Natural History Diary : 2013
Sunday 29th December
I had a walk round Radley Lakes this morning. Along the old railway line I found a couple of Goldcrests poking around in the hawthorn bushes. Robins were quite numerous - I saw at least six. Orchard Lake was mostly frozen, but in a Alder tree which had its roots submerged I saw a couple of Pied Wagtails, a Reed Bunting, some Goldfinches, and most unexpected, a Chiffchaff. A Kingfisher flew across the lake. The occupants of Thrupp Lake were more or less the same as last Sunday, but there were more Pochard, and I also found a Common Gull sitting on the water. On the way back up Thrupp Lake I saw seven Red-legged Partridges in the middle of the field.
Saturday 28th December
There were two Robins on the bird table at the same time this morning. Have they paired up already?
Friday 27th December
I visited Otmoor this afternoon. There was quite a lot of water about, but it wasn't as wet as I've seen it in the past. Last time I was here there were lots of Redwings and Fieldfares in the car park field; today, nearly all the berries had gone and there were only a few bird left. There was a large flock of Chaffinches by the cattle pens, but no sign of any Bramblings. There wasn't very much about - I photographed a flying Cormorant and a low-level hovering Kestrel,and there were lots of Greylag Geese in one of the flooded fields. At the second screen there were no birds on the lagoon. I managed to see (albeit at a distance) the three long-staying Whooper Swans. They were feeding in company with some Mute Swans. Two Kingfishers and a Treecreeper were a couple of nice additions. There was no Starling murmuration this evening. Several small flocks came in over the reeds, but they all settled quite quickly in the hedgerows. A couple of parties of Teal flew in while the Starlings were wheeling over the reeds.
Thursday 26th December
Down at the allotment this morning the majority of winter thrushes were Redwings. I spent some time waiting for them to come into camera range, in perfect light conditions, without much success. A few Great and Blue Tits, a couple of Robins and a Carrion Crow were the only other birds about. Later I had a walk round Lower Radley, where there were a few Fieldfares and also some Great and Blue Tits.
Sunday 22nd December
I saw several Fieldfares in the rape field adjacent to the allotment this afternoon. A couple of them were bathing in a puddle on the allotment track. A walk round Thrupp Lake revealed the usual occupants, as well as a Grey Heron and some probable third-winter Herring Gulls. I could only find a couple of Pochard; they do seem quite scarce this winter.
Friday 20th December
An interesting bird day. First up was a Sparrowhawk, which flew through my garden and perched in a nearby tree. Secondly, I saw a number of Fieldfares in the hawthorn bushes at Redbridge car park. Then at Hinksey Lake I saw a Kingfisher and a Grey Heron, along with the usual occupants.
Wednesday 18th December
A Common Frog has appeared in my garden pond.
Sunday 15th December
I had a drive round Farmoor 2 this morning due to the inclement weather. I saw seven Little Grebes. I found three birds which I initially thought were Scaup, but after checking the photos they proved to be female Pochard. A bird table has been put up at the start of the countryside walk, and this was attracting various small birds including a Reed Bunting.
Friday 13th December
There were six Pochard on Hinksey Lake this morning, plus the usual residents.
Monday 9th December
There wasn't anything of note on Hinksey Lake this morning, but the resident Coots were starting to behave aggressively towards each other.
Sunday 8th December
A Sparrowhawk (probably a first-winter bird) landed on my garden bird table this morning. It didn't attempt to catch anything (the residents had made themselves scarce), and flew off after a couple of minutes.
Saturday 7th December
I visited Farmoor this morning. The only birds of interest were a Common Sandpiper and a Redshank on F2 and F1 respectively, and a male Stonechat on Shrike Meadow. There were at least 250 Tufted Ducks on F1, and around 100 Greylag Geese feeding on the grassy banks on the west side of the reservoirs. There was one Canada Goose in with the Greylags. As I was leaving a Red Kite flew low over the east side of F2.
Monday 2nd December
A male Blackbird came to the bird table for raisins this morning. I saw a Grey Heron flying over Redbridge car park on the way to work.
Sunday 1st December
I saw two Red Kites and a Buzzard at the allotment this morning. I also found some ladybirds hibernating in the ball joints of my vegetable cage.
Saturday 30th November
I visited Otmoor this morning. There were many Fieldfares and Redwings about. The feeders were quite busy, with a Marsh Tit and three Great Spotted Woodpeckers being the highlights. There wasn't much else of note until I got to the second screen, where a drake Pintail was having a snooze in company with some Teal. There were Tufted Ducks, Shoveler and Gadwall on the lagoon, but no Pochard. Back at the main hide a pair of Stonechat put in an appearance. Raptors seen today were a Sparrowhawk, three Kestrels and two Red Kites.
Friday 29th November
A quick check of Hinksey Lake this morning revealed six Cormorants, one Pochard, sixteen Tufted Ducks and one Lesser Black-backed Gull.
Sunday 24th November
A female Blackbird has started coming to the garden bird table for raisins. I saw a family group of seven Long-tailed Tits working the hedgerow on the allotment.
Saturday 23rd November
I had a walk round Dry Sandford Pit this morning (mainly to try out my new camera). I saw my first Redwings of the winter (they were impossible to approach, as usual). A Song Thrush was a bit more obliging. I got a reasonable shot of a Jay as well. Goldfinches were the most numerous small passerines, with at least 25 being seen.
Friday 22nd November
There were about eight Pochard, ten Tufted Ducks and two Lesser Black-backed Gulls on Hinksey Lake this morning.
Sunday 17th November
There wasn't much on the allotment this afternoon, just a group of Long-tailed Tits and a Robin.
Thursday 14th November
I saw a couple of Pochard on Hinksey Lake this morning, along with the usual residents.
Friday 8th November
I had a look at Hinksey Lake this morning. Of note were eight Cormorants, a Lesser Black-backed Gull and a Kingfisher.
Thursday 7th November
I had a walk round the University Parks today and didn't see very much: a family group of Long-tailed Tits and a Jay was about it.
Sunday 3rd November
I visited Otmoor on a bright and breezy morning. The fact that most trees have still got their leaves shows how mild this autumn has been. Birds of note were a Marsh Tit on the feeders, a pair of Shoveler and two Little Grebes on the lagoon in front of the first screen, a flock of Fieldfares seen from the second (unfinished) hide, a Pied Wagtail on the roof of the hide, and two Stonechats on the path between the bridleway and the first screen. In front of the main hide there were a lot of Teal, Wigeon and Lapwing. The only raptors seen were three Kestrels and two Red Kites.
A surprising number of Common Darters were active, and I also found a Migrant Hawker in reasonable condition, some Hornets on their favourite Ash tree, and a Comma feeding on blackberries along the old roman road.
Saturday 2nd November
I visited Farmoor Reservoir again today, where I saw four species of grebe - it's not often that happens. Star bird was a first-winter Red-necked Grebe (another lifetime tick), which gave reasonable views along the western edge of F2, although it was quite mobile. The Slavonian Grebe which I missed on Monday was busy fishing on the south side of F2. Great Crested Grebe and Little Grebe were the other two species. A single Common Sandpiper was the only other species of note.
Tuesday 29th October
I visited Slimbridge today, the first time in nearly two years. There was no shortage of wild birds, with many Teal, Greylag Goose, Canada Goose, Barnacle Goose, Wigeon, Pochard, Shelduck, Tufted Duck, Golden Plover and Knot being seen. The most noteworthy sighting was of eight Common Cranes, which were initially on Rushy Pen before relocating to the bank of the River Severn. One of these was a wild bird (a lifetime tick!). There were some White-fronted Geese in with the Barnacles. Although there were seven Bewick's Swans on the reserve, I only saw one of them on Rushy Pen. A Water Rail was briefly observed from the Zeiss Hide, and four Avocets were feeding in the lake. A couple of Buzzards made the occasional low pass and flushed all the ducks. Late in the day a flock of Black-tailed Godwits flew in. I only saw one dragonfly, which was probably a Southern Hawker, and no butterflies at all.
Monday 28th October
I paid a quick afternoon visit to Farmoor Reservoir, but I couldn't find the Slavonian Grebe that had been there for a few days. The most notable bird was a solitary Teal on F2, but it was very skittish. There were a couple of Little Grebes, two Mute Swans, a few Cormorants and Pied Wagtails, and lots of Coot, Mallard, Tufted Ducks, Canada Geese, Greylag Geese and Great Crested Grebes.
Wednesday 23rd October
Tufted Duck numbers are building up on Hinksey Lake. I counted 24 on the way home this evening.
Tuesday 22nd October
There was a Red Admiral in the garden at lunchtime today, nectaring on Choisia. It didn't stay for long, though.
Sunday 20th October
I had a walk in Bagley Wood today, the first time I've been there since March. There weren't many birds about, just a Kestrel and a couple of Jays of note (but I now know why there are no Wood Pigeons in the garden at the moment - they are in the woods stuffing themselves with beechmast). I was mainly looking for fungi, and I found quite a lot although I couldn't identify most of them. Ones I could identify were Beechwood Sickener, Fly Agaric (somebody had pulled it out of the ground - why?), Panthercap, Yellow Stagshorn and Candlesnuff.
Saturday 19th October
There was a Red Admiral in the garden at 09:20 this morning (air temp 15°C), nectaring on Choisia blossom. It then flew up into a leylandii tree, where it remained for at least an hour. On the allotment I saw a Small White, a Buzzard and a Skylark. In the afternoon a Peacock put in an appearance in the garden. A dragonfly flew over as well; it was probably a Southern Hawker but I didn't get a good view of it.
Thursday 17th October
I had a walk in the University Parks at lunchtime today. I saw a couple of Jays which were flying from Marston Meadows across the river to an Oak tree, which they were raiding for acorns. There was also a small flock of Long-tailed Tits by Rainbow Bridge, and a couple of Jackdaws in a tree.
Saturday 12th October
This morning I saw a Buzzard and a singing Skylark on the allotment. In the afternoon I visited Radley Lakes. The usual occupants were on Thrupp Lake, and there were also a couple of Wigeon coming out of their eclipse plumage. There were three Moorhens on lake H/I. There wasn't much on Orchard Lake at all, but there were quite a few Common Darters. One pair was in tandem, and the female was ovipositing. The other dragonfly of note was a male Southern Hawker, which perched up for a long time. A female was patrolling the trees near the old Sandles building, but wouldn't settle.
Sunday 6th October
I went to Otmoor this morning, hoping to see the Great White Egret which had been there for a few days, but it had gone. The whole moor was very dry - all the scrapes on Greenaways had dried up (but water levels in the lagoon were quite high). There weren't very many birds around, except for two large flocks of geese. A large flock of Lapwings flew over Greenaways. Raptors seen were two Red Kites, one Sparrowhawk and four Kestrels.
Common Darters were abundant. There were lots of pairs in tandem, and some females were ovipositing in the pond by the hide. There were also some pairs in cop. There were quite a few Migrant Hawkers as well, all males. On the butterfly front I saw at least eleven Commas, and also three Small Coppers. There were still quite a lot of Hornets on their favourite Ash tree along the bridleway.
Saturday 5th October
In the morning a male Large White flew through the garden. On the allotment I saw another male Large White nectaring on dahlia flowers, and at least ten Small Whites.
