|Ring-tailed Harrier (c) Pete Styles|
|Stonechat (c) Pete Styles|
|"Oxon Bloggers" The winning Birdrace team|
We mostly managed to avoid the showers on Saturday and Sunday mornings and the annual College Lake/Otmoor Birdrace took place on Saturday morning. Despite the extremely windy conditions over seventy species were seen in the four hour period, but not all of them by the same team. Most unusual amongst the birds seen was a very late Whinchat keeping company with two Stonechats in the middle of Greenaways. Also a male Blackcap behind the first screen and a Chiffchaff along the bridleway.
The Bittern and Bearded Tits were also recorded on Saturday but not by any of the teams taking part in the birdrace. Two Grey Wagtails were seen on Saturday morning and that is the first record this year of this species on the moor. A Peregrine has adopted a vantage point in one of the bare trees bordering the field to the west of the path to the second screen, it has been seen in the same tree on consecutive weekends and may well be around for the winter. The ring-tailed Hen Harrier was also present on both days but it ranges out well beyond the the confines of the reserve and so is only seen occasionally. It is also very prone to harassment by corvids.
The lagoons in front of the hide are looking much healthier and much wetter. They are now host to an increasingly large flock of Wigeon and a few Teal. Careful observation will also reveal the odd Snipe hunkered down along the margins. Large numbers of Fieldfare have started to exploit the berries in the hedges but there are only a few Redwings alongside them. The Great White Egret seems to have moved on although I had a brief view of what may have been it first thing on Saturday morning.
Congratulations to the Tuesday Volunteer Working Party, on completing the construction of the second screen. It has been superbly built and will certainly last a great deal longer than its predecessor. Once the benches have been put in it will be easier to “road test” the viewing slots and of course some of the reed fringing needs to be cut back to give a clearer view. The addition of extra screening along the bank for ten metres or so means that I can look forward to being able to get into the screen without flushing all the wildfowl from the lagoon. The partial roof means that it is possible to follow a bird in flight but still be able to get out of the rain. “Sods Law” has always dictated that if it is going to rain hard it will always do so when you are as far away from the carpark as it is possible to be, I have lost track of the times that I have get soaked at the second screen. Thanks again to Barry Oxley and his team.