Natural History Diary : March 2019
Sunday 31st March
I visited Farmoor reservoir in the late afternoon today. Bird species hadn't changed much since last Thursday, except that a second pair of Gadwall had turned up. A large flock of Sand Martins was feeding fairly high over the reservoirs, but a few came low enough for me to identify at least one House Martin among them. The Snow Geese were feeding on the west bank of F2, and I also saw a Grey Wagtail at the water's edge.
Grey Wagtail, Farmoor, 31-Mar
Grey Wagtail | Farmoor    
Saturday 30th March
The warmest day of the year so far - up to 18°C in the garden. At the allotment in the morning I saw four Orange-tips, three Brimstones, three Peacocks and a Comma. In the afternoon I walked down Barton Lane to Radley Lakes and back. Here I saw eight Orange-tips, nine Peacocks and four Commas. There were at least two Chiffchaffs singing, and I also saw two Buzzards. On the way back I continued on to Barton Field where I saw my first Speckled Wood of the year. As well as more Peacocks and Commas I saw a Small Tortoiseshell. At least three male Greenfinches were singing. I saw two of them, as well as a female.
comma, Radley Lakes, 30-Mar
Speckled Wood ♂, Abingdon, 30-Mar
Small Tortoiseshell, Abingdon, 30-Mar
Comma | Radley Lakes Speckled Wood ♂ | Abingdon Small Tortoiseshell | Abingdon
Friday 29th March
Seen in the garden today were two Peacocks, one Small Tortoiseshell, two male Holly Blues and one male Orange-tip (The latter two species are firsts for the year. The OT was the earliest garden sightings I've ever recorded. The HB sighting was the earliest I've ever recorded). I also saw a Carrion Crow mobbing a Sparrowhawk.
Thursday 28th March
In the morning I saw two male Brimstones at Eynsham. I visited Farmoor in the late afternoon. It was midge-o'clock again; even Mallards were eating the things (but no hirundines were seen). There were still loads of Black-headed Gulls, and the pair of Gadwall, as well as the usual species on the water. At Pinkhill I saw a Treecreeper. Between Pinkhill and Shrike Meadow I saw my first migrant Blackcap of the year, as well as three Chiffchaffs. As I was walking back along the causeway the whole Snow Goose flock took off, flew past the north end of the reservoir, turned round and landed back on at the southern end of F2 where they had started. Very strange!
Tuesday 26th March
A short visit to Dry Sandford Pit at lunchtime today produced three Peacocks, four Commas, a pair of Greenfinches and at least two Chiffchaffs.
Monday 25th March
Another sunny day, but not as warm as Sunday. First stop today was Aston Upthorpe Downs. The damage done last year has started to heal, but the track up to Juniper Valley was still pretty bare. We saw the largest number of Red Kites I'd ever seen here. There were at least thirty in the air, mainly over the sheep field, and they were joined by at least six Buzzards. I was surprised to flush a small flock of Fieldfares. There were eight Lapwings on the grass. When we got out of Juniper Valley we saw a pair of Wheatears on fence posts, but they were flushed by a farm vehicle. A pair of Grey Partridges flew over. There wasn't much in the way of butterflies: two Peacocks, one Comma and one Brimstone.
The next stop was at Cholsey Marsh. A Kingfisher was seen a couple of times. A Treecreeper flew into a small bush right in front of us. The only butterfly seen here was a Peacock.
The third stop was at Radley Lakes. We walked around Thrupp Lake. The usual residents were on the lake. A Chiffchaff was singing, and we saw another Treecreeper. The only butterfly seen here was a Comma.
Buzzard, Aston Upthorpe, 25-Mar
Treecreeper, Cholsey Marsh, 25-Mar
Chiffchaff, Radley Lakes, 25-Mar
Buzzard | Aston Upthorpe Treecreeper | Cholsey Marsh Chiffchaff | Radley Lakes
Sunday 24th March
We visited Otmoor this morning. It was sunny and fairly mild. As we were leaving the car park I spotted a Peacock sunning itself in a Blackthorn bush. A couple of Chiffchaffs were singing. There wasn't much on the feeders. There was a Redshank in the first scrape on Greenaways. Two or three Skylarks were singing overhead. We spotted a couple of distant Marsh Harriers. Somebody had found a Grass Snake in the dead reeds, but that was the only one we saw. There were al least four calling Cetti's Warblers. I saw three Barnacle Geese and a Ruff on Big Otmoor. On the way to the first screen we heard a Water Rail squealing in the ditch. There were several Common Lizards near the first screen. The usual dusks were on the lagoon. Four male Pochard were quite vocal.
At the hide there were still quite a few Reed Buntings and Linnets, and a pair of Yellowhammers, feeding on seeds on the track. I saw a Stoat run across the track. We had a look along the roman road for butterflies, and found three Commas and a couple of Brimstones.
After lunch we went to the west part of Bagley Wood, which wasn't very productive. Butterflies seen here were Brimstone, Peacock and Comma. Birds of note were two Nuthatches, a pair of Brambling, a Great Spotted Woodpecker and a couple of Coal Tits.