I visited Farmoor this afternoon, in mild and bright conditions. There were masses of Coot on both reservoirs - at least 250, probably more. There were also around a hundred feral Greylag Geese feeding on the grassy banks of the reservoirs. A juvenile Little Stint was feeding along the causeway, in close company with a juvenile Dunlin. I found a juvenile Northern Wheatear in the scrub at the north-west corner of F1. There were lots of Lesser Black-backed Gulls in the roost, with Yellow-legged and Black-headed Gulls as well. I saw a few butterflies and dragonflies.
Sunday 29th September
I visited Chimney Meadows reserve today, the first time I'd been there since July 2011. There didn't seem to be many birds about - a Buzzard and two Grey Herons were the only species of note. However there were some butterflies. I saw no fewer than thirteen Commas (most of which were feeding on blackberries), a dozen Speckled Woods (which were still holding territories and battling with each other), a Small Copper with small blue spots on its hindwings (ab. caeruleopunctata) and a female Green-veined White which was nectaring on bramble blossoms. I also saw al least eight Common Darters, a single Migrant Hawker and around a dozen Hornets.
In the garden there was a Comma feeding on ivy flowers, On the allotment I saw at least half a dozen Small Whites and a couple of Large Whites.
Tuesday 24th September
There were lots of wasps, flies and hoverflies feeding on ivy flowers in the garden at lunchtime today. A Comma also joined in for a while.
Monday 23rd September
I saw a Badger in Wytham village at about 21:45 this evening.
Sunday 22nd September
I visited Otmoor this morning, in partly sunny and quite warm conditions. My fears about butterflies were unfounded, as I saw seven species including a pristine Speckled Wood and a pristine Small Copper. There were quite a lot of dragonflies about (Darters and Hawkers), but the most notable sighting was of two Four-spotted Chasers, both of form praenubila. These were by far the latest I'd ever seen; my previous latest sighting was July 11th.
Birds were not very much in evidence, other than raptors. I saw Buzzards, Red Kites, a Peregrine, Hobbies and Kestrels. Crows harassed the Peregrine and one of the Kites over Ashgrave. I saw a Turtle Dove on the cattle pens but again failed to get a photograph of it. The only other species of note was the Little Egret; two of them were on one of the scrapes on Greenaways.
In Morley's Field I saw two Common Lizards basking on a log, and a Roesel's Bush Cricket, which was also basking, along with some grasshoppers, on a different log.
At home I saw a Comma taking nectar from Ivy flowers.
Saturday 21st September
I visited Radley Lakes today, in cloudy but warm and humid conditions. I saw a Brown Hawker dragonfly along the cycle track from Barton Lake; that's quite late. There were several dragonflies at Orchard Lake, at least one and probably three Migrant Hawkers, a Southern Hawker and a Common Darter. There were two Grey Herons on Orchard Lake, and also a single Teal. I found Small White nectaring on Michaelmas daisies. The usual occupants were on Thrupp Lake. About fifty Canada Geese were very vocal, and then the whole flock lifted off and headed west. The other birds of note were three Yellow-legged Gulls and a Kingfisher.
I saw three Small Whites along Thrupp Lane, and a further two when I got back home.
Sunday 15th September
I saw a Kestrel on the allotment. The weather conditions over the last few days seem to have finished butterflies off completely.
Saturday 14th September
I visited Farmoor in the late afternoon today, when the weather had improved a bit. Species seen were much the same as last weekend, with the addition of Herring, Yellow-legged and Lesser Black-backed Gulls. There were no terns. I counted at least fifty Pied Wagtails (adults and juveniles). There were eight Dunlin and two Ringed Plovers, some of which were rather flighty. There was quite a large flock of hirundines over F1 as I was leaving.
Sunday 8th September
I visited Farmoor Reservoir today, my first visit since the spring. There were around two hundred feral Greylag Geese, around fifty Canada Geese and a single Bar-headed Goose on F2. Waders seen were half a dozen Dunlin, one Sanderling and one Ringed Plover (all juveniles). A mixed flock of Swallows, Sand and House Martins were over F2. There were a couple of adult Common Terns, one juvenile Common Tern and two juvenile Black Terns active over F2.
There weren't many butterflies about, except for Speckled Woods. I also saw a couple of Migrant Hawkers and a number of Common Darters.
Friday 6th September
A mostly cloudy day, but the sun came out in the late afternoon and this encouraged a few Small and Large Whites to appear in the garden.
Thursday 5th September
A juvenile Goldfinch was feeding on a Teasel seedhead in my garden this morning. There were quite a few Goldfinches around, with five or six in the nearby Sycamore tree, and another party of six which flew overhead. In the evening there were quite a few House Martins about.
Monday 2nd September
I found an Angle Shades moth and a Common Frog in the garden this evening.
Sunday 1st September
White butterflies were much in evidence on the allotment and in the garden today. Most of them were Small Whites.
Saturday 31st August
Another extraordinary butterfly day. I thought that seeing over 400 two weeks ago was impressive, but I managed to increase this to well over 500 (from sixteen species) at Aston Rowant today! Two-thirds of them were seen on the northern part of the site. The most numerous species was the Meadow Brown, with at least 150 seen, followed by Common Blue with at least 100. There were lots of Brown Argus (some of these were tiny - about half normal size), Small Whites and Small Heaths. There were also good numbers of Silver-spotted Skippers (mostly females), Adonis Blues and Clouded Yellows. I saw at least seventeen of the latter, some of which stopped to take nectar. The Adonis Blue and Clouded Yellow are new species for me at Aston Rowant.
At home there was another Hummingbird Hawkmoth in the garden.
Thursday 29th August
I had a walk in Oxford University Parks and Marston Meadows at lunchtime today. The most unexpected sighting was of a male Gatekeeper patrolling around bushes in the Parks - it is very late for them now. I also found a Red Admiral nectaring on Buddleja. Across the river it was Speckled Wood city again - I saw at least sixteen of them. A couple of Common Darters also put in an appearance.
There was a Hummingbird Hawkmoth in the garden in the early evening.
Monday 26th August
I visited Otmoor today. During my first pass down the roman road it was cloudy, and although I saw a couple of possible Brown Hairstreaks, I couldn't be sure. As I walked down the bridleway Ruddy Darters appeared in increasing numbers, together with some Common Darters. Hornets were still having a go at the Ash tree. When I got to the hide I continued on the path going south from it. There were good numbers of Small Whites, Common Blues and Tortoiseshells nectaring along here. The meadow at the end of the path was alive with butterflies and dragonflies. I found a male Migrant Hawker hung up in a bush. There weren't many birds about, but I saw four Little Egrets on Ashgrave, a couple of Hobbies on Greenaways, and lots of Goldfinches.
Back on the roman road I found two male Brown Hairstreaks in their favourite Ash tree. I also saw a couple of Brown Hawkers and a Southern Hawker. While I was having lunch a female Brown Hairstreak turned up and started laying eggs on a Blackthorn at the northern end of the car park. After lunch I walked through the car park field where there were more Common Blues and Small Coppers. I then saw another female Brown Hairstreak in one of the Blackthorn bushes along the path up to the bird feeders. Finally I saw a Clouded Yellow on Greenaways, which as usual failed to stop, and then a very fresh Comma with a very dark underside on a Burdock flower on the bridleway.
Saturday 24th August
I had a walk round Radley Lakes this afternoon. It was cloudy and quite breezy for some time, which kept the insects inactive. All I saw was a Blue-tailed Damselfly at Bullfield Lake, and a Meadow Brown, a Silver Y and some Common Blue Damselflies at Orchard Lake. There were the usual residents on Thrupp Lake, and some juvenile Willow Warblers, Chiffchaffs and Long-tailed Tits betweeen Thrupp and Bullfield Lakes. There were two Greylag Geese on Lake H/I.
When I got to the old railway line, the sun started to break through, and a Southern Hawker was patrolling up and down the hedge line. When I got to the cycle path, the sun had come out properly, and the eastern end of the rough ground there was sunny and sheltered. Common Darters and Common Blue Damselflies were active, then a Southern Hawker and a Migrant Hawker perched in the bushes. A couple of Speckled Woods did battle from time to time, and a couple of Common Blues and Green-veined Whites also put in appearances.
On the way back to where I'd left the bike a couple of Buzzards were circling overhead. Near the old Sandles building there were more insects about, including Small Tortoiseshells and Common Darters.
Friday 23rd August
In cloudy but warm conditions on the allotment in the late afternoon, several butterflies were active. I released four whites from the polytunnel. Large Whites are very tatty now, but the Small Whites were pretty fresh.
Tuesday 20th August
I had a walk in Marston Meadows at lunchtime, but still couldn't find any Brown Hairstreaks. The habitat looks OK, with Blackthorn bushes and Ash trees, and adults have been recorded in this area before. Speckled Woods were numerous, however - I saw at least fourteen. I saw four other species of butterfly, and two Common Darters. I also saw a Small Tortoiseshell and a Green Woodpecker in the University Parks.
Later I saw two Grey Partridges and a juvenile Robin on the allotment.
Sunday 18th August
An excellent day, with at least four hundred butterflies from 19 species seen. First up was a female Gatekeeper, which I found sunning herself in my garden at 9.15am.
I headed to Lardon Chase near Streatley. The first butterflies I saw were female Chalkhill Blues, soon followed by Brown Arguses and Common Blues. The latter were abundant, and I counted over sixty (mostly males). Chalkhill Blues were also quite numerous, with getting on for forty seen. However, what I had come for was second-brood Adonis Blues, and males soon started appearing on the slightly more sheltered south-facing slope. In the end I counted about thirty, of which only two were females. I also saw two Painted Ladies, and three late Gatekeepers. I saw fourteen species altogether. Other insects of interest were a Hornet, and a Great Green Bush-cricket. I saw five juvenile Swallows perched in a tree, with one of the parents occasionally turning up with food.
My next stop was Aston Upthorpe Downs, which although not very far from Lardon Chase has some differences in butterfly species. For a start there are no Adonis Blues there, probably because the grass is too long. This doesn't put off Common and Chalkhill Blues, though, and I saw over sixty of the former and twenty of the latter. Aston Upthorpe does much better for Small Heaths, and I saw about ten. I saw two rather faded hutchinsoni Commas. Two new species for me at Aston Upthorpe were Clouded Yellow and Silver-washed Fritillary, with one of each being seen, bringing the total number of species I've seen there to thirty.
I stopped at the allotment on the way home, and saw a male Brimstone, a Small Tortoiseshell and a female Brown Argus.
Friday 16th August
I saw a few butterflies in the garden in the late afternoon today, including a Holly Blue.
Sunday 11th August
The Painted Lady on the allotment was still there this morning, along with lots of Small and Large Whites. A Red Kite and a juvenile Kestrel flew over.
I added the Silver-washed Fritillary to my species list at Dry Sandford Pit (now 26 species). A rather tatty male was flying around the buddleja bushes at the base of the sandstone cliff. There were lots of Meadow Browns, Common Blues, Peacocks, Brown Arguses and Brimstones, and the inevitable Large and Small Whites. I only saw two dragonflies, a Southern Hawker and Common Darter.
In the garden, two Peacocks dropped in briefly for nectar. The Echinops flowers were being well patronised by bees. I released an Orange Swift moth from the greenhouse.
