Tuesday 28 September 2021

Otmoor and Old Vic

A nice couple of days locally. I made the most of the last of the recent run of moth weather on Sunday night (temperatures above 15 C) and put out three traps, all undercover because of the frontal conditions that moved in during the early hours putting an end to the decent moth nights and bringing in unsettled weather. Highlights included another Clifden Nonpariel (5th for the year) and a Mallow (NFY). The only sniff of a migrant was a Turnip and Angle Shades. 

Otmoor this morning was steady with a few nice bits about including Great Egret, Garganey, Marsh Harrier and Pintails, a handful of warblers in the bushes and a bit of Mipit and Swallow passage overhead. Ebird list HERE. No Cattle Egrets which look like they've moved to Port Meadow. 5 Jays were flying around (a classic sight this time of year) and a few Skylarks have returned after being largely absent (or inconspicuous) since mid-July (Ebird graph HERE)- where did they go?? Wigeon, Teal and Pintail are slowly arriving while Tufted Duck and Pochard have presumably moved to moult on reservoirs (Pochard graph HERE). Not many Gadwalls either HERE, About 120 Lapwings HERE , presumably local post -breeding dispersal birds so basically all a bit of an interlude period before the wintering flocks start to build up of wetland birds. 

While playing around with Ebird I noticed I've had quite a few Oxfordshire ticks this year (not found much but seen a few new bits) . I've had 14 county ticks this year compared to only 6 last year (presumably related to me spending more time round here). County list of 167  HERE. Be nice to find a county mega- hopefully can focus on that more.  Been some good birds in the county this year, county blog HERE

Great Egret (above) with Lapwing, Pintail, Shoveler, Teal and Mallard
Two Garganey
24 Wigeon from the first screen today- winter is coming 
Clifden Nonpariel at the Old Vic
Grey-streaked Diamond back 
Managed to keep the traps dry and the moths safe by placing traps on the veranda and the barn shelter- worked a treat, the moths tool refuge from the frontal conditions. Over 100 moths of 32 species. Now on 488 moth species for the Old Vic (and 1016 pan-species). 12 more for the next milestone, 500 species of moth for site. 

Monday 27 September 2021

Corvo 2021

Looks like I'll be doing the Corvo blog again this year so here's the first post for 2021 (below) and link to blog HERE so please follow that blog to keep up with this years sightings and developments: 

Welcome to this year's autumn season birding on Corvo. Once again things have got off to an incredible start with a Warbling Vireo found on September 25th by Pierre-Andre Crochet and Paul Doniol-Valcroze. If accepted this will be a first for the Western Palearctic. The Western Palearctic's sixth Chestnut-sided Warbler (and third record for the Azores) was also found the same day. 

Previous to this epic opening first full day by the French team, Tim Collins and Mags Grindle from the UK spent 11th to 20th September on the island and highlights included a Yellow Warbler and a Buff-breasted Sandpiper.

The first main wave of birders will arrive next week. More information can be found on the Corvo Birders facebook page HERE

Birders are encouraged to use Ebird to record all bird species on the island including common birds and migrants (Hotspot map here) which will support the work of the local report writing team and rarities committees. Many thanks in advance! 

If you are visiting Corvo for the first time this year then maps of the birding locations and other information can be found in this Dutch Birding paper HERE. More information and access to previous reports and papers can be found HERE

Warbling Vireo, photos above and below (Paul Doniol-Valcroze). A first for the Western Palearctic and quite a challenging identification. Distinguished from Philadelphia Vireo by paler lores, more attenuated structure, less contrast between crown and upperparts and the yellow hues being concentrated more on the sides and underparts than the throat. If the wing formula can be seen then Warbling Vireo has a short p10 (outermost primary) which extends beyond the primary coverts (barely discernible in Philly). In addition to separation from Philadelphia Vireo there are also Eastern and Western Warbling Vireos, which could be a future split, with differences in vocalisations and Western being brighter and yellower toned. This bird appears quite bright and further expert comment would be much appreciated.  

Chestnut-sided Warbler (Paul Doniol-Valcroze)
Yellow Warbler (Tim Collins) 

Daily log:

26th September: 1 Willow Warbler 

25th September: 1 Warbling Vireo and 1 Red-eyed Vireo at Fojo, 1 Chestnut-sided Warbler at Poco d'Agua

24th September: 1 Wood Sandpiper

11th to 20th September: 1 Yellow Warbler at the Power Station from 11th to 14th, Buff-breasted Sandpiper at the reservoir on 18th, Lesser Yellowlegs at the Caldera from 16th to 18th, 4 Pectoral Sandpipers, a Spotted Sandpiper at the reservoir from 16th to 18th and up to six Glossy Ibis. There was also a report of two Grey Catbirds heard calling.  

