Monday, 20 October 2014

Saturday and Sunday 18th and 19th October

Stonechat (c) John Reynolds
Quite a contrast between the two days on Saturday I was dodging the showers and on Sunday I didn't need my rainwear at all. It certainly looks like autumn now, the mornings are dark, there is colour in the hedgerows and migration is under way......but it doesn't properly feel like autumn it is so mild and warm. It really sounded like autumn however. This weekend you could hear two of the sounds that most epitomise the season on Otmoor. One of them is the the wild lonely wheep of Golden Plover as they fly restlessly overhead in their loose chevrons. The other is the whistle of Wigeon as they call to each other, whether in flight, feeding on the grass or loafing on the water. Both of these species were very much in evidence this weekend.
Wigeon dropping in (c) Bark
It was a good weekend for raptors. A lucky observer might have seen eight species, but I was pleased to have seen seven. The most pleasing of them was a sighting on Saturday morning of a male Merlin hunting over Greenaways. It was on view for only a minute or so before disappearing over the hedge onto the MOD fields. It was astonishingly quick and flying so low that at times it disappeared into the ditches. After a gap of several weeks we have another Marsh Harrier visiting. The same bird was seen on three consecutive days. Very dark with plain wings and a very pale head, suggesting a juvenile.
Following a sighting of two Peregrines last week another single bird was seen over the reedbed briefly on Sunday morning. A Sparrowhawk has been attending the reedbed at dusk as in addition to the increasing number of Starlings coming in to roost there are at least one hundred and fifty Pied Wagtails roosting in the same area. On Saturday evening at one time there were forty nine individual birds on the island in front of the first screen. The Sparrowhawk has spent quite a lot of its hunting time pursuing them. Ravens were seen overhead on both days.
Common Buzzard (c) Bark

Bittern (c) John Reynolds
 Although I didn’t hear of a Bittern sighting this weekend it was certainly seen on Friday and it or they are almost certainly still here.
Ducks are beginning to moult out of eclipse and Teal are beginning to show their smart colouring. A single male Pochard will now come very close to the screen without being put off by people.
Pochard wash and brush up (c) Bark
There are quite  a number of Chiffchaffs in the hedges sometimes moving with the roving tit flocks and other times feeding independently. Stonechats are now beginning to stake their claims to particular territories and can usually be located in regular spots. The Cetti’s Warbler continues to call from the area around the second screen and perhaps another individual is in the vicinity of the Hide.
Reed Bunting blending in with dead leaves (c) Bark
A small party of a hundred or so Lapwings are present and as the season turn to winter their numbers will increase. There are now larger numbers of Meadow Pipits and Skylarks about, they are really only noticeable when they fly or call, the rest of the time they are down in the grass or out amid the freshly rotavated areas where they blend in perfectly.
Unusually there are still large numbers of dragonflies on the wing and on Saturday a Clouded Yellow Butterfly was seen in Sally’s field on the western edge of Big Otmoor.
Next weekend, if things continue much as they have, the moor will really blaze with a last stunning flourish of autumn colour. The first flocks of Fieldfares will arrive to join the Redwings that are already here and start to feed on the plentiful crop of berries. Superb colour and lots of action, what could be better?
The blaze of Autumn (c) Bark

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