Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Baggers Woodcock & Meadow Med. Gull

Yesterday was a "Good Birding Day". It was all local stuff and nothing spectacular but it's always nice when you find birds that you are after and when a bonus turns up it's even better.

As regular readers will know I like to go running regularly and often combine this with my birding. I'd recently been to Bagley Wood for the crossbills and had noticed that there had been quite a few reports of woodcock from there as well. I got to thinking that it would be nice to see one of these elusive birds again and decided therefore that a little run around Baggers was called for. I asked one of the local birders (Wayne Bull) who had recently seen three woodcock at this location where he'd had them and armed with this information I set off. Basically woodcocking involves going off piste and just tramping around and I initially tried the area that Wayne had suggested but with no luck. So after that I simply followed my nose, heading off into the woods in any spot that looks reasonable. I'm not exactly sure what sort of terrain woodcock like best as it's quite varied at Bagley: one moment its closely planted conifers and the next its widely spaced beech or oak trees. I had a vague feeling that the trees shouldn't be too close together and that they liked good varied ground cover and it was in such an area that I flushed first one and then close by a second bird. Not the greatest of views as they clattered off into the woods ahead of me but nice to see nevertheless. Whilst on my travels around the wood I did come across a small pool at which a number of birds were drinking: there were a few goldfinches, some chaffinches and best of all a flock of at least nine crossbills, most of which appeared to be lovely scarlet males. I remember being told that crossbills get very thirsty from their pine seed diet (something to do with the resin perhaps) and had been told that it was always good to look for them near to water.

Later that day it was getting on for five o'clock and I felt that I'd had enough of work for the day so thought that I would head down to the Meadow to catch the gull roost. I've been dutifully scanning through the roost recently for ring-billed gulls (which would be a great county rarity) and also Med. gulls as now is peak passage time for these birds. Now I have a bit of an issue with Med. gulls: I know what they look like but I've been at Farmoor with gull guru Nic Hallam who seems to be able to pick them out at a distance of several hundred yards almost instantly. I've managed to find a couple myself on the Meadow last year: one was a lovely juvenile which stood out like a sore thumb in a flock of about a thousand black-headed gulls; the other was a rather dodgy id of one flying away from me in the distance which probably wasn't my finest hour of bird identification. Apart from these two instances, I always scan through the Meadow black-headed flock whenever possible but so far have not actually managed to find a Med. gull in amongst them and this has lead to some doubt: have there actually been no Med. gulls to be found in the flock or am I just missing them? Anyway, yesterday evening there I was on the Meadow again scanning through the flock as usual when I spotted something that did actually really set my gull senses tingling. Below is the view that I had.

Spot the Med. Gull!

The hood was more black than the surrounding chocolate brown of the BHG's and it also extended further down the back of the head. I set about videoing it and a short while later it briefly popped its head up enabling me to confirm my suspicions and also to rejoice that my Med. gull sixth sense did actually seem to be working after all! As the late faded I took some more video of it and enjoyed this beautiful gull.

...and with his head up

...and some video footage

I was very pleased to have found such a nice gull on my local patch. They are seen once or twice each year on the Meadow but it was nice to pick one out in that way and shows that all my efforts with gulls are starting to pay off.

Apropos of nothing, I wanted to publish a birding action shot that Jason Coppock took on our trip to Norfolk this weekend.

Birding Action Shot: me grilling the taiga's at Cantley (c) Jason Coppock

A couple more ticks for the year lists from a good day's birding.

National Year List 2010
116 Woodcock 09/03 Bagley Wood
117 Mediterranean Gull 09/03 Port Meadow

Oxon Year List 2010
097 Woodcock 09/03 Bagley Wood
098 Mediterranean Gull 09/03 Port Meadow

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