Grass Snake, Otmoor, 24-Mar
Dunnock ♂, Otmoor, 24-Mar
Comma, Otmoor, 24-Mar
Grass Snake | Otmoor Dunnock ♂ | Otmoor Comma | Otmoor
Pochard ♂, Otmoor, 24-Mar
Pochard ♀, Otmoor, 24-Mar
Peacock, Bagley Wood, 24-Mar
Pochard ♂ | Otmoor Pochard ♀ | Otmoor Peacock | Bagley Wood
Saturday 23rd March
I visited two local sites today, with a friend was was down from Edinburgh. We went to Farmoor first, where there was still not much change in species, but Jan was pleased to see the Snow Geese. We heard a couple of Chiffchaffs singing near Shrike Meadow. An interesting visitor to the Skrike Meadow feeder was a female Great Spotted Woodpecker. Unfortunately the feeder was empty, so she didn't stay long. On the wy to the Pinkhill hide we saw three Brimstones. There was a Little Grebe on the Pinkhill lagoon. We returned round the north of F1, where we saw a mating pair of Mute Swans, and a pair of Buzzards.
After lunch we visited Standlake Common. There were lots of birds singing along Shifford Lane: Wren, Greenfinch, Robin, Dunnock, Chaffinch and Great Tit. We saw one male and five female Goosander on pit 27. A Green Woodpecker was calling from the big island, but we couldn't locate it. A Kingfisher flew past - my first of the year. On the way to the Langley Lane hide we saw at least thirteen Red-crested Pochard on pit 28. There were still the usual ducks on pit 60, but in reduced numbers. There were also three more Goosander. A pair of Curlew flew in, and had a wash and brush up before departing. I then spotted a Little Ringed Plover on the island - another addition to the year list.
Great Spotted Woodpecker ♀, Farmoor, 23-Mar
Brimstone ♂, Farmoor, 23-Mar
Curlew, Standlake Common, 23-Mar
Great Spotted Woodpecker ♀ | Farmoor Brimstone ♂ | Farmoor Curlew | Standlake Common
Thursday 21st March
I visited Farmoor between 5 and 6pm today. There was a low cloud base but almost no wind. There wasn't much change in species since my last visit, but there were 2500 or more Black-headed Gulls. The noisy ones seemed to be on F1. There had been a large hatch of midges, and at least a dozen Pied Wagtails were feeding on them along the causeway. The pair of Gadwall was still present. A male Kestrel was sitting on the water inlet building, the Snow Geese were still at the south end of F2, and a Chiffchaff was flycatching from a tree.
Kestrel ♂, Farmoor, 21-Mar
Kestrel ♂ | Farmoor    
Sunday 17th March
After a week of very windy weather, it was quieter this morning, with some sunshine. I headed over to Farmoor. The first birds of note were a pair of Gadwall on F2 - not an obvious place for dabbling ducks, it must be said. There were lots of Black-headed Gulls on F1, most in full breeding plumage. Many Great Crested Grebes were also sporting breeding plumage. I noticed that the flock of feral Snow Geese was on the grass at the southern end of F2. I continued down to Pinkhill, where I saw my first Chiffchaffs on the year. There was a Song Thrush on the grass. The feeders at Pinkhill were well patronised by Blue and Great Tits, Chaffinches and Reed Buntings, and the usual Water Rail was picking up scraps. Next stop was the hide at Shrike Meadow, where there was lots of activity on the feeders but no sign of a Kingfisher. Lastly I went to see the Snow Geese. I counted 94 of them, including seven blue-morph birds. They took to the air in front of me, before circling round and landing back on the grass a little further east. Back at the car park I heard a Chiffchaff singing.
Chiffchaff, Farmoor, 17-Mar
Song Thrush, Farmoor, 17-Mar
Snow Goose, Farmoor, 17-Mar
Chiffchaff | Farmoor Song Thrush | Farmoor Snow Goose | Farmoor
Wednesday 13th March
A female Blackcap was in the garden this morning. I also saw pairs of Great Tit, Blackbird and Robin. The Wood Mouse also put in an appearance.
Tuesday 5th March
I visited Otmoor this morning. It was cool and quite sunny, but cloud increased as the morning went on, and there was a moderate WSW wind. There wasn't much down the roman road - drumming Great Spotted Woodpecker was noteworthy. There wasn't much on Greenaways either, but a deer carcass had attracted a number of Red Kites. A Redshank was feeding on one of the scrapes. The main activity was on Big Otmoor. There were lots of geese (including two Barnacle Geese), Wigeon, Shoveler, Golden Plover and Lapwing (although the latter two were much reduced in numbers), but around twenty Curlew were the most interesting sighting. I'd never seen that many Curlew at Otmoor before. At the first screen there were the usual ducks, including the leucistic Pochard. I also saw a Little Grebe that was coming into summer plumage. At the hide I saw a pair of Oystercatchers. The mixed flock feeding on seeds on the track by the hide was much reduced; the majority were Reed Buntings.
Redshank, Otmoor, 05-Mar
Pochard, Otmoor, 05-Mar
Pochard (leucistic), Otmoor, 05-Mar
Redshank | Otmoor Pochard ♂ | Otmoor Pochard (leucistic) | Otmoor
Monday 4th March
There was a load of frog spawn in the garden pond this morning. In the evening I counted nine Common Frogs in the pond.
Sunday 3rd March
The Wood Mouse was out and about in the garden yesterday morning and today.