Monday, 31 December 2012

Last farm count for 2012

Sunday 31 December 2012

Considering the recent weather it was almost spring like for my 93rd count of Battle Farm, Preston Crowmarsh. Nothing new to add to the site count of 84 species but 3 Egyption Geese flying over, Bullfinch and Chiffchaff were worthy of note. The 283 birds, of 29 species, brought the overall total since 2005 through the 25000 barrier. 3 Roe deer were nice to see.

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

New 2012 bird for Ewelme

Wednesday 26 December 2012

A quiet time on the watercress beds but a pleasant surprise was a Woodcock flying through the site.

Sunday, 23 December 2012

More Grey Partridges

Sunday 23 december 2012

16 of these on the back-way returning from the watercress beds near Cottesmore Lane.

Garden Blackcap again

Thursday 20 December 2012

The male Blackcap in the garden has been joined by a female - perhaps joined is not quite the right word as I am yet to see the two of them in the garden together. Mind you that's not too surprising as the male seems to have an attitude problem.

Monday, 17 December 2012

Dorchester WeBS

Monday 17 December 2012

Probably the best count this year with two Ruff on the Day's Lock scrape, a female Smew on the Allen Pit and two Goldeneye on Sailing Club Pit. I wonder if Goldeneye have ever outnumbered Coot on a Dorchester Lake (on a sunny day in December). Not too sure what is going on but just one Coot on that lake.

Blackcap - King of the garden

Saturday 15 December 2012

Most winters I get at least one Blackcap in the garden but I have never had one that behaved like this year's tenant.  It will not let Dunnocks, Chaffinches, Blue or Great Tits or Goldfinches anywhere near the feeders. It even chased off a Reed Bunting the other day and seems evenly matched with the resident Robin. We had a rare visit from a Great Spot and the Blackcap was very agitated but decided that discretion was the better part of valour when he say the beak of the woodpecker.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

At Last!

Saturday 8 December 2012

Finally found a Water Rail at Ewelme - of course it could have been around for ages and in hiding! Also a small party of Waxwings in Benson, though what they are finding to eat I cannot imagine as the winter thrushes have just about cleared all the berries. In the same area, behind the Meer development a couple of Reed Buntings.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Another Blackcap

Wednesday 5 December 2012
A second Blackcap for the winter - this one a female seen at Rivermead, Benson

Thursday, 29 November 2012


Thursday 29 November 2012

Ever wondered what happens to snails when the floods arrive?

Monday, 26 November 2012

Garden Blackcap

Monday 26 November 2012
Not a lot of note recently but a male Blackcap this morning livened up the cornflakes.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Birds find garden

Thursday 7 November 2012
Coal Tit and Goldcrest in the garden counts as a red letter day here!

Friday, 2 November 2012

As promised

Friday 2 November 2012

Sit down with a cup of coffee and spend 10 minutes seeing how many species you can identify.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

New 2012 bird for watercress beds

Thursday 1 November 2012
Doesn't take much to excite me these days - a small group of Linnets feeding on willowherb seeds can do it! Nice to see Coal Tits, one on each of the two feeders today.

Still lots of activity on the night camera - I will try to upload a composite in the next day or so.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Blackcap still around

Thursday 18 October 2012
Wonder if it is a summer bird hanging on or an over wintering bird recently arrived ?

The night camera went out again last night and, amongst the Hedgehogs and field mice was the short video below:

I cannot make up my mind between Mink and Polecat/Ferret cross. My experience is very limited - any thoughts out there?

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Farmland walk

Thursday 11 October 2012

In spite of the weather I managed a three and a bit mile walk during a brief dry period without getting too wet. As well as the colour nof the hedgerow leaves and the variety of berries there was plenty to maintain interest. Along Hale Road a small covey of 8 Red-legged Partridges flew up from the edge of a newly cultified field and House Martins and Swallows were all over the place busily stoking up for their journey ahead. As I entered the footpath crossing the barren fields a party of about 30 Linnets took off and a couple of larger individuals on distant wires were probably Corn Buntings but too far away to be sure. Just about double figures of Skylarks amongst the brassicas (rape?) a bit further on. The footpath alongside Elm Brook can be a treasure and didn’t let me down with Reed Bunting, Yellowhammer and a group of 7 Redpoll. Soon after that the rain returned so it was head down and hurry home.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

New for Ewelme 2012

Tuesday 9 October 2012
With the apparent large movement of Jays around the country it was about time I found one at Ewelme and, like buses, another flew over me half an hour later at Millbrook Mead - Benson's only nature reserve. Many thanks to the Wallingford Green Gym who removed the cut material from the flower meadow down there.

