Monday, 30 April 2012

Saturday, Sunday and Monday 28th-30th April

Reed Bunting (c) Carole Findlay

                                                     Reed Warbler (c) Carole Findlay

                                 Cuckoo also taken through iphone with scope (c) Andy Last
Ring Ouzel (c) Andy Last taken with iphone through scope

After the way that I have moaned about the drought I didn’t expect to get to a point where I was complaining about the rain, but it did make conditions very difficult for birds and birders over the weekend.
I started out the weekend at 5 am. on Saturday with a very hardy band of people who had turned out for a “dawn chorus” walk. Despite the wind and the light rain we managed to hear Sedge, Reed, Willow and Grasshopper Warblers as well as the other expected species. Cuckoo was also heard and seen over all the weekend. There were three Ringed Plovers on the scrapes in front of the hide on Saturday and two Golden Plovers still lingered on Monday morning.
There were two different Ring Ouzels seen in the field just to the south of the Closes, at one time accompanied by at least twelve Wheatears. Another party of eleven Wheatears were on Ashgrave on Monday morning. Both Hobby and Merlin were seen on Monday and the first Swifts of the season were noted on Saturday morning with many more seen on Monday. On Saturday a small party of Swallows were almost stationary flying into the wind and picking insects off the surface of the water. It was possible to stand and have them almost flying on the spot beside you. A Yellow Wagtail was found on the MOD land on Monday morning.
The heavy rain has made a huge difference to the moor. There was concern expressed that the cold wet conditions would take a heavy toll on the newly hatched Lapwings out on Big Otmoor. This morning however it was possible to find a good number of chicks by scanning the islands and ridges out on the field, they seemed active and healthy and the parents were as attentive as usual.
We have had several reports of Marsh Harriers using the reed bed and on Sunday evening Pete Roby saw two birds going in to roost. Peregrine has been seen frequently over Ashgrave and occasionally sitting on the ground. This morning we found a Nightingale singing from the pocket of wet woodland that sticks out into Ashgrave, it was not singing very powerfully or for long periods and so may be a bird that is on passage, I would appreciate anyone else who might hear it getting in touch.
Most noticeable birds at present are Skylarks and they were singing in the teeth of the gale and driving rain on Saturday, when the sun came out today they seemed to be everywhere. Turtle Dove is the last major summer migrant that we expect on the moor and is one that we are always anxious about. They have a very hazardous journey to get here and because of their difficult migration and their declining status in the U.K. it is always a relief when they do make it. Watch this space for the latest news.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Saturday and Sunday 21st and 22nd April

 Orange Tips much more noticeable

 Yellowhammer by the feeders

 Singing Sedgie

 Newly arrived Shelduck

 Wheatear by the hide

 Egret in summer Plumage
Out of focus but the first Reed Warbler this year.

