Readers may remember that at the start of the icy spell I'd dipped out on the whooper swans at Piddington, making a visit after it had all frozen over and all the birds had departed. Now that everything was thawed and nicely flooded, the two swans were reportedly back on the Piddington floods so I decided to pay them a late morning visit.
I arrived to find the extensive flooding on both sides of the A41 and plenty of birds to look at. To the south (Piddington side) one could view from gaps through the hedge or at the entrance to the farm at the south end of the field. Within the field there were a pair of mute swans in the distance, hundreds of lapwings with a few golden plover scattered in amongst them. At the drier end of the floods there were hundreds of redwings and fieldfares all feeding away on the soft grass. A buzzard was sitting in the middle of the field and a red kite was perched in a distant tree. There were good numbers of loafing gulls, possibly from the nearby Calvert landfill which I scrutinised carefully in case the first winter glaucous was in amongst them as it would be a good county tick but to no avail. I did spot a couple of skulking long-billed brown birds hiding under a hedge which I had hoped might be errant woodcock but they turned out to be a brace of snipe.
I then decided to make my way over to look at the floods on the north side. The flood water was right next to the A41 but even standing on the opposite (south) side of the road the birds were easily spooked and a hundred or so canada geese as well as some widgeon and teal all scattered to the far end as I set up my scope. In fact the only birds that were still there were a couple of sleeping swans which turned out to be the two whoopers. As they were asleep they weren't very good photographic subjects so I went back to the southern floods for a while and when I returned at least one of them was awake and feeding and I was able to get some shots off though from my vantage point the birds were partially obscured by some bushes so not all the shots came out. Still the light was excellent and the birds were remarkably close - certainly the closest I've ever been to wild whoopers. It's about time I took some shots that were a bit better than record shot quality.
The one that was awake
And with it's sleeping partner
I'm glad that I caught up with these most elegant swans and that I got such good close views of them after my previous dip. Though I'm not in any way doing a serious county year list I do still find myself mentally thinking of what I still need to see and what I've missed so far in the county: it's a slippery slope but I must be firm and resist. Just because I twitch the odd county bird I can still handle it, I'm not a year lister, honest!
Oxon Year List 2010
083 Whooper swan 26/01/2010 Piddington
National Year List 2010
091 Whooper swan 26/01/2010 Piddington