Natural History Diary : 2014
Wednesday 31st December
I had a late-afternoon bike ride north of Abingdon. There wasn't a lot about, but I saw two Kestrels, a Pheasant, one Buzzard and four Muntjac deer.
Tuesday 30th December
The Blackcap was in the garden again this morning. In the afternoon I webt to the allotment where I heard a singing Greenfinch (but couldn't find it). I also saw a Buzzard here (where the Vale district council wants to build lots of houses, despite it being in the green belt).
Monday 29th December
There was a male Blackcap in the garden this morning. It came down to the bird table twice, and made off with a raisin each time. In the afternoon I had a ride down to Thrupp Lake. There were plenty of birds on the lake, but I couldn't find anything that wasn't there last time. A party of about eight Long-tailed Tits was working along the trees on both sides of the cycle path. A Grey Heron was on lake N.
Saturday 20th December
I visited Hackpen Hill on the Ridgeway this afternoon. I couldn't find any Short-eared Owls but I did find several Kestrels, Buzzards and Red Kites. There was a flock of about thirty Linnets feeding in a field. A pair of Stonechats and a solitary Fieldfare also put in appearances.
Saturday 13th December
I visited Radley Lakes this afternoon. Species seen were much the same as last week, but there were a lot more Teal, and also a pair of Little Grebes (which I had not recorded at Radley before). I also saw a Green Woodpecker. There were again no Redwings or Fieldfares to be seen.
Wednesday 10th December
I saw a Grey Wagtail at Redbridge car park this morning. I also had a look at Hinksey Lake; the species seen here were the same as last week.
Saturday 6th December
After an overnight frost and a shade temperature of only about 4°C at midday, I was very surprised to find a Red Admiral sunning itself on the leylandii at the bottom of my garden. It flew off strongly when a bird got too close. There were three Dunnocks in the garden at one point this morning, and they weren't very happy having to share. I also found two Pied Wagtails on the roof of the house. One was poking about in the gutter.
In the afternoon I went down to Lower Radley, where I found at least five Yellowhammers and three Reed Buntings. A number of Blackbirds were feeding on fallen pears in a garden. Surprisingly I didn't see any Fieldfares or Redwings. I then went down to Thrupp Lake, where there wasn't anything unexpected, but I did count at least a dozen Gadwall. At dusk a couple of dozen Lesser Black-backed Gulls arrived in the roost.
Wednesday 3rd December
I had a look at Hinksey Lake this morning, but nothing had changed since my last visit. I had a walk in the University Parks at lunchtime. A few Redwings and quite a few Grey Squirrels were feeding on berries. I also saw about ten Chaffinches and a Goldfinch.
Saturday 29th November
I visited Otmoor in the morning. It was rather dull and misty at first, but the sun came out and it was quite mild. There were lots of Redwings in the bushes in the car park field. As usual they were very flighty. Some Greenfinches were the only birds of interest on the feeders, although there was a family party of Long-tailed Tits in the adjacent trees. A large group of Canada Geese flew across the north of Greenaways and landed on Big Otmoor. There was a big flock of Golden Plover high over Big Otmoor, and there were lots of Lapwings on the ground. There were a couple of Pied Wagtails in front of the hide. As I walked down the track to July's Meadow I saw quite a few Reed Buntings and a pair of Stonechats. Two Red Kites were perched in one of the oak trees. There wasn't much on the lagoon at the first screen, but a Water Rail flew between two of the reed beds, and I spotted a solitary Snipe sitting on the water's edge. A male Bullfinch was perched high up in a tree where the track turns north. I flushed Fieldfares, Redwings and Starlings as I walked up to the second screen. This gave a bit of cover so I was able to get a few photographs. I heard the Cetti's Warbler which has taken up residence in this area. On the lagoon I saw Gadwall, Shoveler, Teal, Wigeon and Tufted Ducks. On the way back to the car two Water Rails were making a lot of noise in the ditch near the hide, but I couldn't see them. Back at the car park two Ravens flew over.
Saturday 22nd November
I had a walk round Dry Sandford Pit this afternoon, my first visit there for a while. The weather was poor, and there wasn't much about, but I did see a Jay and about thirty Redwings. No sign of any Fieldfares, though.
Thursday 20th November
There were two Lesser Black-backed Gulls at Hinksey Lake this morning. Later on Port Meadow I saw hundreds of Wigeon, a few Teal, fifty or so Lapwings, lots of Canada Geese and Black-headed Gulls, and a Mistle Thrush.
Wednesday 19th November
I saw two Pochard and about six Tufted Ducks on Hinksey Lake this morning.
Tuesday 18th November
The sunshine this morning brought a Red Admiral out, even though the air temperature was only 8°C. It is remarkable what these insects are capable of.
Monday 17th November
I saw a pair of Long-tailed Tits in the Redbridge car park this morning.
Sunday 9th November
The sunshine this morning brought a Red Admiral out in the garden - it sunned itself briefly on my Hebe bush. The flowers on this were being patronised by a few hoverflies and bumble-bees.
In the afternoon I visited Farmoor Reservoir, where water levels were much lower than normal on both basins. At the sailing club I saw two Grey Wagtails, but they were very flighty. A Kingfisher crossed the corner of F1 before flying off into the works. A solitary Meadow Pipit was working along the shore line along the causeway. I counted eight Little Grebes, there were many Great Crested Grebes and the long-staying Red-necked Grebe was fishing in the south-west corner of F2. On the way back round the south end of F2 I saw a Kestrel and a Great Spotted Woodpecker. Gulls were arriving at the roost in numbers, and there must have been over a thousand birds on F2. It wasn't easy to be sure which species were present, but I think that the majority of them were Black-headed and Herring, with smaller numbers of Lesser and Great Black-backed.
Saturday 1st November
I saw a Red Admiral in the garden late morning. In the afternoon I visited Otmoor again. Walking down the roman road I found several Common Darters (all looking rather tired), and a Comma sunning itself in a bush. Along the bridleway I saw more Common Darters. There was a flock of about 140 Greylag Geese on Greenaways. Up by the hide I saw my first Redwings on the year. At the first screen a Marsh Harrier was flying low over the reeds. A couple of Red Kites and a Buzzard were also seen here. Three Snipe were roosting on one of the islands in the lagoon; as usual they were very difficult to see. There were two Grey Herons on the lagoon, and two more on Greenaways. For some reason all the Little Egrets that were present earlier in the year have disappeared. Three Stonechats were seen at the edge of the reed bed by the first screen. On the way back, I was told that there were two Peregrines on the ground on Ashgrave, which were visible from the hide. A reported sighting of a Great Grey Shrike on the Pill resulted in an unexpected detour, but in the fading light it could not be relocated. Finally, walking back down the roman road flushed several Pheasants that were roosting in the trees.
Friday 31st October
A remarkably warm and sunny day for the end of October. I saw two Small Tortoiseshells on the allotment in the morning, and a Red Admiral in the garden in the afternoon.
Tuesday 28th October
Another sunny and mild day, but the only butterfly I saw was a Red Admiral which was flying around the garden at 1pm.
Monday 27th October
I had a look at Hinksey Lake this morning, but there was little change from last time. There were two Great Crested Grebes, only four Tufted Ducks and one Grey Heron. At lunchtime I had a walk in the University Parks, where I saw two Brimstones, four Red Admirals and a Small Tortoiseshell, which wasn't bad for late October. There weren't many birds about but I saw a Red Kite over Marston Meadows, and a mixed flock of Rooks and Jackdaws in one of the fields.
Sunday 19th October
I visited Otmoor this morning. It was quite warm and sunny, but it became increasingly windy. I walked down to the first screen. There were quite a few Common Darters still about, and also lots of Noonday Flies which were sunning themselves on fence posts. A party of about fifteen Long-tailed Tits were in the hedgerow. On the lagoon I saw three Grey Herons, several Cormorants and two Great Crested Grebes. Teal and Wigeon kept taking off in response to real or imagined threats. A juvenile Marsh Harrier made a couple of passes over the reedbed, and there were also a couple of Red Kites and Kestrels. A Kingfisher shot past the hide but didn't come and perch on the post. On the way up to the second screen I saw a couple of Migrant Hawkers, more Common Darters and several Hornets. A female Reed Bunting, a male Blackcap and a male Stonechat were the only birds of interest here.
Saturday 18th October
This afternoon there were again lots of gulls on the fields adjacent to the allotment. Most were Black-headed, but there were some Herring as well. At home there were a few bees active, but despite the temperature reaching 20°C, no butterflies.
Friday 17th October
I had a look at Hinksey Lake on the way in to work this morning, but there wasn't much of note. I saw one Great Crested Grebe, about a dozen Tufted Ducks and a Grey Heron.
Saturday 11th October
This morning I saw lots of Black-headed Gulls loafing in a field adjacent to the allotment. In the afternoon there were some Honeybees and Bumblebees nectaring on Hebe flowers in the front garden. I also saw a Small Tortoiseshell in the front garden, so the butterfly season isn't quite over.
Sunday 5th October
After a cold night I visited Chimney Meadows this morning, my first visit there for over a year. Insects were fairly scarce. I saw a Clouded Yellow, a Red Admiral, a Speckled Wood and about nine Common Darters, including one pair in tandem. Birds were also rather scarce, but I saw a Jay, two family parties of Long-tailed Tits, a Chiffchaff (which I heard calling before I saw it), a Willow Warbler and a Stonechat. Mammals seen were a Muntjac Deer and a Grey Squirrel.
Tuesday 30th September
I saw a Red Amiral in the garden today, which spent quite a long time feeding on Ivy flowers. A Large White also flew through but didn't stop. A Wren was the only notable bird seen today.
Sunday 28th September
This morning on the allotment I saw two Clouded Yellows - the first I've seen for over a month. There were also quite a few Large and Small Whites about, which were making the most of the warm sunshine. In the afternoon I went down to Radley Lakes - my first visit there for 6 months! Birds on Thrupp Lake were pretty much as expected, but I did find a Common Sandpiper on a rock at the south end of Thrupp Lake. A Little Egret was on Orchard Lake, and a Grey Heron flew in and landed in a tree. Long-tailed Tits, Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs were poking about in the scrubby vegetation near the lake shore. There were a few Common Blue Damselflies at Orchard Lake, together with Migrant Hawkers, and Common and Ruddy Darters. I saw one Southern Hawker at the edge of Thrupp Lake while I was looking at the Sandpiper. Mammals seen were a Rabbit and two Grey Squirrels. Later at home I saw two juvenile Grey Wagtails fly into the sycamore tree in a nearby garden.
Saturday 27th September
Today in the garden I saw two Commas feeding on Ivy flowers, and a Small White feeding on Choisia blossoms. Also notable was a Hornet, which inspected the ivy for a short while before flying off. I think that's the first Hornet I've ever seen in the garden.
Tuesday 23rd September
A Red Admiral and a Swallow were the only notable species seen over the garden today.
Sunday 21st September
I visited Farmoor this morning. The first bird of note was a Kingfisher, which was perched on the railings surrounding the artificial reed bed. There were still masses of geese, mostly Canada, but they were gathered on the north and north-east side of F1 rather than on the causeway. Walking up the causeway I saw a party of five Little Grebes, which were diving very close to the shore. There were lots of Pied Wagtails, a White Wagtail, two Yellow Wagtails and what I think were two Rock Pipits on the causeway. A Sparrowhawk flew over F1 and was pursued by a small flock of wagtails. On the west side of F1 I looked in the hedgerow for dragonflies and found a couple of nice male Migrant Hawkers sunning themselves. I went into Pinkhill to have a look at the pond. Two Migrant Hawkers and a Common Darter were contesting the airspace above it. I saw a Great Spotted Woodpecker and another Kingfisher here. I walked along the river to Shrike Meadow, spotting a Little Egret and a Grey Heron en route. At Shrike Meadow I found five Commas feeding on blackberries. The pond to the south was busy with several pairs of Common Darters in tandem, with the females ovipositing. There were more Migrant Hawkers here as well. On the way back to the car park I got nice shots of a Cormorant taking off, and of a Little Grebe with a fish. There was a large patch of blue-green algae in the southwest corner of F1, which appeared to have done for a couple of gulls and a cormorant, which were dead on the bank.
Later at the allotment I saw three Pheasants, a Red Kite, a Buzzard and a family group of Long-tailed Tits in the hedgerow. There were several Small and Large Whites flying about in the rather cool conditions.
Wednesday 17th September
A walk in the University Parks at lunchtime today didn't turn up much, but I saw a Speckled Wood, a couple of Peacocks, and a Grey Heron. The latter was in the middle of the pond, completely exposed, but didn't seem to mind people walking around the perimeter.