Two of eight Wheatears north of the Pill (c) Andy Last

One of the Shorties on Friday evening (c) Andy Last

Despite the cool weather and the breezy conditions spring migration continues apace.
Grasshopper Warbler has arrived, at present in limited numbers, but already a bird has started to reel from the regular briar near the feeders. A few Reed Warblers are adding their voices to those of Sedgies that are now here in strength and performing their parachute displays over suitable clumps of reed and brambles. Lesser Whitethroats arrived last week and are singing from several spots along the bridle way towards Noke often from places that they favoured last year. Worryingly there has only been one report of Common Whitethroat so far, a bird that usually arrives before the Lesser and usually outnumbers it at least four to one. It may just be that weather conditions have been difficult and they have been checked in their northward movement. Blackcaps are loud along the hedgerows. As yet I have not detected Garden Warbler and started out on the sticky problem of separating the songs, I usually get it right by the time the birds leave and have to learn it all over again the following year!
There is no mistake with the Cuckoo however that was both seen and heard on Saturday morning. Nor with the Snipe that have been drumming over both Greenaways and The Closes.
A pair of Shelduck on Saturday morning were a welcome and long overdue addition to the Otmoor yearlist. As was a passage Ring Ouzel seen along the bridleway to Noke on Saturday, there was also a possible bird near Oddington. These are truly passage birds never staying very long but now being seen almost annually.
I cannot remember a better spring passage of Wheatears than the one we are experiencing this year. Again there were at least six individuals in front of the hide, several out on Greenaways and on Sunday there were eight in the field that lies to the north of the Jacob Stone mostly pristine bright males.
On the wader front; there are still around forty Golden plover on Big Otmoor, a Green Sandpiper at the second screen and a Ringed Plover as well as the Little Ringed Plovers on the new scrapes. A probable Whimbrel was heard on Saturday morning and there are several pairs of Curlew present.
Merlin was reported on Saturday and it seems that as in previous years Hobbies will overlap Merlin by about a week. The Short Eared Owls are still with us and there were up to four still hunting over The Closes and Greenaways on Friday evening.
Weather conditions over the next week will be hard for the newly hatched Lapwings but the rain is beginning to make Otmoor look like a proper wetland again.


Friday, 20 April 2012

Friday 20th April

A brief visit this morning produced the years first Reed Warbler singing in the reeds by the bridle way just past the pump house. Lesser Whitethroat was found on Maltpit and also along the bridleway towards Noke. There were at least two Grasshopper Warblers reeling in the car park field although they were not doing it with any great enthusiasm. There are still six Wheatears on the grass by the hide. Peregrine could also be seen sitting out in the middle of the field.
The recent heavy rain has swollen the pools and scrapes across the whole reserve and it is  looking much more attractive to waders and other waterfowl.  The year count has now risen to 120 there may be more after the weekend.

Monday, 16 April 2012

Saturday and Sunday 14th and 15th April


Bathing Wheatear

Bullfinch in the sunshine.

Redshank by the hide.

Wren singing in the wind. All above pics (c) P. Barker

Garganey from the second screen. (c) J. Coppock

Despite the chill wind all weekend and the greyness on Saturday morning, migration continues steadily. Fresh in this weekend were a pair of Garganey at the second screen and several Yellow Wagtails. A pair of Little Ringed Plovers were also at the second screen on the islands. Snipe were drumming and chipping close to the bridleway on both mornings with up to five birds in the air. (for superb photos, sound and video visit the blog. All courtesy of Badger and Roger Wyatt.)
Wheatears continue to be found all over the reserve but principally on the area to the south of the hide where there were at least five. They showed particularly well on Sunday morning bathing and interacting right in front of the hide. Sedge Warblers are now much more widespread but are not yet present in the numbers that we can expect in a few weeks time. A cuckoo was seen and heard in the Roman Road area to the east of the Car Park Field. Swallows were hunting in the lee of the hedge and House Martins have been seen in the week. Bullfinches are very evident in the hedgerows and in the carpark field and Yellowhammers are again taking up residence in their normal corner of the same field.
Golden Plover are still on Big Otmoor but I expect that if the wind becomes more southerly they will soon be off. A much smaller flock of Fieldfare were seen on Saturday heading east. A pair of Kestrels were seen mating on the fence surrounding Big Otmoor and Peregrine were seen several times over the weekend. The passage of Redstarts through the county continues and there were at least three males seen on Sunday to add to the pair seen at the Noke end during the week.
Redshanks are particularly noticeable at present around the edges of the new scrapes and Lapwings are flying up and challenging any birds flying over that they perceive as a threat.
Next week we should be hearing Groppers if the wind and weather behave.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Snipe Drumming on Otmoor 13th April


Friday, 13 April 2012

Friday 13th April

Wheatear drying off post bathing.

Still damp.

