Monday, 23 November 2015

Saturday and Sunday 21st and 22nd November

Brambling (c) JR
Winter certainly arrived this weekend and the whole feel of the moor has changed. There are now large numbers of Fieldfares chacking and chortling their way along the hedges and hoovering up the remaining berries. They are accompanied by smaller numbers of Redwings.
Fieldfare (c) JR
There is a growing number of finches taking advantage of the seed being scattered along the path south of the main hide, and this number will only grow as the weather gets colder and finding food becomes tougher. There are currently at least sixty Linnets, a similar number of Reed Buntings, twenty or thirty Chaffinches and this week they have been joined by two Bramblings. The Bramblings bright orange and strong contrast certainly make the Chaffinches look drabber in comparison. There have also been a couple of Yellowhammers present but they have not been so regular. There is a report of a Corn Bunting on the board in the hide and it would be good to have some more information and confirmation of it. They used to be seen quite regularly on Otmoor but I cannot remember a sighting in the last few years, possibly because there is very little arable farming going on locally and also as a result of their declining numbers.

Linnet, Reed Bunting, Goldfinch and Brambling. (c) JR
The newly ploughed and harrowed strip at the southern edge of The Closes has been sown with a wild bird cover crop designed specifically to benefit threatened farmland birds. This could well encourage them back and also help to tempt back Tree Sparrows a bird that always used to be seen on Otmoor. It is well worth scanning through the feeding finches for these smart looking Sparrows because I believe there is a small population fairly near, further up the river Ray in Bucks. As usual the mixed finch flock has attracted its fair share of attendant small raptors including  the very familiar Sparrowhawk and the occasional visit by a Kestrel.

Sparrowhawk and Kestrel with prey. The Kes was seen to grab the bird out of a bush. Is it a Cettis? (c) JR
I led a guided walk out for the Starling roost on Sunday afternoon and the birds are still arriving in spectacular numbers. The current estimate is the largest yet, at somewhere in the region of one hundred thousand birds. There was a short, spectacular display by the first large flock to arrive but once they had decided where to roost the subsequent arrivals simply poured down into the reedbed in the same area.
Starling roost (c) Ben Smith
Several passes by one of the Marsh Harriers caused much consternation in the flock, flushing, flying and frequent relocation. Most notable is the sound they all make; their constant chattering, muttering and when flushing the whirring of so many wings is a sound unique to these great gatherings. The roost is also attracting a lot of human visitors and once again sadly, many were arriving well after the event. Parking is becoming an issue and it would be really helpful if people could car share in order to maximise the limited car parking spaces.
Shoveller (c) JR
Duck numbers are rising steadily and there are now many more to be seen from the main Hide as the water levels on Ashgrave start to improve. On the reedbed on Saturday there were at least seventy Shovellers, more Gadwall than of late and a small party of Tufted Ducks.

Goldcrests (c) JR
There has been a large influx of Goldcrests and as the leaves have been stripped away they are much easier to see, as they glean insects and spiders from the vegetation. They were described by a friend as behaving as if they were suffering from A.D.H.D (Attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder), they are always busy and never seem to be able to keep still for a moment. Their white eye ring makes their eyes seem too large for their heads and gives them an endearing clown like appearance. They often move about in company with Wrens and mixed parties of Tits.

Preening Wren and Mipit (c) JR
Bittern is still present and was seen while relocating within the reedbed on Saturday afternoon. There are still two Marsh Harriers here and one of them is a particularly scruffy looking individual in need of a good moult!

Scruffy Harrier and another below pursued by corvids (c) JR


  1. Are the starlings on the RSPB reserve or are they somewhere else?