Thursday, 29 October 2009


Autumn nights can find the ock meadow in a shroud of mist and the lights from the nearby Tesco can give it an almost eerie feeling.


Sunday, 25 October 2009

Feed the birds day

Today is the RSPB feed the birds day:  Unfortunately, no-one seems to have told the birds this..

Usually we get a good collection of goldfinches, sparrows and chaffinches, robins and blackbirds - but today it has been quiet.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Saturday morning stroll

A damp morning in Abingdon, but despite autumn becoming colder and wetter there is still plenty of wildlife out there, especially birds, even if they're becoming harder to photograph

A quick glimpse of a buzzard 

Another bird pray, not sure what type - maybe a sparrowhawk

A pheasant crossing a field

A moorhen, although common along this stretch of the Ock, they are quite difficult to get a picture of, usually because they spook quite easily.

And a young swan

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Blog Action Day 2009 - Climate Change

Today is Blog Action Day, an event where bloggers around the world write on the same subject - and this year's is climate change:

I wasn't going to write anything, but have felt inspired by Martin's blog to write something similar:

This is what the Ock Meadow currently looks like:

And this is what it looked like in July 2007:

According to the Environment Agency, this was a once in a 250 year event, so we have a while to wait for the next one
- unless the predictions are correct the weather system is going to become more changeable and wetter (
Whether climate change is happening and if it is how much of it is man made or just the natural affect of coming out of an Ice Age time will tell. But whatever happens the river and the flood plain need to protected from the ever present effect of development.

If you're a sceptic or a believer, the book, Six Degrees by
Mark Lynas is an interesting read, where he has used the scientific papers in the Bodleian Library to make predictions on what may happen if the climate does get warmer.

Other local blogs on the subject:

Backstreeter discusses reducing car usage by using bikes (and the problems associated with it)

Emma discusses the affect on farming and gardening:

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Misty Mornings

On Tuesday, the river Thames and the surrounding area were very picturesque with mist rising from the water, making for a very pleasant walk to work.
The river viewed from the Abbey Meadows:

The view north from the weir:

And glistening spiders webs on the Barton Fields nature reserve

I'm sure as autumn continues there will be other opportunities for more photographs

Tuesday, 13 October 2009


Not quite sure what possessed me to go for a walk to the Ock meadow in the early hours, but it was probably a combination of too much beer, wine and coffee at a reception at work - resulting in an inability to sleep.
Still, the meadow was covered in an eerie picturesque mist - something this picture totally fails to capture.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Water voles 2009

As the weather starts to take a turn for the worse and the days become shorter, it seems a good opportunity to review my water vole sightings for a year. Although water voles don't hibernate they do spend most of the winter in their burrows, so the chance of future sightings this year are unlikely.

I've used Google maps to record the sightings – yellow markings are obvious feeding signs and blue ones of actual sightings

These have been converted to Ordnance Survey grid references using a combination of Google Earth and various web sites and passed to the local wildlife trust who do annual water vole surveys.

The river Ock & Ock Meadow
The map shows a strong colony along the river Ock, from New Cut Mill at the bottom to a clump of trees further up. In fact water voles were so common along there during the spring and summer I stopped recording the sightings.

View Water Voles in the River Ock - Abingdon, 2009 in a larger map

Where possible, I have studied either side of this colony, but have seen no signs of water vole activity – probably because the trees are preventing suitable habitat from forming, but this may form a natural barrier, along with the weirs up and down stream for any predators.

I have also seen one water vole in the drainage ditch running through the meadow, and it's recorded on film on this post.

Since I took this film, I have not seen any water voles along this area.

Further along the ditch, there are definite signs of water vole feeding, as discussed in this post:

However, I spent many hours along this stretch and never did have any sightings. But it is far enough from the river to be considered a separate colony

I have seen feeding signs along the stream that runs to the north of the meadow, but the undergrowth presented problems in finding more signs of feeding or sightings.

North Abingdon

Two surprise water vole sightings:

View Water Voles in the River Ock - Abingdon, 2009 in a larger map

One along Radley Brook, where I saw my first ever water vole but had concluded the colony was no longer present. So I was very happy to be proved wrong, I have also recorded the feeding signs I saw there at the same time:

And one outside the leisure centre, where we were gathering for a evening of Himalayan Balsam clearing. This is probably linked to a known colony in the nearby Abbey Fishponds nature reserve

It's probably not accurate to describe Abingdon as a 'water vole hotspot', but there does seem to be a variety of colonies in the area and we are fortunate to share our town with this endearing - if declining creature.
DIY, work and injuries aside, I hope to spend some of 2010 exploring the other streams and ditches in the area. Probably in spring and early summer, as one thing I learnt this year is the rapid growth along the banks can make water vole spotting very hard.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Views from the clumps

It's good to put away the paint brushes, the spades and the masonry drill and make use of the good autumn weather to go for a good walk. And where better than Wittenham clumps – two hills that dominate the local landscape and are managed by the Northmoor Trust.
This is Round Hill viewed from Castle Hill

And the opposing view of Castle Hill, an Iron Age fort - viewed from Round Hill.

The clumps are a haven for wildlife, including this Kestrel - trying to reduce the local field vole population

Apparently, 75% of Oxfordshire consists of areas of outstanding natural beauty and the clumps are probably the best place to see it, including the river Thames to the north of Round Hill

And the Berkshire downs to the south of Castle Hill - they can be viewed behind Brightwell Barrow (thanks Birdman):

Although, I suspect Didcot power station is probably part of the other 25%...