Friday 31 December 2021


The mini-zoo continues to evolve at the Old Vicarage. So far one Syrian Hamster, 14 tropical fish ( 1 Amazon Angel Fish, 1 Siamese-fighter, 4 Neon Tetras, 4 White-lined Mountain Minnows, 2 Sword-tail Guppies and 2 Varied Platy) , 1 Leopard Gecko, 1 Dartmoor Pony and 3 smelly Dogs. That's an additional 10 species to add to the 1020 species which are either wild or naturalised in the garden.

Sunday 26 December 2021

Ebird 2021 Review

This is a fascinating read! Inspiring developments and growth have occurred in 2021 with huge developments in Ebird applications for nature conservation and lots of new fun features for birders. I'm looking forward to play around with the new Trip Reports function. 

Direct link HERE

Happy Xmas

Happy xmas!

Top presents (mainly from myself to myself) below:

This stunning and essential gull identification booster by friends Peter Adriaens and Fred Jiguet is everything and more than I expected. I pre-ordered 10 copies (to get into the hands of aspiring young birders) without even looking at the samples as I knew the authors would create a masterpiece.  Peter's genius in being able to condense seemingly infinite variability in this group of birds into relatively straight forward diagnostic criteria is unparalleled on this planet. An incredible piece of work and testament to decades of study and skilful coordination of a regional specialist birding community which is always done with methodical and surgical rationality, patience, humility and kindness. As far as I'm concerned this is the un-rivalled birders book of the year. Buy HERE  . I also bought Alex Lees and James Gilroy's Vagrancy book- 2nd place for me in birders book of the year for 2021 (another stunning culmination of a life long dedication and study).  
Second place for best xmas present of 2021 was this 'Pigeons are Liars' hoodie
and our Home Menagerie continues to expand with this Leopard Gecko joining the club  

Friday 24 December 2021

The Old Vicarage 2021 Review

The last of these project quick annual reviews, our homebased wildlife gardening project at the Old Vicarage. This is basically the pilot to what we are working towards (our own eco-farm/nature reserve) so the one acre plot here gives us a good area to practise and experiment on. We've basically got our own eco-farm/nature reserve already here but the ambition is to scale this up one day and move the effort to the coast/migration flyway. In the meantime will keep practising and learning in this beautiful place.  

Here's a few photo highlights. A mini-moth report on the local moth blog HERE.

The first moth lifer of the year was this Yellow horned. 

In the first wave of spring planting the early potatoes went in, we've extended this area for next Spring and also grow a few tubs of potatoes too
A couple of good moths in the summer included this Fen Wainscot (above) and Olive (below) 

Summer at the mini-farm.   
Mere Wainscot- another summer moth highlight. We found this in the first of our summer Bioblitzes. See HERE
Italian Tubic 
Lilac Beauty 
Beautiful China Mark 
Dark Spruce Knot-horn 
Harvest time in early autumn
This female Gem was a very welcomed migrant
Feathered Gothic was our 1000th species for the garden HERE
Moth of the year has to be this Vagrant Piercer, a local mega migrant (less than 10 records for Bucks) 
After waiting for our first Clifden Nonpariel we had six this year  
Prepping, preserving and soup making - we managed to fill up the freezer with winter supplies 
Jacob ready for a garden bug hunt 
A large flock of mixed tits and warblers were present in the garden during the autumn containing a few Willow Warblers . Other garden birding highlights through the year including the summering Spotted Flycatchers, a flyover Hawfinch in late autumn and wintering Siskins. 
An autumn storm resulted in the loss of a few trees in the garden and a near miss for the campervan
The last big harvest was the pumpkins
The Old Vicarage after a snow fall in November 
This Buzzard was a garden resident for a few months
The mini-farm in late autumn. Isabella moved into the coach house recently. 
Meanwhile back in the house we renovated the loft into a new office for Little Oak Group/World of Twigg. We also started to build our pet army with a new aquarium to add to the hamster, pony and dogs and today we are off to buy a Leopard Gecko. This domesticated animal/ pet/ zoo biodiversity element to natural history is literally a bit of an elephant in the room. If we include all the domesticated and pet animals and plants species that humans bring with them into the built and garden environments and into parks and zoos/wildlife parks/collections, things actually start looking (with a slight perspective shift) a lot less bleak. Hopefully we will get chickens here soon too.   
The new bird feeders have taken off now and are often crowded . Interestingly no House Sparrows in our garden this time of year
This was a nice surprise in December, a retrospective identification by the CMR from 19th July- a lifer in the form of a Minor-shoulder Knot 
The big addition to the Old Vicarage this year was little Isaac, the seventh human member of the Old Vicarage community in addition to the pets and the 1020 wild and naturalised species that we have recorded on site. An ambition for next year is to pass the 500 moth species milestone (currently on 484)

