Thursday, 1 July 2010

County Flycatchers

Last year when I was doing the county year list I had to enlist the help of a fellow county birder in order to get my spotted flycatcher (thanks to Barry Hudson for this). This year there seem to be fewer flycatchers around than ever before with only a handful of birds being reported within the county. Fortunately a pair was discovered not too far away from me nesting next door to a birder's house and I managed to get permission to come and see and photograph the birds. Accordingly one pleasant sunny evening last I found myself sitting in the front garden, chatting away about birds whilst waiting for the flycatchers. When one landed on the convenient telephone wire I'd leap up and shoot off a "reel" of digiscoped shots before the bird would fly off again. A very pleasant way to pass some time!

Digiscoped photos will never match the quality of DSLR but I'm
pleased enough with these shots

Here's the nest, hidden behind some leaves just
above the door

I don't want to give away the location of the birds so the birder will have to remain anonymous though I am very grateful to him for his kindness in taking time to allow me to see his flycatchers. He also took me to a nearby red kite nest, a large platform high up in a tree on which one could just make out a couple of fluffy white chicks. It's great that these elegant raptors are doing so well in this area after their re-introduction. To round off the evening I went to a nearby location which was known to hold nightingales where I passed a very pleasant half an hour or so just listening to the evening bird song. There were blackbirds and song thrushes singing away and both green and great spotted woodpeckers flew over. A small rodent of some description was squeaking away in the undergrowth nearby. On the warbler front there was a singing whitethroat, a garden warbler a distant chiffy and a willow warbler. To round it off I heard a repeated "weet weet" call which is similar to the "hueet" of a chiffy but even more monosyllabic and which I reckon was the call of a nightingale: somewhat tenuous I know but I played my nightingale call recording on my phone back to myself immediately after I heard it and it did seem to match exactly. It's a shame that it wasn't doing the song but at this time of year it's not very likely.

On Saturday I had L to look after as my VLW and the girls were all out. He'd been promised a new lego train and after we went to buy this I thought that he might like a bit of fresh air wandering around a bit so I took him to Rushy Common. They are in the process of developing this site so that one no longer has to peer through the gates or squeeze through the hedge. Indeed there is already a nice path which at present leads to the pit shoreline. L amused himself by throwing stones into the water whilst I had a quick scan. There were lots of breeding common terns and black-headed gulls with plenty of chicks around. There were also plenty of lapwings and I presume that some of them were breeding though they are starting to gather in the post-breeding flocks (on Port Meadow at least). There were also several little grebes including one juvenile that I tried to string into a pied grebe but it's bill just wasn't large enough. In addition there was a little egret, at least one oystercatcher and a couple of stock doves. Nothing too exciting but it was nice to see some breeding success on what is a very nice looking piece of habitat. Once the hide is fully built it should be a great place to visit.

Just one other snippet of news: on Sunday I had another rellie-fest in deepest darkest Kent. We were all just sitting al fresco after having enjoyed a nice lunch when I spotted a raptor flying overhead quite low and quite close. At first I thought it was a kite but it's tail was unforked and it's wings weren't long or pointed enough: a harrier! The pale markings on the head and inner leading edge of the wing, combined with dark primaries means that it was probably a second-summer male marsh harrier. A very nice post-lunch sighting!

Just a few ticks to tally up. I freely admit that the nightingale "heard only" is rather tenuous but it's not like I'm going to break any records this year so I'll give myself the benefit of the doubt. Once again thanks to the un-named birder for showing me the flycatchers.

National Year List 2010
185 Nightingale 30/06 undisclosed location, Oxon

Oxon Year List 2010
145 Spotted flycatcher 30/06 undisclosed location, Oxon
146 Nightingale 30/06 undisclosed location, Oxon

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