One rarity gone, another appeared

Today I wanted to be out birding all day long, but the weather turned to be dreadful in the first half of the morning. In late morning it stopped raining and we left our home to see a local attraction. I wanted to show my girls the historical engineering masterpiece, the Iron Trunk Aqueduct in Old Wolverton. From the village we walked to the hotspot, what I simply call the ‘a river over a river‘. I have never seen that kind of construction before. The bird community was typical for a classic pasture and meadow embraced by hawthorns. However, there was one surprising bird, what made me really happy and sad at the same time. A single European Turtle Dove was flying over the River Great Ouse towards the village. I have never seen this rapidly declining species in England before.

Nice grazing area near the church of Old Wolverton. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Nice grazing area near the church of Old Wolverton. © Gyorgy Szimuly

The place where the European Turtle Dove flew over. © Gyorgy Szimuly

The place where the European Turtle Dove flew over. © Gyorgy Szimuly

The Iron Trunk Aqueduct of is a unique construction. No rail, nor road runs on the bridge over the River Great Ouse, but another canal with boats on it. © Gyorgy Szimuly

The Iron Trunk Aqueduct of is a unique construction. No rail, nor road runs on the bridge over the River Great Ouse, but another canal with boats on it. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Before leaving Old Wolverton, I checked the BirdGuides app for the actual rare or scarce bird sightings around me. There was no exciting bird reported in our area, but there was a Glossy Ibis record from 21 of May from Oxfordshire. That was a long staying bird, so I thought I would give it a try to find it. The Otmoor RSPB Reserve is located north of Oxford, near the village Beckley. This massive area is an important wetland developed by the RSPB. It is holding no less than 80+ pairs of Northern Lapwing, a good number of Common Redshanks and a few pairs of Common Snipe, just to mention the waders. For me this is absolutely a heavenly place, despite only three species of waders can regularly be seen.

The Otmoor RSPB Nature Reserve is a man-made wetland. © Gyorgy Szimuly

The Otmoor RSPB Nature Reserve is a man-made wetland complex. © Gyorgy Szimuly

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The wetland before the rain. © Gyorgy Szimuly

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A short escape to this hide from the rain. I should have seen the Glossy Ibis somewhere here. © Gyorgy Szimuly

I found two European Turtle Dove purring on their classic spot. Not a bad day to see this bird on two different locations. Birders on the leave informed me about the absence of the Glossy Ibis. It wasn’t seen since 21 May. While walking on the footpath the rain started to intensify again. It didn’t force me to leave the area, as I wanted to walk all around the reserve. Four Red Kites frequently disturbed the breeding shorebird community. When one entered the wetlands about 35-40 Northern Lapwings and 5-6 Common Redshanks took off the ground and started mobbing the kite quite aggressively. Despite the massive defending attacks, one adult Red Kite succeeded to grab a probable Northern Lapwing chick. It was an incredible moment what I have never seen before.

As reached the west wing of the Big Otmoor and Sally’s Field, it stopped raining. I spotted my binoculars on a flying bird over the trees between the Big Otmoor and Noke Sides. For my biggest surprise it was a European Bee-eater!!! It is a quite a scarce bird in England. I immediately reported to BirdGuides, after it disappeared somewhere around the south end of Saunder’s Ground. It didn’t show signs to stay in the area as behaved like a migrating bird. It flew from northwest to southeast direction just over the trees and called twice. I saw the bird very well!

A gorgeous European Bee-eater was photographed by David Smiff in Spain. Thanks for it!

A gorgeous European Bee-eater was photographed by David Smiff in Spain. Thanks for providing this image!

On the way back to the car I saw a few birders on the entry place to the wetlands. I knew, I would get a few questions about my record. They somehow figured out that the reporter wasn’t a local guy, as the word ‘marsh’ was used in the report. Locals have never used this term for this area. I was kindly asked to share a few more details about the observation. They seemed quite skeptical, but then I mentioned my Hungarian origin, where the European Bee-eater is breeding in good numbers. One of the birders, a volunteer of the RSPB said, he had never ever seen this bird before and the last record was about 10 years ago in a different location. I always feel sorry about local birders, who cannot see a local rarity seen or found by a non local guy. I found a blog post of my observation on the Oxfordshire Bird Log. Adam Hartley wrote, I was unaware of the significance of my record. Actually, I was aware of the status of the European Bee-eater in England, but indeed I wasn’t aware of the history of European Bee-eater records of Oxfordshire. Anyway, I couldn’t do any better than reporting it to BirdGuides straight away, in a hope that someone gets the chance to see it.

While we talked about the number of breeding waders and the history of the reserve, two Common Snipes were displaying and drumming over Saunder’s Ground. I had seen two other males drumming in the Big Otmoor area on my way back to the car.

eBird checklist and numbers:

Greylag Goose 34
Canada Goose 55
Mute Swan 4
Gadwall 18
Mallard 18
Northern Shoveler 21
Green-winged Teal 1
Common Pochard 5
Tufted Duck 18
Little Grebe 1
Great Crested Grebe 1
Grey Heron 3
Little Egret 4
Red Kite 4
Eurasian Moorhen 9
Eurasian Coot 33
Eurasian Oystercatcher 1
Northern Lapwing 54
Common Redshank 18
Common Snipe 5
Black-headed Gull 32
European Herring Gull 4
Lesser Black-backed Gull 6
Common Wood-Pigeon 32
European Turtle-Dove 2
Common Cuckoo 3
Common Swift 84
European Bee-eater 1
Eurasian Kestrel 1
Eurasian Magpie 4
Eurasian Jackdaw 6
Carrion Crow 4
Eurasian Skylark 8
Barn Swallow 4
Common House Martin 9
Great Tit 1
Eurasian Blue Tit 7
Long-tailed Tit 16
Eurasian Wren 10
Willow Warbler 3
Common Chiffchaff 1
Sedge Warbler 4
Eurasian Reed Warbler 13
Blackcap 3
Greater Whitethroat 10
European Robin 1
Eurasian Blackbird 9
Song Thrush 1
European Starling 2
Dunnock 1
Reed Bunting 9
Common Chaffinch 8
European Greenfinch 4
European Goldfinch 16
Eurasian Linnet 1

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A possible Channel Wagtail at the Sywell Reservoir

As a part of visiting the playgrounds in the Sywell Country Park near Mears Ashby, I had some time to walk around the Sywell Reservoir. Originally, I visited the area to see my first Whinchat in England, which was reported in the morning. I couldn’t find the Whinchat at the given location, but I found a very unusual looking yellow wagtail.

The variety of the Western Yellow Wagtail subspecies has long fascinated me. The bird, which I found on the southwest part of the reservoir at the edge of a rape field, didn’t have any features resembled to the British subspecies flavissima, but was rather similar to the nominate race, flava. On the other side of the reservoir I had seen typical British yellow wagtails. The main features of the bird in question were as follows: greenish-yellow mantle and back, very pale bluish-grey crown, nape, and eye stripe, rather broad supercilium and an extensive all white chin and throat. Face practically looked white as well.

Following my research on the web, my bird looked like a Channel Wagtail, which was recently named by the British birding community. The Channel Wagtail is a Motacilla flava flava x M. f. flavissima hybrid. I have seen several records of Channel Wagtails currently posted to BirdGuides, suggesting that this variation is not extremely rare in England. I’d like to hear other British birder’s opinion on my observation.

I can’t wait to have my bridge mega zoom camera to be able take pictures of tricky birds seen in the fields.

Male Channel Wagtail in the Covenham Reservoir, Lincolnshire on 13/04/09. The image was linked from the online article ‘Flava frustrations’. © Nick Clayton