Saturday, 30 June 2012

Lisle Style

Motored to Kingston Lisle in a last hopeful shot of noting the return of the Spotted Flycatchers that have bred here for over 25 years. My niece Linda & husband John thought they had a possible sighting a fortnight ago and only this very morning Linda was certain she saw a Spot.Fly on a branch in the garden not far from a nest box. Set up camcorder and waited hopefully not a sausage- and the nest box was obviously deserted, but then it happened on a roof 2 houses away sat a Spotty and it then flew into a Cherry Tree to join its mate and i'm so happy that this isn't another site I have to write off and they've been here all along just a slight movement from their usual spot. This is the type of sighting that really gets my blood racing for when we lose what used to be quite common its a sure sign something worrying is going on. Our insect feeders really need a decent run of good weather if they are going to have any chance to get back on track, the weatherman is not very up-beat about the long term prospects.

Friday, 29 June 2012


Pat-Barn Owl-Wixey has been back to the site where a Sparrowhawk has been noticed closely in the vicinity of a dovecote housing young raptors and they are in fact Kestrel Chicks. So it looks like the Sparrowhawk has been preying on the Doves (hardly any left) and the adult Kestrels have been travelling incognito or at least in the eyes of the owner of the dovecote who was unaware of their presence.
Driving through Clanfield just the other dayI noticed the banks of the stream running through the village being attacked with strim-happy individuals. I am at a loss to understand why the locals think digging it deeper or clearing vegetation from it will prevent the disaster that occured when it flooded so bad a couple of year back, surely the problem was the water was unable to get away due entirely to the level of the nearby Thames and the only solution is to move the Thames, alas the only thing that has been moved is a thriving population of Water Voles.


Thursday, 28 June 2012

No Flies Caught and Nothing Spotted.

I had a good year last year with quite a few sightings of Spotted Flycaychers in the county but this year i've drawn a blank. They are not even at my Niece's place at Kingston Lisle and this has been a reliable nesting site for quite some time now. A site I found them at last year in the village of Grafton in the garden of an old farmhouse owned my a lovely old lady I no longer have access to after she tragically died in a traffic accident, I hope very much they are still in this location, particularly as she was very excited when I identified them for her. I had initially responded to a request from her to confirm that she had Nightingale singing in the garden, this I was unable to do as the birds she asked me to listen to were in fact Song Thrush but she accepted the truth with graciousness and the rambling old fashioned garden would have turned up other interesting birds it is a great pity I no longer have access.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

The Future Is Green.

Emma reports from Stanford in the Vale young Green Woodpeckers in old fruit tree in her orchard, so far so good, although problems getting a contractor to mow the grass has proved a benefit for the young as they are experiencing an uninterupted start to their lives.
House Martins seem to be late along with most other species this year, only a few days ago I noticed them still busy nest building.
Pat Wixey reports a possible Sparrowhawk nesting in a dovecote on bare surface with young , this goes again the usual nesting procedure of Sparrowhawk that is a natural nest builder and he will shortly confirm or otherwise.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Memory Lane.

Todays picture is from way back when farmland birds were abundant, so much so that my Mother would take us kids birdsnesting and as far as I could see our activities made no impact on the bird populations. I remember the Magpie as an extremely wary bird and the only time we saw one was either at a nest site or more usually disappearing in the far distance, large flocks of Finches/Buntings, Meadow Pipits and Skylark searched the stubbles feasting on the sustaining plants such as Chickweed that would not get ploughed in until late February or March. I remember I found a tiny nest suspended beneath a leaning-over Willow containing the tiniest eggs I had ever seen , it was a Goldcrest, we often found many species of Warbler nests some very frail it left me wondering how these flimsy structures contained their precious bulky broods without disintegrating. It gradually apparent that egg collecting was a No No, as farming practices changed and the once common birds struggled to sustain viable populations, although the Long-Tailed Tit continued to enthrall us with their wonderful nests and I remember my Father always referred to them as Bottle Tits no doubt a reference to the shape of the nest.
The old photo shows me on the right, left of me my brother Roy and further to the left  a childhood friend called Basil who on meeting I would go into a ritual of greeting him as Baaaaaaaaaaaasil to be met by his retort of Baaaaaaaaaaarry, behind  Basil is my late sister Sylvia and next to her my other sister Valerie who owns a caravan park/social club a few miles from Lampeter and a holiday home not far from Strumble Head which means I have access to some good Welsh birding especially along the Pembroke coast. The other girl is my late cousin Ruth who suffered polio as a child and led a sickly life. The cattle in the picture are Derek and Joan so named because the real Derek who worked for us preferred to be paid in cattle rather than money for his overtime and this eventually gave him the means to farm on his own account, he still farms over Reading way and I still keep in touch with him and his now wife of many yearsJoan.
I will return to something birdy tomorrow. And look on the Oxford Birding Blog for a super event coming up at Blackwells the Oxford bookshop arranged by Clackers and entered on the up-coming talks section I will remind you nearer the time 17thJuly.