Sunday 14th September
I went to Otmoor this morning. Along the Roman road I saw Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers, a Treecreeper and a Jay. Everywhere was very dry. A lone Green Sandpiper was poking about in one of the scrapes on Greenaways which had a bit of water in it. The usual tits and finches were on the feeders, along with a Reed Bunting. Not much else appeared until I got nearer the hide, when I saw a crow mobbing a Kestrel over Big Otmoor. A Hobby also came over at medium altitude. Later I saw a couple more over Greenaways; they appeared to be hunting dragonflies. Speaking of which, darter numbers were well down since my last visit, but there were still a few Ruddy Darters about. I saw just two Migrant Hawkers. There weren't many butterflies either. Green-veined Whites were the most numerous, with at least seven seen. The only other species were Red Admiral and Comma; I saw two of each.
Saturday 13th September
I visited Farmoor again this afternoon, as two Ruff had been reported, but again I couldn't find them. The only waders I saw were the long-staying Black-tailed Godwit and two Dunlin. There were lots of Pied Wagtails, and one Grey Wagtail, but no Yellows. Remarkably there were no fewer than seven Little Grebes; some were juveniles. Numbers of Tufted Duck are increasing; I counted at least forty-four. There were lots of Coot as well. Butterflies were thin on the ground; all I saw were two Speckled Woods. There were some dragonflies about. I saw several Common Darters, and also a Ruddy Darter at the Pinkhill pond; I've never recorded Ruddies at Farmoor before. Ten Migrant Hawkers were about near Shrike Meadow, and there were also singletons of Southern and Brown Hawkers.
Wednesday 10th September
I had a look at Hinksey Lake this morning. There were sixteen Tufted Ducks, which seems quite a lot for the time of year. The three juvenile Great Crested Grebes were much larger than the last time I saw them. A Lesser Black-backed Gull was perched near the jetty, a Grey Heron flew in and scattered the Black-headed Gulls, and five House Martins flew over.
I had a quick walk in the University Parks at lunchtime, but all I could find were some Green-veined Whites and a Large White.
Sunday 7th September
I didn't have much time to look for wildlife this weekend. On Saturday I found a Peacock butterfly in the Northcourt Centre in Abingdon. I assume it had come in looking for somewhere to hibernate. On Sunday I saw a Red Admiral, some whites and a Common Frog in the garden.
Thursday 4th September
I had a longer walk in the University Parks at lunchtime today. There were a few butterflies about, including a Comma. Also notable were the Grey Squirrels collecting beechmast and other winter food. Across the river in Marston Meadows I saw a Buzzard being mobbed by a couple of crows. There were a couple of dragonflies here, and several Green-veined Whites and Speckled Woods.
Wednesday 3rd September
I had a quick walk in the University Parks at lunchtime today. I found two Red Admirals nectaring on Verbena flowers, and also a few white butterflies.
Sunday 31st August
Although I'd been to Farmoor on Friday, I decided to go again today in case any new migrants had turned up, and also to look for dragonflies. The number of Canada and Greylag geese around the reservoir seemed to be even higher than on Friday. The large expanse of concrete exposed by the low water level in F1 has given them a perfect place to roost. The two juvenile Curlew Sandpipers and the Black-tailed Godwit were still present, but most of the Dunlin had gone. A solitary juvenile Ringed Plover and four Common Sandpipers were the new arrivals. I also saw a juvenile Wheatear.
Butterflies did surprisingly well, with ten species seen. The most notable sighting was of a couple of second-brood Commas; probably a lot more will appear in the next few days since the weather forecast is favorable.
Dragonflies were also much in evidence. A very nice male Southern Hawker perched conveniently in a hawthorn bush. The small pond by the boardwalk inside Pinkhill was very productive, with Migrant Hawkers, Brown Hawkers and Common Darters all battling for airspace. I saw two pairs of ovipositing Common Darters, and there was also a pair of Migrant Hawkers in cop. I even managed a few reasonable Migrant Hawker flight shots.
I also found a Grass Snake which was under a bit of corrugated roof material down by Pinkhill.
On the way home I stopped at the allotment, where I saw a Red Admiral.
At home a Migrant Hawker was patrolling over the garden for a while, and a Sparrowhawk came and perched in the elder bush, which severely discomfited the House Sparrows which were also in it. However, the Sprawk flew off without catching anything.
Saturday 29th August
I visited Farmoor Reservoir this morning. Amongst the large number of rossting Greylag and Canada Geese on the F1 side of the causeway, I saw two juvenile Curlew Sandpipers and a Black-tailed Godwit. The Sandpipers were in with a flock of nineteen Dunlin. There has been a Ruff reported as well, but I couldn't find it. I also saw two Black Terns over F2.
Thursday 28th August
I visited Otmoor this morning. It took a little while for the sun to come out, but when it did a huge number of dragonflies appeared. I saw at least a hundred Common Darters, with many pairs in tandem or in cop. There were some Ruddy Darters about as well, but far fewer. I haven't seen Migrant Hawker feeding swarms very often, but there were a couple today. Brown Hawkers and a single Southern Hawker were the other species seen. On the butterfly front, Speckled Woods and Common Blues were the most abundant species, and I also saw Red Admirals, Peacocks, Small Tortoiseshells and a Painted Lady. I would have expected another emergence of Commas by now, but there were none to be found.
Two bird species managed over a hundred individuals each: Canada Goose and Lapwing. There were five Little Egrets in front of the hide, and a Grey Heron at the first screen. At least a dozen Snipe were on the cleared area in the reedbed, but they were hard to see. Two Ravens flew over, and I also saw a Red Kite, but other raptors were elsewhere. I saw a Lesser Whitethroat in the hedgerow, and a Chiffchaff was calling; it seems a bit late in the season for that. Six juvenile Goldfinches were on the nyger seed feeder.
I also found a Speckled Bush-cricket, a Common Lizard and a Vapourer Moth.
Sunday 24th August
I visited the Parsonage Moor/Cothill fen complex this morning. There weren't many butterflies about, but dragonflies did better, with a Migrant Hawker, two Brown Hawkers, five Keeled Skimmers and at least eleven Common Darters. When I got to Dry Sandford Pit it was a bit warmer, and there were some Brown Argus and Common Blues, and a couple of Small Coppers up in the grassland area. Dragonflies seen were another Migrant Hawker, and several Common Darters (including one pair in tandem with the female ovipositing).
In the afternoon on the allotment I saw a male Clouded Yellow, which flew around my plot and even landed a couple of times. I saw a (probable juvenile) Sparrowhawk sitting in the hedge, and I found two Common Frogs - one of them was in the polytunnel.
Saturday 23rd August
I visited Aston Rowant NNR (north side) today. Conditions weren't too good for butterflies, being fairly cloudy and quite cool, but eventually I found some late Silver-spotted Skippers, good numbers of Brown Argus, and Common Blues, a few Chalkhill Blues and Adonis Blues, and quite a lot of Meadow Browns (which were looking pretty tatty).
Wednesday 20th August
I had a walk in the University Parks and Marston Meadows at lunchtime today. It was fairly cool and there weren't many butterflies or dragonflies about, but I managed to find six species of the former and two of the latter.
Sunday 17th August
I had a walk round a very breezy Farmoor Reservoir this afternoon. There wasn't a great deal about, just a few butterflies and dragonflies, four Linnets, one juvenile Northern Wheatear and a very skittish Dunlin. However the most interesting thing was watching a Common Tern feeding one of its offspring, which was perched on a pontoon facing the wind. The adult was able to use the wind to slow itself down, so that is could pass food to the youngster without having to land. I'd never seen a Common Tern do that before. It made a great picture too.
Saturday 16th August
I visited Aston Upthorpe Downs this morning. Although it was mostly cloudy I saw 17 species of butterfly, of which the most notable were a very late Essex Skipper, a Clouded Yellow and a rather worn Adonis Blue. There were lots of Meadow Browns and Common Blues, and smaller numbers of Chalkhill Blues and Brown Argus. There were some fresh-looking male Meadow Browns, which is fairly unusual for the middle of August. A patch of Scabious flowers near the gate were very much in demand by butterflies. It was interesting to observe how activity ceased when the sun went in, only to re-start as soon as it came out again. On the way back to the car I saw a mixed flock of Blue, Great and Long-tailed Tits, Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers in the hawthorn bushes.
Wednesday 13th August
I had a look at Hinksey lake this morning. There was only one adult Great Crested Grebe to be seen, with just two stripy youngsters. There were lots of Black-headed Gulls on the lake, and two Yellow-legged Gulls on the tern raft.
Saturday 9th August
Today I visited Pewsey Downs NNR in Wiltshire. Although rather breezy there was enough sun for butterflies to be active. The main target was the Wall Brown, which did far better than usual with thirteen individuals seen (ten males and three females). For a change they were quite easy to photograph. That's my 47th British species for this year. There were also good numbers of Common Blue, Brown Argus, Small Tortoiseshell and Meadow Brown. I found a very faded Marbled White, and an equally faded Dark Green Fritillary. There were also a few Chalkhill Blues but, surprisingly, no Adonis Blues. There weren't a lot of birds but I did see a Raven and a Peregrine.
I had a look at Sole Common Pond on the way home. I got as near to the the water as I could, and was rewarded with very close views of a couple of Southern Hawkers.
Wednesday 6th August
Swifts appear to have departed for southern parts. There were none over south Oxford this morning.
Tuesday 5th August
There was a Brown Argus in the garden this afternoon. I suppose that they must be using Geraniums as the larval foodplant - there is plenty of Geranium robertianum growing in the garden.
Sunday 3rd August
Back down south I visited Otmoor this morning. The roman road was fairly quiet to start with, with just a Southern Hawker, a few Common Darters, and half a dozen Purple Hairstreaks being seen. As I went down the bridleway the numbers of Brown Hawkers, Ruddy Darters and Gatekeepers kept rising. I found a Common Spreadwing, my first on Otmoor this year. I walked along the track southwards from the hide. Two Clouded Yellows flew along it very fast, and didn't stop. In July's Meadow I saw a Painted Lady and lots of Common Blues. Finally I walked down the roman road again, and this time saw two Brown Hairstreaks in an ash tree. Another one was found nectaring on brambles. My UK butterfly species count for the year has reached 46.
Friday 1st August
As it was wet today another visit was made to Leighton Moss. Today there were ten Black-tailed Godwits, two Great White Egrets (one of which was chased off by a Grey Heron), a dozen Redshank. Down the road at the Allen Hide I counted 54 Redshank and 20 Dunlin. At the nearby Eric Morecambe hide I saw Ringed Plover and Little Ringed Plover, about 70 Dunlin, 14 Little Egrets and lots of Lapwings. Birds of prey seen were a Buzzard, a Kestrel and a Peregrine.
Thursday 31st July
This morning was spent exploring the limestone pavement at Gait Barrows NNR. I saw another three High Brown Fritillaries here, and also a possible Northern Brown Argus, but I couldn't get a photo of it. I saw another Grayling and also several Peacocks and Brown Hawkers. After lunch I visited Myers Allotment reserve, which looks promising as a High Brown Fritillary and Duke of Burgundy site once the rides are opened up. There wasn't a great deal of interest there today. Finally I had a look round the RSPB reserve at Leighton Moss, where notable species were Greenshank, Great White Egret, Water Rail and Marsh Harrier. I also saw a couple of Black-tailed Skimmers.
Wednesday 30th July
I visited Arnside Knott today. The sun took a while to come out, but when it did, so did a handful of High Brown Fritillaries (my second target species for the trip). Also seen here were about a dozen Scotch Argus and a Grayling. Back at Challan Hall a Marsh Tit was on the feeders along with Blue and Great Tits. A Sparrowhawk shot through the garden and (not surprisingly) all the tits disappeared.
Tuesday 29th July
Today I visited Smardale Gill NNR in Cumbria. There wasn't a great deal in the gill itself, just some Green-veined Whites. As grassland started to appear, so did the Scotch Argus butterflies, which was the first time I had seen this species. Other butterflies seen here were Small Skipper, Dark Green Fritillary, Common Blue, Meadow Brown and Small Heath. Birds seen were Buzzard and Raven. I also saw a buck Roe Deer.
Monday 28th July
After a long drive north to Challan Hall in Silverdale, I had a walk to Hawes Water in Gait Barrows NNR. Peacocks were the most abundant species, with seven seen. Common Blue and Blue-tailed Damselflies, and a Brown Hawker, were the only odonata seen. A Raven, a Buzzard and a Grey Heron were seen overhead, and there were at least three Green Woodpeckers in the area.
