Oh Good Grebe!

As winter settles in, opportunities for regular trips to the likes of Otmoor reduce a little and last minute decisions to check out the local patch become more tempting.

Last week saw Team Sausage hit the road with a friend of ours, Danny. A seasoned birder, Danny’s temporary assignment in London has kept him busy and he has not had a chance to bird since mid-September. We saw it as our duty to bring birding back into his new found urban existence, and what better spot to re-connect than Otmoor?

With the weather dry but overcast, we arrived around noon and made our way around. We counted 48 different species over our 3 hours on Otmoor, the highlights being several Meadow Pipits, one Bittern, one Marsh Tit and a healthy complement of raptors in the shape of the ubiquitous Red Kites, Sparrowhawk, several Kestrels and plenty of Buzzards. Winter Thrushes were also seen in good numbers in the shape of Redwings and a great deal of Fieldfare and the duck community was well represented with Teal, Widgeon, Shoveler and Gadwall.

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Otmoor Buzzard

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Otmoor Mute Swan

Without Danny’s eagle eyes (pun intended) we would never have seen the Meadow Pipits on Greenaways. It was also thanks to Danny that we managed to catch a brief glimpse of the Bittern flying into the reedbed at the first hide.

Despite the lack of photo opportunities, it was massively rewarding to be able to introduce a friend to Otmoor and to benefit from some very experienced spotting. We hope to return with Danny again before his London stint is up.

Yesterday saw me make a quick visit to Cranford Park. With no rain forecast and a free morning and early afternoon, this was a perfect time to make one of those last minute visits.

Early signs were good with two Jay crossing my path as I entered the gates. I made straight for the River Crane this time, in the hope of catching the Litte Grebes Wendy and Sue have been reporting over recent weeks.

I was in luck, there in the middle of the river were two small shapes diving and reappearing. They were definitely not ducks and a scan through the bins confirmed these were the Little Grebes.

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There have been reports from Wendy and Sue of up to five Little Grebe seen here but after watching for around half an hour, I only saw these two. They are still quite wary of any movement on the bank and do head for the overhanging vegetation quickly, but I was able to get a few acceptable pics:

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There was plenty of activity elsewhere in the park too. Jays were particularly active and very noisy, making regular sorties in and out of the Ice House and the other small coppices around the park.

Competing for noise with the Jays were the ever present Ring-necked Parakeets who seem to spend all day screaming from tree to tree in the ancient woodland.

Corvids were also in heavy numbers across the park. The Carrion Crows and Magpies seem to dominate the park all year round.

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With Wood Pigeon, Great Tits, Blue Tits, Robins, Wrens and Mistle Thrush all putting in appearances it was a lively ninety minutes. I bumped into Sue who had seen a Sparrowhawk and a decent number of Redwing during the week but she had been unlucky today with the Little Grebes.

I do think though that, Little Grebes aside, the real star of the day was the park itself. It was resplendent in winter colours, rich greens, rusty russets and almost golden yellows. When the sun came out briefly it was as if someone had turned on the lights.

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