Natural History Diary : January 2019
Monday 28th January
Today I had a good view of a Muntjac in Fence Wood. Then at the Thatcham wildlife discovery centre I saw a Treecreeper as soon as I got out of the car! Finally, on the Ridgeway at Bury Down I saw a couple of Yellowhammers and Corn Buntings, a ring-tail Hen Harrier, a Sparrowhawk and a Barn Owl.
Sunday 27th January
A cold and windy morning, although there was some sunshine. I went to the middle section of Bagley Wood. There were birds about, but they were quite hard to find. Eventually I located a Treecreeper, four Coal Tits and two Goldcrests.
Wednesday 23rd January
Yesterday and today around ten Blackbirds and four Redwings were feeding in my Cotoneaster bush. No Fieldfares showed up, though.
Redwing, Abingdon, 23-Jan
Redwing, Abingdon, 23-Jan
Redwing | Abingdon Redwing | Abingdon  
Sunday 20th January
I visited Farmoor this morning. It was pretty chilly (only 2°C) and the light was poor. There wasn't anything unusual on the reservoirs. Two Little Grebes were diving close to the shore. I noticed that Coot were bringing small clusters of freshwater mussels to the water's edge to eat; I'd never seen them do that before. At Pinkhill the usual species were present, including a Water Rail. There were a few Bullfinches in the hedgerow. I heard a Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming, but I couldn't find it. I saw three Redwings and three Song Thrushes.
I had a short walk in Bagley Wood in the afternoon, but apart from the usual Blue and Great Tits all I could find was a Nuthatch.
At home I saw a Pied Wagtail and a Redwing.
Great Crested Grebe, Farmoor, 20-Jan
Little Grebe, Farmoor, 20-Jan
Great Crested Grebe | Farmoor Little Grebe | Farmoor  
Saturday 19th January
I spotted two Redwings feeding in my Cotoneaster bush this afternoon, along with eight or nine Blackbirds. After dark there was a very fat Common Frog in my pond.
Thursday 17th January
A pretty cold day, but it was sunny. I went over to Gloucestershire to visit Slimbridge. As is usual at this time of year the Tack Piece was hosting thousands of birds, but one very near the Martin Allen hide was of more interest: a Jack Snipe. As I'd never seen one before I was keen to get a decent photograph, but although I could see the bird down in some short vegetation, it didn't move for an hour. There were at least a thousand Wigeon on the Tack Piece, mostly feeding on the grass, but from time to time the whole lot returned to the water. There were probably around a thousand Lapwing as well. I counted around sixty Bewick's Swans, at least a hundred Shelduck and probably two hundred Pintail. There were many Greylag and Canada Geese and around fifty White-fronted Geese. Other species included Dunlin, Redshank, Snipe, Stock Dove and Ruff. From the Holden Tower I saw around two hundred Barnacle Geese and four Cranes. At the Willow hide a Water Rail was picking up spilt food from the feeders. Back at Martin Allen I got some more views of the Jack Snipe, but it still wouldn't show itself properly. Finally, a large flock of Golden Plover took to the air from the field beyond the Tack Piece. A quick look at the South hide turned up some Pochard and Cormorants, and two Little Egrets.
Pintail ♂, Slimbridge, 17-Jan
Bewick's Swan, Slimbridge, 17-Jan
Shelduck ♂, Slimbridge, 17-Jan
Pintail ♂ | Slimbridge Bewick's Swan | Slimbridge Shelduck ♂ | Slimbridge
Wigeon ♂, Slimbridge, 17-Jan
Ruff, Slimbridge, 17-Jan
Lapwing, Slimbridge, 17-Jan
Wigeon ♂ | Slimbridge Ruff | Slimbridge Lapwing | Slimbridge
Tuesday 15th January
I saw a Kestrel at the allotment this morning.
Sunday 13th January
A brighter morning than recently. I visited the west side of Bagley Wood again, and explored further than I did last time. I saw quite a few Blue and Great Tits, several Long-tailed Tits, one Coal Tit, three Great Spotted Woodpeckers, two Song Thrushes, a Goldcrest and a Nuthatch.
Wednesday 9th January
A cold but sunny morning, with a brisk northerly wind. I visited Radley Lakes. On the way down Thrupp Lane I saw a Buzzard and two Mistle Thrushes in the horse field. At Thrupp Lake the first bird of note was a Common Gull. There were lots of Gadwall and ten Pochard on the water, but only a small number of Tufted Ducks. I saw a Greenfinch, three Bullfinches, two Goldfinches, four Long-tailed Tits, a Wren and a Goldcrest in the vegetation in the north-east corner of the lake. A pair of Egyptian Geese flew a circuit of the lake, but they didn't land as fas as I could tell. I saw a Jay on the western side of the lake.
