Natural History Diary : March 2017
Thursday 30th March
The warmest day of the year so far - about 18°C. I visited the University Parks at lunchtime. There were not all that many butterflies about but I did find my first Speckled Wood of the year. Across the river in Marston Meadows I saw a male Orange-tip (another year tick) and heard a couple of Chiffchaffs (both the Speckled Wood and Orange-tip sightings were the earliest recorded by me since 2012). There was a juvenile Blackbird in the garden this evening.
Sunday 26th March
Another pretty decent day. The wind wasn't as strong, so it felt warmer. I saw a couple of Peacocks, a male Brimstone and a couple of Dark-edged Bee-flies in the garden. I saw a couple more Peacocks at the allotment, then as I was leaving a pair of Grey Partridges flew across the track and landed in the field (those were the first GPs I'd seen at the allotment since 2013). At Farmoor the wind was pretty much due east, which wasn't helping migrants. I saw three Dunlin and two Meadow Pipits, as well as the usual residents.
Meadow Pipit | Farmoor Grey Partridge | Shippon  
Saturday 25th March
The first really spring-like day of the year: wall-to-wall sunshine and a maximum temperature of 15°C. I visited Otmoor in the morning. As I walked down the old Roman road I could hear Chiffchaffs calling. I had a brief view of a Red Admiral before it disappeared over the hedge line. I heard a Green Woodpecker calling, and also spotted a pair of Coal Tits in an oak tree (that's not a common species on the moor as there are no coniferous trees there). Up on the bridleway I heard a Cetti's Warbler and saw a couple of Skylarks. There was a Great Spotted Woodpecker on the feeders. As I walked along the bridleway I saw a Brown Hare on Greenaways. At the hide there were large groups of Linnets and Reed Buntings, but just one Yellowhammer. I saw a Brimstone here. There were two Redshank on the Closes. There were still a lot of Wigeon on Big Otmoor, as well as Lapwings and Canada Geese. On the way back to the car park I saw a total of eight Grass Snakes sunning themselves in the dead reeds. Back along the roman road I saw two Brimstones and two Small Tortoiseshells. As I was about to leave I spotted a Bank Vole scurrying about in the vegatation. On the way home I saw two Brimstones in Islip and another in Kidlington.
When I got home a Peacock was nectaring on grape hyacinth flowers in next door's garden. Later I was just about to go to the allotment when a juvenile Blackbird flew into the kitchen window! Fortunately it was able to fly off. At the allotment I saw another Skylark, a Red Kite which swooped low along the track (it must have seen something it thought was food), and two Small Tortoiseshells which I saw on the A34 embankment as I was leaving.
Chiffchaff | Otmoor Grass Snake | Otmoor Linnet | Otmoor
Sunday 19th March
I had an early start at Farmoor this morning, getting there just after 08:30. There was a very strong WSW wind blowing which took the edge off the temperature. There wasn't anything of note on the reservoirs themselves - just the usual residents. At the western end of the causeway I found a Great Crested Grebe asleep on the bank. Down by Pinkhill, where it was more sheltered, I found a couple of Chiffchaffs, and a group of three male and two female Bullfinches, which were busy eating buds. The Bullfinches were very wary and it was impossible to get close to them. There was a pair of Gadwall on Pinkhill, and I heard a Cetti's Warbler. I saw a Song Thrush on the grass by the stone seat. Later a Skylark was singing at the allotment.
Bullfinch | Farmoor Pied Wagtail | Farmoor  
Wednesday 15th March
I visited Port Meadow at lunchtime today. The first bird of note was a Chiffchaff, which was feeding in the Prunus tree at the entrance to Burgess Field. Out on the flood I saw four Shelduck, two Oystercatchers, and two Redshank. There were still lots of Wigeon and Teal, and a few Lesser Black-backed Gulls. Although it was a mild and sunny day I didn't see any butterflies.
Tuesday 14th March
I saw some amazing bird behaviour today: a Red Kite deliberately targeted a Carrion Crow which was perched on the ridge of the roof of a nearby house. The crow only just got out of the way in time. It flew to another roof, where the kite had another go at it. I'd never seen a kite do that before. I guess it was fed up of being mobbed by crows.
Monday 13th March
I saw several butterflies in the University Parks at lunchtime today: at least six male Brimstones, four Commas, two Small Tortoiseshells and a Peacock.
Small Tortoiseshell | Oxford    
Sunday 12th March
I visited Rushy Common this afternoon. There were lots of noisy Black-headed Gulls on the main lake. Tufted Duck and Wigeon were the main duck species, but there was also a solitary male Goldeneye. Waders seen were an Oystercatcher, a Green Sandpiper and several Lapwing. I located a Song Thrush which was singing in a tree. The three Tar Lakes were almost devoid of birds, with just a few Coot and a pair of Gadwall to be seen. Finally I saw my first Chiffchaff of the year, and also a nice male Yellowhammer. As I was leaving a Red Kite drifted over the lake and was mobbed by a Black-headed Gull.
Wigeon |Rushy Common Goldeneye |Rushy Common  
Saturday 11th March
This morning I saw a Coal Tit on the feeders at Millets Farm garden centre. Later I saw a Skylark at the allotment.
Thursday 9th March
I saw my first Brimstone of the year this morning - it flew over the garden at 11:30am. At lunchtime I had a brief visit to Dry Sandford Pit, where I saw at least three Commas, a Peacock and another Brimstone. There weren't many bird about, but I did see a Buzzard, a Wren and two Great Spotted Woodpeckers.
Buzzard | Dry Sandford Pit Peacock | Dry Sandford Pit  
Saturday 4th March
I had a brief sighting of a Comma butterfly in the front garden around lunchtime. There was more frogspawn in the garden pond today.
Thursday 2nd March
After a couple of weeks of inactivity due to bad weather and illness, I visited Port Meadow at lunchtime today. The flooded area was fairly modest compared to last year. There were many Wigeon feeding out on the grass, and lots of loafing Black-headed Gulls. I saw two Oystercatchers and two Shelduck, and some Shoveler. A solitary Cormorant was fishing in the river.
When I got home there was a big blob of frogspawn in the pond.