Saturday 26th July
I got to Aston Rowant NNR (south side) at 08:45 this morning, but it was already pretty warm. There were lots of Meadow Browns, Chalkhill Blues and Small Skippers about, and also good numbers of what I'd come to see, the Silver-spotted Skipper. There were also a few Common Blues, Brown Argus, Brimstone, Gatekeeper, Marbled White and Small Heath, a late Large Skipper and two Peacocks. There were quite a lot of Six-spot Burnets, and a Dusky Sallow. The only birds seen were a couple of Red Kites and two Green Woodpeckers.
In the garden I watched a female Green-veined White fluttering around and testing every leaf she landed on. I saw her ovipositing on Honesty; I didn't know that Green-veined Whites fed on that.
Friday 25th July
I had a look at Hinksey Lake this morning. The pair of Great Crested Grebes have had another brood, as there were three stripy juveniles with them. The single offspring from the first brood was as big as the adults, but it didn't have adult plumage. There was also a juvenile Common Tern flying about.
In the garden I disturbed a roosting Painted Lady, and it flew off elsewhere (at 9pm).
Thursday 24th July
I had a brief walk in the Oxford University Parks today (it was very hot!), and saw a Holly Blue, at least ten Peacocks and a Painted Lady. When I got home there were three Peacocks nectaring on Buddleia in the garden.
Tuesday 22nd July
Some sightings today were a couple of Peacocks and a large Drone Fly in the garden, a Migrant Hawker flying around above the garden, and a Brown Argus on the allotment.
Sunday 20th July
I visited the Calvert Jubilee and Finemere Wood reserves in Buckinghamshire today, both of which I had not visited before. People had been reporting White-letter Hairstreaks at the former, and although I saw two hairstreak butterflies flying it was impossible to say whether that were WLHs or not. The most numerous butterfly seen was the Gatekeeper. I moved a few miles down the road to Finemere. It was pretty hot by now and all the usual grassland species were out in abundance. I also saw a couple of Silver-washed Fritillaries on the edge of the wood.
Stop three was at Otmoor, where I walked around the car park field. Dragonflies were out in abundance, particularly Ruddy Darters. I also saw four Brown Hawkers and one immature Southern Hawker. I found a Dark Bush-cricket sitting on a leaf. There weren't many birds about but I did see two Little Egrets and a Green Woodpecker, and heard a Blackcap. There were quite a lot of Peacocks and a couple of hutchinsoni-form Commas.
A Small Copper was an addition to the allotment species count. Essex Skippers and Small Tortoiseshells were still going well. At home I found a Gatekeeper in the greenhouse.
Saturday 19th July
On a punting trip up the river Cherwell this afternoon I saw four species of Odonata, about sixty Canada Geese and a Buzzard. On the way home I saw a Gatekeeper, a Holly Blue and a couple of Black-tailed Skimmers at Hinksey Lake.
Thursday 17th July
I saw the usual butterfly species on the allotment this evening. A Greenfinch was singing in the hedge, and another flew in to joint it. As I was leaving I saw thee Buzzards fly across the field and perch in a tree next to the A34.
Tuesday 15th July
A quick visit to the allotment at lunchtime today didn't produce any new butterflies, although I did record seven species. At home a Migrant Hawker appeared over the garden a couple of times, and I also saw my first second-brood Holly Blue of the year.
Sunday 13th July
A cloudy day for the most part. Small Whites have started to appear on the allotment; I saw a mating pair. There were quite a lot of Swifts over the allotment and adjacent fields; presumably they were after insects forced to a lower altitude by the low cloud-base.
Saturday 12th July
I visited Homefield Wood, Buks, today. Although I got there at 09:15, it was already pretty warm and butterflies were very active as a consequence. There were lots of Small Skippers, Ringlets and Meadow Browns, and smaller numbers of Marbled Whites and Silver-washed Fritillaries. The most interesting sighting was of two fresh Brimstones. A couple of male Blackcaps were singing openly, which is unusual for this species.
I moved on to Watlington Hill were there were again good numbers of Small Skippers and Ringlets, and also Small Heaths. I saw at least nine Dark Green Fritillaries, a solitary female Common Blue, and some Narrow-bordered Five-spot Burnets. I was expecting to find Chalkhill Blues, given that I found some at Aston Rowant last weekend, but there were none about.
There was a Scarlet Tiger moth in the garden when I got home. On the allotment the species were much the same as yesterday, but with the addition of a Marbled White.
Friday 11th July
A quick visit to the allotment on the way home this afternoon produced at least fifteen Small Tortoiseshells, many of them nectaring on Marjoram flowers. There were also at least six Essex Skippers, including one mating pair. I released a Common Wainscot which was in the polytunnel. Later at home I found a Vapourer Moth caterpillar feeding on a Fremontodendron cultivar. Although the Vapourer will feed on a wide range of plants, I would not have expected it to use a non-native species.
Thursday 10th July
I had a walk in the University Parks and Marston Meadows at lunchtime today. As usual there wasn't a great deal in the Parks, just some Small Tortoiseshells and singleton Gatekeeper and Marbled White. Across the river things got busier, with at least twenty-five Meadow Browns seen, along with seven other species. I saw two female Banded Demoiselles, two Brown Hawkers ans a male Common Darter. There weren't many birds about but I did see a pair of Bullfinches.
A dragonfly was active in the garden at 21:20 this evening, although I couldn't see what it was.
Wednesday 9th July
Today I saw two Small Tortoiseshells in the garden, and Essex Skippers, a Green-veined White and two more Small Tortoiseshells on the allotment. I also found some small Peacock caterpillars in my nettle patch.
Tuesday 8th July
Today I saw one Large White in the garden.
Sunday 6th July
A fairly breezy day but I headed off to the north side of Aston Rowant NNR. Meadow Browns, Marbled Whites and Small Skippers were soon in evidence, and I found my first Chalkhill Blue of the year doing its best to warm up. Not much else appeared until I got to the bottom of the slope, when I came upon three or four Dark Green Fritillaries nectaring on Knapweed flowers. Small Tortoiseshells stated appearing in larger numbers, and three Commas and a Red Admiral were other vanessids seen.
I headed to Whitecross Green Wood, where there were many Marbled Whites, Ringlets and Meadow Browns about. There were some Gatekeepers, including one female. Looking upwards at the oak trees near the start of the main east-west ride I saw two Purple Emperors flying around the treetops. I counted at least sixteen Silves-washed Fritillaries, and four White Admirals. Dragonflies seen were five Brown Hawkers, four Emperors, a Southern Hawker, a Black-tailed Skimmer, and quite a lot of teneral Ruddy Darters. I saw a Treecreeper, a species I hadn't seen in the wood before.
I headed to Bernwood hoping for more Purple Emperors, but it had got quite cloudy and I couldn't find any. I saw a few Silver-washed Fritillaries, an Emperor dragonfly, two Broad-bodied Chasers and a Green Woodpecker.
Saturday 5th July
Today I saw one Meadow Brown and four Common Blue Damselflies in the garden, and seven butterfly species on the alloment, including my first Gatekeeper of the year. Large White numbers are starting to build, but there is still no sign of any Small Whites.
Thursday 3rd July
I saw my first British Essex Skipper of the year on the allotment this evening.
Wednesday 2nd July
On the way back south I stopped briefly at the North Cave Wetlands to see what it was like. It turned out to be quite promising, with plenty of water and wetland birds including Shelduck, Lapwing, Oystercatcher and Common Tern. There were some insects about, most notably a Black-tailed Skimmer.
Tuesday 1st July
Today I visited Bempton Cliffs on the east Yorkshire coast. I had never been here at this time of year before. There were lots of Gannets, Kittiwakes, Guillemots, Razorbills, Puffins and Rock Doves, with just a few Fulmars and Herring Gulls. The most notable terrestrial bird was the Tree Sparrow, with 15-20 birds seen around the visitor centre. The most numerous butterfly was the Red Admiral with at least ten seen. There were also a few 6-Spot Burnets about.
Monday 30th June
While in Yorkshire I visited the Yorkshire Water reserve at Tophill Low. The main thing of note was the numbers of Ringlets and Meadow Browns - they were everywhere. There were quite a lot of Red Admirals too - I counted at least ten. On the dragonfly front I saw two Brown Hawkers, the first of the year. I saw a few Four-spotted Chasers and Black-tailed Skimmers, but there were a lot more out over the lake. Teneral Common Darters were fairy abundant as well. I saw two new birds for the year, a Green Sandpiper and a Reed Warbler. I saw two Little Grebes with young and at least three Common Terns. I came across a young Grass Snake crossing a road.
I also visited Kiplingcotes Chalk Pit where I found two Yellowhammers, good numbers of Ringlets, Marbled Whites and Meadow Browns, eight Common Blues (quite late for first-generation adults) and two Red Admirals. There were some Bordered Sallow moths feeing on trefoil flowers. A Shrew ran across the road into the car park as I was leaving, and I had seen three Stoats as I was approaching the car park.
Sunday 29th June
I drove up to north Lincolnshire, to visit the Crowle Moors reserve in search of a butterfly I had not yet seen. After quite a lot of searching I finally found one Large Heath, which is my 51st British species and also my 33rd British species this year. Despite a reputation of being difficult to approach, this individual was very confiding. Other butterflies seen were Ringlets (I gave up counting at 70!), Large Skippers (at least 20), Meadow Browns and Small Tortoiseshells. Somewhat unexpectedly I also saw at least five Common Spreadwings and heard a Cuckoo. Mosquitoes were also out in force so an insect repellant is essential if you're visiting.
Saturday 28th June
Dry Sandford Pit was a bit a come-down from Bulgaria, but I did see my first British Small Skippers of the year, plus nine other species. Marbled Whites and Ringlets appear to be having a bumper year. I saw two Southern Damselflies and one Keeled Skimmer, and I flushed a Grey Heron from the marsh.
Thursday 26th June
On the way to the airport we had a final stop at the Kresna Gorge. Notable species seen here were Balkan Marbled White, Scarce Swallowtail, Purple-shot Copper, Balkan Goldenring, a tailed Lacewing and an Owl-fly. I heard a Cirl Bunting singing.
Wednesday 25th June
The last full day in Bulgaria began with an impromptu road stop to look at a bird of prey which had perched in a bush. It turned out to be a Kestrel, which was being mobbed by a Black-headed Bunting and a Lesser Grey Shrike. Calandra Larks were seen from the minibus again.
The first proper stop was at the Rupite hot springs. The first notable species found here was a Western Chunky Bush-cricket, which was built like a tank. A few Bee-eaters were overhead, probably feeding on dragonflies, of which there were many. A Long-legged Buzzard and a few Eleonora's Falcons were also seen. A Cetti's Warbler was heard - the first one of the trip. Some Small Red-eyed Damselflies were found in a ditch, along with the inevitable Marsh Frogs. At the river bridge I found an Eastern Bath White and a Mallow Skipper. A Short-tailed Blue was found taking water from damp soil. Heading back to lunch a Sooty Copper was found, and then I found the most extraordinary insect - a Balkan Predatory Bush-cricket, which was about 8cm long with impressive jaws. It was very well camouflaged in the bush it was sitting in. A Southern White Admiral then landed right in front of me, and although it kept its wings closed it made a perfect photograph. A Grey-headed Woodpecker was found, although it was rather difficult to see in the tree it was in.
The second stop was supposed to be a lake near the village of General Todorov, but water levels were too high to access it. We had to make do with walking in a field alongside it. I found an Eastern Festoon caterpillar, and two Spotted Darters were caught for closer inspection.
We moved on to a nearby lake. We had just started walking down the track to it when a Bladetail dragonfly landed on the track. It was only there briefly, and couldn't be re-located. A mature Black Pennant and a Lesser Fiery Copper were found in low vegetation, and a Norfolk Hawker was found hung up in a bush. On the lake a Little Bittern made a couple of flights between reedbeds.
We made a short stop at the same place where we looked for Rock Sparrows yesterday. Today we turned up a large Antlion (Palpares libelluloides) and a Woodchat Shrike.
Tuesday 24th June
A pre-breakfast walk around the hotel in Dospat produced Crested Tit, Rick Bunting and a Serin. A Fragrant Orchid and several Violet Limadores were found.
The first stop was the Masta River fishponds. A rather worn Map Butterfly was found nectaring on brambles. A number of juvenile Great Reed Warblers were seen in the reeds, waiting to be fed by their parents. A Little Bittern flew between reed beds a couple of times. Downy Emerald, Emperor and Lesser Emperor dragonflies were active over the lake. I found two Freyer's Purple Emperors taking water and nutrients from a muddy track. As we were leaving a pair of Crested Larks were seen.
