|Social distancing being enforced at the feeders (c) Tom N-L|
Walking down Windmill road in Headington this morning at eight o’clock, my attention was drawn to a male blackbird sitting on the eaves of a house and singing loudly and clearly. Not an unusual occurrence you might think. The difference today was that I could actually hear it, his fluid song was not drowned out and obliterated by the normal roar of non-stop rush hour traffic. Although we have other preoccupations, nature just keeps following the rhythm of the seasons.
|Blackbird (c) Bark|
I last went down to Otmoor two weeks ago and duly walked round with a couple of my regular companions, observing the two-metre separation, which has now become the new normal. The sky was clear and blue, I slowly realised that there was a total absence of vapour trails and no noise from passing aircraft.
|Chaffinch song (c) Bark|
Spring was happening everywhere, with a few early arrivals and many others still awaiting departure. Chiffchaffs seemed to be everywhere in the hedgerows, flitting and feeding, bundles of restless energy.
|Chiffchaff (c) Oz|
Out on the fields Lapwings and Redshanks are calling, displaying and nesting.
Before monitoring stopped and the RSPB staff were asked to work from home the first Lapwing nests had been found. Sadly, we will not be able to collect comprehensive breeding data this year.
|Female Stonechat soon to go (c) Bark|
Two different Bitterns were booming. One from Greenaways and the other from the depths of the long reedbed that goes towards Noke along the northern edge of Ashgrave beside the bridleway.
|Marsh Harriers (c) Bark|
Over the main reedbeds up to four Marsh Harriers were hunting and displaying. The Hen Harriers of the winter finally seem to have moved on.
|Marsh Harrier and Red Kite Dispute (c) Tom N-L|
A small flock of Golden Plover were out on Big Otmoor looking very smart indeed as they moult into their fresh summer plumages. They, and the Wigeon that are still feeding around the edges of the water on Big Otmoor and The Flood, will soon be gone.
|Willow Warbler and Long tailed Tit (c) Bark|
With the RSPB staff still visiting the reserve on a rota basis for essential duties and with livestock soon to be coming on to Ashgrave, I will be hearing from them about the new arrivals and other birds on passage.
|Two New Arrivals (c) Bark|
I will try to publish some kind of update from time to time. I have for instance just heard that there is a Little Ringed Plover on Big Otmoor and that the Black headed Gull colony seems to have decamped to the Flood. The first Swallows have also been noticed.
|Kestrel in the wind (c) Bark|
I have been thinking a great deal about the lockdown and our restricted access to the countryside, especially for those of us who live in town. When I walked from my home up to Shotover, as I did the other day with a couple of members of our household, I was dodging other people continually, all of them out legitimately running, cycling, dog walking and running. Had I taken a ten-minute drive, I could have been on a public footpath or bridleway and seen nobody. I fail to see that this is somehow a more “unsafe” option for myself or others…….
|Mallard out walking! (c) Bark|
A friend sent me a screen shot from Richard Dawkins Twitter feed…..:
“Told to take brief exercise daily, went to Otmoor. Only inhabitants birds and normally a few twitchers. I obeyed a notice forbidding entrance for Covid-19 safety reasons. I am sincerely curious. Maybe good reason? How does walking alone in a fenland bird reserve endanger anyone?”
Despite the obvious crisis in our society the natural world just keeps going unconcerned. I was reminded of a poem by Ted Hughes called “Swifts”, here is an extract:
“the swifts materialise at the tip of a long scream
Of needle. “Look! They’re back! Look!” and they’re gone
On a steep
Controlled scream of skid
Round the house-end and away under the cherries. Gone.
Suddenly flickering in sky summit, three or four together,
Gnat-whisp frail, and hover searching.
They’ve made it again,
Which means the globe’s still working, the Creation’s
Still waking refreshed, our summer’s
Still all to come ---"
|Peacock and Small Tortoiseshell (c) Bark|
I will report what I can from the moor and hope that we will all soon be back out there enjoying the birds and all of natural world. In the meantime, I hope that you all stay well.