Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Saturday and Sunday 8th and 9th April


Cuckoo (c) Derek Latham

It was the sort of weekend where it was impossible to select the right things to wear. On Saturday morning, there was frost on the ground, heavy mist and I was cold. By the time I went home I had my fleece tied around my waist and I was now overheating. It was perfect weather to bring in migrants and it certainly did.
Goldfinch in blossom (c) Tom N-L
They have not arrived in the numbers that will appear in the next few weeks, but the vanguard of summer visitors have been seen or heard. The only one of our regular warblers that is still to arrive is Garden Warbler, all the others made their appearance this weekend. Grasshopper Warbler arrived on Friday and there have been at least two of them reeling away in the carpark field. Both Reed and Sedge Warblers could be heard and occasionally seen in the ditches along the bridleway.
Reed Warbler (c) Mark chivers
Common Whitethroat and Lesser Whitethroat were singing in the large hawthorns and blackthorns in the car park field. On Sunday morning a Cuckoo flew up and down the bridleway calling and perching briefly at the top of the taller hawthorns. Its’ familiar call is surely the most evocative and emblematic sound of the season.
Bittern Hedge hopping (c) Derek Latham
At the reedbed early on Saturday morning a Bittern was booming and was seen making occasional forays low across the top of the reeds. This morning two were seen flying together. All weekend above the reedbed the Marsh Harriers have been performing their aerobatic display flights. They have been flying higher than usual and then hurtling recklessly downwards twisting and turning all the way down. They are interspersing this activity with bringing in nesting material. 
Aerial performance (c) Tom N-L
The herons nesting in the reedbed are very noticeable and exposed until the phragmites starts to grow up again. They too are very active and once their chicks start to hatch amount the toing and froing will increase markedly. On the water Pochard are displaying and Tufted Duck drakes are pursuing females in noisy gangs while making their croaky mechanical calls.

Displaying Pochard above and busy Tufties below (c) JR
There are still four Oystercatchers on and around the reserve, two have been spending time on Noke Sides and the other pair up near the big lagoon on Ashgrave. On Sunday we found two Avocets out on big Otmoor, they seemed settled, preening, roosting and finally feeding out in the pools. They might well be the pair that were reported at Rushy Common on Saturday.
Record shot of the two Avocets (c) Paul Greenaway
Elsewhere on big Otmoor there are still a handful of Golden Plover looking wonderful in their summer plumage. Redshanks can be seen almost everywhere one looks, walking, feeding, courting and mating. Many of our resident feral geese are taking advantage of the security offered by the anti-predator fence and are nesting out there. It may well be that their presence will help to deter aerial predators or at least help spread the collateral damage. It may well prove to be the same with the Black-Headed Gulls that are looking as if they will nest on the moor in much greater numbers than ever before.
Peregrine, Sparrowhawk and interestingly the Hen harrier were all seen this weekend. I had thought that by now the Harrier might have moved on but it was seen early on Sunday morning.
Swallow after bathing at second screen (c) Darrell Wood
There has been a smattering of Hirundines through, but usually only in ones and twos. As yet we have still to record a House Martin. Yellow Wagtails have were seen on Big Otmoor and flying over the second screen. Whinchat and Hobby are due to arrive in the next week or so.

Wren nestbuilding (c) JR
We are getting to the time in the year where we start to fret about the fate of our Turtle Doves, wondering whether they are going to make it this year and if they do, will they manage to breed successfully. Their presence as a breeding species in Oxfordshire is right on the edge and sadly we can do nothing to make their migration any less hazardous. Rest assured that if they do make it through the RSPB will do everything they can to make sure that their stay is a safe and productive one.
The year list is currently one hundred and twenty-four species and is fast approaching the time when it progresses much more slowly. The latest additions were this weekends Warblers, Yellow Wagtail and Common Gull.
Sunday dawn (c) JR

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