Monthly Archives: August 2013

A Trip to London

Two o’clock saw me heading up the M4 for a visit to my Mums. I treated myself to a half hour stop at Staines Reservoir. As at Farmoor last week there was hardly any wind so the water was flat and calm. It made it easier to search for the birds but not much was to be found. A couple of Black-necked Grebes were  a nice find a Common Sandpiper was seen flying across the water. As usual there were plenty of Pied Wagtails and flocks of Linnets and Starlings were flying around. Unfortunately, Little Gull the bird I was hoping to see were not around having been seen here every day this week. The only good thing was that there was no report of them on the sightings pages this evening.  A further stop was made at the London Apprentice Pub by the Thames at Isleworth. Always nice to birdwatch with a good pint in the hand. Amongst the large numbers of corvids, Feral Pigeons and gulls were a Little Egret and a mandarin coming out of moult. Several Cormorants flew along the river and as always, Parakeets were about in good numbers.

Hides at Coate Water

I noticed that Martin had a link on the Swindon Birds site to the SBC website where they have information on the hides at Coate. So as a final word on the subject, here is what it says.

We would like to take this opportunity to also remind people that the hides are a place for quiet observation. Please be mindful and respectful of your fellow users. 

Close Encounters

Today I have had some fairly close-up wildlife encounters. On the way to work this morning it was a the usual dodging around brainless Wood Pigeons and suicidal rabbits. Later on in the morning a Moorhen narrowly avoided being flattened as it wandered across the A41 near Bicester. Back at home I had to rescue a Southern Hawker that had got itself trapped on our decking and then finally on my way home from Coate I had to do an emergency stop as a Roe Deer ran out of the trees directly in front of me. I had gone to Coate to try for the Bittern that turned up yesterday. No joy unfortunately. Interestingly, many years ago, long before I started birdwatching I saw a Bittern in the same area as this one on the twentieth of August, just a week earlier. Birds seen or heard this evening included Green and Great-spotted Woodpecker, Chiff-chaff, Kingfisher, several Herons and Cormorants, twenty-two Shoveler and around a dozen Teal. IMG_1664 (1024x728)IMG_1671 (1024x768)

Evening Walk

A lovely evening but pretty quiet on the evening dog walk. Apart from the numerous gulls heading to roost all I saw were three Linnets and a flock of around twenty Long-tailed Tits.IMG_1657 (1024x807)

A Couple of Hours at Coate

Managed a bit of time at Coate this morning. A bit of a mix of seasons with duck numbers starting to build up with Gadwall, Shoveler, Teal and Pochard joining the all year round Tufted and Mallard. A few House Martins and Swallows were about along with a single Sand Martin.  In front of Hide Two there is a Great-crested Grebe nest with young just hatched. The Kingfisher was seen to fly across the lake three times and there were some juvenile Terns calling from various posts. There were plenty of butterflies around as well as the most Dragon and Damselflies I have seen this year.

Farmoor and Otmoor

An out of county day today for Pete and I. Farmoor was the first stop and the water was absolutely flat calm with not a breath of wind. The downside of this was not many birds with the Black Terns  from yesterday all gone. We had a chat to the Dai and another local birder who gave us some tips for our next stop at Otmoor and then headed out along the causeway. As usual there were loads of Pied Wagtails around along with the usual Mallards, Coots, Grebes, Cormorants and Gulls. A small flock of nine Common Terns were seen on the far side of F2 and then Pete found a Greater Black-backed Gull. I went to take my first picture of the day and realised that I had left the SD card in the computer at home which was pretty annoying. Even more so when an interesting plane flew over ( a Skyvan if anyone is interested). A small wader then appeared, flying fast and low over the water. It flew around for a while before amazingly considering the size of Farmoor landing just a few yards away from us. Unsurprisingly it was a Dunlin which then gave great views down to about six feet. A Green Woodpecker was heard in the distance as we wandered back to the car. Then it was off to Otmoor via Tesco to buy an SD card. Following the earlier advice we started with a walk on the (very) Long Meadow where several Redstarts had been seen. Five or six were heard and we managed a couple of brief glimpses of red tails disappearing into dense bushes. An interesting walk here with the imposing brick wall of an old firing range butts

standing in the field. Then it was lunch by the car accompanied by a singing Sedge Warbler before we headed off along the Roman Road to look for Brown Hairstreaks. Plenty of other butterflies seen but no Hairstreaks. Then it was bird time with some great views of hunting Hobbies, with the amount of Dragonflies around they were having an easy time getting food. Also seen were Red Kite, Buzzard, Kestrel and Raven but no Marsh Harrier. From the hide there were just a couple of Little Egrets and ten Teal. A few minutes at the first screen gave us a few ducks and a Little Grebe before we headed back towards the car. A walk through a field of Cows, Calves and a Bull took us to the Pill for the meagre reward of a Heron and a Snipe. Heading back along the Roman Road we met up with a couple of people who had found a Brown Hairstreak (a first) which was so busy  feeding it allowed us to take pictures at point-blank range. Also here was another butterfly which they thought was a Black Hairstreak. It certainly was different but I’m sure of the i.d. Also seen here was a Magpie Moth, another first

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for me. When I checked my pictures later I noticed that I had some smearing on the lens. Not a good camera day. By now it was four o’clock so we decided to head off to beat the Oxford traffic. We decided to pop in at Farmoor again and were rewarded with two

Yellow Wagtails, Three Dunlin and a single Ringed Plover. So not a massive day list (forty-three) plus ten butterflies and numerous unidentified Dragon / Damselflies but a very enjoyable day out.

