Monday, 8 December 2014

Saturday and Sunday 6th and 7th December

A frosted looking Red Kite (c) John Reynolds
Real frost (c) Bark
On Saturday morning the first really hard frost of the winter had left its mark on everything. Every leaf delicately outlined in white and spiders webs looking like icy lace. The sky was crystal clear and as the sun crept above the horizon the whole place was bathed in a red gold light. It was very beautiful but led me to initially misidentify a small party of Long Tailed Tits as Bearded Tits. The low gold sun made them look orange.
Golden Dawn (c) Bark
We tried all weekend to find the Beardies that were seen over a week ago. I feel sure that they are out there somewhere and there is plenty of suitable habitat for them all over the reserve. Up towards Noke there is a substantial Reedbed on the northern edge of Ashgrave, which is inaccessible and could harbour them. Sunday morning was in complete contrast to Saturday with squally rain showers rattling through on a strong westerly wind.
Fieldfares (c) Tezzer
Very large numbers of Fieldfares and Redwings are occupying the hedgerows and their numbers are only really appreciable when for some reason or another they are flushed up. When that happens they scatter across the sky like wind blown leaves. Sunday’s weather only really got better just as I was leaving at lunchtime.
There are parties of Geese everywhere both Canada and Greylags. They are noisy and impossible to miss as they move from one feeding area to another. It is worthwhile checking them carefully as in previous years it about now that they can be joined by their wilder cousins. Sadly we have not seen any Whitefronted Geese at all this year but it is still not too late and it has only just begun to get colder.
There are more Shovellers out on the reedbed lagoons now. I counted over fifty when they flushed for a passing Peregrine. On Sunday morning in the rain we watched as several pairs circled nose to tail and spun round and round. We speculated as to whether this was a feeding strategy or a form of courtship. Are they creating a vortex to draw up food from the bottom or simply getting to know each other better and cementing a bond?
There are always Pied Wagtails out from the first screen (c) John Reynolds
Wigeon and Teal numbers are hard to estimate because the Wigeon are spread out over the whole moor and the Teal are well hidden in the reedbeds. Both species however are certainly present in greater numbers. As yet we have only seen one drake Pintail it was out on the distant scrapes of Big Otmoor.
Bittern was seen on both days making its way from one feeding area to another in the southern reedbed. Both Lapwings and Golden Plover were evident in the sky and seem to be favouring the western edge of the reserve and the fields beyond it. Water Rails are making their presence known and they would seem to here in good numbers. They can often be seen from the first screen and if the weather does get colder they will venture out onto the ice.
Chilly Weasel (c) John Reynolds
The Starling roost is still drawing a crowd, especially at the weekend. When I went down to see it last week I spoke to a woman who said she had been to see it three times and had come back again and brought friends. I had a report of at least a hundred people there last Sunday,  if people are planning to visit some kind of car sharing is a good idea as parking space is limited. A Barn Owl is frequently being seen as people leave the roost, often hunting in the carpark field. Woodcock are also being reported, usually moving across from Morleys to the Closes.
As we move into winter proper it will be worth checking through the Golden Plover, Teal and Wigeon flocks for their trans-atlantic equivalents. It would be great to have a rare American on the reserve.

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