Natural History Diary : February 2018
Wednesday 28th February
Despite the freezing conditions today, I saw a Blackbird and a Wood Pigeon carrying nest-building materials.
Sunday 25th February
Cold and sunny again. I joined some Butterfly Conservation people for a walk at Sandford Brake (around the electricity substation off Grenoble Road). We looked for Brown Hairstreak eggs on Blackthorn, but the only eggs found were those of the Blue-bordered Carpet. With Oak and Elm as well this site looks good for at least three species of hairstreak. I saw a few birds, of which the most notable were a Buzzard, a Jay, a Green Woodpecker and a Great Spotted Woodpecker.
Saturday 24th February
A cold but sunny day. I visited Standlake Common this morning. There wasn't a great deal to see as I walked down Shifford Lane, but there was a Green Woodpecker and a Fieldfare in the field after the last house. There were two Pochard and four Red-crested Pochard on Pit 27, and three Grey Herons in the trees on one of the islands. Continuing along the footpath I had a good view of a pair of Bullfinches eating Hawthorn buds. I heard a Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming, but I couldn't find it. I saw a Goldcrest along the path between Pits 28 and 60. Pit 60 was pretty quiet. There were still reasonable numbers of Wigeon and Teal, but hardly any Tufted Ducks. I saw three Muntjacs in the field south of the hide.
Green Woodpecker, Standlake, 24-Feb
Bullfinch, Standlake, 24-Feb
Teal, Standlake, 24-Feb
Green Woodpecker | Standlake Bullfinch | Standlake Teal | Standlake
Friday 23rd February
A weather pattern set in overnight which hadn't been seen for a while: cold easterly winds. At least that meant it was sunny today. I went over to Farmoor in the morning. Species were pretty much the same as last week, but there was a male Gadwall on F1, and two Great Black-backed Gulls on one of the rafts. The Pinkhill feeders were well patronised by Blue Tits, Great Tits and Reed Buntings. A Grey Squirrel also had a go at the peanut feeder, and a Brown Rat was feeding on spillage. A couple of Goldfinches were on the Shrike Meadow feeder. There were a few Redwing feeding in the grass on western side of F2. A Cormorant on F1 was not only wearing the white thigh patch, he also had a white head.
Coot, Farmoor, 23-Feb
Goldfinch, Farmoor, 23-Feb
Cormorant, Farmoor, 23-Feb
Coot | Farmoor Goldfinch | Farmoor Cormorant | Farmoor
Thursday 22nd February
This afternoon I counted about thirty House Sparrows in the garden. No wonder the feeders get emptied so quickly. Later I visited Bury Down on the Ridgeway, getting there an hour before sunset. I saw some Long-tailed Tits and at least ten Yellowhammers - the males were still singing as the sun set. I managed to spot at least three Short-eared Owls, but they mostly stayed well out of camera range. On the way back to the car I had a good view of a Barn Owl - and it had a good view of me!
Short-eared Owl, Bury Down, 22-Feb
Barn Owl, Bury Down, 22-Feb
Short-eared Owl | Bury Down Barn Owl | Bury Down
Wednesday 21st February
A Skylark was singing at the allotment this morning.
Tuesday 20th February
I visited the Ridgeway again this morning, a little further west than last time at East Hendred Down. It was mostly cloudy and there was a fairly brisk northerly wind. There was an obliging Kestrel in the car park area, which allowed a fairly close approach. There were very large flocks of Rooks and Wood Pigeons, and smaller flocks of Starlings. There were more singing Skylarks than last time: I saw at least six. There was a flock of about twenty Yellowhammers which were very flighty. To the west of the car park I saw at least ten Pied Wagtails and twenty Linnets feeding in a sheep field. I couldn't find the reported Short-eared Owls or Great Grey Shrike though.
Kestrel, East Hendred Down, 20-Feb
Yellowhammer, East Hendred Down, 20-Feb
Kestrel | East Hendred Down Yellowhammer | East Hendred Down
Sunday 18th February
Four Long-tailed Tits visited the garden this morning.
Saturday 17th February
I had a trip up to north-west Oxfordshire this morning, to see if the Black Redstart was still at Chalford Park Barns, but there was no sign of it in the 90 minutes I was there. Bird feeders on the site were quite well patronised, with the most noteworthy species being a Nuthatch and a Coal Tit. I also saw a Goldcrest in a fir tree.
Nuthatch, Chalford Park, 17-Feb
Nuthatch, Chalford Park, 17-Feb
Nuthatch | Chalford Park Nuthatch | Chalford Park
Friday 16th February
I paid a quick visit to the Oxford University Parks this morning. I saw a Goldcrest and there were several Robins singing. One or two bees were active in the sunshine, but I couldn't find any butterflies.
Thursday 15th February
After two wet days it was good to see the sun again today. I went over to Farmoor. The only item of note as I crossed the causeway was a flock of eight Goldeneye (two males and six females). There wasn't a lot in the Pinkhill hedgerow, but I saw three Bullfinches and a Goldcrest. There were six Mute Swans (two adults and four juveniles) on the Pinkhill lagoon, but no Water Rails under the feeders today - just a Mallard and some Reed Buntings. As I walked south from the hide, I heard and then saw some Siskin flitting about in the trees.
