Thursday, 10 September 2020

Beginning of September


Cattle Egret (c) Bark

The coolest late Summer Bank Holiday on record developed into a calm but bright start to the month and had more of an autumnal feel about it than a summer one.

Michaelmas Daisy

We have picked up two new species for the year, a very elusive Pied Flycatcher and a much more visible Cattle Egret. The only other Cattle Egret recorded on the reserve was found at the start of January in 2017 and was only seen and photographed by one observer. 

Lapwings at the second screen (c) Bark

As we were watching a group of Lapwings that were loafing on the muddy spit out in front of the second screen a white bird flew in and landed amongst them causing them to panic, which in turn spooked the bird that had just landed. It was clearly a Cattle Egret with its unmistakeable yellow bill and its much more robust structure, than its more delicate and refined Little Egret cousin. 

Little Egret (c) Bark

It flew around looking to land again but made off in the direction of Greenaways where it was eventually re-found associating, as its name suggests it should, with the herd of grazing cows.
With the cows (c) Bark

With their increasing  population I assume that it will not be long before the species becomes a regular addition to the Otmoor avifauna.
Landing Snipe (c) Bark

The mud at the second screen is also attracting good numbers of Snipe. I counted over fifty last weekend. Sometimes they will land right in front of the screen and offer stunning close up views.

Close Snipe (c) Bark

There was also the rather macabre sight of one Snipe perched on top of the skeleton of a goose that has been out to the right of the screen for eight weeks or so, the bones gradually appearing as the soft tissue decayed.
Snipe on a skeleton (c) Bark

Kingfishers are back on the lagoons . They tend to be seen at this time of the ear much more frequently. There are no suitable nest sites for them on the reserve so the come back post breeding. There would appear to be plenty of small fry for them to catch, going by the pattering of splashes across the water when a predator chases a shoal of them into the shallows.

Reed Warblers and Whitethroat (c) Bark

There are small passerines in mixed flocks working through the hedgerows, Whitethroats and Lesser Whitethroats with occasional Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers. In the reeds close to the screens and along the ditches there are Reed Warblers including some young birds not long out of the nest and still calling their parents to feed them. The clumps of bramble along the path to the second screen are good spots to stake out and wait for a party to move through.

There are abundant feeding opportunities there, from both blackberries and the insects that are attracted to them. First thing in the morning it is also a great place to see dragonflies. This particular hedgerow catches the morning sun and dragonflies need to warm up before they can start hunting.

Whinchat (c) Tricia Miller Redstart (c) JR Wheatear (c) Dan Miller

We are still finding small groups of Whinchats and Stonechats both on the reserve, around the farm at Noke and out on the MOD. There has been a family party of Stonechats along the path that leads towards July’s Meadow.
Juvenile Stonechat (c) Bark

Occasional Wheatears too are turning up often on the shorter grassed areas being grazed by sheep. Over the last few weeks the number of Yellow Wagtails going into the reedbed to roost at dusk has steadily risen.

Yellow Wagtail (c) Bark

Observers have estimated up to one hundred and fifty birds. They too are spending their days feeding around the grazing animals, if the cattle come close to the path or bridleway it is possible to see them really well.
Moulting Marsh Harrier (c) Bark

We still have three different Marsh Harriers showing up across the reedbed from time to time. One of them is in moult and looks very scruffy. Several Kestrels ae working the reserve and there is still a family party of them hunting in the grasses across the MOD fields. We are still seeing occasional Hobbies.

Cronking over the car park (c) Bark

I seldom visit the moor now without hearing or seeing Ravens, there is certainly an established pair that roam across the whole reserve and its environs. They have been taking advantage of the natural mortality rate of the enormous numbers of feral Canada and Grey-lag Geese that are ever present on our fields. They are noisy and quarrelsome when on the water, but despite their ubiquitous nature can still be spectacular when a flock takes to the air or flies in low over ones head.

Cranes Above (c) Andy Harris below (c) Bark

Just as I was about to sign off, I have heard of yet another two new additions to the year-list. A Wryneck was seen beside the bridleway a little bit beyond the pumphouse. Being a Wryneck, it is unlikely to hang around or to be very easy to see should it do so! The other was a flyover Tree Pipit. I remember when they were regular breeding birds on Otmoor. There was a pair that could be seen all summer long by the side of the road down from Beckley and others that bred just out on Saunders Ground at the end of the Roman Road. They seemed to slip away unnoticed unlike the Nightingales that we lost at about the same time.

Cattle Egret (c) JR

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