Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Saturday and Sunday 22nd and 23rd September

Goldcrest behind first screen (c) Pat Galka
Kingfisher (c) Kevin Henshaw

Blackwits (c) Peter Coombes

Lesser Whitethroat (c) Peter Coombes
Stonechat at last (c) Badger

Jay (c) Darrell Wood

Migrant Hawker (thanks Wayne) (c) Darrell Wood

Kestrel take off (c) Bark

The autumn equinox marks a significant point between summer and winter and the weekend weather illustrated and amplified the change. A bright sunny warm and calm Saturday gave way to a chilly grey and eventually stormy Sunday.
There was plenty to see on Saturday and I was delighted to see our first Stonechat since this time last year (a species that I have been going on about in these postings recently). It seems appropriate that it was found by Ewan. As the man who wrote “Stonechats of the World” I did wonder if he carried a tame one around with him in the back of the black Audi! It was in the company of two Whinchats of which there were others on Ashgrave and Big Otmoor. Sadly we did find it again on Sunday although Whinchats were still hunting from the blue plastic posts along the ditch to the first screen.
Other small passerines were to be seen in the hedgerows including Goldcrests behind the first screen and a beautiful crisp clean Lesser Whitethroat behind the second screen. There was also a family of Blackcaps in the same area and several Chiffchaffs.
Two Black-tailed Godwits have taken up temporary residence on the reedbed and gave excellent close views at the first screen to the photographers, who were there hoping to get good shots of the Kingfishers. The kingfishers did not disappoint with frequent visits from two birds.
A Sparrowhawk is hunting regularly in and around the reedbed and has been spending some time, between hunts, perched at the back of the right hand channel. Kestrels, Buzzards and Kites were frequently seen but I have not heard about any fresh sightings of the Marsh Harrier.
Duck numbers are creeping up with the first fifty or so Wigeon moving between Ashgrave and the second Lagoon. Ducks are beginning to moult out of their eclipse plumage and male Gadwall are looking particularly dapper in their smart new suits. A juvenile Water Rail moving about in the vegetation on the edge of the first lagoon, gave us a few exciting moments until it finally emerged into the open. The shorter black bill and the pale marking on its face were a bit disconcerting for a while.
Jays continued to be very noticeable all over the reserve with a couple of individuals on Sunday, flying backwards and forwards between the oaks along the bridleway and the southern edge of the closes
Dragonflies were abundant in the sunshine on Saturday with Migrant and Southern Hawkers very prominent.
The heavy rain over next few days will doubtless refresh some of the scrapes but unfortunately will hamper some of the management work that still remains to be carried out on Ashgrave. As birders we can only speculate on what birds these early Autumn gales will blow in and hope for something exciting.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Short clip of these elegant waders on Otmoor 21st September.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Mid Week wader update

Itchy Black-Tailed Godwit  (c) Derek Woodard
Yellow wagtail living dangerously (c) Mike Kosniowski

Another of the Blackwits from the first screen. (c) Derek Woodard
Wader passage on Otmoor is really going well. Species seen this week alone include: Spotted Redshanks, Redshank, Greenshank, Black-tailed Godwits, Ruff, Common Sand, Curlew and lots of Green Sands. Some of these birds have been brief stayers and others have hung around for a few days. Best views have been from the first screen, but several different species have been picked up while flying between scrapes on Ashgrave and those on Big Otmoor. Often when raptors have flushed birds from the remoter parts of the reserve. Snipe have also been seen over most of the reserve but but have tended to favour the Reed bed.
Interestingly there have been very few sightings of Dunlin since the spring and despite their presence at Port meadow and Farmoor, no Sanderlings.
There are still good numbers of Yellow Wagtails feeding around the legs of the cattle, worth looking out for.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Sunday 16th September

Fishing Heron (c) Bark

Wheatear by the Cattle Pen (c) Paul Greenaway

Photogenic Kingfisher (c) Mike Kosniowski

Just a brief report this weekend as I only managed a short visit on Sunday.
A massive change over the last two weeks. Autumn is nearly upon us and the hedgerows and reedbeds are really showing it with fading colours and scruffy vegetation. The damp and misty weather also highlighted the shift in the seasons. There are still good numbers of Whinchats to be found on the reserve, along with occasional Wheatears. Small passerines are feeding in mixed parties in the hedgerows and in one such group I saw Whitethroat, Willow/chiff, Blackcap and three Tit species. Water Rail is being seen frequently at the first screen and both adult and juvenile were present on Sunday. Green Sand is also frequently on show here. Kingfishers are regularly using the perches out from the screens and giving photographers great views. Several flocks of snipe were seen flying over the reedbed and Greenaways. Groups of hirundines were moving through and all three common species were seen, although only two Sand Martins.
Another sign and sight of Autumn is the way that our resident Jays become much more obvious. They are frequently seen and heard while foraging for acorns and caching them in the fields. There was no sign of either the Marsh harrier or the Merlin that had been seen on Wednesday. The Merlin tends to overlap with the Hobby by two or three weeks, so despite the current abundance of dragonflies they will soon be off.
Still no Stonechats but I am still hopeful.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Saturday 8th September

If you missed Pete talking to BBC Radio Oxfords Jon Briggs about an autumnal
Otmoor this morning you are able to listen again through the BBC iplayer here
It's about 52 mins in to the show.

Monday, 3 September 2012

Saturday and Sunday 1st and 2nd September

Wheatear between the screens (c) Bark

The same

Large Dragonfly ovipositing....Brown Hawker??? (c) Bark

These boots are made for walking!!

Long Meadow Redstart (c) Badger

Another (c) Badger

Reedbed Whinchat (c) Badger

Eclipse Garganey(c) Badger
Another great weekend on the moor,but without the scarcer raptors of last week.
Autumn passage is now well under way and increasing numbers of waders are beginning to move through. There were still at least ten Green Sandpipers present over the whole weekend. On Sunday a Sparrowhawk made a low stealthy approach to the muddy areas out from the first screen and almost succeeded in grabbing one. In doing so it made them easy to count as they flushed noisily. Two Greenshanks, two Redshanks and a Ruff were seen flying over the Ashgrave scrape/lagoon on both days. Lapwing numbers are continuing to build and at least two hundred were seen coming in from the north. Different parties of Snipe could be seen from time to time, as passing raptors caused them to flush, groups of over twenty individuals were common. In the hedgerow along the path between the two screens there were Whinchats present on both days and Wheatears on Saturday. At least six Redstarts were present on Saturday morning. Kingfishers are now being seen regularly on the perches in front of both screens and Water Rails are often picked up pottering about on the reedy edges visible from the first screen. On Saturday an eclipse Garganey was present in the same area.
By ‘scoping from the footpath on the western edge of Ashgrave it is possible, with patience, to scan parts of the Ashgrave lagoon. As well as a large number of Black Headed Gulls there were two immature Lesser Black Backs and a slightly larger immature Yellow-legged Gull, a first for the year. Also of note among the commoner ducks were a female Mandarin, six early Wigeon and over twenty Shoveller. At least six Little Grebes could be made out, two pairs of which were feeding young. At least twenty five Gadwall were on the Northern lagoon in front of the second screen.
Little Egrets are ubiquitous, as are Grey Herons,which are so often taken for granted and barely noticed. With water levels good as we move into autumn, we can anticipate winter wildfowl with more confidence that was possible this time last year.

Fly-by snipe