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


  1. Hi, does Derek Lane read this? If so, I've cheekily nicked his turtle dove pic from your blog and posted it in a British birders group on Facebook.

    It's getting a hell of a lot of likes.

  2. https://www.facebook.com/groups/67375210866/10154066297105867/?notif_t=like&notif_id=1464606316908956