Saturday 10th August
Another good butterfly day, with twenty-one species seen at three locations. I started off at Otmoor, and eventually found a male Brown Hairstreak nectaring on Cow-parsley along the roman road. I also saw a couple of Purple Hairstreaks flying round an Ash tree. Once it had warmed up a bit, Peacocks, Commas and Brimstones started nectaring on Burdock flowers. On the moth side I saw several Vapourers, Magpie Moths and Shaded Broad-bars. I saw some dragonflies, mostly darters, and there was a Southern Hawker along the roman road and also a couple of Brown Hawkers along the bridleway. I saw my first Emerald Damselfly of the year. Hornets were busy on the young Ash tree they had a go at last year. As far as birds were concerned, I heard two Turtle Doves and saw (and heard) a Raven.
At Whitecross Green Wood I found another male Brown Hairstreak, the first one I'd ever found in the wood. There were still reasonable numbers of Large Skippers and Ringlets, and there was even a very worn Marbled White. I saw eight Silver-washed Fritillaries, which were also all quite worn, and three Common Blues, a Holly Blue and a Purple Hairstreak. It looked as though there had been a co-ordinated emergence of Migrant Hawkers, because I saw two groups each of about a dozen individuals. There were quite a lot of Common Darters and also some Southern Hawkers. The only bird of note was a Blackcap, which I saw eat a honeysuckle berry. I saw a Muntjac deer and a Common Lizard.
At the allotment I had a brief view of a Clouded Yellow, which was the first one I'd seen in this country since 2005. I also saw a freshly-emerged Painted Lady. At home, a Migrant Hawker flew over the garden.
Thursday 8th August
I released two Large Whites and a female Common Blue from the polytunnel on the allotment this evening.
Wednesday 7th August
I saw a juvenile Kestrel on the allotment this morning. At lunchtime I made a quick visit to Marston Meadows, in the hope of finding a Brown Hairstreak. I did see one butterfly that was behaving very much like a hairstreak, flying around the top of an Ash tree, but I couldn't identify it. I did see eight species of butterfly, and also my first Southern Hawker of the year.
Monday 5th August
Swifts appear to have departed for warmer climes.
Sunday 4th August
I visited Greenham Common in West Berkshire today, with the Grayling as the target species. The heathy area to the north-west of the old control tower was heaving with Common Blues, Brown Argus, Small Coppers and Gatekeepers, and I also found six Grayling here. Apart from the first one, which was nectaring on heather, they were not very active, and it was very difficult to spot them sitting on the stony ground. There were quite a lot of Common Blue Damselflies here was well, but the only dragonfly I saw was a Brown Hawker. On east side of the tower one pond had dried up and the other was much reduced. I found another five Grayling here. One Emperor dragonfly and a Common Darter were the only dragonflies I could find. The only notable bird was a juvenile Green Woodpecker.
I stopped at Bowdown Wood, where I saw Common Blues, Brown Argus, Gatekeeper, Meadow Browns, Green-veined Whites and a couple of Silver-washed Fritillaries. There were also quite a lot of Common Blue Damselflies, one Migrant Hawker, two Common Darters and a Hornet. I saw two juvenile Chiffchaffs and a juvenile Robin.
Saturday 3rd August
I walked all round the allotment site this morning, and saw at least fifty Small Whites and ten Large Whites. It has been an exceptional year for both species. There were also three Essex Skippers and a female Common Blue on my plot.
Thursday 1st August
I saw two male Common Blues on the allotment this evening.
Tuesday 30th July
When I got home I found three Large Whites and a Peacock nectaring on the Buddleja. I saw a Grey Partridge on the allotment.
Sunday 28th July
I visited Aston Rowant (South) this morning. Despite the temperature being below 20°C, Silver-spotted Skippers were active at 9:30am. I counted at least 27 in total, of which the vast majority were males. Other abundant species were Meadow Brown, Small Heath, Small White and Chalkhill Blue. There were also quite a lot of Narrow-bordered Five-spot Burnets and a few Silver Ys.
I headed to Whitecross Green Wood. Here the abundant species were Ringlet, Meadow Brown, Gatekeeper, Marbled White, Small White, Peacock, Silver-washed Fritillary and Large Skipper. I also saw five each of Purple Hairstreak and White Admiral, and finally a single Purple Emperor which stayed up in an Oak tree. There were about a dozen Ruddy Darters, and a few Brown and Migrant Hawkers as well.
Altogether I saw twenty-six species of butterfly today, which is getting on for half the total number of British species.
Saturday 27th July
Much better weather today than had been forecast. I saw nine species of butterfly on the allotment, and ten in the garden. There was a very fresh female Brown Argus on the allotment. The most unexpected garden visitor was a Purple Hairstreak, which must have flown at least 250 yards from the nearest Oak tree just to take some nectar from my Dogwood. At one point there were three Peacocks, one Red Admiral and one Large White on the Buddleja at the front of the house. A Common Blue Damselfly was also active in the garden. The Teasels continue to be popular with bees - I counted about ten Bumblebees of three different species at one point.
Friday 26th July
A good morning on the allotment, with ten species of butterfly seen. The most notable was my first second-generation Brown Argus of the year. In the garden the Large White and Small Whites eggs that were laid five days ago have started hatching. This year I have flowering Teasel plants in the garden, and the flower heads are being well patronised by bees. The most unexpected sighting of the day was a Hummingbird Hawkmoth in Broad Street, Oxford.
Thursday 25th July
The drizzly weather in the morning delayed butterfly activity, but eventually a Gatekeeper and some Small Whites put in appearances in the garden.
Wednesday 24th July
I visited another new site today, Homefield Wood in Buckinghamshire. This is a White-letter Hairstreak site, but needless to say I couldn't find any. However there were plenty of butterflies about along the main ride, with good numbers of Small and Large Whites, Brimstones, Red Admirals, Peacocks, Commas, Ringlets, Gatekeepers, Large Skippers and Silver-washed Fritillaries (I saw at least forty of the latter). The wild flower meadow had quite a lot of Marbled Whites and a few Small and Essex Skippers.
Tuesday 23rd July
I found a large Common Frog in the garden this morning. I saw two Holly Blues, a Peacock and a Red Admiral during the day.
Monday 22nd July
I saw my first second-generation Holly Blues in the garden today (a male and a female), as well as a Peacock, a Comma and two Small Tortoiseshells.
Sunday 21st July
Although it was cloudy again this morning, I went to Aston Upthorpe Downs anyway and was well rewarded with dozens of butterflies from nineteen different species.The most numerous by far was the Meadow Brown, with at least a hundred seen. There were also lots of Ringlets, and more surprisingly, Large Whites. The species I had gone to see was the Chalkhill Blue, of which I could only find about a dozen. They all looked very fresh, so it appears that their emergence is late here. I saw two species which I hadn't seen here before, Small Skipper and Dark Green Fritillary. I also saw my first second-brood Brimstone and second-brood Small Copper. Almost every Ragwort plant seemed to have at least one Cinnabar caterpillar on it. Other insects of note were a Brown Hawker dragonfly, and a 14-Spot Ladybird.
In the garden I watched female Large and Small Whites both laying eggs on some cabbages that I had deliberately left uncovered. A Gatekeeper, a Peacock and a Small Tortoiseshell also put in appearances in the garden.
On the allotment there were more whites, a couple of Small Tortoiseshells and a couple of Essex Skippers.
Saturday 20th July
The cooler and cloudy weather this morning meant that I didn't go to Bowdown Wood as planned. However a number of interesting insects turned up in the garden and the allotment. First up was a female Giant Cranefly, which I found in the house. This is a huge insect, with a 60mm wingspan. There was another cranefly with a yellowish abdomen in the garden but it flew off before I could get the camera on it. I found two white Crab Spiders on pink Phlox flowers - they were rather obvious. I also saw a Comma and a Common Blue Damselfly in the front garden. There were lots of bees feeding on Hebe flowers.
On the allotment I saw eight species of butterfly, with an Essex Skipper, two Gatekeepers and a second-generation Peacock of note. I also found a couple of Harlequin ladybirds.
Friday 17th July
Still an Essex Skipper on the allotment this evening. I saw what was probably an Old Lady moth in the garden.
Wednesday 17th July
Still around 30°C today - this is the longest period of hot weather we've had since 2006. There was one Essex Skipper and a few other butterflies on the allotment this evening.
Monday 15th July
I saw three Essex Skippers on the allotment this evening, the first ones this year. I also saw three Seven-spot Ladybirds, the first ones for some time.
Sunday 14th July
I spent a couple of hours at Cothill Fen, Parsonage Moor and Dry Sandford Pit this morning before it got too hot. As far as odonates were concerned, I saw Keeled Skimmers, Small Red Damselflies and Southern Damselflies. Most of the butterflies were at Dry Sandford Pit, with good numbers of Small Skippers, Meadow Browns, Ringlets and Marbled Whites. Gatekeepers have started to emerge, as well as second-generation Small Heaths and Green-veined Whites. There were small numbers of Narrow-bordered Five-Spot Burnets and a Snout moth at Dry Sandford, and a couple of Scarlet Tigers and a Vapourer at Parsonage Moor. I also saw a Hornet at Parsonage Moor. A Song Thrush was singing loudly at Dry Sandford, and the Marsh Helleborines were finally in flower.
Saturday 13th July
The hottest day of the year so far (30°C). I went to Bernwood, via a brief stop at Otmoor. The Meadow Brown was the most abundant butterfly there by a long way. There were also a number of Brown Hawkers, and a single male Banded Demoiselle (although the habitat seems to be wrong for this species). What I really went to see was a Turtle Dove, and this time one was on the cattle pens. I also heard a couple of them calling. There were three Brown Hares near the cattle pens as well.
Moving on to Bernwood, the high temperature had certainly got the butterflies going. Ringlets were the most abundant species, and I saw at least twenty Silver-washed Fritillaries and a couple of White Admirals. The target species was the Purple Emperor, and I was pointed in the direction of one which was on the ground. Unfortunately, because it was so hot it wouldn't open its wings. Then I and another photographer tried to entice a Broad-bodied Chaser to perch on a stick. Once we'd got the stick in the right place, it perched on it immediately, and allowed close approaches. There were more Brown Hawkers about, and I saw my first Migrant Hawkers of the year. When I got back to the car park there were two more Purple Emperors about. I watched one feeding on honeydew in an Oak tree.
I had a brief stop at Bernwood Meadows. There were lots of Meadow Browns, Ringlets and Marbled Whites here.
A few butterflies appeared in the garden in the afternoon, and insects were still active at 8.30pm, including a nectaring Comma on the allotment.
Thursday 11th July
I saw four Tortoiseshells, a Comma and a Meadow Brown at the allotment this evening.
Tuesday 9th July
On the allotment this evening I could only find a few Small Tortoiseshells, and all the Peacock caterpillars had disappeared, so I assume they have pupated. I saw two butterflies in a furious chase; one broke off, the other landed, and revealed itself to be a pristine hutchinsoni Comma. This was just before 8pm.