Birdwatchers, Photographers and Hides

Let me start by saying thanks to those of you who have posted comments on my piece regarding the hides at Coate.  I was hoping for some reaction but have been surprised by the amount of views this has generated on the site. It will certainly be interesting the next time I show my face in the Hides. As I expected the comments I have had, both on and off of the blog have been split between photographers disagreeing with me and birders coming down on my side. This follows the trend on all of the bird forums I have looked at. The bottom line for me is that when I arrived at the Hide on Sunday I was in a good mood and was looking forward to  some pleasant birdwatching. Half-an-hour later I was heading home feeling pretty annoyed. I guess that some of you are also annoyed at my blog. Obviously that isn’t right and it is down to all of us to make sure that anyone who goes to the Hides at Coate goes home happy. I now want to thank all of you (especially Graham and Tony) for your efforts in improving the Hides. The cushion, the feeders, the photographs etc are all fantastic. Graham mentioned in his comment that ninety or so permits have been issued this year, a massive increase on previous years. (Maybe SBC will invest a bit of that money back into the reserve) This is obviously a good thing but it has also caused problems. For those of us who have been regulars in the Hides for many years know, it was always a shock to find somebody else there when you arrived. Now it is hard to find a time that there is not someone in there. Even before six in the morning! Unfortunately, Hide 2 is not designed for a crowd and therefore we all need to be aware of the needs of others. On many occasions I have been set up for a long stay with all my bits and pieces spread around. Now it isn’t always possible to do that and it may be that you will need to move to give someone else a good view or a chance of that great Kingfisher photo. Of course a Hide shouldn’t silent but please keep the volume down and the conversation relevant. It  really isn’t the place to discuss DIY and Sport. As Helen said in her comment, new visitors are made welcome and are given help and advice. This is great and long may it continue.

So an apology to anyone that I have upset on this subject, my piece was intended to provoke discussion ( in which it has succeeded) and to make us all consider the way we use the hides and our effect on others. Hopefully we can all work together to make the Coate experience even better than it already is.

And just one final thing to keep it spiced up. Please Photographers ( and I am one of those to some degree). Please turn the sound off on your cameras. The beeping and shutter clicking is the most annoying noise of all.

Back Up On the Hill

As it has been a few weeks since I have been up to Liddington Hill that I decided to head up there for a couple of hours this afternoon hoping to find some early migrants. First bird seen was a Chaffinch followed by some small groups of Linnets and Goldfinches. There were plenty of butterflies around, mainly Small Tortoiseshells and large and small Whites. Also seen were a couple of Common Blues and half-a-dozen Small Heath. Near the top of the hill were a few Meadow Pipits and what I think was a Meadow Grasshopper. There were quite a few bees and moths around as well. All unidentified. The first migrant seen was a Spotted Flycatcher appearing a little out-of-place. A Kestrel flew over and four Buzzards were soaring together. I heard a Redstart calling from a small group of bushes so I sat down quietly hoping for it to appear. After ten minutes there was no sign so I moved on. Another one was heard and this time I managed to get a brief glimpse as it briefly dropped down out of the bushes. A third was heard a little further on. A single Corn Bunting flew over and a couple each of Magpie and Blue Tit gave me a species total of just fifteen. On the way home a Buzzard was perched on a telegraph pole and I managed a couple of decent pictures as unusually it didn’t fly off when I stopped.


Staying Local

A nice surprise on the morning dog walk with a Clouded Yellow Butterfly seen. Last one I saw was in 2009. In the afternoon I spent an hour having a look around Witchelstowe. There is some good habitat here although obviously it is changing all the time as new areas are developed.

A reasonable amount seen with four Herons, two Cormorants, three Lapwing and best of all a Greenshank worth a mention.

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I then went  to Barbury Castle to look for butterflies. Although conditions were not ideal, the sun had gone in and it was quite breezy, eight species were seen with the highlight being another Clouded Yellow. Unfortunately it wouldn’t settle so I wasn’t able to get a photograph.

Final sighting here was that of five Buzzards soaring together.

The Curse of the Photographer (How Not to Behave in a Hide)

This morning I decided to spend a couple of hours at Coate Water. First was a look at the flood water field just to check if it was still dry. It was. Plenty of Swallows here, busily upping their fat reserves for the long journey south. I then headed to the second hide. BIG MISTAKE. I think birding in the middle of Tesco would have been more pleasant as the hide was full of photographers hoping to get yet more photos of the Kingfishers. After listening to fifteen minutes of loud continuous conversations about double glazing, asbestos, football and cable tv I decided to give it up as a bad job. Also the fact that there were at least three large lenses sticking out of the hide could not have helped encourage birds to the area. Maybe they were intended as more spots for the Kingfisher to land. To be fair birds were mentioned at least twice in this time, once when a Grebe caught a fish. Trouble was it was inconsiderate enough to do it out of range of a decent picture so was then ignored. Would any these people have noticed a Black Tern amongst the dozen or more Commons? To be honest they would only have noticed the Oriana sail by if it had passed between the hide and the last stick the Kingfisher had perched on! Next for me was a stop at the first hide. There were only four people here which was a little better until one of them decided it was a good time to walk out in front of the hide to replenish the feeders. Really!! Now don’t get me wrong,  I appreciate that the hides here and elsewhere are for all to use and enjoy. Also I know many of these people and they are all great folk (and many improvements have been made to the hides at their own expense). However it would be nice if people would remember some of the basic rules of Hide Etiquette the main one being;

Keep quiet: No matter how cheery you may be in real life, it must be emphasized that the inside of the hide is another world. This is no place for conversation even if it does start to rain and the viewing area happens to be as devoid of birds as the dark side of the moon. 

Obviously no-one expects total silence but please consider other people, especially if you are one of those who spends hours there. Many others have limited time and will be upset if there visit is spoilt. Check this subject out on the web, there are many many discussions about it.