|Barn Owl (c) Paul Wyeth|
Water levels across the moor have continued to rise as the water drains down the slopes from the surrounding woods and fields. The MOD land to the east of the reserve is flooded in a way that we have not seen for over four years.
|Flooding on Noke Sides (c) Tom N-L|
There is also significant flooding on the fields to the west of the moor. These fields are attracting large numbers of Wildfowl, Golden Plovers, Lapwings and Gulls. Many of the birds are roosting overnight on the slightly higher and nearly dry parts of these fields, where the surrounding water offers some security from land predators.
|Golden plover (c) Paul Wyeth|
Already the very low maxima of wetland species recorded last winter have been overtaken, clearly showing how dependent our wintering birds are on having high water levels.
|Starlings (c) Tom N-L|
The Starling roost is once again in full swing and although there is no guarantee that there will be a spectacular swirling murmuration the sheer numbers of birds coming in to roost is impressive just on its own. The sheer biomass of these birds is what draws in the raptors.
|Marsh Harrier (c) Bark|
Marsh Harriers and Hen Harriers are regular attendees as are Sparrowhawks and Barn Owls.
|Barn Owls at the roost Above (c) Paul Wyeth and below (c) Tom N-L|
This weekend there were four Common Buzzards hanging around the reedbed during the day. They may be looking out for the inevitable overnight casualties amongst the Starlings or perhaps the floods have concentrated their small mammal prey on the higher ground.
|Hen Harrier amid Starlings (c) Paul Wyeth|
Grey Herons are stalking across the drier parts of the fields and competing with the Kestrels for the voles that are concentrated there.
|Hunting Grey Heron (c) Bark|
On Sunday huge flocks of ducks were out on the water of the MOD land. Both Teal and Wigeon flocks around the reserve are approaching one and a half thousand and will probably increase as the floods die down on the surrounding farmland and concentrate the birds in the wetlands. There were almost fifty Pintail recorded on the rspb Webs count last week and we saw them both on Noke Sides and on Saunders Ground.
|Pintail and Wigeon (c) Bark|
They are the most beautiful of ducks, streamlined and powerful, as someone commented the other day “the Ferraris of the duck world”
Fieldfares and Redwings are polishing off the few remaining Haws in the hedgerows and in Morley’s (the carpark field) They are in competition with the predominantly male Blackbirds that have taken up “ownership” of particular bushes.
|Redwings (c) Bark|
I was told at the weekend that the male Blackbirds we are seeing are European birds and their female counterparts’ winter further south.
|Chilly Stonechat by the bridleway (c) Bark|
The work last year to repair and stabilise the bund on the northern edge of Ashgrave has proved successful and the holes have been repaired. As a consequence, there is now a significant amount of water out in front of the wetland watch, at present it is largely being used by feral geese but as the winter draws on it will attract more varied wildfowl.
|Goldfinch and Reed Bunting (c) Bark|
We have started the winter finch feeding programme alongside the hide and at the water’s edge and it is already drawing large numbers of seed eating birds, principally Reed Buntings and Chaffinches but there is also a smattering of Yellowhammers and Goldfinches. It will be worth looking here for the first Otmoor Bramblings of this winter.
|Frustrating Weasel (c) Bark|
There is a Weasel that is holding a territory near the kissing gate and the path to the first screen. I wasted a good deal of time trying to get a reasonably well focussed picture of it on both Saturday and Sunday mornings. My camera choosing to focus on the frosty grass rather than the quicksilver like animal. They are the most agile, active and sinuous creatures and a delight to watch. Otter sightings have tailed off a little of late but there was a sighting reported on Sunday.
|Frosty foliage and the new moon (c) Bark|