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Not all have spines

Saturday 29 September 2012
After taking delivery of 15 hedgehogs from Tiggywinkles last Tuesday I thought I would put out the camera to see if they were still around and how they were doing.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Ivy is out!

Tuesday 18 September 2012
With a good sunny day and the Ivy in flower it seemed ideal for a Butterfly transect at Ewelme. Never mind the quality - feel the width! The total for this rather short transect amounted to 19 Small Whites, 14 Red Admirals, 13 Commas and a single Small Tortoiseshell. 

The Ivy was buzzing with bees and hover flies including this huge Volucella zonaria.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Dorchester WeBS count

Monday 17 September 2012
Hardly the most exciting of visits with 1102 birds of 16 species. Some signs of "winter arrivals" with 14 Wigeon and an increase in Canada Geese to 242. One of these was colour ringed which I am about to report. Apart from these and 6 Egyption Geese little else of note.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

House Moths

Saturday 8 September 2012
A couple of moths found their way into the house yesterday, a Square-spot Rustic

and the micro-moth Amblyptilia acanthadactyla

If anyone has an explanation of how you tell a micro from a macro I would love to know as it has little to do with size!  There has also been a Silver Y trying to get in but it hasn't succeed as yet.

Friday, 7 September 2012


Thursday 6 September 2012

All somewhat quiet period or rather no time with flower meadows to cut in Ewelme and Benson but found time for a quick look round Millbrook Mead and managed a photo of this beauty - a hoverfly that goes by the name of Helophilus pendulus, apparently!
I have now received the list of moths trapped on 17th August at the same site. A total of 235 individuals of 53 species were identified - many thanks to Mike Wilkins for the ID's

Monday, 20 August 2012

Who pinched all the birds

Monday 20 August 2012
I sometimes wonder why I carry on with the WeBS counts at Dorchester especially after a count like todays. Just 815 birds of 14 species, the best of the bad lot being a couple of Little Grebe.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

All the local birding hotspots in an evening but no birds

Saturday 18 August 2012
A long but interesting day that started with moth trapping at Millbrook Mead, Benson (awaiting list) and ended with a balloon flight over Oxford to celebrate wifes birthday, though a year late!

Unfortunately not really stable enough or space enough for a scope otherwise I could have had a good evenings list! Apologies to any birders if we disturbed the birds!

Top - farmoor
Middle - Port Meadow
Lower - Otmoor

Thursday, 16 August 2012

At last

Thursday 16 August 2012
I had just about given up hope of catching up with Brown Argos at The cress beds this year but this little beauty decided to pose for me today.
Sparrowhawk and Grey Heron were the only birds of note on the site today though I guess the Pheasant with three newly hatched young is worthy of note.  Very young Mallard and Moorhen chicks recently arrived which should provide food for the corvids! My local spy tells me there is a Green Sandpiper in the area so, hopefully, it will soon find the watercress beds.

Millbrook mead is looking good and I'm looking forward to moth trapping there friday/Saturday. As a taster this nettle-tap moth was flying around today.

Tuesday, 31 July 2012


Tuesday 31 July 2012
At long last I have finalised the list of species found during the 14 hour bioblitz at Ewelme Watercress Beds LNR. A grand total of 593 species were found and identified including 146 moths and 135 flowers. Hoping to put the full list on the Ewelme web site when I find time.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Battle Farm survey

Saturday 28 July 2012
230 birds of 32 species. Highlights included a roost of about 30 Swallows in a small clump of Hawthorns, a good count of 8 Whitethroats and these were not family groups as singles and pairs  widely separated. In fact one male was getting very upset with me so I assume I was close to an occupied nest. Other sightings of interest werea Long-tailed Tit fighting with an enormous caterpillar and the first sighting for a long time of a Roe deer "Kangarooing" through the wheat crop. Less attractively a verbal battle with a security man, whose first language was not English, who tried to stop me walking a public right of way.

Friday, 27 July 2012

Gatekeeper at last

Friday 27 July 2012

About two weeks later than usual the first appearance of Gatekeepers today. Meadow Browns and Ringlets seem to have tapered off but a few Skippers to be seen.

