Natural History Diary : February 2019
Wednesday 27th February
I had a trip to East Hendred Down this afternoon. I spent some time in the woodland around Scutchamer Knob. Eventually I located a female Brambling high up in a tree. There were quite a few Chaffinches there as well. Out on the Ridgeway I heard and then saw a Skylark (there were at least three singing). I spotted a Red-legged Partridge. There were some Yellowhammers and Linnets about. I finally spotted a Short-eared Owl sitting in a tree, and then flying, but it didn't come very close. As the sun started to go down at least twenty Corn Buntings assembled in the bushes on the far side of the gallops.
Red Kite, East Hendred Down, 27-Feb
Short-eared Owl, East Hendred Down, 27-Feb
Corn Bunting, East Hendred Down, 27-Feb
Red Kite | East Hendred Down Short-eared Owl | East Hendred Down Corn Bunting | East Hendred Down
Tuesday 26th February
An even warmer day than yesterday, but I only saw one butterfly, a Red Admiral in the garden. At the allotment no fewer than five Red Kites were overhead at one point.
Monday 25th February
Another day of wall-to-wall sunshine, although it was quite chilly early on. I visited Dry Sandford Pit again between 1 and 2pm. Butterflies seen were five Brimstones, four Commas, one Peacock and one Small Tortoiseshell. Getting six UK species before the end of February is pretty remarkable.
Comma, Dry Sandford Pit, 25-Feb
Comma | Dry Sandford Pit    
Sunday 24th February
Another sunny day, but not as warm as yesterday. The Small White was still sitting on a Fremontodendron leaf this morning, but it had gone by 1pm. I was doing some work in the garden when a Wood Mouse appeared, and made several attempts at getting to spilled bird food (before I got out of the way). At the allotment a single Peacock made a brief appearance, and a Brimstone flew past the garden.
Wood Mouse, Abingdon, 24-Feb
Wood Mouse | Abingdon    
Saturday 23rd February
A pretty amazing day for February. Once the fog had burnt off, the sun came out and the temperature climbed to 15°C. I went over to Standlake. On the way down Shifford Lane there were lots of Blue Tits, Great Tits, Dunnocks, Chaffinches and Robins singing. A Skylark rose over the field north of the lane. A Greenfinch was singing along the track, and two Bullfinches were eating hawthorn buds. I saw a Grey Heron flying across pit 27 carrying nest-building material. There were a couple of Pochard on the lake. There were lots of Wigeon on pit 38. I went do the Langley Lane hide, from where I could see an Oystercatcher on the island near the other hide. A flock of 50-60 Lapwings was flying round. I went back to the north shore hide, where I realised there was a second Oystercatcher, but both birds were asleep, so I didn't get any good photos. A Little Egret popped up while I was there, then as I was about to leave a male Brimstone flew in front of the hide. I saw three more of them on the way back to the car, all flying around Ivy looking for females.
Canada Geese, Standlake Common, 23-Feb
Oystercatchers, Standlake Common, 23-Feb
Little Egret, Standlake Common, 23-Feb
Canada Geese | Standlake Common Oystercatchers | Standlake Common Little Egret | Standlake Common
I stopped at Dry Sandford Pit, where I heard a Great Tit singing - it sounded like a rusty gate being opened and closed! I saw at least four male Brimstones and two Peacocks here.
Back at home I was very surprised to see a male Small White flying around! It must have emerged today as it looked pristine. It spent all afternoon sunning itself in my Fremontodendron, and occasionally flying around. It also took some nectar from Hebe flowers. It was still perched on a leaf when it got dark.
Brimstone ♂, Dry Sandford Pit, 23-Feb
Peacock, Dry Sandford Pit, 23-Feb
Small White ♂, Abingdon, 23-Feb
Brimstone ♂ | Dry Sandford Pit Peacock | Dry Sandford Pit Small White ♂ | Abingdon
Thursday 21st February
A queen White-tailed Bumblebee inspected the Hebe flowers this afternoon.
Sunday 17th February
Another very mild day for mid-February, but it was quite breezy. At Farmoor there wasn't much activity as I walked across the causeway. The one-footed Yellow-legged Gull was still present. I went down the the hide overlooking the pool on Shrike Meadow, as Kingfishers had been reported using it. The feeders were well patronised by Blue and Great Tits, Chaffinches, Goldfinches and Reed Buntings, and Blackbirds and Pheasants cleaned up the scraps. But after 45 minutes no Kingfishers had appeared, so I walked along the riverbank to Pinkhill, where a Water Rail was picking up scraps from the feeder there. I walked further north, and found a pair of Stonechats in the rough ground before Pinkhill Lock. On the way back to the car park I spotted a Great Black-backed Gull sitting on a buoy. Later I saw two Red Kites at the allotment. There was more Common Frog activity in the garden after dark; there were six in the pond at one point.
