As regular readers will know, I've tried a couple of times already for ring ouzels at the traditional Linkey Down site this year and once back from my holiday I was keen finally to catch up with these elusive thrushes. So on Saturday morning I decided to do my weekly shopping trip to Summertown via Linkey Down which is rather tenuous I know but as long I was back by lunch-time with the correct shopping and having done the recycling I figured I should be OK. It was a glorious sunny day and unlike last time, thankfully there were no traffic incidents and I soon arrived at the layby where there was already one car. When I got to the slopes themselves there were already several birders within the enclosure and a quick question soon discovered that they were trying to get a better view of several ouzels which were at the head of the valley. I joined them and soon got brief views of a male and a female. One of the other birders then found a first summer which I didn't see. The birds were their usual skulking selves and it was very difficult to get any kind of decent photo though I did manage a couple of record shots. While we were there someone came over and reported that there were several other ouzels on the other (motorway) side of the hill and one of our party who was packing an SLR went off in that direction. A short time later we heard a "chack-chack" call (like a fieldfare) and a male ring ouzel flew to the top of a neighbouring tree before flying down into the valley to join the other birds. I managed to get a few more occasional glimpses before I felt I had to leave in order to fulfil my shopping obligations. Interestingly enough, one of the visitors there said that he came each year in the middle weekend of April to look for ring ouzels and has only once ever dipped. In fact he calls this date "Ring Ouzel Weekend". I'll remember that for next year rather than trying too early as I have done this year.
Apart from my trip to Linkey Down, I've been working away at Port Meadow, the local patch. Most of the winter ducks have now left and it's much more empty which does mean that one can more quickly see if there's anything good about. On Sunday I was delighted to find a splendid drake gargeney dabbling away on the floods. He's stayed for four days now which has been really nice as last year we didn't have any on the Meadow.
A couple of shots of the Port Meadow drake garganey. He's always been on the far side of the floods so I've resorted to my weapon of choice in such circumstances: the digiscoped videograb.
I've been in no hurry to catch up with any of the warblers as I know they'll eventually turn up on the patch and sure enough at last they are starting to do so. The grasshopper warblers are now back and I saw my first whitethroat and sedge warbler this morning as well. The only warbler that I may have to go to Otmoor for is the lesser whitethroat which doesn't seem to breed on Burgess Field though last year a couple did pass through.
Yesterday I got a real bonus whilst out on the Meadow: I was just giving the floods a final scan when all the ducks went up and circled around for a bit though I couldn't obviously see any disturbance. At the same time I kept hearing some large gulls mewing away though I couldn't see them anywhere on the floods. Finally I looked up and in the sky overhead were three or so large gulls which were half heartedly mobbing (or at least taunting) an osprey. I managed to get it in my scope and tracked it for a few minutes until it drifted off to the north. A very nice patch tick! I have a theory that the Meadow offers a bit of a corridor for migrating ospreys as they've been seen several times in the last couple of years: to the west you've got Wytham Hill and to the east the city itself and you've got the river, the A34 and the railway as possible navigational aids all heading north at this point. It's just a theory but for now I'm sticking to it.
A few more ticks for the year list to tally up though nothing particularly unusual.
National Year List 2010
145 grasshopper warbler 16/04/2010 Burgess Field
146 ring ouzel 17/04/2010 Linkey Down
147 garganey 18/04/2010 Port Meadow
148 osprey 20/04/2010 Port Meadow
Oxon Year List 2010
115 grasshopper warbler 16/04/2010 Burgess Field
116 ring ouzel 17/04/2010 Linky Down
117 garganey 18/04/2010 Port Meadow
118 osprey 20/04/2010 Port Meadow