Thursday, 21 July 2016

Saturday and Sunday 16th and17th July

Bittern (c) Lew

The moor changes rapidly in early summer but as we move into July and August the pace of change slackens. There was a however a very different look to the place when I went down this weekend after a fortnights absence. Where there had been hundreds of shades of green across the grassland there are now many soft subtle shades of yellow, orange and ochre. The different grasses have set seed and their long stems ripple like the sea as the wind passes over them. The only vivid splashes of green now are along the edges of the ditches, around the scrapes and from the reedbed where the phragmites reeds have now overtopped last year’s dead stems. Out on the far side of Greenaways, if one is lucky and looking the right way, the head and neck of one or both of our Cranes can appear, just peering above the grasses, a measure of just how long and lush the vegetation has become.
Great spot (c) JR

As is to be expected we are now seeing large mixed flocks of Tits and Warblers moving along the hedgerows in loose parties. The groups often include birds from seven or eight different species, all taking advantage of having many eyes on the lookout for danger. Such a group on Sunday morning included Willow and Reed Warblers, Chiffchaffs, Lesser Whitethroats a couple of Treecreepers and three species of Tits. The juvenile Blue and Great Tits standing out in their fresh yellowish plumage. A Grasshopper Warbler is reeling in the Car park field again. Clearly a bird bent on a second brood.
Little Egret (c) JR
Little Egrets are very much in evidence across the whole reserve. I saw a group of fourteen flush from the Flood field in response to a flyover from one of the Marsh Harriers. They may be feeding of froglets and toadlets which can sometimes be seen in the dewy grass along the bridle way early in the morning or perhaps taking advantage of the huge abundance of grasshoppers in the fields. As for the Marsh Harriers, they appear to have raised only one chick this year, it is very distinctive in its fresh chocolate coloured plumage with a large dab of custard on its head.
Juvenile Marsh Harrier (c) Badger
The first returning waders have been recorded. Common Sandpiper was present on both days this weekend and a Greenshank was seen on Saturday. Green Sandpipers have also been seen on the scrapes on Greenaways and on Noke Sides. Snipe are still drumming but we would expect that behaviour to stop soon. As the water levels on the southern lagoon drop, due to evaporation in the heat and transpiration from the reeds, there will be some very wader friendly patches of mud emerging. It should certainly be worth keeping an eye on this area over the coming weeks.
Common Sand at first screen. Tiny when next to a Mallard. (c) Andy Last
Bearded Tits were heard and seen briefly last weekend in the ditch beside the bridleway, the last birds seen were by the balancing pond at Noke back in the spring and we had assumed that they were just passing through. There are many clumps of reed that are isolated and not near enough to regular trails to enable visitors or wardens to pick up the distinctive pings. They may very well have been spending their time out of sight and earshot so any sightings and even better photographs, would be welcome and enable them to be aged and sexed.
Yellow Wagtail at Noke (c) Badger
A male Redstart was seen on Sunday in one of their regular autumn haunts and a Whinchat was seen close to the hide last week. There were a couple of Yellow Wagtails near the farm at Noke and as we move into August I would expect more of them to turn up, feeding around the legs of the sheep in the close cropped paddocks. Six, including a couple of juveniles, were in the reedbed on Monday morning.

(c) Lew

and even on the bridleway (c) Norman Smith

Bitterns have been very active over the past few weeks. They are flying frequently from place to place in the reedbed and beyond, out onto Greenaways, Big Otmoor and as far as Ashgrave. There are certainly two individuals. One is slightly darker than the other and has some minor damage to the tips of its primaries on the right wing. It was even seen standing on the bridleway at one point. Anyone spending time at the first screen should see one or other of them in flight at some point although the view will be brief! We are hopeful that we can work out optimal feeding areas and preferred habitats from our observations.

All Hare pics (c) JR

Anyone who would like to see a Brown Hare should spend a little time at the first screen. Our photogenic and fearless leveret is still giving amazing views down to point blank range. It would even be possible to get good pictures of it with a Kodak Box Brownie Camera.
Starlings are already roosting in the reedbed (c) Tom N-L
Beautiful Demoiselle (c) Andy Last

Darters (c) Tom N-L

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