Small Skipper

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Dragons and Damsels

Thursday 26 July 2012

We don't get a lot of these at Ewelme - the water is too cold and fast moving. However today an Emperor and two Brown Hawkers plus a Blue Tailed and an Azure Damselfly.
At home a dragon was hawking over the hedge at the bottom of the garden and still at it when the dark sent me inside at past 9.30. Wonder what it was?

Monday, 23 July 2012

Kingfisher at last!

Monday 23 July 2012
I really don't believe I have made it through the year to this date before seeing my first Kingfisher of 2012. Apart from that somewhat ordinary with just 711 birds of 16 species though good to see 3 Lapwing (suspect they bred and 2 Oystercatchers)
Not sure what the Blackbird was doing in the garden this morning as it seemed to be offering dead leaves to a youngster. Perhaps it was the lesson for today "this is a leaf - we don't eat these but they can be used for constructing your nest".

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Back at last

Wednesday 27 June 2012

Not sure if it's me (probably is) but I have been struggling to log in for the last week. So what have you missed - a new Ewelme bird for the year but not too exciting, a Red-legged Partridge but good to see this Chiffchaff on the upper site.
The Battle Farm survey on 23rd produced Collared Dove and Grey Partridge, both new for the year. The WeBS count round Dorchester lakes on 25th June produced a total of 5 new "year birds" - more an indication of how infrequently I get over there than anything else. For the record they were Corn Bunting, Jay, Linnet, Reed Warbler and Yellowhammer.
Preparations for the BioBlitz at Ewelme on 13/14 July are coming on apace though we could still use some "experts" for ID ing some of the more difficult groups - think we can cope with Birds, Butterflies, Moths and have promises of a Bee and wasp man together with his other half on liverworts.

Friday, 8 June 2012

Blue Tits fledged

Friday 8 June 2012
At last the Blue Tit/s left the garden nest box. Probably the worst June day for many a year but I guess when you've got to go...... I think there were at least two young that fledged as the adult appeared to be taking food, mostly from a fat ball, into two locations in the adjoining hedge.  Although it seems a poor return on the number of eggs laid I am convinced that there has only been one adult in the last week or so. A very good effort I reckon!

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Mad Mallard

Tuesday 5 June 2012
An interesting experience during one of my regular Ewelme visits!  Whilst crossing the wooden bridge a female mallard with three young decided it didn't like the look of me and proceded to fly towards my legs squaking as it came.  It veered off when about a foot away and circled round me several times at about that distance. Normally they just run away so I'm not too sure what came over this one?

Usual birds but good to see a Hobby flypast. Strange that the Grey Wagtails left with the drought and have not re-appeared as yet.

Monday, 28 May 2012

Battle Fm survey

Sunday 27 May 2012
Carried out the monthly survey of the farm at Preston Crowmarsh. 277 individuals of 31 species the most noteworthy being 7 singing Whitethroats.  nearly twice the previous highest count but possible this could have been influenced by an unusually early start of 6 am.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012


Tuesday 1 May 2012
Spent the day building a wooden bridge with help from the Wallingford Green Gym see their blog here

A final total of the rainfall measured in my Benson Garden for April - 130.1 mm which is the highest monthly total since May 2007!

Monday, 30 April 2012

Rain and new year birds at Ewelme

Monday 30 April 2012
With yesterday's 4.6mm of rain in the garden the month's total has reached 118.3mm and I seem to have been out in most of it! This is the highest monthly total I have recorded since November 2009 and still a day to go though, so far, it has been dry in Benson.
A walk round the cress beds at Ewelme this morning revealed a couple of Grey Partridges - always good to see, and 3 House Martins checking out the eaves of a house near the centre.


Sunday 29 April 2012
Closest I get to twitching nowadays with a visit to Farmoor to see what the weather might bring in. Best of a wet hour were these Black-necked Grebes performing for the cameras but almost as impressive were hundreds of all three hirundines and Swifts hunting within a few feet along the causeway. 

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Battle Barns Survey

Saturday 28 April 2012
And still the cold, wet weather continues. Managed just 28 species and 259 individuals counted. Highlights were good numbers of Hirundines hawking over the sewage beds.  Mostly Swallows but a few House martins and lone Sand Martin amongst them.  A small party of Linnets and one carrying nest material.

