|Common Whitethroat (c) Bark|
It was a beautiful weekend, the very best soft spring weather with warm sunshine and not the heatwave of a week ago. I was the first person down on the moor on Saturday morning arriving at four-thirty for a Dawn Chorus walk. From the top of the lane in the predawn light it looked as though a thin pearl grey duvet had been loosely thrown over the fields with bushes, trees, fence posts and even cattle sticking up through it.
|Misty early dawn fox (c) Bark|
|Blackcap (c) Bark|
|Reed Warbler (c) Bark|
Cuckoos had been both calling and flying back and forth along the ditches and hedges. We estimated that there must have been at least four individuals present from the direction and regularity of the calls. I had just explained and demonstrated inexpertly to the group the female cuckoos bubbling laughing trill when we were treated to the real thing as a female flew low over our heads and out over the first screen. We were very pleased to see it and to note that it was the much rarer hepatic (rusty brown) morph a colour variation that only occurs in the females. It is likely that it is the same individual that we hosted last year, although in some parts of Europe the red colour morph is much more common.
|Cuckoos Above (c) Bark below (c) Tezzer|
We were lucky enough to watch a food pass from the Marsh Harriers in the reedbed as a male flew in with prey and called a female up to join him, then they deftly swapped hold of the food in mid-air. Good numbers of Hobbies were present out on fence posts on Greenaways and hunting over the fields, sometimes high as their insect prey was carried up by warm up-draughts and at other times flying low over the grassland.
|Hare (c) Tezzer|
|Four spotted Chaser (c) Bark|
The normal war of attrition between the Red Kites and the Lapwings over Big Otmoor is carrying on as it has done for the past few years, with squadrons of adult Lapwings flying up to mob the larger Kites. If the Kites come too close to the Black Headed Gulls nesting in the same field they also scramble to deter them. More sinister is the small flock of non-breeding Lesser Black Backed Gulls that might have a more significant effect on Lapwing breeding success.
|Kite and Lapwings (c) Bark|
The Turtle Dove is showing and is purring from the oak trees, but not quite as reliably as it has done in previous years. It may be that they need time to settle and adjust to being in a place where people are not trying to shoot them! Their fame has gone before them and many people are coming to the reserve just to see them and photograph them, as they have become much rarer and are also difficult to see so well at other sites.
|Turtle doves Above (c) Luke O'Byrne Below (c) Tezzer|
There is currently a regular passage of Ravens across the reserve. There are two rather tatty looking adults that must have a nest and young that need providing for, somewhere off to the north of the reserve. Their shaggy necks, their size and their habit of flying with their bills open makes them easy to pick out as they row across the sky.
|Tatty Raven (c) Bark|
The Hawthorn is in full bloom and the scent of it is very strong, oddly when it first opens the smell is slightly acrid and not pleasant but as time wears on the scent seems to soften and become much sweeter.
|Hawthorn Blossom (c) Bark|
|Lackey Moth Colony (c) Stoneshank|