Saturday, 24 December 2016

Merry Caspmas!

Having finished work early for Christmas yesterday, (Friday 23/12) I had the afternoon to myself. So, I decided to do a bit of local birding to see what I could find.

I started off by popping into Grimsbury Reservoir, however this proved to be a pretty fleeting visit with bugger all about! So next, I decided to have a drive down the A361 to Boddington Reservoir and on the way, see if I could track down some gulls in the fields close to Banbury, as I knew there had been some decent numbers around the fields here.

Good news, there appeared to be plenty big gulls about, with a sizable number heading to fields towards Chacombe. I took the road up towards the village and managed to find a large group in a cattle field. Parking in the muddy gateway, I began scoping the birds, however views were rather indifferent, with a number of inquisitive cattle constantly obscuring my view!

Eventually though I was able to get a look in! There were surprisingly good numbers of Herring Gull here, not a massively numerous bird in the area. Also plenty of LBBGs and then the cherry on the top, a lovely 1st-winter Caspian Gull, a super scarce bird in these parts! It spent a lot of time sitting down but did have a wander around a couple of times too. Shocking phone-scoped and bridge photo (with a hint of cow!) below...

The area straddles the Oxon & Northants border but having spoken to my friend Gareth Blockley, he confirmed it was in Northants. After a good scan, I also managed to muster 2 Yellow-Legged Gull (adult & 3w). Another further scan of a whole load more gulls in Oxon Upper Cherwell Valley, on the other side of the A361 also yielded a 2w Yellow Legged Gull.

I decided to still give Boddington Res a go before heading back to Grimsbury, in the vain hope the Caspo would turn up there! Bod had a bit more wildfowl than usual but overall didn't produce anything spectacular in increasingly breezy & gloomy conditions. Best here were a very smart adult Yellow Legged Gull (phone-scoped below), 22 Wigeon (a good count for here), a Little Egret, 7 Goosander (4 drakes) & a drake Shoveler.

I ended up leaving Bod at about 15:20, a bit later than I intended. I zoomed over to Grimsbury. I saw Gareth's car parked up, as I thought I might and marched up the west side of the reservoir, in the wind and light rain. There were plenty of gulls about but mostly BHGs.

As I approached Gareth, he looked rather animated, "did you get my messages??" I hadn't...some sort of signal issue and guess what, he'd seen a Caspian Gull, but now couldn't find it...bugger!! Cursing the fact I'd arrived later than I intended, I began eagerly scanning around for the bird.

After a couple of minutes...YES, I was in luck as I picked it up almost head on to me, that pale appearance was unmistakable. High fives all round, a real Christmas present, site first and patch tick to boot. It transpired that this was in fact a 2w and amazingly a different bird to my 1w earlier in the day, no more than a couple of miles away. For not having ever seen one in the area, to have two in the same day was pretty exceptional! Yet another piss-poor phone-scoped photo below, as well as Gareth's far superior video (a great effort considering the weather!)

The conditions were pretty minging, but to be honest we didn't mind too much as we stood enjoying what had been a long-awaited and much predicted patch first. After about 15 minutes it vanished and the weather was worsening too, so we headed off home with a big, big grin!

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