Visit to Chimney meadow

Friday 27 April 2012
We don't seem to be very lucky with our BEST visits to BBOWT reserves.  Wet, cold and windy didn't help but still sightings of Wheatear and Stonechat and the Cowslips pretended to be sunshine.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Quiet weekend mostly down allotment

Sunday 22 April 2012
Best I could find this weekend was a female Orange Tip feeding on the nectar on Honesty plant in the garden.

Thursday, 19 April 2012


Thursday 19 April 2012
Dunno what's going on but a brief pass through Dorchester added 4 species to the meagre list for that site , this year but the odd thing were a couple of  Swifts passing over.  I know I haven't been out much but Swift before all three hirundines??? Though saw a Sand Martin within a few seconds.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Larus fuscus R.I.P.

Tuesday 17 April 2012
I have now heard back the details of the Lesser Black-backed Gull found at Ewelme Watercress Beds that died after a couple of days wandering around looking sickly. It was ringed as a female chick  in Orfordness, Suffolk on July 8 1995.  It was caught and released on 8 May 2011 at Europort, Holland.  It was, therefore, just under 17 years old when it died. The report also adds that her mate is back on the colony paired with and unringed female. It doesn't actually say but I assume the colony is in Holland.

Monday, 16 April 2012


Monday 16 April 2012
Away day to Linky Down where, for a change, Ring Ouzels were performing well.  At least 6 individuals present.  Also a Wheatear in the top of a tree (don't get a lot of those!) and rather nice close view of a perched Red Kite.
No news on the LBB Gull yet which died in the night Sat/Sun.  Full ring details so should get info sometime! 

Friday, 13 April 2012

Ringed Gull

Friday 13 April 2012
Bet that had you going but just a Lesser Black-backed Gull with plastic and metal ring.  Bird didn't look too well though no obvious sign of injury. Ring appears to read 1+ but could be other numerals or letters round back.  Will check tomorrow if it hasn't died and been dragged off by a fox or similar.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Dorchester WeBS count

Wednesday 11 April 2012
A little dissapointing with no hirundines, wheatear or willow warbler on a warm and sunny morning. About the only birds of note were a couple of Shelduck on the Allen Pit.  And we are into April and I'm still to catch up with Kingfisher for 2012!  Must get out more!

Friday, 6 April 2012

Some birds at last

Friday 6 April 2012

Nothing very special but 3 new species for the year at Ewelme being a pair of Bullfinches, Canada Goose and a Yellowhammer bathing in a puddle. Also Blackcap in full song, presumably a summer visitor rather than the overwintering bird seen in January. A rather poor photo of a Blue Tit collecting alpaca hair from the "multi-storey bug hotel".

Monday, 2 April 2012

New Butterfly

Sunday 1 April 2012

Number 5 of the year on the Ewelme Watercress Beds LNR, a Red Admiral today and I still haven't seen a Peacock there this year.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Birds and butterflies

Wednesday 28 March 2012

First Orange Tip of the year crossed the road in front of the car in Ewelme and a Chiffchaff actively feeding and sometimes singing in a tree outside the front of the house.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Mammal sighting

Monday 26 March 2012
First sighting in a very long time of a Water Shrew hunting and feeding in a tiny area of water below the mill weir. Also Brimstones (4), Green-veined Whites (2) and a Small Tortoiseshell sighted.

Friday, 23 March 2012

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Go forth and mutiply

Saturday 17 March 2012

And still the overwintering male Blackcap stays - he has even started singing now.  The female/s probably left about last Wednesday so he has some catching up to do - still with the fuel he is taking on board..!

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Garden Blackcap still

Thursday 15 March 2012

Overwintering male Blackcap still enjoying sunflower hearts and apple in the garden - didn't see a female today.

Monday, 12 March 2012

March WeBS count at Dorchester

Monday 12 March 2012
Very misty most of morning. Total of 1149 individual water birds of 19 species.  Plenty of Wigeon (284) and Tufted Duck (325) still around but most other numbers falling with the recent warmer weather. The return of 2 Oystercatcher to Sailing Club pit was a good sight.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Battle Farm Survey

Sunday 26 February 2012
 332 birds of 31 species - of interest 3 Lapwings and 11 Redwings. Only 1 Yellowhammer, no Long-tailed Tits, Sparrows or warblers.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Rain please!

Saturday 25th february 2012

The Watercress Beds are in a dire situation and it is difficult to see the springs returning before June or July. We are pumping a limited quantity of water (up to 20 cubic metres per day allowed without an abstraction license) from a well but it would not surprise me if even this was to run dry soon.

