Tuesday, 13 July 2021

End of June and into July

 

Female Garganey and youngster (c) Roger Wyatt

The summer has moved on apace and the grass is now so long out on Greenaways that sometimes the cattle can almost disappear in it. On our final C.B.C. surveys, grass that only two weeks earlier had come up to our knees now almost reached our chins and was so dewy that waterproofs were essential!

Flowering Rush (c) Bark

As we have slipped into July the sheer productivity of the moor has become increasingly obvious, the warm wet conditions have led to burgeoning vegetation which in turn has encouraged the invertebrate population, which naturally has been good for breeding birds with nestlings to feed.

Robin sunbathing after rain (c) Bark
Some warbler species have embarked upon second broods, Grasshopper Warblers have been heard reeling again in the carpark field and along the track to the first screen. This usually indicates that they are nesting again.


Young Tits (c) Bark

From the screens, on the lagoons and around the reedbeds the breeding successes of early summer are most obvious. The most exciting news has been the confirmation that Garganey have nested successfully on the moor this year and not just one pair!

Female Garganey and Garglings? (c) Roger Wyatt
We have always felt that this scarce and beautiful duck must breed somewhere on the moor, but for the very first time we have been able to prove it, thanks initially to a photograph of a female Garganey with nine ducklings in tow, taken by Roger Wyatt from the second screen.
Hiding in the waterweed (c) Bark
After this initial sighting we have often seen her and her brood on the edge of the reeds under the willows and amid the floating waterweeds out to the right of the second screen. Her nine ducklings are now reduced to just six, but some attrition is to be expected, hence the large broods. They are growing rapidly and are now about half the size of the female.
Female Garganey and one duckling (c) Bark
Over the last week or so it has become obvious that there had been another slightly earlier brood on the southern reedbed. Just this weekend we watched an eclipse female and three much further developed juveniles, out by the willow directly in the middle of the lagoon.


Juvenile Pochard at the first screen still to get primaries (c) Bark
Pochard too have bred very successfully and there are now good numbers of well-developed youngsters out on the lagoon as well as some later broods that are still being escorted around by their mothers.
Tufties (c) Bark
Tufted Ducks are often the last of our regular breeding ducks to appear with ducklings and there are now three or four broods out on the water with the ducklings diving and bobbing about around the adult female. Shovellers too have done well and as the ducklings develop so their beaks become longer and more spatulate.
Gadwall family with eleven young (c) Bark
The only slight disappointment has been the absence of any evidence that Pintail have bred. Last year they bred on Big Otmoor, a first for the reserve and for the county. We were optimistic that it might be about to happen again as there has been a drake Pintail hanging around on the northern lagoon for weeks, he is now going into eclipse. We had hoped that there might be a female nesting nearby and that we would once again see young Pintail developing, but sadly this has not yet happened, and it is becoming a bit too late for it to happen now!
Glossy Ibis still around and showing at the first screen. (c) Bark

Tufty fly by (c) Bark
It has been good to spend time at the second screen and to watch the comings and goings of all the ducks and as they go into eclipse plumage to sort one species out from another. Watching the ducks is not the only interest there however as the Tern raft has been a great success this year.
Fishing Tern in the rain (c) Bark
There were at least eleven pairs nesting on the raft and they have successfully fledged a good number of young. It is difficult to assess just how many as as soon as they are able to fly they move off in just a few days.
Fledged Terns perched on the stums.(c) Bark
The Common Tern chicks develop very rapidly from small fluffy balls into fully feathered fliers in what seems like no time at all. Their rapid growth is fuelled by the constant stream of fish that the parents bring in, last week one parent bird brought in what was clearly a small pike and too large even for a hungry chick, another bird we watched this weekend flew around for some time with a fish in its beak which photographs showed was in fact impaled on its lower mandible, it eventually passed it to another bird.
parent Tern with a pikelet. (c) Bark
The other beneficiaries of the very healthy fish population have been both the Great Crested and the Little Grebes, both species having successfully raised a number of chicks.
Almost grown Great Crested Grebe (c) Bark
Peering into the waters edge at the first screen yesterday, when it was especially calm, a huge shoal of Rudd was visible just below the surface and stretching out three or four metres from the edge. There is clearly a very healthy fish population and good water quality.


Bittern (c) Nick Truby
It would seem that the Bitterns have capitalised on the abundance of food, and it is suspected but not yet fully confirmed that there are two nest sites to which feeding flights are being made. Meanwhile near the top of the food chain three Marsh Harrier chicks have been fledged and there may be another nest that is still under way.
Marsh Harrier (c) Paul Tomlinson
We are still being visited by all three Egret species with the Great White Egrets favouring the pools out on big Otmoor and the Little Egrets turning up almost anywhere.
Little Egret (c) Bark
Once the grass topping starts during the next couple of weeks, the visiting Cattle Egrets will probably be easier to find, as they roam around the fields feeding on the abundant grasshoppers.

Snipe were drumming on Sunday morning as we walked through the carpark field and along the bridleway.

Sunday morning Drummer (c) Bark
From the MOD land Curlew could still be heard calling, suggesting that there are still young birds out there that are yet to fully fledge.


Anxious Curlews (c) Bark
There are five or six adult Oystercatchers on Big Otmoor with a number of young birds which they are still protecting, we saw them chase off an overflying Kite on Sunday morning.
Oystercatcher after a Kite (c) Bark

Some of the water at the southern lagoon is being released onto Greenaways and as it does so the shallow areas will emerge as mud and become very attractive to returning waders.