Shellingford Quarry

 A visit to Shellingford turned up a probable briefly heard Cetti's Warbler
along with Blue Damselflies, a four spotted chaser dragonfly and another
that I think was a hawker. The sun brought out others and I guess at the
present time it could be a happy hunting ground for Stephen Burch our Dragonfly expert.

Stephens superb site can be found here

Monday, 25 June 2012

At Last the Pain is Over

 Watched England getting put out of the European Cup last night, I'm
beginning to think the three lions shirt emblem should be replaced with
three lambs. 
Along with other OOS committee members attended the weekend Oxford Bioblitz
event, we didn't have a very busy time but met some really interesting
people and our stand was quite close to the Wrights of Shotover fame and the
reptilian stand of Rod Dayala (a speaker at one of the coming seasons indoor
OOS meetings) his display included a live Adder.

Thanks to Dai, Roger and Ian S who all correctly identified the caterpillar
photo as Mullein Moth. Today's offering is Fungi growing beneath an Ash Tree
in my garden. One identifying opportunity everyone excepting Dai missed in
an earlier post titled 'Something Missing Your Life' was a pic of a White
Thistle something I'd not seen before but S from Ashmolean Rare Plants tells
me they do occasionally occur.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Pretty Caterpillar

Been putting together the display boards for our OOS displays at Oxford Bioblitz 
running through Saturday and Sunday hope to see some of you there, please make 
yourself known to me Iwill be wearing my OOS Secretary's lapel badge. 
Needed to feed three of our Tree Sparrow sites as Sally one of our trusty volunteers 
has gone birding in Wales for a few days and snapped a perky Jenny Wren and this colourful Caterpillar 
Do you know its name?

Friday, 22 June 2012

Some Have Survived

My photo for today is of Blackbirds in my garden and shows that some have survived everything the inclement weather has thrown at them, but of course many have not and the weather shows no sign of settling down in the immediate future.
I may not have time to post over the weekend as Alan Larkman and I are manning a stand at the Oxford Bioblitz when we will display the activities of the Oxford Ornithological Society and at 4.00 pm on Saturday operate a question & answer session on the feeding of wild birds especially garden birds.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Star Dove

I make no apology for posting the Buscot Turtle Dove on the blog once again as the bird is such a star, seemingly performing for one and all. I found myself at the lock to furnish the lock keeper with a long promised replacement feeder although Jon wasn’t on duty, so handed it to the relief lock keeper who unlike Jon had very little knowledge and even less interest in birds, but having carried out my task I walked on along the riverside and noted a most striking Kingfisher in sparkling breeding plumage a very active Reed Warbler and an extremely busy and complaining Jenny Wren. The weather was very warm and quite humid and consequently the place was literally buzzing with insect life and it is noticeable how this awry breeding appears to be resulting in many species doing it all later than usual.
The morning had been spent at a mates place where we watched a Red Kite take scraps off the lawn from just yards away, although the bird was very wary and took ages sussing out the situation before hunger finally got the better of it. A little later a Buzzard appeared and the Kite seemed to try to spiral above it but the Buzzard was keeping a height advantage and it seemed the Kite felt threatened and would not risk taking any remaining scraps.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Visitors return to the farm yard

Dr Alan Larkman and myself attended a farm walk at Carswell Farm last night, the farm is situated off the 420 about a mile down a private road and runs all the way to the Thames. The RSPB and BBOWT were in attendance identifying plants and birds. There was an excellent turn out by the public particularly in view of the England football match being televised live at the same time and birds of note seen included hunting Barn Owl and a marvellous fly-past by a bubbling Curlew, these low lying water meadows are a stronghold of this much loved bird.
There were 40 plus members of the public ranging from youngsters through to the retired and everyone gave the impression of having had an enlightening and uplifting experience. The RSPB were able to show some of the work they have undertaken to help the wildlife of this area including scrapes dug as recently as this last year.
Our society has been involved at this site for several years now operating our Tree Sparrow project at two separate sets of farm buildings and we have good numbers regularly breeding here. Pat Wixey “The Barn Owl Man Of Oxon” has an Owl Box in one of the barns and it may well be occupied as we saw three Owls during the evening. At other times I have noted Stonechat, Wheatear, English Partridge, Little Owl, Peregrine Falcon and in winter Common & Jack Snipe plus Woodcock.
The family farming partnership of Mr Peter Ferris his Daughter Susan and her husband Rodney Martin are committed to a sustainable farming future coupled with a respect and love of the wild creatures and flora they find on their doorstep. These type of farmers really give me hope that all is not yet lost as urbanisation and intensive farming make serious inroads into our countryside.
The evening was part of the local initiative and came under the heading ECO WEEK 2012 and Faringdon deserves great credit for organising the event, and the area can also be proud of having more organic farms within two mile of the town than any other similar sized town in the country.
The farm runs an organic beef herd supplying among others M&S and the mainly Simmental cattle looked a picture as they grazed the lush meadows the cows were accompanied by a magnificent red ruby coloured and apparently oversexed South Devon bull.
This super outing  finished in a marvellously English way with tea and biscuits – sometimes it feels really good to be alive.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Turtle Dove Speculation

