Monday, 7 July 2014

Saturday and Sunday 5th and 6th July

Adult Little Egret in moult (c) Bark

Juvenile Little Egret note leg colour ( C) Lew
Late Cuckoo (c) Pat Galka

Tufted Ducklings along the track (c) Peter Law

Turtle Dove (c) Mark Chivers
Scarce Chaser a first for Oxon (c) Tezzer

Red Admiral (c) Bark

Gatekeeper (c) Bark

Meadow Brown (c) Bark

Amourous Damsels (c) Bark

Purple Hairstreak (c) Peter Law

Buttercup yellow Spider sp. (c) Badger
A fascinating weekend on the moor. It was something of a slow burn, starting quietly, but by Sunday evening very exciting.
Saturday was damp and rainy but once things dried up there was plenty to be seen.
I have been predicting the imminent departure of Cuckoos for at least four weeks now but they are still with us and seemingly very late to go. On both days a male could be heard calling and a female was seen perched on a fence post near the hide looking for the opportunity to deposit her egg in a Reed Warbler nest.
There are three newly fledged Common Terns that have been raised on the Tern raft on the northern lagoon. They are now flying round close to the the three adults and learning to hunt. Interestingly on Sunday we twice saw an adult Tern catch fish on the southern lagoon and immediately fly off across Big Otmoor and onto Ashgrave. This may very well suggest that there is another pair with young up on the hidden Ashgrave lagoon.
Also on the reedbed where the dropping water levels have exposed some mud were three newly fledged Water Rails one of them was seen on two separate occasions clambering about in the small willows on the left hand side of the main channel. Also on the reedbed on both Saturday and Sunday was a very tatty moulting Red-crested Pochard a new species for the Otmoor list which itself has been moribund for a number of weeks.
The first piece of exciting news concerned Little Egrets. There have been a large number of these birds scattered over the moor and we estimated that there were at least thirty present on Sunday with a some feeding out at Maltpit, some on Ashgrave and others on the reedbeds, the Flood Field  and at the pool to the north of the Jacob Stone. We have speculated about their breeding for some time and on at least one occasion a bird was seen carrying a twig into the area on Ashgrave where the Herons are nesting. On Sunday whilst showing a visitor the Heron chicks through my scope, I noticed first an adult little Egret landing in the dead Oak and almost immediately another bird joining it but seeming to come up  from lower down the tree. This individual when looked at closely had a plain bill no crest and significantly plain yellowish grey legs with no difference between legs and feet. After consulting Ian Lewington there is no doubt that this is a juvenile bird and it seems very likely that it was raised on Otmoor but that has yet to be confirmed.
The great White Egret seen at Rushy, Farmoor and then heading towards Port Meadow may very well have been seen early on Sunday morning flying along the northern edge of Greenaways.
A Barn Owl was seen hunting over Greenaways on Sunday evening and the Marsh Harrier made occasional appearances on both days.
Other good news included the possible sighting of a family party of Turtle doves seen flying together on Sunday evening, hopefully there will be more to say about this next week.
The most exciting news really only emerged on Sunday evening. As is usual at this time of year we often turn our attention to reptiles and insects until bird migration starts to get going again in August. While walking back from the second screen on Sunday one of our most reluctant dragonfly photographers spotted a large chaser and in a spirit of: “if you cant beat them join them” took some pictures of it and pointed it out to the rest of us. We mostly assumed that it was a Black Tailed Skimmer, but Badger was uncertain and on looking at the book when getting home and then looking at the photos from Tezzer concluded that it was a Scarce Chaser.
He sent the pictures to Wayne Bull and to Richard Lewington the invertebrate expert of the family and both confirmed his identification. We believe that it is a first record for Oxfordshire of this species and expert opinion thinks that it has spread to us from the Northamptonshire population. It is another example of creating good habitat and wildlife finding it.
As the sun came out on Sunday so more and more butterflies were on the wing. Many of them crisp and fresh and newly emerged, Gatekeepers, Meadow Browns and Small Tortoiseshells for the most part but with a smattering of other species notably at least six Purple Hairstreaks along the trail to the second screen. I have been told that Silver-washed Fritillaries were seen on the wing nectaring on brambles on the southern edge of Ashgrave last week. I hope to catch up with one of these orange beauties myself over the next couple of weeks and get some pictures. Did someone refer to July and August as the doldrums?
Stop Press :the Great White Egret is now on Big Otmoor (per Stoneshank)

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