Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Saturday and Sunday 28th and 29th November

Linnet (c) Nick Truby
I have said before that to truly know and understand a place one should see it in all its shades and tempers. On Sunday the moor was in a very lowering and stormy mood indeed. Saturday had started with sharply angled sunshine at dawn that soon was overcome by leaden skies and light misty rain, on Sunday the sun failed to appear at all! The gloomy greyness had photographers tutting and grumbling about ISO’s and shutter speeds. The gales hurled flocks of birds across the sky like wind blown leaves, especially corvids and winter thrushes.
Fieldfare (c) Derek Lane
Redwing (c) Tom Nicholson-Lailey
In the relative shelter of the Car Park Field there were large numbers of both Fieldfares and Redwings exploiting the last of the berries and many Tits and Finches taking advantage of the feeders. There seemed to be more Goldfinches both here and in other parts of the reserve than has been the case recently. A large number of Starlings from the reedbed roost had yet to make their way off to feed and were chattering in the hedgerows and on the wires heads down facing into the increasing force of the gale.
Goldfinch (c) Derek Lane
There were lots of birds to be found on both days and they were often concentrated where there was a little shelter in the lee of the hedges. Not so for the larger flocks of both Lapwings and Golden Plover that are feeding out on Noke Sides (the fields to the west of the path to the second screen). The numbers of both species are rising and we thought at least four hundred Lapwings were present and a slightly smaller number of Goldies.
Lapwings and Goldies (c) Tom Nicholson-Lailey
They have attracted a pair of Peregrines, we assume a pair because of the difference in size between the two. The birds are using the vantage point of the large oaks across Noke Sides, just as Peregrines did last year and it seems quite likely that they are the same birds. They interacted once or twice with the Marsh Harriers which in turn were not over pleased to have Red Kites cruising over “their” reedbed. Raptors do resent each others presence.
Duck numbers continue to rise and the areas of open water for them to exploit are also on the rise, literally! Shovellers are most noticeable on the main lagoon and more Wigeon can be seen feeding out on the grass beside the pools on Ashgrave and Big Otmoor.( For a wonderful description of Wigeon feeding read Mark cockers description in the Country Diary section of the Guardian on 1st December its obtainable on line. I wish I could write like that !) We have yet to see more than the odd Pintail perhaps it is still too warm for them to have been pushed south. There are also fewer Pochard than I would have expected at this time of year. The Grey Lag and Canada Goose flocks are very large and it is about now that they might be joined by their wild and more exciting cousins. So its worth scoping through the flocks, last year the Whitefronts spent most time associating with the Greylags.
Redpoll  (c) Derek Lane
Kingfisher from the hide (c) Nick Truby
The Bramblings are still with the Finch flock by the hide although they can be elusive and a visit from the Sparrowhawk can scatter the flocks for quite some time.
Bittern in the wind and gloom (c) JR
The Bittern put in a slow flypast on Sunday as it was making heavy weather of flying into the wind. A very dapper Grey Wagtail has been seen around the cattle corral over the last few days its smart clean plumage and bright yellow underparts are in stark contrast to the muddy manured area it is patrolling. It is a lovely bird to see and not one that is common on Otmoor. With more gales forecast who knows what might appear next. Perhaps Farmoor will lend us one of their Phalaropes!
Long tailed Tit and reflection (c) Derek Lane

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