Monday, 9 December 2019

Otmoor evening

Did a couple of hours at Otmoor this afternoon/evening. The Starling roost was pretty impressive with a bit of murmuration too. Also had a Bittern on Greenaways, a Barn Owl from the first screen and good numbers of waterbirds across the site with the Closes and Flood Field also extensively wet with a large flock of Golden Plover out on the Flood Field and large numbers of waterfowl including double figures of Pintail. 

 Starlings at dusk
 Golden Plovers over Flood Field 
 A Sparrowhawk over the Closes (below) 

and a December moth from the Old Vic trap 

Saturday, 7 December 2019

Winter dregs

It's been slim pickings recently. The best I could muster up at Beddington after a bit of window watching, a two hour session yesterday from the hides and two nights with the MV moth trap on was a dodgy Caspian Gull , a couple of Mottled Umbers, up to 5 December Moths and 2 Winter Moths. 

 First-winter Caspian-type Gull. The blue-grey upperparts, apparent double wing bars formed by tips to median and greater coverts, the dark centred greater coverts, dark tertials, dark shawl and white underwings (below) all indicate a Caspian Gull. However the two-toned bill, the head profile, structure and some dark markings on the head suggest a possibility of hybridisation. Could be something from the Black Sea area? (SEE HERE )

 December moth- five last night, a site record. The run of cold frosty nights has finally let up with a bit more moth activity over last couple of nights. 
Mottled Umbers 

Wednesday, 4 December 2019

Lisbon Geese Videos

Here's a couple of videos from my weekend in Lisbon ( weekend blog HERE)  from Xo Fred.

Tundra Bean Goose - this was one of two Bean Geese present. This individual (found by Magnus) was smaller and shorter-necked than the surrounding Greylags (and the second Bean) and the orange on the bill (a more subdued saturation than the orange on the Greylag bills) was confined to a sub-terminal 'strap. The bill was also relatively short and deep based. Hopefully Xo Fred will update some video of the second Bean Goose soon for comparison. 
Snow Goose - no problem with the identification (although not sure if a lone bird can be assigned to an either Lesser or Greater Snow Goose sub-species), however the provenance is a consideration especially with THIS HERE going on. This bird was first seen in France and has moved south into Portugal. 

Staines Pain

I planned a days birding today and when news broke of a Red-necked Grebe at Staines yesterday I decided to opt for a local twitch. I dipped - despite the bird being reported this morning. I seem to be having trouble seeing very obvious ducks and grebes confined in a tank but at least after about two hours I finally located the long-staying Long-tailed Duck on the South Basin (the bird has been present since early November). 

Also a Water Pipit and a Common Sandpiper, 10 Black-necked Grebes and some stunning Goldeneyes.

Male Goldeneye (above and below) 

Black-necked Grebe
Common Sandpiper 
Long-tailed Duck- looks like a female, probably a first-winter female (but could be an adult female). Long-tailed Ducks have three moults in their first cycle and unlike other ducks the adults have two complete plumages a year. The amount of white in the head and the restricted pale in the scapulars indicate a female as opposed to a young male. First-winter females usually show some pale in the scapulars but I couldn't see any sign of that but the views weren't great!  Long-tailed ducks characteristically often sit on the water with their wings hiding the fore-flanks and when they dive they distinctively open their wings. 

Sunday, 1 December 2019

Extinction Rebellion, Beddington Farmlands Political Strategy Meeting, Tuesday 3rd December

As Extinction Rebellion plan to shift attention from the public to polluters (see HERE) we are beginning to move the pieces in place locally.

For discussion click through to facebook 

Saturday, 30 November 2019

Beddington rounds

A foggy start to the day, Nick and I covered 100 acre to the mound. Highlights included 2 Water Pipit, 3 Green Sandpiper, 4 Stonechat and 2 Wigeon. Ebird list HERE

Friday, 29 November 2019

Local Liberal Democrat MP Tom Brake congratulates Beddington Farmlands campaigners for succeeding in over coming the Liberal Democrats!!!

Click to Facebook to read discussion 

In short, Tom Brake local MP (leading up to the general election) has congratulated us campaigners for the Beddington Farmlands Nature Reserve campaign. This follows years of persecutory behaviour by his party to crush the campaign. 