 A couple of Greenfinches and, elsewhere, a chaffinch, found a puddle to bathe in. At least 2 Water Rails still finding enough food to survive on.

Meanwhile a pair of Blackcaps have recently discovered the source of food available in my garden and are stoking up on sunflower hearts and apple.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Who pinched the Wigeon?

Sunday 12 February 2012
When I set off for Dorchester to do my WeBS count this morning I thought "this will not take long - all the water will be frozen".  Unfortunately each of the 7 lakes had a patch of open water and the birds were so concentrated they were standing on top of one another - not easy counting!  Odd how cold weather affects numbers of different species.  Only 51 Wigeon in spite of 1000 being reported yesterday on the Allen Pit. On the other hand over 100 Gadwall and just under that number of Shoveler. Also quite good numbers (88)  of Teal - at least for Dorchester.  Unfortunately the Smew reported yesterday failed to put in an appearance.

Friday, 10 February 2012


Friday 10 February 2012

Walked down the brook to the river then along to Shillingford, up to Warborough and back across the "prairie".  My first Goosander of the year but not much else on the river, a few Tufted Ducks and a Great Crested Grebe.  On the field alongside the Benson to Shillingford road about 30 Lapwing and 6 Golden Plover.

Friday, 3 February 2012

Cold Ewelme and very little water

Friday 3 february 2012
A rapid visit to top up the feeders revealed a female Blackcap, a Water rail and a Green Sandpiper - but still no Snipe!

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Always a surprise

Wednesday 1 February 2012
With a bitterly cold early morning I had high hopes of a Snipe or two at Ewelme but, instead, a female Teal sunning itself.  Last winter a male spent some time with us and I wonder how long this will be around.  It didn't appear all that healthy and at one time was chased by a Magpie, which seemed slightly odd.

Saturday, 28 January 2012

First visit to Battle Farm

Saturday 28 January 2012
Dull, overcast and cold so only the Robins, Blackbirds and Great Tits were putting on much of a show.  Highlights of the 344 birds of 29 species counted were: Meadow Pipit (24), Pied Wagtail (34), Fieldfare (66) and Redwing (15).

In addition the first Reed Bunting of the year visited the garden seed feeders.

Friday, 27 January 2012

Ewelme and Huntinglands

Friday 27 January 2012
Not much happening at Ewelme - just one Water Rail seen along with the usual culprits.  2 Stock Doves eying up hollows in an Ash tree.  Tried Huntinglands again for the SE Owl but it is being very elusive.  Good numbers of Yellowhammers and Corn Buntings taking advantage of the seed put out for the Pheasants.  Also a field full of Fieldfare - around 220 in all.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Cowlease Wood

Tuesday 17 January 2012
Thought I had better take another look at Cowlease and considerably more successful than last time.  Seemed to be Crossbills and Siskin everywhere.  At least 25 Crossbills and could easily have been twice this number.  Very difficult to count as they were flitting about all over the place.  Great views of males glowing in the sunshine.  Also Redpoll and a Treecreeper seen.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Dorchester WeBS Count January

Friday 13 January 2012
Bit early as it should be on 15th but nearest practical date.  Not a great deal to get excited about amongst the  1679 birds of 20 species of water birds. 2 Egyption Geese worthy of note and good to see 3 Little Grebe.  Perhaps this colder spell might liven things up a bit!

Friday, 6 January 2012

Ewelme Watercress Beds

Friday 6 January 2012
Amazing the difference the temperature makes to the sighting of Water Rails.  I have been struggling of late and gratefull for a fleeting glimpse of one.  Today there were three on show and two of them spent some time out in the open.  Elsewhere of note both Great Spotted and Green Woodpeckers and a female Blackcap.  It was almost like a spring morning with three or four Song Thrushes in full voice.

Monday, 2 January 2012

Ewelme and Dorchester

Monday 2 January 2012
Still quiet at the Watercress Beds though added Water Rail, Heron, Great Spotted Woodpecker and Blackcap to the list.

A couple of Buzzard on the way home, one of which had a lot of grey on the wings but couldn't turn it into anything more interesting.

A quick look at Dorchester was not enough to get the pulses racing and just 26 species seen. 

Sunday, 1 January 2012

New Year's Day

Sunday 1 January 2012
That's impressive - I managed to get the date correct.  Guided walk at Ewelme so not a lot of oppurtunity for building the list - just 22 species and no Water Rail.