Monday, 13 October 2014

Saturday and Sunday 11th and 12th October

Juv Goldfinch (c) John Reynolds
A still, moist and misty weekend. A birder I met at the second screen on Sunday described the atmosphere as ethereal. The fog never really lifted on Sunday morning and so finding and seeing anything was difficult. The misty view from the second screen was like a stage set for  a performance of Swan Lake, but sadly lacked the wild swans or in fact any swans at all.
A Short -eared Owl was seen briefly in the car park field first thing on Saturday morning flying and then perched in a bush. This is the first of what in some years can be a regular and reliable winter visitor. They are a beautiful sight when they hunt over the fields in late afternoons in winter, looking like great silent orange and gold moths. We can only hope that there will be more coming along to join it soon.
Male Stonechat (c) John Reynolds
One of the most noticeable species at present are the large numbers of Stonechats liberally scattered over the reserve and the MOD land. As there was no shooting going on we were able to head out to the Pill on Saturday morning where there were at least six individuals along the stream and out on the old bombing range. There were a further five or so out along the fence that leads to July’s meadow and at least four on the reedbed. This is a remarkable recovery by a species that, like Cetti’s Warbler, was hit hard by the very cold winter of 2011-12. I feel sure that we only recorded one individual in 2012. They are sitting up and hawking insects from prominent positions and from time to time flying up and hovering like a Sedge Warbler doing a display flight. I have no idea whether this is an insect catching exercise or some kind of territorial display. It will be worth looking at them very carefully for paler, frosty individuals that might belong to the newly split Siberian Stonechat group of subspecies. The October edition of Birdwatch has an interesting and very slightly confusing article on how to distinguish the various subspecies from each other.
Teasels full of finches (c) Bark

Reed Bunting ( c) John Reynolds
There are also larger flocks of Goldfinches and Linnets taking advantage of the teasels and other seed bearing plants on any patch of rough ground. The number of Reed Buntings also seem to be on the rise. A Bittern was seen at the northern reedbed on both days and seems to be favouring that locality.
Sprawk (c) John Reynolds
A Sparrowhawk has also been active around the reedbed and has been seen trying to catch both Pied Wagtails and Meadow Pipits. There are large numbers of Skylarks on and over all the main fields. They are seldom on their own and appear to be chasing and disputing with each other while  giving their distinctive dry rolling call.

Webs (c) Bark
It never fails to surprise me at just how many spiders there are. It is only really on such damp still mornings that clinging water droplets reveal how their webs shroud every available surface with silk threads.I had hoped that such still conditions would make it easy to hear or see any Bearded Tits but sadly I didn't hear a “ping”. It is now about the time of year when they irrupt and if they are going to arrive it is likely to be in the upcoming weeks. The very strong winds and heavy rain that are expected this week will strip some of the leaves from the trees, recharge some of the scrapes and perhaps bring in some winter visitors. I look forward to finding something new next week.
Tall thing on the southern reedbed (c) Bark

Tall thing looming out of the mist on the horizon ( c) John Reynolds

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