Farmoor Reservoir has been off limits to the public for three weeks now because of the lurking menace of the Corona virus. Regular birders to Farmoor, such as myself, have had to resort to peering over the perimeter fence where possible to get a glimpse of any migrant birds that might be visiting the reservoir but it has been far from satisfactory and not a little frustrating.
On Sunday last, came notification from the Government of a partial lifting of the so called lockdown, to take effect today, Wednesday. This prompted Thames Water to open up Farmoor Reservoir once again to the public, from 10am to 7pm every day henceforth. So I joined a small queue of cars waiting at the entrance gate this morning and at 10am we were allowed in and were free once more to wander the concrete shores of Oxfordshire's largest reservoir.
Today was cold, made so by a blustery northeasterly wind and to be only slightly ameliorated when the sun periodically shone through the clouds but nothing could dampen my spirits as I enjoyed my regained freedom of movement. It was good to be back at the reservoir and especially, as contrary to my expectations, there were surprisingly few people taking advantage of the reservoir being re-opened, and most of those were fishermen. I was eagerly looking forward to walking the central causeway as this had been mostly unobservable from the perimeter fence during lockdown, which was totally frustrating as this is the very place where most migrant waders will stop to rest and feed.
Much of the migration season has passed during the period of the lockdown but there is still ample time for migrant waders to visit the reservoir but today there were just the two waders to welcome my return. They were Dunlin, a common wader, perhaps our commonest and seen in their thousands during the winter on our coastal shores.However there was delight in the fact these two were in their very smart breeding plumage. What is there not to like about this petite wader when dressed in summer plumage? I am used to seeing them in their drab grey and white winter plumage so their rapid transformation to this dapper smart appearance is both welcome and truly remarkable. Their crown becomes chestnut as does the mantle and scapulars, the latter with black centres creating a pleasing symmetrical patterning on their upperparts. The neck and breast are white with pinstripe lines of black running down to a large square black patch on the belly, as if the bird has been stained by ink or mud. The medium length, slightly downcurved bill, legs and feet are similarly black. This time of the year brings the only opportunity to see them at their best, here in Oxfordshire as they transit middle England on the way to far distant northern latitudes.
As is often the case with visiting waders these two were incredibly confiding and allowed me to approach and admire them at very close range and it quite made my day after the comparatively barren birding of the last few weeks.
They've made it again,
Which means the globe's still working, the Creation's
Still waking refreshed, our summer's
Still all to come .....
House Martins too, were finding sheltered corners where the water was less troubled by the wind and flies were congregating, calling cheerily to each other as they swept back and fore, chunky in blue black and white plumage against the grey waters, looking almost laboured in flight compared to the scything swifts, cleaving the air on starch stiff outstretched wings.
I went to check on my favourite Sedge Warbler at his summer home down by the river. It was warmer away from the reservoir, sheltered to a degree from the northeast wind by the bushes of hawthorn, now at their peak and smothered in blossom.The sun shone warm on my back.
The Sedge Warbler was, as ever, singing for all his worth from his regular perch, his plumage occasionally ruffled by wayward gusts of wind but undeterred, he sang on. Still without a mate, it was hard to not feel sorry for the bird as it has put so much energy into what is looking increasingly like a lost cause.There is hopefully still time to find a mate. The male Sedge Warblers on each side of him have attracted mates so maybe with the competition lessened he will get lucky. I do hope so. It has become almost a personal crusade for me to see him succeed.
|Yellow legged Gull|
|Great crested Grebe|
And that was my morning at Farmoor.