Monday, 23 June 2014

Saturday and Sunday 21st and 22nd June Mid Summer

Anxious Redshank (c) Bark

Serene Grebe (c) Bark

Cuckoo awaiting her chance (c) Bark

Goldfinch looking to breed again (c) Bark

Advertising Dunnock (c) Bark

Tufty and offspring (c) Bark
Elusive Ibis (c) Badger

One of the last of the class of 2014 (c) Bark
The Summer Solstice arrived with real summer weather, warm and sunny. Already the effects of a mild spring can be seen in the large numbers of newly fledged birds in the hedgerows. Whilst in no way an empirical judgement my strong feeling is that this has been an exceptionally good year for breeding passerines and also for our breeding waders. Many adult birds are now singing their readiness for a second brood, while others can be seen carrying nesting material. There are still Lapwings and Redshanks with unfledged chicks on most of the fields, but now a passing Kite will only get a few parents coming up to challenge it and the Kites visits are much more sporadic and random.
A large number of ducks in various stages of moult and in eclipse plumage are loafing on the southern lagoon in front of the first screen. There are also still occasional Tufted Ducks, Pochard and Gadwall swimming about with newly hatched ducklings in tow. The water levels on this part of the reedbed have been lowered significantly and this should give us some nice muddy margins and good feeding areas for returning passage waders. Two Oystercatchers favoured the new scrapes on Big Otmoor and were present both days.
The Glossy Ibis was still present this weekend but was very reluctant to show itself, the grass is now very high across the reserve and even herons dropping down into it disappear. The Heronry has two pairs of chicks that are getting very large on both of the nests. It will be very interesting to see how the heronry develops over the next few years and whether or not the ever present Little Egrets will move in as breeders.
A Marsh Harrier was seen hunting over both the reedbeds and over Greenaways. Three Ravens, one a younger bird spent over an hour perched up on the fence in the middle of Big Otmoor, perhaps suggesting local breeding. Hobbies as usual took advantage of the very abundant dragonflies. Cuckoos were still trying to deposit eggs in Reed Warbler nests and at least three were present.
As is usual at this time of year when the birding goes a little quieter, interest shifts to the abundant and varied invertebrate life on the moor, especially Dragonflies and Butterflies. A Clouded Yellow was seen over the weekend and good numbers of Marbled Whites, Meadow Browns and Ringlets could be found. July’s Meadow (to the south of the main Hide) is particularly good as it has a rich flora and is being managed partly for butterflies. I failed to find any of the Black Hairstreaks that were reported last week from the footpath just outside the carpark, but they are on the wing and are worth seeking out. Any records from around the reserve would be welcome. Next month  the Silver Washed Fritillaries will be on the wing and sometimes straying out of the woods onto Ashgrave. The silver in their name does not reflect their stunning orange- gold colouration and I really look forward to seeing such beauties on the reserve, flitting in the sunshine like flying tangerines.
Finally after the negative vandalism reported last week it is great to have the opportunity to report something much more positive. When coming through Beckley it is worth stopping and having a quick look at the newly decorated phone box, a brilliant artwork from the children of the village primary school, their teachers and parents. Well done.
Bug Supplement
Black Tailed Skimmer (c) Badger

