Friday, 7 December 2018

Last two weeks of November

Male Peregrine from First screen (c) Bark

Otmoor has been a very misty moist place of late with few bright sunny interludes. The foot drains and scrapes are slowly staring to hold water. If we continue in this run of Atlantic weather systems, the reserve should soon be back to where it ought to be at this point in the annual cycle. More open areas of water will draw in more wildfowl.

Shovellers above (c) Bark below (c) JR
Shoveller numbers have continued to increase, with nearly seventy on the southern lagoon at the weekend. Wigeon are not increasing at the same rate and that may well be to do with the lack of suitable grassland to graze, that is adjacent to open water.
All I could se from the hide (c) Bark
The lack of open pools is most noticeable of Ashgrave. There is a hole in the bund between Ashgrave and the ring ditch that drains directly into the River Ray. This has meant that there has been little to see out in front of the hide. Small leaks over time become large ones as the structure of the bund is steadily eroded by flowing water. The leaky bund is about to be repaired and there will be some heavy plant operating for a short while on Ashgrave. In addition, we are about to start our winter feeding programme for seed eaters, which has been carried out over the past two years.
Reed bunting (c) Tom N-L
If the previous two years are anything to go by there should be substantial flocks of Linnets, Reed buntings, Chaffinches and the like, feeding around the hide and up the path towards July’s Meadow. The repairs to the bund and the feeding programme will make visiting the hide a much more rewarding experience than it has been recently.
Peregrine (c) Bark
Raptors have once again been very much in evidence exploiting the huge biomass of the roosting Starlings. On Sunday there were two Peregrines present, one a very large adult female and the other a smaller, probably juvenile male. The larger bird chased off the smaller whilst making harsh scolding cries, then sat for almost an hour in the large leafless oak between the fields on Noke Sides. There are now good numbers of both Lapwing and Golden Plovers present feeding out on the farmland beyond the reserve boundaries. They are probably on the Peregrines menu.
Grey squirrel also doing its bit to strip the hedgerows (c) JR
In addition, they will target the Winter Thrushes that by now have almost stripped all of the haws from the hedgerows.
Winter Thrushes (c) Bark

At the second screen last week a Jack Snipe was seen feeding for a couple of hours along the muddy bank on the right-hand side as you look out. It is unusual to get to see these elusive birds in the open, normally the only view you get is as they fly away from just under your feet. A Green Sandpiper was also feeding along the same bank.

Jack Snipe and Jack Snipe and Green Sand (c) Paul Wyeth
Both Jack Snipe and Common Snipe are perfectly camouflaged as they feed among the reed stems so it is worth taking the time to scan this area carefully. The second screen is the best place to see Bitterns. Sometimes two birds show at once and on one occasion three birds could be picked out hunting along the northern edge of the lagoon.

Bitterns from the second screen (c) Tom N-L
The Bitterns are not sociable and should two individuals meet it will result in an aggressive display, where plumage is puffed out and head and neck feathers are raised, before finally one of them flies off or melts back into the reeds. Kingfishers are regularly seen on the northern lagoon but not so frequently on the southern. This is due in part to there not being many fish in the southern lagoon which in turn is probably due to the effect of having 100,000 starlings adding their droppings to it each night!
A flash of electric blue in the gloom (c) Bark
A Ring -necked Parakeet has been seen going in to roost with the Starlings and two weeks ago a keen eyed and very experienced birder saw what he thought was a Rosy Starling going in to roost, a few days later an adult Rosy Starling was seen and photographed in an Oxford garden. I have little doubt that it was the same bird. This Starling may well still be coming into the roost but picking out one odd individual from over 100,000 is a matter of luck.
Two Buzzards and attendant Magpies feeding on a dead goose on Noke Sides

It is worth checking through the flocks of feral geese at this time of year, look out for smaller geese that keep themselves a little apart from the main flock. They could be White-fronted Geese. We have not had a visit from truly wild geese now for two years and there was a time when they were reliable annual visitors.
In the absence of Bearded Tits this will have to do (c) Bark

The Otmoor Year List currently stands at 147 species and we will be lucky to make it to over 150 as we have done in all the years past. It has been an odd year and I will speculate further on it when I review the year in four weeks’ time. There have been notable sightings and regular species that we have not seen.
Mallard (c) JR

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