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Oxon Birding Weblog: October Overview


Highlights

Who doesn’t love Autumn? The changing of the guard, as many of
our breeding species depart and birds from the east arrive en masse. Stepping out
into the darkness on a cold autumn night and hearing the first high pitch zeeer
call of migrating redwing never ceases to make me smile. After these
first pioneering birds early in the season numbers tend to slowly build until
conditions are perfect when 10s if not 100s of thousands arrive over the course
of a few days. This year unprecedented numbers arrived on the 19th
with vis miggers across the country picking up 10s of thousands in just a few
hours. Although not quite in the same league, Oxfordshire got its share of
birds with many birds passing through during the day and 100s heard migrating
overnight.

It is another species from the east though, that made a
decent incursion into the county during October and which makes the highlight of
the month.

Yellow-browed Warbler

After last months 1 day bird at Port Meadow, you’d
be forgiven to think we might have had our fill of this eastern sprite. Luckily
a near record influx of birds into our county saw 4 records spread across the
county with at least 3 birds in total. A typically elusive individual was in Abingdon
on the 8th and present until the 9th, whilst another
elusive bird was in Lockinge from the 22nd until the 24th.
Thankfully a bird found at Farmoor on the 22nd was much more
obliging and allowed many of the counties birders to admire this Siberian wanderer
until at least the 29th. A probable record came from Ardley at
the M40 services on the 24th although no confirmation was
forthcoming. With all these records coming within a few days of one another it
is clear that at least 3 birds were in the county and one can only wonder how
many more might be lurking out there in amongst the tit and crest flocks.

Courtesy of Richard Tyler.

The Yellow-browed Warblers diagnostic call captured here by Conor Mackenzie.

Courtesy of Andy Last


Waders

As expected, wader migration tailed off this month
and other than the lingering group of 4 little stint at Pit 60 on
the 1st there wasn’t much in the way of highlight birds for October.
A disappointedly brief phalarope species present on Dix Pit on
the 6th unfortunately couldn’t be identified and was seen by only
one observer, in what would been a very popular bird.  A great count of 3 jack snipe from Pit
60
came on the 11th and again were present between the 15-16th.

Courtesy of Caroline Walker


A single greenshank was present on Pit 60 on
the 1
st whilst redshank records came from Port Meadow on
the 6
th and Farmoor on the 18th, with 5 present at
the latter. A single
ruff continued to be recorded at Farmoor through
until the 10
th after a near constant presence through September,
with an additional 2 birds recorded on the 3
rd. Ardley ERF also
had 3 birds on the 1
st until the following day with a single bird
remaining until the 7
th. The odd dunlin continued to be
recorded throughout the month with 2 at
Farmoor on the 10th, a
single bird on
Grimsbury reservoir on the 19th and 26th
and another lone individual on
Ardley ERF 25th-26th .
Two
ringed plover were also present on Farmoor on the 10th
and 18
th of the month.

Green sandpiper continued to be
widespread across the county albeit in smaller numbers, although a count of 17
on the 5th at Bicester wetlands was a good count for the time
of year with double digits recorded a few more times later in the month. Common
sandpiper
continued at Farmoor until the 22nd whilst
additional birds were recorded at Ardley and Ducklington. Several
nice flocks of golden plover were recorded from White Horse hill with
420 on the 3rd and 125 on the 7th.

Gulls
& Terns

Not much to
talk about this month with a record of a 1st winter Caspian gull from
Farmoor on the 4th the only noteworthy bird in October. A
single Mediterranean gull was recorded at Blenheim on the 17th.
Yellow-legged gull continued to be recorded in small numbers at Farmoor
with additional records coming from Ardley with 6 the highest count
on the 15th.

Courtesy of Gareth Cashburn

Wildfowl
etc

The change of seasons brought with it our first winter
wildfowl with a family group of 4 whooper swan on Farmoor on the
11th whilst a party of 5 brent goose of the dark-bellied variety
were present on the 12th, the concrete dish bowl continuing its
fine form of the place to find this wanderer from the arctic. Eight white-fronted
geese
were present at Cassington GP’s on the 11th and a
single bird was with greylags on Otmoor on the 17th
but neither lingered long and were gone the following day. The first returning goldeneye
was recorded on Farmoor on the 3rd with a female bird
associating with the tufted duck flocks and 6 birds on Dix Pit on
the 30th, whilst a female scaup was recorded several times throughout
the month but proved difficult to pin down for most until the 29th.

Courtesy of Dave Murphy

Probably the same black-necked grebe recorded in September
was again on Dix Pit after been missing for a few weeks, it was present
on the 3rd and again reported on the 8th. A drake ring
necked duck
was at Appleford GP’s on the 17th but only remained
for the day before departing. Goosander were reported from two sites
with a male on Otmoor on the 6th and a juvenile on Pit 60 on
the 11th. Mandarin records came from two sites and probably
relate to the same individuals with one on Wolvercote lake on the 14th
and a pair in Marston on the 16th. The largest count of red-crested
pochard
came from the usual place, Tar Lakes, with a count of 59.
The unusual hybrid presumed to be a goldeneye X hooded merganser returned
to the Standlake area for it 2nd year been picked up at Dix
pit
a couple times at the end of the month, where has it been in the meantime
is anyone’s guess.

Egrets,
herons etc

In what has already been a great year for spoonbill records
in the county, another came from Pit 60 on the 9th with an
immature present for the day only. After a record-breaking year at the species stronghold
in Norfolk and colonies around the country it is no surprise that
there has been a significant uptick in records this year, a pattern that looks
set to continue. Another bird that has seen significant increases in records
the last couple years a single glossy ibis was reported this month with
a lone bird recorded on the 8th, another species that seems set to
colonise the UK at some point in the future.

