|Shorty (c) JR|
No sooner than I start to mention spring, winter comes back and reminds me that it is not yet over. Saturday, the worst kind of squally, sleety and chilly day was in stark contrast with the early frost and then bright crisp sunshine that we experienced on Sunday morning.
The moor is still thronged with birds, Lapwings and Golden Plover are the most noticeable but wildfowl numbers must be at or about their annual maxima. They are spread over the whole reserve but Big Otmoor and the flood field would appear to hold the most. At one point, something like a Peregrine flushed a huge number of Wigeon from the flood field and it made a spectacular sight from the second screen. Pintail favour the western pools on big Otmoor and parties of Teal are scattered over the whole area. Shoveller too are abundant but evenly spread out, as are both Gadwall and Tufted Ducks.
|Drake Shoveller (c) JR|
On Saturday morning we walked to Noke, the bridle way is sticky but not impossible. It was worth it to have a careful scan over Big Otmoor from a different angle and for the large number of birds we found feeding on the short grass sheep fields adjacent to the farm. Not only Lapwings and Goldies but also at least five hundred Fieldfares and a smaller number of Redwings. The winter thrushes are now feeding on open fields having exhausted the food supplies in the hedgerows.
There were also several song thrushes to be
found out these fields. On our way back several Canada Geese flew over and we
noticed a small dark goose with them. It was a Barnacle Goose that we later
spotted out on Ashgrave. Despite its dubious provenance it is a really
attractive bird and beautifully marked. Despite its size it can be feisty and
is more than able to hold its own amongst the larger Canadas.
|Long Tailed Tit gnat catching in the reed bed (c) JR|
There are plenty of Snipe to be seen flitting up from one set of tussocks to another, landing and promptly disappearing it will not be long now before our resident birds start drumming.
Redshank numbers have
increased sharply with ones and twos being seen feeding around the edges of
pools and scrapes. Their voices are also becoming part of the soundscape again
especially their yodelling flight call. Lapwings are now separated out into the
tighter more coherent flocks and what we must assume are “our” resident
breeding birds. “Our” birds are spread out and occupying potential nest sites.
They are starting to swoop and loop in their courtship displays. I even saw one
pair mating. Another significant difference between the residents and the
visitors is the way that they react to Kites. While whole flocks flush the
territorial residents have started to fly up and attempt to challenge or mob
the overflying raptors.
|Redshank (c) Derek Lane|
The Grey Herons are back nesting in the gnarled oak to the west of the hide, having abandoned the site last year. In previous years it has been great to watch their progress.On Thursday some members of the RSPB staff who were carrying out an ecological survey flushed up a Jack Snipe, the first of this calendar year. It would be good to get one of these elusive birds feeding in the wet grass in front of the hide.
|Grey Heron (c) JR|
|Singing Reed Buntings (c) Derek Lane|
More and more male Reed Buntings are to be both seen and heard singing from prominent bushes and tall reed stems. Great Crested Grebes are also starting to get into mating mode and four individuals were on the southern lagoon on Friday. On Sunday two of them were carrying weeds and almost but not quite starting their courtship dance.
|Grebes and Coots courting? (c) Derek Lane|
On Sunday at midday a Short Eared Owl was showing well in the Car Park Field. It was hunting in the eastern side of the field and seemed unconcerned by the number of people watching from the bench near the feeders. These birds are much more likely to hunt in the daytime now than they were when they first arrived. On Monday evening there were at least three individuals enthralling watchers across the whole area.
|Short Eared Owls (c) JR|