Wednesday, 15 September 2021


I had my second covid vaccination two days ago (moderna) and just recovering now. I developed side effects that knocked me back into bed for most of yesterday and slowly recovering today. I had to abort a visit to Farmoor after struggling to walk round the reservoir and then got kicked when down on finding out a couple of Roseate Terns appeared a few hours later. All rather amusing but quite angry I wasn't made aware that I should have booked two days off following the jab- I was completely jabbered and its messed up a very busy week. 

Annoying too, as I've very much been in the vaccine hesitancy camp. I find a problem in having to react to a lead cultural narrative where one low risk (covid with a death rate of 0.018) is pitched against another low risk (side effects of vaccine- even lower than that). Even though these risks are miniscule and there are  much higher daily risks (e.g. in 2020 worldwide causes of death were 1.8 milllion to covid, 4.2 million to Diabetes, 9 million to Cancer, 5.5 million to Stroke and 17 million to heart disease and the human population increased by 81 million people to now be at 7.8 billion ((Google Search))) there is a powerful psychological game at play that is being manipulated by the establishment to keep the attention of the masses and to control the cultural narrative. Even if the risks are tiny (for anyone not in the high risk categories) there is an anxiety about not being vaccinated and the fear of social ostracism and life long regret (if those low risks were ever realised) that drives aversive behaviour. On top of that there are the social benefits of being vaccinated (e.g. no quarantine for amber listed countries and the dangling carrot of vaccine passports). Once that is compounded further by daily images of unvaccinated people dying on ventilators begging the world to get vaccinated and not be fools like them (which is pure propaganda) the whole thing is clearly a perfect example of mass psychological control. 

The real problems in society are grotesque inequality (which is linked to the biggest killers) and the ecological and climate emergency. Covid is being used in an Orwellian way to turn a lesser threat into the greatest threat and turning the greatest threats into side shows. On top of that covid is believed to be zoonotic in origin (originated from wild animals which are stressed due to habitat destruction and captivity) and actually caused by the ecological crisis and attempting to solve that threat by starting a vaccine arms race with a rapidly evolving pathogen could be suicidal.

And there lies the problem, according to official stats (Google Search)  over 60 percent of the UK population are now vaccinated. Restrictions have more or less been lifted and as we enter the winter we are likely to see a new wave (vaccinated people still get and spread covid). In this unrestricted environment the number of cases could rise to millions and in that environment the pathogen will mutate requiring constant boosters. You wouldn't want to be an unvaccinated person in that new environment of even more deadly strains of covid, so the arms race has begun and unless you are vaccinated you are not keeping up with the race. If the race was never started the anti-vax argument was stronger. It's a terrible situation to be in and one that requires life long dependency on vaccinations and who knows what the long term effect of that will be.

Surely a better approach is one that involves halting the ecological emergency, re-building ecosystems and nature and ethical animal husbandry (to prevent future zoonotic diseases) and building more resilience in herd natural immunity (better diets and personal health and more equality), de-crowding (people moving out of cities and spreading to less populated parts of the world and work remotely) and shielding and vaccinating only the most vulnerable groups. We need natural capital accounting, multi-value indices systems to replace GDP, we need GoogleDemocracy (online mass decision making), carbon prices, carbon border adjustments, net biodiversity loss border adjustments etc etc. Covid is a warning shot to upgrade corporate capitalism to natural-social-economic capital systems which are more efficient and less dense (some of the changes are happening naturally with people already moving out of cities and working remotely etc).  That would be better than this big government and big business approach of business as usual destroying the planet and the cure will be found by (big pharma and stock market driven companies) that very same system. Surely this road is the road to escalating disaster? I missed two Roseate Terns because of it, which proves it is already :-) Excellent pics on Oxon Birding Blog HERE and HERE

Anyway before I had to abort my Farmoor mission yesterday I saw 2 Dunlin. 

Looks like my birding forecast was right with a small drop of American vagrants in Iceland today HERE. Next drop Outer Hebrides/ Northern Isles? 

Monday, 13 September 2021

Old Vic moths and Otmoor migrants

Did Otmoor this morning. Migrant counts (and a couple of other bits) HERE. I just concentrated on Long Meadow, Morleys and July Meadow (seem like the best places to get something decent like Wryneck, Red-backed Shrike, Barred Warbler, Melodious/Icterine or Ortolan- all with odds peaking at moment) . Meadow Pipits are now moving overhead and groups of Swallows are moving through so it really feels like core autumn now especially with Chiffchaffs everywhere. Unfortunately no scarce migrants again, highlights was a couple of Redstarts. 

307 moths (200 of them just two species- Common Wainscot and Setaceous Hebrew Character) of 38 species in the Old Vic trap last night, no new for years but all the autumn classics; Lunar Underwings, Black Rustic, Cabbage moth, Frosted Orange, Centre-barred Sallow (although no other Sallows yet) and another Feathered Gothic. 

