Wednesday, 21 April 2021

Mullein Moth - a first for Beddington Farmlands

Had a nice surprise in the moth trap this morning at Beddington Farmlands (well not actually in it but on a shelf nearby)- a Mullein moth, a first for the farmlands. Also a Powdered Quaker with it and an Early Grey.

Also had a Brindled Beauty at the Old Vicarage yesterday. (We also took Jacob to Cotswold Wildlife Park- had Firecrest singing there). 

Amazing to get a new moth for the farmlands considering it has been a very cold and slow moth April- only had about five species or so. 

Mullein moth 

Powdered Quaker 
Brindled Beauty at the Old Vicarage 

Monday, 19 April 2021

Otmoor Big Day

Isaac West and I did a 15 hour dawn to dusk on Otmoor today in a big day attempt which resulted in us reaching 100 species on the nose and in the last minutes before dusk. The weather was clear skies and sun and calm (a very light variable wind) so we weren't actually expecting to do very well but highlights included Great Egret (Otmoor tick), male Bar-tailed Godwit, 6 Whimbrel, 1 Spotted Redshank, 2 Ruff, 2 Dunlin, 1 Black-tailed Godwit, the Glossy Ibis,  2 Hobby (Otmoor NFYs), Grasshopper Warbler, over 40 Yellow Wagtails,  White-fronted Goose, 2 Cranes, Cuckoos, Bitterns and Curlews. Full Ebird list HERE.

Great White Egret
Whimbrels on flood field. also two on Big Otmoor and a calling bird
Male Bar-tailed Godwit
Swallow collecting nesting material. 
Dawn over Otmoor 
Dusk over Otmoor 
A misty start 
This was the original plan to cover these three routes but we deviated a bit and went on a footpath west of the usual route between Noke and Oddington track and Isaac did a full circuit while I met Holly and Jacob for a picnic. We started in Noke Wood for woodland specialities such as Marsh Tit, Coal Tit, Nuthatch, Treecreeper and then targeted various areas for localised species and ended up at the screens for dusk to see birds coming into roost.

Saturday, 17 April 2021

Slow April

Its been quite a cold April with a rather persistent northerly and despite plenty of sun during the day it's been cold particularly at night. Seems like spring has been unfolding rather slowly as a result with morning frosts, very few moths and birds trickling in without any classic fall conditions. Despite this there was an interesting large fall mid-week of Willow Warblers and Wheatears during a frosty clear morning at Portland (and nowhere else on south coast by looks of it) so seems like a concentrated flock of migrants hit the cold air mass resulting in an unpredictable and atypical fall there. Also despite the cold weather there's been some quality migrants pushing through slowly with lots of stop offs by the looks of it- there was Greenshank and Whimbrel at the farmlands this morning in clear conditions. 

I've not been able to get out as much as liked as busy moving out of the obs and having to quote on Wednesday and Thursday at moment too. Had a look round Little Woodcote with Sid on Friday morning (no migrants except for a single Blackcap), had a Whitethroat on Biker's yesterday on a walk with Gillian across Mitcham Common (very few migrants there too) and been keeping an eye out the obs window- not much apart from a few Swallows. 

The mini-farm at the Old Vic is going pretty slow too but broad beans and peas are in and garlic and spring onions are doing well. Got Parsley growing in the window and no sign of the potatoes coming up yet that we put in a few weeks ago. 

So all rather slow- a good time to look a things you wouldn't usually have time to look at and appreciate common stuff.  

We reared these Painted Lady butterflies with Jacob (bought a kit from InsectLore). Not sure if they survived as the day after we let them go it snowed heavily. 

The mini-farm Monday morning and the mini-farm Monday afternoon (more or less). The coach house conversion is coming on well. 

Garden of the week at work was this colourful wildlife garden in Morden
Little Woodcote- a pleasant walk with Sid but nothing too exciting Ebird list HERE
Jackdaws at the Old Vicarage
A couple of bees at the Old Vic- will identify once I can get in the mobile obs and get my books - the van is currently packed full with Thee Bryans music studio which we are moving to Harrison's new loft studio in Gloucester.

