Monday, 14 May 2018

Saturday and Sunday 12th and 13th May

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
The car park was alive with birdsong. Common Whitethroats and blackcaps seemed to predominate but other songs and calls could be picked out.
Blackcap (c) Bark
Before we left the cars, but sadly before most of the group had assembled, we heard the distant booming of a Bittern, the sound carrying all the way from the reed bed through the still air. As we got onto the bridle way Sedge and Reed Warblers took over as the commonest and most vociferous voices. Overhead Snipe drummed and chipped from the sedges, it is always good to be able to explain what this strange sound is to people who have not heard it before, or who have heard it but not known where it was coming from.
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
The warm weather has encouraged the emergence of dragonflies and these will become their favourite and most abundant food source over the next few weeks. On Sunday as well as Hairy Dragonflies we saw our first newly emerged Four Spotted Chasers flying and sitting glistening in the sunshine as their wings hardened.
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
The Water Violet is flowering in some of the ditches but never seems to bloom in the same area from year to year. May really is a beautiful month and is so prolific in every respect.
Lackey Moth Colony (c) Stoneshank

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