The second stop was at at Papaz Tcher, a large peat bog. There were lots of Nettle-tree Butterflies about, although there was no evidence of any Nettle trees. Some exotic butterflies were seen here: Camberwell Beauty, Apollo and Clouded Apollo. There was also a different lycaenid, which was eventually identified as a Turquoise Blue.
After lunch we headed for the Bistritza River near Katunzi. We didn't stay here long as there wasn't much about (and it was very hot). We went further along the Pirinska Bistritza River to Novo Hodzhovo, which is only about 500m from the Greek border. On the track down to the river I found a Scarce Swallowtail. Down at the river both Balkan Goldenring and Sombre Goldenring were seen. I found a Scarce Chaser and a White-letter Hairstreak, both of which I have yet to find in the UK.
We stopped near a winery on the way to Melmik, looking for Rock Sparrows, but all we found was a Crested Lark. Several Calandra Larks were seen from the minibus.
A walk after dinner turned up a Kotschy's Gecko and several Fireflies.
Monday 23rd June
Today started with a pre-breakfast walk at the hotel. Birds of note seen were Firecrest and Rock Bunting. A pristine Woodland Ringlet was the only butterfly seen, but then it was pretty chilly at 7am.
The morning was spent exploring the Trigrad Gorge. The star bird here was a Wallcreeper, which gave good views as it scuttled across the rocks. A Dipper was seen in the river at the bottom of the gorge. There were lots of butterflies here, including Chequered Skipper, Silver-studded Blue, Nettle-tree Butterfly, Glanville Fritillary and Amanda's Blue.
After lunch we had a quick look at a nearby meadow. This turned up an Oberthur's Grizzled Skipper.
The second stop of the day was at a small stream near Borino. We couldn't find any goldenring dragonflies here, but we did find a Balkan Copper, and more Wood Whites, Woodland Ringlets and Chequered Skippers.
The third stop was at the Serena river near Dospat. Another Balkan Copper was found here, along with a female Orange-tip. An Ortolan Bunting was found on a wire, but it could only be seen through the scope.
When we got to the hotel in Dospat a number of Pallid Swifts were flying about.
Sunday 22nd June
The first stop today was a stream and meadow at Plazishte. A Sooty Copper, a Purple-shot Copper and Eastern Festoon were the only notable butterflies seen here. There weren't many dragonflies about either, but it was fairly unusual to see Banded and Beautiful Demoiselles at the same site. Birds were even less visible, but I did see a Spotted Flycatcher and heard a Golden Oriole. Common Frog, Marsh Frog and a Green Lizard were all seen. A very nice Balkan Lizard Orchid was noteworthy.
We were climbing into the Western Rhodope mountains. We took lunch at an isolated bus stop at an altitude of about 800m. This turned out to be a rich site. There were dozens of Bush-crickets sunning themselves, a Hummingbird Hawkmoth was busy around Echium flowers, and a Cream-spot Tiger was also found. A Heath Fritillary and a Green Hairstreak were the only butterfly of note. There was a small pond here which produced three dragonflies: a Norfolk Hawker, a Southern Migrant Hawker and a Broad-bodied Chaser.
Stop three was at Smolyan Lakes, where Northern Damselflies were quickly found. This is the most southerly site in Europe for this species. My attention was diverted by two new species of butterfly: Eastern Large Heath and Woodland Ringlet. The latter were quite flighty and difficult to photograph. A Kingfisher was about the only bird seen here.
Nearer to Trigrad we stopped to look at Alpine Swifts which were nesting in a cliff face. They really are spectacular birds.
Finally, at the hotel in Trigrad, Red-rumped Swallows and Crag Martins were flying about.
Saturday 21st June
The summer solstice saw us driving to Byal Gradets to look for dragonflies in the Zemin Zhere river. However we were soon seeing butterflies, with Lulworth Skipper, Eastern Festoon and Great Banded Grayling the most noteworthy. There were also lots of Nine-Spotted moths, and even a Fiery Clearwing while we were having lunch. This river was where the Bulgarian Emerald was discovered in 1999, but despite searching we could only find Balkan Emeralds. The other dragonfly of note here was the Eastern Spectre, a small hawker rather like the Hairy Dragonfly.
Our second stop of the day was a small reservoir at Gugutka. As we got out of the minibus two Lesser Spotted Eagles took to the air, and a Black Kite was seen overhead. A Turkish Goldenring was caught in a net for close examination. The weather conditions had worsened and there were not many butterflies about. Eventually it started raining which finished off most insect activity. I did find a nice moth called Rhodostrophia calabra in the grass, sitting out the rain.
The third stop of the day was at the Zhele Zhari reservoir. On the way there we passed a field which had about 50 White Storks in it. It was still pretty cloudy so there wasn't much insect activity at the reservoir. Birds of note here were a Nuthatch and a singing Eastern Olivaceous Warbler.
Friday 20th June
Today we visited several sites in the Eastern Rhodope mountains. The first stop was a road up the side of a mountain at Dolna Kula. Here we got some good views of Black-eared Wheatears, and a Syrian Woodpecker was also seen. No dragonflies were seen here, but butterflies did well, with notable species including Wall Brown, Long-tailed Blue, Mallow Skipper and Eastern Bath White. Two Hermann's Tortoises were found in the scrub.
The next stop was the Valchi Dol valley. The target species here was the strange Odalisque, which seems to be a species half-way between dragonflies and damselflies. One was seen, but the stream up the valley was too high to cross, so opportunities to find others were limited. A very nice Lesser Emperor dragonfly was found hung up in a bush. There were quite a lot of butterflies about, but nothing that hadn't been seen before. The most spectacular sighting here was a spiralling mass of about twenty Griffon Vultures.
The third stop was at the Arda River dam. Birds of note here were Honey Buzzard, Booted Eagle and Hobby. The only butterfly seen here was a female Silver-washed Fritillary of the valesina form, but a large Spurge Hawkmoth caterpillar and some Balkan Green Lizards were also found.
The next stop was at Golobradoro, where there was a lake and wetland area. We had a good view of a Black-headed Bunting. A couple of immature Black Pennant dragonflies were found here, as well as Dainty Damselfly and Broad Scarlet. Butterflies of note here were a Woodland Brown and several rather worn Eastern Festoons.
The next stop was called "Basalt Pools". The only species of note here was the Southern Skimmer dragonfly.
The final stop was somewhere on the bank of the Arda River, where Lattice Brown butterflies were found flying around the trees.
After dinner some of the group went out to listen for Scop's Owl. A big surprise here was a Stone Martin (southern equivalent of the Pine Martin), which jumped up onto the park wall and crossed the road, before returning a little later.
Thursday 19th June
Today was our first full day in Bulgaria. Before breakfast we had a walk to the outskirts of Koprivshtitsa, which surprisingly was still standing after yesterday's storm. Notable species seen were Serin, White Wagtail, Black Redstart, Dipper, Spotted Flycatcher and White Stork.
We drove a short distance to another White Stork nest. On the way a small flock of Turtle Doves was seen from the minibus. Spanish Sparrows had colonised the bottom of the Stork's nest and were making their usual racket. An indefatigable Red Admiral put in an appearance.
We proceeded to our second stop at Starosel. Here Isabelline Wheatears showed well, some Bee-eaters were seen overhead, and a Cuckoo was calling. It was still rather cool, and insect activity was a bit limited. However I saw a helice Clouded Yellow and a Common Darter.
While en route to the next stop I saw a Golden Oriole from the minibus.
At the next stop, a lake near Novo Zhelezare, Great Reed Warblers were heard singing (very loudly, as per usual). A Sloe Hairstreak perched on a reed for some time. A new dragonfly species seen here was the Southern Darter, and there were also Variable Damselflies about.
While en route to the next stop I saw a Montague's Harrier from the minibus.
The next stop was the Maritza River near Mirovo. Notable birds seen here were Hooded Crow, Bee-eater and Roller. A couple of new fritillaries were seen here: Queen of Spain Fritillary and Spotted Fritillary. There was a also a rather worn Knapweed Fritillary. There were lots of Blue Featherlegs about, but the only dragonfly found was a Small Pincertail. Other interesting insects seen were a Hummingbird Hawkmoth, a Mammoth Wasp, many bush crickets including the very colourful Poecilimon thoracicus, and an Antlion.
When we got to the next stop at the Susam Reservoir the weather was deteriorating, with thunder and lightning. This stopped most insect activity and the only butterflies found were a Large Skipper and a Sooty Copper. Scarce Blue-tailed Damselflies and Robust Spreadwings were found in the reeds, while birds of note were the Black-headed Bunting and a singing Eastern Olivaceous Warbler. Marsh Frogs were making their usual racket, and also as usual were difficult to see.
While en route to the next stop I saw a Pygmy Cormorant and a Black Stork from the minibus.
At the final stop of the day at Momchilgrad, some Red-rumped Swallows were seen. The first Small Skippers and Migrant Spreadwings of the week were also seen here.
On the way to the hotel I saw a Woodchat Shrike from the minibus.
In Krumovgrad a large flock of Jackdaws came in to roost. After dark I heard a Scops Owl calling.
Wednesday 18th June
Today was the first day of the Naturetrek trip to Bulgaria, which was focussed mainly on dragonflies (but not excluding other wildlife). After landing at Sofia, the first stop was at a roadside cafe and river to the east, where I picked up four new species in an hour or so: Sloe Hairstreak, Lesser Spotted Fritillary, Freyer's Purple Emperor and Ornate Bluet.
Further east at the Tupulnica River I saw more new species in the form of a Hungarian Glider, a Mazarine Blue, and a Red-backed Shrike. There were also a couple of moths here which I hadn't seen before: Forester and Transparent Burnet. The weather had got worse by this time, and there wasn't much in the way of insect activity.
Birds of interest seen from the minibus today were Lesser Spotted Eagle and White Stork.
Monday 16th June
As the sun was out this morning I headed west to Daneway Banks in Gloucestershire. The first sighting of note was a group of six Bee Orchids, but it wasn't until I reached the top of the slope that the first Large Blue of the day made an appearance. In total I saw three of them, all males, There were also a couple of Small Blues. The usual grassland butterfly species were much in evidence, particularly Small Heaths and Marbled Whites.
By midday the cloud had returned, but I visited Whelford Pools anyway, hoping for some dragonflies. However, there were dozens of Common Blue Damselflies about, with smaller numbers of Blue-tailed Damselflies (including two of the rufescens form) and just a couple of Red-eyed Damselflies. The only dragonflies I could find were a teneral Common Darter and a Black-tailed Skimmer. I also saw seven Cinnabar moths. On the bird front there were fifteen Red-crested Pochards on the private fishing lake, a pair of Mute Swans with six cygnets, a pair of Coot with four young, a flock of about fifty Greylag Geese, and two Common Terns.
Sunday 15th June
Despite the cloudy weather I headed for Bernwood Forest this morning. The long walk to the M40 compensation area was rewarded with six Black Hairstreaks, some of which came down to feed on privet flowers, but the sun only appeared occasionally, and it wasn't enough to really get them going. I saw at least twenty Large Skippers in the wood, but most were inactive. There were small numbers of Meadow Browns, Marbled Whites and Ringlets. On the moth front I saw two Bloodveins and one Burnished Brass.
Moving on to Whitecross Green Wood (the weather hadn't improved but it was a bit warmer), I found two more Black Hairstreaks (one an ovipositing female), more Large Skippers, Ringlets and Meadow Browns, and one White Admiral, my first of the year. On the dragonfly front I saw a Blue-tailed Damselfly, an Emperor and three teneral Ruddy Darters.
Saturday 14th June
I visited Dry Sandford Pit again this afternoon. The first butterfly I found (in the marsh) was a pristine male Meadow Brown, my first of the year. I also found a male Keeled Skimmer, and four male and two female Southern Damselflies (including one pair in tandem). I found two more males in the vegetation area along the quarry wall which were more amenable to being photographed. It wasn't until I got to the grassy areas that the butterfly count increased, with about twenty Marbled Whites and also my first Ringlets of the year. Small Tortoiseshells and a Red Admiral were nectaring on privet flowers. Amazingly there were still a few Brimstones about; they are now about ten months old. A female Broad-bodied Chaser was not very co-operative, frequently perching high up in a Hawthorn bush.
On the plant side I came across two Broomrape flower spikes, which I don't think I've seen at the pit before. There were some birds about as well. I saw a Green Woodpecker and a Jay, and heard the usual warblers.