According to my new PlantNet app this is annual sowthistle- a new one for the Old Vic pan species list I believe. 
St George's Mushrooms for breakfast at Lee and Rachel's on Saturday morning - Lee's wildlife garden is looking great and St George's mushrooms with garden chives on toast was even better 

Saw out first juvenile passerine in the garden but unfortunately Izzy saw it too
First harvest of the year- the spring onions that we put in during December. Mini-farm 2021 (below)- need to tidy this up and get everything planted up but this weekend we put in carrots, radish, kale and beetroots. Bryan put the sugar snap peas and broad beans in already and we put the potatoes in earlier in March so things are getting there. Tomatoes, more peas and runner beans are in the green house. 

Wednesday, 14 April 2021

Beddington migrants

 A pretty good evening tonight with Kojak (back in town), Zach, Ian, Bettlejuice and Dave. Ebird list HERE. Highlights included an Oystercatcher, 2 Wheatear, 2 White Wagtail, 1 Yellow Wagtail, 15 Swallow, 3 Willow Warbler, 1 Reed Warbler, 3 LRP, 6 Greensand , Yellow-legged Gull and 13 Lapwing. Also today (not seen by me) were 4 Med Gulls, Black Redstart, a possible Turtle Dove and yesterday there was Redstart, Nightingale and Ring Ouzel. 

White Wagtail 
A pair of Buzzard 
The usual first-winter Yellow-legged Gull 

Quick Winter


Woke up to a winter scene at the Old Vicarage on Monday morning. By mid-day it had all melted, sun was shining with Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps singing and Swallow flying over. 

Sunday, 11 April 2021

Otmoor migrants

Cleaned up on a few new for years today with a notable increase in Spring migrants since last week. Ebird list HERE. New for years included Cuckoo, Yellow Wagtail and House Martin and other highlights included the Glossy Ibis, Common Cranes and 5 White-fronted Geese.

Crane fly-by
Willow Warbler singing with Song Thrush and Wren. Other recordings on the Ebird list HERE

I did the airfield in the afternoon: 5 Wheatears but otherwise pretty quiet. No Yellow or White Wagtails. There's up to 15 White Wagtails at Port Meadow at the moment but I couldn't find any in this neck of the woods. Had to make do with our stunning British race. 

Male Pied Wagtail 

Thursday, 8 April 2021

White-tailed Eagle from the window!

 Ian Jones found a White-tailed Eagle flying over the farmlands today. Luckily I had popped back to the flat just at the right time when the message came in and I was lucky enough to pick it up as it flew off to the south. I must have picked it up from about a mile away. More information on facebook post below.

Record shot from my window 

One to add to the all time Birds from the window post HERE, Could be a fitting end to my time at the obs and the mega window.
Posted by Peter Alfrey on Thursday, April 8, 2021

Tuesday, 6 April 2021

Easter Weekend

It was a busy family period with family visits and Jacob's birthday. Managed to get to Otmoor on Saturday morning . Ebird list HERE, the highlights being the Glossy Ibis, a couple of LRP, Whitefronts hanging in there, a pair of Garganey, 3 Bittern booming and Ruffs, Dunlins, Curlew and Redshanks.

It was too cold for moth trapping and has been particularly cold today and yesterday with snow and an unseasonal Arctic blast.

A visit to the airfield on Sunday was very quiet, just a single Wheatear and a Peregrine.

As it's been cold I've been catching up on a bit of 'lab' work too. Worked out my moth list - it's 632 species for the UK. Need to add the European (and World) ones next. Also been reading up on my 50th birthday birding trip, New Guinea to see Birds of Paradise in September 2022 and been preparing to attempt to get out to Bulgaria for late April/May this year to work on our project out there (might cost up to £400 in covid tests - double the price of the flights!) . 

Also had a quick look at the Otmoor Ebird data for 2021 so far HERE. A few interesting patterns emerging as spring unfolds:

WINTER BIRDS LEAVING (Peak in mid-winter and gradually declining) 


Golden Plover 


EARLY SPRING WADERS ARRIVING (Late February to Early March) 




HARD WEATHER MOVEMENT (Influx of Skylark during cold snap)

SPRING BIRDS ARRIVING (Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler) 

Chiffchaff- wintering birds moving into position and then later boost of regional migrants 
Willow Warbler 

Friday, 2 April 2021

Beddington moths and New Genny

There was a couple of unseasonably warm days in the week but the best night for moths was Wednesday night when cloud came in. Had a few new for years.

Also took the plunge and invested in a new generator both for the campervan and off grid moth trapping. If all goes to plan I will be homeless and living in the van by May.  

Brindled Pug 
Double-striped Pug
This baby means I will be fully off grid with full power - not cheap