Monday 8th July
I visited another new site today, Daneway Banks in Gloucestershire, to look for the Large Blues which had been reported there last week. I had only just got through the gate when I saw one land on a flower, but it flew before I could get the camera on it. My attention was then diverted by a Dark Green Fritillary which was rather more obliging than the ones I saw yesterday. The Large Blues came and went a few times over the next 90 minutes. I definitely saw two males, because they clashed with each other occasionally. I saw two (probably different) females ovipositing on Thyme. At about 11:30am activity ceased, as Large Blues are wont to do when it is hot. Other species seen were Marbled Whites, Meadow Browns, Ringlets and Small Heaths, and another possible Silver-washed Fritillary.
On the way home I stopped at Whelford Pools, where there were masses of Common Blue Damselflies. I also saw a Banded Demoiselle (finally!), a couple of teneral Common Darters, an Emperor, two Brown Hawkers and a Black-tailed Skimmer. I was surprised to find a flock of 43 Greylag Geese on the adjacent lake. A couple of Common Terns were flying about.
In the evening I visited the allotment, and was able to count at least a dozen Small Tortoiseshells, which still very active at 7.15pm.
Sunday 7th July
I visited the southern part of Aston Rowant NNR today. Although I got there quite early, it was already warm and butterflies were very active. There were loads of Meadow Browns and Small Heaths, and also at least two dozen Dark Green Fritillaries, which was the species I was hoping to see. Unfortunately they were not interested in taking nectar, so no photos were possible. Common Spotted and Pyramidal Orchids were flowering in profusion. Red Kites were active as usual, but few other birds were seen.
I moved on to Watlington Hill, which although a similar habitat to Bald Hill had far fewer butterflies. I only saw one Dark Green Fritillary, but on the way back to the car park I found a Comma with a very pale underside, indicating it was of form hutchinsoni.
I saw a Common Blue Damselfly and a Scarlet Tiger in the garden. I went back to the allotment and took some photos of the Peacock caterpillars. I also found some Cinnabar caterpillars and an adult moth.
Saturday 6th July
I set off early to beat the forecast high temperatures, and headed first to Decoy Heath near Aldermaston. The point of coming here was to find the Brilliant Emerald dragonfly and Silver-studded Blue butterfly. I think I was successful with the first, as there were two different dragonflies on the pond, and one of them had a very green abdomen, and the other didn't. However, there was no sign of any Silver-studded Blues. There were some Ringlets, Large Skippers and Meadow Browns, and a Small Tortoiseshell, and damselflies of various species.
I moved on to Paice's Wood, a few miles down the road. This should be a good site for dragonflies, although the only one I could find were Downy Emeralds. There were lots of Common Blue and Azure Damselflies, some Red-eyed Damselflies and two Large Red Damselflies. The most common butterflies here were Meadow Browns and Speckled Woods. I saw one fritillary, which was probably a Silver-washed. I found a Slow-worm under a piece of corrugated iron.
My third stop was Ashford Hill NNR, just over the border in Hampshire. By now it was pretty warm, and there wasn't much about. I saw an Emperor dragonfly and an ovipositing Small Tortoiseshell.
Later in the afternoon I visited the allotment, and was surprised to find about a dozen Small Tortoiseshells, and a whole bunch of Peacock caterpillars in my nettle patch. They looked to be almost ready to pupate.
Sunday 30th June
I visited Bernwood Forest today, looking for Black Hairstreaks. I saw about a dozen there, which is more than I've ever seen at one time before. Unfortunately they spent most of their time flitting around the tops of blackthorn bushes, only occasionally coming lower down. I did find one perched lower down on a Hawthorn bush which was easier to photograph. I also saw at least twenty-eight Speckled Woods, a very faded Dingy Skipper and my first Ringlet of the year. Dragonflies seen here included my first Beautiful Demoiselle and Brown Hawker of the year. I watched two male Broad-bodied Chasers whizzing round and round the small pond at "Piccadilly Circus", each trying to displace the other. It must have cost both of them a huge amount of energy.
I moved on to Whitecross Green Wood, where I saw more Black Hairstreaks, another Ringlet and a male Emperor Dragonfly.
Saturday 29th June
I had a walk round Dry Sandford Pit mid-morning, where I saw my first Meadow Browns and Marbled Whites of the year.
In the afternoon I saw two juvenile House Sparrows and my first Scarlet Tiger moth of the year in the garden.
Thursday 27th June
I drove to Foxley Wood NNR on the way home, but found it was closed on Thursdays, so I decided to visit Narborough Railway Line instead. There were a lot more butterflies here than on my last visit a year ago, but there was nothing I hadn't already seen this year. On the bird front I saw a Jay and a male Yellowhammer.
Wednesday 26th June
I headed to Hickling Broad again today in order to go on the two-hour boat trip. The first stop was at a hide overlooking a dryish patch in the middle of a reed bed. There were quite a lot of Avocets and Lapwing feeding here, as well as a couple of Redshank and Ringed Plover, four Shelduck and two Egyptian Geese. The next stop was an island with a 60ft tower on it, which gave good views over the reserve. A Hobby flew over while we were here. A few Swallowtails were seen today. I found a couple of Norfolk Hawkers, which were less active as it wasn't very sunny.
After lunch I headed to How Hill. The weather had worsened by now, and insect activity had more or less stopped. I did find my first Large Skipper of the year, though. Finally, at the Wolfson Scrape there were two very young Avocet chicks, which despite their small size were busy filtering the mud for food.
Tuesday 25th June
A much better day today, fairly warm with plenty of sunshine. As I was leaving the hotel a Red Admiral was sunning itself on flowers in a hanging basket, and there were two Egyptian Geese on the bank of the river Ant. I drove the short distance to Catfield Fen, and began looking for my target species. I didn't have to wait long, as a Swallowtail was feeding on a Flag Iris at the start of the path called the Rond. However it flew off before I could photograph it. Next to appear were several Norfolk Hawker dragonflies, but they were reluctant to perch for any length of time. There were damselflies about as well, and I photographed one which turned out to be a Variable - another new species for me. Other dragonflies seen were Hairy Hawker, Four-spotted Chaser and Black-tailed Skimmer. Once I got to the southern part of the Rond, Swallowtails began to appear in reasonable numbers; I saw about ten. They were all nectaring, mostly on dandelions. On the way back, dragonflies were more active and there were running battles over the dyke between Norfolk Hawkers, Hairy Hawkers and Four-spotted Chasers. I found a pair of Norfolks in cop, but they were difficult to photograph.
I moved on to Hickling Broad, which was less productive. I only saw a few Swallowtails (and no Norfolk Hawkers), but I did see two Marsh Harriers, a pair of Yellowhammers, a Whitethroat, a Reed Bunting and a Grey Heron. Some Hornets were flying around an Ash tree in the visitor centre's picnic area.
Back at the hotel I found a Small Tortoiseshell nectaring in the hotel's herb garden.
Monday 24th June
The first day of my short break in Norfolk saw me at Titchwell Marsh. It was quite cloudy and a bit drizzly, not at all what Midsummer's Day ought to be like. I had also arrived at low water, so many birds were probably elsewhere. The cloud had forced Swifts down to lower altitudes, and they occasionally zipped past at head height. On the way to the main hide I saw a Reed Warbler and a Pochard with five ducklings, and heard a Cetti's Warbler. There were around sixty Avocets on the freshwater lagoon, along with Redshank, Oystercatchers, Shelduck and Black-tailed Godwit. A Marsh Harrier was flying over the reedbed. There were more Avocets, Oyestercatchers and Black-tailed Godwits on the brackish lagoon. Bird of the day was a Little Tern, which made three dives for fish in the lagoon, and was successful with two of them.
I headed along the coast to Salthouse Marshes. The lagoon I'd photographed Avocets at last year had dried up. However there were still a couple of Avocets, a Ringed Plover, and more Oystercatchers, Redshank and Shelduck. Meadow Pipits kept popping up and perching on fence posts. I walked up Gramborough Hill to the east of the car park, where I saw several Sandwich Terns and Sand Martins.
Saturday 22nd June
I visited Otmoor for the first time in a month today. Weather conditions were not very good, with a strong SW wind, lots of cloud and a few light showers. In the car park I saw two Whitethroats bringing in food for their youngsters - one had a large green caterpillar. I went down the old Roman road first, where I saw the first of many Azure Damselflies. They seemed to be everywhere. But there weren't any Common Blue Damselflies about. There were some other interesting insects here, including Red- and Black-headed Cardinal beetles, Scorpion Flies, a Golden-bloomed Grey Longhorn Beetle and various hoverflies. I also found a nest of Peacock caterpillars. Once I was on the bridleway the first of a couple of dozen Four-spotted Chasers made an appearance, along with several Red-eyed, Blue-tailed and Large Red Damselflies. I found a Blood-vein moth with the distinctive pink line across its wings.
I heard a Turtle Dove purring along the bridleway, but as usual it was impossible to find. Redshank and Lapwings were much in evidence on Greenaways, on occasion going up en masse to harrass Red Kites which had the temerity to stray into their airspace. I even saw a Lapwing chasing off a Redshank which was trying to land on the same scrape. The Lapwing probably had chicks there but I couldn't see them. The Redshank was flying around and calling constantly.
There wasn't much of note visible from the hide, except for the three juvenile Grey Herons, which must be pretty close the fledging. Several Brown Hares were also running about on Ashgrave.
I walked down to the first screen. There were yet more damselflies sheltering in the hedge. There wasn't much on the lagoon, just some Mallards and Tufted Ducks. A couple of Swifts were flying over the reedbeds, but there was no sign of any Hobbies.
I retraced my steps back to the car park. It had got a little warmer, and the sun came out a for a bit. This got some butterflies going, but not very many. A late Orange Tip was noteworthy. Apart from that, there were just a few Small Whites and Speckled Woods. I looked for Black Hairstreaks along the Roman road, but it wasn't really warm enough for them.
Wednesday 19th June
There were at least two Common Frogs in the garden this evening. Also a well-advanced juvenile Blackbird showed well for a while.
Sunday 16th June
A Kestrel was busy at the allotment this morning. A Red Kite was mobbed by a couple of crows, and a Skylark was singing. A Common Frog popped out of the broad beans I was weeding. On the way home there were two Grey Partridges on the track, but they flew into the adjacent field and were hidden by the long grass.
Saturday 15th June
After three good weekends, today was quite cloudy and windy, with rain at times. I had a walk round Cothill Fen, Parsonage Moor and Dry Sandford Pit in the afternoon, but there was little about. I saw what was probably a Downy Emerald dragonfly at Parsonage Moor, but it disappeared before I could positively identify it. I saw two Buzzards at Cothill Fen, and another at Dry Sandford Pit. There were quite a few Early Purple and Common Spotted Orchids at Parsonage Moor. I also saw a Common Lizard on the boardwalk.
Friday 14th June
On Hinksey Lake this afternoon I saw a pair of Great Crested Grebes with four youngsters. The female was diving for fish while the male protected the brood.
Wednesday 12th June
I found a Yellowtail moth caterpillar in the hawthorn hedge on the allotment this evening.