Later on the allotment there was a family party of Long-tailed Tits working along the hedgerow.
Friday 13th June
I saw a Painted Lady near Redbridge car park this morning. I looked for the Great Crested Grebe youngster on Hinksey Lake on the way home, but couldn't find it. The five young Coots were still going strong, though.
Tuesday 10th June
A surprise garden visitor today was an immature Black-tailed Skimmer. I also saw a Speckled Wood, a couple of Small Tortoiseshells, and 14-spot Ladybird. A late afternoon visit to Dry Sandford Pit produced my first Marbled White of the year, and a Five-spot Burnet.
Sunday 8th June
This morning I headed to Parsonage Moor to look for Odonata. I found several Four-spotted Chasers, at least four Southern Damselflies and one immature Keeled Skimmer. I also saw two fresh Peacocks. At Dry Sandford Pit I saw my first Large Skippers and Hummingbird Hawkmoth of the year, but the only odonates I could find were three Large Red Damselflies. In the garden I had a visit from a fresh Small Tortoiseshell, which was nectaring on Sweet William flowers.
Saturday 7th June
I visited a private garden in Stanford Dingley, Berkshire, today. The highlight was a Spotted Flycatcher which showed well for a couple of hours. I also saw a Bullfinch and a Nuthatch. A Red Admiral, Speckled Wood and an unidentified white were the only butterflies seen. There were many bees feeding on geranium and other flowers.
Friday 6th June
On Hinksey Lake today the young Coots were diving for food, and the young Great Crested Grebe had grown a lot since I last saw it. There was a Common Tern apparently on eggs on the raft, and the other was flying about, from time to time having a go at the Black-headed Gulls. When I got home there were three Common Blue Damselflies in the garden. On the allotment I saw a very tatty Small Tortoiseshell, which was still flying around quite strongly. I also found some Peacock caterpillars in my nettle patch.
Thursday 5th June
I had a walk in the Oxford University Parks and Marston Meadows at lunchtime today. In the former I saw a Red Admiral and watched a Red Kite being mobbed by crows. Across the river I saw a male Beautiful Demoiselle, my first record of this species at this site. I also saw two Banded Demoiselles, one male and one female. I also saw a pair of Whitethroat taking food to their nest.
Tuesday 3rd June
There was a Scarlet Tiger moth in the garden this afternoon. I saw a Kestrel and a Greenfinch on the allotment, and heard a Blackcap.
Sunday 1st June
Today I visited the Thames path between Goring and the railway bridge at SU606795. The target species was the Common Clubtail dragonfly, but I could only find an exuvia at the railway bridge. I did however find quite a few Banded Demoiselles and a single example of a White-legged Damselfly, which was a first for me. On the bird front I saw a Kingfisher, and there was a pair of Great Crested Grebes on the river with three youngsters.
Moving on to Lardon Chase, the poor weather over the last few days meant that there were few butterflies about. I did manage to find a couple of Adonis Blues and a Small Heath at least.
An afternoon visit to Dry Sandford Pit produced a Small Blue, which I had not seen there before. The other notable species was a fresh-looking dark-underside Comma, which is pretty early if it is the result of eggs laid in March. I also saw a Green Woodpecker and three Large Red Damselflies.
Saturday 31st May
Although it was quite cloudy this morning, I headed for Wicken Wood on the Bucks/Northants border. The target species here was the Wood White. I found at least twenty, most of them males. The lack of sunshine meant that there were few other butterflies active; all I saw were a couple of Speckled Woods. Birds were elusive, but I heard Blackcap, Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff.
Next stop was the Salden railway cutting, which I had not visited before. The lack of sunshine meant that butterfly activity was curtailed here as well, although there were several male and female Common Blues about. I found a moth here which I had not seen before - the Chimney Sweeper. There were lots of them, but they were very difficult to photograph as they wouldn't stop moving for long (NB this looks like the last season that the railway cutting will be accessible as work has started on re-opening the line).
I found a 14-Spot Ladybird in the garden in the afternoon.
Friday 29th May
I saw the white-tailed Robin at Hinksey Lake again this morning.
Monday 26th May
Garden visitors today were one juvenile Robin and five juvenile Starlings, all looking rather bedraggled thanks to the continuous rain.
Sunday 25th May
I spent the morning on Otmoor. The day started well, with a calling Turtle Dove sitting quite openly in an oak tree on the bridleway. I'd never seen one this confident on Otmoor before. A Cuckoo was calling, and I eventually saw it as it flew down the bridleway. There were masses of Azure Damselflies about, and Four-spotted Chasers also started to appear. Swifts also started to appear, and they were visible over the reserve all morning. A butterfly caught my attention: it turned out to be a Red Admiral, my first of the year. I saw a Snipe on Greenaways. Red Kites flew over Big Otmoor several times; on each occasion they were harried by Lapwings. I saw a Lesser Whitethroat in the oak tree between the two screens. There wasn't much on the lagoon, but I got a brief view of a Hairy Dragonfly by the screen. After 11am Hobbies started to appear, and two put on aerobatic displays over Greenaways. I saw a Treecreeper, another Cuckoo, and a couple of Burnet Companion moths along the roman road.
I moved on to Whitecross Green Wood, where I didn't see many birds, but I did find my first Painted Lady and Emperor Dragonfly of the year. I found a Mother Shipton moth here. I also saw a Fox.
Finally, I stopped at Bernwood Meadows where I found my first Brown Argus of the year. It was quite happy sitting on my finger for a few minutes. There were quite a few Common Blues and three Small Coppers here, as well as Burnet Companion moths.
Saturday 24th May
I visited Farmoor Reservoir this afternoon. The first birds of note were House Martins, which were gathering nesting material at the water's edge near the sailing club. When I got to Pinkhill I found some Azure Damselflies which were sheltering from the rain. I also found some Peacock caterpillars here. There wasn't much on Pinkhill, but I disturbed a Speckled Wood in the hedgerow. A Cuckoo was calling, but I didn't see it. After sheltering from the rain in Shrike Meadow hide for 20 minutes or so, I headed back along the causeway. The rain had driven insects downwards, and the hirundines and Swifts had followed them. I was again treated to a display of extraordinary high-speed low-level flying by the Swifts, and to a lesser extent by the House Martins. A couple of Sand Martins and some Swallows also joined the party. I searched the old water treatment ponds for Yellow Wagtails, but instead I found a Grey Wagtail. Finally I came across a pair of Red-crested Pochards, which didn't seem at all bothered by me photographing them.
Thursday 22nd May
With the bins I was able to see that the Great Crested Grebes on Hinksey Lake have only got one chick. Two Common Terns have taken possession of the tern raft; one may have been on eggs this afternoon.
Wednesday 21st May
The pair of Coot on Hinksey Lake have got five quite well-grown youngsters. The Great Crested Grebes have got at least one chick, but without bins I couldn't see if there were any more.
Sunday 18th May
I visited Lardon Chase this morning, where after a slow start I found Dingy Skippers, Common Blues and Small Blues, as well as a Silver Y moth and some Common Blue Damselflies. There were a lot of noisy Rooks, and two each of Buzzards and Red Kites.
I moved a few miles west to Aston Upthorpe Downs, where I saw three Red-legged Partridges and a Whitethroat. Blackcap and Willow Warblers were singing. On the butterfly front there were quite a few Dingy Skippers and Common Blues, and smaller numbers of Grizzled Skippers and Small Coppers. There were still quite a few Brimstones and Orange-tips, and still three Peacocks and a Small Tortoiseshell. I also saw at least five Cinnabar moths.
Saturday 17th May
I visited Bentley Wood in Wiltshire today. Although I arrived at 09:20 it was already quite warm and the Pearl-bordered Fritillaries were quite active (I couldn't find any Small Pearls). There were a surprising number of Brimstones about, the majority females. I had a look at the ponds, but could only find a few Large Red Damselflies. I was given directions to the Marsh Fritillary colony, which was quite a long walk. However, I saw about nine of them, which were the first I'd seen in the wood. There were many Speckled Yellow moths, and at least three Argent and Sable moths. Other things of note were a queen Hornet and a Common Lizard. Birds were mostly heard rather than seen: Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Garden Warbler, Cuckoo and Song Thrush.
I stopped at Stockbridge Down on the way home, where I saw my first Grizzled and Dingy Skippers, and Common Blue of the year. There were a surprising number of Brimstones here too; most were males. I also saw a couple of Yellow Shell moths.
I also stopped at Dry Sandford Pit, where there were a few butterflies active, and I also saw a Broad-bodied Chaser and another queen Hornet.
Thursday 15th May
I visited Port Meadow at lunchtime today. Birds of note were two Little Egrets and an Avocet. In Burgess Field I saw a Whitethroat and two Greenfinches. I also saw four butterflies, including one very faded Peacock. On the way home there was a Common Tern over Hinksey Lake, and a Whitethroat and Pheasant were on the allotment in the evening.
Tuesday 13th May
There were four juvenile House Sparrows in the garden this evening, as well as a Common Frog. There are a lot of juvenile Starlings about at the moment as well, but they are not coming in to the garden.
Monday 12th May
I had a walk in the University Parks at lunchtime today. I heard two Song Thrushes and saw a few butterflies and a Broad-bodied Chaser, my first of the year. Across the Cherwell in Marston Meadows I saw two Treecreepers, a Blackcap and a Whitethroat, and saw my first Small Copper of the year.
Sunday 11th May
Back in Oxfordshire, I visited a dull and windy Farmoor Reservoir this morning hoping to see the vagrant Spotted Sandpiper, but without success. There were hundreds of Swifts and House Martins low over both reservoirs. It is always a thrill to see Swifts zipping past really close at head height! How they avoided colliding with each other (and me) is a mystery. I did manage a few reasonable shots of them - the 70D is much better at keeping moving targets in focus than the 50D was. Other birds of note were four Common Terns, and a flock of twenty-one Dunlin and one Ringed Plover.
I also visited Dry Sandford Pit, but the poor weather conditions put paid to any butterflies, and all I saw was a Buzzard.
Later on the allotment I heard a Blackcap singing from the scrub on the A34 embankment. There was a also a Whitethroat singing from a bush near the gate.
Friday 9th May
The last day of the trip saw the best weather of the week. We headed to a wooded valley near the hamlet of Bwlch-y-rhiw (east of Lampeter). There weren't a lot of birds here: Garden Warbler, Willow Warbler and Cuckoo were heard, and a Kestrel was seen.
We headed to the RSPB Gwenffrwd-Dinas reserve. From the minibus we saw two Grey Wagtails, two Bullfinches and a Long-tailed Tit. We went in at the back of the reserve. Almost immediately I saw a male Redstart, and a Song Thrush was singing loudly. We then found Wood Warbler, Pied Flycatcher, Treecreeper and Nuthatch in quick succession. One male Wood Warbler was quite obliging for photographs.
We headed round to the main entrance to the reserve, and saw a Jay en route. A feeder was near the picnic tables, and this had attracted a Marsh Tit, two Yellowhammers and a Nuthatch. Going into the reserve we found more Redstarts and Pied Flycatchers, and three Tree Pipits. A Grey Wagtail was seen on a rock in the river, and a Raven's next was found high up on the opposite cliff face. There were quite a lot of Green-veined Whites about here; I saw at least ten. This reserve is remote, but worth making the effort to visit.
Thursday 8th May
The promised rain arrived overnight, and it was still coming down when we set off this morning. We headed to Fishguard. A brief stop at the beach only produced a couple of Oystercatchers, so we continued to a very misty Strumble Head where there was a wartime lookout post which had been converted for use as a shelter. It also made a handy place for ocean watching. To start with only Gannets and Fulmars were seen, but eventually a single Manx Shearwater turned up. We also saw three Shag, various hirundines and various gulls. Grey Seals and Harbour Porpoises were also seen from time to time.
We returned to the beach at Fishguard. Two Black Guillemots were found in the harbour, but were only visible at extreme range through scopes. A Little Tern was found - perhaps the same one we'd seen on Sunday? In the rocks we found a number of Wheatears sheltering from the wind; one was very obliging for photographs.
We took lunch in the minibus at Lower Town while watching the river Gwaun. Eventually a Dipper appeared under the bridge.
After lunch we headed to Nevern and the bridge over the river Nyfer. This was quite productive, with Oystercatcher, Shelduck Little Egret, Redshank, Goosander, Whimbrel and Curlew being seen. A male Pied Flycatcher was seen by at least two of the group.
