Saturday 6 July 2024

OCD, OCD, OCD; August 2023


Onto my days out birding in August last year. I'm resolved to ending this saga now. Then I can turn my attention to sorting this years tales out which flagged behind sometime in March! Bear with my eccentricity. Even though this is almost a year out of date there might be something of interest.

Sunday 6th August; Farmoor Fliers

Early August can be a tough time for the year lister. Most, if not all of the summer breeding birds have been ticked already and the autumn migration period, which brings the more rare and unusual birds into the country has yet to get underway. So there is little point in travelling too far afield and it's good to spend some time at some local haunts.

We chose a morning at a typically grey and dreary Farmoor, not expecting too much but in the event quite surprised at what we saw.

The birding began at home when I spotted an unwelcome visitor stood on the roof of the house opposite. Normally I like all birds, and Grey Herons are to be admired as much as any of the others (except a few of course). But when I see this particular bird eyeing up the fish in my fishpond then I'm not so keen. I stood and watched him for a good ten minutes before he flew off and away, probably muttering at me in true Muttley fashion.

Grey Heron

The first birds of note that we encountered at Farmoor were two Dunlin. Wading birds of most species are very confiding when stuck on the concrete aprons of the reservoir with no clear alternative except to put up with folk walking past, and photographers, or fly away. They tend to stick with the disturbance though, because for all its lack of aesthetic appeal, the concrete bowls of the reservoir provide much needed sustenance for wandering birds. I sat on the wall and waited for the birds to approach me. One was a pristine juvenile, the other an adult beginning its moult into winter plumage but still sporting some black belly spots. The two little sparrow sized birds would have travelled down from much further north where one had gone to breed and the other had hatched. So many birds undertake long and perilous journeys. They are to be marvelled.


The photography opportunities with such confiding birds are endless and I took a few before moving on. I have hundreds, if not thousands, of similar shots taken at Farmoor but it's irresistible and you just have to take more.

An adult Yellow-legged Gull adorned the wall a little further along the causeway. Surprisingly this was the first that we'd seen this year so even on a "quiet" bird day we had another to add to the year list. Another twenty-seven and we'd have our back-to-back Big Years.

Yellow-legged Gull

Around fifty Swifts patrolled the air above the reservoir, mostly flying high despite the heavy weather. They were joined by a similar number of House Martins. Having taken lots of photos of them earlier in the year, I largely chose to watch and admire their aerobatics.


We watched Great Crested Grebes fly around the reservoir. Both adults and recently fledged juveniles hurtled past. They look a bit ridiculous when flying, the wings look short against the barrel shaped bodies, and the birds can't their heads and feet up to the horizontal. Grebes, like Divers, are built for life in the water and, when out of it, whether trying to walk or in flight, they look awkward. Having said that they fly pretty quickly and always appear to be in a hurry to get where they're going.

Great Crested Grebe

On returning up the causeway, we noticed that the pair of Dunlin and been joined by a third, another adult. The third bird had a much longer bill than the others. They flew past in formation, allowing me to add some flight shots to the days collection. I was handily placed when they chose to fly back into shore. They landed just metres away and gave me the chance to get some head-on shots of the incoming birds.

Year List addition;

273) Yellow-legged Gull

Sunday 13th-Monday 14th August; Pelagic Petrels and More!

I've already written a blog of another excellent trip out into Falmouth Bay aboard Keith's AK Wildlife Cruise. A huge success because I found and identified my first ever Wilson's Storm Petrel. Just a shame that I couldn't control the camera in the rough seas. You can read the story of a memorable day here. Plus a recount of a tour around the Penwith peninsula the day before, which included another lifer.

Year List additions;

274) Manx Shearwater, 275) Chough, 276) Cory's Shearwater, 277) Sooty Shearwater, 278) European Storm Petrel, 279) Wilson's Storm Petrel

Saturday 19th August; Slimbridge Slow

Slimbridge is usually a great place to visit, there is often something there to get the pulse racing. This day was one of the "off" days though, with nothing extraordinary to see at all. So it was just a gentle stroll from hide to hide taking a few photos and just chilling out, which was easy in the brisk winds that were forcing some heavy showers up the Severn estuary.

Black-tailed Godwit

Green Sandpiper


The best bird of the day proved difficult to locate but we finally caught up with the reported Spotted Redshank on the Tack Piece after checking five different hides looking for it.

Spotted Redshank

Sunday 27th August; Silly Scilly!

Possibly the twitch of the year but one which ultimately ended in disappointment! We travelled to the Isles of Scilly aboard the Scillonian to get on another boat which took us over very rough seas to look at an empty lighthouse where on every day the week before a Red-footed Booby had roosted. The day after we dipped out, the Red-footed Booby was joined by a Brown Booby as well. Talk about rotten luck. Ah bugger!

The day wasn't all glum though, we had amazing views of both Cory's and Scopoli's Shearwaters, the latter another lifer, as well as Great, Balearic, Manx and Sooty Shearwaters too. Plus plenty more.

A blow-by-blow account is written up here

Year List additions;

280) Balearic Shearwater, 281) Great Shearwater, 282) Arctic Skua, 283) Scopoli's Shearwater

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