Sunday 26 September 2021

Waterstock and Whipsnade

Another weekend another zoo with the family. Started the day off at Waterstock Mill, put the moth trap out with Henry to record some autumn moths in the good conditions. A few autumn specialities including Pink-barred Sallow, Sallows, Beautiful Hook-tip, Rosy Rustic, Beaded Chestnuts, Brown-spot Pinions, Brindled Green, Green Brindled Crescent and of course lots of Lunar Underwings. A very unseasonal Blotched Emerald was the highlight.

Really itching to start proper autumn birding which starts in early October for me (still weighing up whether to do reactive birding in UK or sit on Corvo for two weeks). Never did manage to get to Bulgaria this September which kept UK firmly on their red list.  Friends have already started the season and are in position with Pierre-Andre arriving on Corvo a couple of days ago to find Warbling Vireo (yet another first for the WP from Corvo) and also Chestnut-sided Warbler and Jaffa had a good day on St Martin's today with Western Bonelli's and a few scarce migrants too. Josh and Ed are in Ireland waiting for the system to arrive mid-week. Quite testing to be walking round a zoo with the family with all that going down but patience and pain is all part of this autumn rarity hunting game as is passing the time with everyday nature to maintain training and focus (and bag those family brownie points).   

Blotched Emerald 
Pink-barred Sallow 
Pere David's Deer- another extinct in the wild species. Zoological Society London (ZSL) have conservation projects in over 70 countries (areas). These zoos in this region really are species arks.  
Asian Rhino (Greater One-horned Rhinoceros) IUCN classified as Vulnerable
Red Panda
Jacob with Utahraptor, a Maniraptoran, an ancestor to modern day birds

Saturday 25 September 2021

Birding Forecast and a Moth flutter

Unsettled weather is due next week with a wet westerly airflow from Monday lasting most of the week. There is a slight interlude this weekend with calm and warmer conditions with south winds and night temperatures above 15 C so looks like a good weekend for moths. Not bad last night at the Old Vic with over 120 moths of 27 species, mainly Lunar Underwings (which have now taken over as lead runners from Setaceous Hebrew Character while Common Wainscot are down to single figures). A few highlights and new for years below. Old Vic moth list is now on 486.  

The rest of the week looks good if you are in Iceland again, which I put as my top bet over last three weeks (what an autumn they are having with Alder Flycatcher, American Redstart, Yellow Warbler, Semipalmated Plover, Buff-bellied Pipit, Red-eyed Vireo and American waterbirds, certainly the place to be this autumn). Could be even better for Ireland and Outer Hebs and Northern Isles with a more southerly trajectory than the last of this autumns westerly systems and also maybe good seawatching on west coast.  There could be worse places to be than the Scillies too although a bit south of the main system from mid-week. So all looks north and west again and apart from the moth opportunity this weekend it looks like another quiet week in this part of the world. Also does not look good for Azores with all the west winds moving well north and the Azores High being firmly established. However usual caveats apply, this is peak season and anything can break through the obstacles and on the Azores we suspect that shipping traffic is a major significant factor as is weather.

I'm planning on mothing at Waterstock Mill again tonight as hopefully more chance of a migrant by the river there. On my last visit the Vagrant Piercer I had was only one of only three all time records for Oxon (all recorded in that period). So fingers crossed. 

Chart for Wednesday. I'll be surprised if this doesn't work out for Ireland, Northern UK and for seawatchers on west coast. Maybe even Scilly.  This is part of an airflow that originates over Newfoundland on Monday and moves quickly across the Atlantic. Certainly a week to head west if you can. 

Brindled Green
Large Ranunculus 
Cypress Carpet
Red-Green Carpet
Beaded Chestnut
Silver Y
The bottom of the trap this morning- it's Cranefly season with 20 or so in the trap

Friday 24 September 2021

Quiet week

Been busy at work this week so little time to do much else. Managed to get to the farmlands on Thursday Ebird list here. Highlights were the Garganey, 4 Stonechat, 12 Green Sandpiper and 12 Snipe. There were a couple of Ruff about but we failed to connect with them. 

The nights have been cool with only 50 or so moths of 20 or so species. 

All feels a bit like that autumn lull between the summer migrants leaving and the winter migrants arriving.  

