It was a rather early start if me and my parents wanted to get to Minsmere and still have a decent amount of time around the reserve. We left at 6:45 and arrived at 10:00. We first looked for the elusive Turtle Dove but sadly with no success. We then headed to Bittern hide where we had a quick glimpse of a Kingfisher, Marsh Harrier and Bearded tits. We then headed down to Island mere Hide where we had no success other than the occasional 'Ping' from a bearded tit group. On the way back to the visitor centre though we had a close encounter with a group of recently fledged Sedge Warblers.
We then decided to have a rather early lunch whilst we watched the Sand Martins flying over our heads and diving into their nests. However the speed of them meant I didn't get any good pictures. We then bumped into David Walsh, a really nice birder who I have been in contact with for a few months. It was really good to go round with him and talk, (and find out that my Dad knew his grandfather). We were very lucky to have David with us and it helped when we got to the first hide (East hide). Within second he had spotted all the main species including, Spotted Redshank (one in jet black summer plumage), Redshank, Ruff, Dunlin and Ringed Plover. David also spotted several Common Sandpipers and two Green Sandpipers meaning he could show me the difference.
Spotted redshank (in summer plumage)
We then headed along the beach to the next hide hoping to see the Little Gulls. But half way along David had a scan of the sea and I got a bit of a surprise when he let me have a look through his very good scope and saw three COMMON SCOTER!!! We then went to the hide where we got a reasonable view of around 60 Little Gulls and a few Common Tern. When we came out of the hide we got a nice view of a Grayling butterfly.
On the way to the next hides we stopped to look at a Little egret and Common Sandpiper just past the Sluice where my Dad got a bit confused about the common names of birds and how they 'aren't in the same family'. Then on the way to the final two hides an even better view of the the Little gulls and an unusually amazing view of a Cetti's Warbler. In the penultimate hide (west) there was again good view of a Ruff and 5 Knot in partial Summer plumage. David was also able to show me the difference between Spotted Redshank and Common Redshank as they were feeding together. This was really helpful and by the time we got out of the hide I was more or less confident that I could tell the difference between them. We ended the day with a visit to the Cafe and shop. Overall a really good day birding and it was very nice to finally meet David and walk round the reserve with him.
Although the Breeding season has come to an end I recently went to the Oxford Harcourt Arboretum to partly look for nests but mainly to see what sort of stuff there is and to see wether I could include it as one of my Nest Record Scheme sites. The main species of interest there are; Little Owl, Barn Owl, Tawny Owl, Nuthatch, Willow warbler, Chiffchaff and potentially Spotted and Pied Flycatchers. There are three main areas where I think there are nests; a large young plantation of Ash, Willow and small shrub with wildflower (with Willow warblers and Chiffchaffs), A large old wood of mainly Oak (with Flycatchers, Tawny Owl, Red kites and Nuthatch) and finally two large fields of grazed and non-grazed wildflower with a barn and scarcely spread out trees (with Barn Owls and Little Owls).
I started by heading to the wood where I heard what could be a Spotted and Pied Flycatcher but also spotted what could be a young Red kite from a nest that has been used two years in a row. There was also a large amount of good nest sites for the Flycatchers and Tawny Owls (dead trees with cavities and holes).
Red kite (possibly Juvenile)
I then moved onto the young plantation where there were only Chiffchaffs and Willow warblers to be heard and after a while of searching there were no signs of nests. I then Finally went on to the Old barn where there was a Barn Owl box. The box had been used two years ago but in the last few years has been abandoned and it was only a few weeks ago that one of the staff realised there was a pair nesting in it and it was just possible to hear the young bumping around in the box. I also spent a bit more time around the edge of the field looking for signs of Little Owls and Tawny Owls in amongst the trees but found nothing other than a Stock Dove nest. Hopefully like in my local area and reserve I will be able to put up nest boxes for the Flycatchers and Owls, but if i'm really lucky put up a natural nest box either a Tawny or Little Owl or even a Nuthatch, made from a a dead trunk sawn off, hollowed out and attached back to the tree.