Round about the 15th of the month Tony Edwards asked the question on Oxonbirds if others had an opinion on the marital status of the Buscot Turtle Dove, having motored down that way yesterday topping up Tree Sparrow sites I took the opportunity to call in and enjoy the purring of this beauty and get some video and pics. Driving to my next point of call I came upon my mate dr. Bill Haynes one of Oxons first rate birders, as usual he was on his bike looking for the world like a Greek god with his blond locks streaming out behind him and not an ounce of fat on him, this was an opportune meeting as I wished to ask his opinion on the Turtle Dove, he was the person who first located this bird four years ago and like the rest of us has mused on whether it’s the same bird returning and if it has managed to survive the brainless killers of birds en-route to this country or is in fact a younger version of the original, Bill rightly pointed out that the story of the killing of a possible mate could be just that, as it has all been a bit vague and there is a strong possibility if indeed a dove has at some stage been shot the likelihood is one of the many Collared in the vicinity as joe public usually has no knowledge of the difference, also it would seem rather unlikely that the TD would spend four years without carrying out the whole purpose of its trip – procreation – and so we cling to the hope that there is indeed a Ms Turtle Dove fruitfully brooding young in the area.

Sunday, 17 June 2012


A recent visit to my Doctor resulted in a course of water tablets. Crikey! Powerful or what ? I pee'd up hill and down dale, car trips were puntuated with stops in field and hedgerow, friends found me making unexpected use of their facilities and my Doctor had brought a new meaning to the phrase "taking the piss" also the word Peacock has taken on a new meaning for me. I'm relieved to say things have now quietened down.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Jack the Lad

I feed a small flock of Jackdaws on my front lawn (about a dozen), the numbers have not varied much over the years which is something I find surprising when I take into account the food availability, so just what is the limiting factor, i'm not sure but could it be nest sites or territorial disputes. I don't think trapping or shooting is a factor although it's quite possible larsen trapping is carried out in the wider countryside. I seem to remember Lew mentioning he had made a study of Jackdaws in his youth (many years past) and I will ask him about his conclusions. A few woodies and a couple of rooks also put in an occassional appearance but once again not excessive numbers. Many folk take exception to feeding these type of birds but I love their company and as long as I make sure my small bird feeding requirements are protected i'm happy to share my food store with them , after all Jackdaws feel hunger too.
They are often rather greedy and quarrelsome individuals, and they remind me of another species - oh yes! it's mankind.



More Turtle Doves being reported recently than for some time, it's really good to see and hear the sightings and sounds of this super bird.
I'm not sure if the purrer below is a real cool cat or just a crazy mixed up kid.

Friday, 15 June 2012

Don't Be Shy-Come Up And See Me Sometime.

So far i've had one offer of help with the farmland birds feeding trial that I will be starting this autumn and i'm really grateful but I still need I estimate another 3 or 4 enthusiasts so take this rare opportunity to get  involved in trying to make a difference to the birds in your locality.
I'm also looking for opinions on the often dubious content I put on this blog, the snag with no feed back is the very real danger of me thinking i'm always right, and of course when I answer myself in my minds eye I always win the argument well we all do don't we ? so challenge me and make me think, for through thought we learn or at least theres a chance we will.
A return to the grey of recent days with a probability of yet more rain, and the pain continues for so many of our avian friends struggling to leave viable populations of their own kinds-surely there will be some respite for them soon although for some single breeders it's already too late.
Just back from the opticians have been in to replace the 2 pairs that bit the dust after only a couple of months of my hopelessness, the first pair are in the middle of a field somewhere when the bending down and sniffing a Ragged Robin became more important than being careful with my specs, and the other pair I really enjoyed twirling them round and round disregarding the warnings from friends and family that the side arms would break off, I always think I know better and here I am paying for my patheticness.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Long Johns !

