Natural History Diary : 2017
Saturday 30th December
Another trip to a very windy Farmoor this morning, to see a female Scaup, which was off the west bank of F2 in company with a large flock of Tufted Ducks. The Aythya hybrid was there as well. The three Goldeneye were still present, and I counted about fifteen Goldfinches in the Pinkhill hedgerow. The Scaup was the 151st species I'd seen in the UK in 2017.
Great Crested Grebe | Farmoor Scaup ♀ | Farmoor  
Tuesday 27th December
I went to Farmoor this morning. Walking across the causeway revealed the usual residents: Tufted Ducks, Coot, Little Grebes, Great Crested Grebes and Cormorants. In addition there were three Goldeneye (one male and two females) which were diving quite close to the shore. On the west bank of F1 there was a Song Thrush, a dozen or so Redwings and a couple of Fieldfares feeding on the grass. The feeders at Pinkhill were well patronised by Blue and Great Tits, Chaffinches and Reed Buntings. Eventually a Water Rail crept out of the reeds, ate a few spilt seeds, and disappeared again. A Moorhen then did the same. On the way back to the car park I saw a Cormorant with a white thigh patch, which is only present early in the breeding season.
Later at my parents' house in Eynsham a Pied Wagtail, two Collared Doves and three Jackdaws turned up on the bird table.
Song Thrush | Farmoor Fieldfare | Farmoor Redwing | Farmoor
Goldfinch | Farmoor Reed Bunting | Farmoor Water Rail | Farmoor
Saturday 23rd December
Today I saw a Buzzard and a Wren at the allotment, and no fewer than eleven Magpies on the adjacent field. In the afternoon I went down to Lower Radley (my first visit there for nearly two years!) and walked along the footpath to Sandford Lock. There were several Fieldfares in and around the horse paddock. Along the footpath there were several Linnets, Reed Buntings, Chaffinches, Blue Tits and one Yellowhammer. I almost trod on a young Rabbit, which was inexplicably out of the warren on its own.
Friday 22nd December
This morning I spotted a Green Woodpecker in north Abingdon. I also saw a Pied Wagtail and four Redwings near the shopping centre.
Monday 18th December
I visited Thrupp Lake this morning. There wasn't a lot down Thrupp Lane: one Mistle Thrush and two Song Thrushes was about it. Thrupp Lake was mostly frozen. Gadwall were numerous; I counted at least forty. Other ducks seen were Teal, Mallard and Tufted Duck. Lots of Black-headed Gulls were asleep on the ice. There were two Common Gulls and two Herring Gulls as well. In the woodland along the lake's northern shore I saw at least eight Long-tailed Tits and a Goldcrest. From the western side of the lake I saw a Little Egret and a pair of Egyptian Geese. Coming back up the Sustrans route I saw a Grey Heron, another Goldcrest and a Green Woodpecker.
Gadwall ♂ | Thrupp Lake Little Egret | Thrupp Lake Robin | Thrupp Lake
Sunday 17th December
A Grey Heron landed on the ridge of a nearby house this morning. It gingerly climbed halfway down the roof, looked around for several minutes, and then flew off to the east.
Grey Heron | Abingdon    
Saturday 16th December
I had a trip out to Standlake Common this morning. The snow last weekend had knocked down quite a lot of vegetation along Shifford Lane; somebody had been busy clearing it. At the Standlake end of the lane I saw two Coal Tits. There wasn't a lot to see as I walked down the lane: a few Long-tailed Tits and a Song Thrush were noteworthy. The lakes were mostly frozen. Most of the activity was on Pit 38, where there were lots of geese, Mute Swans, Wigeon and a Great White Egret. Pit 28 only had a pair of Red-crested Pochard and a couple of Tufted Ducks. Pit 60 had Mallard and Teal in addition to swans and geese. On the way back I saw two more Song Thrushes, two Goldcrests, two Treecreepers, a female Bullfinch and a Jay. There were hardly any Redwings about, and no Fieldfares at all. I saw a few mammals: a Muntjac, two Grey Squirrels and several Rabbits.
Red-crested Pochard ♂ | Standlake Red-crested Pochard ♀ | Standlake Goldcrest | Standlake
Thursday 14th December
On a brief visit to the allotment this afternoon I saw a Buzzard, a Kestrel, at least three Robins, three Meadow Pipits and a Wren.
Monday 11th December
There were six Long-tailed Tits in the garden this morning.
Sunday 10th December
Heavy snow this morning. I saw half-a-dozen Goldfinches poking about in the ash tree at the front of the house. The birds coming to the feeders were the same as usual, although I did spot a Goldcrest again. I managed to get a photo of a female House Sparrow with a lot of white in her wings.
House Sparrow | Abingdon    
Monday 4th December
I went down to Otmoor this afternoon. A very obliging Kestrel was perched on the wires at the edge of the car park field; he didn't mind being photographed. There were the usual tits and finches on the feeders, but there was virtually nothing to see along the bridleway. A solitary Fieldfare was in a hawthorn bush. At the hide there was a large flock of small birds feeding on seed: mostly Chaffinches and Linnets, with fewer Reed Buntings, Goldfinches and tits, and just two male Yellowhammers. There were at least three hundred Canada Geese on Ashgrave, but I could only find four Greylags. At the first screen there wasn't much exposed mud, but there were four Snipe and about a dozen Lapwing on what was available. The usual waterfowl were present. I walked round to the watch point half-way to the second screen, and saw two Marsh Harriers along the hedge line to the north. At about 15:40 the first groups of Starlings began to arrive, and this continued for about half an hour. There was no big murmuration; the arrivals just went down into the reeds. I didn't see any raptors having a go at them. The two volunteer wardens estimated that at least 75000 birds had arrived.
Kestrel | Otmoor Linnet | Otmoor Yellowhammer | Otmoor
Sunday 3rd December
I saw a Goldcrest in the garden this morning.
Saturday 2nd December
Not a lot about today - a Coal Tit in the garden was the only bird of interest.
Thursday 30th November
A very cold day. I went over to Barnard Gate again and spent 90 minutes in the area near the gatehouse. There wasn't a great deal about at first. I walked along the cycle route and saw several Redwing and a Great Spotted Woodpecker, and then two Hawfinches flew over, heading SW. A Fieldfare was feeding in the crab apple tree by the gatehouse, and I spotted a Treecreeper climbing up the gate stonework. I found two more Hawfinches in the trees, but they wouldn't come into camera range. A female Goldcrest popped up right in front of me, but as usual was hard to photograph because it wouldn't stay still.
I had another sighting of the north Abingdon Sparrowhawk in the late afternoon.
Fieldfare | Barnard Gate Goldcrest | Barnard Gate Sparrowhawk | Abingdon
Wednesday 29th November
I saw a Buzzard at the allotment this afternoon.
Monday 27th November
At dusk a male Sparrowhawk flew up and perched for several minutes on the roof of the house opposite mine.
Sunday 26th November
Sunny and cold again. I went to the Hitchcopse Pit BBOWT reserve with the Abingdon Naturalists' Society in the morning. Our guide was Peter Creed, who was very knowledgeable about Bryophytes, but there's only so much moss one can look at. So I looked for birds instead, and saw thirteen species in two hours. There was nothing of note until we were about to leave, when an immature Common Gull flew over, heading north. On the way back to the cars a Treecreeper was spotted. This reserve will definitely be worth coming back to in the spring.
Saturday 25th November
Sunny and cold again, but windier than yesterday. The only notable sightings were of a Kestrel at the allotment and two Jackdaws on the roof of the house.
Friday 24th November
A sunny but quite cold day. However, this didn't put the Red Admirals off - there were two on the Hebe around midday (I'd seen both of them before).
Red Admiral | Abingdon    
Thursday 23rd November
Had a trip over to Barnard Gate this morning, where I finally managed to see my first UK Hawfinches. The tree line they were in was about 200m from the road, so viewing through a scope was essential. The best views came when the flock was flushed, revealing about twenty-five individuals.
I stopped at a very windy Farmoor on the way home. Along the Pinkhill hedgerow I saw about ten Redwings and a Kestrel. I walked all round F2 but I couldn't find the Aythya hybrid. There were still lots of Tufted Ducks, and nine Little Grebes.
Redwing | Farmoor Little Grebe | Farmoor  
Wednesday 22nd November
Another dull but mild day. Again there was a Red Admiral on the Hebe around mid-day (not the same one as yesterday; I'd seen both of them last Sunday).
Tuesday 21st November
A dull but mild day. I saw a Red Kite, a Kestrel a Long-tailed Tit and a flock of about thirty Goldfinches at the allotment. When I got home a Red Admiral was nectaring on the Hebe again, even though there was no sunshine. It didn't stay around for long, though.
Sunday 19th November
The two reservoirs at Farmoor were like millponds this morning, which was bad news for the yachtsmen. However, conditions were good for photographing birds. On the way across the causeway I saw a Grey Wagtail and two groups of three Goldeneye. The latter were diving close to the shore and were more tolerant than usual. On the west side of F2 a duck which was assumed to be a drake Lesser Scaup was associating with a flock of Tufted Ducks, and was diving quite close to the shore. (Subsequently it was concluded that this bird wasn't a Lesser Scaup, but a hybrid, probably between Lesser Scaup and Greater Scaup - see here for the thinking behind this.) There wasn't too much else of interest, except for a solitary Redshank.
When I got home at about mid-day, a Red Admiral was feeding on Hebe flowers again, and two more turned up during the early afternoon. The air temperature was only about 8°C, but there must have been enough warmth in the sun to get them going.
Goldeneye ♂ | Farmoor Aythya hybrid ♂ | Farmoor Tufted Duck ♂ | Farmoor
Saturday 18th November
Not a lot about on a cold, wet day. I saw a Wren in the garden before the rain started.
Friday 17th November
As Hawfinches had been reported from the Oxford University Parks yesterday, I went to look for them this morning. There was no sign of them (naturally), but I did see my first UK Nuthatch of the year, half-a-dozen Long-tailed Tits and a Jay. I saw a butterfly too, but it was too far away for a positive identification.
Thursday 16th November
I went to Otmoor this morning. It was about 11°C when I got there at 10am, and it warmed up a bit when the sun came out. The first bird I saw was a Goldcrest in the car park. Walking through the car park field flushed a few Redwings but there was no sign of the large flocks which were there last year. There wasn't a great deal on the feeders either. On the way down the bridleway I spotted a Raven on the northern side of Greenaways. On the path to the first screen I saw a male Bullfinch in the hedgerow, and a Snipe flew overhead. At the first screen there were some Lapwings and Snipe on the exposed mud. Ducks present were mostly Mallard, Teal and Shoveler. There were at least three Wrens and a female Bullfinch on the way to the second screen, but nothing of note on the lagoon itself.
Bullfinch | Otmoor Linnet | Otmoor Chaffinch | Otmoor
On the way back a couple of late Common Darters were active, but there were no butterflies about. Several small flocks of Lapwings and Golden Plover were overhead. At the hide there was a small mixed flock (mostly Linnets) feeding on seeds on the path. Raptors seen today were at least four Kestrels, a Buzzard and three Red Kites.
Shoveler | Otmoor Reed Bunting | Otmoor Blue Tit | Otmoor
Monday 13th November
This morning I returned to Highmoor. It was cold and mostly cloudy. I walked round Lower Highmoor, which is an area of mixed woodland and parkland. It took a while to find anything other than common species, but eventually two Marsh Tits showed up. There were lots of Redwings flying in and out of a Yew tree, and a Song Thrush and Blackbirds were also feeding on yew berries. I found another Red Admiral on the same tree as last week, and also a male Bullfinch in the same area.
Redwing | Lower Highmoor Song Thrush | Lower Highmoor Red Admiral | Lower Highmoor
Sunday 12th November
As I was leaving the house at 11:30 this morning there was a Red Admiral basking on the Hebe. It didn't hang around for long though - the air temperature was only about 6°C. I saw a Buzzard and a Red Kite at the allotment.
Friday 10th November
This morning I saw a Buzzard and a Kestrel at the allotment. When I returned home there were four Red Admirals on the Hebe, as well as a number of hoverflies and bees. Later in the afternoon a male Sparrowhawk flew up and perched on the roof of a neighbouring house.
Sparrowhawk | Abingdon    
Wednesday 8th November
Another sunny but cold morning. I saw four Long-tailed Tits, a Wren and a Red Kite at the allotment. When I got back home there were two Red Admirals feeding on Hebe flowers in the front garden.
Red Admiral | Abingdon    
Monday 6th November
I visited a new site today, Highmoor in the Chilterns. Despite the cold night last night I found three Red Admirals basking on the same tree. A trio of Red Kites were flying low over the adjacent field and garden. I walked through Highmoor Common Wood, where I saw a Jay, and then along the bridleway called Deadman's Lane. In a field to the north of this there were about fifteen Red Kites, either flying low over the ground or landing on it. I cut through Nott Wood, where I came upon a mixed tit flock, which contained two Marsh Tits. I found another basking Red Admiral, and there was also a Comma in the same tree. I saw a Buzzard being mobbed by crows. Although I didn't see many species it was a useful reconnaissance mission.
Red Kite | Highmoor Marsh Tit | Highmoor Comma | Highmoor
Sunday 5th November
A cold but sunny morning. I went over to Farmoor, but there was no sign of yesterday's Water Pipit. In fact there wasn't much about at all, apart from the usual residents. The only birds of note were two Bullfinches in the hedgerow at Pinkhill, a Grey Heron from the Pinkhill hide, and two Grey Wagtails on the north bank of F1. I relocated to Rushy Common, but there wasn't a lot there either. Notables were a dozen of so Gadwall, four Pochard and two Little Grebes. As I left the hide I spotted a Goldcrest in the hedge. The only birds on the Tar Lakes were four Mute Swans and about a dozen Tufted Ducks. I also saw a couple of Red Kites and a Kestrel.
Grey Wagtail | Farmoor Grey Heron | Rushy Common  
Wednesday 1st November
As it was fairly sunny this morning I went over to Pit 60 at Standlake. There were quite a few Redwings in the hawthorn bushes down Shifford Lane. When I opened the hide windows there was a Green Sandpiper feeding on the shore. It flew off to the south, but later came back and gave good views on the island. Otherwise, the usual ducks were present (but no Pintail), there were about forty Lesser Black-backed Gulls, and a Kestrel was having a bath in the shallows. I spotted a Red Admiral flying out over the water. A large number of noisy Greylag Geese erupted from the fields near the river and landed on the western end of the lake. An unexpected sighting was of two Roe Deer on the north bank. On the way back to the car I saw a Great Spotted Woodpecker, some Long-tailed Tits and Bullfinches, and a Sparrowhawk.
Green Sandpiper | Standlake Roe Deer | Standlake  
Tuesday 31st October
Much cloudier this morning, but milder than yesterday. The Coal Tit made another appearance in the garden; I had the camera ready this time. In the afternoon I visited Farmoor, where there was some weak sunshine. At the eastern end of the causeway a Little Grebe was diving close to the shore, and a female Common Scoter was also diving, reasonable close to the bank this time. There were three Dunlin near the causeway hide, looking very smart in their winter plumage. Then the feral Snow Goose flock appeared from the north, making a lot of noise. They circled round and landed on F2. The west bank gave the best views, but the birds stayed offshore. A head count (later, from photos) revealed 88 birds, of which nine were of the blue morph. There was a Shelduck with them. They were reluctant to come closer with me standing there, but after I'd got out of the way they did come onto the shore. After about fifteen minutes somebody flushed them, and they headed back north.
Coal Tit | Abingdon Little Grebe | Farmoor Common Scoter ♀ | Farmoor
Dunlin | Farmoor Snow Goose | Farmoor Snow Goose (blue morph) | Farmoor
Monday 30th October
A sunny but cold morning. First up was a Coal Tit, which made a couple of visits to the garden feeders. I went over to Otmoor. The lack of any significant rain in October meant that the moor was drier than usual. There were some Redwings and Fieldfares in the car park field, which as usual were very flighty. I also saw a Bullfinch here. At the feeders there were the usual tits and finches, as well as two Great Spotted Woodpeckers. Up on Greenaways there was a flock of about a hundred Greylag Geese. Then I noticed a small bird on the cattle pens, which turned out to be a very late Whinchat - it shoud have been on its way to Africa last month. As I was walking along the bridleway I saw a Marsh Tit. On the way down to the first screen I heard a Water Rail. There was a shortage of wildfowl on the lagoon, apart from Shoveler and Teal; just half a dozen Wigeon. I could only find two Snipe on the exposed mud.
