Friday, 3 January 2014

January 2nd. Year gets off with a bang.

It was impossible to get out and get started on New Years Day but yesterday offered a window of relative calm and bright sunshine between the downpours and the gales.
The wet weather has transformed the moor so it has become more lake than land, consequently wildfowl and Lapwing numbers have soared.
Lapwings must currently number well over three thousand divided roughly between two groups one centred on Greenaways and the other on the MOD land. There is also a party of at least fifty Golden Plover and they were accompanied yesterday by eight Dunlin. At least eight Ruff were feeding amongst the Lapwings on Greenaways.
Duck numbers are the most spectacular with the birds spread out over both the reserve and the neighbouring flooded fields. We estimated a minimum of four thousand birds the bulk of which were Teal and Wigeon. Good numbers of Shoveler, Gadwall, Mallard and Tufted Ducks were amongst the melee as well as a handful of Pintail and Pochard.
Two Peregrines are still harassing the assembled birds one of which has lost some primaries from its left wing. Kestrel, Sparrowhawk and Buzzard were seen but as yet I have not had any report of the Hen Harrier and I wonder if the area it has been roosting in has been flooded.
On one occasion when the Teal flushed from the reedbed they managed to stir up one of the Bitterns which circled with them for a while before plunging into one of the denser stands of reeds. A few moments earlier we had had point blank views of the Bearded tits which I hadn't seen for over four weeks. They moved along in front of the viewing point adjacent to where the new screen will be before moving deeper into the reeds. The Otmoor year list stands at a creditable 62 and I am sure that it will grow rapidly over the next few weeks.
Sadly not everyone's approach to this wildfowl spectacular was simply to enjoy it. From the middle of the hundred acre just as dusk set in there were volley after volley of shots as so called "sportsmen" sought to exploit the proximity of a nature reserve and the abundance of flying targets. I know that other reserves are adjoined by shooting grounds, but it seems wrong that the pleasure of  many can be overridden and ignored by the selfish few.

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