We headed back to Newport to have a look at the estuary of the Nyfer. Initially there didn't seem to be much about, until a group of waders was found on a sand bar. These were eventually resolved to eleven Dunlin, one Sanderling and seventeen Ringed Plovers. Nine Whimbrel were found roosting in the rocks, and a Shag and Oystercatcher rounded off the afternoon.
Wednesday 7th May
Rather better weather today, although it was still windy. We headed off to an area of scrub near Poppit Sands at the mouth of the Teifi. This turned up quite a few warblers, including Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat and Sedge Warbler. There were quite a lot of Swallows and House Martins, and accompanying them were two Red-rumped Swallows - undoubtedly the bird of the week! A couple of Green-veined Whites were seen when it had warmed up a bit.
From Poppit we stopped for a short time in Cardigan, for a brief look at the Teifi Marshes nature reserve. The only species of note here was a singing Cetti's Warbler. Another Green-veined White put in an appearance.
As the afternoon was free, I deciced to head back to Mwnt to see if I could get some better photos of Chough. I did see them, but they were less co-operative than they had been on Sunday. However, by being patient I got some really close-up views of male and female Stonechats, so it was a worthwhile visit.
Tuesday 6th May
We got up early in order to visit Skomer today. On the mainland at Martin's Haven we could see Gannets off Skokholm, and a Chough briefly popped up over the cliff top. The boat trip to Skomer was uneventful, and the sun was shining (although, inevitably, it was still windy). At the landing stage there were a few Guillemots on the rocks, who didn't seem bothered by all the people getting off the boat.
First impressions of Skomer were how flat it was, and how many Bluebells were in flower. Apparently bracken provides the shade that the bulbs need in the summer. We walked to the centre of the island (where there is a visitor centre), then out to the west side before going round to the south, and back to the centre. There wasn't a lot to be seen initially, other than gulls, and it wasn't until we got to the south side that things started to happen. A Peregrine flew over and spent some time at altitude looking for prey. On the cliff ledges there were Guillemots, Razorbills, Fulmars and Kittiwakes. It was a bit early for Puffins but some were on the cliffs prospecting for nest sites. Eight Chough were seen, flying in a loose flock as it their wont. At this point is rained quite heavily for a short time, before the sun came out and it turned quite warm. As we were waiting for the boat back, we saw about fifty Grey Seals hauled out on a beach.
Monday 5th May
Today was pretty windy, and there wasn't much sunshine. We headed off to a valley just to the east of Llandewi-Brefi, which funnelled the wind even more. However a number of Wheatears and Whinchats were quickly spotted, and also a Dipper which was busy in the stream running along the valley floor. We saw the usual Buzzards and Ravens, and also a Kestrel (apparently an uncommon bird in this area). Somebody found a Garden Tiger caterpillar taking advantage of what sunshine there was.
The next stop was at a lake at the village of Pant, where a number of Swallows, House Martins and Sand Martins were seen.
Lunch was taken in another valley to the east of Tregaron (at approx 800ft asl). We saw our first Welsh Red Kite of the week here, and also a Peregrine. A Treecreeper and Lesser Redpoll were found in some oak trees. I saw my first butterflies of the trip here: two Green-veined Whites.
A Swift was seen over the village of Tregaron as we were en route to Tregaron Bog. I found my only odonate of the week here, in the form of a Large Red Damselfly. There weren't a lot of birds about, just the usual Blackcaps, Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs. A Red Kite was seen quartering the bog. A Drinker moth caterpillar was found on the boardwalk.
We headed to the visitor centre a little further up the road, where Nuthatch, Lesser Redpoll, Siskin and Coal Tit were seen on the feeders in the car park. A Great Spotted Woodpecker was also seen here, although it didn't visit the feeders.
On the way back to the Roost I saw a Sparrowhawk from the minibus.
Sunday 4th May
We headed off towards Mwnt this morning. The wind was quite strong (this was a feature of the whole week), and there wan't a lot of sunshine. On the way we stopped to have a look at a bare field, where we saw at least six Wheatears. When we got to Mwnt, the first bird of note was a Fulmar over the sea. A Whitethroat was singing in the scrub on the cliff top, two Ravens were seen, followed by Linnets and a nice male Stonechat. Mwnt is a Chough nest site, and eventually two birds showed up, and one flew onto the grassland to dig for worms. On the plant side, many Vernal Squill were in flower.
We headed to Cardigan and the estuary of the river Teifi, where we had lunch. There were quite a lot of birds on the mud flats, including Oystercatcher, Shelduck, Dunlin, Curlew, Whimbrel, Little Ringed Plover, Common Sandpiper, and Little Tern. Two Ravens were seen overhead.
We stopped at a couple of other places along the estuary, adding Grey Heron and Bar-tailed Godwit to the list, before ending up at Traeth Beach at the mouth of the estuary. Here we saw two Ringed Plovers, a Sanderling, and a male Gadwall.
Saturday 3rd May
Before I set off on a trip to Wales, I saw my first garden Holly Blue of the year.
My trip was to join a Cambrian Bird Holidays trip run by Graham Walker. On arriving at the Roost (near Rhydlewis in Ceredigion; around 650ft above sea level) I couldn't fail to notice the rookery, which I later discovered comprised 45 nests (and thus 90 birds). I also saw a Mistle Thrush and heard a Chiffchaff.
Friday 2nd May
There was a Song Thrush in Hinksey Park this morning, and a Mistle Thrush on the way home. There was also a single Common Tern and 40-50 Swallows over Hinksey Lake.
Monday 28th April
There was a Mistle Thrush in Hinksey Park on the way home this evening, and also two Common Terns over Hinksey Lake.
Sunday 27th April
I made a late afternoon visit to Farmoor today. Migrants are now in full swing, and today there were half a dozen Common Terns, and small numbers of House Martins, Swallows and Swifts. I heard two Cuckoos. There were about seventy Great Crested Grebes on F1. This seems a large number for this time of year; they should be on breeding territories by now. Two female Mallards had ducklings in tow.
Saturday 26th April
I had a rather frustrating day today. I went over to Rodborough Common hoping to find the Duke of Burgundy. However, the wet weather yesterday and overnight had put paid to all butterflies except for one Peacock. Some Dark-edged Bee-flies, and various Hoverflies (eg Syrphus vitripennis) were active. There weren't too many birds about, although there were three Buzzards in the air at once at one point. A Peregrine Falcon flew over as I was returning to the car. Other things of note were three Roman snails, and a profusion of Cowslips and Early Purple Orchids.
Having failed to find His Grace, I headed home via Whelford Pools. By mid-day it had warmed up a bit, and there were quite a lot of butterflies about, mainly Orange-tips and Green-veined Whites. I found just two teneral damselflies. On the bird front I heard two Garden Warblers and a Cuckoo, and saw some Red-crested Pochards on the fishing lake. There were two Oystercatchers on the island in the larger lake, at least a hundred Tufted Ducks on the lake itself, and also two pairs of Greylag Geese with goslings in tow. There were a few Swallows about, and also one House Martin.
Thursday 24th April
This morning I noticed a female Blackbird building a nest in the Fremontodendron which grows up the front of my house. When I got home she had almost finished it.
Monday 21st April
I visited Bagley Wood today, mainly to see Bluebells in flower. While there I heard a Cuckoo, and there were also a couple of Song Thrushes singing. Speckled Woods were the most numerous butterfly, some of which were engaged in battled with rival males. I also saw my first Large White of the year. I found a Dark-edged Bee-fly and also an Ichneumonid wasp with red legs, antennae almost as long as its body, and a yellow spot on its thorax (possibly Amblyteles armatorius).
At Dry Sandford Pit I saw reasonable number of Green-veined Whites, Orange-tips and Brimstones, and another Large White. I managed to get a glimpse of a Willow Warbler, but foliage is now too dense to see most birds.
Saturday 19th April
I saw one Peacock in the garden, and some Small Whites and Peacocks on the allotment. There were some martins high over north Abingdon but they were too far away for a positive identification.
Friday 18th April
I visited Aston Rowant NNR today. I went to Linkey Down first, where I saw a female Ring Ouzel, four Bullfinches and a Linnet. Despite the chilly conditions I found one Green Hairstreak. I also found a Slow-worm under a piece of tin. I went over to the north side of the M40, where I found another six Green Hairstreaks. Some of the Hairstreaks were already showing signs of wear. Although I searched for Skippers, I couldn't find any.
Thursday 17th April
I visited Otmoor this morning. A Chiffchaff was singing loudly in the willow trees near the start of the Roman road. I found an unusual female Orange-tip with a strip of orange on her left forewing. Male Orange-tips and Peacocks were fairly numerous along the bridleway. There were many Lapwings on Greenaways and a male Gadwall was on one of the scrapes. A Redshank flew in and landed on an island in one of the scrapes. I managed to catch a glimpse of a Sedge Warbler in the reeds; there were several singing. There were quite a few Reed Buntings about. I found my first damselfly of the year on the bridleway towards Noke, a teneral Large Red Damselfly. I saw a Treecreeper in the oak trees in the same area. I also saw a couple of Blackcaps and one Willow Warbler.
I headed to Whitecross Green Wood, but there wasn't much about. I saw a Willow Warbler and a Blackcap from the car while I was eating lunch. One or two Chiffchaffs were singing. There weren't many butterflies as the sun had gone in, but I did see a couple of Speckled Woods. As I was leaving there were two Swallows sitting on the telephone wires near the outer gate.
Wednesday 16th April
Butterflies are still going strong in the Oxford University Parks. I saw Brimstones, Peacocks, and singleton Small Tortoiseshell and Green-veined White at lunchtime today.
Tuesday 15th April
I saw my first Holly Blue of the year at Dry Sandford Pit today, as well as a number of Green-veined Whites and Orange-tips.
Monday 14th April
Today I saw two Swallows over Hinksey Lake, and two Mistle Thrushes in Hinksey Park.
Sunday 13th April
I visited Churn on the Berkshire Downs this morning, and walked about a mile up the disused railway line and back. Although it was still quite chilly, Small Tortoiseshells were already active, either sunning themselves or feeding on dandelion flowers. A couple of Peacocks also put in an appearance. It wasn't long before I heard the 'jangling keys' song of a Corn Bunting, and there were several about. Other birds of note were a Northern Wheatear, several Yellowhammers, and a Curlew (which I heard but didn't see).
I moved a mile or so east to Aston Upthorpe Downs. Immediately on getting out of the car I found about half a dozen Peacocks nectaring on a large Blackthorn bush. An Orange-tip and a Comma were also seen here. A Chiffchaff was singing loudly. There was little of note in Juniper Valley other than lots of Rabbits (including an all-black one).
Back at home I saw my first Speckled Wood of the year in the garden.
Saturday 12th April
I visited Farmoor this morning to see the summer-plumage Red-necked Grebe which had been there for a week. It showed pretty well in the SW corner of F2, but never came very close to the shore. Could this be the same bird which was on the reservoir in November 2013? Several Chiffchaffs were calling along the river, and I managed to see one. I heard a Willow Warbler but couldn't find it. There was a solitary Wigeon on Shrike Meadow, and a Little Egret and six Tufted Ducks on Pinkhill (memo to Thames Water: please build a new hide at Pinkhill!). I saw a pair of Greylags with six goslings. Two Swallows flew over F1, and there were a few Tufted Ducks there as well.
I stopped at Dry Sandford Pit on the way back, although it was still too cold for butterflies or damselflies. I heard a Blackcap, and there was at least one Chiffchaff singing as well.
In the afternoon I visited the allotment, where I saw a Pheasant. There were two Skylarks singing again.
Thursday 10th April
I had a walk in the Parks and Marston Meadows at lunchtime today. I saw my first Orange-tip of the year in the Parks (strangely, it was a female). There were also good numbers of Peacocks and Small Tortoiseshells, but not much on the bird front. Across the river in the Meadows I heard a Chiffchaff and a Green Woodpecker, and saw half a dozen Jackdaws looking very smart in their breeding plumage. There were more Peacocks and Small Tortoiseshells here, as well as a Comma.
On the way home the two Mistle Thrushes were in Hinksey Park again. On the lake there were three male Tufted Ducks, and I also found the Great Crested Grebe's nest.
Wednesday 9th April
On the way home this evening I saw two Mistle Thrushes in Hinksey Park. A Red Kite flew over Hinksey Lake.
Tuesday 8th April
This evening I saw three Swallows and a Great Spotted Woodpecker at Hinksey Lake.
Sunday 6th April
The first thing I found today was a Scarlet Tiger larva feeding on an Echium in my garden. I found a roosting Peacock on the allotment. I heard a Greenfinch there as well.