Feathered Gothic
Frosted Orange
Black Rustic
Centre-barred Sallow 

Incredible variation in Common Marbled Carpet (five images above) - presuming they are all Common Marbled anyway 
Lots of moths- not too many species 
Lunar Underwings are just appearing - the moth clock is ticking 
Was surprised to see this Shark 
The tit and warbler flock is still around the garden with Willow Warbler (didn't see any at Otmoor amongst the 20+ Chiffs), 2 Blackcaps and Chiffchaff (below). Also up to 6 Mistle Thrush about and Mipits, Yellow Wagtails, Swallows and House Martins have been migrating overhead. The garden Buzzard was joined by five kettling overhead on the weekend. Tawny Owls are calling again.

Another weekend, another wildlife park. This time back to Cotswold Wildlife Park to do some toddler twitching. Believe it or not we actually dipped. We went to see the Armadillo that we missed last time we were there and it was still not showing. Almost missed out on the Sloths too (awful views! zoo twitching is harder than it may sound). Did see the Clouded Leopards (above). I'm still in shock of how many different species are kept in collection in the zoos and parks in this area- Anacondas, Siamangs, Marmosets, Tamarins, Red Pandas, Binturongs, Tamanduas, Tapirs, Tragopans, Lemurs, Sifakas, Mouse lemurs- from an evolutionary and species distribution perspective, it's insane! I'd never heard of most of that stuff before all this shit started. 
Sclater's Crowned Pigeon
Jacob with his first field guide, twitching everything in the book, good lad! 
Little dipper, he took his first dip well with a Mr Whippy sedative

Sunday, 12 September 2021

Birding Forecast

 An interesting week ahead with three main themes

1) A deep area of low pressure (the remnants of a tropical storm that didn't make landfall but tracked north over western North Atlantic) south of Greenland heading towards Iceland over next day or two

2) A small depression forming over Newfoundland and heading into low pressure above and the formation of a westerly airflow that affects the Outer Hebrides/West Coast of UK by late in the week

3) The rest of the UK affected by high pressure and varying east to north winds with some rain over next two days and then mainly clear and cold nights

Forecast for next Saturday 18th September

So on that basis I predict

1) The possibility of nearctic vagrants in Iceland/ Western Scotland- early September could hold potential for a mega too (a Cape May Warbler was found on the Azores yesterday- although that was unrelated to any obvious weather- the weather doesn't actually look great for the Azores but always a good chance there if there is any storm activity in the North Atlantic ) 

2) Potential for sea watching in strong westerly airflow on west coast of UK (mainly to north)

3) Potential for slow drift migrants in UK due to light easterly airflow, probably best in rain and cloud (better over next two days)  

4) Low night temperatures will mean moth catches less but easterly conditions earlier this autumn produced migrants so could be some migrants 

Birding Plan

 Apart from heading to the Outer Hebrides/ Northern Isles (which I can't), not too many strong indicators to do anything in particular apart from monitor the situation, stay local and look for drift migrants. No harm in keeping the moth trap going despite the low night temperatures (the catch last night was 50% of what it has been recently) 

Saturday, 11 September 2021

The Old Vicarage- racing towards 500

 If I've identified them correctly we've had a few more firsts for the Old Vic over the last day or two which takes us to 484 moth species. Hoping to get to 500 by the end of this year. We had two main targets this year for the Old Vic, to get to 1000 pan-species (done HERE ) and the 500 moth species target.  We've actually had 408 species in 2021 alone.  49 species of over 200 moths today.  

About 4 Chiffchaffs, 2 Willow Warbler, 2 Blackcap, 3 Goldcrest and 2 Coal Tit in the garden tit flock at the moment, with the usual Buzzard in the Spruce, a Raven and a group of 6 Mistle Thrush. Had a Yellowhammer go over calling and also Swallows and House Martins circling overhead. Looked like House Martins were moving over yesterday in small groups. 

Webb's Wainscot (above and below)

Large Groundling (awaiting confirmation) 
Dark Sword Grass- some success on the migrant front with this and also a Silver Y and some migrant suspects such as several White-point, Angle Shades, Pale Mottled Willows and a Turnip 

Clifden Nonpariels (above and below) Waited years for our first and now four in last few days. Two today including this tatty one above and a pristine one below. We can identify them as different moths due to the nicks in the wings and state of wear. I must experiment with wine ropes soon as that method is supposed to be better than lights for attracting the Underwing moths. 

Friday, 10 September 2021

Beddington Farmlands- Garganey and Wood Sandpiper

 Another interesting evening session at the farmlands yesterday with Zach. Ebird list HERE with highlights including a juvenile Garganey, a Wood Sandpiper, Greenshank, 18 Green Sandpiper, 4 Common Sandpiper, 23 Snipe, the juvenile Great Crested Grebe, 8 Wigeon, 1 Pintail, 3 Swift and over 800 Ring-necked Parakeets flying to roost. 

