Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Saturday and Sunday 1st and 2nd April

Early morning Carpark Field Songthrush (c) Bark

It was a near perfect weekend after a week of steady southerly breezes. We expected there to have been an influx of migrants and indeed there had been, but perhaps not in quite the numbers we were anticipating.
Wren (c) Bark
The carpark field was alive with birdsong on both mornings, wrens were trilling out from every bush and bramble. They certainly generate some decibels from such a tiny body, if you spot one in full song its whole body will be vibrating with the effort and the volume. Song thrushes have also taken up territories in the carpark field and along the Roman Road.
Chiffy (c) JR
Chiffchaffs called their repetitive two note call from all parts of the reserve. From time to time we came across newly arrived Willow Warblers that would pause occasionally in their busy foraging to sing their beautiful tinkling song on a descending scale. It is a sound that that is so typical of this stage of the spring. A Blackcap was calling from the Roman Road area and another was in full song along the bridle way.
Blackcap (c) Darrell Wood
Cetti’s Warblers seem to be stimulated to call by seeing movement, there are now at least twelve singing birds on the moor, there may very well be more. They do hold quite large territories and so it is sometimes difficult to tell where one territory ends and another begins. It seems extraordinary to think that in the winter of 2012/3 they were wiped out on Otmoor and now are back in larger numbers than before. A Sedge Warbler was heard in the reedbed half way between the two screens and another in the double ditch at the Noke end of the reserve.
Willow Warbler (c) Bark
A Ring Ouzel had been spotted along the path to the second screen on Friday but had flown off across Noke Sides and disappeared. On Saturday morning, it was refound on the Eastern edge of Big Otmoor. It was flying in and out of the hedge surrounding Sally’s Field and feeding in the long grass, they are an occasional visitor to Otmoor and are usually very brief passage birds. This individual was seen again in the same vicinity on Sunday and so has obviously found the moor to be a suitable refuelling stop before it heads on northwards.
Ring Ouzel (c) Pete Roby

Ring Ouzel courtesy of Badger please view at 1080p.

On the open fields Lapwings continue their tumbling displays and the first nests have been found by the reserve staff. Redshanks seem to be superabundant this year, they have been doing their wing quivering courtship flights calling continuously before landing and raising their wings like flags. Snipe too are very much in evidence and there were more drumming this weekend, especially over Greenaways and The Closes. Curlew are displaying over the MOD land and over the eastern edge of Greenaways. On Sunday six were seen flying and calling together.

Leucistic Pochard (c) JR
Out at the reedbeds there is lots of activity both on the water and in the skies above. On the water Tufted Duck and Pochard drakes are displaying to the females. In the sunshine the male Tufties heads can show a superb iridescent black and purple as the light catches them. There is a leucistic drake Pochard in with the others. It is a very beautiful washed out version of the standard plumage. It is a sandy, creamy coloured bird and is displaying just as avidly as its more conventionally coloured associates. It was seen here in the autumn last year but was still a juvenile. It has only reappeared in the last couple of weeks.
Coot Wars continue! (c) Bark
Over the reedbed the Marsh Harriers have been sky-dancing spectacularly, swooping and soaring together and at times locking talons in mid-air. They were seen mating on top of one of the low bushes on the bund on Sunday morning. It seems very likely that they will breed again this year. It appears that one of the nesting Grey Herons in the northern reedbed is already feeding young. We watched the male come in and out to the same spot five or six times in about half an hour on Saturday morning. There are now estimated to be at least six pairs nesting in the reedbed.
Treecreeper (c) Derek Latham
Big Otmoor is still thronged with birds. In addition to our breeding waders there are very many Shovellers, Teal, Wigeon and Pintail. Despite constant searching we are yet to dig out a Garganey……... perhaps next week. There are about forty Golden Plover out there still and they are almost all in transitional plumage some of them fully moulted into their black bellies and spangled backs.
Lost Australian (c) Derek Latham
The Linnets, Reed Buntings and other finches continue to take advantage of the seed put out by the hide. The Sparrowhawk is also aware of this and there have been many mass panics and dashing attacks. Unfortunately, on Sunday afternoon, one of the fleeing Linnets flew straight into one of the hide windows and was killed outright.

Live Linnet (c) Derek Lane      Late Linnet (c) Badger
Next week we are looking forward to more new arrivals perhaps Whinchat and Whitethroat. As I have been writing this, news of the year’s first Redstart has come in, it was found in the hedge beside the path between the two screens. Such an exciting time of the year!
Fresh in Redstart (c) Paul Greenaway

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