On the way back I saw the first of about ten Common Darters, and there was a Red Admiral sunning itself. As I went back down the bridleway I saw a small flock of about thirty Lapwings (a very low number for Otmoor, probably because it's so dry), and heard a Cetti's Warbler. I walked up the old Roman road from the southern end, but there were no butterflies or dragonflies to be found.
Greenfinch | Otmoor Great Spotted Woodpecker | Otmoor Whinchat | Otmoor
Sunday 29th October
This morning there was a small mixed flock of Long-tailed, Blue and Great Tits in the garden. In the afternoon I found two Red Admirals nectaring on Hebe flowers in the front garden (sheltered from the wind, and in full sun).
Red Admiral | Abingdon    
Friday 27th October
A Red Admiral was flying around near my house in the sunshine today. Four Long-tailed Tits flew over the garden.
Thursday 26th October
This morning it was cloudy with light drizzle, and only about 11°C. I was very surprised to see a Red Admiral flying around in the garden, not just once but at least three times. A small mixed tit flock passed through the garden, with one Long-tailed Tit landing in a bush right in front of me. Then I heard an unusual bird calling, and looked up to see a Ring-necked Parakeet going over, heading in a northerly direction.
Wednesday 25th October
Today I saw a Small White at the allotment, a Red Admiral in the garden and a couple more RAs in Abingdon.
Sunday 22nd October
I visited Bagley Wood today. Birds were pretty scarce, with just a couple of Buzzards and five Wrens being about it. There wasn't much on the fungus front either: just three species that I couldn't identify, and one Beechwood Sickener.
Friday 20th October
Despite the breezy and rather cool conditions today, a Red Admiral was flying around the garden at 3pm this afternoon.
Thursday 19th October
I picked up two life ticks at Farmoor this afternoon! When I got to the reservoir I discovered that a Great Skua had been found on the west side of F2. The bird was fairly well out on the reservoir, and didn't show much sign of coming nearer the bank (it was a good test of my new scope, though). My attention turned to a female and two male Common Scoters, which were diving fairly close to the shore. I then noticed that the Skua had come a lot closer in, and was looking at a group of Coot with interest. The Coots gave it a wide berth, but it still made a couple of attempts at grabbing one, which the targets evaded by diving. At this point the light (which hadn't been good to start with) got a lot worse, and then it started raining, so I headed back to the car park. On the way I saw a Rock Pipit and a Grey Wagtail at the east end of the causeway.
Great Skua | Farmoor Great Skua | Farmoor Common Scoter ♂ | Farmoor
Sunday 15th October
When the sun came out this afternoon I saw four Red Admirals in or over the garden. There were two Common Frogs in the pond.
Saturday 14th October
Today I saw a Sparrowhawk, a Red Admiral and several Common Frogs in the garden, and Small and Large Whites at the allotment.
Common Frog | Abingdon    
Thursday 12th October
Today was less windy than recently, but there was only hazy sunshine until the afternoon. I headed east again and stopped at the same place as yesterday to view the geese. There seemed to be fewer Egyptians than yesterday.
I continued to Morston Quay, where I had booked a trip with Bean's Boat Trips to view seals at Blakeney Point. As I got there a bit early I had a look at the Morston saltmarsh, and found some Little Egrets, Curlew and Redshank. I also found a Kestrel perched on top of a bush. The boat departed at 11:25 and took about twenty minutes to get to the seals. There were three Grey Seals and about twenty Common Seals hauled out on the shingle, and there were a few Commons in the water, which came close to inspect us. After this we landed on Blakeney Point for thirty minutes. I was one of the first off the boat, and I spotted a pair of Brent Geese on a lagoon. These allowed a fairly close approach for photos, but didn't hang around for long. Back on land I saw a Buzzard and a Marsh Harrier over the salt marsh.
Kestrel | Morston Common Seal | Blakeney Point Brent Goose | Blakeney Point
After lunch I headed for Cley Marshes, first going to the visitor centre to buy a permit to use the hides. By now it was quite sunny, and as I walked out to the main hides I saw seven Common Darters sunning themselves on the boardwalk. From the first hide there were again hundreds of Pink-footed Geese, also Lapwing, Ruff (one had a white head and neck), Dunlin, Ringed Plover and Shelduck. In amongst the waders there were two Curlew Sandpipers and at least thirteen Little Stints. A Cetti's Warbler made a brief appearance as it flew between reed beds, and a Snipe gave some fairly close views. I heard a Greenshank calling but couldn't locate it. A Migrant Hawker came close to the hide. Something flushed the geese, and the noise as they all took to the air at once was incredible! I returned to the car for the best part of an hour's drive back to Titchwell.
Teal | Cley Marshes Curlew Sandpiper | Cley Marshes Snipe | Cley Marshes
Wednesday 11th October
A strong SW wind all day today, and it was mostly cloudy. I headed eastwards. Just after Burnham Overy Staithe I stopped at the roadside as there were numerous geese in the fields. They were mostly Greylags nearer the road, with some Egyptians as well. The Pink-footeds were further back.
The next stop was at Holkham NNR, specifically the gap in the pines at the end of Lady Anne's Drive. Fortunately the pine trees provided some shelter from the wind. I saw about four Jays harvesting acorns. There were a few small birds about; the best I could find was a Goldcrest. There were some insects here: a couple of Red Admirals, a Speckled Wood, a Small White, a Migrant Hawker and at least six Common Darters.
After two hours here I headed to Wells and the car park at the east end of the pines. I counted al least thirteen Little Grebes on the lake by the car park. There were hundreds of Pink-footed Geese in the fields to the south; as usual it was hard to get close enough to them for a photo. A Peregrine drifted over.
After lunch I had a look at the sea. With the tide going out there were large numbers of Oystercatchers and Brent Geese feeding on the mud flats. That was about it for the day, except for a Buzzard and some House Sparrows at Titchwell, as the weather was getting worse, and it rained later.
Egyptian Goose | Burnham Overy Staithe Greylag Goose | Burnham Overy Staithe Pink-footed Goose | Holkham NNR
Tuesday 10th October
This morning it was quite cloudy and windy, but it brightened up in the afternoon. I started by walking down Gypsy Lane in Titchwell, to look at the marsh from a different direction. There wasn't anything of note in the wooded part of the lane, but on the marsh I saw at least eight Little Egrets, sixteen Brent Geese and a Curlew. There were Redshank everywhere. Several parties of Golden Plover went past, and I heard a Cetti's Warbler.
Then it was back to the car for the short drive to RSPB Titchwell. Birds were not very different to yesterday, except that the Golden Plover had gone, and about a hundred Brent Geese were on the freshwater lagoon for a while. I counted at least sixty Dunlin. At the Parrinder hide a Grey Plover on the saltmarsh gave some good views.
After lunch I drove up to the Choseley grain drying barns. I saw about ten Linnets, a flock of 50-60 Goldfinches, a Red Admiral and at least three Small Whites here.
After a quick trip to a farm shop at Holme next the Sea, I returned to Titchwell, and walked out to the coast again. I saw five or six Curlew, half-a-dozen Little Grebes and a Kestrel. I also got some very close views of a Black-tailed Godwit. Insects seen in the afternoon were Red Admiral, Speckled Wood and Common Darter.
Little Egret | Titchwell Curlew | Titchwell Black-tailed Godwit | Titchwell
Monday 9th October
After spending the night at West Walton (thanks Paul!), a brisk walk round the village turned up a pair of Yellowhammers, at least two Reed Buntings, a flock of about ten Goldfinches and a Stock Dove. I then headed to RSPB Titchwell, and got there at 1pm. While I was eating lunch several skeins of Pink-footed Geese flew over. There were three Greenfinches and a Coal Tit on the feeders. Although it was mostly cloudy I saw a couple of Red Admirals, Migrant Hawkers and Common Darters.
I walked out to the coast. There were lots of birds on the freshwater marsh. Most noticeable (because they kept taking to the air) was a large flock of Golden Plover. There were also good numbers of Redshank, Lapwing, Black-tailed Godwit, Dunlin and Ruff. There was a solitary Turnstone on the saltwater marsh, which seemed a bit out of place. When I got to the coast the tide was out, so I walked down to the exposed rocks. There were many birds here, particularly Oystercatchers, Turnstones, Curlew, various gulls, and two Grey Plovers. A pair of Brent Geese flew past.
On the way back I stopped at the Parrinder hide, where I watched a flock of Linnets and a couple of Meadow Pipits bathing in the shallows. At the second hide a Ruff came into camera range. There were plenty of ducks: mainly Shelduck, Teal, Wigeon and Pochard. I heard a Cetti's Warbler calling. On the way back to the car a group of people were looking at something on the path; it was a female Brambling. It looked very tired so had probably just arrived.
Black-tailed Godwit | Titchwell Oystercatcher | Titchwell Grey Plover | Titchwell
Turnstone | Titchwell Ruff | Titchwell Brambling | Titchwell
Sunday 8th October
There was a Coal Tit on the feeders this morning. That was the first one I'd seen in the garden for over a year.
Thursday 5th October
There was one Red Admiral feeding on Ivy flowers in the garden at lunchtime today.
Wednesday 4th October
At the allotment this morning I saw two Red Kites, a Buzzard, a Kestrel and half-a-dozen Linnets.
Tuesday 3rd October
As it was a fairly sunny day, I headed for Otmoor this morning. I saw a Red Admiral in the car park, and a couple of Commas, a Speckled Wood and a couple of Common Darters along the old roman road. As I walked along the bridleway I saw a Marsh Harrier and two Kestrels over Greenaways, and heard the first of three Cetti's Warblers. I saw a Migrant Hawker along the track to the first screen. There were several Common Lizards sunning themselves near the screen. There were dozens of very vocal Canada Geese on the lagoon. With them was a solitary Barnacle Goose, which stayed very close to one of the Canadas. Duck numbers were quite high, with Mallard, Teal, Shoveler and Wigeon all present. I counted thirteen Snipe on the exposed mud, but there may have been more.
Comma | Otmoor Linnet | Otmoor Barnacle Goose | Otmoor
I walked half-way to the second screen. Two Red Admirals were basking and feeding on blackberries, and there were a couple of Chiffchaffs in the hedgerow. On the way back there were a few dragonflies about, and I saw both Migrant and Southern Hawkers, and more Common Darters (some pairs were in tandem). There wasn't a lot else to see along the bridleway. A second walk up the roman road turned up a couple more Speckled Woods and a very tatty male Green-veined White.
In the afternoon I saw seven Collared Doves in the garden at the same time, and also three Long-tailed Tits.
Migrant Hawker | Otmoor Southern Hawker | Otmoor Speckled Wood | Otmoor
Saturday 30th September
I saw two Red Admirals and one female Southern Hawker in the garden today.
Thursday 28th September
Today there were two Red Admirals in the garden. I also saw two Large Whites, a Migrant Hawker and a Hornet.
Tuesday 26th September
Today's warm sunshine brought out three Red Admirals, one Comma and one Large White in the garden.
Monday 25th September
Despite the dull weather today I saw one Comma and one Red Admiral feeding on Ivy flowers in the garden. I saw a Sparrowhawk and two House Martins overhead.
Sunday 24th September
After failing to photograph the juvenile Red-necked Phalarope at Farmoor on Friday, I returned to the reservoir this morning to have another go. This time the bird was much more obliging, as it was feeding close to the north shore of F2, and was easily viewable from the causeway. Knowledge of its presence had spread, and there were quite a few other people there. There was also a sailing competition on F2. But the RNP was oblivious to all this disturbance, and just kept doing its own thing. (There has been some speculation that it might be a British bird trying to go westwards across the Atlantic, but I think - given current wind patterns - it is more likely to be a northern European bird which was trying to migrate to the Arabian Sea). A solitary Dunlin and the long-staying juvenile Shag were the only other things of interest.
I saw a number of Small Whites and a Buzzard at the allotment, and three Red Admirals, one Comma and one Speckled Wood in the garden. A solitary Swallow flew overhead, going south.
Red-necked Phalarope | Farmoor Red-necked Phalarope | Farmoor Red-necked Phalarope | Farmoor
Friday 22nd September
I got to Farmoor quite early this morning, only to find the reservoirs shrouded in fog! Eventually it cleared, and the juvenile Red-necked Phalarope (which had turned up yesterday) was located out in the middle of F1. It then flew, and landed out in the middle of F2! There wasn't much else of note: a Great Black-backed Gull and a juvenile Shag was about it. I didn't have time to look for the Scaup.
Later in the garden there were three Commas and one Red Admiral nectaring on Ivy flowers.
Wednesday 20th September
The weather had changed today. It was still fairly warm, but there wasn't much sun and there was a fresh SW wind. I parked at Cheyne Weare again, and walked across the disused quarry workings near Southwell. Remarkably, despite the lack of sunshine, Red Admirals were active, feeding on buddleia flowers or just basking on the ground. I saw about twenty here.
I then headed back to Portland Bill. While having a coffee I noticed a large (probably over eighty) flock of Gannets circling around off the east coast, and diving for fish. Up at the bird obs pit I saw a pair of Stonechats, a Chiffchaff and male and female Blackcaps. There were very few Swallows about today.
Red Admiral | Portland Stonechat | Portland Bill Marsh Harrier | Radipole Lake
Because of the weather forecast for Thursday morning, I visited Radipole Lake in the afternoon. This is another large wetland with extensive reedbeds, right in the centre of Weymouth. There were quite a few butterflies here as well, and also some Common Darter and Migrant Hawker dragonflies. Remarkably, a female Marsh Harrier was hunting over the north part of the reserve, with houses as the backdrop. Other things of note were seventy or more Gadwall, a sub-adult Great Black-backed Gull and at least four Cetti's Warblers (heard). When I got back to the visitor centre a Hooded Merganser was diving in the lake. This was presumably an escapee, as it was ringed. I had a very close view of a Cormorant as it swam under the bridge I was standing on. There were lots of Black-headed Gulls loafing in the car park as I was leaving.
Gt Black-backed Gull | Radipole Lake Hooded Merganser | Radipole Lake Cormorant | Radipole Lake
Tuesday 19th September
The weather today was warm and sunny, with a light southerly breeze - just the wrong conditions to get migrating birds to land, but very pleasant to be out in. I set off for Portland Bill and got there shortly after 9am. I spotted a Cormorant and three parties of Oystercatchers going past. The sighting of a Common Blue was unexpected. I found a couple of Wheatears and Meadow Pipits by the cafe. I walked up to the Bird Observatory. Red Admirals started to appear in some numbers; I saw at least thirty in this area. I also found a Painted Lady, some Small and Large Whites, a few Small Heaths, a Peacock and a Great Green Bush-cricket.
Painted Lady | Portland Bill Peacock | Portland Bill Small Heath | Portland Bill
Getting back to birds, parties of Swallows kept passing through; there were a few House and Sand Martins with them. I saw a couple of Ravens and two Chiffchaffs. Back at the cafe I spotted a solitary Gannet out to sea. I went back to the bird obs to look at the pit. There was no Wryneck there today, but I did see two pairs of Stonechat, a Blackcap and a Whitethroat. Finally I spotted two juvenile Cormorants fishing close to the shore.
Chiffchaff | Portland Bill Wheatear | Portland Bill Meadow Pipit | Portland Bill
In mid-afternoon I drove up to the Cheyne Weare car park (free!) on the east coast. There was a large bank of Ivy in a sheltered sunny position here, and I counted at least fifteen Red Admirals on it. I also saw a couple of Painted Ladies and a Peacock. A couple of Lesser Black-backed Gulls flew past.
Monday 18th September
I headed down to Dorset for a couple of days' birding on Portland. On the way I stopped at RSPB Lodmoor in Weymouth. Notable species seen were at least twenty Black-tailed Godwits, six Little Egrets, four Redshank, two Ringed Plovers and a juvenile Little Stint. I also saw three Red Admirals, two Speckled Woods and four Migrant Hawkers.
Black-tailed Godwit | Lodmoor Grey Heron | Lodmoor Little Egret | Lodmoor
Sunday 17th September
There were three Red Admirals nectaring on Ivy flowers today. I saw two Buzzards at the allotment.