Mallard, Farmoor, 15-Feb
Snow Goose (blue morph), Farmoor, 15-Feb
Snow Goose, Farmoor, 15-Feb
Mallard | Farmoor Snow Goose (blue morph) | Farmoor Snow Goose | Farmoor
When I got back up to the reservoir from Shrike Meadow, the Snow Goose flock was feeding on the grass. I managed to get quite close to them, but the sun was in the wrong place so photography was difficult. But then a passer-by flushed the flock, and the birds flew round and landed north of me, which was perfect. There were eight or nine blue-phase birds amongst them. On the reservoir I saw at least seven Little Grebes. There weren't many Cormorants about, but most of them were wearing the white thigh patch (which only appears before the breeding season starts).
Reed Bunting, Farmoor, 15-Feb
Little Grebe, Farmoor, 15-Feb
Cormorant, Farmoor, 15-Feb
Reed Bunting | Farmoor Little Grebe | Farmoor Cormorant | Farmoor
Monday 12th February
Another cold, sunny morning but it was much less windy than yesterday. I went down to Thrupp Lake. Along the lane I saw two Fieldfares, two Song Thrushes and a Kestrel. The usual residents were on the lake. The only bird of note was a single Common Gull. There were a few Shoveler on Orchard lake, and a Song Thrush and a Redwing in an ivy-covered tree. Back at Thrupp Lake I saw a Grey Heron and two Little Egrets. Two Red Kites and a Buzzard were overhead. Later at the allotment I saw two more Red Kites, another Buzzard and a Kestrel.
Common Gull, Radley Lakes, 12-Feb
Little Egret, Radley Lakes, 12-Feb
Tufted Duck, Radley Lakes, 12-Feb
Common Gull | Radley Lakes Little Egret | Radley Lakes Tufted Duck | Radley Lakes
Sunday 11th February
A sunny but cold morning. At home this morning there were about a dozen Goldfinches in the sycamore tree in a nearby garden. I went to Bury Down, which was very windy. There were a number of Skylarks about, mostly staying close to the ground, although one male put on a singing display. There were several small flocks of Starlings flying about. A huge flock of Rooks was flushed further south. I spotted a single Fieldfare in a field full of molehills on Sheep Down (in addition, a small flock of Fieldfares was flushed by a runner down on Grim's Ditch). Back on the Ridgeway a quartet of Yellowhammers wouldn't allow a close approach. On the way back to the car I saw at least four Stock Doves in the air. I also saw a couple of Red Kites and a Kestrel.
Fieldfare, Bury Down, 11-Feb
Fieldfare | Bury Down    
Wednesday 7th February
There were at least four Common Frogs in my garden pond this evening, even though ice was forming on it.
Tuesday 6th February
I had a walk in Bagley Wood this afternoon - it was very chilly. Not surprisingly there were few birds about, but eventually I managed to find a Treecreeper in an oak tree. While looking at this I also saw a Nuthatch and a Coal Tit.
Monday 5th February
Another cold but sunny morning. I went over to Standlake. There wasn't much to see as I walked down Shifford Lane, but I heard a drumming Great Spotted Woodpecker. There was a Goosander on Pit 27, but scanning the far bank with the scope revealed a pair of Oystercatchers and five Egyptian Geese. On Pit 60 I saw a Great White Egret and a Little Egret from the north hide. I didn't get a better view of the GWE from the Langley Lane hide, except when it flew. There were two male and a female Goldeneye amongst the other ducks. I went back to the north hide, where I spotted another Oystercatcher. On the way back I saw a Song Thrush, three Fieldfares and four Redwings. Raptors seen today were a Buzzard and two Red Kites.
As I was in the area, I went back to the churchyard at Northmoor, and for a change had it to myself. After a bit of a wait I spotted two Hawfinches (a male and a female) in the big Yew tree by the far gate. They occasionally showed themselves, and I even got a pic of the female in flight. Some Long-tailed Tits were a bit more obliging, and there were several Blue Tits about.
Great White Egret, Standlake Common, 05-Feb
Long-tailed Tit, Northmoor, 05-Feb
Hawfinch, Northmoor, 05-Feb
Great White Egret | Standlake Common Long-tailed Tit | Northmoor Hawfinch ♀ | Northmoor
Sunday 4th February
A sunny morning, but there was a chilly north-easterly wind. I headed down to Radley Lakes. On the way I saw two Mistle Thrushes in the horse paddock, a flock of at least a hundred Wood Pigeons (flushed by walkers), four Long-tailed Tits in a bramble bush, and a Kestrel, which was hovering only a few yards from me. It dropped to the ground and came up with a mouse or vole in its talons.
The usual residents were on Thrupp Lake. There were quite a few 1st and 2nd winter Herring Gulls on the lake. A male Mute Swan was behaving very aggressively towards another swan, and Canada Geese were very vocal - a sure sign that nest-building isn't far away. I saw one Grey Heron and one Little Egret. I saw two Egyptian Geese at the south end of the lake, and a Green Woodpecker near the railway line.
Herring Gull (imm), Radley Lakes, 04-Feb
Herring Gull (imm), Radley Lakes, 04-Feb
Egyptian Goose, Radley Lakes, 04-Feb
Herring Gull (imm) | Radley Lakes Herring Gull (imm) | Radley Lakes Egyptian Goose | Radley Lakes