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Farmoor Reservoir


Farmoor is a funny place. This is a concrete reservoir west of Oxford on the banks of the Thames. I have been visiting for many years, at all times of the seasons and it always seems different. Being almost in the middle of the country and with very few other bodies of water in the area, it can be a real hotspot for passage migrant waders (mostly singles or couples) and ducks, but at other times is almost devoid of birds apart from Cormorants (it is a fishery for stocked rainbow trout) Greylag and Canada Geese and gulls.


Some birds I have seen there have been memorable - hundreds of Swifts wheeling back and forth over the causeway in late April/ early May, their wings audible as they passed low over our heads. A similar experience in early August one year, when they all suddenly wheeled higher and higher, screaming, before disappearing towards the south.


During the surveying for the last national breeding bird atlas, I saw 6 Avocets flying around - they didn't land but were quite unmistakeable. I sent the 'roving' record to the Oxfordshire bird recorder, who queried it as there was no supporting evidence, so I don't know if it was used. If not, I didn't mind as I was quite sure of what I had seen.


There are often the odd Dunlin, once a single Purple Sandpiper being photographed by another birder, we had a Grey Phalarope on an NDOC visit, several times I have thought I have seen a real rarity which has turned out to be juvenile Ruff and on another bird club visit a Snow Bunting rummaged about in the weeds above the water level.


The Thames Water settling ponds hold Moorhens, sometimes Water Rail and Common Sandpiper, with Reed and Sedge Warblers in the surrounding reeds, which seem to be getting bigger with every visit. Black Redstart on the compound fences, Yellow, Pied and Grey Wagtails, flocks of Redwing and Fieldfare on the many berries in the surrounding trees. One winter I saw a Great Northern Diver very close to the yacht club jetties, on my first ever bird club visit there was a Scaup amongst the dozens of Tufted Duck and once a Shag perched on a buoy.


There are always dozens of Great Crested Grebe most of the year, a few Little Grebes, some Goldeneye in the winter along with increasing numbers of Gadwall and of course the ubiquitous Mallards.


It is worth noting that it can be bitterly cold in winter as there's nothing to stop the wind, plus loads of midges on still summer days. And even if there are no 'special' birds, it's still a good place for a level walk, plus breakfast in the yacht club café!

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