|Barn Owl (c) Pat Galka|
What a difference a week makes! Spring is really taking over now and we have had the first period of sustained warm weather so far this year. The wildlife responded instantly to the calm warm conditions.
|Curlew, Snipe Lapwing and the three Oystercatchers (c) JR|
Our breeding waders are now impossible to ignore; with tumbling Lapwings, displaying Redshanks, drumming Snipe and every so often the plaintive call of Curlew. There were still at least five or six hundred Golden Plover present on Saturday but their numbers seem to fluctuate daily. It may be that different parties of them are using the moor as a staging post on their northward migration. The birds we see one day may have moved on and been replaced by others overnight. Almost all of them are now in their crisp summer plumage. In amongst them are one or two Dunlin and on Monday a single Black tailed Godwit. There was a Little Ringed Plover on Big Otmoor on Sunday morning. It was very restless and seemed to be chased away from almost everywhere it settled, by either Redshanks or Lapwings. Three Oystercatchers moved between the lagoon on Ashgrave, the sheep fields and Big Otmoor. Last year they managed to hatch eggs but failed to reach fledging, perhaps this year they will be successful.
|Singing chiffy (c) Bark|
Chiffchaffs are calling all along the bridleways and from the Roman Road, the sunshine had certainly encouraged them to sing. Beside the path to the hide the same Song Thrush that has been calling there for the last three weeks was putting on a virtuoso performance.
|Virtuoso Songthrush (c) Bark|
There are still good numbers of all the regular species of duck present across the reserve. There are now only fifty or so Wigeon to be found and perhaps fifteen or twenty Pintail. There are much higher numbers of Shoveller many of them paired up and the unpaired drakes avidly pursuing unattached females.
There have been up to three Shelduck on the reserve, they are fond of
the big lagoon on Ashgrave and are consequently often overlooked but are more
often seen while commuting between feeding and loafing areas. With Garganey
turning up all over the county it has been disappointing not to find any on the
moor yet but there is abundant cover and a multitude of suitable pools so they
could even be there without our knowing it.
|Windswept Tufty (c) JR|
|Shelduck and below the first Swallow (c) JR|
Hirundines have now made it onto the yearlist. Sand Martins were first seen on Thursday last week and two Swallows were over and around the first screen on Saturday. Since then there have been several other records.
It now seems to be that we have two active Marsh Harriers on site. Whether they are a pair or not is clearly critical, but were they to be and were they to breed it would be the first record in Oxfordshire since the early nineteenth century.
There have been a couple of Barn Owls present both around the reedbed
and in the carpark field, always early in the mornings. Ravens are now seen so
regularly that it seems likely that they are breeding nearby.
|Barn Owl (c) Pat Galka|
|Sparrowhawk over reedbed (c) JR|
The sunshine has encouraged our large population of Grass Snakes to emerge from their winter torpor. On Monday morning I was lucky enough to find a slithering heap of at least seven individuals at the base of one of the pollarded willows in the carpark field. Whether this was a mating ritual or just a crowd trying to exploit the warmest spot, I don’t know, but it was a real treat for those that saw it until the loud frightened screams of a small child sent them gliding off into cover. There were another ten seen between the cattle pen and the Roman Road by “the snake whisperer”(Pete Roby)
|A slither of snakes above (c) Bark below (c) JR|
The sun also coaxed a number of butterflies out of hibernation including several Peacocks, a Brimstone and a couple of Small Tortoiseshells. The Peacocks feeding on fresh bright blackthorn blossom. By next weekend that blossom will have become a great froth of white and the trickle of new arrivals will have become a flood. What a wonderful time of year!
|Peacock on blackthorn (c) Bark|