Sunday 31 January 2021

More January moths

I've had the LED on at the Beddington 'obs' in the week and had 3 Spring Ushers one night and an Agonopterix alstromeriana on another. When I arrived at the 'country retreat' at the Old Vic yesterday there was an Early moth on the wall. Unlike others who have bothered putting the trap out in deepest darkest winter I have not had Chestnuts, Pale Brindled Beauty, any Acleris sp and of course not the slightest sniff of the deep winter speciality Black-spotted Chestnut which has been caught not too far away from the Old Vic recently HERE.

Early moth
Spring Ushers (above and belows) . No discal spots and all the same size and shape so I'm going for Spring Usher on all of them despite the 'extreme' variation. Here's a couple of others from earlier too showing more variation including melanism HERE

Friday 29 January 2021

A couple of Beddington gulls

 A couple of presumed Yellow-legged Gulls from Beddington this week. More on Yellow-legged Gulls that have featured on this blog HERE

I also did some scoring of recent Caspian Gulls at Beddington using British Birds scoring system HERE. The non-classic first winter that has been around for a while HERE came out with a score of 21- just on the line of an acceptable Caspian. Interestingly as I was scoring the bird and going through the paper it was interesting to confirm that the dark mask and head and body streaking and the dark triangles in the scapulars were at the variation limit of pure Caspian, and not necessarily indicative of hybridisation although the bird was right on the line. 

A presumed first-winter Yellow-legged Gull, seems to be a lot of pale in the inner primaries and there are even lozenges on the outer webs of the inner primaries (photo below) which are not typical for Yellow-legged Gull. Also the scapular and mantle pattern is quite lightly marked. Presumably all within variation of first-winter Yellow-legged Gull.  Here's GRO's January first-winter Yellow-legged Gulls, showing some of the variation within the inner primary window  HERE

Presumed first-winter Yellow-legged Gull (left and below) and first-winter Herring Gull (right) 

Another Yellow-legged Gull candidate, a second-winter bird

Monday 25 January 2021

Otmoor Winter Wonderland

Had to get another full day in at Otmoor during mid-winter and what with the wintery conditions at the moment seemed like no better day than today. Ebird list HERE. Highlights included a single Crane, 75 White-fronted Goose, a passage of Skylarks moving low southwest (204 counted by mid-afternoon), Hen and Marsh Harriers, at least 150 Snipe and 90 Pintail, Redwings and Fieldfares on the move and a couple of Marsh Tit. Golden Plover numbers seemed lower than usual (about 1500) and for the first time this winter seemed like they were out numbered by Lapwings (approx 2000). 

Juvenile White-fronted Goose 
Adult and juvenile White-fronted Goose (above and  below) 

Good numbers of Wigeon and Teal about (estimated 2500 Wigeon and 1500 Teal) 
Second-cycle male Marsh Harrier 
Adult Red Kite 
The ring-tail Hen Harrier- I've yet to see this bird well, always seem to see it flying distantly over Greenaways 
Redwings on the move 
Skylarks on the move 
Marsh Tit at Beckley 
At least 150 Snipe today flying around in groups across Greenaways and Big Otmoor 
A rather interesting well marked bird (bottom right). These two birds show the range of underwing markings. The bottom bird isn't far off what to expect in a Wilson's Snipe (even has narrow white trailing edge to the secondaries). However the bird is richly coloured on the head and breast sides and also lacks 'tiger stripes' down the flanks. The underwing pattern should also been even darker with thicker black zig zags (thicker than the intervening white) . Not sure what these well marked birds indicate? Either variation or population related (not sure what Northern Atlantic island populations are supposed to look like but I remember reading something). 

Yellowhammer, Reed Buntings, Chaffinch and Linnets at the ground feeding area
View over towards Frozen Oddington 
Flooded and Frozen MOD land 
View from Beckley over Otmoor 

Sunday 24 January 2021

Snow Interval

Well that sort of broke things up a bit. Sounds like its all over by tomorrow but nice to see classic winter landscapes, albeit briefly. Not a real cold spell (it was a westerly airflow bringing an Atlantic front into cold air rather than northerly/easterlies bringing in cold air and snow from the Arctic/ Continent) so presumably only limited bird displacement- just a few Lapwings over Worminghall. 

