|Male Redstart (c) Bark|
It is wonderful to be able to get back down to the screens again and look out over the lagoons. Clearing the trail to the screens and making social distancing possible was a massive task undertaken by the staff and volunteer work parties. It has all changed massively since the start of March and who knows what treats we might have missed in the intervening months.
|Female Marsh Harrier (C) Bark|
Marsh Harriers have bred successfully again out in the reedbeds. There were four free flying juveniles across the moor on Sunday. The newly fledged young are very distinctive, with all over very dark chocolate coloured plumage, except for the top of their heads and faces which look as though they have been lightly dipped in custard!
|Waiting for lunch|
They spend a lot of time loafing about sitting on the top of low bushes waiting for the parent birds to come in with prey Items which they drop from a hight encouraging the youngsters to swoop down and seize them. Over the next few weeks, they will move off or be chased away by the adults, they will begin to disperse and hunt independently, it will be a perilous time for them.
|Newly fledged Marsh Harrier (c) Bark|
At the first screen was a pleasure to find a small family of Little Grebes. The parent birds were very attentive to the two stripy chicks and as is usual with grebes the young birds spent a lot of time on the parent’s backs.
|Little Grebes (c) Bark|
At the second screen there were eight chicks visible on the Tern raft but sadly whilst we were watching that number was reduced to six! A Lesser black-backed Gull swooped down towards the raft and whilst it didn’t take anything it panicked two chicks that were on the edge of the raft and they fell into the water. There was no possibility of their climbing back on again. However, the chicks managed to swim across to the muddy bank to the right of the raft, as you look out from the screen, where they were seen once again being fed by the parent birds.
|Common Tern (c) Bark|
We have been listening out and looking for fledgling Cuckoos, now that the adult birds have left. The last calling bird was heard during the last week of June.
|Young Curlew in the grass and calling adult (c) Bark|
Curlews would appear to have had a successful breeding season on and around Otmoor. On Saturday I caught a glimpse of a young bird running in The Closes and another in the field to the south of the closes. The parent birds were flying over calling anxiously trying to keep their brood together. It is extraordinary how varied and complex their vocalisations are.
|Comma Roman Road (c) Bark|
Already people have seen and photographed Black Hairstreak butterflies in the Roman Road area. Once again a Purple Emperor has been seen, I have yet to see one on the moor but when the weather settles down and warms up a little I will be spending some time looking for them in and around the oaks along the Roman Road.
|Marbled White and Small Skipper|
Brown Hairstreaks will soon be on the wing and on the other side of the moor there will be White-letter Hairstreaks. Invertebrate life is thriving on the everywhere. When walking through longer grass hundreds of Grasshoppers ping up all around your feet.
|Whitethroat with and without grasshoppers (c) Mark Chivers|
Many birds are taking advantage of this insect bounty and Whitethroats can be spotted with beaks full of hoppers that they are taking back to the nest. On a walk out to the Pill on Sunday we found two male Redstarts hunting in the lee of the big hedge about two hundred metres from the Roman Road. They were perched about two metres up and flying down to grab Grasshoppers.
|Redstart Roman Road (c) Bark|
It seems a bit early to be finding them. They will probably be with us for some time moulting and feeding up before their onward migration.
|Black tailed Godwits (c) Dan and Tricia Miller|
Now is also the time to be looking out for returning waders. A party of nine superb summer plumaged Black Tailed Godwits was seen early one morning last week, when they stopped for a brief refuelling and preening session on Big Otmoor. It might seem that the excitement of spring is over but there is still lots to see and to look for.
|Hoverfly (c) Bark|