Monday, 27 February 2012

Saturday and sunday 25th and 26th February

Bittern from second screen (c) Andy Last

Redpolls using the new niger feeder. (c) P. Barker

Teal from the hide (c) P. Barker

Bittern Hiding (c) P. Barker

Bittern over the reed bed (c) Terry Sherlock

It felt more like the last few days of April than the end of February, the weather was warm and bright and there were lots of birds to look at.
Most notable among them was a Bittern, probably the one seen last weekend It was seen flying over the reed bed on Saturday and then seen on and off all day feeding along the nothern edge of the top reed bed.
A pair of Redshanks patrolled the waters edge on Ashgrave and increasing numbers of Wigeon are feeding on the edges of these lagoons.
Reed Buntings have started to sing in earnest this week and their scratchy song can be heard from scrubby areas and reeds. On Sunday a Cettis Warbler was both seen and heard singing along the ditch beside the bridle way and from the bramble patch by the kissing gate that goes to the first screen.
New for the year list this weekend were Great Crested and Little Grebes and a Grey Wagtail that showed well in front of the first screen on Saturday morning.
On both days as the mornings drew on and it got warmer there were large numbers of raptors to be seen soaring and displaying over adjacent woodland. Principally Buzzards and Kites but at one time on Saturday there were at least five Sparrowhawks above Noke Wood. Peregrine was also seen on Sunday as were Ravens.
Large numbers of Lapwing are beginning to display and pair up over Big Otmoor and there were several sizeable flocks of Golden Plover distributed over the main fields.
Ten Curlew successfully fulfilled my prediction of last week and if the fine warm weather continues there could be further new arrivals by next weekend.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Saturday and sunday 17th and 18th February

Brent out of water (c) Terry Sherlock
Roe Deer Saunders Ground (c) Paul Greenaway

Brent Goose (c) Paul Greenaway

Redhead Goosander (c) Andy Last

A very good weekend on the moor and one that pushed this year's bird count up to eighty nine.
It was great to see the first Bittern of this winter. Between the drought and the freeze there hasn't been anywhere for Bitterns to be at all. The bird was first glimpsed by a visitor as it disappeared into a clump of reeds on Greenaways. When we met him he had been waiting in the cold for it to emerge for nearly an hour. I don't know if his patience was rewarded but we saw it fly over the reed bed a good half an hour later, it was watched in the afternoon feeding along the edge of the northern lagoon.
The Brent Goose is still on the moor as I write (monday morning) having first been found by Paul Greenaway on Thursday. I only know of two previous records for this species and those were very brief visits. It seems to spend most of the time now in the company of the Greylags. A White- fronted Goose was out on Greenaways on Saturday morning and was seen again, briefly in flight with Greylags on Sunday.
A party of fifteen Dunlin were out on Big Otmoor around the central pools along with Golden Plover, good numbers of Lapwings and three Ruff.
Another new species for the year was a female Goosander seen on the northern lagoon on Sunday morning. Duck numbers have grown with the thaw but are still well below normal levels for this time of year. There is for instance only one Pochard, a female, currently present on the reserve.
Although I havn't mentioned them lately the Short eared Owls are continuing to give excellent displays in the late afternoon and I will be posting a supplement of pictures taken in the carpark field on Saturday evening, by Andy Last. A well known local birder said that it was one of the best displays he had seen by the owls.
Finally as can be seen from Badgers video the otters put on a splendid show in one of the ditches. There were three of them and from their comparative sizes they looked like two adults and a juvenile.
The reserve is becoming very popular with visitors the fine weather on Sunday meant that by twlve o clock the carpark was full, I guess that it must have been equally busy in the afternoon.
This week we should have some new arrivals Curlew usually turn up in the middle of February so maybe they are a little late!

Monday, 13 February 2012

Saturday and Sunday 11th and 12th February

Marsh Tit (c) Andy Last

Marsh Tit (c) Andy Last

Water Rail (c) P. Barker

Water Rail (c) P. Barker

One of the Songthrushes (c) P. Barker

One of the Green Woodpeckers (c) P. Barker

Very tame Bullfinch (c) Peter Barker

A bitterly cold weekend but by Sunday there were at least some signs of a thaw.
There were few birds to be seen on Saturday after what had had been one of the coldest nights of the winter so far, apart from the usual tits, finches and buntings around the feeders. Among these was a Marsh Tit. There were very few ducks on the ice, and on the northern lagoon there was just a tiny open lead of water with just a pair of Mute swans keeping it open accompanied by a lone Coot.
By the bridge to the hide a Water Rail could be seen out and about feeding in the running water and on Sunday there were two visible at the same time.
We saw a Woodcock in long meadow on Saturday morning and another two were seen on Sunday over the reedbed and Greenaways. There were about forty Golden Plover feeding on Ashgrave and the closes as the thaw began to set in on Sunday. There were also good numbers of Fieldfares foraging over the grass now that the berries supply in the hedgerows is exhausted. There were also several Mistle Thrushes amongst them. At least seven Song Thrushes were collecting snails from the long grass on the southern side of the hide and then smashing them against the stones on the path. Nine Green Woodpeckers were in July's meadow and soon they will be staking their claims to territory in Sling copse and Noke wood. There were already woodpeckers drumming in the wood and from the path we could see a Nuthatch working through a large oak.
Back in the carpark field a normally very shy Bullfinch gave very close views as it fed on blackthorn buds.

Monday, 6 February 2012

Saturday 4th February

Water Rail by the bridge (c) Andy Last
Yellowhammer (c) Andy Last
Water Rail (c) Andy Last
Bullfinch eating blackthorn buds (c) P.Barker
Another frost pic for the D.Wood collection.
The Northern edge of the reserve (c) P. Barker
Water Rail (c) Nick Truby

I only managed to get down to the moor on Saturday, I chickened out on Sunday. Last time I went down there in snowy weather I managed to get stuck on the way back and had no desire to repeat the experience!
Saturday produced one of the finest kind of winter mornings: sunny, clear, frosty and still. Sadly it was for the most part birdless but the landscape and skies just about compensated.
We walked right round the moor going out through the MOD land and then round via Oddington and Noke. The newly resurfaced track towards Oddington, which I had not seen before, made for easy walking. We looked in the apple tree by the bridge but the Little Owl was not at home. We flushed a couple of Snipe and saw several small groups of Bullfinches.
The best birding was to be had in the car park field around the feeders and by the stockade on Greenaways. There were good numbers of Reed Buntings, Chaffinches and at least ten Yellowhammers feeding on the spilt grain. There were mixed Tits including a Marsh Tit on the feeders themselves along with occasional visits from two Great Spotted woodpeckers. A rather optimistic frog was croaking in the ditch and by now has probably croaked it’s last. A Water Rail gave excellent photo opportunities to birders by the bridge to the hide and the results can be seen here. Let’s hope that this is the last of the snow and we can settle into a wet but warmer late winter period that will fill the ditches, scrapes and reedbed.