View over Oxfordshire/Buckinghamshire from Brill Windmill (above and below) 

The Old Vic in the snow 
The garden brook 
Garden Redwings 

Friday 22 January 2021

Beddington Farmlands, Gull session

This first-winter Caspian-type Gull has been around for a while (Photos from December 2020). Still haven't scored it yet using British Birds published criteria but there's a few interesting features such as the darkish mask,  streaking on hind neck and crown, atypical pale at the base of the bill and extensive dark in the tail (two images below).  I certainly miss the days when we used to have three or four different Caspian Gulls on any one day during the winter (when the landfill was operational). Here's a blog search for Caspian Gulls that we've had over the years : HERE. 290121- finally scored this bird, results HERE

A much better photo of the same bird at QE2 Reservoir taken by Dave Harris
Had this adult Yellow-legged Gull today (didn't look as dark as this in field, in this image it looks more herring x lesser black-backed gull toned ). Also in the field the legs were chrome yellow.  
This first-winter bird (on left) stood out from the crowd in having a contrasting pale head and extensively dark and uniform coverts and tertials. It was quite small too and even reminded me a bit of first-winter Armenian Gull (which are like diminutive first-winter Yellow-legged Gulls ). Here's a photo of Armenian Gulls that I took in Turkey in 2009 (below).  Armenian Gull has now been recorded in NW Europe (an adult) so it's worth bearing in mind but identifying a first-winter would be extremely difficult. The bird above is most likely the result of hybridisation or variation .

Another interesting gull that stood out today. A second-winter bird with a long pink based and dark tipped bill. Again either the result of variation of hybridisation. 
This handsome first-winter Lesser Black-backed Gull was just outside the hide 

Monday 18 January 2021

Local Woodcock

Went for a local walk yesterday afternoon from Holly's and great to bump into local birders Luke and Nick Marriner. One of the highlights of the walk was this LEO and  Woodcock at dusk . 

Friday 15 January 2021

Moths off the block

Caught my first adult moths of the year two nights ago at the Beddington trap. The first relatively mild evening in a few weeks. 

Spring Usher , update 170121- see comments, probably a Mottled Umber based on wing shape presumably. A very variable moth and the pattern on this seems similar to Spring Usher variants. Update later on 170121- ok we are back to Spring Usher on this (see comments- thanks Stewart and Billy) . Here's a selection of other Mottled Umbers from the blog showing those discal spots HERE.
Light Brown Apple moth (above) and Winter moth (below). Update 170121- see comments below (thanks Edward!) . Probably a melanic Spring Usher (below). Update late 170121- a general agreement that yes it's a melanic Spring Usher. 

I've learnt moths, the 'fools-way' (internet swarm learning) where I take photos, compare to on line resources like what's flying tonight pages (where identification is also based on probability based on time of year and location) and if stuck seek advice from the internet community and try and memorise the results. Its certainly the fastest way to learn but prone to leakage!  I learnt birds the proper-way, digesting volumes and volumes of books and journals and teaching myself with the help of tutors/local birders. So have I ruled out an acleris sp for the above micro or other aggregate species with the macro below? I better get my books out :-) Update 170121  - I got my books out (which were at Holly's) and post edited accordingly (thanks all for comments too).     

Thursday 14 January 2021

Red Fox- copulatory tie


A pair of foxes were in the obs garden this afternoon mating. The mating resulted in the animals getting stuck together, a phenomenon called 'Copulatory Tie'. There is a bone like structure in the penis called the baculum and the tip of this swells in an area of tissue called the bulbus glandis. This swelling causes the male and female to get locked together. Release occurs when the swelling is reduced following ejaculation. Source Here . It can last for up to 90 minutes but these two got unlocked after about 30 minutes.