This partially leucistic Carrion Crow is the closest I've got to a Wood-hoopoe since restrictions. Very much looking forward to getting back out to the African rainforests at the first opportunity.
Close view of a Teal (above and two below) from the Wet Grassland hide showing the outer most tertial pattern (black thick edge with broadening white on edge), a variably straw coloured speculum bar and quite a strong head pattern which on balance is fairly typical of Eurasian Teal but these features are the key features with any attempt to find a suspect juv/female Green-winged Teal. The outer most tertial pattern is a good fit for adult female Eurasian and there is limited yellow at the base of the bill (juveniles tend to have prominent yellow at base of bill and along cutting edge). Juveniles tend to have plainer scapulars and mantle feathers too (well marked in this bird). The wing bar on the greater coverts is also broad (apparently broader than secondary trailing edge) another indication of an adult female bird (a bronze thinner greater covert bar is also another feature of adult Green-winged Teal). So I'm going for an adult female Eurasian Teal on this. 

The juvenile Garganey

Monday 20 September 2021

Purple Heron, Blenheim Park

Twitched the Purple Heron today with Holly. Ebird bits HERE

A couple of new for year moths in the trap back at the Old Vic. About 70 moths of 22 species with the numbers of Common Wainscot dropping through the floor (from over 200 to less than 10) and Lunar Underwing beginning to catch up with Setaceous Hebrew Character. Other characteristic species include Black Rustic, Willow Beauty, Dusky and Canary-shouldered Thorn, Large Yellow Underwing, Square-spot Rustic and other classic autumn local moths. 

Juvenile Purple Heron. Part of a small influx into the country over last week with birds in Norfolk, Wales, Somerset, West Sussex and Kent. 
Two juvenile Cattle Egrets presumably from the famous Blenheim Park breeding colony Birdguides article here . Three to four pairs bred on the lake island this year, the first breeding record for Oxfordshire. They raised about 10 young. The birds at Otmoor (up to 20 or so) recently have presumably originated from this pioneering population. More here  

Deep Brown Dart (or Black Rustic) ? 
Green Brindled Crescent 
A bit of Lunar Underwing variation. The straw coloured variant is similar to Beaded Chestnut which I'm still waiting for this autumn. The best identification feature for Beaded Chestnut is the narrow kidney marks. 

Sunday 19 September 2021

Birthday Weekend

It's been a weekend of high teas and parties so not much birding done. I did get the moth trap out on Friday night and had a couple of new for year moths for the garden.

Rhomboid Tortrix
Ashy Button, Acleris sparsana
A new level reached in self sufficiency, our first fully self sufficient meat meal. The dog killed one of the juvenile Woodpigeons which have recently fledged in the garden so we rustled it up. When it comes to eating Woodpigeons a juvenile is called a squab. It was very tender. Might even consider a squab harvest in the future, we've located a few nests this year as part of surveying.  Its that legal? For a species which has recently undergone a 2000 per cent population increase , conservation is not an important consideration.  

Friday 17 September 2021

Birding Forecast

Pretty much got last week spot on with a good selection of American vagrants in Iceland and a few American waterbirds in Outer Hebrides. Also a good scattering of drift migrants for the rest of UK (e.g. there was Roseate Tern and Purple Heron in Oxon and Pec Sand in London and seemingly everywhere else too) and a few migrant moths. Unfortunately my second vaccination wiped me out the game for most of the week so missed out on mid-week birding. Getting better now so hopefully back in business. 

It looks like more of the same for next week with the westerly airflow and jet streams located at relatively high latitude and looks like Iceland (and maybe Outer Hebs and Northern Isles)  is best placed again.  An interesting feature affects Mid-Atlantic early next week which could scatter Nearctic birds into the mid-Atlantic and to the Azores (although far from a perfect storm for Azores but who knows) . However it doesn't look great for the rest of the UK with a light westerly airflow. That could be good for common migrant vis mig but no so great for drift migrants. However there are some days when the light wind is coming off the North Sea and there is an interesting easterly airflow conduit over Scandinavia that could be conveyor belting migrants from further east into north west Europe, so this could lead to drift migrants or even Sprites and vagrants.  

The night temperatures are around 11 and 12 so not too great for moths and the winds don't look too favourable either. 

So once again no really strong features to respond to within my limited capacity, so will stay local again unless something interesting to twitch.  It is September after all and no matter what the weather, the time of year is just as important and there are many factors apart from weather at play in bird migration and vagrancy (see my Birdwatch articles HERE  and HERE). So basically anything can happen and its always worth putting the hours in this time of year. 

Magic Seaweed chart for Monday. The westerly airflow is mainly moving towards Iceland and north east i.e. 'over the top'
That Easterly airflow system over Russia and affecting Scandinavia could bring the goods in from further afield. However there is not much of a wind (the determined ones will still make it though) to get them across the North Sea and into the UK but there could be some rather interesting activity in the Baltic and Scandinavia. 

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