Natural History Diary : October 2017
Tuesday 31st October
Much cloudier this morning, but milder than yesterday. The Coal Tit made another appearance in the garden; I had the camera ready this time. In the afternoon I visited Farmoor, where there was some weak sunshine. At the eastern end of the causeway a Little Grebe was diving close to the shore, and a female Common Scoter was also diving, reasonable close to the bank this time. There were three Dunlin near the causeway hide, looking very smart in their winter plumage. Then the feral Snow Goose flock appeared from the north, making a lot of noise. They circled round and landed on F2. The west bank gave the best views, but the birds stayed offshore. A head count (later, from photos) revealed 88 birds, of which nine were of the blue morph. There was a Shelduck with them. They were reluctant to come closer with me standing there, but after I'd got out of the way they did come onto the shore. After about fifteen minutes somebody flushed them, and they headed back north.
Coal Tit | Abingdon Little Grebe | Farmoor Common Scoter ♀ | Farmoor
Dunlin | Farmoor Snow Goose | Farmoor Snow Goose (blue morph) | Farmoor
Monday 30th October
A sunny but cold morning. First up was a Coal Tit, which made a couple of visits to the garden feeders. I went over to Otmoor. The lack of any significant rain in October meant that the moor was drier than usual. There were some Redwings and Fieldfares in the car park field, which as usual were very flighty. I also saw a Bullfinch here. At the feeders there were the usual tits and finches, as well as two Great Spotted Woodpeckers. Up on Greenaways there was a flock of about a hundred Greylag Geese. Then I noticed a small bird on the cattle pens, which turned out to be a very late Whinchat - it shoud have been on its way to Africa last month. As I was walking along the bridleway I saw a Marsh Tit. On the way down to the first screen I heard a Water Rail. There was a shortage of wildfowl on the lagoon, apart from Shoveler and Teal; just half a dozen Wigeon. I could only find two Snipe on the exposed mud.
On the way back I saw the first of about ten Common Darters, and there was a Red Admiral sunning itself. As I went back down the bridleway I saw a small flock of about thirty Lapwings (a very low number for Otmoor, probably because it's so dry), and heard a Cetti's Warbler. I walked up the old Roman road from the southern end, but there were no butterflies or dragonflies to be found.
Greenfinch | Otmoor Great Spotted Woodpecker | Otmoor Whinchat | Otmoor
Sunday 29th October
This morning there was a small mixed flock of Long-tailed, Blue and Great Tits in the garden. In the afternoon I found two Red Admirals nectaring on Hebe flowers in the front garden (sheltered from the wind, and in full sun).
Red Admiral | Abingdon    
Friday 27th October
A Red Admiral was flying around near my house in the sunshine today. Four Long-tailed Tits flew over the garden.
Thursday 26th October
This morning it was cloudy with light drizzle, and only about 11°C. I was very surprised to see a Red Admiral flying around in the garden, not just once but at least three times. A small mixed tit flock passed through the garden, with one Long-tailed Tit landing in a bush right in front of me. Then I heard an unusual bird calling, and looked up to see a Ring-necked Parakeet going over, heading in a northerly direction.
Wednesday 25th October
Today I saw a Small White at the allotment, a Red Admiral in the garden and a couple more RAs in Abingdon.
Sunday 22nd October
I visited Bagley Wood today. Birds were pretty scarce, with just a couple of Buzzards and five Wrens being about it. There wasn't much on the fungus front either: just three species that I couldn't identify, and one Beechwood Sickener.
Friday 20th October
Despite the breezy and rather cool conditions today, a Red Admiral was flying around the garden at 3pm this afternoon.
Thursday 19th October
I picked up two life ticks at Farmoor this afternoon! When I got to the reservoir I discovered that a Great Skua had been found on the west side of F2. The bird was fairly well out on the reservoir, and didn't show much sign of coming nearer the bank (it was a good test of my new scope, though). My attention turned to a female and two male Common Scoters, which were diving fairly close to the shore. I then noticed that the Skua had come a lot closer in, and was looking at a group of Coot with interest. The Coots gave it a wide berth, but it still made a couple of attempts at grabbing one, which the targets evaded by diving. At this point the light (which hadn't been good to start with) got a lot worse, and then it started raining, so I headed back to the car park. On the way I saw a Rock Pipit and a Grey Wagtail at the east end of the causeway.
