Monday, 8 May 2017

Saturday and Sunday 6th and 7th May

Back where it belongs!
The cool northerly and north easterly winds have checked a number of birds on their northward migration. The result for us has been something of an influx of waders with thirteen species, including our resident and breeding birds on show this weekend. It has also meant that the weather has been chilly with a bitter wind, especially noticeable when standing at either of the screens, they act like wind tunnels and focus the cold.
The Temminck’s Stint from last weekend had remained out on Big Otmoor all week although it was an extremely elusive bird. I spent a long time looking for it on Sunday and it may well have moved on as no other reports came in of it during the rest of the day. Having said that there were long periods last week when it wasn’t seen at all so it might just still be there.

Twenty-seven blackwits (c) Bark

Scanning the exposed mud and pools did reveal some interesting visitors. There were two Ruff on Saturday and on Friday a Bar-tailed Godwit along with a summer plumaged Grey Plover. The Plover remained into Saturday. At least two little Ringed Plovers were running about among the sedges and on the mud like super-charged clockwork toys, occasionally stopping to mate. Several Dunlin were present picking around the margins. On Sunday morning a party of twenty eight Black-tailed Godwits arrived, they circled several times over the reserve sometimes looking as if they were going to land but seemed to panic at the last moment, as if there was something on the ground that spooked them.
The Godwits may have been alarmed by the unprecedented numbers of larger gulls out on the Big Otmoor scrapes. Over eighty Herring and Lesser Black-backed gulls are there now as well as a smaller number of breeding Black-headed Gulls. A Yellow-legged Gull was picked out amongst them. Last year we hosted just two pairs of Black-headed Gulls. As can be expected this is going to have a significant effect on the breeding Lapwings. The Gulls have already been seen predating the Lapwing chicks and I assume that they will stay around until this easy food source is exhausted or the water levels on Big Otmoor drop and they have nowhere to bathe and loaf.  There have never been so many gulls on the moor and we have speculated that it might be to do with the exceptionally dry spring we are experiencing and the consequent difficulty in finding food. It may also be a consequence of more food waste being recycled rather than dumped in landfill sites.
Courting Dunnock (c) Bark
Searching for waders out on the big Otmoor scrapes is difficult, the most successful strategy involves looking from several different viewpoints along the bridleway. Different edges and mudflats are revealed by the changes of angle and so birds can suddenly appear or indeed disappear.
Still on the subject of waders, we had four fully summer plumaged Golden Plovers out on Noke Sides on Saturday morning, one of them appeared to have a problem with one of its feet which caused it to limp heavily as it fed in the grass. There was also a Greenshank on the same field feeding along the central ditch.

Badly damaged Cuckoo and others(c) Bark

Elsewhere on the reserve we enjoyed something of a “cuckoo-fest” this weekend. On Sunday morning, we saw and heard six birds simultaneously, as three males pursued a female and at the same time two other birds were calling from opposite sides of the reserve. One bird that I photographed looked to have been in a battle either with a raptor or another of its kind. It had several secondaries missing and feathers coming loose from its tail.
On Sunday morning I noticed many more Reed warblers singing from the ditch beside the bridleway and they will be providing the Cuckoos with foster homes and surrogate parents. The Cuckoos on Otmoor parasitise Reed Warblers and as yet there may not be any nests ready for occupation.
Reed warbler (c) JR
As I reported last week the last to return of our iconic summer visitors, the Turtle Dove, has made it back against the odds. There were two birds being reported on Sunday morning and they have been seen feeding on the ground close to the cattle pens by the Greenaways Pump house. I don’t think that summer on Otmoor would be the same with their gentle purring from the oaks along the bridleway.
Hobbies too are back in good numbers as they usually are at this time of year. There were four hunting over Greenaways as I left yesterday morning. As well as the Hairy Dragonflies, the Four Spotted chasers are now being seen on the wing and so there is now an abundance of large insects for them to hunt.
Otmoor dawn (c) Tom N-L
Grey Plover courtesy of Badger.

If you wish to experience Otmoor at dawn and hear the stunning dawn chorus we are taking a guided walk out from the carpark on Saturday the 13th May between 5 and 7 am. Please contact the office on 01865 352033. It will be useful to have an idea of numbers.

1 comment:

  1. WOW! these birds give an absolutely stunning sight while flying. I think they have migrated from some other land. Bird watching gives you a chance to see all these wonderful scenes.