Clouded Yellow (c) Badger
Marbled White (c) Bark

Skipper sp. (c) Bark

Ringlet ? (c) Bark

Red Admiral (c) Bark

Long Horned Beetle (c) Bark

Monday, 16 June 2014

Saturday and Sunday 14th and 15th June

Cuckoo (c) Pat Galka

Common Tern and Red Kite (c) John Reynolds

Hobby (c) John Reynolds

Singing Sedgie (c) John Reynolds

Treecreeper (c) Bark

Great Crested Grebelets (c) Bark

Lapwing with very small chicks (c) Bark

Common Lizard both pics (c) Bark

Broad bodied Chaser (c) John Reynolds

Common Spotted Orchid (c) Bark
A very mixed weekend with interesting possibilities on the avian front and further depressing events on the human front.
The weather on Saturday was warm and humid after the massive thunderstorms of Friday night and on Sunday it was grey and gloomy all morning as if reflecting the mood after England's defeat by Italy.
The good news on the bird front first. The Glossy Ibis seems to have adopted the moor, certainly for the summer and perhaps until it completes its moult. The Marsh Harrier was seen occasionally and the Turtle Doves continue to draw a crowd. Hobbys continue to chase down dragonflies over the whole area as the mornings draw on. As well as the fully fledged juvenile Lapwings seen last weekend there are still active nests out on Big Otmoor. On Sunday there was a Lapwing parent with three very small chicks in front of the hide, perhaps a second attempt at breeding after nest predation. Snipe were drumming on both days and at times up to five individuals could be seen.
I picked up a new species for my BTO square on Thursday morning when I found a family party of Treecreepers to the north of the flood field. On Sunday I saw a juvenile Nuthatch amongst a mixed flock of young birds, mostly Long Tailed Tits, near the feeders, this is an unusual record for this part of the reserve. Cuckoos are still frequent around the reserve and surely will depart very soon. There appears to be an additional pair of Common Terns around the hide and the bridleway ditches. They are different to the the birds out on the Tern Raft that now have three chicks and are very active in chasing off intruders, they are not in the least bit intimidated by size, as the picture from John Reynolds shows.
Most intriguing sighting this weekend was a Bittern seen independently by two different birders flying across Big Otmoor and landing out on one of the large vegetated ditches on Greenaways. I think that this is the first summer record for Bittern on Otmoor. It could be a young bird or a failed breeder but any further observations would be useful. Three Greenshanks flew in on Sunday morning possibly the ones that had been seen at Farmoor earlier and a Quail was heard calling from the eastern side of Greenaways.
There was a fine female Common Lizard basking on a log by the first screen and Common Spotted Orchids in bloom beside the visitor trail. We spent some time on Sunday rescuing a large Brown Rat from the feeders where it had got stuck, it escaped eventually with a little help and hopefully will eventually help feed our owls.
Finally the depressing part. More vandalism occurred on Thursday evening, as ever mindless and pointless in nature. It involved damage to screens and theft of our punt. The boat has been recovered and we have a very good idea of the identity of the two individuals involved. The police have been informed and are actively pursuing the matter. Sadly it doesn’t stop there. On Friday a number of cars were broken into in the carpark and several items were stolen. It is important not to leave valuables in vehicles and to be observant and careful around the whole area.

Monday, 9 June 2014

Saturday 7th and Sunday 8th June

Juvenile Lapwing (note face colour and fringing) (c) Bark

Siblings in front of the hide (c) Bark

Shortened Crest (c) Mark Chivers

Juvenile Redshank (c) Bark

Grey Heron (c) Mark Chivers

Male and Female Broad Bodied Chasers (c) Bark
Occasionally very wet on Saturday especially in the morning and warm, beautiful and sunny on Sunday. The moor is looking stunning at the moment, still in the first flush of summer lush and green.
There is lots to be seen and the “springwatch effect” meant that by eleven on Sunday morning the carpark was completely full and visitors were having to park up the lane.
There is already a strong indication that this is going to prove to be a very good year for our breeding waders, although the results of monitoring and survey work will not be formally known until the autumn. I am seeing many more newly fledged Lapwing chicks in amongst the flock of post breeding adults, than I remember seeing over the last few years. The juveniles are recognisable by the ochre tinge to their faces and their comparatively short crest. There are also good numbers of young Redshanks to be seen flying around together in family groups of four or five and also individuals feeding and preening in front of the hide. The RSPB staff found twelve newly fledged Snipe on a survey last week and there are still good numbers to be seen and heard drumming over Greenaways and Big Otmoor.
It remains to be seen how other species fare but there are already plenty of young birds moving around the hedges in mixed parties whilst the adults set about producing second broods. There is also more positive information on the Turtle Doves and their chances of successful breeding. There are now at least three birds present and only one lonesome calling male, the other two birds being seen are behaving much more as a pair, the next thing to look out for is juveniles, they are capable of producing three broods in a good season before returning south. The bird calling from the oak tree on Sunday must be one of the most photographed ever. At one point on Sunday there were five mega lenses being aimed at it simultaneously and not a pair of binoculars in sight.
The Glossy Ibis, which from recent photos appears to be moulting some of its primaries, continued to make the rounds of its favourite feeding spots, sometimes disappearing for hours at a time. It seems to have taken to roosting in the dead tree with the herons nests, in front of the hide. The Herons look as though they have four chicks between the two nests and the youngsters can be seen being fed and at times teetering unsteadily on their platform. Out at the second screen three Common Terns are raising two chicks on the tern raft. Their hunting was frequently interrupted by need to challenge Kites, Black Headed Gulls and a Lesser black backed gull all of which entered their airspace while we were watching. They are feisty in the extreme and not the least bit intimidated by the size of their opponents.
A Marsh Harrier made irregular appearances at the reedbed over the weekend. With the increase in dragonfly numbers the Hobbies, up to four at times, were feeding close to the bridleway at times. Their fast low hunting technique is one of the great spectacles of summer on the moor. In a week or so the Cuckoos will depart but on Saturday morning five individuals were seen at the same time, in three or four weeks we may again be seeing Reed Warblers feeding their enormous “lodgers”.
More dragonflies of more species are now emerging and some pristine individuals could be seen on Sunday in the sunshine. Butterflies too will become more numerous and interesting as we move into high summer. Once we have passed the summer solstice I am looking forward to returning migrants, but until then will enjoy the richness of the season.