Sunday 9th June
I did a lot of driving today, going first to Cotley Hill, then to Bentley Wood, both in Wiltshire. I had not been to Cotley Hill before. It is a steep south/west-facing slope on the western edge of Salisbury Plain. It hasn't ever been cultivated so it contains chalk grassland plants which have been lost elsewhere. The purpose of this trip was to find the Marsh Fritillary in Britain, which I had failed to do the previous weekend. When I got there it was still quite cool, and the Marsh Frits were mostly hunkered down in the grass. However, I found a couple, including a female which was quite happy sitting on my hand. As the day warmed up, a lot more of them became active and I counted at least 37. I also saw half a dozen Adonis Blues and a couple of Wall Browns. As I was going back to the car, I found five Small Blues, two Dingy Skippers, an Adonis Blue and a Marsh Fritillary together on the footpath. They were clearly interested in something on the ground, but it wasn't clear what it was. There were also a lot of Five-spot Burnets and a couple of Burnet Companion moths. I also saw two Yellowhammers, a pair of Linnets, and a Meadow Pipit.
I headed to Bentley Wood for Small Pearl-bordered Fritillaries, which had not been out the last time I visited on 26th May. There were quite a few about, although most were males which were more interested in searching for females than feeding. I also found a couple of Pearl-bordered Fritillaries, four Argent and Sable moths, and four Broad-bodied Chasers.
Finally, somebody had found a (probable) Roe Deer fawn, which had been left by the female while she went off feeding. It stayed absolutely motionless in the grass, hardly appearing to even breathe. This was the first time I'd seen a fawn in this state.
Saturday 8th June
I visited Dry Sandford Pit this morning. I finally saw a couple of Brown Arguses, some Common Blues, and an unexpected Painted Lady. The latter was in pretty reasonable condition. There were a lot of Large Red Damselflies, and also a couple of Southern Damselflies. Not much in the way of birds but I heard a Blackcap and came across a female Pheasant and her youngsters. She wasn't best pleased and worked hard to draw me away from them.
Tuesday 4th June
I had a quick look around Marston Meadows at lunchtime today. There wasn't much about, just one male Brimstone, five (presumed) Green-veined Whites and three Burnet Companion moths. A Chiffchaff was calling on and off. There was no sign of any Odonata. This is the worst year for them that I can remember.
Sunday 2nd June
I visited Lardon Chase this morning. There were no Adonis Blues or Brown Arguses to be seen, but I counted at least forty (mostly male) Common Blues, along with a few male Small Blues.
Saturday 1st June
I visited Pewsey Downs in Wiltshire today. I was hoping to find Marsh Fritillaries, Adonis Blues and Wall Browns, but in the event I only found one Wall Brown. There were lots of Dingy Skippers and Small Heaths, and one Grizzled Skipper. Along the footpath to the east of the car park I saw at least seven Green Hairstreaks. I found a couple of singing Corn Buntings and Yellowhammers.
Having failed with Marsh Fritillaries at Pewsey, I headed for Seven Barrows, but there were none there either. As no larval webs had been found, it rather suggests that the colony has died out.
My third stop was Hackpen Hill on the Ridgeway. I saw at least sixteen Small Blues here, along with numerous Dingy Skippers and Small Heaths, and three Wood Tiger moths. I was surprised to see two Hobbies here.
Monday 27th May
There were four juvenile House Sparrows on the bird table this morning. They were feeding themselves as well as begging food from the parent bird.
I had a quick stop at Dry Sandford Pit to see if any Brown Arguses had emerged, but I couldn't find any. I did find two female Orange Tips and around twenty Large Red Damselflies.
Sunday 26th May
I visited Bentley Wood today. Usually by this time in May Bluebells have finished, but there were still a lot out today. The season is at least two weeks later than normal. This was also shown by the lack of Small Pearl-bordered Fritillaries; only Pearl-bordered Fritillaries were on the wing. Other species of note were two Small Coppers, one Duke of Burgundy and one Grizzled Skipper. A lot of Yellow Speckled moths were also flying about. At the larger of the small ponds I saw at least forty Large Red Damselflies. There were many pairs in tandem, and some were ovipositing. The smaller pond was full of tadpoles.
I stopped at Stockbridge Down in the afternoon, and was surprised to find a Duke of Burgundy in the eastern car park! A lot of scrub has been cut down since my last visit, which should improve things for grassland butterflies. There was a lot of Wild Strawberry in flower, and I saw at least eight Grizzled Skippers. I also saw five Small Coppers, two Dingy Skippers, and my first British Common Blue of the year.
Saturday 25th May
I spent a very good morning at Otmoor. As soon as I got out of the car a Willow Warbler was singing, and I could hear a Turtle Dove purring from somewhere along the Roman road. Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps were singing as well. I couldn't find the first Turtle Dove, but half-way down the bridleway another one was purring, and this time I did manage to see it. There were a few Swifts over Greenaways, but as the day warmed up a lot more appeared pretty much everywhere. I heard a couple of Cuckoos but they were both distant.
The hide was quite welcome today as an escape from the chilly wind. There were two Little Egrets on the scrape, and a third on its nest below the Heron's nest in the dead tree. Also here was a pair of Greylag Geese with about ten goslings, a pair of Tufted Ducks, a total of three Grey Herons (one on the nest) and a big flock of Rooks out on Ashgrave. Two Oystercatchers flew in from somewhere, and I saw a Redshank as well.
I continued along the bridleway towards Noke, and saw two Redshank, a pair of Shoveler with six ducklings, and a Raven which was harried by a Carrion Crow (nicely showing the difference in size) on Big Otmoor. Red Kites were mobbed by Lapwings or Crows every time they flew over. The increasing temperature brought out some Green-veined Whites.
I walked down the track to the first screen, where a very confiding Sedge Warbler posed for photographs while singing its heart out. Reed Buntings were also singing and a Common Tern flew over. There wasn't much on the lagoon, just five Tufted Ducks, a Coot with its offspring, and a female Pochard with three ducklings (nice to see they are breeding here). A Cormorant and a Hobby flew over.
On the way back to the car park a few teneral Red-eyed Damselflies and Azure Damselflies appeared, as well as a male Bullfinch. Back along the Roman road another ten or so Green-veined Whites and two Orange Tips were seen, along with some Large Red and Azure Damselflies, and finally an immature male Hairy Hawker dragonfly. I also found four Red-headed Cardinal beetles.
Dry Sandford Pit in the afternoon did quite well for butterflies, with Holly Blue, Brimstone, Peacock, Green-veined White, Orange Tip, Large White, Small Heath and Speckled Wood being seen. I also saw a Large Red Damselfly, my first one at the pit this year (which shows how late the season is).
Friday 24th May
There was a juvenile Blackbird in the garden this morning, with the male parent in close attendance.
Wednesday 22nd May
The first House Sparrow fledglings of the year were in the garden this evening (two of them).
Sunday 19th May
I visited Farmoor this morning. Apart from the regulars, one Common Tern and two Cuckoos were the only species of note. I could only find a few damselflies, and there weren't many butterflies either.
I stopped at Lashford Lane Fen, but there was even less to see there. A Black-headed Cardinal beetle was notable (I saw a red-headed one at Whelford Pools yesterday).
I saw a few butterflies in the garden and on the allotment; numbers are still low.
Saturday 18th May
I visited Rodborough Common in Gloucestershire this morning, looking for the Duke of Burgundy. Although it was quite cloudy, there was enough sun to get His Grace moving from time to time. Other new species for this year were the Green Hairstreak and the Dingy Skipper. There wasn't much in the way of birds, a couple of Whitethroats and a Sparrowhawk being the most notable.
Afterwards I stopped at Whelford Pools on the way home which was much more productive for birds. There were half a dozen Common Terns flying around the lake with the large island in the middle of it. I saw two Oystercatchers and two Egyptian Geese on the island itself, and a couple of two Red-crested Pochard and around two dozen Tufted Ducks on the lake. Also on this lake were two pairs of Greylag Geese, one pair with four large goslings and the other with about ten small ones. On the adjacent private lake there was a pair of Mute Swans with seven cygnets. I watched one of the adults reaching up for willow leaves, which it pulled down into the water for the cygnets to eat.
There were lots of teneral damselflies here, probably a mixture of Azure, Common Blue and Blue-tailed. I found two adult males of the latter. Butterflies here were Orange Tips, Green-veined Whites and a Holly Blue.
Thursday 16th May
I had a walk in the University Parks and Marston Meadows at lunchtime today. There wasn't a great deal about, just a couple of unidentified white butterflies, a Greenfinch, a calling Green Woodpecker, and a Treecreeper. On the way home I stopped at Hinksey Lake, where there were dozens of Swallows and House Martins hawking low over the water.
Wednesday 15th May
This morning I watched two male Goldfinches squabbling over a female right outside my house, then in the evening a Sparrowhawk flew over, closely pursued by Starlings.
Sunday 12th May
I visited Aston Upthorpe Downs this morning. Butterflies were not abundant - I only saw ten individuals, of which three were Grizzled Skippers, which was my target species. Birds did a bit better, with Blackcaps, Whitethroats and a Chiffchaff all singing. There were four Red Kites and a Buzzard airborne over Juniper Valley at one point. I also saw several Rabbits, including a couple of black ones.
Thursday 9th May
There were dozens of Swallows hawking low over Hinksey Lake this afternoon.
Tuesday 7th May
I saw my first British Swifts of the year over south Oxford this morning.
Monday 6th May
Another cracking day so I did as much as possible! First stop was Farmoor, which was notable for an almost complete absence of Swifts and hirundines. One Black Tern remained of the 14 seen early in the day. It was flying with three or four Common Terns but then spent a long time sitting on a buoy. There were around thirty Great Crested Grebes, some of which were involved in territorial disputes with their neighbours. I watched one pair do their courtship dance. There wasn't much on Pinkhill, but a Barn Owl was flying around near Pinkhill Lock. I head a Cuckoo and saw a Kingfisher. There was a very confiding Dunlin on the causeway on the way back. On the butterfly front there were quite a few male Orange Tips. I also saw my first British odonata of the year in the form of half a dozen Large Red Damselflies.
My second visit was to Whitecross Green Wood, which was deserted. Almost the first thing I saw was a Fox on the main ride; I probably saw him again later. The best bird seen here was a Garden Warbler, which unusually was singing out in the open. I also saw a couple of male Blackcaps competing for a female. There were good numbers of Orange Tips and Peacocks.
My third stop was Otmoor, where I walked down the Roman road and around the car park field. I saw two more damselflies here, and plenty of Orange Tips as well. The only birds of note were four Redshank on Greenaways.
Sunday 5th May
I saw my first garden Holly Blue of the year today.
Friday 3rd May
Good weather at home today so I visited Dry Sandford Pit this morning. I saw nine species of butterfly, including my first Orange Tips and first British Holly Blue and Speckled Wood of the year. There was no sign of any damselflies though. Nothing too surprising in the way of birds, with Whitethroat, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Blackcap and Sedge Warbler all singing. I saw a pair of Reed Buntings mating.
Wednesday 1st May
The best weather of the week, although it rained to start with. We headed off to the Camargue, beginning by visiting the Petit Carmargue and the Etang de Charnier, which is a freshwater lagoon surrounded by huge areas of reed beds The problem here was that there was so much to look at it was hard to know where to start! Swifts, Swallows, House and Sand Martins were numerous. a Great Reed Warbler was found singing in the reeds. Probably the rarest birds found today were two White-winged Terns. We also had Common Terns, a Gull-billed Tern, Whiskered Terns, two Little Terns and a few Black Terns. Herons and Egrets were numerous. A Cetti's Warbler, a Nightingale and a Cuckoo were all seen. A new species for me was the Mediterranean Gull, which went about in small but vocal parties. An excellent find was two Bearded Tits. Three Glossy Ibises flew past. The oddest bird here was what looked like a Western Reef Egret, but it had white marks on its wings.
