Natural History Diary : February 2017
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.