Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Saturday and Sunday 19th and 20th September

Whinchat (c) Jim Hutchins
The weather forecast suggested a warm sunny weekend and although both days improved eventually, when I was on the moor in the mornings it was very foggy. I had been looking forward to getting back down on the reserve after a week in the Spanish sunshine. The mist is of course very atmospheric and the whole place is quiet as the noise of the motorway and the A34 is muffled almost to silence. Only a mournful sounding robin was singing in the car park field and other birds could only be detected by the odd whirr of wings and subdued contact calls.

Webs (c) Bark
At this time of year and in these conditions I am always struck by the sheer numbers of spiders webs and thus the massive numbers of spiders that would normally go unnoticed. The condensed water droplets reveal vegetation festooned with spiral webs and gossamer threads. It is easy to see how birds can find plenty of food foraging through the undergrowth and a substantial part of their diet must consist of spiders.
At the first screen the water levels have dropped much further and are beginning to reveal a very attractive muddy bank and it will not be long before the island in front of the screen appears. There are large numbers of ducks loafing about many of them still in partial moult but some of the drake Mallard are now emerging from their eclipse plumage and beginning to display.
Wigeon (c) Badger
There are Gadwall, Teal, Tufted Ducks and the first of the returning Wigeon out at the back of the lagoon. Herons and Little Egrets continue to hunt the margins and sometimes Kingfishers whizz past, a vivid flash of blue in the gloom. Water Rails are frequently seen and there are still late Reed and Sedge Warblers in the vegetation.
A Sparrowhawk has taken to perching on the willows to the left of the main channel and twice this weekend we saw it launch a surprise attack through the reeds but did not appear to catch anything. Snipe are taking advantage of the stubble of old reeds and are almost impossible to spot unless they move, the Sparrowhawk flushed fourteen of them as it flew through.
Stonechat (c) Badger
Stonechats are now back for the winter and the good passage of Whinchats continues, there were at least thirteen scattered over the moor on Friday. A Stonechat was at the farm and another out on a fence on Greenaways on Sunday.
Whinchats at Noke (c) Jim Hutchins
Hirundines pushed down by the weather were feeding in and around the sheep at Noke and as the weather finally brightened Hobbies were reported hunting dragonflies over Greenaways.

Hobby and Kestrel (c) JR
A Merlin was seen on Friday and there are usually a couple of weeks in both Spring and Autumn when they overlap. Soon we can look out for more winter visitors perhaps Short Eared Owls, Hen Harriers or even a Great Grey Shrike. It would be even better if we had clear conditions in which to look for them!

Autumn Colour (c) Bark

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