Saturday 16th September
My third visit to Radley Lakes to see the juvenile Osprey was successful. When I got to Orchard Lake at 08:20, it was perched in a tree at the western end of the lake (I was told that it had arrived there at 06:20). At 08:40 it flew out of the tree, make a low pass over the lake, caught a fish, and disappeared with its breakfast towards the Thames. In addition I saw two Kingfishers and two Muntjac, and heard a Water Rail.
A Red Admiral was nectaring on Ivy flowers in the garden again, and a Comma also turned up in the afternoon.
Osprey | Radley Lakes Osprey | Radley Lakes Red Admiral | Abingdon
Friday 15th September
A Comma and a Red Admiral were feeding on Ivy flowers in the garden today. I also saw a Red Admiral at the "Prince of Wales" in Shippon at lunchtime.
Thursday 14th September
I went to Farmoor again this morning, as a Grey Phalarope had turned up yesterday. Unfortunately it wasn't located while I was there. There were still many House Martins and some Sand Martins flying low over both reservoirs. It appeared that only one Shag was still present; I saw it in the water on F1. The two Grey Wagtails seen on Tuesday were stil there, and the two Egyptian Geese were grazing on the west bank of F2. At the south end of F2 I watched a Hobby flying fast and low over the water, trying to catch a martin.
At home there was again a Comma feeding in Ivy flowers. The most surprising incident in the garden was looking up to find a Sparrowhawk flying straight at my head! I had to duck rather quickly, so I didn't see if it managed to flush anything out of the vegetation.
Shag | Farmoor Grey Wagtail | Farmoor Egyptian Goose | Farmoor
Wednesday 13th September
I visited a very windy Radley Lakes again this morning (09:15- 10:30), but there was no sign of the Osprey. There were still some House Martins and Sand Martins over Thrupp Lake. At Orchard Lake I saw a Green Sandpiper but it was very mobile. There were also a couple of Great Spotted Woodpeckers, a Buzzard, a Red Kite and a Sparrowhawk. In sheltered areas I found a number of Ruddy and Common Darters, a Southern Hawker, three Commas and four Speckled Woods.
Later in the Oxford University Parks I saw four Red Admirals, three Commas and a Small White nectaring on asters.
Comma | Radley Lakes Comma | Radley Lakes Ruddy Darter | Radley Lakes
Tuesday 12th September
I visited Farmoor Reservoir this morning. It was breezy and sunny for most of the time. There were hundreds of House Martins about, most of them flying low over the surface of F2. There were two Little Grebes diving in the sailing club lagoon, one still in its summer plumage. I flushed a Grey Wagtail but found another one along the causeway. There was one Dunlin as I walked westwards along the causeway. I couldn't find any dragonflies in the Pinkhill hedgerow, bu there were two Commas feeding on blackberries. I found three Speckled Woods and a Green-veined White at the south end of Pinkhill. As I walked along the road to the east of Shrike Meadow a few Common Darters appeared. At the pond to the south of the meadow I saw at least two Migrant Hawkers. A Jay flew along the river. There were four Buzzards in the air at one point. On the way back down the causeway I found two more Dunlin and a juvenile Ringed Plover. Finally I found a Redshank on the eastern side of F2.
At home I saw a Red Admiral and a Comma nectaring on ivy flowers.
Little Grebe | Farmoor Dunlin | Farmoor Grey Wagtail | Farmoor
Ringed Plover | Farmoor Redshank | Farmoor Green-veined White | Farmoor
Monday 11th September
There was a Red Admiral nectaring on ivy flowers in the garden this afternoon.
Sunday 10th September
I went down to Radley Lakes this morning, but there was no sign of the reported Osprey. There were lots of House Martins and a few Sand Martins over Thrupp Lake. At Orchard Lake I saw a Grey Heron and a Great Spotted Woodpecker. It was too dull for any butterflies or dragonflies.
Grey Heron | Radley Lakes    
Thursday 7th September
I saw a Swift over north Abingdon this morning.
Wednesday 6th September
I visited a new site today, Folly Country Park in Faringdon. This has a fishing lake (a large pond, really) and a wild flower meadow. The reason for going was that Small Red-eyed Damselflies were discovered there recently, and it is the only known site for this species in Oxfordshire. After the rain of the last few days I wasn't expecting a lot, and indeed I only found one male, which was sitting on floating vegetation quite a way out. I also found a couple of Blue-tailed Damselflies. Eventually the sun came out a bit, and Common Darters started showing up. I went to have a look at the meadow, and here I found two Small Coppers, a Red Admiral, three Commas (very fresh) and a Ruddy Darter. Two Southern Hawkers were patrolling the hedgerow. Back at the pond I saw a pair of Common Darters in tandem, with the female ovipositing. There were no fewer than eight Moorhens on the lake, and I saw a Great Spotted Woodpecker fly over.
Small Copper | Folly Country Park Comma | Folly Country Park Common Darter | Folly Country Park
Tuesday 5th September
I went to Farmoor this afternoon, although the weather was pretty marginal (eventually the rain defeated me). Apart from the usual residents I saw a Common Sandpiper, two Redshank, a Dunlin and a juvenile Shag as I walked along the causeway. Also noteworthy were about seventy Cormorants and many Pied Wagtails.
Great Crested Grebe | Farmoor Redshank | Farmoor Shag | Farmoor
Monday 4th September
When the sun made a brief appearance this afternoon, so did Small Whites - I saw at least eight at the allotment and two in the garden.
Saturday 2nd September
This morning I saw a Greenfinch and at least six Small Whites at the allotment. In the garden two Red Admirals were feeding on Ivy blossom, several Small Whites flew through, and a Migrant Hawker appeared a couple of times. Above north Abingdon I saw a Buzzard, a Swift, a Swallowand a couple of House Martins.
Red Admiral | Abingdon    
Friday 1st September
I saw two Red Admirals in the garden today.
Thursday 31st August
I returned to Farmoor this morning, to see about getting some better Shag photos. On the way up the causeway the only birds of note were a Dunlin and a Yellow-legged Gull. At the end of the causeway one of the Shags was sitting on the edge of the water inlet, looking very relaxed and not at all bothered by people pointing cameras at it. Since it didn't appear to be in any hurry to move, I had a look in the Pinkhill hedgerow, which turned up a couple of Chiffchaffs, and then walked to the area south of Shrike Meadow, where the bridge over the pond was a good place for watching dragonflies. There were at least four Migrant Hawkers and two Common Darters here (one of the darters was ovipositing), and a couple of damselflies. A Cetti's Warbler was calling repeatedly from the reedbed, and I saw it flying from one side of the pond to the other. Back on the reservoir, the Shag had gone for a bit of fishing in the shallows, but returned to the same spot; eventually it obliged by spreading its wings. After watching it for some time I headed back along the causeway. I spotted a Ringer Plover in flight, but it didn't land. There were many Pied Wagtails about, but I only saw one Yellow Wagtail. At the yacht club another Shag was fishing in the marina.
I stopped at the allotment on the way home, where I saw a Kestrel in the recently cut wheat field, and quite a few Small Whites. At home there were more Small Whites, and I found a Willow Beauty moth roosting on the back door.
Shag | Farmoor Shag | Farmoor Shag | Farmoor
Tuesday 29th August
I returned to Lollingdon Hill this morning. There wasn't a great deal to be seen, but there were two female Redstarts in the hedge on the south-west of the hill. I got some better pictures of one of them in a dead tree. I heard at least two Chiffchaffs and saw some Sparrowhawk interaction with a Red Kite. There were quite a few butterflies about, particularly Small Whites. I stopped to have a look at Lid's Down, an open-access area north of Aston Upthorpe Downs. It is quite a large area and I only looked at the north end, but it looks promising for future exploration. There were a few butterflies here, most notably a very late male Meadow Brown and a fresh Comma.
Redstart | Lollingdon Hill Redstart | Lollingdon Hill Comma | Lid's Down
Monday 28th August
I roused myself from bank holiday slumber for a quick trip to Farmoor this afternoon. A group of juvenile European Shag had turned up yesterday, and I managed to find six of them: four on the pontoon at the south end of F2, one on the north shore of F2 (in the company of a lot of Coot), and the sixth one on of the rafts on F1. The number of Egyptian Geese on the site had increased to four, and a Ruddy Shelduck was taking its ease on the west bank of F2 (this was a different bird, as it was showing a bit of a neck ring). Other birds of note were a dozen Little Grebes (juveniles were much more confiding than the adults, diving quite close to the shore), four Common Sandpipers, three Yellow Wagtails and a juvenile Wheatear.
Little Grebe | Farmoor Ruddy Shelduck | Farmoor Shag | Farmoor
Sunday 27th August
This morning there was clear blue sky, so I headed over to Pit 60 at Standlake Common. I had just got set up in the Langley Lane hide when a Kingfisher landed on one of the posts in front of the hide. That was a good start, but during the next hour and a half I didn't see much of interest. For some reason Mute Swans find this lake attractive; I counted forty-six of them. There were quite a lot of Canada Geese and the usual water birds. I heard a Cetti's Warbler. Eventually I spotted a Common Sandpiper flying low over the water, and a solitary Lapwing flew in. I did a bit better with butterflies; the Water Mint and other flowers along the water's edge attracted a Red Admiral, a Painted Lady, a Small Tortoiseshell and a male Brimstone. Along Langley Lane I saw five Speckled Woods. Again there were few Odonata about: a couple of Common Blue Damselflies and a Migrant Hawker was about it.
In the afternoon a Peacock came into the garden and fed on Echinopsis flowers, and a Migrant Hawker was overhead. There were a number of House Martins high up, and I was surprised to spot a Swift as well. Finally, I found an Orange Swift moth in the greenhouse.
Kingfisher | Pit 60 Gadwall | Pit 60 Orange Swift | Abingdon
Saturday 26th August
I visited Otmoor this morning. Again the weather didn't match the forecast, as it was fairly cloudy, although quite warm. There was little of note as I walked along the bridleway, just a Great Spotted Woodpecker hammering on a tree (I couldn't find it, though), and a large flock of Greylag Geese flying in from the MoD land and landing on Greenaways. Near the first screen I head a Cetti's Warbler. There were nine Common Lizards basking on a log in the "lizard lounge". The water level on the lagoon was quite low, exposing a lot of mud. A Kingfisher shot past at low level but didn't stop. There were many loafing Mallard and other ducks, most still in eclipse plumage, although one Gadwall was starting to show breeding plumage. There were at least a dozen Snipe on the mud, but as usual they were very difficult to see. A pair of Greenshank turned up, bu they were a long way from the screen. A Marsh Harrier was seen in the distance. A Green Sandpiper landed at the north end of the lagoon; eventually it gave good views as it flew round the reed bed. A Common Sandpiper was also seen.
By late morning there was more sunshine. I saw a Red Admiral basking on a bramble bush. I walked down the track to July's Meadow. I saw Common Blue, Brown Argus, Small Tortoiseshell, Brimstone and Green-veined White here. There weren't many dragonflies about; Ruddy Darters were the most numerous, and there was a Southern Hawker working the hedgerow on the south side of the Closes. There were several Small Whites here, feeding on Water Mint flowers. I walked half-way up the old roman road, and turned up some Speckled Woods.
In the afternoon I saw a Red Admiral and the usual whites in the garden.
Snipe | Otmoor Greenshank | Otmoor Small White | Otmoor
Thursday 24th August
Today I visited Pewsey Downs NNR in Wiltshire. The weather wasn't great, with only limited sunshine and a fairly brisk wind. Meadow Browns were the most numerous species, with at least forty-five seen. I saw eight Adonis Blues, all males, but I couldn't find any Wall Browns at all. Other species in double figures were Brown Argus, Small Heath and Small Tortoiseshell (all the lycaenids and the Small Heaths I saw were smaller than usual; this is probably because the lack of rain earlier in the year restricted the growth of larval foodplants). On the bird front I saw two Redstarts, four Buzzards, two Ravens and a Mistle Thrush.
Meadow Brown | Pewsey Downs Small Tortoiseshell | Pewsey Downs Adonis Blue | Pewsey Downs
Wednesday 23rd August
Today I went on the Abingdon Naturalist's Society field trip to Lollingdon Hill, near Cholsey, somewhere I've wanted to visit for a while. The trip leader was Paul Chandler, who runs the Cholsey Wildlife blog. As we crossed Cholsey Brook a Kingfisher flashed past. As we walked along the edge of a cultivated field a large flock of Linnets lifted off before landing again, at which point they became almost invisible. As we went up the footpath on the west side of the hill I saw a male Yellowhammer. A very faded Painted Lady was found. In the hedge line on the south-west side of the hill I saw at least three Redstarts. Numerous Swallows and some House Martins were overhead. I heard a Green Woodpecker. A Red Kite, a Kestrel and some Lesser Black-backed Gulls were seen. There weren't many butterflies about, as it was pretty cloudy. Most of those that were flying were unidentified whites, but I did see three Speckled Woods as well.
Later at the allotment I saw a Buzzard trying to use the wind to hover over the recently harvested wheat field. There were quite a few Small Whites about.
Red Kite | Lollingdon Hill Redstart | Lollingdon Hill Speckled Wood | Lollingdon Hill
Sunday 20th August
I got to Farmoor Reservoir shortly after it opened this morning. For a change it was sunny, and there was just a light breeze. The first birds I noticed were about thirty Swifts, which spent some time feeding before heading off in a south-westerly direction. There were some House Martins over the reservoir as well. As I continued up the causeway I spotted a Yellow-legged Gull on one of the rafts. I walked the whole length of the hedge at Pinkhill, and only saw a Chiffchaff, a Small White and a Common Darter. At the bridge over the pond to the south of Shrike Meadow a couple of Migrant Hawkers were patrolling, and one of them put itself in a good position for some in-flight shots. A trio of Buzzards engaged in some aerobatics over the field on the other side of the river. As I made my way through the numerous Greylag Geese on the western side of F2, I found an Egyptian Goose with them. At the south end of F2 I saw a Little Egret and the Ruddy Shelduck. A bit further round a second Egyptian Goose was on the water (this was definitely a different bird). There was a group of half-a-dozen Little Grebes, which as usual were camera-shy. Two of them were still in their summer plumage. When I got to the east side of F2, the scrubby grassland there produced some Common Blues, and a couple of Brown Argus and Small Coppers.
Migrant Hawker | Farmoor Egyptian Goose | Farmoor Little Grebe | Farmoor
Saturday 19th August
I saw a Hummingbird Hawkmoth in the centre of Abingdon this morning.
Thursday 17th August
I went to Lardon Chase (near Streatley) this afternoon. It was quite warm and sunny (with some irritating cloud), but there was a fairly brisk westerly wind which was blowing right across the hill, so butterflies favoured sheltered areas. The most numerous species by some margin was the Meadow Brown. I counted at least thirty Adonis Blues in an hour, of which two-thirds were males. I found one with black spots on its hind wings (as I'd seen in Croatia). There were still some Chalk Hill Blues, Common Blues and Brown Argus about. I was pleased to see at least four Small Coppers as well.
Adonis Blue ♂ | Lardon Chase Adonis Blue ♀ | Lardon Chase Chalk Hill Blue ♂ | Lardon Chase
Wednesday 16th August
I visited Whitecross Green Wood again this morning, as there was a field meeting to look for the Brown Hairstreak. Only one was found, a female, which was perched 15ft up an oak tree. Apart from a couple of tatty Silver-washed Fritillaries and a very late Large Skipper, butterfly and dragonfly species seen were the same as yesterday. I saw a Marsh Tit today, which I didn't see yesterday.
After lunch I relocated to Otmoor, and walked round the car park field. It wasn't very sunny so insect activity was reduced. I saw quite a few Ruddy and Common Darters, four Southern Hawkers and three Brown Hawkers. I only saw five species of butterfly, of which Meadow Browns were the most numerous. I also saw two Muntjac.
Purple Hairstreak ♀ | Whitecross Green Wood Small Copper | Whitecross Green Wood Ruddy Darter | Otmoor
Tuesday 15th August
I visited Whitecross Green Wood this afternoon, as I was in the area anyway. I was surprised to find a female Brown Hairstreak in the car park. She was fluttering from plant to plant (but not Blackthorn), staying on each for a short period before moving on. There were still a few Meadow Browns and Gatekeepers about, but they were all looking rather tired. Common Blues were still doing alright, though. I saw a Purple Hairstreak high up in an oak tree, but no more Brown Hairstreaks. There were lots of Common Darter and Migrant Hawker dragonflies along the rides, as well as a few Southern and Brown Hawkers.
