Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Saturday and Sunday 3rd and 4th February

Hawfinch (c) Andy Last
Saturday ran true to the current form for Saturdays; yet again it was wet, grey, dismal and dispiriting. It is said that to know and appreciate a place one should see and experience it in all its moods, but I think that I have really had enough of this particular mid-winter mood.
Yellowhammer in the rain (c) Bark
To compensate Sunday in total contrast was beautiful. The air was gin clear, it was cold but sunny and the sky was reflected bright blue in the water of the lagoons and scrapes. The bright light allowed the colours of the hedgerows to show, blackthorn now acquiring a purplish tinge as the sap starts to rise in reaction to the lengthening daylight. The change of colour is even more noticeable in the thinnest twigs of the willows as they now show pale yellows and sometimes a faint flush of red. It is a welcome reminder that natures’ calendar is on the move and the darkest days of winter are behind us even if there are still some cold days to come.

All about the numbers (c) Tom N-L

Just as last week, on the avian front the huge numbers of birds around was the most significant and noticeable factor. The only slight difference was that there seemed to be more Lapwings than Golden Plovers, but that was during the time I was there, and the flocks are extremely mobile across the whole of the moor. Wigeon were favouring Big Otmoor and another large flock was seen to fly over towards the Flood Field. There are still very few wildfowl using the scrapes in front of the Hide. It may be that they were dry for so long during the late summer and autumn that they have not yet developed the potential for feeding ducks.
Lots of Linnets too by the hide. (c) Bark
Heron prospecting (c) Bark
Herons too are reacting to the turning of the seasons. Two pairs are showing an interest in the established nests in the old bare oak to the west of the hide, while others are prospecting for nest sites in the southern reedbed where they nested last year. The males are developing the bright orange bill that indicates both their suitability and their readiness to breed.

Water Rails (c) Tom N-L

At the first screen, as well as hearing their diabolic shrieks and screams, Water Rails are being seen more frequently. They can often be spotted as they fly or sometimes swim across between the islands. Occasionally they will scuttle through the cut reeds in front of the screen. On Friday two foxes were seen out on the islands in the reedbed. They are unlikely to be able to stay there for long however.

Reedbed Foxes (c) Tom N-L
This week there will be some reed cutting done in the southern reedbed as part of the reedbed management programme. Once this is completed the water level will be raised rapidly to equalise the levels between it and the northern sector. The additional water will make it much more secure for all our species that breed in the reedbeds. The reedbed cutting rotation is essential in order to maintain it as a proper reedbed and to prevent it from slowly silting up and changing into a drier willow carr.
Hawfinch (c) Andy Last

The bird of the weekend was yet again the lone Hawfinch that is frequenting the Car Park Field and the Roman Road. Typically I missed it by a few minutes on Saturday morning. Two visiting birders told me how they had sat in their car and had excellent views as it fed in the blackthorn by the gate, only flushing when another car came down the lane. But better still it was also seen and photographed on Sunday morning by Andy Last who had first found it in Long Meadow over four weeks ago. It was particularly gratifying that Stoneshank, who puts in so many hours on the moor was there and also got to see it.

Great Spotted and Green Woodpeckers (c) Bark

In the next couple of weeks we should see the first significant numbers of waders coming through, Curlew often arrive in the early part of February.

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