Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Saturday and Sunday 17th and 18th December

Fieldfare (c) JR

A grey misty wintery weekend that nonetheless still had a lot to recommend it, especially as it included the Traditional Otmoor Massive mince pies, sloe gin and chilli chocolate (and other seasonal delicacies) pre-Christmas gathering.
Once again at least two Bitterns were in evidence on both mornings. On Saturday, the birds were sitting out in the open on top of the reeds that are now being flattened by the sheer weight of Starlings coming in to the nightly roost. When they are perched up on a pile of reeds their cryptic plumage is so effective that they almost disappear, especially when they choose to “sky point”.
Bittern perched on the reeds (c) JR

The two Marsh Harriers put in regular appearances. It is strange how quickly we are now taking for granted what was once quite a special bird in the county, in 2006 being described as a spring and autumn passage migrant. Peregrine too was present on both days and on Sunday had a brief hostile interaction with the Marsh Harriers over Greenaways. 
Marsh Harrier upsetting Teal (c) Derek Lane
The large scattered flock of Lapwings are still around but the Golden Plover numbers have dropped off again.
During the week six Egyptian Geese were found on the Closes. It has puzzled me as to why a bird that is so ubiquitous and successful elsewhere in the county has not been seen down on the moor for about three years. These geese have the distinction of being the one hundred and fiftieth species to be reported on the moor this year.

Bullfinch and Goldfinch (c) Derek Lane

Teal and Wigeon numbers are building up towards their winter peak, perhaps a little more slowly this year than in other years. The Wigeon are out on Big Otmoor and Ashgrave in large flocks grazing in close proximity to the water. There are Teal visible from the screens but their true numbers only become apparent when they are flushed from deeper in the reed bed often by a Harrier or a Kite. On Sunday, a lone Pintail was seen. There is a lot of water on the most distant lagoon and it is attracting many of the wildfowl.
Cormorant and lunch (c) JR

As we expected more finches and buntings are being attracted to the winter seed feeding close to the Hide. Yesterday there were twelve Yellowhammers alongside the regular Reed Buntings and Linnets.
Fieldfare and Redwing flocks have dispersed and we now just have odd singletons that appear to have taken up squatter’s rights on particular bushes that still have a crop of berries remaining. There is one such Fieldfare guarding the small hawthorn bush to the right of the first screen, even so it is still very shy and easily flushed. From the first screen a single Songthrush is picking up worms from the well trampled area beside the screen that is set aside for viewing the Starling roost.
Song thrush and lunch (c) JR

I attended the roost on Tuesday and numbers there have risen and we estimated a hundred thousand Starlings came in at dusk. Although I have not been there at dawn I understand that it can be equally spectacular as the birds leave the reedbed for a day’s foraging in the countryside.

It was good to meet so many friends on the moor on Sunday morning. We speculated, as we often do, about what might turn up next on the moor and discussed what was the Otmoor bird of the year. There was a pretty strong consensus on the star birds but not so much so on what might appear next, I will consider these weighty matters in my next posting which will be the last one of 2016.
Otmoor Massive 2016

1 comment:

  1. I saw a Water Rail from the Wetlands centre hide on 17th December at 10:00.