Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Saturday 9th and Monday 11th August

Kingfisher (c) Pat Galka
Young buzzard (c) Bark

Juvenile Cuckoo (c) Tezzer
Saturday was a splendid day but Sunday was virtually a washout as the remnants of Hurricane Bertha deluged us all morning. On Monday I was lucky enough to do some filming on the northern reedbed from the RSPB punt and so gained a rare look at this normally secret  part of the reserve.
The moor is looking very different. The uniform ochres and gold of the seeding grasses are being mown and topped by the reserve staff and a chequerboard effect is created as the brighter green mown areas contrast sharply with the uncut grassland and reedy ditches. The tractor was moving across the field looking as though it was towing three or four Red Kites behind it as if on strings. Ever the scavengers looking for anything that might come to grief under the spinning blades.
Red Kite (c) John Reynolds
On Saturday  we had sustained views of yet another different juvenile Cuckoo being fed by Reed Warblers. Comparative examination of pictures taken last week and this week show marked differences in tone and specific markings. This further supports the view that Cuckoos have had a very successful breeding season on the moor. 
Cuckoo and surrogate (c) Tezzer

The same (c) Tezzer
I don’t recall any juveniles being reported last year. We also had close aerial views of a couple of Buzzards one of which may have been a juvenile, the two birds flew together interacting all the while across Greenaways and Big Otmoor.
Common Buzzard John Reynolds
During the week another or in fact the same Bearded Tit was seen but it still remains very elusive.
Just as last week the main action is out at the first screen where the water levels have now been dropped as far as they will go under gravity, any further fall now will come from evaporation. As this happens even more extensive muddy feeding areas will be exposed and should prove even more attractive to passage waders. RSPB staff and volunteers have added more perches for Kingfishers in front of the screen and they are already providing superb photo opportunities to visitors and excellent fishing for the birds themselves.
Fishing fishers (c ) John Reynolds
The Roman Road is attracting enthusiastic lepidopterists from many parts of the country who are coming to see the Brown Hairstreak  butterflies. They are best seen in the vicinity of the straggly taller ash trees about a hundred or so metres from the car park. On Saturday they were reluctant to descend but with patience and luck they can be seen nectaring on the hedgerow flowers where their delicate markings and subtle beauty can be more easily appreciated.
Brown Hairstreak on ash keys (c) Bark
Migrant Hawker (c) Pete Laws
On Monday afternoon three of us set out for a close up view of the northern reedbed. This was not just a casual jaunt as we were filming material for a movie that we are making about the reserve throughout the year. It really was a privilege to have a Bitterns eye view of this really important habitat. The extent and complexity of the winding waterways and open pools of water cannot really be appreciated by standing on the bund or looking from the screens. From the boat it is a sheltered and uniform environment and surprisingly easy to get lost in. It is no wonder at all that the Bittern or Bitterns are only seen sporadically and that hundreds of Teal and Wigeon can disappear into it in the winter. We encountered a very small fellow traveller in the boat in the form of a Common Shrew that had obviously been living in the upturned punt, when we returned the boat to its place it was still in there and none the worst for its trip round the lagoons.
Shrew stowaway. (c) Tezzer
Elsewhere on Monday there were two Greenshanks on one of the Greenaways scrapes and at least four Wheatears between Greenaways and on Ashgrave by the farm. 
Wheatear (c) Bark

Greenshank (c) Tezzer

Young Kestrel (c) tezzer
A family party of Kestrels has moved back onto the reserve and seem to be favouring the Noke end of Big Otmoor. The Marsh Harriers and Bittern are being seen regularly but as always not predictably.
The returning Wheatears and the mown fields bring the first hints of autumn and with that the potential for less common and more exciting visitors. Change is in the air, but it is our changing seasons that generate both migration and our natural diversity.

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