5 January 2014: Bird walk along Peep-o-Day Lane

Leader: Ian Smith

A walk to replace the postponed visit to RSPB Otmoor was led and arranged at short notice by (and with many thanks to) Ian Smith. Although cold, the weather was better than forecast and enjoyed by ten members.

The first part of the walk focussed on the hedgerow bordering the Sewage Works up to the allotments. A number of passerines were located in the bushes and surrounds including Reed Buntings, Grey Wagtails and most notably Chiffchaffs (whether any of the Chiffchaffs were the Siberian subspecies discovered there the following week, we do not know).

The walk then progressed along Peep-o-Day Lane, which we kept to as all the surrounding paths were flooded, and the plan to make a circuit walk to the Thames had to be abandoned. With flood waters spreading out over the lower fields on the Thames side of the Peep-o-Day Lane, the waterbirds that usually concentrated on the old gravel pits and 1066 flooded valley wetlands, had scattered across the landscape exploiting new feeding opportunities. A splendid kingfisher rushed past us on one lake. At several times Ian pointed out overflyers, from various corvids and gulls, but strangely it was not until two hours into the walk that the first Red Kite was spotted over the Didcot Towers, where a distant Kestrel was also seen. The walk finished at 12.45pm as light rain started.

In all some 41species were listed, but there was a surprising lack of many 'guaranteed' birds on this route, including Greater-spotted Woodpecker, Redwing, Shoveler, Buzzard, Meadow Pipit, Pied Wagtail and finches.

The list in Dudley (2006) systematic order was:
Mute Swan, Canada Goose, Mallard, Gadwall, Wigeon, Teal, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Great Crested Grebe, Cormorant (including 1 in full breeding plumage including white headdress), Grey Heron, Red Kite, Kestrel, Water Rail (heard briefly), Moorhen, Coot, Black-headed Gull, Herring Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Feral Pigeon, Stock Dove, Wood Pigeon, Kingfisher, Grey Wagtail, Dunnock (S), Robin (S), Song Thrush, Fieldfare, Blackbird, Chiffchaff, Goldcrest, Wren (S), Great Tit (S), Blue Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Magpie, Jackdaw (H), Rook, Carrion Crow, Chaffinch, Reed Bunting.

Graham Bateman