Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Saturday and Sunday 29th and 30th July

Young sedgie (c) JR

It is impossible to walk along the bridleway or visitors trails without pushing a busy mixed flock of foraging warblers and tits along in front of you. It seems that the small passerines have had a very successful breeding season and indeed many of them are currently in the process of raising further broods. This weekend it was the Reed and Sedge warblers that were most noticeable. The largely warm, damp and showery weather has certainly refreshed the vegetation and must have encouraged abundant insect growth. The blackberries and crab apples in the hedgerows are promising a bumper crop.
Sedgie pointing to the sky,like a Bittern, as a raptor went over (c) JR
Reed Warbler (c) Derek Latham
There were very frequent Bittern movements in and over the reedbed on Sunday morning with at least two birds going out into the large clumps of reeds on Greenaways and the larger ditches on Big Otmoor. We counted nine different movements in an hour and a half and we are fairly confident that they were made by at least five different individuals. There are subtle colour differences between birds, some of the juvenile birds seem more orange and brighter than the older ones and one of the adult birds is missing a large primary from the right wing.

Damp Dunnock and Lesser Whitethroat (c) Bark
The young Marsh Harriers are beginning to venture further out over the surrounding fields but still tend to come back to hedges surrounding the reedbed to loaf about like teenagers waiting to be fed! The male Hen Harrier is still being seen regularly at least once a day but seems to have no fixed pattern or preferred areas for its hunting. This makes predicting seeing it very difficult. Occasionally it may have been confused with a very white and grey Common Buzzard. It looked for all the world like a soaring Osprey, for a moment or two on Sunday, until we looked more closely. It often spends time perched out on one of the posts on Greenaways.
Very distant record shot of the male Hen Harrier (c) Bark
Hobbies are once again taking advantage of the abundant large dragonflies over the whole reserve. As usual they tend not to start hunting until after the sun has had time to warm up their prey, so mid-morning is when they start. A Sparrowhawk is hunting regularly over the reedbed but was seen off in no uncertain terms by the adult Black headed gulls that are still protecting the four brown and white newly fledged chicks at the southern lagoon. Two Tawny Owls have been having calling matches in the early evening and a Barn Owl has been seen hunting over the Car park Field.
Hobby (c) Derek Latham
The yearlist moved forward again this week when T.S and P.G. saw a party of three young Goosander. We failed to record any last year and were disappointed not to see any in the spring this year when they appeared to be very common all over the county. A Whinchat found out at the Pill on Saturday was another subtle sign of the changing seasons. Waders are starting to come back through now with three Whimbrel the pick of them, seen over the first screen late last week. On Saturday morning, a summer plumaged Dunlin was seen picking around the edge of the second scrape on Big Otmoor. Green Sandpipers are being heard and seen almost daily.
Bullfinch (c) Derek Lane
In Long Meadow there were at least ten Redstarts on Saturday morning. They are hunting from the isolated bushes beyond the old brick stop butt. The same area is also holding several Yellowhammers.
Brown Hairstreak (c) Paul Willis
A Brown Hairstreak was seen on the hedge out at the Pill on Saturday, there is a substantial stand of Blackthorn in the double hedge on the northern edge of Greenaways, certainly enough to support a satellite population of this beautiful tiny butterfly.

Male Common blue (c) Derek Lane          Female Blue , Small copper and Painted Lady (c) Bark
There has been a good hatch of Common Blues alongside the path to the second screen, at least twenty were nectaring on a small patch of thistles in the sunshine. We spotted a Small Copper and a Painted Lady in the same area. Last week we had only the second ever record of a Hummingbird Hawkmoth on the moor the only other record of one was in 2005, well done to the finder and photographer of this stunning insect.
Hummingbird Hawk Moth (c) Paul Willis
The water levels at the first screen are drawing down steadily and more and more mud is being exposed, this will attract more waders. We can look forward to more of them, and to getting better views of Water Rails than the very obscured view I had of a youngster on Sunday morning.
Proper view! (c) JR

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