Wednesday, 10 October 2018

The Waders of Farmoor 10th October 2018

Dedicated to Dai who covers Farmoor Reservoir virtually every day, year on year

My local Farmoor Reservoir in Oxfordshire can host some very nice waders, usually either heading north in spring, when they are in a hurry to get to their breeding grounds and do not remain for more than a day or two or heading south in late summer and autumn when they are more relaxed and often linger for a number of days. 

Below is a by no means comprehensive selection of images of various commoner waders I have encountered and photographed over the years at Farmoor. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do. Behind every one lies a story, not just a picture, and that for me is the charm of it all. One glimpse and I am transported back as if it was only yesterday


Richly coloured individuals virtually in the full splendour of their hugely
attractive breeding plumage as they pause on their way northwards to the 
Arctic Circle.They were in the company of the less well marked individuals 
shown in the first three images below

The above three images show not so well coloured Sanderlings on their spring 
migration to the Arctic Circle. Note the variations in plumage colour and intensity 
but overall whiter appearance.Their moult could either not be so well advanced as the 
brighter individuals shown or they just will not get any brighter than this. Such 
breeding plumage variation is a well known characteristic of Sanderlings
This was an aberrant individual on its Spring migration in normal summer 
plumage apart from abnormal white feathering on its head and neck

The above five images show Sanderlings on their southward autumn migration 
when the plumage is worn and abraded and much of the breeding colour is lost
or faded due to wear. They will soon moult out of this plumage into a white and 
grey winter plumage


A Juvenile Knot.Juveniles have grey upperparts attractively 
scaled white or buff and peach coloured 
blush to their lower breast

Officially this bird's correct name is Red Knot. It's obvious why!

The above three images show an adult Knot on its spring migration.This 
individual is in full breeding plumageand showing the rich rufous face and 
underparts and chequered upperparts that it has already moulted into 
from its grey winter plumage
The same full summer plumaged Knot as above with another individual that was
accompanying it and possibly in its second year of life when they do not acquire
the richly coloured breeding plumage of a full adult.Often such birds do not
migrate north but this bird is obviously doing just that or at least has got to 
Farmoor but still has a long way to go to its breeding area in the Arctic Circle!

The probable second calendar year Knot. Note the virtually complete lack of
rufous pigmentation to the plumage

Ringed Plover

Adult Ringed Plovers on their southward autumn migration and still in full
breeding plumage when they are a very smart bird indeed 

Juvenile Ringed Plovers. Note the neat fresh feathers delicately
fringed with buff, the lack of bright orange on the bill and legs, 
lack of any band on the forehead and brown not black facial and
breast bands

Little Ringed Plover

An adult Little Ringed Plover in Spring.This could be a migrant going
further north to breed in Britain or a bird breeding on one of the many gravel
 pits around Farmoor. This is an adult male, told by its prominent yellow 
eye ring and well marked black bands on its head and upper breast.Note also
the thinner and entirely black bill compared to a Ringed Plover


Above three images
Dunlins on their Spring migration in full breeding plumage which they rapidly 

moult into from their grey winter plumage,Dunlins are by far the commonest
wader visitor to Farmoor especially in late summer/autumn

Above three images
Adult Dunlins on their return autumn migration when their plumage is worn,
and consequently much darker looking and less colourful

A Dunlin in complete juvenile plumage and yet to show any sign of  moult into
its grey feathers of winter

Above three images
These show juvenile Dunlins with a varying commencement of moult into
the grey feathers of their winter plumage

Juvenile Dunlins which can show a bewildering variation in plumage but usually
show the beginnings of their moult from streaked brown juvenile plumage to
winter plumage, as evidenced by the presence of a few grey feathers on the
upperparts.The above two images show individuals in complete juvenile

Black tailed Godwit

A Juvenile Black tailed Godwit of the race islandica which breeds in Iceland.
Its age can be told by the neat fresh feathers and scaly appearance to the 
upperpartsand dull brownish orange wash to the neck and breast

Little Stint

All images are of various juveniles in fresh plumage in autumn as they migrate
south.They will rapidly moult into an overall duller grey winter plumage
I have never seen an adult  Little Stint at Farmoor

Curlew Sandpiper

Juvenile Curlew Sandpipers.They are probably the most irregular of the
commoner wader species to show up at Farmoor and are by no means annual.
I have never seen an adult here, only juveniles in some autumns

Juvenile Dunlin left and juvenile Curlew Sandpiper right showing the slightly
larger size of the Curlew Sandpiper. Note also the latter's neat scaly plumage
pattern on the upperpart, longer legs and slightly downcurved bill giving it an

elegance denied to the dumpier Dunlin

Common Redshank

An annual migrant in both Spring and Autumn, sometimes in small groups.
This was a juvenile in late summer at Farmoor


The above three images show a juvenile male Ruff
Ruff (male) behind and Reeve (female) in front. Note the different coloured
legs of the male (yellowish green) and female (grey)
The juvenile male Ruff on the left and a juvenile female Reeve on the right.
Note the obvious disparity in size
Juvenile Ruff on autumn migration.The smaller bird is the female called a Reeve
the larger a male. Both have brown scaled upperparts when in juvenile plumage


The above images show Turnstones still in full summer plumage in late 
summer and still to moult into their drab winter plumage although the 
feathers on the wing are is always a delight to see these colourful
chunky waders

A Turnstone in late summer in transition to winter plumage with most of the
chestnut feathering moulted and black and white on the head being replaced with
brown winter plumage

This is probably a female Turnstone in late summer showing a less well 
marked head pattern and less colourful upperpart plumage
Probable female (left) and male (right) Turnstones

Turnstones are mainly seen at Farmoor on their autumn migration when they 
are often returning adults still in their colourful breeding plumage.

Grey Phalarope

Now virtually an annual autumn visitor to Farmoor.They are usually juveniles
in varying stages of transition from the brown of juvenile plumage to
the grey and white of first winter.Occasionally more than one will arrive at the
same time and exceptionally an adult will visit the reservoir

Red necked Phalarope

A rare visitor to Oxfordshire let alone Farmoor. This juvenile graced Farmoor
for a few days in autumn 2017 much to everyone's delight as it allowed
very close views as it fed on the water. They are more delicate than a 
Grey Phalarope but equally hardy

Please click on any of the above images to view a larger version

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