Brown Hairstreak ♀ | Whitecross Green Wood Common Blue ♀ | Whitecross Green Wood Southern Hawker | Whitecross Green Wood
Sunday 13th August
As the weather was fine, most of today was spent sitting in the meadow. Buddleja bushes in the hedgerow attacted Peacocks, Red Admirals, Small Tortoiseshells and a Hummingbird Hawkmoth. Birds seen included two Whitethroat, two Chiffchaff, a Sparrowhawk and two Yellow Wagtails. A Southern Hawker and several Common Darters were active around the pond. The moth trap catch was similar to the previous night, with the addition of a Brimstone moth, Straw Underwing and Rosy Rustic. A Wren turned up with a large caterpillar, which it proceeded to dismember and feed to its offspring. We reckoned that it was probably an Elephant Hawkmoth caterpillar.
Red Admiral | West Walton Wren | West Walton Yellow Wagtail | West Walton
Saturday 12th August
The reason for going to Wisbech was to visit a friend of mine who has an 80x16m plot of land, the majority of which has been allowed to return to a natural state. He had also had a couple of ponds dug. This morning I saw Swallows and a late Swift overhead, and Goldfinches, Linnets, Wrens, a Comma and a Peacock in the meadow. The moth trap had caught 114 macro moths of 20 species. Flame Shoulder and Setaceous Hebrew Character were the most numerous. I photographed a White-point moth which had been caught the previous night.
A trip to Dersingham Bog around mid-day didn't produce any Black Darters, but we did see Migrant Hawkers, a female Emperor and some Common Darters. There were not many butterflies about, and only six species were recorded.
Flame Shoulder | West Walton Buff Ermine | West Walton White-point | West Walton
Friday 11th August
I visited Bucknell Wood (near Silverstone) this morning, en route to Wisbech. Almost immediately I started finding Silver-washed Fritillaries, all of them pretty worn but still feeding on flowers. There was even one pair doing their mating dance. Among them where three valesina females, which I hadn't seen in this country before. There were at least twenty SWFs altogether. Also numerous were Green-veined Whites, Peacocks and Gatekeepers. There was even a very worn Essex Skipper. I saw three Emperor Dragonflies and three Migrant Hawkers. I finally found what I'd come for: second-brood Wood Whites, of which I saw five. These were the first second-brood WWs I'd seen.
Wood White | Bucknell Wood Peacock | Bucknell Wood Migrant Hawker | Bucknell Wood
Thursday 10th August
After two cold and wet days, the sun came out again today and I made an afternoon visit to Farmoor. There was a juvenile Common Tern on the pontoon on F1. Its parent pitched up with a fish which was far too big for the juvenile to swallow. The adult flew around for a bit before forcing the fish down itself. There were lots of adult and juvenile Pied Wagtails on the causeway, probably more than thirty. There were several Yellow-legged Gulls and a Great Black-backed Gull on F1. There were still dozens of Coot on F2; I don't think I've ever seen so many there at this time of year. On the western slope of the reservoir I started to find Common Blue butterflies, but there wasn't much else about until I saw a juvenile Green Woodpecker on the track near the Pinkhill hide. Walking along the river bank produced a few Common Darters. When I got to the bridge over the pond at the south end of Shrike Meadow an indignant female Brown Hawker buzzed me before resuming ovipositing at the base of the bridge's support piles. I saw some Blue-tailed Damselflies and three Emperor Dragonflies here as well. There were quite a few Common Darters in the trees on the west side of F2. Back on the causeway a Yellow-legged Gull and a Great Black-backed Gull were on the wave wall, but they wouldn't tolerate a close approach. At the water's edge I saw a Dunlin, a juvenile Ringed Plover and three Common Sandpipers.
Common Tern | Farmoor Brown Hawker | Farmoor Common Darter ♀ | Farmoor
Yellow-legged Gull | Farmoor Great Black-backed Gull | Farmoor Ringed Plover | Farmoor
Tuesday 8th August
With the weather so poor today I had a look at the Cornell Labs bird cam. A magnificent Pileated Woodpecker showed up (along with lots of noisy Common Grackles).
Monday 7th August
A pretty dull day, but it brightened up for a short time in the afternoon. I saw a Hornet Hoverfly in the garden, a Migrant Hawker and a Southern Hawker both put in appearances, and a Small Tortoiseshell was nectaring on Plumbago flowers before flying up and landing on the roof of the house.
Sunday 6th August
I visited Parsonage Moor, Cothill Fen and Dry Sandford Pit this morning. There wasn't much of interest on Parsonage Moor - just a few butterflies and a Common Darter. Most of the activity on Cothill Fen was at the western end. There were several Meadow Browns and Green-veined Whites nectaring on various flowers, a few Common Darters low down and singleton Migrant and Southern Hawkers overhead. I also managed to find two Small Red Damselflies. The most unexpected sighting was of a pale yellow butterfly which was probably a Clouded Yellow f. helice (or, less likely, a Pale Clouded Yellow). Naturally it didn't stop for a photo!
At Dry Sandford Pit the buddleja bushes had attracted some butterflies. The most interesting one was a male Silver-washed Fritillary, which was in fairly good condition. Down in the marsh I found a single male Keeled Skimmer. In the lower part of the reserve I found several Common Blues, Brown Argus, Small Coppers, Brimstones, and a single Painted Lady which looked fresh. I saw a single Southern Hawkers, two Migrant Hawkers and a Brown Hawker.
At home several Large Whites and a Red Admiral passed through the garden. A Migrant Hawker was patrolling the airspace above my garden as well.
Small Red Damselfly | Cothill Fen Keeled Skimmer | Dry Sandford Pit Painted Lady | Dry Sandford Pit
Friday 4th August
Not much about today - the usual Large and Small Whites at the allotment, and three Large Whites in the garden at the same time.
Thursday 3rd August
Despite the very unseasonable weather (cloudy, cool, gusty wind) I visited Otmoor this morning. My first pass along the old roman road produced a few Meadow Browns, Gatekeepers, Green-veined Whites, two Dark Bush-crickets and a Common Spreadwing, but it was too windy to get a picture of the latter. I saw three Ravens overhead. I went into Saunders' Field, where it was a bit more sheltered, and found a Southern Hawker, Common and Ruddy Darters. As I was walking along the bridleway I head a Turtle Dove calling, but couldn't locate it. Two Hobbies were active over Greenaways. There was little insect activity because of the wind and cloud. I finally saw the juvenile male Hen Harrier which has been on the moor for a long time. It was hunting low over the vegetation on Ashgrave. The path down to the first screen was pretty uneventful, apart from a family party of Chiffchaffs near the hide. There was little of interest on the lagoon.
I made my way back to the car park. I saw a pair of Stock Doves over Greenaways. After something to eat I had another walk along the roman road as the sun had made an appearance. There were more dragonflies and butterflies about, including two immature Migrant Hawkers, and what I had really come to see, a male Brown Hairstreak nectaring on Angelica.
Next stop was Whitecross Green Wood, even though the weather conditions hadn't really improved. I saw three Southern Hawkers, a very tatty female Silver-washed Fritillary and a Painted Lady.
Dark Bush-cricket | Otmoor Ruddy Darter | Otmoor Brown Hairstreak | Otmoor
Tuesday 1st August
I visited Farmoor Reservoir this morning (my first visit since May). There wasn't a lot of interest as I walked along the causeway, but near the western end I saw a Dunlin and a large number of Coot (there must have been over 200 on F2). There were a few butterflies along the Pinkhill hedge line. I was looking for dragonflies, and found two Southern Hawkers, but they didn't settle. Along the riverbank I saw a few damselflies and Common Darters, and watched a rather worn Brown Hawker catch a ladybird. It then landed to eat its victim, so I was able to get a few shots.
Dunlin | Farmoor Brown Hawker | Farmoor Common Darter | Farmoor
From the river I went back up to the reservoir, and continued walking to the south end of F2. I'd seen a few juvenile Sand Martins earlier, but there were dozens of them flying low over the water here. There were some Swallows with them. A little further round I came upon the bird I'd been hoping to see - a Ruddy Shelduck. This was fairly cautious and wouldn't allow even a moderately close approach. There were four geese feeding on the bank, and one of them turned out to be an Egyptian Goose. This was much more obliging for photos. A bit further on I came upon two juvenile Red-crested Pochards taking their ease just offshore. Gulls seen today were two Great Black-backed (at a distance on F1, but unmistakeable), a Lesser Black-backed and a Herring. There were also two Common Terns.
In the afternoon a Red Admiral made a couple of visits to the garden.
Ruddy Shelduck | Farmoor Egyptian Goose | Farmoor Red-crested Pochard (juv) | Farmoor
Sunday 30th July
Today I saw a Red Admiral in my parents' garden in Eynsham.
Saturday 29th July
I went over to Standlake Common this morning, but I wasn't there for long before what sunshine there was disappeared behind cloud. Along Langley Lane I saw a dozen Common Blue Damselflies, two Blue-tailed Damselflies, one Banded Demoiselle and one Southern Hawker. Butterflies seen were Red Admiral, Green-veined White, Common Blue and Speckled Wood. There wasn't a lot of interest on Pit 60. I saw a female Black-tailed Skimmer ovipositing, with the male in close attendance. There were two Little Egrets feeding in the shallows, and an Oystercatcher with an injured leg or foot on the island. I counted thirty-five Mute Swans. Later at home I saw a couple of Large Whites and a Holly Blue in the garden.
Banded Demoiselle ♀ | Standlake Common Speckled Wood ♂ | Standlake Common Little Egret | Standlake Common
Friday 28th July
This morning I saw a couple of Large Whites and a Gatekeeper at the allotment, and another Gatekeeper in the garden.
Sunday 23rd July
I headed to Aston Rowant NNR this morning. By the time I got there the sun had mostly disappeared and there was quite a brisk wind. The field between the Ridgeway and Bald Hill was quite productive; I saw a Red Admiral, Silver-washed Fritillary, Dark Green Fritillary and Brown Argus nectaring on thistles here. It took quite a lot of searching, but eventually I found a rather damaged Silver-spotted Skipper attempting to warm up. I found a Fox moth caterpillar (black with yellow stripes) on a Hawthorn bush. As it warmed up a bit a few Chalk Hill Blues appeared. I went down to the botton of the slope where it was more sheltered, but then it started spitting with rain. On the way back to the car park I found some more Silver-spotted Skippers and Chalk Hill Blues. I found a Small Copper in the field.
Silver-spotted Skipper ♂ | Aston Rowant NNR Small Copper | Aston Rowant NNR Common Blue ♂ | Aston Rowant NNR
I relocated to the north side of the reserve. Initially the conditions were the same as they'd been on the south side, so most butterflies were sitting it out on Majoram or down in the grass. When the sun eventually came out, so did the butterflies. As usual Meadow Browns were the most numerous species, but were closely followed by Chalk Hill Blues and Common Blues. There weren't many Brown Argus about, but I did find five Small Coppers. Nymphalids seen were a Peacock, two Red Admirals, two Commas and two Small Tortoiseshells. At the top of the slope I found two more Silver-spotted Skippers, including one female. As well as Six-spot Burnets I saw a couple of Dusky Sallows and Silver Ys.
Chalk Hill Blue ♂ | Aston Rowant NNR Chalk Hill Blue ♀ | Aston Rowant NNR Dusky Sallow | Aston Rowant NNR
Saturday 22nd July
I saw a couple of Gatekeepers, Meadow Brown and a Large White at the allotment this morning. I saw a Large White and a juvenile House Sparrow in the garden. The pair of Blackbirds were again taking food away for youngsters; that it their fourth brood this year!
Wednesday 19th July
A Migrant Hawker was hawking for insects in my garden this morning.
Tuesday 18th July
I visited Greenham Common this morning. Although it was warm, there was a moderate south-easterly wind which reduced butterfly activity. However, in 90 minutes I found eight Grayling, which was my 43rd British species this year. The most numerous species was the Gatekeeper, with at least forty seen. Common Blues did quite well too, with at least eighteen seen. On the dragonfly front I saw five Emperor Dragonflies, five Black-tailed Skimmers, one Brown Hawker and at least seven Common Darters. There were some birds too - quite a few Linnets and Meadow Pipits, and a couple of juvenile Stonechats.
Grayling | Greenham Common Common Blue | Greenham Common Common Darter | Greenham Common
I then headed to Fence Wood. The butterfly fauna had changed quite a bit from my last visit on 2nd July. Silver-washed Fritillary, Comma Meadow Brown and Ringlet counts were way down from last time, but they had been replaced by numerous Gatekeepers and Brimstones. At least fifteen of the latter were feeding on Betony flowers. There were twice as many females as males. Dragonflies were well represented. I saw probably three Emperor Dragonflies, two Brown Hawkers and singletons of Common Darter, Migrant Hawker and Southern Hawker. Later at home I saw my first garden Gatekeeper of the year. I also saw a Common Footman moth in th egarden.
Brimstone | Fence Wood Southern Hawker | Fence Wood
Sunday 16th July
Another mostly cloudy day, but there was a bit more sunshine than yesterday, which pushed the temperature up. I saw ten species of butterfly at the allotment, including a Red Admiral and Green-veined White that I released from the polytunnel, a very faded Small Tortoiseshell (the larvae I found on Friday had separated into three groups), and a Common Blue. In the garden I saw a Small White and a couple of Large Whites. I also found a roosting Large Yellow Underwing.
Saturday 15th July
A pretty dull day for mid-July. The only butterfly I saw was a Small White in the garden.
Friday 14th July
At the allotment this afternoon I found a group of Small Tortoiseshell caterpillars in the nettle patch. The only adult butterfly seen was a Large White.
Sunday 9th July
Just a few sightings from the allotment today: at least four Large Whites, three Small Whites, two Essex Skipper, two Gatekeepers, one Brimstone and one Marbled White. I heard a Skylark and a Greenfinch singing.
Saturday 8th July
The weather turned out better than forecast today, although the sunshine was hazy at times. I went to Aston Upthorpe Downs in the morning. This almost rivalled Croatia in terms of numbers, with dozens of Meadow Browns, Gatekeepers, Ringlets and Marbled Whites feeding on flowers. My target species was the Chalk Hill Blue, of which I only saw two. Other lycaenids seen were four Common Blues and three Small Coppers. I saw my first summer-brood Peacocks and Brimstones. Comma, Small Tortoiseshell and Small Heath counts were in double figures. In all I saw nineteen species in 2.5 hours. I saw some moths: a Scarlet Tiger, a couple of Silver Ys, some Six-spot Burnets and a Lesser Pearl (the latter is a micro-moth). There were Cinnabar caterpillers on almost every Ragwort plant. There weren't many birds about, but I saw a Yellowhammer and when I got back to the car a Corn Bunting was perched on top of the grain drier.
In the afternoon I cycled to Bayworth and Sunningwell, to see if I could find any White-letter Hairstreaks on the Elms there. I couldn't find any WLHs, but I did find a footpath from the village to Bagley Wood. The hedgerow adjacent to this was alive with butterflies, principally Meadow Browns, Gatekeepers and Ringlets. The Gatekeepers outnumbered even the Meadow Browns, which is unusual. Also along the hedgerow I found a rather battered Silver-washed Fritillary and a couple of Broad-bodied Chasers.
Finally, a stop at the allotment produced four Gatekeepers, a couple of Essex Skippers and a Small Copper. That was the first Small Copper I'd seen at the allotment since 2014.
Chalk Hill Blue | Aston Upthorpe Downs Brimstone ♂ | Aston Upthorpe Downs Peacock | Aston Upthorpe Downs
Thursday 6th July
A late afternoon visit to the allotment produced singletons of Small Tortoiseshell, Comma, Large White, Small White and Essex Skipper. A Grey Partridge was on the track as I left.
Wednesday 5th July
There were eight Swifts tearing about at low level near my house this evening.
Tuesday 4th July
I saw a Holly Blue in the garden at lunchtime. Later at the allotment I saw a Gatekeeper, two Essex Skippers and at least three Small Tortoiseshells.
