Natural History Diary : November 2017
Thursday 30th November
A very cold day. I went over to Barnard Gate again and spent 90 minutes in the area near the gatehouse. There wasn't a great deal about at first. I walked along the cycle route and saw several Redwing and a Great Spotted Woodpecker, and then two Hawfinches flew over, heading SW. A Fieldfare was feeding in the crab apple tree by the gatehouse, and I spotted a Treecreeper climbing up the gate stonework. I found two more Hawfinches in the trees, but they wouldn't come into camera range. A female Goldcrest popped up right in front of me, but as usual was hard to photograph because it wouldn't stay still.
I had another sighting of the north Abingdon Sparrowhawk in the late afternoon.
Fieldfare | Barnard Gate Goldcrest | Barnard Gate Sparrowhawk | Abingdon
Wednesday 29th November
I saw a Buzzard at the allotment this afternoon.
Monday 27th November
At dusk a male Sparrowhawk flew up and perched for several minutes on the roof of the house opposite mine.
Sunday 26th November
Sunny and cold again. I went to the Hitchcopse Pit BBOWT reserve with the Abingdon Naturalists' Society in the morning. Our guide was Peter Creed, who was very knowledgeable about Bryophytes, but there's only so much moss one can look at. So I looked for birds instead, and saw thirteen species in two hours. There was nothing of note until we were about to leave, when an immature Common Gull flew over, heading north. On the way back to the cars a Treecreeper was spotted. This reserve will definitely be worth coming back to in the spring.
Saturday 25th November
Sunny and cold again, but windier than yesterday. The only notable sightings were of a Kestrel at the allotment and two Jackdaws on the roof of the house.
Friday 24th November
A sunny but quite cold day. However, this didn't put the Red Admirals off - there were two on the Hebe around midday (I'd seen both of them before).
Red Admiral | Abingdon    
Thursday 23rd November
Had a trip over to Barnard Gate this morning, where I finally managed to see my first UK Hawfinches. The tree line they were in was about 200m from the road, so viewing through a scope was essential. The best views came when the flock was flushed, revealing about twenty-five individuals.
I stopped at a very windy Farmoor on the way home. Along the Pinkhill hedgerow I saw about ten Redwings and a Kestrel. I walked all round F2 but I couldn't find the Aythya hybrid. There were still lots of Tufted Ducks, and nine Little Grebes.
Redwing | Farmoor Little Grebe | Farmoor  
Wednesday 22nd November
Another dull but mild day. Again there was a Red Admiral on the Hebe around mid-day (not the same one as yesterday; I'd seen both of them last Sunday).
Tuesday 21st November
A dull but mild day. I saw a Red Kite, a Kestrel a Long-tailed Tit and a flock of about thirty Goldfinches at the allotment. When I got home a Red Admiral was nectaring on the Hebe again, even though there was no sunshine. It didn't stay around for long, though.
Sunday 19th November
The two reservoirs at Farmoor were like millponds this morning, which was bad news for the yachtsmen. However, conditions were good for photographing birds. On the way across the causeway I saw a Grey Wagtail and two groups of three Goldeneye. The latter were diving close to the shore and were more tolerant than usual. On the west side of F2 a duck which was assumed to be a drake Lesser Scaup was associating with a flock of Tufted Ducks, and was diving quite close to the shore. (Subsequently it was concluded that this bird wasn't a Lesser Scaup, but a hybrid, probably between Lesser Scaup and Greater Scaup - see here for the thinking behind this.) There wasn't too much else of interest, except for a solitary Redshank.
When I got home at about mid-day, a Red Admiral was feeding on Hebe flowers again, and two more turned up during the early afternoon. The air temperature was only about 8°C, but there must have been enough warmth in the sun to get them going.
Goldeneye ♂ | Farmoor Aythya hybrid ♂ | Farmoor Tufted Duck ♂ | Farmoor
Saturday 18th November
Not a lot about on a cold, wet day. I saw a Wren in the garden before the rain started.
Friday 17th November
As Hawfinches had been reported from the Oxford University Parks yesterday, I went to look for them this morning. There was no sign of them (naturally), but I did see my first UK Nuthatch of the year, half-a-dozen Long-tailed Tits and a Jay. I saw a butterfly too, but it was too far away for a positive identification.
