The short walk down to the farm was enlivened by a sparrowhawk passing overhead pursued by several dozen house martins.
|sparrowhawk & house martins|
Indeed house martins were present in large numbers this morning and appeared to be steadily heading southwards. A few swallows were around too. A green woodpecker was busily attacking a fallen apple beneath a tree but frustratingly remained mostly buried in long grass to render photographing it pointless. Reed buntings rested in bushes by the reedbed and a couple of meadow pipits preened away on a gate. But it was generally quiet. We idled by the pond and were thrilled by house martins and swallows coming in to drink and bathe. Some just took a sip from the water while others went all in and doused themselves. Capturing the action was fun since they were very quick.
|bathing house martin|
|rook & sparrowhawk|
I was getting bored so after consulting the latest bird news, decided to head on and twitch something. The overhead wires were now holding several birds including 4 yellow wagtails. The birds were using the lofty perch to preen in between feeding in the farmhouse garden. In the sunshine they were positively radiant. They were joined on the wires in turn by swallows, pied wagtails and starlings.
We chose to go to Chipping Sodbury near Bristol which the Sat Nav informed me was only 75 miles and an hour and a half away. A juvenile woodchat shrike had been seen there throughout the previous week and was still present. I've seen 2 woodchat shrikes before, both juveniles, both were fairly distant views and both in pre-camera days. So the chance of observing one at closer quarters and snapping a few shots was appealing. Shrikes of all types are fairly easy birds to see since they all have a habit of perching prominently, usually at the top of a bush or overhanging branch. The downside to shrike watching is that apart from occasional forays out from the perch to catch some prey they don't do a lot! Anyway after just an hour and twenty minutes (Sat Nav's know nothing!) we were walking through the rough grasses of Chipping Sodbury Common to join the small group of birders who must be watching the shrike. Indeed I could make out the bird from a long way away, doing exactly as it should do, perching at the top of a bush. The crowd of birders and photographers were stationed about 50 metres from the small line of straggly hawthorns that the woodchat shrike was frequenting. Close enough for decent views but not really close enough for good pictures with my lens. After 10 minutes or so of watching the bird at the top of the bush I decided to find a quieter and alternative viewpoint.
|woodchat shrike (initial view)|
Our journey home was uneventful until we had stopped for sustenance and I checked the bird news once more. To my astonishment a greenish warbler had been called in Middle Barton just 10 miles from Bicester! I couldn't believe it considering how a trip to Yorkshire for just such a bird had been considered earlier. Not only that but a greenish warbler in Oxon would be truly exceptional and would also be a life tick for us. However the news was tainted somewhat by the origin of the report and somehow I knew that it was highly unlikely to be accurate. But we had to go home that way anyway (with a small detour) so we thought best to look for it just in case. We arrived just over an hour later and met a couple of fellow Oxonbirders who were already on site and looking. It wasn't promising and after half an hour of no sign of the bird it was agreed that even if the bird had been seen, which we all thought unlikely, it was no longer around. It hasn't been seen subsequently.