Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Saturday and Sunday 9th and 10th September

Turtle dove (c) JR

Both mornings started chilly, but by lunchtime thin sunshine had given way to blustery showers. More leaves are turning yellow and gold, so that the berries, hips and haws stand out bright red against them. The low dawn light revealed that the dew had dusted the grass seeds and spider webs with tiny jewels.

Jewelled Grasses (c) Darrell Woods

There are still lots of passage migrants to be seen with five Whinchats out on Greenaways on both days and on Saturday a further four out at the Pill. They are easy to see out on the MOD land as they hunt from the top of prominent bushes and hedgerows. However out on the fields it can be trickier to locate them as there they favour shorter docks, reeds and bulrushes and are much more mobile.

Sonechats (c) Bark
There are now two or three pairs of Stonechats on and around the reserve, they are often keep in close company with their Whinchat cousins. They will however stay on when the Whinchats head further south. Wheatear passage is still slow and sporadic. There were just two birds up by the farm at Noke and on the western side of Big Otmoor this weekend.
Wheatear on the edge of Big Otmoor (c) Pete Roby

On both days there was a steady movement of Hirundines through the moor, sometimes just ones and twos and at other times more substantial parties. They were most obvious at the first screen, feeding above the reedbed and sometimes dipping to the water’s surface to drink. They seemed to be an equal mix of all three species and all moving through together rather than in separate species flocks. A lone late swift was noteworthy on Saturday.
Young House Martin (c) Derek Latham
Apart from a cluster of Common Snipe and a single Lapwing, there were no waders at the first screen apart from a lone Grey Plover on Saturday morning that flew over and through whilst calling, sadly it did not stop. Two Kingfishers, a few late warblers and a juvenile water Rail provided most of the interest. Three Wigeon have joined the moulting ducks on the mud banks and while not yet in their full plumage look much fresher, neater and tidier than some of the other species.
Single Lapwing (c) Derek Latham
There are still substantial numbers of warblers on the reserve and although still feeding in mixed flocks alongside tits they give the impression of birds in a hurry and being purposefully on the move. There were good numbers of very fresh bright yellow Willow Warblers feeding around the top small oak trees, while Chiffchaffs were more secretive creeping about inside the hedgerows. Every so often we would spot a Common or a Lesser Whitethroat.

Willow Warbler and Reed Warbler (c) JR

Secretive Chiiy (c) Bark
While out at the Pill on Saturday admiring the Whinchats and the Stonechats, we noticed a raptor on the far side of the Hundred Acre Field being mobbed by some corvids. On closer examination we realised it was a Ring Tailed Harrier. The distance was too great and the view too short to make a positive ID even with a brief scope view.
Distant Harrier (c) Tezzer
This was very exciting as the long staying second summer male Hen Harrier had already been seen that morning. Later on the bird was seen again and a positive identification of Hen Harrier could be made. We were delighted to see the bird again on Sunday morning as it hunted over the northern side of Greenaways venturing further over towards the reed bed where it was hassled by two Red Kites. We did on one occasion see both Harriers together and saw a little bit of interaction though I have no idea if it was of any significance.

Hen Harrier and Red Kite (c) Tezzer
It is wonderful to have two of these beautiful and mindlessly persecuted raptors on site. The tweedy toffs whose pastime perpetuates this persecution should be ashamed of themselves. The employers of the gamekeepers who carry it out should also be held liable for the criminality of their employees. No apology for the rant! Two or three Sparrowhawks have been active over the reserve and one of them has taken to perching in the small oak tree from which we hang the feeders. Sneaky behaviour that could well result in an easy meal.
Sneaky Sprawk (c) Paul Greenaway

The Turtle Doves are still with us although no longer purring. They are still taking advantage of the fine seed being scattered by the cattle pen as are a huge flock of chaffinches and a Collared Dove. On Sunday morning there were two juvenile birds on the wires in the car park field and this could be the confirmation that we have been seeking that our birds have bred successfully. I will enlarge on this tale when I next post in two weeks’ time.

Adult Turtle Dove by the pumphouse (c) Bark  and young birds on the wire (c) PG

Another small colony of common Lizards have been found and are worth looking out for when the air is cool and sun is shining. They are right beside the pump house on the bridleway and there were five of them sunning themselves on the posts and the gate on Sunday morning.

Common lizards Top two (c) Bark  bottom one (c) JR

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