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Something about the birding locations that I've visited

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Port Meadow, Burgess Field NR and the Trap Grounds

These three sites are closest to where I live and adjacent to each other. Port Meadow is a substantial area of common land to the north of the city centre and entirely within the Oxford ring road. The river Thames runs along the western perimeter, which just happens to be the location of Medley Sailing Club where I indulge in a spot of dinghy racing. Until recenly, it was of little birding interest for much of the year, but came alive when the river  flooded during the winter, typically attracting large flocks of ducks and golden plover together with  a smattering of small waders. However, the last few summers have seen areas of flood persisting during the summer months and this year it has never dried out, attracting ever increasing numbers of waders and the occasional rarity. There is a superb blog which reports on daily sightings and provides every bit of information that one might need.

Burgess Field Nature Reserve lies alonside Port Meadow and is accessed from the meadow itself. It is the site of the reclaimed city's landfill site which now comprises open meadow interspersed with hedgerow and areas of modest-rise woodland. Regular birdlife includes the common finches, thrushes, wrens, migrating warblers, crows, jays, green woodpeckers and kestrels together with a wide variety of visiting species such as barn owls and sparrowhawks.

The Trap Grounds are all that's left of a previously extensive area of wilderness between the Oxford Canal and the railway line, which has been steadily invaded by housing development. Comprising mature woodland with an area of reed bed, this is a secluded haven for wildlife starkly contrasting with the surrounding unbanisation.


Otmoor RSPB Nature Reserve

Otmoor is an extensive area of meadow and wetland and lies some 4 miles north of the Oxford ring road. Much of the area has been acquired by the RSPB which has been very active in developing it as a nature reserve and is presently undertaking major earthworks to establish an area of wader scrapes together with new observation hides. The winter sees a massive invasion of ducks, whilst the summer is noted for nesting warblers. A large dragonfly population attracts hobbys, and other raptors are usually in evidence including red kites, buzzards and kestrels. A marsh harrier has spent much of this summer in residence.


Farmoor Reservoir

Farmoor Reservoir with its immediate surroundings, situated some 4 miles to the west of Oxford, provides several distinct bird habitats. The reservoir itself supports large flocks of gulls, ducks and other water birds, whilst the margins (including the long causeway which bisects the reservoir) are regularly visited by wagtails, pipits and small waders. Immediately to the west and just outside the formal boundaries of the reservoir are two wetland areas (Shrike Meadow and Pinkhill Reserve) with observation hides.  This side of the site is bounded by the river Thames and the Thames Path. Finally, there is a public footpath around, but outside the reservoir boundary, which passes through hedgerow and mature woodland to the south and areas of meadow land to the south west and northwest.


Watlington Hill

Watlington Hill is proper Red Kite and Buzzard country. A car park about a mile out of Watlington itself gives access to the Chilterns escarpment with fantastic views across the Oxford clay vale. Its hard to imagine a better place for taking the airs on a sunny day, with the certainty of being entertained by the magnificant sight of kites soaring in the updraft. Mind you, if it's kites in number that are the atraction, the couch potato method is to sip a pint of Adnams in the garden of the Carriers arms in the town itself where the wildlife will come to you rather than vice versa.


Locations around the Solent

Being a sailor with a boat kept in close to the New Forest, I spend time quite a bit of time in and  around the Solent, visiting good birding sites both from the sea and land.

Newtown Creek, Isle of Wight.
This is absolutely my favorite place in the Solent to visit by boat, most specially at the quiet times of year away from the main sailing season. It is situated on north west shore of the Isle of Wight, between Cowes and Yarmouth. The extensive creek and its margins are maintained by the National Trust and although much is accessible from the land, the best way to see the birds is from a small dinghy at low water. It is a haven for waders feeding on the mud flats as the tide recedes.

Titchfield Haven.
A lovely setting close to the tiny drying harbour at Hill Head on the south-east shore of Southampton Water. The reserve is in two parts, separated by the river Meon, with woodland to the east and the main wader hides to the west. My only visit to date was rewarded by a pair of water rails scurrying between two small patches of reeds right in front of one of the hides.

Keyhaven and Pennington Marshes.
An extensive area stretching from Lymington in the east to Keyhaven in the west. At the Keyhaven end there are off-lying mud flats and as one walks east, the main marsh area comprises lakes and open grassland behind the coastal defenses. On a recent visit I saw a multitude of waders, finches, stonechats, a sparrow hawk, peregrine and kingfisher. A group of serious birders were claiming a red-backed shrike some way off. A great walk on a nice day, with access from Keyhaven, Pennington and Lymington, and a fine pub (the Chequers) at the half-way point for good measure.

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