I've been thinking about the comical birding situations birders have found themselves in, and so far this year we have the Wickster frantically running/fast walking/hobbling to twitch something or other and making Charlie Chaplin look amateurish , it's on film probably with either the Gnome or the Badger, also NH so kindly portrayed on film (by his great friend? Lew) in front of the AGM audience in his long johns on a particularly freezing cold twitch for a Gull (yawn yawn) This gives me an opportunity to thank the top rate birders of Oxfordshire for being so patient when answering the many and often innane barrage of birding questions I continue to fire at them, so take heart if you feel lacking in your birding knowledge and draw inspiration from my ineptitude, I mean if I can get by and find so much enjoyment out in our Oxfordshire countryside it should be a doddle for the rest of you.
Alan Larkman and I were active in the Eynsham area yesterday on one of our farmland bird sites and noting good numbers of insects on the wing again, also several Whitethroats were prominent and a nice pair of English Partridge were noted.
The Swift man of Oxfordshire Roy Overall visited my shack yesterday and asks if you find a Swift grounded refrain from aggressively throwing it in the air but gently lay it along your hand and after a short time it will find buoyancy under its own power. I told Roy about a rambling old house in Stanford-in-the-Vale that has possibily as many as four pairs of Swifts nesting in or under the roof, the tenants Emma & Ralph are aware of at least another five sites in the village where Swifts are active.
Corn Bunting

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Now Don't Be Frightened Children

The great big yellow thing hanging in the sky is called the sun and will not hurt you if you cover up appropriately, in fact as I blog the birds in my garden including Stock Dove , Jackdaw,Greater - Spotted Woodpecker, Goldfinch, House Sparrow, Greenfinch and Collared Dove are enjoying the dryer conditions as they search and find morsels of food.
I await the arrival of Roy Overall the Swift aficianado and co-author of the "Swifts in the Museum Tower". He visits on Oxford Ornithological Society business but I will use the opportunity to listen to the latest Swift developments, you may also be interested to learn Roy has been recently honoured with a prestigious award for his magnificent dedication to the Swift and you can read all about it in my "From The Secretary " notes in the latest OOS bulletin - coming to a doorstep near you if you are a member of the OOS shortly.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Fed Up

A topic currently under discussion on Oxonbirds is the feeding of garden birds and amazingly - so far no one has started being uneccessarily rude and hurtful.
I mention this topic as I am intending to trial this Autumn/Winter side by side bird feeding strips. We presently feed a mixture of seeds including weed seed waste from the grain cleaners.
My intention is to monitor the birds and the seeds in the ratios they are used, for I have no doubt some seeds are wasted as the birds pick out their favourites. The use of cage restrictors at some stage to exclude the Corvids, Pigeons and Pheasants will be employed. This will be a ground feeding trial and take place in the Eynsham area I intend to visit at least once a week and probably much more often but am restricted by petrol costs and am therefore looking for volunteers to observe from under cover and report from the site noting all aspects of bird behaviour particularly feeding behaviour. If I can prove exactly which seeds are used and by whom, financially we can make better use of our funds. Also needed will be observation of other wild creatures that may take substantial amounts of feed including Muntjac and Rodents.
If YOU have ideas to put forward for this project and/or the time to make a difference to the farmland birds of Oxfordshire take a step forward and stand proud.
Nature often throws up the surprising, and the feeding of millet grain at the Farmmor hide resulted in the discovery (at least for me) of the use of this seed by Marsh Tit, not really a bird I would have classed as a grain eater -so well done Dai & Matt and keep up the good work.


Monday, 11 June 2012

It's all balls

Thankyou all for some really nice comments welcoming my blog - only two problems, I am now about to watch England get beat at footie woops! sorry! I meant play footie and its still p---ing down so no let up for our avian friends. Hey! It's great haven't heard anyone bad-mouthing either a Kite or Buzzard I guess it means the rain has kept the moaners or the birds in the dry. I will of course be looking out for these magnificent birds as soon as the sky clears of rain and cloud and becomes a much more beautiful spectacle due in no small part to the superb displays put on by these wonderful creatures.

So much rain - A disaster for many birds

With the rain preventing many insects from flying help your garden birds by supplying them with meal worms if they are the dried type just soak them in water until they become soft and the chicks are then able to manage them.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Something missing In Your Life ?

Well I hope my blog can go some way to filling the gap. My intention is to show you how a below average birder still manages to get so much enjoyment from what may often seem rather ordinary.
My main interests are the Oxford Ornithologists Tree Sparrow Project and the disappearing farmland birds of our county and I must admit to being fascinated by the flora and fauna I encounter on my many Oxon birding trips.Please use the comments box to let me know if you think i've got something right or wrong , a large part of this blog will hopefully be the interaction between us. I hope you don't mind but my first picture is a photo I snapped just yesterday 8/06/12 of a Thistle now it maybe quite common but I have never seen one before so please tell me if it is unusual. Not to worry I will also post a birdie pic.

camboy oxon feather.

Friday, 1 June 2012

Good News for Buzzards

It looks as if the Buzzard issue has been sensibly resolved at least for the present so well done to the powers that be for listening and acting in the interests of this marvellous bird and the countryside in general.

Thought I'd post a picture of a Yellowhammer celebrating the good news today at Stanford-in-theVale.