Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Saturday and Sunday 23rd and 24th January

Meadow Pipit (c) JR

It was wonderful to be back on the moor after my enforced absence.(Many thanks to Tezzer and Oz for lifts to and from). Saturday was bright and clear despite fog elsewhere in the county. Sunday was opalescent, greyer and the light more subdued.

On both days it was the sheer numbers of birds that was most remarkable. We have reached that time of year when numbers of Lapwing, Golden Plover and wildfowl reach their peaks. The Starling roost is still active but a little diminished, the ice of last week having pushed some of the birds elsewhere.

Lapwings and Goldies (c) Tezzer

On both days the sky was filled with swirling flocks of Lapwings and Golden Plovers, that flushed and moved between Greenaways and Big Otmoor. Amongst them were smaller tighter parties of Starlings that were finding enough sustenance on the reserve without having to venture too far afield. The birds were responding to both real and imagined threats, sometimes it was possible to pick out the threatening raptor and sometimes not. On Saturday there were two different Peregrines patrolling a large female and a smaller male.
Marsh Harrier (c) Pat Galka
The resident Marsh Harriers were seen frequently sometimes coming a bit closer to the first screen but never too near. They really only perturbed the Teal, flushing large numbers of them out from cover deep in the reeds. Bittern is still being seen intermittently as it relocates within the reedbed.
Bittern (c) Tezzer

A Sparrowhawk or perhaps a Kestrel has been using the first screen as a sheltered spot to pluck, eviscerate and eat its prey. There are all sorts of bits and pieces of Starling scattered around the screen area and blood and feathers all over the benches.
Kestrel at the hide (c) Derek Lane

Duck numbers continue to rise and it was very pleasing to see one flock of over sixty Pintail on Saturday and another of about thirty. Ten Pochard and fifteen Tufted Ducks were on the southern lagoon on Sunday and there was a significant scattering of Gadwall amongst them. The males looking especially smart and crisp in their clerical grey suits.

Tufties and Gadwall pair (c) JR
There are three large groups of Wigeon with the largest of them on Big Otmoor the other two groups on Ashgrave and Greenaways respectively. On Sunday morning two Shelduck were up on the distant lagoon on Ashgrave, the first we have recorded this year. It still puzzles me why we have not seen Goosander on the moor for the past few years. They used to be regular on the northern lagoons. There are enough fish to support a significant number of Cormorants. They appear to be almost common elsewhere in the county at present. The other bird that seems to be all over the county but not on Otmoor is Egyptian Goose, another bird that was regular on the moor but has not been recorded for a couple of years.
First Little Egret of the year (c) JR

Little Egret was another addition to the yearlist this weekend with one feeding on Ashgrave and the Closes on Sunday morning another addition were a couple of Common Gulls loosely attached to a party of Black Headed gulls.

On Saturday morning a Barn Owl was hunting in the Car park field giving great views. There were plenty of Bullfinches to be found in the same field. They are feeding on the blackthorn buds some of which are already in bloom. There are more Skylarks and Meadow Pipits around now, they can be seen and heard on and over the Closes, Greenaways and Ashgrave. Merlin, their principle predator, was also seen briefly on Saturday morning.
Mipit (c) JR

A male Grass Snake was seen on Sunday morning; it was moving very sluggishly “as if its batteries were run down”. It is extraordinarily early for one to be out of hibernation but the mildness of this winter has been unprecedented.

The week ahead looks as if it will be wet and we can expect water levels to rise even further, the weather looks as if it will flip between mild and cold and will be windy, these conditions should move birds around and the added water should attract even more wildfowl. I’m already looking forward to next weekend.

Teal and Shovellers (c) JR

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