Monday, 10 March 2014

Saturday and Sunday 8th and 9th March

Golden Plovers and Dunlin (c) Mark Chivers

Dunnock (c) Mark Chivers

Male Reed Bunting (c) Mark Chivers

Flyover Pintail (c) John Reynolds

Gadwall (c) John Reynolds
Amorous Toad (c) John Reynolds
It was hard to believe just how much the moor had changed during the last two weeks. Water levels have fallen and there are now plenty of clear dry areas where Lapwings are taking up territory and displaying loudly. I was caught out by the weather on Saturday expecting it to be much warmer than it was before lunchtime. Sunday however proved to be the warmest, finest day of spring so far.
There are still dramatic large flocks of birds present, both wildfowl, Lapwings and Golden Plover, the latter by far the most numerous. On Sunday against a clear blue sky they flickered across the sky above Big Otmoor like confetti in a strong wind. Amongst them were at least twenty Dunlin. Redshank are now adding their voices to the sound of displaying Lapwings and the occasional distant calls of Curlew. Two Shelduck were seen on Malt Pit on Sunday morning where there were also twenty Ruff.
At least four Songthrushes are singing on the reserve and it was the first sound that greeted me when I arrived on both mornings. The first singing Chiffchaff of the year was heard on Friday out on the eastern side of the reedbed. Male Reed Buntings are also very noticeable and appear to be taking up prominent songposts. There were also at least a dozen feeding on the scattered seed by the cattle pens.
Both frogs and toads are advertising their presence from the ditches and there are now three Little Egrets stalking the margins on The Closes on the lookout for careless amorous amphibians. There were four Grey Herons in the dead oak trees in front of the hide and bill colour and demeanour suggested that at least two of them were in courtship mode. Last year’s nest when examined through a scope had a female Mallard sitting on it.
Peregrines were very active again from their favourite perches in the hedge one field over from the path to the second screen. Flying together and on one occasion on Sunday swooping onto a common Buzzard that was drifting over the reedbed.
There were many Brimstones on the wing on Sunday, several pairs whirling frantically around each other in their nuptial ballet. There was also a rather battered Peacock nectaring on blackthorn flowers in the car park field just as I left.
There were no new additions to the yearlist this weekend but with fine weather predicted this week it will not be long before Sand Martins and Wheatears make their way northwards from the coast where they have already arrived.
As the month progresses the whole pace of the moor will quicken as both resident and new arrival alike, concentrate on courtship and nesting.

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