Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Farmoor Phalarope

Last week was rather frustrating. With an easy Arctic Warblers at Wells Wood in Norfolk alongside a really hard PG Tips at Burnham Overy dunes (see write-ups by EU & PL here and here) I was champing at the bit to head off on the long slog to Norfolk for some autumn twitching. However, on Tuesday morning when I was all set to go I found myself feeling so incredibly tired (my on-going sleeping problems not helping in that respect) that despite these tempting offers, I couldn't bring myself to go. Usually such extreme tiredness is a prelude to a cold and sure enough I was laid low for several days by one which my daughter had brought into the house a few days earlier. Towards the end of the week I was starting to feel a bit better so when news broke of a juvenile Red-necked Phalarope at Farmoor reservoir I decided to pay a visit. This was an extremely rare visitor to the county though fortunately a bird that was at Bicester Wetlands NR for one day in May 2015 had meant that many (like myself) had it on their county lists. Still, prior to this one there'd only been a couple of previous records: one in a tiny village pond at Marsh Baldon (back in the '80's I think) and one on Dix Pit again a good few decades ago so this was a real county mega. At Farmoor, walking down the causeway it was like a parade for the great and the good of Oxon birding. The usual suspects were either hurrying around to the far side of the reservoir (the bird being about as far away as possible from the car park) or strolling back in a leisurely fashion chatting, having paid their respects already. I'd heard that there was also an eclipsed drake Scaup present and en route to the Phalarope tried to convince JT that I had it at the start of the causeway only subsequently to find it at the other end on the other reservoir. Doh!

The Scaup

Round in the north west corner of F1 I came across the star bird and took some photos and a bit of video though reviewing both back home, neither came out particularly well. Not to matter, the bird was wonderful to watch, constantly picking flies off the surface of the water, unphased by the waves that were continually tossing it hither and thither. It was such a small thing that it's incredible to appreciate that it spends much of its life out at sea.

The video footage though the bird was so close that it's hard to
follow as it is tossed up and down by the waves

The Red-necked Phalarope
I watched it for a while in the company of IL & BB. This was by far the best views of a Red-necked Phal I'd had, though it's commoner Grey cousin is a regular visitor to the county and generally provides crippling views when it is around. After a while I headed back to the car in the company of IL, talking gulls as we went (what else!). On the way back we stopped to admire the "Snow Martin" - an albino House Martin that was most striking as it hawked insects over the causeway. I idly wondered whether it might be possible to string it into an albino of something rarer (Crag perhaps?) though the size was clearly just that of a House. Never mind, it was most striking to see it floating ghost-like over the causeway! It had been a very pleasant interlude and went some way to make up for my Norfolk grippage.

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