Ring-necked Parakeets
........and back at the Old Vicarage, I've been going all in on trying to catch some more migrant moths following quite a large migrant influx over the south of UK during the last few days. I've had another (or the same) Vagrant Piercer, another Clifden Nonpariel (above), the odd Turnip moth, Silver-Y, a handful of Angle Shades and a few White-points. Also very large numbers of Common Wainscot (200+) and Setaceous Hebrew Characters which may be dispersal related too.  Other inland moth recorders have recorded Beautiful Marbled (in Bucks) , Striped Hawkmoths and the usual Rush Veneers and Diamond-back and on the coast there have been lots of Vestals, Delicates, Scarce Bordered Straws,  Pearly Underwing, Gems, Olive-tree Pearls, the odd Porter's Rustic, Convolvulus Hawkmoth and Diasemiopsis ramburialis. Fingers crossed the recent south west winds blow a few of these inland here.  

Wednesday, 8 September 2021

Waterstock Mill mothing

Another good mothing session with Henry at Waterstock Mill. A whopping 477 moths of 51 species (interesting to compare the diversity with high summer where 500 moths would get you over 100 species). Highlights including another Vagrant Piercer and lots of nice autumn classics.

Vagrant Piercer, according to the CMR probably less than six records in Oxon
Gold Spot
Rosy Rustic
Great Diving Beetle


Tuesday, 7 September 2021

Vagrant Piercer, The Old Vicarage

 Been hoping for one of these for a while now. A nice surprise finally seeing one in the trap this morning, Vagrant Piercer, Cydia Amplana. Only the 6th record for Bucks. 

51 species and over 200 moths in the trap overall including Black Rustic, Cypress Carpet and a few I'd thought we had seen the last of for this year including Waved Umber and White-backed Marble. The heatwave continues so hopefully more good moths over next couple of days.

I popped over to Otmoor for a few hours this morning. My forecast for this week was pretty good so far with a Little Stint found at Otmoor  over the weekend and a Wryneck found at Oddington yesterday (I spent all day looking for one in the south of the site!). Also a flock of Black Terns at Farmoor. So the forecast was good but my bird finding not so good- all I found was a Spotted Flycatcher in the garden (a good garden migrant) and Spot Flys and a few common migrants at Otmoor.  Certainly a drift migrant theme supported by Whinchats and Spot Flys, Redstarts etc. Also the migrant moth prediction came good with the Vagrant Piercer - at least I found something. 

Highlights at Otmoor today were a 2nd calendar year male Marsh Harrier, 2 Redstart, a Kingfisher, Grasshopper Warbler and Brown and Purple Hairstreaks. 

Monday, 6 September 2021

Clifden Nonpariel and Otmoor Migrants

A really nice day today. The day started with a Clifden Nonpariel (Blue Underwing) in the moth trap and the good vibe kept up all day. Ebird list from Otmoor HERE, highlights included 2 Spotted Flycatcher, 5 Redstart (2 male, 3 female), 6 Whinchat, 1 Mandarin (Oxon tick), an incredible 18 Cattle Egret (including juveniles which are presumably the Blenheim Park fledged young), Oystercatcher, 6 Garganey, 5 Hobby and good numbers of Chiffchaffs, Blackcaps and Lesser Whitethroats.

Absolute stunner- a first for the garden. 

Cattle Egrets at Otmoor
Juveniles and adult Cattle Egret
Mandarin from the second screen 
Plenty of migrants today including Spotted Flycatcher (above), Redstarts (below), Whinchats (below that) and Chiffchaffs (below that) and other warblers 

Brown Hairstreak (above) and Small Heath (below) . Not that many butterflies about considering the weather today (25 C) but a few Small Whites, Speckled Woods and Ellen saw a Painted Lady too (which has been on the path for the last week or so)  

Stacks of dragonflies today including Migrant Hawker (above) , Common Darters (below), Ruddy Darter, Southern Hawker, Brown Hawker and Emperor. Must have been 500-1000 Common Darters across the site (I counted over 300 over Greenaways alone) and the Red Kites (25+) and Hobby (5+) were feeding on the swarms.  

Muntjac appeared today, as did a Fallow Deer on Morleys, had a Common Lizard cross the path (a dark juvenile). 
The first Brown-spot Pinion of the year. Also 2 Red Underwing today to go with the 'Blue Underwing' . Over 120 Common Wainscots and 90 Setaceous Hebrew Character- so well over 200 moths in the trap and the weather is keeping up with night temperatures holding up so expecting some more excitement over next few days. I decided to stay local rather than go to the coast as Jacob looked a bit frazzled from his first days at school when we picked him up from school on Friday (the school chicken attacked him apparently) but hopefully he settles in after a week or so (he seemed perky enough today so hopefully all good to go next week). 
The first Old Lady for the garden over the weekend

Starvember (me eating nothing but food we've grown) has taken a turn for the better as Holly has refused to let me waste away so has been whipping up some excellent salads and recipes from the garden food- happy days (seriously happy days!)