in Forest Hill. One of the local residents had sent a photo to the county recorder who had come down and confirmed the bird's ID and put the word out. Shortly after the text hit the phones all the keenest Oxon birders were wandering around the small village of Forest Hill scrutinising every single startling in an attempt to locate the bird. Fortunately someone soon found it and we all converged on one particular road though it had disappeared by the time we all got there. Fortunately it appeared again soon after and I got a rather brief view before I had to leave to fulfill my weekend family shopping obligations. A life and a county tick for me so I was most pleased though rather wishing I could have gotten a photo and a more prolonged view of it. I came back later the same afternoon but by then it was getting rather dark and cold and there were no starlings to be seen at all so I didn't stay long.

That evening news came out on the information services that a pair of black redstarts had been at the Farmoor reservoir water treatment works that afternoon. There have been a lot of black redstart sightings throughout the country recently but Oxon up till now had only had a couple this autumn: one only reported after the bird had gone and one where it was on private MOD land so it was great to have a twitchable sighting at last. I couldn't get down there first thing as I had to drop my two daughters off somewhere first so it wasn't until about 10:30 a.m. that L and I turned up. It was dark, windy and drizzly and at first I couldn't find any sign of the birds but eventually I found one and then two of them. They were flitting around the treatment buildings, occasionally hopping up on to the roofs where they could be seen. I even managed some video footage and some digiscoped record shots.

The two juvenile black redstarts on one of the treatment work buildings

one of the black redstarts
A videograb of one of the birds


Some video footage of one of the birds

The next day (Monday) I was dutifully back at work but as lunch-time approached I felt that I needed a little excursion to break up the day. Since I work from home, if I don't get out I can spend the whole day indoors so I thought that I would head back to Forest Hill to see if I could get better views of the starling. The weather was very dull grey and cold so the light was abysmal for photos but I thought that I would give it a go nonetheless. When I arrived I was the only one there but a birder who had travelled up from London soon joined me and after a while the bird returned to the roof tops along the road enabling us to get good views of it sitting on a chimney pot. As predicted, it wasn't great conditions for photographs so the results are little more than record shots but a valuable personal momento nonetheless.

The juvenile rose-coloured starling on a chimney pot

and again

A close up of the second shot which shows it's thick yellow bill and pale brown plumage.

So another couple of year list ticks for both the county and national lists. Both birds are also county lifers for me and the starling is a personal lifer as well so a great couple of days birding.

Oxon Year List 2009
184: rose-coloured starling 07/11/2009 Forest Hill (County Lifer)
185: black redstart 08/11/2009 Farmoor Reservoir (County Lifer)

National Year List 2009
227: rose-coloured starling 07/11/2009 Forest Hill (Lifer)
228: black redstart 08/11/2009 Farmoor Reservoir

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