Tuesday, 9 April 2019

Saturday and Sunday 6th and 7th April

White Stork (c) Bark

It’s been some since we found a scarce Bird on Otmoor, so it was a thrill to find a White Stork on Sunday morning. We were half way along the bridleway back from yet another abortive attempt to find any Wheatears at Noke, when JR noticed a large bird circling Big Otmoor. A glance with bins revealed it was clearly a White Stork and not as we first assumed a Crane. Its’ circuit brought it closer and its huge broad wingspan made it look a bit like a flying door! It circled for a couple of minutes, as if it might land but then vectored off towards Ashgrave, descending as it went.

White Stork (c) JR
We hurried to get to a spot where we could overlook Ashgrave but there were no large birds other than geese to be seen. We met a couple of visitors who said that they had seen a large bird they had taken to be a Crane heading out across Closes (they were very pleased to find out that it was a White Stork as they had seen Crane before and Stork was a lifer for them!) Further long the bridleway we met a man who complained that, “There’s not much about…it’s a bit dead” when I told him about the Stork he said he did see a funny looking heron heading over towards the MOD land. Several birders came down to the moor to look for it and spent some time checking out the areas to the east of the reserve, sadly it was not re-found. Today I discovered that it had in fact landed on a field that is adjacent to the range and not publicly accessible and was seen there by the range warden. It was feeding in the middle of the field for approximately an hour. Later that afternoon a White Stork was reported over Sturdy’s Castle heading towards Blenheim. It’s a great pity that more people didn’t catch up with it.

Willow Warblers and a Chiffy (c) Bark
This weekend I heard and saw my first Willow and Sedge Warblers of the year. The Willow on the far side of the moor and the Sedge by the entrance to the trail to the first screen. Despite the cool misty weather, it was notable how much birdsong could be heard.

Lapwing (c) Tom N-L   and Curlew (c) Bark
Lapwings and Curlews calling over Greenaways. From the hedgerows and thickets Dunnocks, Chaffinches and Linnets are doing their utmost to attract mates and hold territory. When walking around the reserve Cetti’s Warblers can be heard shouting from the hedges and bramble patches.
Robin nest building (c) Bark
Their strident calls seem to be stimulated by movement as you pass their individual territory and they appear to escort you to the edge of their patch. I believe that we have more of them on the reserve than ever before. The milder winter has helped them, and it is only five years ago that they were completely wiped out across the moor.
Skulking Cetti's (c) Bark
We saw a male Peregrine on both days this weekend, for some of the time it was perched out on one of the posts on Greenaways. The Marsh Harriers were very active over both the reedbed and the adjoining fields, several food passes were seen between the male and female. During the last couple of weeks two Short-eared Owls have been seen regularly hunting over Greenaways in the early evening.

S.E.O (c) Tezzer    and Buzzard (c) JR

On Saturday we walked right around the moor and over at the western edge we found a flock of seventeen yellowhammers feeding on a recently ploughed and harrowed field. The males standing out vividly against the dark brown soil.
Yellowhammer at Oddington (c) Bark
There is still a flock of sixty Linnets coming in to take advantage of the seed being scattered by the hide, whilst elsewhere others are holding territory and setting about breeding.

Linnets (c) JR
Brown Hares were very active across Greenaways and Big Otmoor, chasing and boxing. When they take off on a run their extraordinary pace and manoeuvrability can be seen and appreciated.

Brown Hares     above (c) JR       below (c) Bark

Last time I suggested that this week I would be able to report the arrival of Sedge and Willow Warblers, which came to pass almost as I published my blog, I am sure that we will have other new arrivals to report in my next posting.
Calling Great Crested Grebe (c) JR

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