Natural History Diary : September 2017
Saturday 30th September
I saw two Red Admirals and one female Southern Hawker in the garden today.
Thursday 28th September
Today there were two Red Admirals in the garden. I also saw two Large Whites, a Migrant Hawker and a Hornet.
Tuesday 26th September
Today's warm sunshine brought out three Red Admirals, one Comma and one Large White in the garden.
Monday 25th September
Despite the dull weather today I saw one Comma and one Red Admiral feeding on Ivy flowers in the garden. I saw a Sparrowhawk and two House Martins overhead.
Sunday 24th September
After failing to photograph the juvenile Red-necked Phalarope at Farmoor on Friday, I returned to the reservoir this morning to have another go. This time the bird was much more obliging, as it was feeding close to the north shore of F2, and was easily viewable from the causeway. Knowledge of its presence had spread, and there were quite a few other people there. There was also a sailing competition on F2. But the RNP was oblivious to all this disturbance, and just kept doing its own thing. (There has been some speculation that it might be a British bird trying to go westwards across the Atlantic, but I think - given current wind patterns - it is more likely to be a northern European bird which was trying to migrate to the Arabian Sea). A solitary Dunlin and the long-staying juvenile Shag were the only other things of interest.
I saw a number of Small Whites and a Buzzard at the allotment, and three Red Admirals, one Comma and one Speckled Wood in the garden. A solitary Swallow flew overhead, going south.
Red-necked Phalarope | Farmoor Red-necked Phalarope | Farmoor Red-necked Phalarope | Farmoor
Friday 22nd September
I got to Farmoor quite early this morning, only to find the reservoirs shrouded in fog! Eventually it cleared, and the juvenile Red-necked Phalarope (which had turned up yesterday) was located out in the middle of F1. It then flew, and landed out in the middle of F2! There wasn't much else of note: a Great Black-backed Gull and a juvenile Shag was about it. I didn't have time to look for the Scaup.
Later in the garden there were three Commas and one Red Admiral nectaring on Ivy flowers.
Wednesday 20th September
The weather had changed today. It was still fairly warm, but there wasn't much sun and there was a fresh SW wind. I parked at Cheyne Weare again, and walked across the disused quarry workings near Southwell. Remarkably, despite the lack of sunshine, Red Admirals were active, feeding on buddleia flowers or just basking on the ground. I saw about twenty here.
I then headed back to Portland Bill. While having a coffee I noticed a large (probably over eighty) flock of Gannets circling around off the east coast, and diving for fish. Up at the bird obs pit I saw a pair of Stonechats, a Chiffchaff and male and female Blackcaps. There were very few Swallows about today.
Red Admiral | Portland Stonechat | Portland Bill Marsh Harrier | Radipole Lake
Because of the weather forecast for Thursday morning, I visited Radipole Lake in the afternoon. This is another large wetland with extensive reedbeds, right in the centre of Weymouth. There were quite a few butterflies here as well, and also some Common Darter and Migrant Hawker dragonflies. Remarkably, a female Marsh Harrier was hunting over the north part of the reserve, with houses as the backdrop. Other things of note were seventy or more Gadwall, a sub-adult Great Black-backed Gull and at least four Cetti's Warblers (heard). When I got back to the visitor centre a Hooded Merganser was diving in the lake. This was presumably an escapee, as it was ringed. I had a very close view of a Cormorant as it swam under the bridge I was standing on. There were lots of Black-headed Gulls loafing in the car park as I was leaving.
Gt Black-backed Gull | Radipole Lake Hooded Merganser | Radipole Lake Cormorant | Radipole Lake
Tuesday 19th September
The weather today was warm and sunny, with a light southerly breeze - just the wrong conditions to get migrating birds to land, but very pleasant to be out in. I set off for Portland Bill and got there shortly after 9am. I spotted a Cormorant and three parties of Oystercatchers going past. The sighting of a Common Blue was unexpected. I found a couple of Wheatears and Meadow Pipits by the cafe. I walked up to the Bird Observatory. Red Admirals started to appear in some numbers; I saw at least thirty in this area. I also found a Painted Lady, some Small and Large Whites, a few Small Heaths, a Peacock and a Great Green Bush-cricket.