Our next stop was at the area of freshwater marsh at Mas D’Agon. While en route we saw a White Stork nesting on the top of a tower. The first thing we noticed at the marsh were lots of Wood Sandpipers, and a couple of Peregrine Falcons. There were some Greater Flamingoes in the lagoon and a couple of Bitterns were heard booming. There were also some Ruff mixed up with the sandpipers. Some butterflies were seen here, of which the most notable was a Mallow Skipper. A Scarce Blue-tailed Damselfly was also noteworthy. Marsh Frogs were making their usual racket.
We headed for the Etang de Vaccares. On the way we stopped at a heathy area and saw a Montague's Harrier, a Crested Lark and a couple of Clouded Yellows. Another hasty stop was called for when two Wild Boar were spotted in a field. The etang is a brackish lagoon which has a large population of Greater Flamingoes. These could be seen flying over the causeway in small parties. A number of Little Stints, Kentish and Ringed Plovers were also seen here.
The last stop of the day was at another wet area, where Black-winged Stilts, Ruff, Wood Sandpipers and Mediterranean Gulls were seen.
Tuesday 30th April
Today was mostly cloudy, but dry. We headed to Les Baux-de-Provence in the Alpilles, an old castle town, which was on our way to Saint Gilles. We had a walk around the walls, which produced Alpine Swift, Blue Rock Thrush and Crag Martin. Several Sardinian Warblers were singing, but were difficult to spot. A couple of flowering Lady Orchids were found.
For lunch we headed a little way down the road to a place in the forest called La Caumbe. Several butterflies were seen here (Wall Browns, Baton Blues and a Small Blue), and also a Hummingbird Hawkmoth and a female Bordered White moth. A Hobby was seen overhead.
Monday 29th April
The weather was still poor but we headed north to the Massif des Baronnies above the Eygues gorge. This is one of the vulture re-introduction sites in France. All three species (Black, Gryphon and Egyptian) were seen, with around 40 Griffon Vultures being in the air despite the weather.
We descended to the river to have lunch. The sun finally made an appearance! Some insects were tempted out, including black-and-red beetles.
We headed for the town of Vaison-la-Romaine, which as its name suggests has a Roman origin. There wasn't actually much wildlife to see here, but we found a Common Blue and an extraordinary insect called an Owlfly (Libelloides coccajus), which I'd never seen before.
On the way back to Sault on the northern side of Mount Ventoux several butterflies were seen from the vehicle. The only one which could be identified was a male Cleopatra.
Sunday 28th April
Today we drove up to the summit of Mount Ventoux (1841m). The temperature was 1°C and it was snowing, so we quickly descended to the cafe. In the pine trees here a pair of Crested Tits showed well after being lured out by a recorded call. A Mistle Thrush was heard singing. After a coffee we descended further to have lunch. Here we saw a Tree Pipit and a Nuthatch, and heard a Cuckoo.
As the weather was still poor, we headed to the village of Aurel (north of Sault) and had a walk there. A Wood Warbler was the most notable sighting. We also found Spider and Green-winged Orchids.
Saturday 27th April
The weather continued to be very unsettled, but we headed off to the Luberon Valley. Le Colarado is an area of sandstone which has been heavily exploited for sand and now looks like something from Arizona. The rain put off most birds but we did see a Tree Pipit, a Jay and a Western Bonelli's Warbler. An unexpected find was a Waved Umber moth which was roosting on a tree trunk. Interesting plants here were Sword-leaved Helleborine and Twayblade.
After lunch we attempted a walk in the Luberon Valley itself, but it was so wet that we had to abandon it and return to the hotel rather earlier than expected.
Friday 26th April
Unfortunately conditions became wet and cold today, which didn't help the wildlife at all. Nonetheless we set out for the Gorges de la Nesque and explored it as best we could. In the area around the car park we saw Serin, Western Bonelli's Warbler and Redstart. In the gorge itself two Ravens were about the only birds of note. A Baton Blue butterfly was found sitting out the weather on a stem. I found a Viperine Snake on the footpath; somehow nobody had stepped on it. While we were having lunch a Great Reed Warbler was singing in the reeds.
At the next stop a Cirl Bunting was seen. At the third stop five more Baton Blues were found, all roosting. Several small moths with enormous antennae were seen.
Orchids seen today were Lady, Spider, Early Purple and Giant. Other interesting plants were Wild Iris, Blue Lettice (Lacura perennis) and Narcissus requienii.
Thursday 25th April
Today was the first day of a trip to Provence and the Camargue with Naturetrek. The only site visited today was the Marais du Vigueirat, which is just to the east of the Camargue proper. The Marais is an extensive area of wetlands, with shallow lakes and canals.
There were lots of birds here, of which the most notable were White Stork, Purple Heron, Squacco Heron, Cattle Egret, Great Egret, Black-winged Stilt, Short-toed Eagle, Black Kite, Nightingale (several heard) and Bee-eater.
Iberian Water Frogs were making a considerable racket, even increasing their volume at one point to compete with a passing military jet. Several Common Wall Lizards and a European Pond Terrapin were also seen. The only mammals seen were a pair of Coypu, which showed well out of the water for a change.
Some butterflies were seen here: Small White, Green-veined White, Holly Blue, Wall Brown and Speckled Wood. A few odonates were also seen: a female White-tailed Skimmer, a male Black-tailed Skimmer, a Hairy Hawker, and several Blue-tailed Damselflies.
At the first hotel in the town of Sault, House Martins, Swifts and a White Wagtail were seen.
Tuesday 23rd April
I visited Dry Sandford Pit again this morning. A couple of Blackcaps, a Chiffchaff and a Sedge Warbler were singing. I saw two Jays and four Mallards. On the butterfly front I saw my first Green-veined White of the year, plus a Comma, Brimstones and Peacocks.
Monday 22nd April
I visited Otmoor this morning. Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs were showing well in the car park and along the Roman road. On Greenaways, Lapwings harried any Red Kites, Ravens or Carrion Crows which came over. There were many Sedge Warblers singing along the bridleway, but as usual they were hard to see. There was a Redshank in front of the hide, and another one on the scrape on Big Otmoor. A Grey Heron was sitting on its nest in the dead tree on Ashgrave. On the way back I saw two Lesser Whitethroats in the car park field. There weren't many butterflies about; I only recorded four Peacocks.
Sunday 21st April
I visited Churn today, the first time I'd been there. I walked along the old railway line to the north-west for about half a mile. I found a couple of butterflies nectaring on Sallow catkins, a pair of Yellowhammers, four Whitethroats and a couple of Swallows.
I moved on to Aston Upthorpe Downs. Along the bridleway leading to Juniper Valley I saw at least a dozen Peacocks, two Commas, two Small Tortoiseshells and lots of Bee-flies. In Juniper Valley itself there were hardly any butterflies, but there were half a dozen Red Kites flying quite low over the bare eastern slopes.
Saturday 20th April
I visited Farmoor this morning. When I got there, there were hundreds of Black-headed Gulls on both reservoirs. There had been a large insect hatch, so most birds were taking advantage of an easy meal. At Pinkhill there were at least six Sedge Warblers singing, and I managed to catch a glimpse of one or two of them. I head a Chiffchaff singing on the other side of the river, and a Great Spotted Woodpecker was drumming somewhere. Several Bee-flies (Bombylius major) were active. I saw two Common Terns flying along the river. In the hedgerow by the Shrike Meadow hide I saw a couple of Whitethroat. On Shrike Meadow itself I saw a pair of Gadwall. Brimstones were quite active once the temperature started rising. Back on F1 I saw a pair of Shelduck, and a pair of Common Terns (these might have been the ones I'd seen earlier). At the end of the causeway I saw four Swallows, and then seven Yellow Wagtails and one White Wagtail.
I stopped at Dry Sandford Pit on the way home. Here I saw half a dozen Brimstones, one each of Comma and Small Tortoiseshell, and at least seven Peacocks. The latter were being very territorial, chasing away any intruding males (and anything else which came into range). I saw a Muntjac deer here, which I think is my first record of this species at this site.
At home, a Red Admiral flew across the garden, and then a male Small White appeared in the front garden for a while. Later I saw a couple of Peacocks on the allotment.
Friday 19th April
I saw a male Pied Flycatcher in Oxford today (at SP508056). It was quite mobile but showed well at times. I also saw a couple of Chiffchaffs and a Whitethroat in the same place. Less welcome was a large Brown Rat which I spotted working its way along the riverbank.
Thursday 18th April
I saw some hirundines over Hinksey Lake today, but without bins I couldn't be sure what they were.
Wednesday 17th April
I saw my first Mallard ducklings of the year at Hinksey Park today.
Monday 15th April
I had a walk in the University Parks at lunchtime today. I saw four male Brimstones, one Comma, two Goldfinches and a Comma.
Sunday 14th April
The warmest day of the year so far, tempered by a strong southerly wind. I went to Otmoor first, and walked up the old Roman road looking for butterflies. I found none but did see my first Chiffchaffs and Willow Warbler of the year, and a Muntjac. Once on the bridleway I nearly stepped on a basking Grass Snake. A couple of Swallows were busy over Greenaways. From the hide I saw a Shoveler, quite a few Wigeon and Teal, and a Heron on its nest in a tree. Birds of prey seen today were four Red Kites and a Buzzard. On the way back I saw a Sand Martin over Greenaways, and then a Brown Hare which was taking its ease in the sun. Just before midday I saw my first butterfly of the day, a female Brimstone. I retraced my steps and found the Grass Snake again. On the Roman road I finally saw a male Brimstone, a Comma, and then two Peacocks.
By now there wasn't much sun, but I went to Dry Sandford Pit anyway. I saw a male Brimstone and a Peacock, heard a couple of Chiffchaffs and saw a Jay. A Marsh Marigold and lots of Primroses were in flower.
I counted twenty Rook nests in Ash trees on Honeybottom Lane (SP474002).
In the garden I found a Scarlet Tiger caterpillar on an Echium.
Saturday 13th April
A Sparrowhawk was perched on the fence at the bottom of my garden this morning before being flushed by a passer-by.
Several birds were singing on the allotment: a Skylark, two Robins and a Great Tit. A male Kestrel in breeding plumage perched in various trees near my plot.
Tuesday 9th April
There weren't many birds on Hinksey Lake this afternoon. I could only find about eight Tufted Ducks and most of the Black-headed Gulls were elsewhere. The two Lesser Black-backed Gulls from a couple of weeks ago had returned. A Greenfinch was singing in a tree.
Sunday 7th April
This morning at the allotment there were around thirty Jackdaws feeding in the adjacent field. A Skylark was singing on and off, as were a couple of Robins. I also saw a Kestrel.
At Farmoor in the afternoon there were hundreds of Black-headed Gulls on F2, a couple of Common Gulls on F1, around fifty Tufted Ducks (but no sign of the Scaup or Goldeneye), around a dozen Pied Wagtails and a Meadow Pipit. A Kingfisher was the only species of note at Pinkhill.
