Tuesday, 2 October 2018

Saturday and Sunday 29th and 30th September

Cormorant in the sunshine

On Saturday morning I had to scrape ice off the windscreen for the first time since the spring. It was a bright, sharp, sunny and still morning. Looking down from the top of Otmoor Lane I could see the tops of the trees sticking up out of the mist that was pooled on the moor. I was totally unprepared, lacking scarf, hat and gloves and the cold was a real shock, having spent the last week in Spain. Autumn has truly arrived bringing its soft mellow colours and misty atmosphere.
Frost on a Guelder Rose

On Ashgrave there were four fallow deer looking very beautiful in the fading mist and golden light. This little herd has evolved from the fawn that thought it was a cow (as I have reported over the past five years). We have watched that particular doe with several different fawns of her own and now we have a young antlered stag with them, that may or may not be one of her progeny.

From first screen there were a scattering of ducks that appeared and disappeared in the steadily vanishing mist. A Bittern flew rapidly across the lagoon before slipping down into the reeds. A young male Peregrine came low across the reeds and over our heads before jinking into the oak trees behind us.
Juvenile Peregrine
It was followed very quickly by a Sparrowhawk that was also using the mist to cloak its approach in order to surprise unwary prey. Down by the waters edge a Reed Warbler was picking its way along the edge of the reeds. We also saw several Chiffchaffs in the hedge and four or five Blackcaps near to the feeders.
Reed Warbler
On Sunday morning we picked up two Siskins in the bushes beside the bridleway, close to the volunteers hut. They were with a group of five or six Greenfinches, which have been much less common of late, than they used to be. Let us hope that they will start to breed back up again now, having been hit very hard by the parasitic disease trichomonosis.
Goldfinches and Linnets are already starting to flock together into larger parties. On Saturday morning we saw fifteen or so Goldfinches on just one large dried Teasel beside the path to the first screen many of them still in sub-adult plumage.
The water levels at the northern lagoon are still falling, albeit slowly, and a muddy margin has emerged along the right-hand side when looking out from the screen. There were several Snipe feeding there on Sunday along with a Green Sandpiper.
We had another two Bittern sightings here on Sunday morning but failed to connect with any of the Barn Owls that are now being regularly reported. A second calendar year male Marsh Harrier drifted through on Sunday morning. It was in transition between juvenile and adult plumage and was not one of the Harriers that we have been familiar with this summer.....leading to a temporary mis-identification!
Marsh Harrier
Ravens are being seen and heard regularly over the reserve with four being seen together on Sunday. They are more often heard before they are spotted as it is surprising just how far the sound of their harsh cronking calls carries.
Raven and Stonechat
There were four or five Stonechats out at the Pill on Saturday and Sunday, as usual busy flycatching from the harshly cropped hedge that runs from north to south. Although we didn’t see any this weekend there are regular reports of up to four kingfishers on the lagoons. What is need now is some rain to wet the moor up again.….but preferably not at the weekends.

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