Great Skua | Farmoor Great Skua | Farmoor Common Scoter ♂ | Farmoor
Sunday 15th October
When the sun came out this afternoon I saw four Red Admirals in or over the garden. There were two Common Frogs in the pond.
Saturday 14th October
Today I saw a Sparrowhawk, a Red Admiral and several Common Frogs in the garden, and Small and Large Whites at the allotment.
Common Frog | Abingdon    
Thursday 12th October
Today was less windy than recently, but there was only hazy sunshine until the afternoon. I headed east again and stopped at the same place as yesterday to view the geese. There seemed to be fewer Egyptians than yesterday.
I continued to Morston Quay, where I had booked a trip with Bean's Boat Trips to view seals at Blakeney Point. As I got there a bit early I had a look at the Morston saltmarsh, and found some Little Egrets, Curlew and Redshank. I also found a Kestrel perched on top of a bush. The boat departed at 11:25 and took about twenty minutes to get to the seals. There were three Grey Seals and about twenty Common Seals hauled out on the shingle, and there were a few Commons in the water, which came close to inspect us. After this we landed on Blakeney Point for thirty minutes. I was one of the first off the boat, and I spotted a pair of Brent Geese on a lagoon. These allowed a fairly close approach for photos, but didn't hang around for long. Back on land I saw a Buzzard and a Marsh Harrier over the salt marsh.
Kestrel | Morston Common Seal | Blakeney Point Brent Goose | Blakeney Point
After lunch I headed for Cley Marshes, first going to the visitor centre to buy a permit to use the hides. By now it was quite sunny, and as I walked out to the main hides I saw seven Common Darters sunning themselves on the boardwalk. From the first hide there were again hundreds of Pink-footed Geese, also Lapwing, Ruff (one had a white head and neck), Dunlin, Ringed Plover and Shelduck. In amongst the waders there were two Curlew Sandpipers and at least thirteen Little Stints. A Cetti's Warbler made a brief appearance as it flew between reed beds, and a Snipe gave some fairly close views. I heard a Greenshank calling but couldn't locate it. A Migrant Hawker came close to the hide. Something flushed the geese, and the noise as they all took to the air at once was incredible! I returned to the car for the best part of an hour's drive back to Titchwell.
Teal | Cley Marshes Curlew Sandpiper | Cley Marshes Snipe | Cley Marshes
Wednesday 11th October
A strong SW wind all day today, and it was mostly cloudy. I headed eastwards. Just after Burnham Overy Staithe I stopped at the roadside as there were numerous geese in the fields. They were mostly Greylags nearer the road, with some Egyptians as well. The Pink-footeds were further back.
The next stop was at Holkham NNR, specifically the gap in the pines at the end of Lady Anne's Drive. Fortunately the pine trees provided some shelter from the wind. I saw about four Jays harvesting acorns. There were a few small birds about; the best I could find was a Goldcrest. There were some insects here: a couple of Red Admirals, a Speckled Wood, a Small White, a Migrant Hawker and at least six Common Darters.
After two hours here I headed to Wells and the car park at the east end of the pines. I counted al least thirteen Little Grebes on the lake by the car park. There were hundreds of Pink-footed Geese in the fields to the south; as usual it was hard to get close enough to them for a photo. A Peregrine drifted over.
After lunch I had a look at the sea. With the tide going out there were large numbers of Oystercatchers and Brent Geese feeding on the mud flats. That was about it for the day, except for a Buzzard and some House Sparrows at Titchwell, as the weather was getting worse, and it rained later.
Egyptian Goose | Burnham Overy Staithe Greylag Goose | Burnham Overy Staithe Pink-footed Goose | Holkham NNR
Tuesday 10th October
This morning it was quite cloudy and windy, but it brightened up in the afternoon. I started by walking down Gypsy Lane in Titchwell, to look at the marsh from a different direction. There wasn't anything of note in the wooded part of the lane, but on the marsh I saw at least eight Little Egrets, sixteen Brent Geese and a Curlew. There were Redshank everywhere. Several parties of Golden Plover went past, and I heard a Cetti's Warbler.
