Monday, 27 October 2014

Saturday and Sunday 25th and 26th October

Dartford Warbler (c) Roger Wyatt
My confident prediction last week of the moor blazing with colour and flocks of winter thrushes flooding in fell quite a long way short of the mark. The leaves are turning rapidly, but the colours were muted by the dull grey weather and other than a smattering of flyover Redwings and just two Fieldfares, there were no winter thrushes at all. However as is often the way with Otmoor surprises and excitement can always occur and interesting visitors arrive.
Wren and Dartford Warbler (c) Roger Wyatt
At midday on Sunday Roger Wyatt found a Dartford Warbler, most probably a mature male, out on the Pill Ground. As is always the way with this secretive skulking species it was very elusive and was seen only very intermittently afterwards. It was often being hassled by Wrens that were reluctant to share their scrubby bushes with it. The RSPB have a record of one from 25th October 2005, but I don’t recall it. The other record is of one found by Phil Barnett in the field south of the Closes when it was in set aside. We had wondered if we might ever get another, given their susceptibility to cold weather and their consequent national population crash three years ago. It is interesting to note that its presence coincides with unusually  large numbers of Stonechats on the moor and the return of the Cetti’s Warbler, both insectivores and sensitive to extreme cold.
Hovering Stonechat (c) John Reynolds
The Wrens that were pushing the Dartford around were interesting in themselves. There seems to have been a “fall” of them over the weekend and they appeared to be everywhere in the hedgerows and bushes, whizzing about and buzzing from the depths of the brambles. As mentioned before Stonechats are present in larger numbers that normal with double figures out at the Pill and pairs of them in all the regular places.
One of many Wrens (c) Bark
There were two Peregrines present on Saturday morning, first seen perched in what last winter was their regular oak tree, out to the west of the trail to the second screen and later sitting on the ground on Big Otmoor. When sitting out it was clear that one was significantly larger than the other suggesting an established pair.
Marsh Harrier over the reeds (c) John Reynolds
The same Marsh Harrier as last week was still present and spending much more time hunting over the reedbed, but of course always at the other end to me. There were at least four Kestrels around and a Sparrowhawk put in regular but unpredictable appearances. Another Short eared Owl was reported.
There were always Skylarks to be seen and heard and a scattering of Meadow Pipits, with more of a concentration of them near the farm at Noke.
Meadow Pipit (c) John Reynolds
Duck numbers are building slowly and more of them are coming out of their eclipse plumage, however I would normally have expected to see much larger numbers by this time in the autumn. A lone wader on Greenaways on Saturday was probably a Ruff.
Swan splashdown (c) John Reynolds
The two main flocks of geese are segregated now with the Canada Geese favouring Greenaways and Big Otmoor, while the Greylags are favouring the Closes. Amongst the Greylags are four birds that are hybrid Snow Geese, more interesting is a Ross’s Goose that is also feeding with the same flock. It is another addition to the list of non BOU birds that we have seen on the moor.
Ross's Goose (c) Badger
Goldfinch (c) Bark
There are still dragonflies on the wing and several Red Admirals were noted. This coming week looks very much as if the mild weather will continue so perhaps next week will see the arrival of the winter visitors and the moor burning with autumn colour.
Stunning Rainbow (c) Tom Nicholson-Lailey

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