Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Saturday and Sunday 8th and 9th January

Pauls bird arriving back at the pig field! (c) JR

The year on Otmoor has certainly started off with a bang. Last Wednesday Paul Greenaway found a Cattle Egret on Big Otmoor, it almost immediately flew over to Ashgrave and promptly disappeared. He had taken a couple of pictures that confirmed that this was a Cattle Egret and as such was the first one to be recorded on Otmoor and at the time probably only the second county record. Paul spends more time on the moor than anyone I know and contributes massively to reporting, recording and carrying out the seed feeding by the hide, and so it was great that he found a “first for the reserve”. Subsequently three more have been found in a pig field about ten miles away, perhaps Paul’s bird was one of these.
Cattle Egret on Big Otmoor (c) Stoneshank
To fully appreciate a place it is said that one should see it in all its moods and guises, but by Sunday I was getting a bit fed up with the particular mood this weekend. It was unremittingly damp, cold, grey and murky. Visibility was poor and there was enough light rain to fog glasses, binoculars and cameras. The hard freeze of earlier in the week had started to thaw and there was still firm ice under the thin film of overnight rain. This was perfectly illustrated in the ring ditch. A Water Rail crossed the ditch and pattered along the edge, looking for all the world as though it was walking on water.
All of the regular raptors made appearances this weekend with the exception of Merlin. There has not yet been a report of this small falcon since the start of the year. There were definitely three Marsh Harriers present as at one time all three were in the air simultaneously. Two Peregrines were seen one a large female and the other a smaller sub adult male. The Hen Harrier also put in occasional appearances but was rarely as easy to see as the Marsh Harriers. 

Raptor Parade (c) Derek Latham

The Bitterns made occasional flights within the reedbed and were most frequently seen along the northern edge from the second screen.
The Lapwing flocks are now beginning to swell but as yet there have not been the numbers of Golden Plover that we normally get at this stage of the winter. It may be that the colder weather of late will push them south, it has been an especially mild early winter.
part of the thirty plus flock of Mute swans (c) JR
Teal and Wigeon numbers are growing. There were six or seven hundred in a huge flock feeding on Big Otmoor last week when I was looking for the Egret last Wednesday afternoon. The Teal are lurking out in the reedbed but they only reveal themselves when a raptor causes them to flush. After having not being able to see them since the beginning of the month, the White Fronted Geese were finally spotted out on the fringes of the Grey Lag flock. This group has been spending a lot of time out on the furthest reaches of Ashgrave and given the foggy conditions have been difficult to monitor.

Fieldfare and Starling (c) JR
The winter finch flock is very substantial now. The greatest part of it being Linnets. There are also substantial numbers of Chaffinches and Reed Buntings. It has been very noticeable of late that there are also very large numbers of them feeding out on the phragmites seed heads in the reedbed. Sometimes, just for a moment, they can look like Bearded Tits!
Barn Owl was added to the new yearlist when one was found actually inside the hide! It had got in through an open window and was having trouble finding its way out. If you’re the last person out shutting the windows is a good habit to get into.
Finally my prediction of a Cattle egret on Otmoor (made in my review of 2016) came true within three days, I wonder what to wish for next…………………..!
Kite chewing on a starling (c) JR

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