Monday, 18 February 2013

Saturday and Sunday 16th and 17th February

Displaying Lapwings (c) Bark

Ringtail with missing primaries (c) Bark
Whitefronts on Big Otmoor (c) Bark

and earlier in the mist (c) Terry Sherlock

Despite misty starts both mornings it was possible to believe this weekend that winter is relaxing its grip and spring is not so far away.
The birds sense the difference too and there were Chaffinches, Greenfinches, Skylarks and Great Tits singing. Even more noticeable were the lapwings that have started calling, courting and displaying. Whether these are birds getting early pairing practice or breeding residents it is impossible to say, nonetheless it is very encouraging to see and enjoy. There is a slight flush now in the hedgerows and Bullfinches have started feeding on blackthorn buds in the car park field.
There are substantial numbers of Lapwings and Golden Plovers scattered over the main fields, when they flush it is possible to spot ten or so Dunlin flying with them. Amongst the birds causing them to flush were a male and ring-tailed Hen Harriers. The ringtail is missing at least one of its primaries from its left wing and is easily identifiable, it would be interesting to hear if there are any other ring-tailed birds present as there had been at least two in the earlier winter period. In addition a male Peregrine with an exceptionally white breast was hunting over big Otmoor on Saturday. There were also Sparrowhawks, a pair of Kestrels at Noke and several Common Buzzards and of course a procession of Red kites passing over the reserve. Barn Owls are hunting regularly over the reedbeds and have been seen frequently at both ends of the day.
Duck numbers remain high and included a party of fifteen Pintail flying together. There was also a single Shelduck on big Otmoor on Sunday.
The Bittern was not seen this weekend to the best of my knowledge, but was recorded on Friday morning from the first screen. With raised water levels on the southern reedbed it is likely that it can feed in deep cover.
There was a large congregation of Gulls loafing and feeding on the flooded fields at Noke. They were mostly Black headed Gulls but amongst them were twelve Lesser black backs, a Greater black back a Herring Gull and two Common Gulls. The latter being a new record for the year. The other addition to the yearlist was a Marsh Tit on the feeders, this brings us up to ninety species for the year.
We have seen very few different wader species so far this year and have yet to record even a Redshank. During the next couple of weeks we should have the Curlews arriving and after that other species will follow and with them the spring.

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