Thursday 3rd April
I had another lunchtime trip to Port Meadow today. I saw three Swallows, and there were still a dozen or so Shelduck on the meadow. There were still some Wigeon and Teal, but fewer than last week. I heard a Chiffchaff in Burgess Field.
Wednesday 2nd April
I saw a Robin with a white rump and tail near Hinksey Lake this morning. It also has some white on its head and back.
Tuesday 1st April
I saw one butterfly today, which was a Comma. It was poking about in the Ash tree at the front of my house. I noticed that the rookery near the Boundary House pub in Oxford Road, Abingdon now comprises about 30 nests spread over four trees.
Monday 31st March
I had a walk in the University Parks at lunchtime today, and I saw two Brimstones, at least six Peacocks and at least nine Small Tortoiseshells.
Sunday 30th March
The warmest day of the year so far (20°C) but the sunshine was quite hazy for most of the day. I saw a Comma, a couple of Peacocks and at least one Brimstone in the garden. At the allotment I saw the same species as yesterday, along with a couple of Small Whites. In the afternoon I saw a Comma, a Small Tortoiseshell and four Peacocks at Radley Lakes.
On the bird front, two Skylarks were singing on the allotment. Going down Thrupp Lane in the afternoon I heard a Chiffchaff and a Green Woodpecker, and saw a Greenfinch. Both Canada and Greylag Geese were feeding on the adjacent fields. On Thrupp Lake the usual occupants were seen, but all the Wigeon and Teal were gone. I saw a female Mallard with two ducklings in tow. Two Yellow-legged Gulls and four Lesser Black-backed Gulls were present. I heard three Chiffchaffs on the way round the lake.
Saturday 29th March
After over a week of cold weather, butterflies re-appeared in today's sunny and warm weather. I saw several Brimstones, two Peacocks and a Comma in the garden, and a Brimstone, several Peacocks and several Small Tortoiseshells on the allotment.
Monday 24th March
I visited Port Meadow again at lunchtime today. Not much had changed since last Thursday, except that the Godwits had gone and there were only two Oystercatchers. I saw a Red Kite on the ground but it was too far away to be able to see why it had landed. I also saw a female Mallard with eight ducklings by the entrance to Burgess Field.
Sunday 23rd March
I had a trip to Farmoor late morning. There was a cold W/NW wind with the ever-present risk of a shower. The first thing I noticed was the large number of Black-headed Gulls, mostly on F2. There must have been an insect hatch, and the gulls were hoovering them up. I had a look at Shrike Meadow, and for a change there was something to see there: a single Little Egret and five pairs of Teal. I heard a Chiffchaff by the reservoir's water inlet station. There were at least four calling, but I only managed to spot one of them. I also saw two Swallows in the distance over the river.
Saturday 22nd March
A pretty chilly day, much colder than last weekend. At one point in the morning there were three Red Kites over the house. Down on the allotment in the afternoon I saw a Skylark and two more Red Kites. At 17:40 with the temperature at 8°C there was a White-tailed Bumblebee taking nectar from Ribes sanguineum flowers in the garden.
Thursday 20th March
I visited the southern end of Port Meadow at lunchtime today. There were many Teal and Wigeon on the lagoon, along with a few Shoveler, a pair of Pintail, eight Shelduck and the same number of Oystercatchers. There were also about twenty Black-tailed Godwits. After not having seen a Mistle Thrush in this country for some time, I saw my third one in two days on the Meadow. This one was much better placed for photography - but I didn't have a camera. It was very windy and I didn't expect any butterflies, but I did find a hardy Small Tortoiseshell which found a bit of sun in a sheltered place on Burgess Field.
Wednesday 19th March
I had a walk in the University Parks and Marston Meadows at lunchtime today. Butterflies were a bit thin on the ground, and I only saw a few Small Tortoiseshells. The most notable bird sighting was of two Mistle Thrushes in the Parks. I had a look at Hinksey Lake on the way home, but there was little of note. There were only three Tufted Ducks, all males.
Monday 17th March
I had a brief walk in the University Parks at lunchtime where I saw a Song Thrush, two Commas, a Peacock and a Small Tortoiseshell.
Sunday 16th March
I saw several butterflies today, but the only one I could positively identify was a male Brimstone in the garden.
Saturday 15th March
Another useable day, although windier than last weekend. My first stop was the allotment, where I saw at least three Small Tortoiseshells nectaring on Red Deadnettle flowers, and then a Green-veined White appeared, which eventually stopped moving for long enough for me to confirm its identity. Up the road at Dry Sandford Pit I found lots of violets in flower, so maybe last year's Silver-washed Fritillaries will be back this year. A magnificent Prunus sp. was in flower, and this was patronised by Peacocks and bees. There were quite a few Small Tortoiseshells and a couple of Commas as well, but only one Brimstone. I also saw a queen wasp, but I don't know which species it was.
In the afternoon I visited Farmoor, and found more Small Tortoiseshells on the western slope of F2. The only migrant bird I could find was a Chiffchaff, which was singing rather half-heartedly but was busy catching insects in the hedgerow near Pinkhill. There wasn't too much else of note, just a single male Bullfinch, two Grey Herons and one Buzzard. There were a lot of very vocal Black-headed Gulls on F1.
Monday 10th March
There was a pair of Great Crested Grebes on Hinksey Lake this afternoon. Tufted Duck numbers have gone down further, with only two pairs left. The long-staying Lesser Black-backed Gulls were back.
Sunday 9th March
A pretty decent day for early March - quite mild with sunshine all day. I headed to Otmoor, which had changed quite a lot since my last visit because the flooding had gone. However there were still a lot of birds to be seen, of which the most numerous were Lapwing, Golden Plover and Wigeon. There were five Little Egrets on the Closes and a Yellowhammer in with the Chaffinches, Dunnocks and Reed Buntings near the cattle pens. I saw a Peregrine swooping on a Buzzard flying over the reed beds near the first screen. There were several Red Kites about as well. By mid-morning it had warmed up sufficiently for Brimstones to become active, and I also saw a Peacock and a Comma along the old roman road.
Back at home I saw Brimstones, Commas, Peacocks and Small Tortoiseshells in or near the garden. One of the Commas was only about two-thirds normal size, but it flew off before I could get a shot of it. Later on the allotment I saw another Peacock, and also a couple of Red Kites.
Saturday 8th March
I visited Dry Sandford in the late morning looking for early butterflies, but I had to wait a while until the sun came out sufficiently. When it did I saw about eight Brimstones, a Comma and a Small Tortoiseshell. Bees were also taking advantage of the sun, and I saw several Red-tailed Bumblebees (Bombus lapidarius) and also one Tree Bumblebee (Bombus hypnorum). There were lots of birds singing, and Buzzards were also calling loudly at times. When I got home there were two Small Tortoiseshells in the garden; one was feeding on Hebe flowers. There were a couple of Seven-spot Ladybirds sunning themselves as well.
Wednesday 5th March
This morning I saw a Kingfisher at Hinksey Lake. At lunchtime I saw my first butterflies of the year in the Oxford University Parks: one Brimstone and four Small Tortoiseshells. The latter were nectaring on Mahonia flowers.
Tuesday 4th March
There was a queen Buff-tailed Bumblebee (Bombus terrestris) feeding on Hebe flowers in the garden at lunchtime today.
Saturday 1st March
The first day of spring (according to the Met Office) was quite sunny, but not very warm. On the allotment I saw four Robins, of which three were singing males. I also saw a smart male Kestrel and a couple of Buzzards, and heard a Skylark.
I visited Radley Lakes in the afternoon. In the field alongside Thrupp Lane I saw three Red-legged Partridges. The usual occupants were on Thrupp Lake, including some very vocal Canada Geese. I saw a pair of Great Crested Grebes performing their courtship dance. A Grey Heron flew over Orchard Lake, and there were Pochard, Mallard and Tufted Ducks on the lake. A lot of tree-cutting has been done on the islands in Thrupp Lake since my last visit; they were getting very overgrown. The footpath along the old railway line has been blocked off, apparently while the old pumping station near the railway line is removed. The whole area is still pretty wet - wellies are recommended!
On the way back I saw a couple of Long-tailed Tits in one of the Scots Pines on the Wick Hall estate.
I saw a Honeybee feeding on Hebe flowers in my front garden.
Wednesday 26th February
Bird numbers have really dropped on Hinksey Lake. Today there were a few Tufted Ducks, four geese, two swans and a Great Crested Grebe. Even the long-staying Lesser Black-backed Gulls have disappeared.
Saturday 22nd February
I saw a Skylark on the allotment this morning. Two Robins were singing as well. In the afternoon I made a quick visit to Farmoor, which was pretty quiet. There were thirteen Goldeneye on F2. Tufted Duck numbers were much lower than on my last visit, but Mallard numbers were up. There were quite a few Pied Wagtails along the causeway. Some Black-headed Gulls were in breeding plumage, and were quite vocal. In the hedgerow down at Pinkhill I found three Bullfinches and two Kestrels. The Thames was still all over the fields; it's going to take ages for it to drain away.
Friday 21st February
There was a Common Frog in the garden pond this evening.
Thursday 20th February
I had a walk in the University Parks at lunchtime today. There were some signs of spring: lots of Snowdrops and Crocuses were in flower, along with a large patch of Daffodils, but Winter Aconites seemed to be more or less over. There weren't many birds about, just a few Blue and Great Tits. Even the usual residents on the pond were missing. Over the bridge the smell of rotting vegetation was unpleasant (this area has been under water for 6 weeks at least). I saw a Robin, a Wren and a solitary Long-tailed Tit along the footpath.
There's been a Song Thrush singing at the Redbridge car park most days this week, and there are at least two in Hinksey Park. Water levels are still very high but at least they are gradually subsiding.
Tuesday 18th February
Saw my first Hoverfly of the year today, probably a Drone Fly (Eristalis tenax). It was taking nectar from Hebe flowers outside my front door.
Sunday 16th February
After all the recent bad weather it was a relief to have a sunny morning, so I decided to visit Otmoor. Water levels on Greenaways, the Closes and Big Otmoor were very high. There were many Lapwings and Wigeon on Greenaways, a surprisingly large number of Shoveler, and smaller numbers of Teal and Pintail. The species on Big Otmoor were much the same. Brown Hares on Big Otmoor are in a bit of an awkward situation, as they are confined to a few small areas of dry ground, and can't get out because of the fence. There were a few Pochard on the reedbed lagoon. Between the two screens a male Wren was singing loudly while a female was giving him the run-around. On the way back to the car I saw a pair of Bullfinches in the car park field. The raptor count today was two Red Kites and two Buzzards.
Tuesday 12th February
The bad weather has made it hard to get out much, but I saw a Barn Owl working the hedgerow near Stratfield Brake this evening.
Friday 7th February
My first look at Hinksey Lake this week, and there was virtually nothing to be seen other than a few Coots and the long-staying Lesser Black-backed Gulls. A Song Thrush was singing loudly in Hinksey Park. The lake was almost at the point of overflowing, the grass in the park was partially under water, and the stream along the north side of the park was very swollen.
Sunday 2nd February
I had a walk round Farmoor Reservoir this morning. Water levels on both F1 and F2 were very high, not too surprising after all the rain that's fallen this year. The fields adjacent to the Thames were still mostly under water, with Greylag Geese and various gulls on the bits that weren't. There wasn't much of interest on the reservoirs themselves. Tufted Duck and Coot numbers were lower than that last time I was here. I was able to get a shot of a Great Black-backed Gull that was flying westwards over F2. There were three or four pairs of Teal on Shrike Meadow. In the hedgerow near Pinkhill a male Bullfinch was eating Hawthorn buds. Two Buzzards were harried by crows near Pinkhill Lock. I also saw a Grey Squirrel in the copse near the water inlet.
Saturday 1st February
I had a quick walk round Dry Sandford Pit at lunchtime today, but there was not much about. A flock of eight or so Long-tailed Tits and a Buzzard was about it. Nothing of note seen in or around the garden either.
Saturday 25th January
I visited the area around Abingdon Sewage Works today, I site I'd never been to before. I was looking for the recently-reported Siberian Chiffchaff, but I was only able to find Common Chiffchaffs (about ten of them). One or two were making half-hearted attempts at singing. Other birds of note seen here were a Goldcrest and a female Bullfinch. I heard a Cetti's Warbler (the last time I heard one in Oxfordshire was June 2010).
Wednesday 22nd January
Not much change on Hinksey Lake this morning but Tufted Duck numbers were down. In Hinksey Park there were two Redwings feeding on the grass, and also a singing Song Thrush.