Discussion extract: 
He has only associated himself with this campaign after the council shifted to calling out Viridor following political casualties in Beddington North, the political capital liability of the incinerator in the context of recently declared climate emergency, the public petition to enforce planning conditions and the threat of direct action from Extinction Rebellion. The council and Tom Brake have been protecting Viridor for years and have ignored extensive scientific reports and media about the damaging delays to the restoration. There is strong evidence that the Lib Dems in cohorts with Viridor actively persecuted local campaigners (removal of funding, expulsion from committees, access restrictions, denial of access to funding, legal action threats etc). It's a bit rich that he is now congratulating people that he did his best (or rather the Lib Dem-Viridor partnership) to crush.'

Monday, 25 November 2019

Weekend in Lisbon- PRC meeting

A good weekend in Lisbon- on Saturday we had the Portuguese Rarities Committee AGM and because we worked right through and got everything done we had Sunday off and had a bonus birding day in the Lisbon rice fields Ebird list here.  Unfortunately my bins are in for repair and the Easyjet flight I got would only allow me hand luggage so I was only armed with a pair of 8 x 32 opticrons that I borrowed from my nephew Sid. This meant no camera, no scope or decent bins for what was a most spectacular birding location and involved Magnus Robb finding a first for Portugal (and also a Red-throated Pipit) and me getting a world tick and two WP ticks. It was one of the best most un-prepared birding days I've had.

The world tick is a bit provisional- a Taiga Bean Goose which was found by Luis Gordinho a week or so ago. Magnus Robb found a Tundra Bean Goose as we arrived at the site (this will be a first for Portugal if accepted - by us!?!?)  and then we also found Luis's Bean Goose which looked better for a Taiga Bean Goose - a larger, long necked bird with more orange in the bill and a white thin blaze on the rim of the bill. The two Bean Geese were not particularly associating with each other. Will be interesting to see more opinions on these birds- some video should emerge soon (NOW HERE ). All I managed to document was a very poor digi-scope image of the Tundra Bean Goose. We also had another first for Portugal candidate, a Snow Goose (which has been present for a while).

We also had Cat C Yellow-crowned Bishops, which was a WP tick for me (and plenty of Common Waxbills) but unfortunately despite much searching we failed to find the Cat C Pin-tailed Whydahs (which would have been a WP tick for Pierre).

So my listing totals are now:  World List: 2933, WP List: 700,  False WP List: 895

Contrary to this post HERE, I realised I've seen a lot more in the WP then I thought as Netfugl only count compliant ticks and I've got something like 112 non-compliant ticks because I haven't got round to editing the records properly. Another job on the to do list! I'm still working to my target of reaching 800 in the WP by the time I'm 80 years old (800 by 80) but now I'm a closer than I thought- will need to slow down even more! Life is long- there's no rush (my twitching moto).

More on what we do at the PRC here: 

 Tundra Bean Goose (top left) 
 Yellow-crowned Bishop - numerous in this area (unfortunately this was a road victim) 
 Twitch for the Tundra Bean Goose (with Magnus Robb, Pierre-Andre Crochet ((also below)) and XoFred 

Wednesday, 20 November 2019

Hardcore moths

I had the heath trap out at the Old Vic in between the frosts on Monday night. Still a few species out there. 
 December moth 
 Dark Chestnut 
Winter moth 

Sunday, 17 November 2019

Farmoor- Greater Scaup and Lesser Snow Geese

A nice calm morning at Farmoor today. Ebird list HERE. Unlike yesterday where a sea duck at Staines some how managed to give me the slip despite two hours scanning for it, I did manage to find the Farmoor adult female Scaup that has been present for a while. Again like Staines the number of waterfowl seems quite low- maybe the widespread floods are encouraging dabbling ducks to flooded areas?

I finally managed to get a close encounter with the Oxfordshire Snow Geese. There's a feral (presumably Cat C, self-sustaining) flock of birds in the county which is pretty surreal to see. I made it 103 birds in total, 7 dark/intermediate phase and 6 juveniles. I presume they are Lesser Snow Geese (as opposed to the larger billed, thicker grinning Greater Snow Goose sub-species) based on the presence of dark phased birds (which are very rare within Greater Snow Goose populations).  I'd be interested to know about the history of this population.