Since the Summer holidays have started me and my Dad decided to go for a short cycle ride along part of the Ridge Way. Although we were mainly cycling my Dad kindly let me stop occasionally to birdwatch, and do a bit of nesting. The main birds around were Lesser Whitethroats and Whitethroats with the occasional Yellowhammer, Skylark, Stock Dove and Corn Bunting but we started with a brilliant view of a hare running up the path. After around half an hour we stopped to take a look at a SSSI area (Site of Special Scientific Interest). There were several skylark squares in crop field next to the SSSI that also had cover crops so I had a quick look around the edges for any nests but with no success. We then carried on for a bit until we got to a spot where a pair of Whitethroats had been returning to one spot so I got a bit closer and could just hear the some young in amongst the vegetation. After another hour or so we stopped for lunch where me and my Dad got a brilliant view of several Corn Buntings
On the way back we saw a few more Corn buntings and we found another Whitethroat nest site that was again a bit to far to look into. We then got back to the SSSI area where there were 3 Stock Doves feeding and a large group of starlings. Finally a not far from the end we got a brilliant view of a yellowhammer singing at the top of its voice.
To get an easier chance to find some more nests I went to the Oxford Botanic Garden at 7:00 so I could get there before it opened, leaving me the whole place to my self. This made it a lot easier to hear and follow the birds around to their nests. I started with checking the Long-tailed tit and Blackbird nest that I had previously found last time I visited. The blackbird was sitting on the nest but I suspect it had a few eggs as it had been there incubating for about 8 hours. It was the same for the Long-tailed tits when I went over. the last thing I did before looking for new ones was see if any of the resident Great crested newts were about. There was only one but it was a massive Male with a decent sized crest and tail.When I did finally start searching it wasn't very long before I stumbled across a pair of Goldfinches collecting lining material these lead me to there nest around 5m away. Close to this nest in a very open bush 3m above ground there was a Chaffinch nest with probable young in it.
I had been planing to go to Minsmere for a month and after a few changes of dates because of bad weather we finally got a chance to go, and the weather was perfect. After a four hour journey at 6 o'clock, we finally arrived. We started by going to Island mere hide and Bittern hide where there wasn't much, but whilst walking between them we got a brilliant view of a black adder fighting another male.
We then went over to North hide where we hoped to see the notoriously elusive Jack Snipes. We started be scanning the marshy area methodically but soon realised that it would take a lot longer than expected. Having been in the hide for about half an hour I spotted a small wader which at first we thought was a Jack Snipe but ended up being a Common Snipe when a RSPB warden re-identified it. After this my less patient sister went to to get lunch with my Dad giving us a bit more quiet without out her. After another half an hour I spotted another more promising tiny little snipe which the warden identified as a Jack Snipe. However we couldn't spend to long in the hide and had to join my sister and Dad for lunch.
Then we went back to the visitor centre for lunch. From are table we got a perfect view of the recently arrived Sand martins, excavating nests. Luckily it was quite windy so they were doing more hovering and gliding than fast flying.
We had a bit more luck from the North wall where a rather tame Bearded tit decided to put on a brilliant show, at the bottom off the wall moving around the tops of the reeds.
Having had luck with the first hide we hoped it would carry on when we went round the scrape looking for the Spoonbill, Sanderling and Garganey. However, we had no luck other than some Turnstones, Avocets, Redshanks and Ringed plover, and having been round went over to a sight where there had been sightings of Stone Curlews and a Woodlark. This did pay off but only just as me and my Mum were about to give up when she spotted two birds that at first she thought they were partridge but with a closer look we realised there true identity. Get in!!!!!! There was also someone who had been watching the Woodlark and we were only just quick enough to see it. All in all a perfect birding day.