Sunday 19th January
I visited Otmoor this afternoon. Greenaways, The Closes and Big Otmoor were under water to a greater or lesser extent. Ashgrave was flooded near the hide. The most notable things were the large flocks of Lapwing and Golden Plover which seemed to be in the air most of the time. They were joined by flocks of very vocal Greylag and Canada Geese from time to time. There was a reasonable Starling murmuration, with 5000-6000 birds putting on a display. The only raptors I saw were two Red Kites. I heard a Water Rail squealing in the reedbed. a Brown Hare was feeding on a dry area near the start of the footpath to the first screen.
Saturday 18th January
This morning there were around a dozen Redwings and a few Fieldfares perched in trees near my house. They kept coming and going through the day, so there must have been a food supply somewhere in the area. I also saw my first White-tailed Bumblebee (Bombus lucorum) of the year taking nectar from Hebe flowers.
Friday 17th January
There were around forty Canada Geese on Hinksey Lake this morning.
Thursday 16th January
I was able to have a look at Hinksey Lake again today, after it had been inaccesible for over a week due to flooding. Nothing had really changed since last time, except that there was a Mute Swan and four pairs of Canada Geese today.
Sunday 12th January
I cycled down to Radley Lakes again this morning. In the fields alongside Thrupp Lane I saw seven Red-legged Partridges and a Green Woodpecker. Then I saw a Song Thrush and three Bullfinches near the old Sandles building. A mixed flock of Goldfinches, Chaffinches, Greenfinches and Tits was working its way through the trees. There wasn't much change on Thrupp Lake, except that there didn't seem to be any Teal or Shoveler about. On Orchard Lake I saw sixteen Tufted Ducks, two Gadwall and two Pochard, and heard Teal calling from within the reed beds. There were still a couple of Common Gulls on Thrupp Lake.
Saturday 11th January
I saw a Kestrel on the allotment, and a Buzzard nearby this morning. In the afternoon Bagley Wood was pretty quiet, but I did see a Great Spotted Woodpecker, a couple of Coal Tits and a fairly large mixed flock of Blue and Great Tits. There were a number of Hazel bushes with catkins on display; an indication that this winter has been quite mild (and wet!) so far.
Friday 10th January
I saw a few Jackdaws in central Oxford this morning.
Monday 6th January
Five Long-tailed Tits and a pair of Blue Tits passed through the garden this morning.
Sunday 5th January
I had a walk round Radley Lakes this morning, before the rain returned. The species on Thrupp Lake had not changed very much since last Sunday, except some very vocal Canada Geese had arrived. I saw a Jay in the trees on the northern side of the lake. There were just a few Tufted Ducks on both Orchard Lake and Bullfield Lake. The fields and hedgerows along Thrupp Lane were quite productive, with a Great Spotted Woodpecker being the best bird. There was also a small flock of Meadow Pipits on the wires down by Radley Road. My year count is at 44 species already.
Saturday 4th January
Another wet day. Garden bird activity was subdued, but I did see a Blue Tit.
Friday 3rd January
I had my first look at Hinksey Lake for a couple of weeks this morning, but nothing much had changed. The two long-staying Lesser Black-backed Gulls were quite vocal. A pair of Canada Geese departed noisily, and appeared to only just clear the trees at the south end of the lake. The area to the north of the lake (Dean's Ham) was flooded, so unless it stops raining it's probably only a matter of time before the lake overflows.
Thursday 2nd January
I had a walk round a fairly quiet Farmoor this afternoon. The most notable sighting was of nine female Goldeneye on the northern side of F1. A flock of 30-40 Teal flew overhead a couple of times. A single Rock Pipit was active along the shore at the eastern end of the causeway, and two Little Grebes were diving close to the eastern shore of F2.
Wednesday 1st January
An unpleasant wet and windy start to the year. I only saw seven species of bird in or near the garden all day.
Blackcap | Abingdon | 30 Dec
Buzzard | Hackpen Hill | 20 Dec 2014
Red Admiral | Abingdon | 06 Dec
Pied Wagtail | Abingdon | 06 Dec
Fieldfare | Otmoor | 29 Nov
Reed Bunting | Otmoor | 29 Nov
Red-necked Grebe | Farmoor | 09 Nov
Meadow Pipit | Farmoor | 09 Nov
Stonechat | Otmoor | 01 Nov
Red Kite | Otmoor | 01 Nov
Small Tortoiseshell | Abingdon | 31 Oct
Grey Heron | Otmoor | 19 Oct
Noonday Fly | Otmoor | 19 Oct Oct
Common Darter | Chimney Meadows | 05 Oct
Little Egret | Radley Lakes | 28 Sep
Common Sandpiper | Radley Lakes | 28 Sep
Comma | Farmoor | 21 Sep
Cormorant | Farmoor | 21 Sep
Green Sandpiper | Otmoor | 14 Sep
Little Grebe | Farmoor | 13 Sep
Migrant Hawker | Farmoor | 31 Aug
Ringed Plover | Farmoor | 31 Aug
Curlew Sandpiper | Farmoor | 29 Aug
Black-tailed Godwit | Farmoor | 29 Aug
Painted Lady | Otmoor | 28 Aug
Adonis Blue | Aston Rowant NNR | 23 Aug
Common Terns | Farmoor | 17 Aug
Common Blue | Aston Upthorpe Downs | 16 Aug
Wall Brown | Pewsey Downs | 09 Aug
Brown Argus | Abingdon | 05 Aug
Brown Hairstreak | Otmoor | 03 Aug
Lapwing | Leighton Moss | 01 Aug
Great White Egret | Leighton Moss | 01 Aug
High Brown Fritillary | Gait Barrows | 31 Jul
Grayling | Arnside Knott | 30 Jul
Scotch Argus | Smardale Gill | 29 Jul
Green-veined White | Abingdon | 26 Jul
Silver-spotted Skipper | Aston Rowant NNR | 26 Jul
Southern Hawker | Otmoor | 20 Jul
Ruddy Darter | Otmoor | 20 Jul
Peacock | Finemere Wood | 20 Jul
Silver-washed Fritillary | Whitecross Green Wood | 06 Jul
Chalkhill Blue | Aston Rowant NNR | 06 Jul
Dark Green Fritillary | Aston Rowant NNR | 06 Jul
Gatekeeper | Aston Rowant NNR | 06 Jul
Essex Skipper | Abingdon | 05 Jul
Tree Sparrow | Bempton Cliffs | 01 Jul
Fulmar | Bempton Cliffs | 01 Jul
Large Heath | Lincolnshire | 29 Jun
Balkan Marbled White | Bulgaria | 26 Jun
Owl-fly | Bulgaria | 26 Jun
Southern White Admiral | Bulgaria | 25 Jun
Sooty Copper | Bulgaria | 25 Jun
Short-tailed Blue | Bulgaria | 25 Jun
Scarce Swallowtail | Bulgaria | 24 Jun
Camberwell Beauty | Bulgaria | 24 Jun
Freyer's Purple Emperor | Bulgaria | 24 Jun
Serin | Bulgaria | 24 Jun
Balkan Copper | Bulgaria | 23 Jun
Chequered Skipper | Bulgaria | 23 Jun
Wallcreeper | Bulgaria | 23 Jun
Woodland Ringlet | Bulgaria | 23 Jun
Eastern Large Heath | Bulgaria | 22 Jun
Northern Damselfly | Bulgaria | 22 Jun
Hummingbird Hawkmoth | Bulgaria | 22 Jun
Eastern Festoon | Bulgaria | 22 Jun
Rhodostrophia calabra | Bulgaria | 21 Jun
Eastern Spectre | Bulgaria | 21 Jun
Fiery Clearwing | Bulgaria | 21 Jun
Gt Banded Grayling | Bulgaria | 21 Jun
Silver-washed Fritillary | Bulgaria | 20 Jun
Lesser Emperor | Bulgaria | 20 Jun
Eastern Bath White | Bulgaria | 20 Jun
Odalisque | Bulgaria | 20 Jun
Long-tailed Blue | Bulgaria | 20 Jun
Queen of Spain Fritillary | Bulgaria | 19 Jun
Bush-cricket | Bulgaria | 19 Jun
Mammoth Wasp | Bulgaria | 19 Jun
Spotted Fritillary | Bulgaria | 19 Jun
Black-veined White | Bulgaria | 18 Jun
Sloe Hairstreak | Bulgaria | 18 Jun
Blue-tailed Damselfly | Whelford Pools | 16 Jun
Large Blue | Daneway Banks | 16 Jun
Black Hairstreak | Bernwood Forest | 15 Jun
Burnished Brass | Bernwood Forest | 15 Jun
Bloodvein | Bernwood Forest | 15 Jun
Marbled White | Dry Sandford Pit | 14 Jun
Broad-bodied Chaser | Dry Sandford Pit | 14 Jun
Meadow Brown | Dry Sandford Pit | 14 Jun
Small Heath | Dry Sandford Pit | 10 Jun
Black-tailed Skimmer | Abingdon | 10 Jun
Large Skipper | Dry Sandford Pit | 08 Jun
Southern Damselfly | Parsonage Moor | 08 Jun
Adonis Blue | Lardon Chase | 01 Jun
Banded Demoiselle | Goring | 01 Jun
Chimney Sweeper | Salden railway cutting | 31 May
Wood White | Wicken Wood | 31 May
Red Admiral | Otmoor | 25 May
Turtle Dove | Otmoor | 25 May
Four-spotted Chaser | Otmoor | 25 May
Red-crested Pochard | Farmoor | 24 May
Azure Damselfly | Farmoor | 24 May
House Martin | Farmoor | 24 May
Small Copper | Aston Upthorpe | 18 May
Grizzled Skipper | Aston Upthorpe | 18 May
Dingy Skipper | Aston Upthorpe | 18 May
Small Blue | Lardon Chase | 18 May
Marsh Fritillary | Bentley Wood | 17 May
Dunlin | Farmoor | 11 May
Swift | Farmoor | 11 May
Redstart | Gwenffrwd-Dinas | 09 May
Pied Flycatcher | Gwenffrwd-Dinas | 08 May
Yellowhammer | Gwenffrwd-Dinas | 08 May
Marsh Tit | Gwenffrwd-Dinas | 08 May
Nuthatch | Gwenffrwd-Dinas | 09 May
Wood Warbler | Gwenffrwd-Dinas | 09 May
Wheatear | Fishguard | 08 May
Stonechat | Mwnt | 07 May
Red-rumped Swallow | Poppit Sands | 07 May
Puffin | Skomer | 06 May
Peregrine | Skomer | 06 May
Oystercatcher | Skomer | 06 May
Large Red Damselfly | Tregaron Bog| 05 May
Siskin | Tregaron Bog | 05 May
Green-veined White | Tregaron | 05 May
Whimbrel | Teifi Estuary | 04 May
Chough | Mwnt | 04 May
Common Tern | Farmoor | 27 Apr
Syrphus vitripennis | Rodborough Common | 26 Apr
Ichneumonid wasp | Bagley Wood | 21 Apr
Green Hairstreak | Aston Rowant NNR | 18 Apr
Speckled Wood | Whitecross Green Wood | 17 Apr
Aberrant Orange-tip | Otmoor | 17 Apr
Chiffchaff | Aston Upthorpe Downs | 13 Apr
Corn Bunting | Churn | 13 Apr
Red-necked Grebe | Farmoor | 12 Apr
Teal | Port Meadow | 24 Mar
Wigeon | Port Meadow | 24 Mar
Black-headed Gulls | Farmoor | 23 Mar
Mistle Thrush | Oxford Univ Parks | 19 Mar
Peacock | Dry Sandford Pit| 15 Mar
Long-tailed Tit | Otmoor| 09 Mar
Comma | Otmoor| 09 Mar
Reed Bunting | Otmoor| 09 Mar
Red-tailed Bumblebee | Dry Sandford Pit| 08 Mar
Brimstone | Dry Sandford Pit| 08 Mar
Small Tortoiseshell | Oxford Univ Parks | 05 Mar
Great Crested Grebes | Radley Lakes | 01 Mar
Pochard | Radley Lakes | 01 Mar
Kestrel | Farmoor | 22 Feb
Bullfinch | Farmoor | 22 Feb
Chaffinch | Otmoor | 16 Feb
Great Black-backed Gull | Farmoor | 02 Feb
Goldcrest | Abingdon SW | 25 Jan
Mute Swan | Otmoor | 19 Jan
Brown Hare| Otmoor | 19 Jan
Lapwing | Otmoor | 19 Jan
Redwing | Abingdon | 18 Jan
Common Gull | Radley Lakes | 12 Jan
Tufted Duck | Radley Lakes | 12 Jan