Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Mid-June roundup.

Common Tern (c) Oz

Despite the hot sun the moor is still lush and green, but that will not be the case for long if this current hot spell persists. As the long grasses set seed sand the sun sucks the moisture out of the vegetation so the predominant colours will become less verdant and vibrant. Birders often refer to this part of the summer as the “birding doldrums” but there is still plenty on the reserve to interest and excite.
We have added two more species to the year–list, which had been moribund on one hundred and forty for a number of weeks. Quail have been heard calling regularly on both the Closes and on Ashgrave. Last year we failed to record this erratic visitor at all. In addition, there were a pair of Mandarin Ducks on the lagoon in front of the first screen on Saturday morning. They were perched on the dead willow in the water where a party of seven had spent much of last autumn. The drake was not quite as spectacular as they are when freshly plumaged as he is beginning to go into eclipse.
Mandarins (c) Oz
In the same area, we have been seeing more Bittern movements, it seems likely that there are two birds frequenting two different locations, one in the northern reedbed and the other in the southern. These are likely to be females making feeding flights, as their progeny increase in size and develop larger appetites so the frequency of these flights will increase. The male Bitterns take no part at all in raising the young!
Bittern over southern lagoon (c) Bark
On Sunday morning at the second screen, we were really pleased to see the first tiny fluffy chicks out on the tern raft. There are nine pairs of Common Terns taking advantage of this artificial island and we hope that they might be less susceptible to avian predation with so many sharp eyes and sharp beaks ready to harass raptors that come too close. Which was exactly what we saw on Sunday when one of the Marsh harriers strayed into their airspace.

Tern going in for an attack (c) Bark
They are very fast and very agile and as I mentioned have very sharp dagger like bills. It was hot for the sitting birds and they were panting to try to regulate their temperature. Every so often one would lift off the raft and splash and bathe in the water close by, this must help the cooling process and presumably it will also help to cool the chicks when the damp parent returns.
There is still a Grey heron nest with young in it, out in the reeds from the second screen. When the adult bird returns, it provokes squawking and harsh shrieking from the juveniles in the nest. On Sunday, I saw my first Kingfisher for some months on the southern lagoon. They breed away from the reserve and return once they have fledged young.
Digi-binned shot of Egrets on Ashgrave (c) Stoneshank
The numbers of Little Egrets have been going up steadily over the past month. There are often good numbers present at this time of year as the ditches, scrapes and pools start to draw down and dry. This must concentrate the small fry and large invertebrates in smaller areas where they are easier to catch. On Monday morning, there were at least twenty-six of them out on Big Otmoor alone and earlier many of them had been roosting in the dead oak on Ashgrave like so many white tissues snagged in the branches.

Busy Tits (c) Bark
Mixed groups of juvenile Blue and Great Tits are foraging acrobatically in the hogweed and cow parsley alongside the bridleway, picking tiny insects from amongst the flower bracts. Their numbers will grow over the coming weeks and the flocks will be swollen with juvenile warblers of many species.
Turtle Dove (c) Bark
We have noticed an increase in family groups visiting the reserve over the past couple of weeks. It’s not just about the glorious summer weather, we put it down to what we term the “Spring Watch effect”. People looking to experience at first hand the delights that can be had by getting out in nature and seeing it for themselves. Wonderful, well done BBC.
Banded Demoiselle from first screen. (c) Bark

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