|Common Buzzard flushing red at dawn (c) Bark|
|Amorous Gadwall (c) Bark|
|Goldies (c) Bark|
|Coot looking for trouble (c) Bark|
|Male Stonechat (c) Mark Chivers|
|and the female (c) Mark Chivers|
|Peregrine in its regular oak tree (c) Mark Chivers|
A very windy weekend with a watery blue sky between heavy showers on Saturday and a very grey Sunday.
Just as over the last few weeks the excitement was generated by the sheer numbers of birds currently on and around the moor. Lapwings and Golden Plover are by far the most numerous but there are other waders in amongst them. There are well over forty Ruff to be found, some out on Big Otmoor and on Sunday others were feeding amongst the Lapwings on Ashgrave. Smaller numbers of Dunlin could be be found with very careful scanning but they showed out best when flushed by passing raptors. Most notable this weekend was a small flock of about twenty Sanderling that moved between Big Otmoor and Greenaways. They were very distinctive, flying very fast and tightly together, their white undersides showing clearly as they banked and turned. There is still a Grey Plover amongst the Golden and it was seen out on Ashgrave on Sunday and on Big Otmoor on Saturday.
Pochard numbers are higher than they have been all winter with well over fifty birds present on the reedbeds. Gadwall are also spending most of their time on the reedbed lagoons and are now beginning to get amorous as the days lengthen. Groups of five or six drakes can often be seen chasing unpaired ducks around over the reedbed and then displaying vigorously when they land back on the water. The males are looking particularly smart in their subtle grey and black plumage. Pintail numbers are also high with many pairs scattered over the whole reserve and a large number out on the Flood Field, only really visible when flushed by one of the larger raptors. Many pairs of Shoveler are now out on the open expanse of water that is Greenaways I assume that they are hoovering up the seeds and other detritus that has been washed out of the grass. Coot wars seem to have broken out all over the place with pairs bickering and threatening each other.
I seem to have said every week that the moor is wetter than I have ever seen it in sixteen years and this weekend was no exception. Some of the visitor trail is now flooded and there is no access to the moor from the Noke end or from Oddington. The view from the top of Otmoor lane is spectacular, the reedbed standing out like a brown island in the sea.
An Otter was seen from the second screen on Sunday and it flushed all the Pochard. I heard a brief ping from a Bearded Tit in the same area but was unable to find the pinger! The two Short eared Owls were joined by a Barn Owl in the carpark field at dusk yesterday and the Tawny Owl has been calling again from the Roman Road.
My prediction of Curlew last week materialised even as I was writing and I was not expecting the Sanderling at all, but our next arrival now should be Redshank, after all they have been down on Port Meadow for weeks.
It really is an exciting time of year.