|Linnets (c) JR|
A very wintery feel this weekend with a light dusting of snow on Saturday morning that soon gave way to bright sharp sunshine. Sunday too started grey, but soon brightened up and was less windy than Saturday. The most notable aspect of this weekend was the sheer numbers of birds on and around the moor.
Golden Plover are mostly feeding in the black sheep fields to the west of the reserve and there are well over a thousand of them. Lapwings too are present in similar numbers and there are smaller peripheral flocks feeding in the other fields. Their numbers can only really be appreciated when one of the two Peregrines present makes a pass, causing a mass flush. We saw one on Saturday almost take a Teal over the reedbed. It was flying fast and suddenly accelerated into a stoop and very nearly bagged breakfast, the Teal jinking at the last moment and avoiding capture.
|Grazing Wigeon (c) JR|
Wigeon too are reaching their winter maxima and can be seen out on all of our fields grazing, they flush back into the water when Kites pass over but it takes the Peregrine to get them properly airborne. They fly fast and close and like the Lapwings and the Goldies they seem to flicker as they wheel in the low sunshine.
|Over a hundred Linnets (c) JR|
The other large flocks are of Reed Buntings and Linnets. They are coming down to feed on the fine seed mix that is being scattered beside and to the south of the hide. Numbers have been building steadily and on Sunday I felt there were even more than we had seen on Saturday. It has been a long time since we had so many Linnets on the reserve, there are nearly two hundred now. I counted one hundred and twenty in one of the photographs sent to me and that only covered some of the flock. On Saturday morning we counted over sixty Reed Buntings in one section of the path alone. The Linnets are particularly attractive both individually and collectively as a flock. Each bird seems to be bouncing along on its own strand of elastic and yet the flock moves around purposefully. When they settle together on some of the bare bushes they look just like leaves.
|Reed Bunting (c) Bark|
Such numbers inevitably attract raptors and a young Sparrowhawk can often be seen in the vicinity of the Hide.
|Sparrowhawk and Magpie (c) JR|
Smaller yet significant numbers of other birds are also present. Several parties of Snipe could be seen notably over Greenaways and the reedbed. At least twenty one Pintail were out on Big Otmoor and a similar number of Gadwall were on the reedbed lagoons.
Our huge grazing flocks of Canada and Greylag Geese are still accompanied by three European White-fronted Geese and the little Ross’s Goose. I had hoped that we might have been able to tempt some of the Barnacle Geese from Port Meadow to join us on the moor, but there’s still time.
|Vole muncher (c) JR|
One of our resident Herons has taken to stalking the bridleway in search of what must be an abundant vole population. It was seen to catch and consume two in a short period of time on Friday.
Another highlight of the weekend was first hearing and then seeing two Bearded Tits, a male and a female, from the bridle way about a hundred metres short of the turning up to Noke. They were in the Phragmites reedbed that runs all the way along the northern edge of Ashgrave.
|Bullfinch eating buds (c) Bark|
Several people commented on how confiding the Bullfinches are becoming in the carpark field. They have started to feed on the blackthorn buds there, whilst those along the bridle way seem to still seem to be gleaning the desiccated blackberry seeds.
|Great Spot on the feeders (c) JR|
I have been enjoying the wintery feel and look of the reserve, but if gets too much colder and it starts to freeze hard then things could change for the worst. It would be good if the Cetti’s, the Stonechats and the Bearded Tits could make it through the hard weather and the Cetti’s and the Beardies breed again in summer.
|Goldfinch (c) JR|