Friday, 24 September 2010

County Birding round-up

I realise that it's been a little while since my last posting. It's not that I've not been out birding at all rather there's not been much to report from each outing. However I now feel that I've accumulated enough from my various trips to warrant another entry. Also I've actually got some record shots that are worth posting so I thought that I'd do a round up of my county birding over the last few weeks.

I've continued to visit Port Meadow on a regular basis though it's been largely unrewarding apart from one flyover heard-only tree pipit. At the time I originally posted it as a "probable": this was partly to err on the side of caution and partly because whilst I knew that what I'd heard had not been a meadow pipit I wasn't 100% certain that it hadn't been a rock pipit. However whilst away on my Cornwall trip I had the opportunity to hear both birds so that I now say that it was definitely a tree pipit which is a nice patch tick.

I'd been meaning to get down to Otmoor for some time and each Monday I try to make a special effort as there is no shooting on the rifle range that day so one can visit the Pill Ground. However events have been conspiring against me and it was only a couple of weeks ago that I finally made it down. It was a very windy day and of course all the birds were well hunkered down but I did manage to catch up with at least one redstart, a rather tatty looking male in Long Meadow. Apparently there had been 4 - 6 birds there a week or so earlier which is great for what is not a particularly common bird in the county.

Last Saturday my VLW and my eldest daughter decided that they needed to visit Bicester Village shopping outlet and perhaps I like to take them there and then perhaps go off birding for a couple of hours before picking them up again. Whilst there wasn't anything obvious nearby it seemed to be a toss up between the Quainton Hills for possible redstarts and wheatears or Grimsbury reservoir to catch up with the willow tits. In the end I decided on the latter and spent a very pleasant couple of hours wandering around in the sunshine. There was not much to be seen on the reservoir itself apart from a family party of four grey wagtails but in the small wood to the north, as well as one willow tit there were several chiffchaffs and goldcrests in amongst the mixed feeding flock there.

Yesterday I was wresting with installing some dodgy software on a dodgy old computer when Bird Guides broadcast a little stint and three black terns at Farmoor. I decided that I needed some fresh air and promptly set off to look for the birds. The black terns were easy to find, hawking over the middle of Farmoor II though there were now four of them. Along the causeway I came across first a lone dunlin that seemed to have lost most of its tail and then a flock of five dunlin with the little stint in amongst them. There was little light to speak of but I took some digiscoped record shots. Many of the stint shots were rather out of focus so I've had to over-sharpen them in order to rescue them. I also had to do some serious chopping around of one of the photos to remove the blur of the edge of the causeway which had got into one shot. I'm quite pleased with the outcome, can you spot which photo I did it on (answer at the end)?

Little stint...
...and again...
...and with a dunlin companion.
The tailless dunlin...

...and again

The sky was looking rather ominous so I took a few point & shoot shots of it (though none of them came out particularly well) and then beat a hasty retreat before the heavens opened.

So I've managed to see a few nice county birds over the last few weeks, nothing outstanding but still pleasant enough to see. It's still been a very poor year so far for Oxon birding and we really need something special soon to make up for it.

Answer to the quiz: in the third photo down "...and with a dunlin companion", the bottom left corner of the photo is entirely artificial, being constructed by copying and pasting from other parts of the shot. If you look carefully you can see the joins though I like to think that it's not immediately obvious.

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