Wednesday, 8 May 2013

May Bank Holiday Weekend

Whitethroat (c) Bark

Singing (c) Bark

Collecting nest material (c) Bark

Always a beauty (c) Bark

One of four drummers (c) Bark

Coot (c) Bark

Dawn Saturday (c) Peter Coombes

Darth Vader goes birding (c) Bark

All over the reserve birds are trying to make up for lost time and making the most of the warm settled, and atypical Bank Holiday weekend weather. Birds were singing, feeding and gathering nesting material almost everywhere that one looked.
Thirty hardy souls turned up on Otmoor for a dawn chorus walk on Saturday morning. It was amazing to hear just how noisy it was when I arrived at 4.30 am. Three different Grasshopper Warblers were reeling in the carpark field and were even calling through the night, interestingly they tended to be quieter during the middle of the day. All the other common warblers were heard and seen, with Garden Warbler the most difficult to both see and hear. Cetti’s is still absent and should anyone be lucky enough to catch up with one on the moor we would be very pleased to hear about it. Snipe continue to drum and Curlew can be heard calling frequently.
The two Whimbrel on Ashgrave were still present over the weekend, they have now been here for over a week, which suggests that this is a significant refuelling stop for them on their northward migration. There were differing numbers of Dunlin passing through and using the scrapes on both Greenaways and on Big Otmoor. There were also a couple of Ringed plovers seen. Two Shelduck are also present on the Western edge of Ashgrave.
Most unusual sighting was a Short- eared Owl hunting in the Carpark Field on Sunday morning seen by Clackers and J.T. both of whom said that it was one of the very best sightings that they had ever had of this species. Barn Owls were seen on both the Beckley and the Oddington sides of the moor.
I carried out my first BTO breeding bird survey yesterday and it was a bit disappointing. I recorded fewer species than in previous years and probably fewer birds in total. Hirundines were completely absent and seem to be still on the move and not out feeding in large numbers. I have yet to see a Swift on the moor although they have been reported. Up to seven Hobbies have been recorded and two or three Turtle Doves although they have not yet been heard purring from their regular songposts.
A very low pass by the Oxford Balloon Company at probably no more than one hundred and twenty feet over Ashgrave, Big Otmoor and the reedbed caused all the birds to flush and panic. It’s bad enough at any time of year, but it is sad that the low flying restrictions are not always adhered to and that sensitive breeding colonies such as our Lapwings, Redshank and some of our other breeders species should be so casually and carelessly disturbed.
I had hoped that the two Common Cranes seen yesterday over Farmoor might be headed our way as they have often been seen at this time of year, but I have not heard where they touched down, they could of course be feeding happily out on the MOD land protected by the rifle range red flags.

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