Wednesday, 31 July 2013

End of July Weekend

Juvenile Common Tern (c) T.S.

Juvenile Robin


One of many juv. Chaffinches

Acrobatic juv. Blue Tit

Sedge Warbler all above pics (c) Bark

Despite dire warnings of torrential downpours, both mornings were warm and mostly sunny. In the sunshine there was plenty to see especially invertebrate life.
On the bird front there are now quite extensive mixed flocks feeding in the hedgerows and on the ground. It is interesting to see that the insectivorous species group together and the buntings and finches likewise.
Clearly it is to do with food sources, diets and preferences. There were very large numbers of immature Chaffinches mixed in with fewer Linnets and Reed Buntings. Bullfinches could also be found in Moorleys (the proper name for the car park field) but tended to keep themselves to themselves. The path through Moorleys is now open again and offers a pleasant alternative to the track alongside the Closes.
The Common Tern chick is now flying, but not yet hunting for itself. There are still three adult birds present and all three took part in the raising of the chick. Might the third bird be a previous years offspring? I don't know if this is a regular strategy for Common Terns. The tern raft took much time and trouble from the reserve staff to build and to site, it is very gratifying to see that their efforts have been so worthwhile.
The Marsh Harrier continues to haunt the northern edge of Greenaways and the MOD land, it seldom seems to venture over the reedbed, at least not when I am there.
Several waders were around including Green Sandpipers and on Sunday morning four Black-tailed Godwits, that flew over and landed somewhere out on Greenaways. Out from the first screen the azolla weed was much clearer than last weekend and there were larger numbers of eclipse ducks to be seen out on the water. They included Pochard, Shoveller, Gadwall, Teal and a preponderance of Mallard. The Bearded Tits were heard pinging out in the reedbed and we had a brief glimpse of two birds in flight over the reeds on Saturday morning.
The highlight of the weekend out by the first screen was the success of the “reptile city”. There were at least eight Common Lizards to be seen, basking on the tussocks of dry grass and the logs. Some of them were very small and dark others clearly much larger, but probably still not fully adult. Congratulations to Joe Harris the warden for constructing such an effective piece of habitat.
On Saturday morning we walked up around the edge of Ashgrave on the public footpath between Ashgrave and the wood. At times there were clouds of butterflies coming up from the grass and from the bramble flowers. It was possible to imagine what the countryside in summer might have been like in times before intensive agriculture and heavy pesticide use. They were mostly Meadow Browns, Ringlets and Gatekeepers, but amongst them were also Marbled Whites, Green-veined Whites, Brimstones, Skippers and the odd Peacock. There were also at least five Silver-washed Fritillaries that had ventured out of the woodland to nectar on the brambles along the path. The warm settled weather seems to have benefitted Butterflies after the last two cold and wet summers, it remains to be seen if the Brown Hairstreaks will stage similar resurgence, they should be on the wing in a few weeks time.

Reptile, Amphibian and Invertebrate Supplement

Common Lizards

Great Crested Newt

Essex Skipper ?


Emperor Dragonfly

Silver washed Fritillary on Ashgrave

Brimstone (c) all above pics Bark

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Saturday and Sunday 20th and 21st July

Reed Warbler

Magpie pair

Juvenile Beardie

and again.

Tufties in the Azolla

Small Tortoiseshell   All pics (c) Bark.   pics from two weeks ago
It is staggering how much the moor has changed during the two weeks that I have been away. Grasses are seeding, pools are evaporating, more and more butterflies are on the wing and the invasive water weed azolla is enveloping the southern lagoon. All of these factors driven by the sudden appearance of summer.
There are large loose mixed flocks of juvenile tits, warblers, Dunnocks and Robins moving around the car park field and the hedgerows. One on Sunday morning included both species of Whitethroat, Willow/Chiffs and at least two Grasshopper warblers. The adult “groppers” had started reeling again presumably to start second or third broods. There were at least thirty juvenile Chaffinches by the cattle pens and the Turtle doves were purring continuously on both mornings. Both species were coming down to feed on the fine seed mix scattered in front of the gate.
At least two and probably three Quail could be heard calling, one from the MOD land to the east of the Roman Road.
Waders were seen on some of the scrapes during the previous week. Water levels are dropping rapidly now and I hope that they may be topped up, if the forecast thunderstorms happen over the next few days.
I was considering the list of birds recorded on the reserve and in the Otmoor basin this year and there are several commoner species that have yet to be seen. They include: Little Owl, Grey Wagtail, Common Sand, Spotted Flycatcher and for me the most missed of all, Cettis Warbler. There may well be other surprises and additions but it would be good to hear of any records of these species.

Monday, 1 July 2013

Saturday and Sunday 30th and 31st June

Juvenile Beardy (c) Bark

Again (c) Bark

Parrotbill family (c) Bark

Reed climbing (c) Bark

Flyover Oystercatcher (c) Bark

Turtle (c) Bark

Painted Lady (c) Bark

Much better weather this weekend and some good sightings.
We found the juvenile Bearded Tits again on Saturday on the edge of the southern reedbed. Despite the breeze they were happy to ping away and show themselves at the top of the reed stems. They gave excellent photo opportunities and by chance one of my pics taken of the bird in profile whilst it was calling, clearly shows the parrot like bill....hence the family name. Other birders on Sunday saw one of the bearded tits from the first screen. They were very certain that it was an adult female, so it could well be that there are more in the reedbed. The Marsh Harrier continued to be seen over the reeds and along the double hedge at the back of Greenaways. Hobbies put on spectacular dragonfly hunting display in front of the hide, swooping down to snatch them from the closest pools very much to the enjoyment of the watchers. The bridle way Turtle Doves were also very popular with visitors and remarkably comfortable near people. I can only endorse a comment made by an Oxonblogger  last week that: “.....if they are as tame as this on migration they will never make it back to their wintering grounds” The juvenile Herons on Ashgrave have finally left the nest. They appeared to be well grown and healthy. The Common Terns on the raft in front of where the second screen used to be have one chick which they are feeding regularly and defending from any aerial threats. A Kingfisher was working its way along the River Ray as I did a survey on the Oddington side of the moor and a pair of Ravens were feeding out on the flood field, but too far away for me to see what they were feeding on. An Oystercatcher flew over on Saturday and appeared to land out on Big Otmoor. Snipe were still drumming on Saturday, there certainly seem to have been more drummers than I can remember in previous seasons. It appears to be a good “quail year” with birds being heard calling from Greenaways, the Closes and the Carpark field. It may of course be one very mobile individual!
Grass Snakes were again very much in evidence along the track through the carpark field. More Dragonfly species are now on the wing and on Sunday I found my first Painted Lady of the summer.