Monday, 24 March 2014

Saturday and Sunday 22nd and 23rd March

Male Chaffinch in carpark (c) Bark

One of many Wheatears (c) Bark

Great crested Grebe eating the fourth Perch it caught in fifteen minutes (c) Bark

My first Grass Snake this year (c) Bark

Passionate Pochard (c) Mark Chivers

Even more passionate Redshank (c) Andy Last

Little Ringed Plover (c) Badger
Chiffy (c) Andy Last
Despite the weather tending back towards winter, the birds were really getting into spring mode. The only damper on the weekend was the unfortunate incident with the Barn Owl. For a full account of this really upsetting event read Ewan Urquarts’ blog . He has written about the whole event very eloquently and intelligently, as he does about all birding matters. I am in full agreement with his view that ringing Barn Owls is an anachronistic and inefficient way of gathering data on these birds. This was a very popular and well photographed bird and will be missed. The whole sad business cast a shadow over the rest of the weekend, taking the gloss off the first real influx of spring migrants.
The year-list has surged forward this week with the addition of several resident species, including both Grey and Red-legged Partridges, Nuthatches on the edge of Noke wood, Mistle Thrush, Merlin, Marsh Harrier and the increasingly rare Lesser Spotted Woodpecker seen and photographed on Wednesday. In addition migrants are now starting to arrive in significant numbers. Wheatears were present both on Ashgrave and on the sheep field at Noke with up to eight individuals showing really well in their bright fresh breeding plumage. Small parties of Sand Martins were seen on both days over the reedbeds and on Saturday we found a Little Ringed Plover picking its way around one of the new scrapes on Big Otmoor. Out in the middle of the field were three Black tailed Godwits in full summer plumage their rich orange gold colour glowing in the sun. There are still in the region of four hundred Golden Plover on the moor and more and more of them are showing black bellies with the distinctive white edging. There are also still at least four Pintail and good numbers of Wigeon present. Pochard are displaying vigorously in front of the first screen. The eyes of the drakes are bright red and despite all their posing and their neck stretching, the females appeared unimpressed.
Little Egret numbers have risen sharply and there are now well over twelve individuals present. The resident Grey Herons are now sitting on the nest in the dead oak tree that can be seen out in front of the hide. Redshank seem to be everywhere, doing display flights and calling loudly. Some were seen mating and on one occasion, unusually, in the water. Peregrines are still making occasional lightning fast appearances barrelling through low and leaving consternation in their wake. Kites are once again attracting defensive attention from the nesting Lapwings. I found my first basking Grass Snakes on Saturday on the dead reeds beside the ditch near the wooden bench on the bridle way, another positive indication of how the season is advancing.
By next weekend even more visitors will be arriving and we will be out there eager to find them.

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