Sunday 2nd July
Today I headed south to Silchester Common, in search of the Silver-studded Blue. In two hours I saw seven males and ten females, which was better than I usually manage at this site. Meadow Browns were fairly numerous, but I didn't find any Grayling. I saw two moths: a Beautiful Yellow Underwing (feeding on heather flowers) and a Grass Emerald. This site is usually good for dragonflies, but today I only saw three Emperor Dragonflies and a Black-tailed Skimmer. Along the path to the car park I saw a Silver-washed Fritillary and three Purple Hairstreaks.
I headed back north to Fence Wood, which last year I thought would be a good White Admiral site: I saw three. Silver-washed Fritillaries were much in evidence, with at least ten seen. The Comma count nearly matched this; I saw nine. There were some second-brood Green-veined Whites about, and I saw my first summer-brood Holly Blue. Dragonflies included four Emperor Dragonflies and a newly emerged Southern Hawker, which didn't seem to have quite worked out how to use its wings.
I saw four Small Tortoiseshells and two Essex Skippers at the allotment, and a Comma in the garden.
Beautiful Yellow Underwing | Silchester Common Silver-Studded Blue ♂ | Silchester Common Green-veined White | Fence Wood
Saturday 1st July
Yet another cloudy morning. The forecast sunshine took a long time to appear. However I headed off for Waterperry Wood anyway. I saw my first Purple Hairstreak of the year quite quickly, and this was followed by several more. None of them descended from their Oak trees, though. The weak sunshine was enough to get Ringlets and Large Skippers going. I managed to spot four Purple Emperors, but these were all flying over the tree tops and didn't come to the ground. Eventually some Silver-washed Fritillaries appeared, feeding avidly on bramble flowers.
Stop two was Bernwood Forest, where I walked up to the pond and back. There were no dragonflies at the pond, but I did see three Brown Hawkers and an Emperor Dragonfly along the ride. Silver-washed Fritillaries were quite numerous, with at least twenty (including three females) seen. I saw one Purple Emperor here, which again was flying along the tree line. At one point there was a Red Admiral and a White Admiral on the ground in the car park.
Stop three was at Whitecross Green Wood. There was more sun now, but the wind had picked up too. I only saw six Purple Hairstreaks here, but there were over twenty Silver-washed Fritillaries, including a mating pair. I also saw seven Commas and my first Gatekeeper of the year. There were also seven Emperor Dragonflies and four Brown Hawkers. A Black-tailed Skimmer was perched for some time on the information board at the junction of the two rides. There weren't many birds about but I heard Chiffchaffs here (and at the other two locations).
I found another Old Lady moth in the house this evening. This one didn't give me the runaround!
Purple Hairstreak | Waterperry Wood Silver-washed Fritillary ♀ | Bernwood Forest Gatekeeper ♂ | Whitecross Green Wood
Tuesday 27th June
This morning there was a Meadow Brown in the garden, and at lunchtime a Small Tortoiseshell was nectaring on Hebe flowers again. A quick trip to the allotment produced a female Essex Skipper nectaring on Marjoram flowers. Small Tortoiseshells and Small Whites were doing the same. A Marbled White, a couple of Meadow Browns, a Ringlet and a Comma were also seen. On the way out a patch of Creeping Thistle in the field was very popular with Marbled Whites, Small Skippers and Small Tortoiseshells.
Essex Skipper ♀ | Abingdon Marbled White ♀ | Abingdon Small Tortoiseshell | Abingdon
Monday 26th June
A Small Tortoiseshell was nectaring on Hebe flowers when I got home this evening.
Sunday 25th June
I found a probable Lunar Yellow Underwing in the house this morning. I saw a couple of Small Tortoiseshells at the allotment later.
Saturday 24th June
I visited Aston Rowant NNR in the late morning and early afternoon today. Although it was breezy with limited amount of sunshine, there was still a lot of butterfly activity. On the north side there were many Marbled Whites, quite a lot of Meadow Browns and a few Ringlets. Small Tortoiseshells and Commas were present in reasonable numbers, also a couple of Red Admirals and a Painted Lady. I saw my first British Small Skippers of the year, but I was unable to find any Dark Green Fritillaries.
I relocated to the southern side of the reserve. Although it was much more exposed on Bald Hill, I immediately began to find Dark Green Fritillaries! I saw at least eight. They were hard to photograph because of the wind, but eventually I managed some shots. Small Heaths were quite numerous here, whereas there had only been a few on the north side. There was also a Silver-washed Fritillary in the trees at the bottom of the hill. There was somebody there photographing Red Kites, and he'd put some food out to get them to come down. There were at least twenty birds circling round, which was more than I'd ever seen together before. It was quite a sight.
Small Skipper | Aston Rowant Marbled White | Aston Rowant Dark Green Fritillary | Aston Rowant
Friday 23rd June
An Old Lady moth came into the house this evening. Although it's as big as a Peacock butterfly, it was really hard to find when it was settled.
Old Lady | Abingdon
Wednesday 21st June
This morning I saw a Large White, a Small White and a Meadow Brown at the allotment. I also found an immature Green Bush-cricket in the garden. As far as I could tell it didn't have any speckles.
Tuesday 20th June
Today I saw a Large White and a Meadow Brown in the garden.
Monday 19th June
This evening I saw a Small Tortoiseshell at the allotment, and a Ringlet in the garden.
Sunday 18th June
Today I went to Waterperry Wood to see if any Purple Emperors were out. There were quite a few Meadow Browns (including a mating pair) and Large Skippers, three Ringlets, two Commas, one Speckled Wood and one White Admiral. I also saw several Hornets, a Black-and-yellow Longhorn Beetle, three Beautiful Demoiselles and a couple of Jays. Having failed to find HIM, I relocated to Bernwood, which if anything was worse for butterflies (it was very hot). It was only redeemed by three White Admirals (one pristine individual landed on the track) and three Silver-washed Fritillaries. I also saw an Emperor Dragonfly and a Brown Hawker. When I got home there was a Comma of the hutchinsoni form in the garden.
Meadow Browns | Waterperry Wood Black-and-Yellow Longhorn Beetle | Waterperry Wood White Admiral | Bernwood Forest
Saturday 17th June
I made an early start this morning, as the forecast was for it to be a hot day. I headed to Standlake Common, where I knew there were Elm trees, to look for the elusive White-letter Hairstreak. The track past the eastern hide was the hot spot; as soon as I went through the gate I saw two males spiralling upwards above a scrubby elm. I saw three here at the same time, and another in a different elm. Meadow Browns were again very numerous, there were a couple of Ringlets and four Commas (at least one of which was the pale hutchinsoni form). Common Blue Damselflies were very numerous, and I saw at least a dozen Black-tailed Skimmers, including an ovipositing female, and seven Banded Demoiselles. I also saw my first Brown Hawker of the year.
From the hide I saw at least sixteen Lapwings (presumably non-breeding birds), a Curlew, two Stock Doves and a distant Barn Owl. There was a Canada Goose creche, with five adults shepherding a dozen goslings. A first-summer Mediterranean Gull landed on a post in front of the hide.
In the afternoon I saw a Meadow Brown and an unidentified mouse in the garden.
White-letter Hairstreak | Standlake Common Banded Demoiselle ♀ | Standlake Common Banded Demoiselle ♂ | Standlake Common
Mediterranean Gull | Standlake Common Lapwing | Standlake Common Curlew | Standlake Common
Thursday 15th June
I spent a couple of hours at Whitecross Green Wood this afternoon. There was a fairly strong westerly wind, so the north-south ride was sheltered. I saw my first White Admiral of the year at the junction of the two rides, but it didn't settle. Further down near the pond I saw another one. In the same area I saw my first British Silver-washed Fritillary of the year, and then some rather worn Black Hairstreaks. Normally their flight period starts in mid-June, but it is already two-thirds of the way through. Meadow Browns were again very numerous, and Large Skippers also did well. Amazingly a male Brimstone was still going strong. At least four Emperor Dragonflies were patrolling the ride, and I saw my first Southern Hawker and Ruddy Darter of the year (both immatures).
White Admiral | Whitecross Green Wood Black Hairstreak | Whitecross Green Wood Southern Hawker | Whitecross Green Wood
Wednesday 14th June
I headed for Daneway Banks in Gloucestershire this morning. It was much less verdant than last year, probably because of the dry spring and early summer. Compared to Croatia it was a butterfly desert! Initially all I could find were Meadow Browns, Common Blues and a Painted Lady, but eventually a few Marbled Whites and my first Ringlet of the year showed up. However, there was no sign of any Large Blues, which seemed strange given the general earliness of the season. I saw a total of six Ravens - presumably the parents and four offspring.
At midday I'd given up on the Large Blue, and headed back east to Whelford Pools. This is usually an excellent site for Odonata, and so it proved. There were clouds of Common Blue Damselflies and Azure Damselflies. A female Emperor Dragonfly was ovipositing in the small pond, guarded by the male. He was harassed by several Four-spotted Chasers. A little further along the lake shore a male Black-tailed Skimmer was quite obliging for photos. I put a stick into the mud to see if he would perch on it. He didn't, but a Four-spotted Chaser of the praenubila form (darkened wingtips) did. On the lake there was a pair of Great Crested Grebes with two quite large youngsters. A Common Tern flew over and I heard a Cetti's Warbler.
Painted Lady | Daneway Banks Ringlet | Daneway Banks Emperor Dragonfly ♂ | Whelford Pools
Having exhausted the possibilities at Whelford, I headed back to Abingdon and stopped at Dry Sandford Pit on the way. The numerous species here by far was the Meadow Brown. I also saw another Ringlet, three Marbled Whites, a Keeled Skimmer and a Southern Damselfly. In the evening I saw a Small Tortoiseshell at the allotment.
Four-spotted Chaser f. praenubila | Whelford Pools Black-tailed Skimmer ♂ | Whelford Pools Marbled White ♂ | Dry Sandford Pit
Tuesday 13th June
Today I saw a Comma in the garden, and two Grey Partridges, a Meadow Brown and a Common Blue Damselfly at the allotment.
Monday 12th June
The drive back to Zagreb airport produced a number of birds: Black Kite, Marsh Harrier, Buzzard Honey Buzzard, Hooded Crow, White Stork and Kestrel. A stop at a motorway service station produced a number of Marbled Whites and a Map (which was only seen by a few people).
Sunday 11th June
Our last full day in Croatia started with a pre-breakfast walk. We found a roosting Common Blue, which was covered with drops of dew; it was quite chilly at 7am. A number of Pallid Swifts were seen overhead, a Red-backed Shrike was seen on a wire, and a Golden Oriole was heard.
We headed for a location near Oltare. A Hummingbird-Hawkmoth landed on the track and folded its wings. That was the second one I'd seen do that. Nickerl's Fritillaries and Pearly Heaths were soon spotted. A Woodland Grayling was seen landing on the track, and later on a tree trunk. I found some Pearl-bordered Fritillaries higher up the hill. A small flowery meadow produced a surprise in the form of several Dukes of Burgundy. A large orange fritillary was patrolling this glade, but was reluctant to settle; it appeared to be a Dark Green Fritillary. I also saw a Comma and a Small Tortoiseshell. The sight of an Orange-tip confirmed the feeling that we'd gone back a month in time, since we were seeing species that had been on the wing in England in mid-May. That's what altitude does to butterfly emergence. I saw a couple of birds here: a Rock Bunting and a Jay. A Horvath's Rock Lizard was also seen; this is an uncommon species.
Red-backed Shrike | Croatia Pearl-bordered Fritillary | Croatia Duke of Burgundy | Croatia
The second stop was an impromptu one in the forest. Here I saw a Green-veined White, a Speckled Wood and a Bullfinch. From here we headed for the lunch stop. On the way our local guide spotted some droppings on the road; on inspection he pronounced them to be from a Brown Bear. The lunch stop itself was very productive. New species for the trip seen here were Knapweed Fritillary, Common Swallowtail and Broad-bodied Chaser. A maturing male of the latter was particularly spectacular. I found a Bee Chafer.
Green-veined White ♂ | Croatia Knapweed Fritillary ♂ | Croatia Broad-bodied Chaser ♂ | Croatia
The final stop of the day was a flowery meadow near to the village of Krasno. The main species of note here was a female Southern Festoon, which was a new one for me. It was very faded, though. Other species seen were Mazarine Blue, Amanda's Blue and Great Green Bush-cricket (male and female). Then it was back to the hotel to get ready to leave tomorrow.
Southern Festoon ♀ | Croatia Mazarine Blue ♀ | Croatia Gt Green Bush-cricket ♂ | Croatia
Saturday 10th June
After breakfast we loaded up the minibus and headed north into the Velebits national park. The first stop above Karlobag at Dabarska Kosa was at an altitude of around 950m. Scarce Swallowtails were feeding on thistles, and I saw a Tufted Marbled Skipper. Walking along the track produced some Niobe Fritillaries and Bright-eyed Ringlets; the latter was new species for me. A Common Glider flew past, but didn't stop. Up on the grassland I saw a pair of Geranium Argus and some rather unusual Small Heaths. Owl-flies (Libelloides longicornis) were quite numerous. I had never observed these hunting before; they were like slow dragonflies. There was also a red-winged grasshopper (currently unidentified) which made a loud buzzing noise when disturbed.
Niobe Fritillary | Croatia Bright-eyed Ringlet | Croatia Owl-fly | Croatia
The second stop was at Ostarijska Vrata, near the village of Baske-Ostarije. This was at a slightly lower altitude than the previous stop. Nickerl's Fritillaries were quite numerous here. There was another stunning Spotted Fritillary, also a Lesser Spotted Fritillary and the usual blues. After lunch we headed to another location in the northern Velebits national park. Notable species seen here were Large Grizzled Skipper and Safflower Skipper. We then had a longer than expected drive to the next hotel in the village of Krasno (the satnav was blamed). It was considerably cooler here, as we were around 780m above sea level.
Geranium Argus | Croatia Large Grizzled Skipper | Croatia Safflower Skipper| Croatia
Friday 9th June
Another hot and sunny day. Before breakfast I got some better shots of a Nine-spotted moth which was roosting on the lavender at the accommodation. After breakfast we walked along parts of the cycle track below the Paklenica mountains. This was more or less on the flat at an altitude of around 30m. Some birds were heard: Hoopoe, Subalpine Warbler, Blackcap and Turtle Dove. Butterflies were largely as we'd come to expect by now, with the addition of a female Spotted Fritillary. A patch of lavender proved popular, with a Scarce Swallowtail, Tufted Marbled Skipper, Mallow Skipper, Small Skipper and Lulworth Skipper taking advantage. We then found a Southern Comma, which was a bit reluctant to pose, but eventually it did. That was a butterfly I'd been trying to find for a while.
We took a break at a cafe in Selene, where a Turtle Dove was seen. We continued the walk from the cafe. A Cirl Bunting was heard calling, and it flew into a tree where it gave good views. The first Great Banded Grayling of the trip was also seen. We came across a house with a great deal of lavender in flower. A Clouded Yellow and a probable Berger's Clouded Yellow were seen here, as well as more Scarce Swallowtails.
Nine-spotted moth | Croatia Scarce Swallowtail | Croatia Tufted Marbled Skipper | Croatia
Southern Comma | Croatia Cirl Bunting | Croatia Great Banded Grayling | Croatia
After lunch (taken in a shady courtyard) we explored the Mala Paklenica gorge. A rocky spillway (with no water in it) was quite productive. Many Blue-spot Hairstreaks, a Southern White Admiral and a Large Grizzled Skipper were seen here. Then there was a shout of 'Little Tiger Blue!' - our leader had found one nectaring on Christ's thorn flowers (its larval foodplant). It was in pristine condition so must have emerged that day. I examined other Christ's thorns in the area but that was the only LTB found.
When I returned to my accommodation I found a Grayling and a Balkan Marbled White nectaring on the lavender bush.
Little Tiger Blue | Croatia Grayling | Croatia Balkan Marbled White | Croatia
Thursday 8th June
Today we ascended the slopes of the Paklenica mountains above Starigrad. The weather was warm and sunny. The first stop was at an altitude of 200m. The by-now-expected species were present, but Lulworth Skipper and a cracking Spotted Fritillary were new for the trip. The second stop was at 336m. Here we had Balkan Green-veined White, Eastern Rock Grayling, Southern Small White, Scarce Swallowtail and Large Wall Brown. A Golden Oriole was heard. Stop three was at an altitude of 665m. Species seen here included Ilex Hairstreak, Clouded Apollo, Oberthur's Grizzled Skipper and Mountain Small White. Birds seen were Blue Rock Thrush, Rock Bunting and Serin, and a Nightingale was heard. I saw two Dalmatian Wall Lizards, one of which was missing its tail.