Yellowhammer. All pics (c) P.Barker

A walk down from Beckley to the southern edge of Ashgrave gave lots of singing warblers. Best were three smart Wheatears in the newly harrowed field at the bottom of Church Lane. They were bathing in some puddles that are where springs emerge and they allowed a quite close approach. Also seen were two Ravens over the wood and a pair of Yellowhammers on the way back up the hill. I also saw a male Merlin carrying off a small bird.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Saturday and Sunday 7th and 8th April

One of the carpark willow Warblers on Sunday morning.

All made from lichen and spiders webs.

Damp Robin

Dramatic landing in the murk on Saturday
all pics (c) P. Barker

A damp and drizzly weekend that was enlivened by a fall of warblers on Saturday night. First thing on Sunday morning there were at least six Willow Warblers in the carpark field alone, calling and chasing each other around. Further birds were heard calling from the hedgerows in other parts of the reserve. There were at least three Sedge Warblers, two calling from the reedbed adjacent to the path to the second screen and another near the pump house (per Graham). There were also seven Ruff present on Big Otmoor six females and a much larger male. They were feeding out on the grass rather than round the scrapes. There are still over a hundred Golden Plover looking resplendent in their summer plumage out on the far scrape. A Little ringed Plover was picking around the edge of one of the new scrapes on Saturday but not seen on Sunday.
It was good to see and hear at least four snipe drumming and one “chipping” close to the path to the first screen.
Ravens were seen both days and a Peregrine passed through on Sunday morning flushing everything. There is still a substantial flock of Fieldfare of over a hundred and fifty, on the fields next to the reedbed. We managed to find at least one Redwing amongst them.
Most unusual bird this weekend was a Ruddy Shelduck found out on Big Otmoor by Colin Oram. Sadly it was not present on Monday morning but may still be lurking in the area. It seems odd that we have had a record of this exotic bird before we have had a Shelduck of the conventional sort on the reserve this year.
The year-list is currently standing at 111 but I am anticipating a big surge by this time next week. Can’t wait!

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Otmoor on the Wireless

David Wilding the Reserve Manager has been interviewed as part of the BBC Radio Four programme "Open Country". He was asked to discuss the impact of the current drought on wetland management. The programme is being broadcast at 3.00 pm on Thursday and is repeated at 6.00am on Sunday.

Monday, 2 April 2012

Saturday 31st March and 1st April

The first Willow Warbler on the moor this year. (c) P. Barker

The same .......

........and again.

Reed Bunting. (c) P.Barker

Long Tailed Tit collecting nest material. (c) P.Barker

Odd Bee with long proboscis. (c) P.Barker

Frost on Nettles (c) P. Barker

A very grey windy morning on Saturday and a cold crisp start to Sunday that gave way to warm sunshine.
Chiffchaffs are singing along all the hedgerows and several Blackcaps can be heard especially in the Roman road area. Fresh in, was a Willow Warbler singing appropriately in a pollarded willow on Sunday morning first thing. There may have been two of them but we were not sure. Reed buntings are very much in evidence and there is a small flock of Linnets along the track between the two screens. A Little ringed Plover was in front of the hide on Saturday but did not show itself on Sunday. There seem to be really good numbers of Redshank on most of the fields and they can be heard calling and seen displaying almost all the time. A lone Ruff was the only other wader species present. Peregrine was seen as was Raven and there seem to be very pale Common Buzzards everywhere. One birder told me that he had counted fourteen and several Kites in one rising thermal on Thursday.
There is a very attractive Snow Goose that has joined Guinea Fowl, Bar-headed Goose, Night Heron and Black Swan on my Otmoor “plastic list”. Presumably a vagrant from Blenheim. There are still a diminishing number of Wigeon and Teal on the moor and at least sixty Golden Plover many of which are in smart summer plumage. Last week there was a flock of over three hundred Fieldfares with a few Redwings, this week there were about seventy and it won’t be long now until they go. An Otter was seen crossing the track between the two screens on Sunday and unfortunately a Mink was seen along the bridle way.
Migrants will be turning up rapidly now, it is the most exciting time of year for a patch watcher.