Thursday 23 December 2021

Twitching, travel and county birding Review 2021

One of the benefits of being patch displaced is the opportunity for nomadism. For the first time in many years (since I moved out of the Beddington Farmlands obs) I now do not have a primary birding patch so until we get our own reserve/eco-farm it's a good opportunity to take inspiration from Hawfinches and Crossbills and wander around looking for sustenance. Its been very interesting and great to have central databases like Ebird and Irecord to submit records to keep track of the meanderings and also to feel like still part of  a 'patch' but on a much bigger scale. So here's a few pics of my wanderings for 2021, for county birding highlights scroll further down.

I did a two dayer in Yorkshire to twitch the Long-toed Stint (above) and White-tailed Lapwing (below).

A few days in Kent through the year were pretty standard - this Bonaparte's Gull at Oare is now in it's ninth returning year 
I bought a generator and did a few days moth exploring. A couple of trips to Portland were epic.
Caught my own Radford's Flame Shoulder (above) and other Portland specialities such as Flame Brocade (below) 

Started over-nighting in the camper for work trips to London- hope to  move around in the coming Spring and Summer and do some more moth trapping  
A couple of camping trips with the family and lots of days out (below). I'm learning a surprising amount about prehistoric life thanks to a shared interest with Jacob and visits to dinosaur attractions and museums. 

Started looking into taking Jacob on field trips to look for fossils (was kindly donated these fossils above on a recce to Warden Point on Sheppey to start our collection). The mission with Jacob for 2022 is to look for a bird fossil and plan family trips around fossil hunting locations.  

Local Birding in Oxon and Bucks 
The year started off with an exciting influx of White-fronted Geese, these birds were at Otmoor
Local Long-eared Owls are always a winter winner 
Found this Black Redstart on Oakley Airfield 
Another okayish local find was this Brent Goose at Otmoor (had a pretty good finding start to the year with White-front in Bucks and a few other bits too- unfortunately my luck dried up and I had a finding famine for most of the autumn) 
This Grey Plover at Otmoor was another local winter highlight. The White-fronted Goose spectacle continued throughout the winter (Otmoor birds again below) 

By February there were amazing numbers of wintering waders and waterfowl at Otmoor including this flock of Ruff
Nick found this Ring-necked Duck at Otmoor 
The excellent local birding was associated with the whole area being very wet and well flooded
This Glossy Ibis at Otmoor in Spring was the first in a good year for this species locally
Golden Plovers up on Oakley Airfield. Unfortunately this great local birding site was seized by Capitalists in the Spring (below) who removed all public access and are now building an autonomous vehicle testing track on it. It was an excellent site within walking distance. 

Found this Great Egret at Waterstock- a first for this site 
The arrival of Curlews in early Spring is a local phenomenon - a lowland breeding population still survives in the Thame Catchment - we can hear them singing from the garden some days which is simply brilliant 
Myself and Isaac West did a big day at Otmoor in April and managed to see 100 species in a day at this fabulous site
Wheatears on the airfield were the last good birds I saw up there before it was lock downed. Will try and speak to the farmer to see if he will allow access for a bit of birding. 
These breeding Garganey on Otmoor were a summer highlight
Did some more moth trapping at Waterstock Mill- a big population of Poplar Hawkmoths there and a few local specialities including Dotted Fan-foot and this Large Emerald (below) was a lifer. Also caught a Vagrant Piercer there which is an Oxon mega- only three or so records.

Purple Sandpiper at Farmoor Reservoir in September- mega! 
Isaac found this brilliant juv Caspian Gull at Farmoor in September 
Mid-autumn in Oxforshire was all about herons and egrets. Cattle Egrets colonised the county this year and by the end of the breeding season there were flocks roaming. Great Egrets keep becoming more regular (a confiding bird at Otmoor below) .

This Purple Heron at Blenheim Park was another local autumn highlight
Cattle Egret conquest (Otmoor)
Finally saw a Brown Hairstreak at Otmoor
Thomas found this Pec at Port Meadow- another local birding highlight 
Little Auk on the Thames in the wake of Storm Arwen was absolutely mega! 
Still a week left of the year so hopefully time for another local highlight. The Weasel yesterday was the most recent highlight.