Spotted Fritillary | Croatia Large Wall Brown | Croatia Mountain Small White | Croatia
After lunch we descended to an altitude of 368m. Here we found a Linden tree in flower, and this had attracted a large number of hairstreaks, browns, a Scarce Swallowtail and a High Brown Fritillary. Everybody was amazed by how many butterflies there were on this tree. Also seen here were a Southern Small White and a Great Sooty Satyr. Overhead we saw about seven Alpine Swifts.
We descended to the coast and had a coffee stop. I saw a Black-headed Bunting as we were leaving the car park. At the accommodation I saw what I thought was a Hummingbird-Hawkmoth nectaring on lavender, but on closer inspection it turned out to be a Broad-bordered Bee Hawkmoth, a species I'd never seen before. After rapidly adjusting the camera for a higher shutter speed, I got some shots of it. The Turkish Geckos appeared after dinner again.
Rock Bunting | Croatia Dalmatian Wall Lizard | Croatia Broad-bordered Bee Hawkmoth | Croatia
Wednesday 7th June
A pre-breakfast walk turned up a Short-tailed Blue and a Pearly Heath. A Box Moth was caught in the trap. A Nuthatch was heard calling.
Today was transfer day, so we loaded up the minibus and headed south towards Bjelopolje. This was a pretty decent site, with lots of Black-veined Whites and Woodland Ringlets being seen (most of the latter were fairly worn). Four male Amanda's Blues were found together on a piece of manure.
Having exhausted this site, we headed south again, stopping near the town of Gracac for a coffee. I found a Chestnut Heath and a pristine Silver-studded Blue in the grassland across the road from the cafe. We went into Gracac to visit the supermarket. A Blackcap was found singing in a tree here.
Lunch was taken near a meadow above the town. This was another rich site. The first Scarce Swallowtail and Turquoise Blue of the trip were found here. A Short-toed Eagle was seen in the air, carrying a lizard in its beak. A couple of Grayling showed up.
Black-veined White | Croatia Woodland Ringlet | Croatia Amanda's Blue | Croatia
Silver-studded Blue | Croatia Chestnut Heath | Croatia Grayling | Croatia
After lunch we continued south-westwards, and stopped in the middle of nowhere where there was a concrete bunker overlooking a valley. There was a large, rather damaged fritillary fluttering about in the shade of this structure, which was eventually identified as a Niobe Fritillary. Also here were several Blue-spot Hairstreak and Ilex Hairstreak nectaring on yellow Sedum flowers. Also seen here was a Balkan Marbled White, some Alpine Chough and a very large grasshopper.
Finally we reached the coast at the town of Rovanjska, where another refreshment stop was made. The first Yellow-legged Gulls of the trip were seen here, and a Hummingbird-Hawkmoth was found nectaring on flowers.
We continued north to the hotel in the town of Starigrad. A walk down to the beach produced a few things, but on the way back I saw what looked like a length of hosepipe - until it moved! It turned out to be a European Glass Lizard, which was at least 60cm long. It looked like a large Slow-worm more than anything else. After dinner a a couple of Turkish Geckos showed themselves on the walls of the hotel.
Blue-spot Hairstreak | Croatia Hummingbird-Hawkmoth | Croatia European Glass Lizard | Croatia
Tuesday 6th June
It was quite cloudy this morning, but the moth trap had pulled in a few interesting species overnight, including a Lappet, a Swallowtail, a Lesser Emerald and a White Ermine. A Cuckoo was heard calling. We had an early breakfast with the intention of getting into the Plitvicka Jezera national park before it got too busy, but this plan was ruined by a car accident on the main road. So we had a lengthy detour to the other entrance, and did the planned walk in reverse. The lakes and waterfalls were stunning, but it wasn't butterfly habitat. However, this was made up for by the Odonata : Emperor Dragonfly, Common Clubtail, Norfolk Hawker, Beautiful Demoiselle, White-legged Damselflies and Azure Damselflies were seen. There were some birds too: a noisy party of Ravens and a Grey Wagtail were noteworthy. There were lots of very vocal Marsh Frogs at one point.
Marsh Frog | Croatia Raven | Croatia Norfolk Hawker | Croatia
We returned to the hotel to have lunch. In the afternoon we explored the flower-rich meadow behind the hotel. I saw a Hawfinch, a Marbled Fritillary and several Pearly Heaths before even getting to the meadow. A couple of Bee-eaters were sitting in a tree, and a Corn Bunting was singing from the top of another. The flowery grassland was incredibly rich in butterflies. Notable species were Queen of Spain Fritillary, Green-underside Blue, Large Copper, Purple-shot Copper, Glanville Fritillary, Heath Fritillary, Weaver's Fritillary, Mazarine Blue, Silver-studded Blue, Short-tailed Blue, Adonis Blue, Assmann's Fritillary, Tufted Marbled Skipper, Meleager's Blue and Nickerl's Fritillary. There were moths as well: an Emerald species, Foresters, Six-spot Burnets, Transparent Burnets, a Crepuscular Burnet and a Hummingbird-Hawkmoth. The latter landed on a sunny bank and folded its wings, at which point it became virtually impossible to see. Other birds seen were a Hobby and a Red-backed Shrike.
Marbled Fritillary | Croatia Pearly Heath | Croatia Weaver's Fritillary | Croatia
Mazarine Blue | Croatia Queen of Spain Fritillary | Croatia Purple-shot Copper | Croatia
Monday 5th June
Today was the first day of a trip to Croatia with Naturetrek. The weather on arrival at Zagreb was warm and sunny. We headed south, and made the only stop of the day near the hamlet of Gornje Taboriste at 14:40. The habitat here was a flowery meadow and some woodland. There were many butterflies about, although cloud cover had increased. Notable species seen were Wood White, Sloe Hairstreak, Short-tailed Blue, Marbled White, Heath Fritillary, Meadow Brown and Reverdin's Blue. The most unexpected sighting was of a Purple Emperor, which arrived at speed, did a couple of circuits of the group, landed briefly on the track and then shot off again. That was the only sighting of HIM during the trip. Also seen here were a couple of immature White-legged Damselflies and a number of Forester moths.
A Buzzard and a pair of Turtle Doves were seen from the minibus, and there was a Black Redstart at the first hotel in the village of Irinovac, near the Plitvice Lakes national park.
Short-tailed Blue | Croatia Sloe Hairstreak | Croatia Heath Fritillary | Croatia
Saturday 3rd June
Today I carried out my second survey of the Thames to the east of Abingdon, this time on the south bank. As I walked through Barton Fields I saw a rather tired female Orange-tip, a Broad-bodied Chaser and several Common Blue Damselflies. A Cuckoo was calling but I couldn't find it. Out on the river a Grey Heron was sitting on a post. Banded Demoiselles were numerous, and I found a few Red-eyed Damselflies, but there was no sign of any Clubtails. I got a Golden-bloomed Grey Longhorn beetle to sit on my finger, but it didn't want to let go. This made taking photos rather difficult. I watched a female Banded Demoiselle catch a moth and then proceed to devour it. My first Meadow Brown of the year made an appearance, and it was followed by several more. A Four-spotted Chaser was the only dragonfly I saw. Other butterflies seen were three Small Tortoiseshells, a Painted Lady, a Large Skipper, three Common Blues and three Brown Argus. On the bird front I saw a Chiffchaff, two Whitethroats and three Buzzards. Walking back through Barton Fields produced a couple of Red Admirals.
Banded Demoisielle ♂ | Abingdon Small Tortoiseshell | Abingdon Meadow Brown ♂ | Abingdon
In the afternoon I visited Dry Sandford Pit. I only saw one Meadow Brown, a couple of Peacocks, five Common Blues and a Small Heath here. Dragonflies did better, with at least four teneral Keeled Skimmers and a couple of Southern Damselflies being seen. I also saw my first 6-Spot Burnet of the year. At the allotment I found a large Common Frog in the polytunnel. In the garden I saw a Red Admirals, and also noticed a female Blackbird with nesting material. That will be the third nest she's built this year.
Keeled Skimmer | Dry Sandfor d Pit Southern Damselfly ♂ | Dry Sandford Pit 6-Spot Burnet | Dry Sandford Pit
Tuesday 30th May
I visited Otmoor this morning. It was mostly cloudy and rather cool at 10am when I arrived. As I walked up the old Roman road I disturbed numerous Azure Damselflies. I also saw half-a-dozen Speckled Woods, a Bullfinch and a Chiffchaff. Towards the northern end a couple of Four-spotted Chasers made an appearance, and as I went up to the bridleway there were quite a few more. I then spotted an immature male Beautiful Demoiseselle, a species I'd not recorded at Otmoor before (it is supposed to need fast-flowing acidic streams, but these are in pretty short supply on Otmoor). I found a couple more, both mature males. While looking at these I noticed a male Hairy Hawker in the vegetation, which I eventually managed to photograph. I found a couple of Red-eyed Damselflies, three Large Red Damselflies and a Blue-tailed Damselfly. I heard at least three Cetti's Warblers, several Sedge Warblers, one Willow Warbler, two or three Garden Warblers, and one Cuckoo.
Hairy Hawker ♂ | Otmoor Beautiful Demoiselle ♂ | Otmoor Four-spotted Chaser ♂ | Otmoor
The WeBS surveyors were working on Big Otmoor, which upset the Redshank and Oystercatchers with young there. There were two Marsh Harriers over the reedbed. There was an unseasonable male Wigeon on the lagoon at the first screen. On the way back I saw a Snipe over Greenaways, and there was a Turtle Dove in its usual Oak tree perch. I watched three Hobbies; one had caught a dragonfly and was eating it on the wing. I spotted another male Hairy Hawker, and then an ovipositing female in the ditch nest to the track back to the car park.
Red-eyed Damselfly ♂ | Otmoor Turtle Dove | Otmoor Hobby | Otmoor
Sunday 28th May
Today I headed south-west to Pewsey Downs NNR. I got there at about 09:45, and the car park was already quite full. As I got out of the car a Painted Lady flew past, my first of the year. Walking up the side of Knap Hill flushed several Skylarks, but none came into camera range. I found the first of many Marsh Fritillaries of the day here, as well as Common Blue, Brown Argus, Small Heath and Dingy Skipper. At the top there is a steep-sided valley which faces south-east. This is a bit difficult to negotiate but the sheep tracks help a lot. There was a large number of Narrow-bordered Five-spot Burnet moths here, but what I was really looking for was the Adonis Blue, which duly obliged with about twenty being seen. On the other side of the valley there were lots of thistles, and I found a rather faded Painted Lady here. In the same area I found four very tatty Wall Browns, which were still fiercely battling each other for territory.
On the way back down I explored the south-facing slopes of Knap Hill, and was amazed by the number of Marsh Fritillaries there. I reckon that I saw at least forty; about half of them were females, and all were rather faded. There were quite a few Cistus Forester moths here as well. I also saw a large brown moth which wouldn't settle, so I was unable to identify it.
Common Blue ♂ | Pewsey Downs NNR Adonis Blue ♂ | Pewsey Downs NNR Painted Lady | Pewsey Downs NNR
After returning to the car for some refreshment (it was quite warm and humid by now) I headed to the south side of Walker's Hill and walked down the slope. Here Small Heaths were numerous, as were Brown Argus and Marsh Fritillaries. There were also a few Small Blues, and Burnet Companion and Mother Shipton moths. Along the bottom of the slope I found a pristine Large Skipper. Going back up the slope produced yet more fritillaries, and also a Grizzled Skipper. Birds seen today, apart from Skylarks, were four Ravens and a Meadow Pipit.
Marsh Fritillary ♂ | Pewsey Downs NNR Large Skipper ♂ | Pewsey Downs NNR Mother Shipton | Pewsey Downs NNR
Saturday 27th May
The overnight rain had cleared by 9am, so I headed north-east to Bucknell Wood near Silverstone. When I got there at 10:10am it was sunny and around 22°C. As I was walking up the main ride I spotted a male Beautiful Demoiselle, which perched on a leaf but had disappeared by the time I'd got the camera out. Then I spotted an Emperor Dragonfly, which flew around a small clearing and disappeared, before another immature one landed in a bush and was quite amenable to being photographed. While this was going on I saw my first Wood White of the day. I saw about forty of them in two hours, which was easily the most I'd seen of this species in one day. The majority of them were males. The last sighting was of a courting pair, with the male flicking his antennae over the female. They stayed like this, facing each other, for several minutes.
A few other butterflies appeared: a Small Tortoiseshell, a couple of rather battered Red Admirals, a Green-veined White, a Speckled Wood, and finally a Red Admiral in better condition. I also saw three immature Broad-bodied Chasers, a lovely moth which I had to look up (it turned out to be a Maiden's Blush), and several Hornets. Bird were a bit thin on the ground, but the usual warblers and a couple of Song Thrushes were singing.
I left the wood and went back south, stopping at Ardley Quarry for lunch. By now the sun had been replaced by clouds, so I saw no butterflies here. A Stoat was the only noteworthy species seen.
Wood White ♂| Bucknell Wood Wood White ♀ | Bucknell Wood Red Admiral | Bucknell Wood
Maiden's Blush | Bucknell Wood Broad-bodied Chaser | Bucknell Wood Emperor Dragonfly | Bucknell Wood
Sunday 21st May
The weather was much better day than yesterday, so I did my first trip for the BDS Common Clubtail survey along the Thames east of Abingdon (north bank only today). Everything was pretty wet after yesterday's rain. I didn't find any adult Clubtails or any exuviae, but I did find several Azure Damselflies and Common Blue Damselflies, and about ten Banded Demoiselles. Butterflies were a bit thin on the ground but I found a couple of Orange-tips and Green-veined Whites, and a Speckled Wood. I also found three Drinker moth larvae and a Silver Y. On the bird front I heard three Cuckoos (and saw one of them), a Cetti's Warbler, Chiffchaffs and Reed Warblers. A pair of Mute Swans on the river had six cygnets with them.
In the afternoon I saw two Holly Blues in a friend's garden in Kidlington, and two Swifts were high overhead.
Banded Demoiselle | Abingdon Speckled Wood | Abingdon Silver Y | Abingdon
Saturday 20th May
Despite the weather forecast I headed to Bentley Wood on the Wiltshire/Hampshire border this morning. When I got there, there was still a bit of sunshine and I saw four Pearl-bordered Fritillaries in the eastern clearning (which is being rapidly scrubbed over by birch saplings). There were many Speckled Yellow moths about. There were several Chiffchaffs, Blackcaps and Willow Warblers singing. It then started raining, so I retreated to the car for a while before setting out to walk to Barnridge Meadow. This produced nothing except another PB Fritillary which I kicked up from the vegetation. While I was returning to the eastern clearing a pair of Roe Deer walked across the track in front of me. Back in the clearing I got a great view of a Marsh Tit feeding its youngster. On the way home I stopped at Stockbridge Down, where I saw a single Green-veined White and heard a Garden Warbler. The rain then set in, so I gave the afternoon up as a bad job.
Pearl-bordered Fritillary | Bentley Wood Speckled Yellow | Bentley Wood Marsh Tit | Bentley Wood
Thursday 18th May
I had a brief visit to the University Parks at lunchtime. Although it was pretty cloudy I saw a Holly Blue, two Large Whites and a Green-veined White.
Sunday 14th May
I headed westwards to Rodborough Common near Stroud this morning. On the way I went through a quite heavy shower. By the time I parked up the sun was out, but it was quite breezy. As I headed down the slope I got some good views of Skylarks and saw a Spotted Flycatcher. In the sheltered area at the bottom of the slope I quickly found my target species, the Duke of Burgundy - two fairly worn males battling each other. I saw at least seven altogether. As it warmed up other species appeared : Dingy Skipper, Brown Argus (my first record of this species at Rodborough since 2011) and Common Blue. Surprisingly, I only found one Green Hairstreak. I found a couple of (presumed) Cistus Forester moths, a new species for me (the larvae of this moth feed on Common Rock-rose, which is present at Rodborough). There were some Roman Snails about, and also a couple of Common Lizards.
