|Cetti's Warbler (c) JR|
During the course of a year the “hotspots” on Otmoor vary with the season and the birds that are around. Currently the second screen is a good place to spend some time, as is the gap in the hedge adjoining Noke Sides where the fields are partially flooded.
|Lapwings and Goldies|
At the second screen a pair of Stonechats have become very obliging and confiding, sitting out on the fence and on the reeds that edge the water.
|Stonechats on ice (c) Bark|
When it has been frosty they have been picking small insects off the ice and when not frozen picking food from the waters surface.
|Male Stonechat (c) JR|
The huge bramble on the left-hand side of the screen is home to a very vociferous Cetti’s Warbler that just occasionally shows itself in a very un-Cetti’s way. It is a good time of year to spot these noisy but usually invisible birds.
|Cetti's (c) Bark|
Vegetation is at a minimum and the birds can be seen creeping about in the leafless low bushes stopping briefly to make their high decibel familiar calls. They also produce a series of shorter sharper contact calls. On Sunday this week we were able to watch two birds in the same bush calling and conversing with each other very near to the path. They are getting territorial already and from the number of birds we are hearing, suggests that we have a very healthy population on and around the reserve.
|Golden Plovers (c) Tom N-L|
The partial flood on Noke Sides is suiting the Lapwings and Golden Plovers very well. A single huge flock of between two or three thousand Goldies were out there this last weekend. They form a golden-brown carpet on the edge of the water all the while keeping up a continuous quiet chattering. The Lapwings are not in such a tight concentrated flock, instead they are scattered across all four of the Noke Sides fields feeding in the grassy areas that stand above the water. Every so often all the birds lift off in a mass panic the Golden Plovers wheeling in tight formations getting higher until the flocks fragment peppering the sky with black dots before slowly returning to the ground.
|Goldies and Lapwings flushing (c) Bark|
There are good reasons for the alarms and mass flushes. What appears to be an established pair of Peregrines are spending a good deal of time perched up in a bare dead oak tree in the first hedgerow across the field. From time to time they make forays across the feeding Lapwings and Plovers causing mass panic.
|Sparrowhawk on Ashgrave and Peregrine on the dead oak (c) Bark|
Last weekend we saw the larger female bird returning to the tree with a prey item, but we were unable to see at that distance what it was. The Peregrines are certainly staying close to their larder!
When the feeding flocks are scoped, we can usually find a few Dunlin scattered among the Golden Plovers or near the feeding Lapwings. They are also more noticeable when the flocks take flight often showing out at the bottom of the flying flocks.
|Pintail Wigeon and Teal (c) Bark|
Last weekend a sharp-eyed Old Caley picked out a lone Redshank amongst a lot of Lapwings loafing in the field. It’s the first one for the year and has arrived much earlier than we would normally expect to see one on the moor. A small flock of Ruff are also in the vicinity either on Noke Sides or more often out on big Otmoor.
|Blackbird (c) Bark|
There are many blackbirds foraging among the tussocks and along the bunds around the reedbed and they are nearly all males, which I understand are more likely to be winter visitors than residents.
|Reed bunting feeding on reed seeds (c) Bark|
The RSPB staff and volunteers have made the annual reed cut and have cleared a large area to the left of the first screen. As in previous years they are now raising the water levels to check the regrowth of phragmites in this area. The area should be good for wildfowl to feed in, for spawning fish in the shallows and in turn offer fishing opportunities to Bitterns.
|Kestrel (c) Tom N-L|
Over the reedbed there were three or four different Marsh Harriers. Two of them were certainly indulging in courtship behaviour. A Short-eared Owl was seen over Greenaway’s on Sunday morning and this is the first one that we have seen for over five weeks. The Hen Harrier was seen and photographed on Sunday morning.
|Barn Owl (c) Trefor Knight|
Barn Owls are being seen regularly, hunting out from the back of the second screen and in the eastern corner of Greenaway’s.
|Pintail;; (c) Bark|