Moorhen, Farmoor, 17-Feb
Pheasant ♀, Farmoor, 17-Feb
Great Black-backed Gull, Farmoor, 17-Feb
Moorhen | Farmoor Pheasant ♂ | Farmoor Great Black-backed Gull | Farmoor
Thursday 14th February
Three 7-Spot Ladybirds were sunning themselves on my Hebe around lunchtime today. I went to Dry Sandford Pit, and as I was getting out of the car I saw a Red Admiral flying over. I walked up and down the cliff face for an hour, but only had a brief view of another butterfly (which I couldn't identify). There were several Blue and Great Tits, a Coal Tit, two Long-tailed Tits, a Wren, and several singing Robins. I also saw two Buzzards and a Red Kite overhead.
7-Spot Ladybird, Abingdon, 14-Feb
7-Spot Ladybird | Abingdon    
Wednesday 13th February
I had another attempt at finding the Black Redstart at Christ Church between midday and 12:25 today, again without success.
Monday 11th February
A Goldfinch visited the garden bird table this morning. After breakfast I went over to Otmoor. There were some sunny intervals, and a light wind. There wasn't very much on the feeders, but five Pheasants and four Grey Squirrels were cleaning up the scraps (the squirrels have worked out how to defeat the baffles on the tree trunks to get at the feeders). There were a few Snipe in the rough ground by the first scrape on Greenaways; they were very hard to spot. I saw my first Skylark of the year here. There were quite a lof of Canada Geese about. The solitary Barnacle Goose was on Big Otmoor. On the way down the track to the first screen I saw four Yellowhammers in a bush. There were at least thirty Shoveler on the lagoon, as well as Teal and Tufted Duck. While I was at the first screen a large flock of Golden Plover took to the air. On the way to the second screen they had landed back on Noke Sides. There were lots of Lapwing there as well. I heard a Cetti's Warbler and then saw it fly across the path. Another year tick. At the second screen there were some Gadwall and Pochard on the water. A Marsh Harrier mad a brief appearance over the reed bed. Back at the hide I saw a Stock Dove, but the small birds stayed out of sight because a female Sparrowhawk was sitting on a fence post. Eventually she flew off and the Linnets and Reed Buntings came back.
Chaffinch ♂, Otmoor, 11-Feb
Shoveler ♂, Otmoor, 11-Feb
Sparrowhawk ♀, Otmoor, 11-Feb
Chaffinch ♂ | Otmoor Shoveler ♂ | Otmoor Sparrowhawk ♀ | Otmoor
Saturday 9th February
I went over to Farmoor this morning. It was fairly mild but very windy. However, the usual species were still present. Some Great Crested Grebes and a Litle Grebe were in summer plumage. A Little Egret was sitting on the rafts on the NW corner of F2, hunkered down against the wind. There were two pairs of Gadwall at Pinkhill. I saw a flock of Lapwing high over the island in the Thames. On the way back to the car I saw a Great Black-backed Gull flying over F1.
Little Egret, Farmoor, 09-Feb
Little Grebe, Farmoor, 09-Feb
Gadwall ♂, Farmoor, 09-Feb
Little Egret | Farmoor Little Grebe | Farmoor Gadwall ♂ | Farmoor
Wednesday 6th February
I had a trip into Oxford today to try to find the Black Redstart that had been found at Christ Church. In the 20 minutes or so I spent looking, there was no sign of it. In the afternoon I found a pair of Common Frogs in amplexus in the garden pond.
Tuesday 5th February
I spotted a female Blackbird carrying nesting material in the garden this morning.
Monday 4th February
The snow had mostly gone today, and the temperature reached 11 Celcius in the afternoon; it almost felt like spring. A Honey-bee came looking for nectar on the Hebe, but went away disappointed. In the evening there were four Common Frogs in the pond.
Friday 1st February
The overnight snow brought around six Blackbirds and three Redwings back to my Cotoneaster bush, but as the majority of the berries had gone they were mostly poking around in the leaf litter. I also saw two Long-tailed Tits in the garden.
Redwing, Abingdon, 01-Feb
Blackbird, Abingdon, 01-Feb
Redwing | Abingdon Blackbird | Abingdon