Tufted Duck ♂, Thrupp Lake, 09-Jan
Robin, Thrupp Lake, 09-Jan
Tufted Duck ♂ | Thrupp Lake Robin | Thrupp Lake  
Tuesday 8th January
A fairly sunny morning, but there was a cold northerly wind. I went over to Standlake. There were a few Fieldfares and Redwings in the horse paddock down Shifford Lane, but there wasn't much else until I got to Pit 27, when I spotted some Bullfinches in the hedgerow and a Grey Heron on the lake. There were a few Red-crested Pochards on pit 28. There was a Great White Egret on the north shore of Pit 60, but it never came very close to either hide. A lot of Wigeon were tucked up along the north shore; I reckoned there were at least 300 of them. As well as the usual ducks I also found some Goldeneye (3 males and 5 females). A Buzzard flew over and a Great Spotted Woodpecker was tucking into the fat balls at the feeder station. On the way back to the car I had another look at Pit 27, and this time spotted a Little Egret on one of the islands, and also four Goosander. Down Shifford Lane I saw more Bullfinches, and a Green Woodpecker flew up into a tree. Near home I saw a Kestrel hovering over a field.
Wigeon ♂, Standlake Common, 08-Jan
Great White Egret, Standlake Common, 08-Jan
Bullfinch ♂, Standlake Common, 08-Jan
Wigeon ♂ | Standlake Common Great White Egret | Standlake Common Bullfinch ♂ | Standlake Common
Saturday 5th January
A Great Spotted Woodpecker landed in a tree near my house this morning.
Thursday 3rd January
Another dull and cloudy day. I got down to Otmoor at 1pm. There were some Fieldfares in the car park field. Blue Tits, Great Tits and Chaffinches were busy on the feeders, and there were two very well fed Grey Squirrels on the ground. There were lots of geese on Greenaways, mostly the usual species but there was a single Barnacle Goose and some rather odd-looking hybrids (Barnacle x Greylag?). The path south of the hide was pretty popular thanks to all the seed that had been put down, with lots of Linnets, Reed Buntings and Chaffinches on the ground. I also saw a pair of Bullfinches, three Yellowhammers, two Moorhens and a Water Rail. A Sparrowhawk turned up and that was the end of proceedings, as all the small birds made themselves scarce.
Fieldfare, Otmoor, 03-Jan
Barnacle Goose, Otmoor, 03-Jan
Reed Bunting ♂, Otmoor, 03-Jan
Fieldfare | Otmoor Barnacle Goose | Otmoor Reed Bunting ♂ | Otmoor
Yellowhammer ♂, Otmoor, 03-Jan
Linnet, Otmoor, 03-Jan
Water Rail, Otmoor, 03-Jan
Yellowhammer ♂ | Otmoor Linnet | Otmoor Water Rail | Otmoor
Bullfinch ♂, Otmoor, 03-Jan
Bullfinch ♀, Otmoor, 03-Jan
Sparrowhawk, Otmoor, 03-Jan
Bullfinch ♂ | Otmoor Bullfinch ♀ | Otmoor Sparrowhawk | Otmoor
At the first screen the usual waterfowl were present, but a surprise was a male Mandarin Duck. The wintering male Hen Harrier also put in an appearance, but was distant. A male Marsh Harrier was seen at the second screen. The Starling murmuration took a little while to get going, but at its height we estimated that there were 60000 birds. They took a long time to go down into the reedbed. I was surprised not to see any Lapwing or Golden Plover today. Presumably the fields they usually use were not wet enough.
Wednesday 2nd January
I visited Farmoor again in the early afternoon. Not much had changed since my visit on New Year's Eve, except that there were five Little Grebes on the reservoirs and two Water Rails at Pinkhill (the rails didn't play nicely together). There was a Reed Bunting on the feeders. I saw three Bullfinches and a Wren in the Pinkhill hedgerow. Back on the causeway I saw a Redshank, the first wader I'd seen at Farmoor for some time. Gulls today were Black-headed, Herring, Lesser Black-backed and Yellow-legged. The YLG was missing a foot.
Little Grebe, Farmoor, 02-Jan
Water Rail, Farmoor, 02-Jan
Redshank, Farmoor, 02-Jan
Little Grebe | Farmoor Water Rail | Farmoor Redshank | Farmoor
Tuesday 1st January
2019 started pretty cloudy again, but still quite mild. Seen in, near or over the garden this morning were Robin (1), Pied Wagtail (1), Carrion Crow (2), Starling (8+), Red Kite (1), Rook (5), House Sparrow (12+), Dunnock (2), Blackbird (2), Collared Dove (1) and Wood Pigeon (3). The most unexpected sighting was of a female Blackcap in the garden. In the afternoon Bagley Wood was almost devoid of birds. All I could find of interest were a Goldcrest and a Great Tit.
After dark there were two Common Frogs in the garden pond.