Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Easter Weekend 15th-17th April

Noke Whinchat (c) Tezzer

After the warmth of last weekend, the weather has reverted to what is more typical for the time of year; sunshine, showers and average temperatures. However, the cooler weather has nothing to slow down the influx of migrants.
Sedge Warbler (c) Bark

Arriving at the carpark it was impossible not to be enchanted and impressed by the sounds that were coming from every bush and bramble. It takes a moment or two to begin to separate out the individual songs and calls one from another. As a background behind the individual songs was the steady insistent reeling of at least two Grasshopper Warblers. One of them close to the feeders and the other on the far side of the field. The direction of the song is always very difficult to determine as the bird turns its head projecting the sound as if from different places. Sedge Warbler numbers have increased during the week and they can now be heard rasping out their rapid and slightly chaotic songs from all parts of the reserve, while Reed Warblers are calling now from the ditches and reedbeds with their similar, but much more rhythmic and measured songs. The Sedge Warblers are starting to make their territorial “parachute” flights.
Willow Warbler (c) JR
Willow Warblers are flitting rapidly about in the tops of the trees and bushes are stopping briefly from feeding to give a quick burst of song. Chiffchaffs too are calling as they feed stopping sometimes for a more concerted burst of their repetitive two note call. There are more Blackcaps singing now, but as yet we are still to hear a Garden Warbler and be certain of its identity! Every year it takes me a while to familiarise myself with the song and separate it from Blackcap with any degree of confidence. Cetti’s Warblers have established their territories now and can be heard within their demarcated areas, they seem to respond to movement and are triggered to call in response to people walking past.
Singing Sedge Warbler (c) JR
From the reedbed a Bittern can be heard booming sporadically, both early in the morning and in the evening. Above the reedbed the Marsh Harriers are patrolling we are still not certain if there are three or four individuals as we have not yet seen four at the same time we have however seen three. Herons are coming and going from their nests in the reeds and over the next few weeks they will slowly disappear as the phragmites grows up around them. The Herons nesting in the dead oak trees out from the Hide on Ashgrave should soon hatch their chicks and will be easy to watch from the hide with a scope.
Coots from the second screen (c) Bark
It was a good weekend for chats and thrushes. On Saturday morning, a Whinchat was found on the wire fence surrounding the donkey field by the farm at Noke. We spent some time watching it hunting from the posts and barbed wire. It is a male, very bright and colourful now in fresh breeding plumage showing a rich, warm orange breast and a smart highwayman’s mask when it looks straight at you.

Whinchat at Noke (c) Bark
The brightest and most colourful birds were in the Long Meadow area. On Sunday there were four male and two female Redstarts in there. The males looking almost tropical in the bright sunshine. They were not obvious at first, but with patience they could be spotted fly-catching from low perches in isolated bushes and hedgerow, dashing out and back to snatch insect prey from the grass. They were a superb sight trembling their tails as they sat in the sunshine. The resident Robins in the field took exception to the presence of their colourful cousins and would fly at them to chase them away. On Monday afternoon, there were five Wheatears found in the black sheep fields at Noke. They seem to like feeding around and among the sheep, perhaps they attract insects. There was a Ring Ouzel found on the far side of the moor on Saturday, it may indeed be the one that spent a couple of days feeding by Sally’s Field. It is unusual to have more than one record of this uncommon species in any one year.
Sunday evening Osprey (c) Tezzer

The Hobby seen earlier in the week did not hang around and we only heard the Cuckoo briefly on Saturday morning. I am sure that both species will be back in good numbers over the coming couple of weeks. An Osprey seen on Sunday evening was the third of these raptors to seen over the reserve this year. So far none of them have stopped to try their hand at fishing!
A Common Sandpiper seen on the scrapes on Big Otmoor on Sunday morning was the first record for the year and there was another Little Ringed Plover seen in the same vicinity. There should be a number of other wader species coming through over the next few weeks, we will be looking out for Whimbrel and for Greenshank as they head north to breed.
Blue Tit (c) JR

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