Duke of Burgundy | Rodborough Common Brown Argus | Rodborough Common Cistus Forester | Rodborough Common
I headed back east to Whelford Pools. An exploration of the area produced lots of Blue-tailed, Common Blue and Azure Damselflies, some adults but most were teneral. There was a nice rufescens form of a BT Damselfly. I had a glimpse of what might have been a Common Clubtail at the top of a hawthorn bush, but I couldn't confirm it. Brimstones were the most numerous butterfly, and there was another Red Admiral, a couple of Commas and a Common Blue. There were five Red-crested Pochard on the conservation lake, and a number of Cormorants on nests in trees. I heard a Cuckoo. I saw two fresh Four-spotted Chasers, but couldn't get a good picture of either of them. Increasing cloud stopped most insect activity, so I returned home.
Azure Damselfly | Whelford Pools Blue-tailed Damselfly f. rufescens | Whelford Pools Four-spotted Chaser | Whelford Pools
Saturday 13th May
Another disappointing day weather-wise. The only butterfly I saw was a Red Admiral in the garden in the late afternoon. Given that the wind has been in the south or southwest for a couple of days, this one was probably an immigrant. I saw a Whitethroat at the allotment and my first juvenile Starling of the year in the garden.
Friday 12th May
I saw the pair of Grey Partridges in the field next to the allotment this evening.
Thursday 11th May
Recently I've been watching a webcam at Cornell University's Bird Lab. My American bird ID skills are pretty rusty, but species identified so far are Mourning Dove, Blue Jay, Hairy Woodpecker, Cardinal, House Finch, Common Grackle, Baltimore Oriole and Red-bellied Woodpecker.
Wednesday 10th May
In the garden this afternoon male and female Orange-tips were nectaring on Honesty flowers. A Holly Blue and two teneral Common Blue Damselflies were also seen.
Sunday 7th May
Finally the sun came out today, although it was still quite chilly. I arrived at Lardon Chase at 11am, and it took a while for butterflies to get going. Eventually I saw my first Dingy Skipper and Small Blue of the year (this was the earliest I'd ever seen a Small Blue). I also saw a couple of Burnet Companion moths.
I headed a few miles westwards to Aston Upthorpe Downs. This was much more productive and I saw twelve species altogether. Notable among them were at least twenty Brimstones, six Dingy Skippers, four Grizzled Skippers, five Green Hairstreaks, two Small Coppers and one Red Admiral. Moths seen were a Cinnabar and a Silver Y. On the bird front I saw two Whitethroats, and at one point there were six Buzzards over Juniper Valley.
Later I saw a Holly Blue and a male Orange-tip in the garden.
Small Blue | Lardon Chase Dingy Skipper | Lardon Chase Small Copper | Aston Upthorpe Downs
Saturday 6th May
Another mostly cloudy day with a brisk NE wind. I visited Farmoor again this morning, this time to try to photograph Common Swifts. There were dozens (probably hundreds) of Swifts over both reservoirs, and also quite a few Sand Martins, smaller numbers of House Martins and just a few Swallows. The only waders I saw were two Dunlin. I was rather surprised to find some juvenile Pied Wagtails, but then it has been an early season. Down by the river there were two Cuckoos (male and female) on the rough ground south of Shrike Meadow. The female caught and ate a large caterpiller, but she had her eye on a Reed Bunting nest, which the parents were trying to defend. Both the Cuckoos flew off towards Pinkhill. Then it was back along the causeway, with more Swifts competing to see how close they could get to my head. But getting even a half-decent shot of one was as difficult as ever.
Cuckoo | Farmoor Cuckoo | Farmoor Swift | Farmoor
Tuesday 2nd May
A visit to Dry Sandford Pit this morning produced my first Odonata of the year, in the form of half-a-dozen Large Red Damelflies, and nine species of butterfly, including my first Large White and Small Heath of the year. There was also a very fresh-looking Comma - could this be the result of eggs laid in March?
There was a female Orange-tip in the garden at lunchtime. In the afternoon I visited Barton Fields in Abingdon, but there was no sign of any damselflies. I did get a great view of a Cetti's Warbler though.
Small Heath | Dry Sandford Pit Comma | Dry Sandford Pit Large Red Damselfly | Dry Sandford Pit
Monday 1st May
I hadn't intended to visit Farmoor today, but an early posting on the Oxon Bird Log changed my mind. When I got there, there were several Black Terns flying around out over F2. As usual they never came close to the bank. Just after mid-day the flock coalesced, and I was able to count fourteen birds. They then departed high to the south-west. There had also been an influx of Common Terns, and there were a few Arctic Terns with them. There was a small flock of Dunlin on the west side of F2, and there was a single Turnstone with them. I went down to Shrike Meadow and headed north along the river. The usual warblers were singing, and there was a Cuckoo singing as well, but I never saw it. There wasn't anything much to see at Pinkhill, but two Cetti's Warblers called. I saw a few butterflies (two Orange-tips and two Green-veined Whites) but still no Odonata. On the way back down the causeway there was a solitary Dunlin in full breeding plumage.
Later I saw a Long-tailed Tit and a Holly Blue in the garden.
Turnstone | Farmoor Common Tern | Farmoor Black Tern | Farmoor
Sunday 30th April
After the best part of a week of poor butterfly weather, I saw five species at the allotment this morning: Orange-tip (2), Small White (6+), Small Tortoiseshell (1, very tatty), Peacock (1) and Holly Blue (1). It's amazing how they are able to bounce back like this. I also saw a Greenfinch, and the Blackcap was still singing in the A34 embankment scrub.
Saturday 29th April
The poor weather of the last few days continued. Although it wasn't cold, there was virtually no sunshine until late afternoon. The garden Blackbirds were still taking food into the nest, which was good to see.
I went down to Otmoor. A Common Whitethroat was singing near the start of the roman road. Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs were much in evidence. I heard two (maybe three) Cuckoos, but didn't manage to spot one. Sedge Warblers was singing every few yards along the bridleway, but most were invisible in the reeds. A Snipe flew over. Cetti's Warblers were quite numerous - I heard at least six calling. Along the path to the first screen a Sedge Warbler was singing from a tree, so was much more visible. While looking at this a small flock of Golden Plovers flew over. On Big Otmoor Lapwings kept taking to the air to see off Red Kites (I saw one Lapwing chick so that's why the adults were so quick to defend their airspace). I saw my first Hobby of the year over Greenaways, and eight Common Lizards trying to warm up near the first screen. A pair of Common Terns flew over the lagoon. There were two male Pochard to be seen. On the way back I saw my first Swift of the year over Big Otmoor. Finally, I walked along the roman road again and flushed a hardy Speckled Wood.
Later at the allotment I heard a Blackcap and saw a Common Whitethroat.
Sedge Warbler | Otmoor Common Lizard | Otmoor  
Friday 28th April
I had to rescue a very juvenile Blackbird in the garden this evening. A predator had pulled it right out of the nest and it was hanging upside-down in the Pyracantha bush. I managed to put it back into the nest. There were also two juvenile House Sparrows in the garden.
Saturday 22nd April
The first butterfly sighting today was a female Orange-tip in the garden. I went to Bagley Wood to walk through the bluebells. There weren't any birds about but I did see a Chiffchaff, a pair of Blackcaps and a couple of Jays. On the butterfly front I saw more Orange-tips, at least four Green-veined Whites, a Holly Blue, at least seven Speckled Woods (one was a female; I watched her lay an egg on a blade of grass), and two Peacocks.
I the afternoon at the allotment a Blackcap was singing from the scrub on the A34 embankment. A Brimstone and a couple of Small Whites were among the butterflies seen.
Friday 21st April
I went to Farmoor again this morning. The juvenile Bonaparte's Gull, which had been around for a couple of weeks, was showing well along the south shore of F2. It was catching small fish, which it landed on the water to eat. Other birds of note were at least four Common Terns, a Cuckoo (heard), three White Wagtails, one Common Sandpiper, one Grey Plover and an Oystercatcher. There was no sign of any Yellow Wagtails, though.
Despite it being a cloudy day, I saw a Holly Blue in the garden again.
The day was rounded off by a trip to the MoD site at Arncott to see the conservation work that had been carried out there, and to listen for Nightingales. Unsurprisingly they did not oblige, but we did hear all seven warblers which are found at the site. The ones new to me this year were Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat, Garden Warbler and Grasshopper Warbler. There were three of the latter singing, and one was tempted to reveal itself when its call was played on a mobile phone (by the tour leader, who was licenced to do this). Mammals seen were a Muntjac deer and a Brown Hare, and some Great Crested Newts were found in a pond. After dark there was a search for bats using suitable receiving equipment. There was virtually no activity until the end of the walk, when a probable Brown long-eared bat lit up the detectors. It was a worthwhile visit to an interesting site, but access is difficult because it is an active Army training area.
Bonaparte's Gull | Farmoor
Tuesday 18th April
A pretty chilly day but at least it was sunny. I went to Standlake Common (Pit 60) in the morning. There were about thirty Sand Martins over the lake. I found two House Martins and one Swallow amongst them. Greylag Geese were very noisy and occasionally aggressive, particularly when goslings were involved (two pairs had them in tow). Eventually a Redshank and then a Common Sandpiper came close enough to the hide for photos. A couple of male Orange-tips flew past the hide, and I found a male Green-veined White in Shifford Lane.
Back at home I saw a Holly Blue, and a male and a female Orange-tip. At the allotment I saw another Orange-tip, another Green-veined White and a Small Tortoiseshell.
Common Sandpiper | Standlake Common Redshank | Standlake Common Green-veined White | Standlake Common
Monday 17th April
Despite it being cloudy and cool today, I spotted a male Holly Blue fluttering around my garden ivy patch at lunchtime. Later I saw the pair of Grey Partridges again in the field next to the allotments.
Holly Blue | Abingdon    
Sunday 16th April
I stopped at Farmoor on the way home from Eynsham and had a walk around F1. I flushed three Common Sandpipers and a Dunlin from the eastern shore. At last there were dozens of hirundines to be seen. Most of them were Sand Martins, with fewer Swallows and just a few House Martins. I was surprised to find a female Goosander in the NW corner of the reservoir; normally this species is a winter visitor in the south of England. Going back down the causeway I spotted one of the Sandpipers on the nearest raft. There was a White Wagtail in amongst the Pieds again.
Goosander | Farmoor    
Saturday 15th April
Although it was a fairly cool morning, I saw a Holly Blue in the garden at lunchtime. In the afternoon I visited Aston Upthorpe Downs. Although it was mostly sunny, it was still fairly cool. However there were some butterflies about in the more sheltered spots. I saw a couple of Orange-tips and Small Tortoiseshells. The next butterfly I saw was a Grizzled Skipper, which was my twelfth species of the year (I've never seen that many by mid-April before. It was also the earliest I'd ever seen a Grizzled Skipper). I headed up the bridleway towards the Fair Mile. A Buzzard was very obliging, doing a couple of low-level circuits before climbing to altitude. There wasn't much else to see until I got to the top of the slope, when Linnets, Skylarks and a Corn Bunting appeared. I heard a Curlew and had a brief glimpse of it as it disappeared over the ridge line. I returned via Juniper Valley. I spotted a couple of Northern Wheatears, and eventually saw five of them together. By using a Juniper bush as cover I was able to get fairly close to them. Other species of note were a couple of Muntjac deer (the first time I'd seen them at Aston Upthorpe Downs) and quite a few Dark-edged Bee-flies.
Wheatear | Aston Upthorpe Downs Blackcap | Aston Upthorpe Downs Grizzled Skipper | Aston Upthorpe Downs
Buzzard | Aston Upthorpe Downs
Thursday 13th April
I visited Otmoor this morning. As I was driving down Otmoor Lane I saw a Red-legged Partridge and a Jay. The lack of rain since my last visit on 25th March meant that all the paths, and even the Roman road, were dry. On getting out of the car I heard Blackcaps, Wrens and Chiffchaffs singing. I saw a Muntjac as I walked up the Roman road. Up on the bridleway Cetti's Warblers were calling frequently. I head a Reed Warbler and several Sedge Warblers singing, but I didn't see any of them. Up at the hide there were still quite a lot of Linnets about, and a Sparrowhawk tried to grab one. Redshank were calling quite a lot, and I saw two of them. At the first screen there was a pair of belligerent Canada Geese which were unwilling to share with another pair. A Great Crested Grebe was diving right in front of the screen. A couple of Swallows were the only hirundines seen. I heard a Bittern booming, something I had never heard in this country before. I saw one Marsh Harrier. I spotted two Grey Heron nests - one in the dead tree on Ashgrave, and the other in the reedbed. Back at the feeders I saw a pair of Greenfinches. By 1pm it had warmed up a bit, and when the sun came out butterflies immediately started to appear along the roman road. First up was a Green-veined White (my 11th species of the year - pretty good for mid-April), followed by several male and one female Orange-tips, and several male Speckled Woods. When the sun went behind cloud they all disappeared again. I looked for damselflies but couldn't find any.
Back at home there were two juvenile Blackbirds in the garden, both demanding food from their male parent. I looked in the nest at the front of the house after seeing the female leave. There was only one chick there.
Linnet | Otmoor Greenfinch | Otmoor Wren | Otmoor
Green-veined White (m) | Otmoor Green-veined White (f) | Otmoor Orange-tip (f) | Otmoor
Tuesday 11th April
I saw a male Orange-tip and a Holly Blue in the garden at lunchtime today. Later in the afternoon I went over to Farmoor. There was little to see on the way across the causeway, but at Pinkhill the male Garganey which had been found earlier was still present, and eventually showed quite well. I didn't notice at the time, but the photos showed that it only had a functioning left eye. While in the hide I heard at least two, and maybe three, Cetti's Warblers. On the way back down the causeway I saw a couple of Little Egrets, a pair of Gadwall and a White Wagtail. (The continuing lack of hirundines is strange. Where have they got to?)
Garganey | Farmoor Little Egret | Farmoor Black-headed Gull | Farmoor
Sunday 9th April
The warmest day of the year so far - up to about 23°C. I went to Aston Rowant NNR to see if there were any Ring Ouzels on Linky Down, but there weren't. All I saw was a Great Spotted Woodpecker, a Green Woodpecker and a pair of Jays. I then headed to to the north side of the reserve. On the way down the slope I found a couple of Green Hairstreaks, and half-a-dozen more elsewhere on Beacon Hill. I also saw at least fourteen Brimstones, three Peacocks, two male Orange-tips and two Holly Blues. The female Brimstones I saw were busy either ovipositing or looking for suitable places. (This is the earliest date I've ever seen a Green Hairstreak.)
Green Hairstreak | Aston Rowant NNR Orange-tip | Aston Rowant NNR Brimstone | Aston Rowant NNR
Saturday 8th April
This morning I saw a Greenfinch singing from the top of the sycamore tree near my house. I was at the Northcourt Centre in Abingdon all day. While there I saw a Chiffchaff, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, a Brimstone and at least two Orange-tips. Later at the allotment I saw my first Holly Blue of the year, as well as a Small White and an Orange-tip. When I got home I saw another Holly Blue near the house. (This is the earliest date I've ever seen a Holly Blue.)
Thursday 6th April
This morning on the way to work a Sparrowhawk flew very low in front of my car for a few yards before pulling up to the left. A nice start to the day!
I had a walk in the University Parks at lunchtime. I nailed a couple of species I hadn't yet recorded this year: a pair of Treecreepers and a singing Greenfinch (although I only heard the latter). Butterflies were out in reasonable numbers: at least five Brimstones, one Orange-tip, two Peacocks and two Speckled Woods.
Speckled Wood | Oxford    
Tuesday 4th April
I visited Farmoor in the late afternoon today. Again there was nothing along the causeway, but I did see a single Yellow Wagtail and a single Common Tern, as well as six Swallows and three Meadow Pipits near the old water treatment works. A female Mallard had ten ducklings in tow on F1.