Saturday 6th April
After four weeks of cold weather, it finally got a bit warmer today. I saw a Red Admiral flying around in north Abingdon at around 4pm.
Friday 5th April
A male Greenfinch was on the garden feeder this morning. As before, he was only interested in sunflower seeds in their shells. Anything else was dumped over the side.
Wednesday 3rd April
Today I saw two species of note at Hinksey Lake : a Common Gull and two Sand Martins. There were also three Great Crested Grebes.
Monday 1st April
There was a Skylark singing at the allotment this afternoon.
Sunday 31st March
Bird of the day at a cold Otmoor (-2°C at 08:30; most water was frozen) was a drake Ferruginous Duck, which showed on and off at the second screen. Other birds of note were several very vocal Redshank, a Curlew (heard), a Barn Owl roosting in a willow tree north of the second screen, a Peregrine Falcon and a couple of Lesser Redpoll. A flock of five Little Egrets flew over as I was walking down to the first screen. There were two Little Grebes in breeding plumage at the second screen. Still no sign of warblers or hirundines - not very surprising given the weather conditions over the last three weeks.
Saturday 30th March
In the morning a Skylark was singing on the allotment. In the afternoon I had a quick walk (it's still very cold!) round Thrupp Lake. The over-wintering ducks seemed to have departed, leaving only Tufted Ducks and Mallards. However I'm sure that I also saw two redhead Goosanders. Although distant, they had the right behaviour and the right characteristics to be Goosanders. There were quite a few Canada Geese, most of which were in noisy disputes with their neighbours. On the way up Thrupp Lane there were two Red-legged Partridges in the adjacent field.
Friday 29th March
The cold weather is now in its third week, and Farmoor this morning was pretty short of the migrants which have normally arrived by the end of March. However I managed to see the Black Redstart which had been around for a couple of weeks, two Wheatears (one had a very distinctive pink-buff chest suggesting it could be a Greenland bird), two Grey Wagtails and a Redshank. Rock and Meadow Pipits were active along the shoreline.
Pinkhill was mostly frozen. Of note here were two pairs of Gadwall. On the river itself I saw two pairs of Wigeon. Near the small copse up the slope from Shrike Meadow I saw a Song Thrush, several Redwings and four Meadow Pipits. Finally, a Grey Heron flew low over F2, heading east.
Thursday 28th March
A Moorhen was sitting on a nest on one of the vegetation cages on Hinksey Lake this morning. Two Greylag geese and two Canada geese were engaged in a very noisy territorial dispute on the lake. There was also a Song Thrush in Hinksey Park.
Wednesday 27th March
Today was the first chance I'd had to have a look at Hinksey Lake for nearly two weeks. Species were much the same as on March 14th, but there were no Great Crested Grebes or Cormorants today.
Sunday 24th March
I visited the allotment in freezing conditions this afternoon. There were lots of Black-headed Gulls and Wood Pigeons on the flooded field. I also saw a Buzzard, at least three Meadow Pipits and two Pied Wagtails.
Saturday 16th March
There were three Greenfinches in a tree near the garden this morning. Later, one male was singing. The number of House Sparrows in the garden has increased to at least eighteen.
Friday 15th March
There were four Blue Tits (presumably two pairs) in the garden this morning. I can't recall seeing that many in the garden at one time before.
Thursday 14th March
A pair of Greenfinches were on the feeder this morning. They were only interested in sunflower seeds - everything else was thrown over the side. Hinksey Lake was fairly quiet: the Pochard were still there (about six of them), but there were fewer Tufted Ducks and Canada Geese than last week. In the evening I saw a Great Crested Grebe and two Lesser Black-backed Gulls there. The University Parks were also quiet at lunchtime, with Long-tailed Tits, Goldfinches and Redwings the only species of note.
Sunday 10th March
A very cold day with a strong NE wind, but I went to Farmoor in the morning anyway. Of note were more Goldeneye than I've seen for a while (about two dozen birds), two pairs of Scaup, a male Kestrel in breeding plumage, two Rock Pipits, a juvenile Herring Gull, and most surprisingly, half a dozen hardy Sand Martins which were hawking for insects on the new pond to the south of Shrike Meadow.
Saturday 9th March
There was nothing unusual seen in the garden today. In Bagley Wood I saw two Great Spotted Woodpeckers, two Goldcrests, and a small flock of Siskin (and possibly Lesser Redpoll as well). I also saw two Muntjac deer. There were few signs of spring. Apart from Hazel catkins which have been out for a while, Gorse was the only other plant in flower.
Wednesday 6th March
Seen at Hinksey Lake today were about twenty Tufted Duck, four Pochard, eight Canada Geese, one Greylag Goose, one Great Crested Grebe and two Lesser Black-backed Gulls. The Canada Geese were getting rather territorial at one point.
Tuesday 5th March
The sunny weather today tempted a Brimstone butterfly out of hibernation in north Abingdon. I also saw a White-tailed Bumblebee.
Sunday 3rd March
I saw a Kestrel and a Skylark on the allotment this morning, and also heard a Song Thrush. I visited Cothill Fen in the afternoon. There were few signs of spring to be seen, but at least bluebell leaves were staring to emerge. I saw 35+ Redwings, two Blue Tits, a Goldcrest, a Red Kite and a Grey Squirrel. I also had a look at Parsonage Moor, but there was nothing about.
Saturday 2nd March
Nothing out of the ordinary was seen in the garden today, with the exception of a Wren which made a late appearance. House Sparrow numbers have dropped to around a dozen.
Friday 1st March
Seen on Hinksey Lake this morning were four Pochard, about fifteen Tufted Ducks, and a Great Crested Grebe. A Greenfinch was singing in a nearby tree.
Wednesday 27th February
I saw a single Redwing in the small park in New Hinksey this morning. That was the first one I'd seen for a while. There were around sixteen Canada Geese, a pair of Mute Swans, a few Tufted Ducks and a lot of Black-headed Gulls on Hinksey Lake.
Sunday 24th February
Today I saw some House Sparrows trying to have dust baths on bare soil in the garden. As it was pretty well frozen I don't think they were very successful.
Saturday 23rd February
Another very cold day with snow showers. Last weekend's relative warmth is a distant memory. I saw a Goldcrest in the garden - that's the second one this winter. At least twenty House Sparrows are visiting the garden at the moment - they are getting through food at an alarming rate. Other species seen in the garden today were Blackbird, Robin, Wood Pigeon and Collard Dove. A Red Kite flew over.
Wednesday 20th February
There were two Lesser Black-backed Gulls on Hinksey Lake this morning, along with a Great Crested Grebe and the usual Tufted Ducks and Coots.
Monday 18th February
I had a walk round the University Parks at lunchtime. There was very little about. I heard a Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming, but I couldn't find it.
Sunday 17th February
First off I saw a couple of Goldfinches in the ash tree at the front of the house.
I then headed down to Otmoor. It was a pleasant day once the fog had burned off. I saw three Red-legged Partridges in Beckley village. On Otmoor the bird feeders were well-patronised by Chaffinches, Greenfinches, Blue & Great Tits and Reed Buntings. I spent some time in this area trying to find Lesser Redpolls, and finally saw three of them feeding on ground by the cattle pens. On Greenaways and Big Otmoor, flocks of Lapwing and Golden Plover kept being flushed, but it wasn't clear what was responsible. The only birds of prey I saw were two Red Kites, two Kestrels and one Buzzard. There were probably 200 Wigeon on Saunders Field (which has been under water for three months). Not much was visible from the hide, and there wasn't much at the first screen either.
On the way home I made a detour to Dry Sandford Pit in the offchance that a butterfly might put in an appearance, but none did. Somebody told me there were Waxwings just down the road from the pit, but they must have moved on because I couldn't find them.
When I got home a hoverfly and a queen White-tailed Bumblebee (Bombus lucorum) were feeding on Hebe flowers.
Saturday 16th February
There wasn't much about at the allotment this afternoon, just a couple of Robins singing and a large flock of Black-headed Gulls in the adjacent field.
Later I saw a good number of waterfowl on Thrupp Lake, including three pairs of Pintail. Also a Grey Heron, a Little Grebe and a Song Thrush. There wasn't much on Bullfield Lake, just two Gadwall and two Coot. The whole area is still very wet. We desperately need a long period of dry weather.
Tuesday 12th February
Quite a lot of birds on Hinksey Lake this morning, but most were Tufted Ducks. Also present were a Great Crested Grebe, about seven Pochard, a couple of Canada Geese and lots of Coot.
Thursday 7th February
A solitary Long-tailed Tit was in the garden this morning. It spent several minutes going up and down dogwood stems looking for insects. Also there were two Robins and two Dunnocks, so pairing up has clearly begun.
Sunday 3rd February
Despite it being a cold, grey February day a Skylark was singing loudly at the allotment this morning. Two Red Kites were overhead. At Eynsham I saw a couple of Jackdaws in my parents' garden. The Jackdaws have worked out how to get peanuts out of the feeder.
Saturday 2nd February
I made my first visit of 2013 to Otmoor this morning. It was cold with a brisk NW wind, but sunny. The feeders were well-patronised by Chaffinches, Greenfinches, Reed Buntings, Blue and Great Tits, and a Great Spotted Woodpecker. Four Little Egrets were on Ashgrave and the Closes. I saw a Goldcrest in the brambles where the path turns towards the second screen. Then I managed to spot a trio of White-fronted Geese on Ashgrave, but they were distant. While walking back along the public footpath to the south of the Closes, I flushed a lot of Fieldfares and Redwings from the bushes, and also saw a male Bullfinch.
Sunday 27th January
I visited a very windy Farmoor Reservoir this morning. The most notable event was a fly-over of the Snow Geese that have been around recently. There must have been about fifty of them. The other item of note was the mixed flock of Blackbirds, Blue Tits, Great Tits, Chaffinches, Greenfinches, Yellowhammers, Reed Buntings and a female Brambling feeding along the hedge to the north of the Pinkhill hide. In the same hedge to the south of the hide I saw a pair of Bullfinches. The long-staying Scaup were still among the Tufted Ducks on F1.
On the way home I stopped at Lashford Lane Fen, which I have never visited before even though it is just up the road from Dry Sandford Pit. I didn't see much here, just a couple of Jays, a Grey Squirrel and a Short-tailed Field Vole (which I found under a piece of corrugated iron). But it looks promising for dragonflies later in the year.
Finally I saw a Kestrel at the allotment.
Saturday 26th January
I visited Cholsey Marsh for the first time this afternoon. It was a bit slow to get going, but eventually the Great Grey Shrike turned up, but it didn't stay around for very long. A Water Rail was squealing in the marsh. At dusk at least three Great Spotted Woodpeckers and a Green Woodpecker were seen. A single Snipe flew overhead. There wasn't much of a Corn Bunting roost, but several small groups flew around for a while before settling in the reeds. Half a dozen Yellowhammers were spotted in a hedge on the west side of the marsh. A Sparrowhawk shot across the marsh and tried to grab something out of the hedge, but it missed. Finally, a Barn Owl popped over the hedge and worked along it. It didn't appear to catch anything. This is clearly an excellent site and I'll be back. I saw seven new bird species today, taking my year count to 59.