Then it was back to the car for the short drive to RSPB Titchwell. Birds were not very different to yesterday, except that the Golden Plover had gone, and about a hundred Brent Geese were on the freshwater lagoon for a while. I counted at least sixty Dunlin. At the Parrinder hide a Grey Plover on the saltmarsh gave some good views.
After lunch I drove up to the Choseley grain drying barns. I saw about ten Linnets, a flock of 50-60 Goldfinches, a Red Admiral and at least three Small Whites here.
After a quick trip to a farm shop at Holme next the Sea, I returned to Titchwell, and walked out to the coast again. I saw five or six Curlew, half-a-dozen Little Grebes and a Kestrel. I also got some very close views of a Black-tailed Godwit. Insects seen in the afternoon were Red Admiral, Speckled Wood and Common Darter.
Little Egret | Titchwell Curlew | Titchwell Black-tailed Godwit | Titchwell
Monday 9th October
After spending the night at West Walton (thanks Paul!), a brisk walk round the village turned up a pair of Yellowhammers, at least two Reed Buntings, a flock of about ten Goldfinches and a Stock Dove. I then headed to RSPB Titchwell, and got there at 1pm. While I was eating lunch several skeins of Pink-footed Geese flew over. There were three Greenfinches and a Coal Tit on the feeders. Although it was mostly cloudy I saw a couple of Red Admirals, Migrant Hawkers and Common Darters.
I walked out to the coast. There were lots of birds on the freshwater marsh. Most noticeable (because they kept taking to the air) was a large flock of Golden Plover. There were also good numbers of Redshank, Lapwing, Black-tailed Godwit, Dunlin and Ruff. There was a solitary Turnstone on the saltwater marsh, which seemed a bit out of place. When I got to the coast the tide was out, so I walked down to the exposed rocks. There were many birds here, particularly Oystercatchers, Turnstones, Curlew, various gulls, and two Grey Plovers. A pair of Brent Geese flew past.
On the way back I stopped at the Parrinder hide, where I watched a flock of Linnets and a couple of Meadow Pipits bathing in the shallows. At the second hide a Ruff came into camera range. There were plenty of ducks: mainly Shelduck, Teal, Wigeon and Pochard. I heard a Cetti's Warbler calling. On the way back to the car a group of people were looking at something on the path; it was a female Brambling. It looked very tired so had probably just arrived.
Black-tailed Godwit | Titchwell Oystercatcher | Titchwell Grey Plover | Titchwell
Turnstone | Titchwell Ruff | Titchwell Brambling | Titchwell
Sunday 8th October
There was a Coal Tit on the feeders this morning. That was the first one I'd seen in the garden for over a year.
Thursday 5th October
There was one Red Admiral feeding on Ivy flowers in the garden at lunchtime today.
Wednesday 4th October
At the allotment this morning I saw two Red Kites, a Buzzard, a Kestrel and half-a-dozen Linnets.
Tuesday 3rd October
As it was a fairly sunny day, I headed for Otmoor this morning. I saw a Red Admiral in the car park, and a couple of Commas, a Speckled Wood and a couple of Common Darters along the old roman road. As I walked along the bridleway I saw a Marsh Harrier and two Kestrels over Greenaways, and heard the first of three Cetti's Warblers. I saw a Migrant Hawker along the track to the first screen. There were several Common Lizards sunning themselves near the screen. There were dozens of very vocal Canada Geese on the lagoon. With them was a solitary Barnacle Goose, which stayed very close to one of the Canadas. Duck numbers were quite high, with Mallard, Teal, Shoveler and Wigeon all present. I counted thirteen Snipe on the exposed mud, but there may have been more.
Comma | Otmoor Linnet | Otmoor Barnacle Goose | Otmoor
I walked half-way to the second screen. Two Red Admirals were basking and feeding on blackberries, and there were a couple of Chiffchaffs in the hedgerow. On the way back there were a few dragonflies about, and I saw both Migrant and Southern Hawkers, and more Common Darters (some pairs were in tandem). There wasn't a lot else to see along the bridleway. A second walk up the roman road turned up a couple more Speckled Woods and a very tatty male Green-veined White.
In the afternoon I saw seven Collared Doves in the garden at the same time, and also three Long-tailed Tits.
Migrant Hawker | Otmoor Southern Hawker | Otmoor Speckled Wood | Otmoor