Monday, 17 February 2014

Saturday and Sunday 15th and 16th February

Subtle and stunning colour on a female Bearded Tit (c) Bark

Both Pics (c) Tom Nicholson-Lailey
Bullfinch in the dawn light (c) Bark

Pied Wagtail (c) Bark

Redwing on the bridleway (c) Bark

Lapwing (c) Bark
Lapwing (c) Mark Chivers
New Chimney with Lapwing and Goldies (c) Bark

Saturday rainbow over Big Otmoor. Could a dry spring bring the pot of gold?
Two largely dry, but very different days, this weekend. Saturday was mostly bright, but with occasional stinging showers driven along by gale force winds. As is typical of such showers, they arrived just as I was between hides or roofed screens. Sunday was classic calm after the storm, with a very light breeze, sunshine and bright blue rain-washed skies.
Once again there were lots of good birds to see and once again in huge numbers. On Saturday when the birds flushed they were strewn across the sky by the force of the wind like autumn leaves in a gale. But once on the ground they were hunkered down faces to the wind. I decided on Saturday that I just wouldn’t estimate the numbers of Lapwing and Golden Plover any more, it was getting really difficult to follow the flocks, but I am sure that there were more birds this week than last. I would be very surprised if the the WEBS count being done today didn’t return record figures.
As I arrived on Sunday morning there were two Song Thrushes singing lustily in the car park field as well as Dunnock, Robin and Wren. The Bullfinches are becoming more and more confiding, as they feed on blackthorn buds and their soft pink colours really glow in the low dawn light. Along the bridleway there were several small parties of Redwings picking through the grass but I only saw one Fieldfare this weekend.
Amongst the throngs of Goldies and Lapwings it was possible to pick out other waders and on Sunday morning there were five Black Tailed Godwits on Greenaways. There was still one Sanderling amongst the lapwings on Big Otmoor and a number of Ruff. The lone Grey Plover is still on Big Otmoor but tending to stay separate from the other birds.
Highlight of the weekend for me was getting some excellent views of one of the two Bearded Tits that were feeding close to the viewing area next to the first screen. Their colouring is beautiful, the subtlest range of orange and gold and it blends perfectly with the fading reeds. The birds were calling frequently and their pinging proceeded us from the edge of the reedbed, as we made our way towards the second screen.
A very large party of Long Tailed Tits can currently be found, working their way along the hedgerows and there must be over twenty birds in the flock. They are very busy and acrobatic as they glean their food from the undergrowth and although close and confiding are very difficult to photograph well.
I seem to be noticing more Meadow Pipits around and there are several pairs of Pied Wagtails picking along the edges of puddles and open water. There is certainly plenty of insect food for them and the three Stonechats between the hide and July’s Meadow appear to be thriving
All the regular raptors were seen, but the Peregrines now appear to have abandoned the oak tree that they had been frequenting, but are still present on and over the reserve. Once again Short Eared Owls and Barn Owl were hunting in the car park field at dusk.
There were no new species to add to the year list this week, although I am sure that I heard Redshank call three times on Sunday, but ten minutes scoping of Greenaways failed to find them. It will not be long though before they are here. On Sunday spring really felt just around the corner.
Stonechat (c) Andy Last

Song Thrush (c) Andy Last
Goldie (c) Pete Coombes

Kingfisher beside bridleway (c) Pete Coombes

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