Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Saturday and Sunday 22nd and 23rd July

Juvenile Bittern (c) Tezzer

There has been rain in the previous week and again overnight at the weekend. On both days, there was a moist heaviness in the air and first thing the vegetation was bowed down with drops of water. The foliage was refreshed after the prolonged dry spell and there were insects everywhere.
Young blackcap (c) JR
On both mornings, mixed flocks of tits and warblers were taking advantage of this abundant food supply. On Sunday morning many of the newly fledged birds were sitting out in the sun to dry and preen after the overnight downpours.

Sedge Warbler above (c) JR       Reed Warbler below (c) Old Caley
Young birds and passage waders are the key things to look for at the moment and the breeding successes of what were once scarce Oxfordshire birds is a tribute to the way the reserve has developed over the past twenty years.

Warblers (c) Old Caley
It is now clear that there are two separate broods of Marsh Harriers around the reedbed. Two birds have been perching up in the bushes on the north-eastern side bordering the flood Field. These two are being provisioned by a female that is moulting some primaries and is looking very scruffy. The other two youngsters can be seen perching up in the hedge along the back of Greenaways. All of these youngsters sit scanning the sky for the returning adults and await a food-pass from a parent bird.
Gulls seeing off a Marsh Harrier (c) Norman Smith
The number of Common Terns at the Tern raft has gone down as chicks have fledged and have moved off with the adults. There are still a few that are being fed on the raft and making occasional inexpert sallies over the water. The Black Headed Gull pair have raised one youngster to flying and are so vociferous in their defence of it that they chase ducks away from it if it gets too close to them. They take a very aggressive approach to the Little Egrets that just want to loaf about on the dead branches on the emerging muddy margin. They also challenge any raptors that stray too close.

More Bittern pics (c) Tezzer
There are now an indeterminate number of newly fledged Bitterns in the reedbed. Early last week two were seen landing clumsily in the reeds fringing the northern lagoon and possibly another was photographed from the high seat, after an uncomfortable three-hour session, by T.S. This bird was confirmed by Ian Lewington as being a pristine juvenile. As the season progresses we will expect to see them moving about within the reedbed and beyond in the channels and ring ditches across the reserve. If previous years are anything to go by the best chance of seeing them out in the open will be in the reed fringes of the northern lagoon.
There were waders to be seen this weekend.

Common Sand (top) Green Sand (middle two) and juv. Curlew (c) Tezzer
On Saturday there was a Green Sandpiper and a newly fledged Curlew on the Greenaways scrapes. Earlier in the week there had been three Little Ringed Plovers and a Common Sandpiper also haunting these receding pools. On Saturday morning a Greenshank flew over the reedbed looking as if it was about to land but thought better of it and moved on.
On Sunday we saw two Hobbies perched up on the high seat. We could scope them and one was clearly a juvenile, they were joined by another adult before flying off and starting to hunt over Big Otmoor. The transitional plumage male Hen Harrier is still being seen regularly hunting across Greenaways and the hedge along its northern edge. I saw it myself twice on Sunday, on first glance it looks as if there is a medium sized gull quartering the field but its flight pattern and agility are totally un-gull like.
Quail was heard again calling on Saturday morning from Big Otmoor, approximately half way along the bridleway towards Noke. Redstarts are now regular in Long Meadow and a young Spotted Flycatcher was seen on the wires in the Car Park Field and a further two birds were in Long meadow beyond the old brick stop-butt.

Redstarts,  above (c) Oz below (c) Old Caley
For a digest of what might be found on the moor in late summer/early autumn there is an article in the latest edition of Birdwatch magazine that says where to go and what one might see. Enjoy it.
Turtle Dove (c) JR

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