|Stunning Starling (c) Bark|
|Red and Gold Dawn (c) Bark|
|Whoopers flyby (c) Bark|
|Ruff among the Lapwings and Goldies (c) Badger|
|Flooded Fields beside the path to the second screen (c) Bark|
My visit on Saturday was a very soggy affair and the only brief respite from the rain occurred just as I was leaving. There were birds to be seen however the most notable being a Barn Owl found shortly after dawn in the hedge beside the bridle way and a Short Eared Owl that I saw being hassled by crows over Greenaways and then making a long slow descent towards Ashgrave. Most birds were keeping their heads down and although we often say “nice weather for ducks” it wasn’t!
Sunday was very much better and very “birdy” although the weather had deteriorated again by the afternoon. The dawn was so beautiful that I had to stop and take pictures on my way to the reserve. For a few minutes before before the sun rose above the horizon the clouds were lit from below with layers of polished bronze, auburn and gold.
Birds were making up for lost feeding and hunting time and raptors were very much in evidence from the start; with two Sparrowhawks over the double hedge to the north of Greenaways and later the Hen Harrier hunting over the same field. The raptors were continually flushing the flocks of Lapwings, Golden Plovers, Wigeon and Teal. There did not seem to be so many ducks present as earlier last week, but the floods are now so extensive that they may well be foraging further afield and loafing on other waters.
The fields to the west of the reserve are all flooded and are attracting much larger concentrations of Golden Plover and good numbers of Gulls. This area seems to be the hunting base for two Peregrines and both were sitting in the regular tree that they use as a lookout. From time to time one or other of them would head out causing mass panic among the other birds and creating the stunning spectacle of the Lapwings and Goldies wheeling in the sunshine set against an inky darkening sky, as the next weather front marched in. The three Whoopers were out on the fields to the north but visible from the hide and they made a brief circuit of the reedbed before settling back down again on the field.
In amongst the commoner waders were twenty seven Ruff and eleven Dunlin. We took a long walk round past Noke and were able to scan the floods from the other side and get much closer views of the birds from there, although anyone planning to do so will need wellies! A Common Gull was seen in flight although the Black Headed Gulls were by far the most numerous.
Elsewhere the Stonechats are still in residence beyond the hide and large numbers of finches are foraging around the feeders and the cattle pens. A small flock of Yellowhammers are frequently in the hedge beside the path to the first screen.
Raven, Common Gull, Meadow Pipit and Hen Harrier helped swell the Otmoor yearlist to seventy two species. As the floods recede a little and the river Ray empties, the wildfowl will move back onto the reserve in larger numbers. It will be worth looking carefully through the Teal and Wigeon flocks for rare and exciting transatlantic visitors.