Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Farmoor Compensation

First off, I first must 'fess up to a hitherto unreported out-of-county outing recently though the result was some horrible dippage so I've been reluctant to blog about it. I went to Slimbridge to try for a juvenile Purple Heron there last week. I arrived at the hide five minutes after it was seen, I stayed for three hours with my eyes glued to the area of Juncus it was hiding out in to no avail and then I left only for it to be reported on RBA again about five minutes later as I was walking back to the car. I ran back to the hide and tried for another hour but it never showed again. To cap it all on the way home there was a road closure and subsequent horrendous traffic jam. Not a good day!

You often don't appreciate something fully until it's gone. This is proving all too true as far as my patch on Port Meadow is concerned. I'm incredibly lucky to have it no more than a few minutes walk away from my front door which is so handy yet I often take it for granted. Obviously the patch isn't actually "gone" but with no flood water at all I am reduced to slogging around Burgess Field (or Birdless Field as I've taken to calling it) in the vain hope of finding a migrant or two. The lack of variety or indeed birds at all has been taking its toll and so I've started to make some trips elsewhere within the county just to see something. Farmoor, is nice and close being only 20 minutes away so I've made a couple of trips out there. Whilst to many its an ugly concrete bowl (and indeed it is) it does has some redeeming features: there's a lot of sky and water there, the sound of the waves lapping against the shore can lull you into thinking that you're somewhere more remote and of course it is good for birds. I find that I can do the round trip to the reservoir, walk the length of the causeway and back and get back home in a couple of hours so it doesn't take too much of a chunk out of my day.

The first time I visited it was wonderfully overcast and several Black Terns were gracing the reservoir as well as a gorgeously dainty first winter Little Gull; there was even a handful of waders with a Ruff, some Turnstones and the ubiquitous Dunlin all to be seen. The Hirundines were zipping about everywhere in the gloom and when the weather is overhanging like this there's always the sense that something really good could drop in at any moment though of course it rarely does. Still it was great to see a nice mix of birds, especially the Black Terns which I'm not likely ever to get at Port Meadow

Black Terns
Common Tern
I'm still visiting the Port Meadow most days but on Monday I found that when I'd walked through Birdless Field without seeing a single bird at all I'd come back feeling really down, a sure sign that I needed to get away from the Meadow again. Accordingly yesterday I went to Farmoor for another visit. Nothing had been reported there over the last couple of days but once again it was nice to be somewhere different. There were only four Dunlin along the causeway, some starting to moult to their winter plumage but I felt that the change of scenery was doing me good. I met up with a birder from up-county who was just starting to get back into the hobby and we birded the causeway together chatting amiably as we went.
Moulting Dunlin
At the top we parted company and I headed back down the causeway whilst he went around F1. I was just trudging back to the car when I spotted a Wheatear sitting quietly on the grass just at the top of the car park area. It sat perfectly still, pausing contemplatively on its perilous journey southward and I took some time just to admire its understated beauty. Indeed it sat so still that I was able to get my digiscoping gear out and take a few shots. Suddenly a car drove by as I looked away and when I looked back it had gone. It's often quiet moments of appreciation like this as much as chasing down rarities that make birding the enjoyable pastime that it is .

Sharing a moment with a Wheatear

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