My sister since the summer has been working/intern for the Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust, and on the 2nd of December they held there annual Bird Race. Now this was something new for me and I promptly said I would be up for it. We met under the shadow of Didcot power station just south of Oxford.
And although the initial plan for each team was to be captained by a BBOWT Employee, kind of like your birding pro. Our team however didn't have one and we were all complete newbies to the race.
With rules explained (a visit to 3 BBOWT reserves compulsory and teams decided we were partnered with my sisters fellow intern and his friend (one a policeman an one an ex policeman). Local enthusiasts who knew the area fairly well. So happy to try our best we set off at our own pace, finding several birds on route before stopping just down the road at Odey Hill, a small untouched, unnoticed area of public ground on the outskirts of Didcot that happened to be flooded and have a large area of reed/scrub. This proved to be a little hidden gem as we raced to 30 species. I spotted a Kingfisher flashing by but the rules stated that all team members had to have seen or heard and I was the only one so a little gutted we all were.
The local lads Mark and Nick soon had a plan though, determined not to miss the Kingfisher from our list we headed into the centre of Abingdon, both keen fishermen they assured us that it was a good a spot as any to see a Kingfisher on the very swollen River Thames. A brief chat with the local fishermen seemed like we had missed out by 2 minutes, but 10 minutes or so later that familiar call caught our attention and we all got a glimpse before it flew off upstream. Local knowledge is still the best I reckon.
From Abingdon we headed to Radley Lakes another untouched gem where we added several different duck species and a rather surprising Blackcap. Well spotted by Mark as he drove us down the single track lane.
With the list starting to resemble something respectable we decided to get the BBOWT reserves ticked off of the list. With visits too Dry Sandford Pit, Parsonage Moor & Lashford Lane Fen - 3 reserves all within 2 miles of one another. Unfortunately neither of these reserves brought anything new to the list, and after making the drive out too Farmoor Reservoir we were a little disappointed to run into another team who had seen a Hawfinch at Dry Sandford about 20mins prior to us.
Determined not to let that get us down we had a wander around the large expanse of the Farmoor Reservoir, a quite unattractive man made water source, but very good for birds, highlights that included my first ever Slavonian Grebe & a couple of female Scaup.
With the species list getting harder and harder to lengthen we headed off to the nearby Dix Pits which had been mentioned in the morning briefing as a good spot for wintering waterfowl. This proved true with Red-crested Pochard and Pintail added to the list once spotted amongst the throng of hundreds of waterfowl, the adjoining rubbish dump gave a few gull species to the list too.
As time ticked on and the light started to fade a pit stop at Chimney Meadows another BBOWT reserve in the hope of picking up Tree Sparrow failed miserably as none appeared in the gloom at the feeding station. As we headed back to base, we were all pretty happy with our 63 Species for the day as well as our low mileage of just 55.1 miles.
Once all the teams where back lists were discussed, birds seen and missed discussed, we established that out of 8 teams we finished 5th quite respectable I think as we had no guidance and where all bird race virgins. The winners finished with 76 after a successful venture to the distant RSPB Otmoor reserve.
All in all a thoroughly enjoyable day in landlocked Oxfordshire, and something I would definitely do again next year, from a photographic perspective opportunity's where a bit few and far between due to the nature and rushed aspect of the day.
Sutton Courtney BBOWT Centre
1. Woodpigeon • 2. Blackbird • 3. Redwing • 4. Carrion Crow • 5. Chaffinch • 6. Moorhen
7. Red Kite • 8. Collared Dove • 9. Magpie • 10. Feral Pigeon • 11. Fieldfare • 12. Great spotted Woodpecker
13. Starling • 14. Mallard • 15. Grey Heron • 16. Coot • 17.Teal • 18. Blue Tit • 19. Goldfinch • 20. Gadwall • 21. Tufted Duck • 22. Snipe • 23. Wren • 24. Robin • 25. Dunnock • 26. Reed Bunting • 27. Kestrel • 28. Pied Wagtail • 29. Black headed Gull • 30. Mute Swan
31. Rook • 32. Pheasant
33. Canada Goose • 34. House Sparrow • 35. Kingfisher
36. French Partridge • 37. Jackdaw • 38. Cormorant • 39. Blackcap • 40. Pochard • 41. Great crested Grebe • 42. Little Grebe • 43. Herring Gull • 44. Long tailed Tit • 45. Buzzard
46. Green Woodpecker • 47. Jay
48. Greylag Goose • 49. Greenfinch • 50. Goldeneye • 51. Grey Wagtail • 52. Slavonian Grebe • 53. Scaup • 54. Sparrowhawk • 55. Meadow Pipit
56. Wigeon • 57. Greater Black Backed Gull • 58. Lesser Black Backed Gull • 59. Common Gull • 60. Red Crested Pochard • 61. Song Thrush • 62. Pintail
|The only shot I really managed to take.|
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