Sunday 2nd April
I visited Farmoor this morning. There was nothing on the causeway as I headed towards the river. A Grey Heron landed on one of the platforms and was mobbed by Black-headed Gulls. Down near Pinkhill there were several singing Chiffchaffs. There was nothing of note visible on the Pinkhill lagoon, but I did hear a Water Rail squealing. There were are least two Cetti's Warblers calling. As I left the hide I heard a Blackcap singing - my first of the year. A Great Spotted Woodpecker was hammering on a willow tree. I went further along the river, past the reedbed, and there were more Blackcaps singing from the hedgerow. On the way back a Black-necked Grebe was pointed out to me, but it stayed a long way out on F2. A solitary Swallow was flying around the old water treatment plant. There had been a huge hatch of midges, and their swarms were so dense that they looked like smoke. There must have been millions of them.
I stopped off at Dry Sandford Pit, but it was still too cold and cloudy for butterflies. I heard a Willow Warbler, though.
In the afternoon the sun came out more, and I saw a male Brimstone and a male Orange-tip in the garden. The pair of Long-tailed Tits have now become regular garden visitors. The Blackbird nest under my bedroom window has got three eggs in it.
Later in the afternoon I saw a Peacock at the allotment.
Saturday 1st April
I saw my first Small White of the year at the allotment this morning. I saw a probable second one in the garden, but it didn't settle so I couldn't confirm its identity. I heard a Chiffchaff singing at the allotment. A Kestrel flew over and two Red Kites were engaged in aerobatics over the A34.
Small White | Abingdon    
Thursday 30th March
The warmest day of the year so far - about 18°C. I visited the University Parks at lunchtime. There were not all that many butterflies about but I did find my first Speckled Wood of the year. Across the river in Marston Meadows I saw a male Orange-tip (another year tick) and heard a couple of Chiffchaffs (both the Speckled Wood and Orange-tip sightings were the earliest recorded by me since 2012). There was a juvenile Blackbird in the garden this evening.
Sunday 26th March
Another pretty decent day. The wind wasn't as strong, so it felt warmer. I saw a couple of Peacocks, a male Brimstone and a couple of Dark-edged Bee-flies in the garden. I saw a couple more Peacocks at the allotment, then as I was leaving a pair of Grey Partridges flew across the track and landed in the field (those were the first GPs I'd seen at the allotment since 2013). At Farmoor the wind was pretty much due east, which wasn't helping migrants. I saw three Dunlin and two Meadow Pipits, as well as the usual residents.
Meadow Pipit | Farmoor Grey Partridge | Shippon  
Saturday 25th March
The first really spring-like day of the year: wall-to-wall sunshine and a maximum temperature of 15°C. I visited Otmoor in the morning. As I walked down the old Roman road I could hear Chiffchaffs calling. I had a brief view of a Red Admiral before it disappeared over the hedge line. I heard a Green Woodpecker calling, and also spotted a pair of Coal Tits in an oak tree (that's not a common species on the moor as there are no coniferous trees there). Up on the bridleway I heard a Cetti's Warbler and saw a couple of Skylarks. There was a Great Spotted Woodpecker on the feeders. As I walked along the bridleway I saw a Brown Hare on Greenaways. At the hide there were large groups of Linnets and Reed Buntings, but just one Yellowhammer. I saw a Brimstone here. There were two Redshank on the Closes. There were still a lot of Wigeon on Big Otmoor, as well as Lapwings and Canada Geese. On the way back to the car park I saw a total of eight Grass Snakes sunning themselves in the dead reeds. Back along the roman road I saw two Brimstones and two Small Tortoiseshells. As I was about to leave I spotted a Bank Vole scurrying about in the vegatation. On the way home I saw two Brimstones in Islip and another in Kidlington.
When I got home a Peacock was nectaring on grape hyacinth flowers in next door's garden. Later I was just about to go to the allotment when a juvenile Blackbird flew into the kitchen window! Fortunately it was able to fly off. At the allotment I saw another Skylark, a Red Kite which swooped low along the track (it must have seen something it thought was food), and two Small Tortoiseshells which I saw on the A34 embankment as I was leaving.
Chiffchaff | Otmoor Grass Snake | Otmoor Linnet | Otmoor
Sunday 19th March
I had an early start at Farmoor this morning, getting there just after 08:30. There was a very strong WSW wind blowing which took the edge off the temperature. There wasn't anything of note on the reservoirs themselves - just the usual residents. At the western end of the causeway I found a Great Crested Grebe asleep on the bank. Down by Pinkhill, where it was more sheltered, I found a couple of Chiffchaffs, and a group of three male and two female Bullfinches, which were busy eating buds. The Bullfinches were very wary and it was impossible to get close to them. There was a pair of Gadwall on Pinkhill, and I heard a Cetti's Warbler. I saw a Song Thrush on the grass by the stone seat. Later a Skylark was singing at the allotment.
Bullfinch | Farmoor Pied Wagtail | Farmoor  
Wednesday 15th March
I visited Port Meadow at lunchtime today. The first bird of note was a Chiffchaff, which was feeding in the Prunus tree at the entrance to Burgess Field. Out on the flood I saw four Shelduck, two Oystercatchers, and two Redshank. There were still lots of Wigeon and Teal, and a few Lesser Black-backed Gulls. Although it was a mild and sunny day I didn't see any butterflies.
Tuesday 14th March
I saw some amazing bird behaviour today: a Red Kite deliberately targeted a Carrion Crow which was perched on the ridge of the roof of a nearby house. The crow only just got out of the way in time. It flew to another roof, where the kite had another go at it. I'd never seen a kite do that before. I guess it was fed up of being mobbed by crows.
Monday 13th March
I saw several butterflies in the University Parks at lunchtime today: at least six male Brimstones, four Commas, two Small Tortoiseshells and a Peacock.
Small Tortoiseshell | Oxford    
Sunday 12th March
I visited Rushy Common this afternoon. There were lots of noisy Black-headed Gulls on the main lake. Tufted Duck and Wigeon were the main duck species, but there was also a solitary male Goldeneye. Waders seen were an Oystercatcher, a Green Sandpiper and several Lapwing. I located a Song Thrush which was singing in a tree. The three Tar Lakes were almost devoid of birds, with just a few Coot and a pair of Gadwall to be seen. Finally I saw my first Chiffchaff of the year, and also a nice male Yellowhammer. As I was leaving a Red Kite drifted over the lake and was mobbed by a Black-headed Gull.
Wigeon |Rushy Common Goldeneye |Rushy Common  
Saturday 11th March
This morning I saw a Coal Tit on the feeders at Millets Farm garden centre. Later I saw a Skylark at the allotment.
Thursday 9th March
I saw my first Brimstone of the year this morning - it flew over the garden at 11:30am. At lunchtime I had a brief visit to Dry Sandford Pit, where I saw at least three Commas, a Peacock and another Brimstone. There weren't many bird about, but I did see a Buzzard, a Wren and two Great Spotted Woodpeckers.
Buzzard | Dry Sandford Pit Peacock | Dry Sandford Pit  
Saturday 4th March
I had a brief sighting of a Comma butterfly in the front garden around lunchtime. There was more frogspawn in the garden pond today.
Thursday 2nd March
After a couple of weeks of inactivity due to bad weather and illness, I visited Port Meadow at lunchtime today. The flooded area was fairly modest compared to last year. There were many Wigeon feeding out on the grass, and lots of loafing Black-headed Gulls. I saw two Oystercatchers and two Shelduck, and some Shoveler. A solitary Cormorant was fishing in the river.
When I got home there was a big blob of frogspawn in the pond.
Sunday 19th February
I visited Otmoor again this morning, arriving at 08:45 with the temperature about 9°C. It was mostly cloudy. The feeders had mostly attracted Blue and Great Tits again. Up on the bridleway I watched a Skylark climbing to his singing height over Greenaways, and a Red Kite was mobbed by Lapwings there as well. A Cetti's Warbler called from the undergrowth, but as usual didn't reveal itself. From the hide there were many Wigeon on Ashgrave, also some Teal and a couple of male Pintail. The seeds near the hide had attracted lots of Reed Buntings, Linnets and Goldfinches. Eventually a Stock Dove came down; there were five together at one point, but they didn't come into camera range. There were lots of Golden Plover on Big Otmoor, frequently taking to the air en masse against real or perceived threats. There must have been at least 1500 altogether, and probably a thousand Lapwings. There were some more Pintail on Big Otmoor, and another lot of Wigeon. At the first screen there were a dozen Tufted Ducks, fifteen Pochard and numerous Teal. A Marsh Harrier made a low pass and flushed a lot of ducks into the open. I later saw a second one, and there was some interaction between them and a Red Kite. Three Snipe flew overhead.
Marsh Harrier | Otmoor Shoveler | Otmoor Pintail | Otmoor
Thursday 16th February
I saw my first butterflies of the year today: two Commas were out and about in the Oxford University Parks in a spell of sunshine just after 1pm (this is the earliest date I've ever seen a Comma). Birds were a bit thin on the ground. When I got to the rollers there was a Grey Heron perched on the railing, but there was no sign of any Goosander. Quite a few Wigeon were on the lake on the other side of the river. On the way back to the office I saw about ten Redwing and a Mistle Thrush. There were many Snowdrops and Winter Aconites in flower.
Comma | Oxford Grey Heron | Oxford  
Sunday 12th February
A Wren made a couple of appearances in my garden today. The pair of Long-tailed Tits showed up again. Today they had a go at the fat balls, rather than searching for insects as they did yesterday.
Saturday 11th February
There were two Long-tailed Tits in my garden this morning.
Wednesday 8th February
A Song Thrush was singing from the top of a fir tree in Hinksey Park this morning.
Monday 6th February
A couple of signs of spring today: a Blackbird was collecting nesting material in the garden this morning, and a Hellebore was in flower. And Hazel bushes around Abingdon have had catkins for some time.
Saturday 4th February
I visited Otmoor this afternoon, my first trip there this year. It was mostly sunny with the temperature around 9°C when I got there, and around 4°C when I left. The first species I saw wasn't a bird, but a couple of Muntjac feeding in the open on the Closes. Then I found an obliging Short-eared Owl perched in a hawthorn bush in the car park field (this bird has been around for a while). There wasn't much at the feeders other than Blue and Great Tits. On the way along the bridleway I saw a Buzzard being harrassed by a couple of Carrion Crows. There were many Lapwing and Starlings airborne over Greenways and Big Otmoor. I saw a couple of Red Kites and a Sparrowhawk amongst them. The majority of birds feeding on seeds at the hide were Reed Buntings, with four Yellowhammers, some Linnets and finches. As I was walking along the track to the first screen I saw a small flock of Golden Plover overhead. At the first screen there were the usual ducks on the lagoon, and at least ten Snipe were visible. On the way to the second screen I heard a Cetti's Warbler. There were around fifteen Pochard on the lagoon. I saw a couple of Marsh Harriers. A Peregrine flushed the ducks, but it was probably after Starlings which by now were streaming into the reedbed from all directions. The roost has been estimated at 100000 birds. They were all jammed into a fairly small area of the reedbed; the noise was extraordinary. By 17:20 it was all over so I walked back to the car in the evening twilight.
Yellowhammer | Otmoor Short-eared Owl | Otmoor  
Thursday 2nd February
There were two Common Frogs in my garden pond this evening.
Saturday 28th January
I had a late afternoon walk around Thrupp Lake today. The lake was partially frozen, which concentrated the birds into the non-frozen areas. There were many Teal, probably at least two hundred. There were also good numbers of Gadwall and Tufted Duck, but only a few Wigeon and one each of Pochard and Shoveler. I saw one Grey Heron and one Little Egret. I heard a Kingfisher and then saw it shoot along the north bank of the lake. There were a few Herring Gulls about, both adult and sub-adult birds. The latter two were new species this year. There were few passerines about; a couple of Robins was about it.
Sunday 22nd January
Another bright but very cold morning. I headed to Farmoor, where the reservoirs were not frozen. There was a Little Grebe in the lagoon by the sailing club, and I only found two more as I walked around. Tufted Duck was pretty well the only species of duck present; the count was into three figures. There were also at least fifty Cormorants perched on the rafts. A few of them were in breeding plumage. I found a dead Grey Heron at the water's edge, and I saw two live ones. On the way down to Pinkhill I heard a Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming, but I couldn't locate it. There were some Redwings and Fieldfares on the grassy slope of the reservoir. Pinkhill was completely frozen, but seed which has been scattered by the hide had attracted a number of Reed Buntings, a female Pheasant and a Water Rail. The first time this appeared it was chased off by a Blackbird (this bird had a great deal of trouble trying to walk on ice!), but it came back a bit later for a more leisurely visit. A Barn Owl was visible perched in a tree at some distance. A Kestrel landed on the perching pole that has been erected since my last visit. This is presumably intended for the nest platform that has also been put up. Ospreys later this year maybe?
Later at home a Buzzard came fairly close to the garden at quite a low altitude.
Redwing | Farmoor Water Rail | Farmoor Little Grebe | Farmoor
Saturday 21st January
I visited Standlake Common again this morning. It was pretty cold, and the lakes were mostly frozen over. I spotted a solitary male Goldeneye and five male Goosander on Pit 38. While I was watching these a Great Spotted Woodpecker appeared and was quite vocal. The only bird of note on Pit 27 was the Great White Egret. I saw a Peregrine flying between the electricity pylons. There were lots of Greylag Geese (and others of more dubious parentage) out in the fields. Robins were quite numerous - I saw at least ten. Some appeared to have paired up. There was another Goosander on Pit 60, but no sign of any Red-crested Pochards on Pit 28. On the way back down the lane I saw some Long-tailed Tits and Bullfinches, and also two Song Thrushes.
Robin | Standlake Common Long-tailed Tit | Standlake Common Song Thrush | Standlake Common
Friday 20th January
There was a Magpie in the garden this morning, which is a fairly unusual occurence. There were several Redwings feeding on the grass under the Scots Pines in Hinksey Park on the way into work.
Saturday 14th January
I had a trip to the Aves Ditch near Caulcott, Oxon., to see the three Cattle Egrets which had been in the pig field for several weeks. They were quite mobile and one (with a huge amount of mud on its feet) came into camera range from time to time. Also amongst the pigs were lots of Starlings and Black-headed Gulls, and a few Rooks, Pied Wagtails and Lesser Black-backed Gulls. In the hedgerow I saw two flocks of Long-tailed Tits, some Linnets and a couple of Fieldfares.
Later I saw a Kestrel at the allotment and a couple of Long-tailed Tits in the garden.
Cattle Egret | Caulcott    
Friday 13th January
I saw a Kestrel on the way in to work this morning.
New Fieldfareimage added.
Thursday 12th January
I saw a Pied Wagtail in St Giles' churchyard this morning.
Saturday 7th January
I had a cracking view of a Goldcrest in the garden this afternoon. It was searching shrubs for insects, but it also took a couple of bits of food from the table. Unfortunately I didn't have a camera handy!
Thursday 5th January
A walk in the University Parks at lunchtime today added four species to the year list: Redwing, Mistle Thrush, Song Thrush and Goldfinch. Also of note were around two dozen Blackbirds, and at least a dozen Grey Squirrels.
Wednesday 4th January
I saw a Red Kite at the Redbridge car park this morning, and a Moorhen in Hinksey Park.
Monday 2nd January
Much better weather today, so I headed for Standlake Common. I failed to find the two Bean Geese, and the Smew was also elusive. However I saw a good range of birds, and although there wasn't much along Shifford Lane I eventually found a pair of Bullfinches. Scanning Pit 27 for the Smew produced a Little Egret, a Grey Heron, a Pochard and the usual waterbirds. There was a Great White Egret on Pit 38. A Buzzard flew over. Out in the field to the west of the pit a number of Canada Geese and Wigeon were feeding on the grass. I saw a Stonechat in that area as well. There was a large flock of feral Greylag Geese in the other direction, but the Bean Geese were not among them. On Pit 27 I saw three male Goosander and around forty Red-crested Pochard. I went to the Langley Lane hide on Pit 60, turning up a couple of Fieldfares and Long-tailed Tits on the way. The usual waterbirds were on the lake, and the feeders had attracted a few Reed Buntings and a Chaffinch. On the way out of the village I saw a Red Kite.
Back at home I saw a Wren and a couple of Long-tailed Tits in the garden, and a Lesser Black-backed Gull flew over.
Gadwall | Standlake Common    
Sunday 1st January
A wet and miserable start to 2017, which rather suppressed garden bird activity. I only saw seven species (compared with 13 yesterday). In addition there were flypasts from Rooks and Black-headed Gulls.