Mute swan, Canada geese, Barnacle geese, Greylag geese, Moorhen, Koot, Great crested grebe, Little grebe, Grey heron, Little egret, Tufted duck, Gadwall, Mallard, Shoverler, Teal, Shellduck, Cormarant, Oystercatcher, Lapwing, Jack snipe, Common snipe, Ringed plover, Redshank, Black-tailed godwit, Turnstone, Avocet, Black-headed gull, Herring gull, Great black-backed gull, Lesser black-backed gull, Sparrowhawk, Buzzard, Red kite, Pheasant, Skylark, Woodlark, Stone curlew, Blue tit, Great tit, Coal tit, Bearded tit, Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Linnet, Woodpigeon, Collared dove, Great spotted woodpecker, Blackbird, Treecreeper, Carrion crow, Jackdaw, Rook, Magpie, Sand martins, Swallow, Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Starling, Heard a Bittern and Cetti's warbler.
With the rapidly increasing temperature I have been able to get out more and see the changes that have been going on outside. The early trees, Willow and Hawthorn, have already got leaves on and are getting the attention of nesting birds and some resent migrants. I went out this morning on my bike not expecting to see much, maybe a chiffchaff and the odd thrush. So it was a bit of a surprise when a Blackcap few within meter of me and perched in a near by tree as if he owned the place. It was a bit of a struggle to get my camera out from my bag so the pictures weren't to good.
Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla)
Willow Warbler (Phylloscopus trochilus)
Having been round the lake twice I was about to call it a day, when I heard the unmistakable song of a Willow warbler (a falling pitch of notes). It took a while but after chasing the song round the reserve I finally got a quick glimpse of it in, guess what, a willow tree. But there have been more than just some summer arrivals. Woodpigeons have started nesting in near by pines and the Long-tailed tit nest I mentioned in my last post has got eggs in it. These though are not the earliest there has been a blackbird nest in the Oxford botanic garden with chicks in it. Unfortunately I didn't have my camera with me so I couldn't get a picture, and they have now fledged. Hopefully there will also be some more butterflies soon. I have though had a few peacock butterflies and a speckled wood.
Last Tuesday, thanks to the good whether and clear sky I decided to go to the oxford botanic garden. First I set up a spot where I could just wait and after I while the wildlife started to settle back down and get closer. The first bird ton catch my eye was a long-tailed tit, taking lichen and moss into a gorse bush. after they had left I went to investigate. It was a small hollowed out ball thing, made out of spiders' webs, lichen, etc... It had probable been started last week or the week before but when finished should have a roof. Among the nest found, there was a magpie nest, with an impressive half dome over the top, and a blackbird nest (no eggs yet). No nests or birds were disturbed. In among this searching, I also saw:
There was also a fox that ran about 2m away from some undergrowth. It was a bit of a shock!!!. It looked though, like there had been a badger there the night before, because of some fresh prints. I got a few films and stills.
Yesterday I went to the Oxford Botanic garden for a brief visit, to do the Big Garden Birdwatch, It started off well, with 3 GOOSEANDERS and soon there were song thrushes, woodpeckers, redwings and nuthatches. But there were more Canada geese then there were species, over 100. The Gooseanders were also quite a sight, as they were unusually tame and didn't mind me getting within 4m of them. This meant that I could get some decent pictures of the stunning two males. Once I had gone round the garden I went through the meadow were there was a huge flock of Redwings flying through the trees, occasionally coming down to the ground for food.
A few days ago on the 28th of December I went to RSPB Minsmere. I got up at 5am and got there at 10am. we started by going to Island mere hide, however not seeing that much. The past few times I have seen Bitterns, kingfishers and bearded tits.
In the next hides around the main scrapes we saw Bewick's swans, Whopper swans, black-tailed godwits, Teal, Gadwall, Shoveler and Marsh harrier. Last time we were in those we saw a lot more and there were several rarities such as Collared Pratincole, little stint, greenshank, Spoonbills and Purple sandpiper. as we went through the forest there was a red deer. We left at around 4pm.