Painted Lady | Portland Bill Peacock | Portland Bill Small Heath | Portland Bill
Getting back to birds, parties of Swallows kept passing through; there were a few House and Sand Martins with them. I saw a couple of Ravens and two Chiffchaffs. Back at the cafe I spotted a solitary Gannet out to sea. I went back to the bird obs to look at the pit. There was no Wryneck there today, but I did see two pairs of Stonechat, a Blackcap and a Whitethroat. Finally I spotted two juvenile Cormorants fishing close to the shore.
Chiffchaff | Portland Bill Wheatear | Portland Bill Meadow Pipit | Portland Bill
In mid-afternoon I drove up to the Cheyne Weare car park (free!) on the east coast. There was a large bank of Ivy in a sheltered sunny position here, and I counted at least fifteen Red Admirals on it. I also saw a couple of Painted Ladies and a Peacock. A couple of Lesser Black-backed Gulls flew past.
Monday 18th September
I headed down to Dorset for a couple of days' birding on Portland. On the way I stopped at RSPB Lodmoor in Weymouth. Notable species seen were at least twenty Black-tailed Godwits, six Little Egrets, four Redshank, two Ringed Plovers and a juvenile Little Stint. I also saw three Red Admirals, two Speckled Woods and four Migrant Hawkers.
Black-tailed Godwit | Lodmoor Grey Heron | Lodmoor Little Egret | Lodmoor
Sunday 17th September
There were three Red Admirals nectaring on Ivy flowers today. I saw two Buzzards at the allotment.
Saturday 16th September
My third visit to Radley Lakes to see the juvenile Osprey was successful. When I got to Orchard Lake at 08:20, it was perched in a tree at the western end of the lake (I was told that it had arrived there at 06:20). At 08:40 it flew out of the tree, make a low pass over the lake, caught a fish, and disappeared with its breakfast towards the Thames. In addition I saw two Kingfishers and two Muntjac, and heard a Water Rail.
A Red Admiral was nectaring on Ivy flowers in the garden again, and a Comma also turned up in the afternoon.
Osprey | Radley Lakes Osprey | Radley Lakes Red Admiral | Abingdon
Friday 15th September
A Comma and a Red Admiral were feeding on Ivy flowers in the garden today. I also saw a Red Admiral at the "Prince of Wales" in Shippon at lunchtime.
Thursday 14th September
I went to Farmoor again this morning, as a Grey Phalarope had turned up yesterday. Unfortunately it wasn't located while I was there. There were still many House Martins and some Sand Martins flying low over both reservoirs. It appeared that only one Shag was still present; I saw it in the water on F1. The two Grey Wagtails seen on Tuesday were stil there, and the two Egyptian Geese were grazing on the west bank of F2. At the south end of F2 I watched a Hobby flying fast and low over the water, trying to catch a martin.
At home there was again a Comma feeding in Ivy flowers. The most surprising incident in the garden was looking up to find a Sparrowhawk flying straight at my head! I had to duck rather quickly, so I didn't see if it managed to flush anything out of the vegetation.
Shag | Farmoor Grey Wagtail | Farmoor Egyptian Goose | Farmoor
Wednesday 13th September
I visited a very windy Radley Lakes again this morning (09:15- 10:30), but there was no sign of the Osprey. There were still some House Martins and Sand Martins over Thrupp Lake. At Orchard Lake I saw a Green Sandpiper but it was very mobile. There were also a couple of Great Spotted Woodpeckers, a Buzzard, a Red Kite and a Sparrowhawk. In sheltered areas I found a number of Ruddy and Common Darters, a Southern Hawker, three Commas and four Speckled Woods.