Courtesy of Mick Cunningham

The cattle egret flock continued in their new preferred
location of Kings Lock with over 40 been recorded on the 15th,
with anywhere between 15-30 been in constant presence throughout October. Additional
records came from Pit 60 with 3 recorded at various points throughout
the month and a max count of 10 on 22nd. New sites to record birds came
from Cassington with one on the 11th and New Bridge with
up to 4 between the 9th and 11th. Great white egret also
continued to be widespread in the county with at least 10 sites recording single
birds, with only Blenheim recording 2 birds on the 5th.

Courtesy of Adam Hartley

Passerines
etc

Somewhat outshone by the yellow-browed warbler incursions
this month, a Dartford warbler at Balscote Quarry through the
latter part of the month was the 2nd record in the county this year.
Luckily, unlike previous records, after initially remaining elusive it was
finally pinned down on the 22nd October and was present until the 29th
at least. This is another species that seems to be recorded in increasing frequency
in recent years after previously been an extremely rare bird in the county, evident
by how popular this bird proved to be with county listers.

Dartford Warbler above and below courtesy of Kyle Smith.

A water pipit proved harder to pin down commuting
between several sites. One was present at Farmoor on the 13th
and possibly seen on and off through until the 22nd. Presumably the
same bird was then seen at Port Meadow on the 23rd, only the
2nd record for the site. It was again seen on the 27th and 31st on
the meadow with a possible sighting also on the  27th at Eynsham. Rock pipit were
unusually widespread through the county, with 4 sites recording the species.
Three were at Farmoor 3rd with one remaining on and off until
the 12th, 2 were on Pit 60 on the 9th and a single
bird was recorded at Grimsbury reservoir on the 14th and 20th.
Port Meadow also had a single bird present on the 16th. A pipit
with a buzzy call on the meadow on the 20th but unfortunately couldn’t
be relocated, whilst a tree pipit was recorded on Pit 60 on the 4th.

Courtesy of Mike Pollard

A cracking record of a flyover woodlark over a Cholsey
garden on the 16th surely constitutes one of the better garden
ticks! A black redstart was present on Farmoor from the 21st
until at least the 28th spending most of its time on the sewage treatment
works although occasionally commuting to the causeway, whilst a late record of
a ring ouzel came from Childrey field on the 23rd. A
possible willow tit record came from Ducklington on the 20th
a species now lost from Oxfordshire’s breeding avifauna after the depressing
and somewhat inevitable demise of the Grimsbury birds.

Courtesy of Conor Mackenzie

Courtesy of Badger

A single whinchat record came from Chimney on
the 1st whilst records of wheatear came from Aston
Upthorpe
and Oxford University grounds on 2nd and 7th
respectively, a late wheatear on Port Meadow on the 22nd
justifiably required closer scrutiny but unfortunately it was just Northern.
Firecrest
were recorded at three locations with Pit 60 on the 1st,
Grimsbury on the 7th and Aston Eyot on the 29th
hosting single birds. Along with all the returning thrushes this month also had
the first of our winter finches with redpoll recorded across the county
and brambling recorded at 4 sites. Hawfinch also were recorded
from 3 sites with Grimsbury, Cutteslowe and Marston all having
flyover birds.

Some late swallow records came from Pit 60 on
the 10th with 6 birds and two birds remained at Blenheim through
until at least the 28th.

Raptors

Short-eared owl made a welcome return to the county this month
with two birds frequenting Otmoor, with the birds putting on a great
show for locals on most evenings between the 2nd and 18th
of the month. Merlin records were more widespread with 5 sites recorded
birds – Aston Upthorpe (2nd), Ardley ERF (15th-25th),
Ardington (25th), Childrey Field (29th) and
Balscotte Quarry (29th).

Courtesy of Lee Wilcocks

Marsh harrier were recorded from 4 sites including Otmoor,
2 birds frequently recorded at Pit 60 and single records from Chimney
(1st) and Blewbury (9th). Late hobby records
came from Pit 60 on the 4th and Otmoor on the 8th
and 14th.

Look ahead

With the change in seasons the next
couple months will be dominated by returning winter wildfowl with birders
across the county searching local arable fields and waterbodies hoping to pick
out a rarity out of the duck and goose flocks.

The last two Novembers have
produced great northern diver with both records coming from, where else,
Farmoor with the last one been the record staying bird through until May
2022. Slavonian grebe have also been recorded several times with the
last November birds coming in 2019 and 2013, whilst red-breasted merganser records
came in 2018 and 2015 all of which were present on Farmoor. On the rarer
side of things, the last American wigeon in the county came in November
2018 but was unfortunately on a private site not accessible to the wider county
and with the last widely accessible bird coming in 2011 another would prove
very popular indeed.

Its not all about wildfowl though
and some good rarities can and have been picked up in November in recent history.
Who can forget the unfortunate little auk on the Thames last year? A
cracking Richards pipit in 2018 proved hugely popular within and out of
the counties borders with the bird sticking around for several days. November
has a good affinity with great grey shrike records with 2013-2016 producing
birds this month, the last coming in 2018 which hopefully means we are due
another soon!

With all the talk of a waxwing winter
after record numbers in southern Scandinavia earlier than usual that’s where my
thoughts/wishes will be turning over the next couple months. Birds have been
picked up along the east coast this week with the first inland flocks in not so
far Staffordshire on the 30th, one can only hope this is a
sign of things to come.

We will be happy to hear your thoughts

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