Bark has asked me and Steve to put together some words of wisdom and a few snaps to cover the Otmoor blog this weekend so here we go...
It was a mixed bag weather wise this weekend and on Saturday we decided that summer was well and truly over as we stood on the bridleway in the rain, with grey skies and a fresh northerly wind in our faces. It brightened up a bit throughout the day and another year tick for Otmoor was added before more rain on Sunday morning. Sunday afternoon was a different matter altogether. I thought summer isn’t over just yet as the clouds cleared, and the warm sunshine poured through and highlighted the bright berries on the bushes, and the changing colours of the leaves, as autumn just starts to take over from summer.
We had seen a Bittern flying over the reeds in the week and a Barn Owl hunting at dusk over Greenaways so either of those on the weekend would be a good start.
The seed that is being scattered near the cattle pen is pulling in more birds, and there were around a hundred birds there on the weekend. Linnet, Reed Bunting, Gold Finch and Chaffinch are the most numerous. Bullfinch is also making the most of the seed and can be seen along the track near the feeders. Most of the summer birds have gone and the winter birds are yet to arrive, so it can seem quiet on the moor at this time of year. With patience you can still find a few warblers flitting around in the bushes but most of them have headed south for the winter. We headed out to the Pill area of the moor and found Blackcap, Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat, Chiffchaff and Reed Warbler in the bushes near the bridge, and we could hear Cetti’s warblers in the distance. A few meadow pipits jumped up from the grass and called as they flew off in the northerly wind. Two Snipe joined them from the long grass and shot off towards Greenaways where six or seven other Snipe had been seen flying around. After a while we were pleased to find a Whinchat and two Stonechat. We watched them for quite a long time, and as we stood and watched, more birds appeared and eventually we managed a count of at least five Whinchat and four Stonechat.
Seven Yellow Wagtails flew over our heads and we could see more of them around the feet of the cattle. One stopped off briefly on the barbed wire before returning to the cattle to feed.
A Spotted Flycatcher was a welcome sight along the bridleway on Saturday morning and a single Green Sandpiper and a Golden Plover were both heard flying over but didn’t linger. Raven was seen flying over the moor early on, but an early visit to the first screen didn’t produce any waders apart from a handful of Snipe. At 10:30 things changed when one Otmoor regular was lucky enough to find a Spotted Redshank along the muddy edge. A great bird to find on the moor, and one that we used to get more regularly in previous years. Unfortunately it didn’t hang around, but it keeps the Otmoor year list ticking over nicely, and was a good one to turn up while Bark was away! Another possible year tick was a Grey Wagtail that was seen during the week as these aren’t seen very often on the moor. So we might be close to 150 for the year and still plenty of migration left and some winter birds to add as well.
Sunday morning the moor was shrouded in mist and fine rain, and my hopes that the weather may have put some waders down in front of the first screen were soon dashed. All that was there were the usual Mallard, Shoveler, Teal, Coot, Moorhen and a couple of sleeping Wigeon. No waders at all. Water Rails were calling from the ditches in the rain as well as the Cetti’s warblers. The walk back to the car was rewarded with a good view of the male Hen Harrier as it flew over Greenaways and over the hedge at the back into the Flood field. Nice to know that it is still here as we thought that it may have left with the Ringtail that turned up last week. As far as I know neither of them had been seen since last weekend. In the late afternoon sunshine the male Hen Harrier was seen hunting over large areas of the moor, but always too distant for a picture. There have been quite a few Sparrowhawk sightings recently and the usual Buzzards, Marsh Harrier and Red Kite sightings keep you on your toes as they all need double checking at this time of year, especially as there was a possible sighting of a Black Kite on Saturday. A single Hobby was reported hunting over Greenaways in the sunshine, and there seems to be Kestrels everywhere you look at the moment.
It’s always worth checking the mixed Tit flocks for other small birds as they make their way along the hedgerows. They are easy to find once you hear the noisy Long Tailed Tits keeping in contact with each other. Only a couple of Chiffchaff this time but one day it might be a rare warbler. We’ve been checking the Tit flocks for years and still haven’t turned up anything rare but one day something will turn up!
|Hip replacement within the hedgerows.|
In the week an Osprey was seen drifting over the first screen, so as well as checking the bushes, the scrapes, the reed beds and the grassland you also need to check the skies as anything can turn up at this time of year.
Let’s hope that something good drops in again this week!