Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Saturday and Sunday 21st and 22nd May

Turtle with the wind up its sails (c) Derek Lane
Despite the low cloud and occasional drizzle the moor was particularly beautiful on Saturday morning. The colours at this time of year are especially intense and the greens are the greenest greens imaginable. Foliage is fresh, verdant and undamaged by exposure to strong wind or hot sunshine. As I drove down the lane the verges were laced with cow parsley and across the reserve the Hawthorn is in full bloom and this year seems more profuse than ever. It has a very particular scent, sweet and heady but sometimes with a slightly off note reminiscent of cats.
Reed warbler (c) Mark Chivers
From amid the depths of this green and white profusion all the regular warblers were pumping out their songs, occasionally flying up still calling before parachuting back down into the foliage. The Grasshopper Warbler that has taken up residence beside the path to the first screen was very obliging on Sunday reeling out in the open, while clinging to a single reed. It was possible to see its whole body vibrating with the effort of pumping out that stream of sound.
Gropper (c) Mark Chivers
Over Greenaways and the Closes Snipe were drumming, climbing and diving in their roller coaster flights. They seem to be present in very good numbers and recent surveys suggest that they might be doing better than ever. Redshank are also very much in evidence and when they have chicks close to the fences and paths, or are moving them from one area to another, they are most vociferous in their alarm calling and swooping flights. Lapwings too are very noticeable going up to challenge overflying Red Kites but not effectively enough to prevent them swooping down over Big Otmoor.
Red Kite on patrol (c) Derek Lane
On Greenaways Hobbies are perched up on the posts and fences, as usual they sit around idly until around eleven o’clock, at this time they get going and start to hunt the dragonflies that by now have warmed up and got onto the wing. They are saving energy, there is of course no point in flying around aimlessly when there is nothing about to catch!
Hobby with prey (c) JR

Hobbies (c) Tom N-L
Cuckoos are being seen and heard frequently there were at least four present on Sunday morning, three males pursuing a female that was making that wonderful bubbling chuckling call; that is so different to the regular, familiar cuckoo call. They have been feeding on abundant caterpillars including some of the “tent” encampments of the Lackey Moths several of which can be found beside the bridle way. They are patrolling looking for an unguarded Reed Warbler nest as “our” cuckoos specialise in parasitizing this particular species.

Cuckoos (c) Derek Lane

Out in the reedbed there is one easily observed Heron nest. The two well grown chicks now look very like a pair of rather dishevelled punks. It is fascinating to watch the parent birds come in and get mugged for the food they are carrying in their crop. The noise and the excitement make quite a spectacle.
Turtle dove stepping out! (c) JR
There are other Herons that are breeding successfully on the reserve, including the ones in the platform on the dead tree in front of the hide. Six Little Egrets have been roosting regularly in this area but as yet have shown no signs of making a breeding attempt.
Punk Herons and parent (c) Terry Jones
Four Shelduck flew between Big Otmoor and Ashgrave on Saturday morning and there are now many other ducks swimming round with ducklings in tow. While on a survey last week we saw a Shoveller with six “Shovellettes” in her wake. The Common Terns are now sitting on the tern raft although another pair, on the southern lagoon, seem to have nowhere to nest.
Hares are much in evidence now (c) Peter West
I had hoped that the Spoonbill seen over the Trap Grounds and Port Meadow would make its way onto the moor, it is a couple of years since we had one down there. Perhaps this week!
Grass Snake  (c) Andy Harris

Gropper (c) Andy Harris

Monday, 16 May 2016

Saturday and Sunday 14th and 15th May

Turtle Dove (c) Pat Galka

At four forty-five on Saturday morning I was joined in the reserve car park by twenty-eight intrepid souls for a Dawn Chorus walk. It had been a chilly night and there was a grass frost riming the lowest vegetation.

Barn Owl in the carpark field on Sunday morning (c) JR

A Tawny Owl called from the Roman Road and even though it was so early one of the Turtle Doves had already started purring. We made our way along to the hide and then out to the second screen.
Turtle in the grass (c) JR
We encountered all of the expected warblers bar the Grasshopper Warbler, it may have been too chilly or too windy to get one reeling. Just to be contrary two were calling on Sunday morning and the one along the path to the first screen was showing very well again.
Redshank (c) JR
It is always salutary to remember that many people are not as familiar as some of us, with what we might term commoner or more familiar birds. So Redshanks, Lapwings and Shovellers were very much admired especially when seen through a ‘scope. Both Lapwing and Redshank chicks were visible out on Big Otmoor from the path to the first screen, scuttling about between the sedges overseen by vigilant parents. The young Herons both in the nest in front of the hide and those out on the reedbed were similarly enjoyed.
Cuckoo (c) Pat Galka
The weather last week had led to a major “fall” of waders right across the county. On Otmoor we had found Greenshanks, Ringed Plovers, Dunlin, Wood Sandpiper and a Little Stint out in the middle part of Big Otmoor. The Little Stint was feeding in company with three summer plumaged Dunlin and its diminutive size was particularly marked. On Thursday on the Flood Field, on the Oddington side, while we were carrying out a survey, we found a Whimbrel and at least four Black Tailed Godwits.
Common Tern (c) JR
Sunday morning was much warmer and the cool northerly wind had moderated. We enjoyed watching the Common Terns both out at the reedbed and along the edge of Greenaways. There are now two pairs squabbling over squatter’s rights on the Tern raft. At least one pair are on the southern reedbed, one of them frequently perching on a post opposite the screen and being fed small fish by its’ mate.
Who said there is no such thing as a unicorn?(c) Mark chivers
By eleven o’clock on Sunday morning there were six Hobbies out on Greenaways, either hunting dragonflies or sitting on the gates and posts. The moor seems to be a significant refuelling stop for these sleek, migratory falcons, they will be here for a couple of weeks before dispersing into the wider countryside to breed. Talking of Dragonflies, we noticed our first large dragonflies on the wing on Thursday, both Hairy and Broad Bodied Chasers were along the lane on the Oddington side, sometimes basking in the sunshine and pulsing gently. The newly emerged imagoes are beautiful to look at closely, their colours are crisp, bright and clean, the tracery of their wings pristine and undamaged.
Broad Bodied Chaser (c) Badger
A second calendar year Red Kite has spent a lot of time close to the farm at Noke often perching on the fence. It is a very distinctive individual with an almost wholly white head and breast. It was spotted on Sunday mantling a prey item and tearing at it with its bill, scoping it showed a small reddish brown creature. First impressions were that perhaps it had taken a fox cub or a rabbit. It took off leaving its prey on the ground a close look at where it had been “feeding” revealed the prey item to be……………..believe it or not, a stuffed Christmas reindeer, complete with horns. The Kite had managed to remove its’ fetching red and white woolly hat, but apart from that it was intact! Probably the first Kite on Reindeer predation ever recorded!

The juvenile Kite and its prey ! (c) Badger