Thursday 16th November
I went to Otmoor this morning. It was about 11°C when I got there at 10am, and it warmed up a bit when the sun came out. The first bird I saw was a Goldcrest in the car park. Walking through the car park field flushed a few Redwings but there was no sign of the large flocks which were there last year. There wasn't a great deal on the feeders either. On the way down the bridleway I spotted a Raven on the northern side of Greenaways. On the path to the first screen I saw a male Bullfinch in the hedgerow, and a Snipe flew overhead. At the first screen there were some Lapwings and Snipe on the exposed mud. Ducks present were mostly Mallard, Teal and Shoveler. There were at least three Wrens and a female Bullfinch on the way to the second screen, but nothing of note on the lagoon itself.
Bullfinch | Otmoor Linnet | Otmoor Chaffinch | Otmoor
On the way back a couple of late Common Darters were active, but there were no butterflies about. Several small flocks of Lapwings and Golden Plover were overhead. At the hide there was a small mixed flock (mostly Linnets) feeding on seeds on the path. Raptors seen today were at least four Kestrels, a Buzzard and three Red Kites.
Shoveler | Otmoor Reed Bunting | Otmoor Blue Tit | Otmoor
Monday 13th November
This morning I returned to Highmoor. It was cold and mostly cloudy. I walked round Lower Highmoor, which is an area of mixed woodland and parkland. It took a while to find anything other than common species, but eventually two Marsh Tits showed up. There were lots of Redwings flying in and out of a Yew tree, and a Song Thrush and Blackbirds were also feeding on yew berries. I found another Red Admiral on the same tree as last week, and also a male Bullfinch in the same area.
Redwing | Lower Highmoor Song Thrush | Lower Highmoor Red Admiral | Lower Highmoor
Sunday 12th November
As I was leaving the house at 11:30 this morning there was a Red Admiral basking on the Hebe. It didn't hang around for long though - the air temperature was only about 6°C. I saw a Buzzard and a Red Kite at the allotment.
Friday 10th November
This morning I saw a Buzzard and a Kestrel at the allotment. When I returned home there were four Red Admirals on the Hebe, as well as a number of hoverflies and bees. Later in the afternoon a male Sparrowhawk flew up and perched on the roof of a neighbouring house.
Sparrowhawk | Abingdon    
Wednesday 8th November
Another sunny but cold morning. I saw four Long-tailed Tits, a Wren and a Red Kite at the allotment. When I got back home there were two Red Admirals feeding on Hebe flowers in the front garden.
Red Admiral | Abingdon    
Monday 6th November
I visited a new site today, Highmoor in the Chilterns. Despite the cold night last night I found three Red Admirals basking on the same tree. A trio of Red Kites were flying low over the adjacent field and garden. I walked through Highmoor Common Wood, where I saw a Jay, and then along the bridleway called Deadman's Lane. In a field to the north of this there were about fifteen Red Kites, either flying low over the ground or landing on it. I cut through Nott Wood, where I came upon a mixed tit flock, which contained two Marsh Tits. I found another basking Red Admiral, and there was also a Comma in the same tree. I saw a Buzzard being mobbed by crows. Although I didn't see many species it was a useful reconnaissance mission.
Red Kite | Highmoor Marsh Tit | Highmoor Comma | Highmoor
Sunday 5th November
A cold but sunny morning. I went over to Farmoor, but there was no sign of yesterday's Water Pipit. In fact there wasn't much about at all, apart from the usual residents. The only birds of note were two Bullfinches in the hedgerow at Pinkhill, a Grey Heron from the Pinkhill hide, and two Grey Wagtails on the north bank of F1. I relocated to Rushy Common, but there wasn't a lot there either. Notables were a dozen of so Gadwall, four Pochard and two Little Grebes. As I left the hide I spotted a Goldcrest in the hedge. The only birds on the Tar Lakes were four Mute Swans and about a dozen Tufted Ducks. I also saw a couple of Red Kites and a Kestrel.
Grey Wagtail | Farmoor Grey Heron | Rushy Common  
Wednesday 1st November
As it was fairly sunny this morning I went over to Pit 60 at Standlake. There were quite a few Redwings in the hawthorn bushes down Shifford Lane. When I opened the hide windows there was a Green Sandpiper feeding on the shore. It flew off to the south, but later came back and gave good views on the island. Otherwise, the usual ducks were present (but no Pintail), there were about forty Lesser Black-backed Gulls, and a Kestrel was having a bath in the shallows. I spotted a Red Admiral flying out over the water. A large number of noisy Greylag Geese erupted from the fields near the river and landed on the western end of the lake. An unexpected sighting was of two Roe Deer on the north bank. On the way back to the car I saw a Great Spotted Woodpecker, some Long-tailed Tits and Bullfinches, and a Sparrowhawk.
Green Sandpiper | Standlake Roe Deer | Standlake