Monday, 3 December 2012

Saturday and Sunday 1st and 2nd December

Meadow Pipit

Goldfinch and Teasels

Freezing Dawn


Stonechat pair

Smart Starling

Restless Teal Flock      All pics this week (c) Bark
The moor had an arctic feel this weekend, the floods of earlier in the week had frozen overnight and bright sunshine sparkled on the hoar frost and icy scrapes. On the reedbed the southern lagoon was frozen on both days but there was still open water on the northern one and in the River Ray.
Fieldfares and Redwings are the most noticeable birds in the carpark field and are increasingly feeding out on the open pastures now that the berry crops are disappearing. There are also more Meadow Pipits than of recent weeks and on Sunday some of them could be seen picking scraps of food from the surface of the ice. Stonechats are still hanging on and were very easy to see by the first screen.
The Whooper Swans from last weekend moved on fairly rapidly but on Saturday, and adult and a juvenile were found out on the flooded fields to the west of the path to the second screen. They are most likely to be different individuals to the four adults seen last week. They flew off towards the north of the barn and flood fields, where there are extensive flooded meadows.
The Hen Harrier is still present and seems to have a very wide ranging circuit that it follows to hunt, but can usually be found at the starling roost at the end of the afternoon.
Lapwing and Golden Plover numbers are steadily increasing but with the very watery conditions in the Otmoor basin they are widely dispersed in smaller flocks of several hundred.
Large numbers of wildfowl were frequently flushed by one or other of the pair of Peregrines that seem to have taken up residence on Greenaways. The large female spent hours on both Saturday and Sunday sitting on the fence posts to the right of the stone track occasionally accompanied by a much smaller male that sat on the ground.
There was also a predator of some kind or another that kept flushing the three or four hundred Teal that were out in the middle of the northern reedbed. It didn’t seem to be an obvious raptor and may have been a fox or even the Otter which has been seen several times during the last week. Notably putting on a display of fish catching and fish eating right in front of the first someone who didn’t have a camera!
As we go on into December it will be worth checking the Greylag flock as it is about this time of year that we can expect Whitefronted Geese to turn up and conditions look good for them.
For those who may be interested I will be publishing a special supplement to Otmoor Birding this week, which will feature a superb set of pictures of Otmoor taken by RSPB staff member Zoe Edwards, they were taken from a light aircraft earlier in November and show just how much work has gone into the profiling and re-wilding of this landscape.

I have just recieved an E-mail from Steve Roby concerning the Starling roost on Sunday which I reproduce in full:

"The starling roost was good fun yesterday afternoon.

I don't know if you checked out the area around the flood field but there must have been an area of open water, somewhere towards Murcott and Fencott. Shortly before 4pm hundreds of wildfowl rose into the air, presumably due to a raptor. They didn't settle and eventually gained height and split into numerous groups. There were still flocks of gulls flying west, so for a time the sky was full of birds if you looked north-east. Many of them flew overhead including vocal wigeons, which added to the atmosphere.

By now the starlings had started gathering. They had left it quite late and the light was already fading but they put on a very good show for 20-25 minutes. The flock gathered into tens of thousands during this time and the harrier put in a couple of appearances before it was all over around 4.25."

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