Later in the Oxford University Parks I saw four Red Admirals, three Commas and a Small White nectaring on asters.
Comma | Radley Lakes Comma | Radley Lakes Ruddy Darter | Radley Lakes
Tuesday 12th September
I visited Farmoor Reservoir this morning. It was breezy and sunny for most of the time. There were hundreds of House Martins about, most of them flying low over the surface of F2. There were two Little Grebes diving in the sailing club lagoon, one still in its summer plumage. I flushed a Grey Wagtail but found another one along the causeway. There was one Dunlin as I walked westwards along the causeway. I couldn't find any dragonflies in the Pinkhill hedgerow, bu there were two Commas feeding on blackberries. I found three Speckled Woods and a Green-veined White at the south end of Pinkhill. As I walked along the road to the east of Shrike Meadow a few Common Darters appeared. At the pond to the south of the meadow I saw at least two Migrant Hawkers. A Jay flew along the river. There were four Buzzards in the air at one point. On the way back down the causeway I found two more Dunlin and a juvenile Ringed Plover. Finally I found a Redshank on the eastern side of F2.
At home I saw a Red Admiral and a Comma nectaring on ivy flowers.
Little Grebe | Farmoor Dunlin | Farmoor Grey Wagtail | Farmoor
Ringed Plover | Farmoor Redshank | Farmoor Green-veined White | Farmoor
Monday 11th September
There was a Red Admiral nectaring on ivy flowers in the garden this afternoon.
Sunday 10th September
I went down to Radley Lakes this morning, but there was no sign of the reported Osprey. There were lots of House Martins and a few Sand Martins over Thrupp Lake. At Orchard Lake I saw a Grey Heron and a Great Spotted Woodpecker. It was too dull for any butterflies or dragonflies.
Grey Heron | Radley Lakes    
Thursday 7th September
I saw a Swift over north Abingdon this morning.
Wednesday 6th September
I visited a new site today, Folly Country Park in Faringdon. This has a fishing lake (a large pond, really) and a wild flower meadow. The reason for going was that Small Red-eyed Damselflies were discovered there recently, and it is the only known site for this species in Oxfordshire. After the rain of the last few days I wasn't expecting a lot, and indeed I only found one male, which was sitting on floating vegetation quite a way out. I also found a couple of Blue-tailed Damselflies. Eventually the sun came out a bit, and Common Darters started showing up. I went to have a look at the meadow, and here I found two Small Coppers, a Red Admiral, three Commas (very fresh) and a Ruddy Darter. Two Southern Hawkers were patrolling the hedgerow. Back at the pond I saw a pair of Common Darters in tandem, with the female ovipositing. There were no fewer than eight Moorhens on the lake, and I saw a Great Spotted Woodpecker fly over.
Small Copper | Folly Country Park Comma | Folly Country Park Common Darter | Folly Country Park
Tuesday 5th September
I went to Farmoor this afternoon, although the weather was pretty marginal (eventually the rain defeated me). Apart from the usual residents I saw a Common Sandpiper, two Redshank, a Dunlin and a juvenile Shag as I walked along the causeway. Also noteworthy were about seventy Cormorants and many Pied Wagtails.
Great Crested Grebe | Farmoor Redshank | Farmoor Shag | Farmoor
Monday 4th September
When the sun made a brief appearance this afternoon, so did Small Whites - I saw at least eight at the allotment and two in the garden.
Saturday 2nd September
This morning I saw a Greenfinch and at least six Small Whites at the allotment. In the garden two Red Admirals were feeding on Ivy blossom, several Small Whites flew through, and a Migrant Hawker appeared a couple of times. Above north Abingdon I saw a Buzzard, a Swift, a Swallowand a couple of House Martins.
Red Admiral | Abingdon    
Friday 1st September
I saw two Red Admirals in the garden today.