Sunday, 13 April 2014


After the early morning mist cleared...

... morning sunlight revealed the local agricultural monoculture in all it's ghastly yellow:

A few summer migrants clung to the hedgerows, Chiffchaffs, Blackcaps and now a few Willow Warblers. A single Swallow flew north. But the fields of rapeseed do not harbour wildlife. If I was going to find something I needed different habitat. I headed south and saw a field of newly emerging broad beans near Denton. If there was anywhere that was going to attract a migrant species (and lets face it Wheatear is the only realistic one), it would be here. I scanned the field from the road and on my very first pass... found 3 Wheatears, right in the far corner:

To say that they were distant was an understatement. 2 males and 1 female:

75 species for the year. 104 bird species (+2 escaped species) for the area since 2008.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014


It was a morning of flashbacks. As I headed out into the fields to the east of the village I was reminded of an identical morning three years before, April 7th 2011. On that memorable morning there was a movement in the hedgerow by the private pond and bang - a male Redstart appeared. This morning, on virtually the same day of the year, with the same warm early morning sun shining down, there was a movement in the same hedgerow. A flash of red... and a Robin appears. Lightening did not strike twice. 

But the first Willow Warbler of the year began singing:

Joining the Skylarks in the more open areas:
I began heading back only to notice another movement in the hedgerow... I lifted my binoculars, only to see another Robin. Then another movement behind it... and lightning struck twice: a cracking male Redstart. It looked over it's shoulder, a blaze of grey, black and orange, then flew to the back of the hedgerow. I waited. I waited some more. I scanned the hedgerow. I waited some more. I walked slowly along the length of the hedgerow. Nothing. A beautiful two second view and it was never seen again. But it looked exactly like this, a photo of the 2011 bird:

Close up, such as this bird I photographed in Scotland many years ago, they are real stunners:

This is the first record of Redstart in Oxfordshire this year and the 4th Redstart I have found around Cuddesdon since 2008. There are two spring records of males, 7th April 2011 and 9th April 2014; and two autumn records, a male on 12th September 2009 and a female/juvenile on 27th September 2012. Redstart was regarded as a scarce passage migrant in Oxfordshire, but the appearance of newly fledged young on Otmoor in recent summers suggests that they could be breeding locally, with Wytham Woods being a prime possible site. It is also nice to see Cuddesdon add to the county year list on the Oxon Bird Log

# 153 Redstart 9th April Cuddesdon

That does not happen often!

72 species for the year. 104 bird species (+2 escaped species) for the area since 2008. 

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Still waiting

This week has seen some sunshine...

... and the first short-range summer migrants arrive. The Blackcaps are in: 

 As are good numbers of singing Chiffchaffs:

 Peacocks could be found everywhere, basking in the sun:

But this morning, in the cool gloom, I had hoped that the first long distance trans-Saharan migrants may have arrived. A Swallow, a Whitethroat, a Willow Warbler? No such luck. The last of the Fieldfares have gone, but spring is not quite here. I was reduced to taking pictures of a Mute Swan on the river:

When a Kingfisher flashed past. April has been the best month for this species for a few years now, as birds move back onto their breeding territories. It was far too fast and dark to get a good picture, but this is how you see them, a line of bright flashing blue shooting past low over the water:

And that, apart from a Snipe by the river and this stag Roe Deer in the rape crop, was it:

69 species for the year. 104 bird species (+2 escaped species) for the area since 2008. 

Sunday, 30 March 2014


I went out expecting Spring this morning, maybe the first Wheatear, perhaps the outside chance of an Ouzel? There was a feeling of potential.

The floods are all but gone, however they have left their mark. A white coating of silt over all the riverside vegetation:

But instead of Spring I was left with the remains of winter. 60 Fieldfares still by the river, an unseen fly-over Redpoll and a late Snipe:

However, the local residents can feel Spring coming. Maybe next weekend will be better:

Sunday, 16 March 2014


Warm and blue this morning:

The Old English name for birds like the local Long-tailed Tits, below, is Titmice. "TitmiceMiddle English titemose , titmase ; tit small, or a small bird + Anglo-Saxon māse a kind of small bird; akin to Dutch mees a titmouse, German meise": 

Not to be confused with a real mouse, such as this Wood Mouse, that has spent the week feasting on my bird seed:

Whisker details. Now that is a narrow depth of field. Being primarily nocturnal, this apparatus helps Wood Mice sense and feel the world:

Tuesday, 11 March 2014


I had better luck with the local Wood Mouse this morning:


Sunday, 9 March 2014

Early signs

This morning saw a sudden influx of wildlife into our garden. Firstly, this Toad:

That's me, reflected in the pupil:

Then a lightning fast Wood Mouse, no doubt attracted by the bird seed:

The spring bulbs were a little less mobile:

Out in the fields, it was the sort of day that made the local residents throw back their heads and sing. Song Thrush:

Corn Bunting:


Red Kite:

The flood meadows have been under water for 3 months now, but at last it is receding:

Not a single winter thrush was feeding in the winter wheat. Last weekend the fields held over 600 Fieldfares. I wondered if the mild weather had stimulated them into beginning the migration back to their breeding grounds. But they had simply found the rich supply of food revealed by the falling flood waters. Redwings zipped over, flashing the underwing colours that give them their name:

While the Fieldfares concentrated at the waters edge. Perhaps 300 present here today:

Most of these thrushes will be back in Scandinavia before the months end. Spring is coming.