Still not the kind of weekend that you would normally expect at this time of year, cold, windy and damp. But most of the birds that we have been waiting for are now back.
Turtle Dove was first seen at the Noke end of the reserve on Thursday and there was a brief snatch of song heard on Sunday morning. All the Warblers are now in and singing, albeit in a rather tentative way. Cettis was heard along the bridle way midweek by one of the reserve staff, we are hoping that it will soon find a mate and start to repopulate the moor after a couple of years absence.
Wheatears have continued to be present in large numbers and there were at least twenty present on Saturday, on Ashgrave in front of the hide, by Lower Farm Noke and on the field to the south of the Closes. On Sunday morning as the wind came round to a more southerly direction, a party of ten were seen to move north along the hedgerow adjoining the reed bed. It does support the idea that they have been held back over the last four weeks by adverse conditions and headwinds.
Three Whinchat were feeding from the hedge and the fence around the northern edge of Big Otmoor they are so much brighter and colourful at this time of year but stay only briefly. There are now two Marsh Harriers being seen regularly over the reed bed one of them is certainly a mature female but as yet we have not had a clear id. of a male. Hobbies are now present in good numbers with at least thirteen being recorded hunting over Greenaways on Sunday afternoon (per Steve Roby). At least three and very probably four Cuckoos were present most of the weekend calling loudly and making display flights.
Despite the increase in water levels we do not seem to have attracted many passage waders. There was a Whimbrel on Big Otmoor on Saturday, a Greenshank on Ashgrave both days and Snipe are continuing to drum and chip over Greenaways. There are also a pair of resident Curlew on Greenaways taking offensive action whenever they are overflown by raptors or corvids. A Red Kite sailing over big Otmoor now prompts a major scramble by Lapwings, that attempt to drive it out of their airspace.
There were large numbers of mixed hirundines and Swifts feeding over the reserve on both days this weekend. A flock of at least three hundred Swallows were feeding very low and slowly over the flooded field at the edge of the path to the second screen. They were flying into the wind and very close to the water, they seemed to be picking insects off the surface. They would work the length of the field and then fly rapidly back to the other end and then start again. Every so often they would take a rest and settle en masse in one of the hedgerow trees affording excellent views.
Warm and settled weather is what is required now so that breeding can really get under way and the first dragonflies can start to emerge.