Thursday 24th January
I took some stale bread for the ducks at Hinksey Lake this morning, but as soon as I started to tear it up I was surrounded by dozens of pretty hungry Black-headed Gulls. In another part of the park I found some Mallards, and these were just as eager, with one taking bits of bread from my hand.
Tuesday 22nd January
I spotted a Fieldfare preening itself in the Ash tree this morning, and I also saw a Coal Tit in the back garden. Later another Fieldfare (or maybe it was the same one) perched in the same tree, and the light was better for photography this time.
Sunday 20th January
I saw a male Blackcap in the garden this morning. It ate an ivy berry rather than coming to a feeder. A garden 'first' was a Goldcrest, which was poking about in a bush in the front garden. A group of Long-tailed Tits came into the garden and descended on the fat balls. I kept the pond ice-free by covering it with fleece. When I lifted the fleece the Frog was still there with its nose just out of the water. A Red Kite flew over. I had a walk around the local area (in the snow) and saw a Fieldfare, two Redwings, two Greenfinches and a Pied Wagtail. I also saw a female Chaffinch and a female Reed Bunting in the Ash tree at the front of the house.
Saturday 19th January
I saw a Buzzard this morning, high over Abingdon. The Pied Wagtail put in another appearance in the garden.
Friday 18th January
Despite the snow the only unusual bird in the garden today was a Pied Wagtail. At one point there were around twenty House Sparrows feeding on the ground. A second Robin appeared a couple of times, and was firmly dealt with by the resident bird.
Thursday 17th January
There were a couple of Redwings amongst the Blackbirds in Hinksey Park this morning.
Sunday 13th January
I visited Farmoor Reservoir this morning. There were many more waterfowl than normal, probably because of the cold conditions on the continent. This was noticeable with Mallards especially. The resident birds are usually fairly tolerant of people, but those there today were very skittish. There were large numbers of Tufted Duck, Coot, Greylag Geese and Canada Geese. about a dozen Goldeneye (two males and ten females), a couple of Little Grebes, a flock of about fifteen Lapwings which flew over, two Redshank and four Scaup. At Pinkhill I saw Bullfinches, Chaffinches, Greenfinches, a Yellowhammer, two more Little Grebes and a Snipe. My year count is now at 48 species.
At 10.15pm there was a Frog in the garden pond, completely submerged except for its nose. The air temperature at the time was 1°C!
Saturday 12th January
There were lots of Rooks at Millets Farm centre this morning. On the way home I saw some Pheasants in a field near Shippon, and Fieldfares, Redwings and a Red Kite at the allotment.
Wednesday 9th January
The Coots on Hinksey Lake were being very aggressive towards one another this morning - a sure sign that spring is on its way. The bird numbers on the lake have increased again since the flooding last week.
Saturday 5th January
I went down to Thrupp Lake today looking for the Smew which was there yesterday, but without success. There were lots of waterfowl on the lake, but nothing out of the ordinary. In the field adjacent to Thrupp Lane I saw three Red-legged Partridges, which was rather unexpected. My bird species count for this year is now at 32 (but the Oxon count is at 114 already!).
Tuesday 1st January
A decent start to the year with ten species of bird recorded in or over the garden this morning. I had a walk in Bagley Wood which was pretty quiet, with only a few small passerines about (Blue and Great Tits). However I did see three Jays, a Song Thrush, two Red Kites and a couple of Carrion Crows. I also found a hazel bush with catkins.
Robin | Radley Lakes | 29 Dec
Kestrel | Otmoor | 27 Dec
Fieldfare | Otmoor | 27 Dec
Great Tit | Abingdon | 26 Dec
Redwing | Abingdon | 26 Dec
Starling | Farmoor | 07 Dec
Common Sandpiper | Farmoor | 07 Dec
Great Spotted Woodpecker | Otmoor | 30 Nov
Marsh Tit | Otmoor | 30 Nov
Song Thrush | Dry Sandford Pit | 23 Nov
Jay | Dry Sandford Pit | 23 Nov
Stonechat | Otmoor | 03 Nov
Red-necked Grebe | Farmoor | 02 Nov
Slavonian Grebe | Farmoor | 02 Nov
Shelduck | Slimbridge | 29 Oct
Lapwing | Slimbridge | 29 Oct
Teal | Slimbridge | 29 Oct
Red Admiral | Abingdon | 22 Oct
Fly Agaric | Bagley Wood | 20 Oct
Panthercap | Bagley Wood | 20 Oct
Yellow Stagshorn | Bagley Wood | 20 Oct
Southern Hawker | Radley Lakes | 12 Oct
Juv. Wheatear | Farmoor | 05 Oct
Juv. Little Stint | Farmoor | 05 Oct
Hornet | Chimney Meadow | 29 Sep
Small Copper aberration | Chimney Meadow| 29 Sep
Little Egret | Otmoor | 22 Sep
Roesel's Bush-cricket | Otmoor | 22 Sep
Four-spotted Chaser | Otmoor | 22 Sep
Juv. Ringed Plover | Farmoor | 14 Sep
Juv. Sanderling | Farmoor | 08 Sep
Juv. Goldfinch | Abingdon | 05 Sep
Clouded Yellow | Aston Rowant | 31 Aug
Comma | Otmoor | 26 Aug
Brown Hairstreak | Otmoor | 26 Aug
Migrant Hawker | Otmoor | 26 Aug
Large White | Otmoor | 26 Aug
Adonis Blue | Lardon Chase | 18 Aug
Orange Swift | Abingdon | 11 Aug
Brown Hairstreak | Otmoor | 10 Aug
Ruddy Darter | Whitecross Green Wood | 10 Aug
Grayling | Greenham Common | 04 Aug
Five-spot Burnet | Greenham Common | 04 Apr
White Admiral | Whitecross Green Wood | 28 Jul
Purple Hairstreak | Whitecross Green Wood | 28 Jul
Silver-spotted Skipper | Aston Rowant | 28 Jul
Silver Y | Abingdon | 27 Jul
Brown Argus| Abingdon | 27 Jul
Silver-washed Fritillary | Homefield Wood | 24 Jul
Holly Blue | Abingdon | 22 Jul
Chalkhill Blue | Aston Upthorpe Downs | 21 Jul
Meadow Brown | Aston Upthorpe Downs | 21 Jul
Gatekeeper | Abingdon | 20 Jul
Giant Cranefly | Abingdon | 20 Jul
Crab Spider | Abingdon | 20 Jul
Small Skipper | Dry Sandford Pit | 14 Jul
Purple Emperor | Bernwood Forest | 13 Jul
Broad-bodied Chaser | Bernwood Forest | 13 Jul
Brown Hare | Otmoor | 13 Jul
Large Blue | Daneway Banks | 08 Jul
Dark Green Fritillary | Daneway Banks | 08 Jul
Peacock larva | Abingdon | 07 Jul
Comma f. hutchinsoni | Aston Rowant | 07 Jul
Slow-worm | Paice's Wood | 06 Jul
Black Hairstreak | Bernwood Forest | 30 Jun
Marbled White | Dry Sandford Pit | 29 Jun
Large Skipper | Narborough | 27 Jun
Norfolk Hawker | Hickling Broad | 26 Jun
Egyptian Goose | Hickling Broad | 26 Jun
Hairy Hawker | Hickling Broad | 25 Jun
Swallowtail | Catfield Fen | 25 Jun
Ringed Plover | Salthouse | 24 Jun
Avocet | Titchwell Marsh | 24 Jun
Shelduck | Titchwell Marsh | 24 Jun
Four-spotted Chaser | Otmoor | 22 Jun
Blood-vein | Otmoor | 22 Jun
Red-eyed Damselfly | Otmoor | 22 Jun
Scorpion Fly | Otmoor | 22 Jun
Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary | Bentley Wood | 09 Jun
Adonis Blue | Cotley Hill | 09 Jun
Marsh Fritillary | Cotley Hill | 09 Jun
Painted Lady | Dry Sandford Pit | 08 Jun
Southern Damselfly | Dry Sandford Pit | 08 Jun
Common Blue | Lardon Chase | 02 Jun
Wood Tiger | Hackpen Hill | 01 Jun
Small Blue | Hackpen Hill | 01 Jun
Small Heath | Pewsey Down | 01 Jun
Small Copper | Stockbridge Down | 26 May
Large Red Damselfly | Bentley Wood | 26 May
Pearl-bordered Fritillary | Bentley Wood | 26 May
Green-veined White | Otmoor | 25 May
Sedge Warbler | Otmoor | 25 May
Blue-tailed Damselfly | Whelford Pools | 18 May
Green Hairstreak | Rodborough Common | 18 May
Duke of Burgundy | Rodborough Common | 18 May
Grizzled Skipper | Aston Upthorpe | 12 May
Orange Tip | Otmoor | 03 May
Garden Warbler | Whitecross Green Wood | 06 May
Fox | Whitecross Green Wood | 06 May
Dunlin | Farmoor | 06 May
Barn Owl | Pinkhill | 06 May
Brimstone | Dry Sandford Pit | 03 May
Speckled Wood | Dry Sandford Pit | 03 May
Mediterranean Gull | Camargue | 01 May
Greater Flamingo | Camargue | 01 May
Mallow Skipper | Camargue | 01 May
Whiskered Tern | Camargue | 01 May
Wall Brown | La Caumbe | 30 Apr
Owlfly | Vaison-la-Romaine | 29 Apr
Griffon Vulture | Massif des Baronnies | 29 Apr
Baton Blue | Gorges de la Nesque | 26 Apr
Coypu | Marais du Viguierat | 25 Apr
Lesser Whitethroat | Otmoor | 22 Apr
Red Kite | Aston Upthorpe | 21 Apr
Small Tortoiseshell | Dry Sandford Pit | 20 Apr
Yellow Wagtail | Farmoor | 20 Apr
Tufted Duck | Farmoor | 20 Apr
Pied Flycatcher | Oxford | 19 Apr
Peacock | Otmoor | 14 Apr
Comma | Otmoor | 14 Apr
Grass Snake | Otmoor | 14 Apr
Brown Hare | Otmoor | 14 Apr
Chiffchaff | Otmoor | 14 Apr
Ferruginous Duck | Otmoor | 31 Mar
Wheatear | Farmoor | 29 Mar
Meadow Pipit | Farmoor | 29 Mar
Redshank | Farmoor | 29 Mar
Wigeon | Farmoor | 29 Mar
Gadwall | Farmoor | 29 Mar
Song Thrush | Hinksey Park | 28 Mar
Kestrel | Farmoor | 10 Mar
Scaup | Farmoor | 10 Mar
White-tailed Bumblebee | Abingdon | 17 Feb
Kestrel | Otmoor | 17 Feb
Reed Bunting | Otmoor | 17 Feb
Robin | Abingdon | 16 Feb
Great Spotted Woodpecker | Otmoor | 02 Feb
Bullfinch | Farmoor | 27 Jan
Great Grey Shrike | Cholsey Marsh | 26 Jan
Fieldfare | Abingdon | 22 Jan
Long-tailed Tit | Abingdon | 20 Jan
Blackcap | Abingdon | 20 Jan
Pochard | Farmoor | 13 Jan
Goldeneye | Farmoor | 13 Jan