Blackwits (c) Jeremy Dexter
Already a group of Black-tailed Godwits have been seen there as well as both Green and Common Sandpipers. The area of mud promises to be more extensive than in other years and who knows what exciting birds it might tempt down?
Common Sandpiper from first screen (c) Bark

The ” Lizard Lounge” by the first screen is enabling visitors to get great close up views of Common Lizards, what can sometimes be a very elusive British reptile.

Common Lizard (c) Bark

The year-list has gained another two species with a Tree Pipit being recorded on the MOD land during a wildflower survey and just yesterday singing Corn Buntings. However there has still not been a report of Quail, which if it is heard will take the list to one hundred and sixty different species for the year.

Bullfinch chomping seeds (c) Bark

Sunday, 20 June 2021

First Two Weeks of June

 

Little Egrets (c) Bark

The first two weeks of the month have been dominated by high pressure, which has led to a run of generally fine, dry, sunny weather with some hot and sometimes humid days.



Reed Bunting, Reed Warbler and Sedge Warbler all with food (c) Bark

On the reserve the business of raising young is proceeding apace. All sorts of birds can be seen gathering food for hungry chicks, the benign weather conditions have encouraged and boosted insect numbers.


Damselflies (c) Dan Miller and Skimmer (c) Bark

Dragonflies and Damselflies are now on the wing and abundant and for the seed-eaters grasses and early flowers, such as dandelions are now setting seed. We watched a young Bullfinch filling its bill with dandelion seeds along the edge of the bridleway.
Young Bullfinch eating dandelion Seeds. (c) Bark

By staying in one spot and watching carefully it is possible to pick up the comings and goings of warblers and to work out where their nests are concealed.
Reed Warbler (c) JR

As the water has drawn down on the scrapes and ditches, Egrets of all three commoner species have been attracted to the site. There are at least fifteen, and possibly more, Little Egrets on the reserve and the MOD land.

Little Egrets (c) Bark

Three Great White Egrets have been seen on Big Otmoor and a single bird from the second screen in the shallows on the right-hand side of the lagoon.
Three Great White Egrets (c) Jeremy Dexter

Single Cattle Egrets are also being seen, but less frequently. As they are often in the company of livestock and the grasses are now over a metre tall, they can be elusive.
Cattle Egret at Enslow wondering whether to visit Otmoor (c) Bark

The long staying Glossy Ibis has changed its preferences and is currently spending time at the second screen often perching up in the scrubby goat willows on the right-hand side of the lagoon.



Great Crested Grebe Chicks getting bigger and adult at the first screen

Over the last few weeks, the Great Crested Grebe chicks at the second screen have changed from being fluffy, stripy little humbugs riding around on their parents back to much sleeker miniature versions of the adults. They are still dependent on their parents for food but are beginning to actively dive and hunt around the edges of the lagoon.

Stunningly elegant (c) Bark

Female ducks are now appearing with multiple ducklings in tow. A Shoveller with seven “shovellettes” was at the first screen.
Shoveller with "trowels" (c) Bark

I watched a very protective Pochard, also with seven tiny ducklings, shepherding them along one of the big ditches. They are already diving for food but have not fully gained control of their buoyancy, they could dive but instead of coming back smoothly to the surface popped up like corks.  
Pochard and ducklings (c) Bark

An Osprey, either a late arrival or an unsuccessful breeder on the way back, made several visits to the moor. It was seen attempting to fish at the northern lagoon without obvious signs of success.

Osprey over (c) Sam Hill

A Barn Owl has been hunting along the River Ray and has been out early in the mornings and early evenings.


Barn Owl from second screen Above (c) JR below (c) Bark

Cuckoos are still chasing and courting across the reserve but will not be around for very much longer once we have passed the solstice.

Cuckoos    above (c) Tricia Miller and below (c) Bark

There are now fluffy chicks on the tern raft which looks very crowded, but there will be

Tern Raft (c) Bark

security in numbers. The adults are very determined and fearless in the defence of their airspace. They challenge everything, including corvids, gulls and Kites and it is noticeable that the Marsh Harriers give the raft a very wide berth. The Terns are hunting over the whole of the moor and along the river Ray to provision the chicks. I watched an adult try to feed a fish that was just a bit too big to a tiny chick and eventually gave up and ate it itself.

Oystercatcher and chick (c) Pete Roby

and a week later (c) Pete Roby

Oystercatchers have bred successfully on Big Otmoor. They now have three well grown youngsters, that are looking more and more like their parents as time goes on. There are Lapwing chicks and Redshank chicks to be spotted amongst the tussocks out in the middle of the field.
Grass Snakes are being seen frequently (c) Pete Roby

There have been further additions to the Year-list even though we are late in the migration season a Spoonbill went through the reserve, possibly stopping on the MOD land and a Little Stint was seen on a more remote part of the reserve that is not accessible to the public.

Spoonbill (c) Tezzer

This has brought the year total to one hundred and fifty-seven , which is remarkable given we are not yet quite halfway through the year. The only likely addition in the next few weeks, apart from some unexpected mega rarity, is Quail. A bird that reveals itself almost exclusively by its voice, as it scuttles about in the long grass calling: “wet my lips… wet my lips”! Listen out for it.



"Chipping" snipe on the ground (c) Darrell Wood and Flying Snipe (c) Bark