|Reed Warbler building second nest (c) JR|
“Summertime and the living is easy……” as George Gershwin wrote…..and that is true right now down on the moor. Birds are taking advantage of the massive numbers of insects that are thriving on the lush vegetation. We are seeing small birds foraging everywhere and dashing back to chicks with beaks stuffed with insect food.
|Young Sedge Warbler (c) Bark|
Out on Greenaways up to four common Cranes have been feeding in the long grasses. The grasses have subtly changed colour shifting from the rich greens of two or three weeks ago to gold, warm browns and ochre as they set seed. Walking through the grass it is impossible not to notice the huge numbers of grasshoppers that leap and scatter at your passage. It is likely that it is this abundant food source, that the Common Cranes are feeding on as they moult into their new flight feathers. Careful and patient scanning is needed to spot the moment when one or other long neck appears above the grass, like a periscope on a submarine. As well as “our” Cranes there appears to be another pair that are able to fly and are visiting, all four were seen close together last week.
|Taking advantage of the seed put down for their rarer cousins (c) Derek Latham|
Bullfinches appear to have had a successful breeding season so far, this year if the number of family parties that are about is anything to go on. They are very noticeable in the carpark field, along the bridleway and on the path beside the hide. Chaffinches are very evident too, taking advantage of the seed that is being put down specially for the Turtle Doves. The cattle have commandeered this area by the stockade and it is difficult to get near it to scatter the feed. There are currently several large flocks of juvenile Starlings around on the moor, last week we had a flock of at least three hundred feeding in the long grass in Long Meadow. There is one such group that is staying close to the cattle and it is easy to see that they are all brown juvenile birds, I assume that the adults are all off raising further broods.
|Cattle and Starlings (c) Derek Latham|
The first trickle of returning or non-breeding waders have appeared. There were two Little Ringed Plovers on the Greenaways scrape on Saturday morning and there are reports of Green Sandpipers being both seen and heard last week.
|Little Ringed Plovers(c) Derek Latham|
At the first screen, along with the regular eclipse ducks, were two Black headed gull chicks that can only have come from a nest in the reedbed one of them swimming about in the middle of the lagoon accompanied by anxious and very noisy parents. The other was pottering about on the emerging mud patch on the left-hand side of the channel and accompanied by attendant parents. There were also three juvenile Little Egrets and two adult birds in the same area. The juveniles could all fly well enough and so are not likely to have fledged on the moor, but their landing and perching skills still need a lot of practice.
|Egrets et al (c) JR Black Headed Gulls and chick (c) Bark|
We were pleased to see two newly fledged Marsh Harriers making their first flights at the weekend. Like the Egrets they can fly reasonably well but getting back down is a skill that is still to be mastered. Their landings in the low willows and bushes being no more than very wobbly flappy crashes. It is great to be able to report that the Marsh Harriers have bred successfully for the third successive year. Bitterns have been seen again intermittently and observations made last week suggest that there are feeding flights being made but as yet we have seen no newly fledged birds.
At the second screen the Common Terns chicks are growing apace. They are demonstrating different stages of development at least one bird looks very much as though it will be fledged in about a week, others are still at the portly downy stage. They are being brought a steady stream of fish, some of them large, the returning adults often coming in from the direction of the River Ray. While watching the Terns we were alerted to the presence of a raptor by the behaviour first of a group of starlings on the flood and then the Terns themselves, it was the Hen Harrier and we saw it briefly as it passed over the Barn Field before disappearing behind the hedge. Nonetheless it was good to know that it is still here.
|Fritillary, Comma and Peacock all between the screens (c) Bark|
Back on the insect front we were very pleased to find a Silver Washed Fritillary quite close to the second screen nectaring on thistles, some way from woodland but near to an oak hedgerow. The first pristine Peacocks were on the wing. Last week a swarm of bees was seen flying over the second screen before settling in the hedgerow behind it. They had moved on by Saturday perhaps occupying one of the hollow, pollarded old willows that line the Ray, but once more showing that there is always something new to see and find on Otmoor.
|The Swarm (c) Stoneshank|