Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Friday and Sunday 21st and 23rd December

Spiky place to sit (c) Bark

Fieldfares starting to forage alone (c) Bark

Both sides of a Chiffy (c) Bark

Two Shelduck on Greenaways Sunday morning (c) Geoff Adams

The weather forecast for Saturday looked so dire that I decided to and go down to the moor on Friday afternoon and take a look at the Starling roost.
I keep saying that the reserve is looking wetter than I can ever remember seeing it, and then it’s even wetter the next time I go down. Greenaways resembles a shallow lake with grassy islands and is currently the roost of choice for wildfowl. On Sunday there were at least eight hundred Golden Plover and slightly more Lapwings out there alongside the ducks. From time to time they were flushed by two Peregrines one of which was a particularly pale individual, the other was perched on the grass making the wildfowl very nervous.
The Bittern was out in the open from time to time in front of the first screen creeping warily along the edge of the reeds and occasionally freezing in its classic sky pointing “you can’t see me I’m a clump of sedge”pose. We pointed it out and let people see it through scopes, but those people who had never seen one before found it almost impossible to pick out. It is the most superbly camouflaged bird. On Sunday there was only a brief view of it, as it flew from one side of the main channel to the other.
There are now three Hen Harriers on the moor. There are two ringtails, one of which is a much larger adult female and and the other probably a juvenile male. The adult male is still present and was seen on Friday harassing the Starlings as they came in to roost. Also at the roost was a Barn Owl that flew right over our heads at the first screen and a pair of Ravens that flew over the reedbed calling to each other.
The hedgerows are still busy with mixed tit feeding parties often accompanied by Goldcrests and Chiffchaffs. There are assorted finches on the desiccated seed heads and the winter thrushes are much more spread out rather than moving in tight flocks. Stonechats are around the reed bed and on the pathway to the first screen.
As for the Starling roost itself, it can be spectacular but can also be something of an anti-climax. It is difficult to understand and to predict what will stimulate a really amazing display or what will provoke them into just diving straight into the reeds with no shape changing show at all. The one on Friday was excellent despite the heavy overcast sky and lack of a brilliant sunset.
Just one more weekend now before the new year and I doubt that there will be any new species to add to the one hundred and fifty two that we have seen on the moor this year, but who knows, there is still time.

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