Last Sunday, when we dropped off my brother at his sailing course, my parents and I decided to go for a wander around Farmoor Reservoir. I knew that a Red-Necked Phalarope had been spotted there very recently, and so I was hoping that we might see it.
After not too long, about halfway along the causeway through the middle of the reservoir, we spotted this tiny and beautiful wader. The bird was a juvenile bird, in the middle of its migration up north. This was quite a rare sighting for Oxford, as only around 30 of these birds migrate through the country each migration season. Unlike, most waders, these small birds (not much bigger than a House Sparrow), spend most of their time swimming about on the water, and with their lobed toes, are well adapted to doing so. Being a juvenile, it was nowhere near as colourful as the adults are, when they are in their breeding plumage, and so, this bird was mostly white, with a little grey, and no red neck at all.
Also, on the shore next to it, was a juvenile Dunlin – a similarly sized bird, but one that prefers to spend most of its time on its feet wading. I was amazed at how tame these two birds were, as they were not at all bothered by our presence, and were not disturbed by either us, or the many sailing boats in the water.
As usual, there were also huge numbers of Black-Headed Gulls and Coots at Farmoor. There were also two species of Grebe present – Great Crested and Little – two birds that hunt for fish and other underwater animals, by diving down underwater for long periods of time, and chasing their prey. At this time of year, most of the Great Crested Grebes aren’t in their spectacular breeding plumage, instead in a duller white, black and grey plumage.
On the smaller of the two reservoirs there, many Cormorants rest and sunbathe on some rafts that float on the water. There were at least 30 of these birds sitting on them. Unfortunately, I was not able to pick out the Shag among them, that had been spotted recently. There were also lots of Tufted Ducks at the reservoir – another species of diving duck, and one where the male in particular stands out. The male has a black and white plumage with an unmistakeable crest on its head. The females however, is a more browny black colour, with a hardly noticeable crest on the back of the head.
Although I was only there for a short time, I was very pleased to see a huge variety of birds, and especially a Red-Necked Phalarope so close to home.