Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Back to Birding

After an incredible 3 months on Skomer Island this Summer, conducting my undergraduate research project on Manx Shearwater chicks, I've decided to try and start blogging again as a way of writing down my birding experiences in prose form. At some point, I'll try to find the time (not easy for a finalist!) to write some retrospective posts about my Summer on Skomer as it was a truly life-changing experience and some of the natural spectacles I was fortunate enough to witness beggared belief! The birding was also pretty decent with myself, Ollie Padget and the wardening team including Ed Stubbings and Jason Moss finding some great birds between us, the pinnacle of which was a self-found Lesser Yellowlegs on North Pond, my first BBRC rarity! Since returning from Skomer I've done a spot of twitching, seeing Masked Shrike among other things, but I've not really had the time to invest in it and since returning to Oxford at the end of September the well of new lifers has run bone dry. I have had some great local birding however with Otmoor RSPB producing the goods in the form of a juvenile Red-backed Shrike and an adult male Dartford Warbler, both county megas! Both of these birds were twitched in the fading light with Ollie, hopefully I'll be able to convince him to spread his wings and twitch some birds further a field over the course of this year.

One bird that has eluded me however is the Red-necked Grebe that has spent the last month residing at Farmoor Reservoir. Having both previously dipped the bird twice, yesterday evening a course-mate of mine James Evry and I decided it would be third time lucky and headed over to Farmoor for the last hour of light. We did a full circuit of F1 but unsurprisingly couldn't find the Grebe which I'm now convinced phases in and out of existence as it pleases! We did however have a nice Rock Pipit along the causeway as well as a smart adult Yellow-legged Gull which perched up on a buoy close to the southeast corner of the basin. Initially I was unsure of the birds identity as the pale base tone to the yellow legs and hints of streaking on the crown and around the eye briefly raised the spectre of a Lesser Black-backed Gull x Herring Gull hybrid. Luckily the bird soon flew revealing its diagnostic wing pattern with a large white mirror on p10, a small mirror on p9 and a solid dark band across p5 which confirmed its identity as an adult Yellow-legged Gull, the first of the winter for me. A pleasant way to finish the evening, the Gull was a nice consolation for dipping the Grebe which was of course present again today. Hopefully I can get out int the field again over the next week, the Steart Pallid Harrier is awfully tempting, and if I do i'll attempt to write about it on here. Below are a series of shots of the YLG captured by James Evry, having a friend with a DSLR is really useful!

Adult Yellow-legged Gull, all photos (c) James Evry

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