Monday, 2 June 2014

Saturday and Sunday 31st May and 1st June

Rufous morph female Cuckoo (c) Bark

Sedgie (c) Bark

Common tern over the reedbed (c) Bark

Newly fledged Lapwing (c) Bark

Drummer drumming (c) Bark

Newly fledged Goldfinch (c) Bark

Whitethroat (c) Mark Chivers

Male Turtle Dove (c) Mark Chivers

Bullfinch (c) Mark Chivers

Glossy Ibis ( c ) Martin Chapman

Displaying bachelor Turtle dove (c) Martin Chapman
 Saturday was an improvement after the wet, grey, dank week that we endured and Sunday was warm and sunny, the best kind of early summers day. Yet again there were plenty of interesting birds to see and subtle changes to observe in the vegetation and amongst the invertebrate life.
The Turtle Doves and the Glossy Ibis were probably the star performers and attracted many admirers. The Ibis was elusive, moving from lagoons to thicker cover and on one occasion being driven off the Ashgrave scrape by a protective parent Lapwing. It was also seen twice on Sunday perched up in dead trees. Sadly it now seems likely that both the Turtle Doves by the pumphouse are males, unless a female turns up they are likely to remain bachelor males, which could possibly signal the end of our breeding population.
Cuckoos on the other hand seem to be thriving on the moor. On Saturday morning there were at least four individuals on the reserve and the females chuckling laugh could be heard as well as the more familiar “swiss clock” call. I was fortunate enough to have a close encounter with one such female on Saturday. She was unusual in being the rufous morph rather than the more conventional grey colouring and had a ferrous gold beard or collar. She perched on the cattle pens with reddish drooped wings and scanned the reeds for a suitable nest for her egg, she seemed uninhibited in my presence and gave stunning views. ( see pictures on Otmoor Birding )
As I walked along the bridleway on Sunday I was serenaded the whole way by a succession of different warblers that included Blackcaps and Garden Warblers, in both latter instances the birds showed well enabling the difference between their songs to be confidently appreciated.
On Saturday morning there was a female Garganey feeding amid the grasses growing up in the water on the lagoon at the north eastern corner of the Closes ( the one nearest to the feeders). Given that a male was seen on the reedbed on Friday it is likely that we have hosted a pair, we have still to find concrete evidence that they have bred, which seems likely, but given their secretive nature it will be very difficult to prove.
There are now three fledged juvenile Lapwings in front of the hide still attended by a parent bird, whilst by the Big Otmoor scrapes careful scanning will reveal some very fluffy newly hatched chicks.
Families of newly hatched chicks of a wide range of species were to be found on Sunday including some very confiding Goldfinches, Wrens and Bullfinches.
On the insect front, a Beautiful Demoiselle was found along the Roman Road but sadly no further Downy Emeralds have been seen. Over the next couple of weeks if the weather settles down we can look forward to lots of butterflies appearing, the mild winter and last year’s warm summer should give us a super butterfly summer.