 Adult female Scaup- the grey vermiculations on the mantle and scaps and the pale flanks and sides indicate an adult female. A juvenile female would be plainer brown and a first-winter male would not have the extensive white blaze around the bill.  
 Pale phase Snow Goose 
 Dark phase Snow Goose (aka Blue Snow Goose) 
 Intermediate phase Snow Goose- the white belly is the diagnostic feature for an intermediate bird 
 Juvenile Snow Goose- this years birds so clearly breeding somewhere 'locally' 
 In flight (above and below). 

Had this aythya loosely associating with adult female Scaup - the off white blaze and pale ear covert patch, size and structure look good for a juvenile (pale yellow-brown eye) Scaup but the blue band on the bill suggests it might be a hybrid? Certainly looks different to the other Scaup-faced Tufted Ducks on the reservoir (below). Others on the Oxon birding blog are claiming this as a pure juvenile Scaup. Not sure how much of a deal breaker any blue on the bill is? Just been checking IBC and looks like a bit of blue in the bill is a variable feature in juvenile Scaup so considering everything else seems to fit- looks like within variation of juvenile Greater Scaup. Scaup identification is a somewhat troubling affair with ,according to Smallshire (1986),  20% of birds are hybrids between Scaup and Tufted Duck. 
'Scaup-faced' Tufted Duck- are these birds expressing Scaup gene introgression?
 Adult female and juvenile Scaup with Tufted Ducks
 Juvenile Scaup- in this image the amount of black at the bill tip and nail looks quite extensive bordered with a blue band- is this within variation of a pure bird?
Here's another aythya (an adult female) from Farmoor from earlier in the year (from late summer)- another bird that looks like there could be some Scaup genes knocking about. 

Saturday, 16 November 2019


Popped into Staines Reservoirs on the way to Oxford this morning. Pretty quiet (low numbers of wildfowl too) but the six Black-necked Grebes near the causeway were worth the effort. Ebird list HERE . I couldn't find the Long-tailed Duck despite intensively looking which was still present apparently.

Black-necked Grebes 

Thursday, 14 November 2019


Here's our trip report from our WISE BIRDING July Uganda trip.

Wednesday, 13 November 2019

Beddington Farmlands- Gull Comeback

Another interesting day at the farmlands. Ebird list HERE. Viridor are tipping again on the landfill which is attracting several thousand gulls including a superb adult Caspian Gull. We thought we may have seen the last of this local speciality after the landfill was officially closed last winter so a very welcome (if brief) return. Apparently they need to tip some rubbish as the Incinerator is not fully commissioned yet.  Also a first-winter Mediterranean Gull.  Other highlights included at least 7 Water Pipits, 7 Green Sandpiper and 5 Stonechat and Frankie and Tank had Siskin and Bullfinch. Good numbers of finches about- the very good conditions of 100 acre and south-east corner are attracting both wetland and seed eating species.

 Adult Caspian Gull (above and below). Extensive white in the primary tips indicates an individual from the west of it's range. 

 First-winter Mediterranean Gull 
 Meadow Pipit and Stonechat 
 Green Sandpiper 
 A sight we thought we'd seen the last of- good to see the gulls back for probably one last time 

Sunday, 10 November 2019

Otmoor Otter

A good day at Otmoor. Ebird list HERE. The hands down highlight was an Otter from the first screen, the first time I've seen one here. Jacob and I returned in the evening for the starling roost and we also had Barn Owl and Bittern. Also good to see winter numbers of Lapwing and Golden Plover building up and Wigeon numbers also building up. There's been Merlin, Short-eared Owl and Hen Harrier in the week- a pretty impressive inland wetland! For some cracking photos from today on the OOS blog see HERE.
Otmoor birding blog 

 Otter at Otmoor 
 Bittern on Greenaways- I couldn't work out whether it was standing in an awkward position or right behind a Short-eared Owl? 
 Part of the 30,000 Starling flock 
Evening at Otmoor