Monday, 14 January 2013

Saturday and Sunday 12th and 13th January

Male Hen Harrier (c) Roger Wyatt

Female Hen Harrier (c) Roger Wyatt

Whitefronts on fly about All pics (c) Bark

Early morning kestrel (c) Bark

Sun on Reeds (c) Bark

Chiffy at the second screen (c) Bark

Contrasting days this weekend with Saturday chilly, damp and grey and Sunday sunny, crisp and clear, the finest kind of winter day.
The birds that we are seeing on the moor have settled into a regular winter pattern but are no less interesting or exciting for that. On Friday two Bitterns were seen one flying off towards the second screen and the other almost immediately emerging from the vegetation to the right of the first screen and swimming across the channel where it then started to hunt. The most Bitterns we have been able to confirm in the reed bed were three in the winter of 2009/10 and there may well be that number there now or perhaps even more, it is a very extensive reedbed!
The eleven White-fronted Geese are still present although on Sunday they went for a long fly about but looked as if they finally descended onto the flood field. They associate both with the very large numbers of Canada Geese currently in residence and also with the Greylags, showing no particular preference for either species.
Both Hen Harriers have been seen this weekend the ring-tailed bird appears to hunt over the reedbed much more than the male, which tends to prefer the more open fields. This may be a reflection of the prey species that they are capable of taking, the male as with most raptors, being much smaller than the female. Peregrines, both a male and a female, have been noted again this weekend and on Sunday we had spectacular close views of a male flying past at great speed.
A Whooper Swan was found on Saturday with the Mute Swan flock that seems to favour the fields to the north and west of the reserve, but on Sunday we were unable to relocate it.
The icy conditions are beginning to concentrate the wildfowl around areas of open water and there are very good numbers of all the expected duck species present, with the exception of Pochard, of which we could only see two or three. Wigeon and Teal were out in the middle of big Otmoor in large numbers.
There are now regular reports of two Barn Owls hunting over the reedbed at dusk despite the fact that the Starling roost no longer occurs. There are still four Chiffchaffs resident along the edge of the path to the first screen and on towards the second. Along with the Stonechats they will find the current cold snap very challenging and it will be interesting to see how or if they come through. It will be worth checking out the area around and beyond the feeders all the way into the Roman Road as there have now been three separate sightings of a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker in this area, an increasingly rare bird that is well worth seeing.

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