Sunday, 15 September 2013

Saturday and Sunday 14th and 15th September

House Martin over the first screen (c) Bark

Reed Warbler feeding up (c) Bark

Just some of the geese on a morning panic (c) Bark

Eleven Blackwits (c) Bark

and again (c) Bark

Whinchat (c) Darrell Wood

Sedgie (c) Darrell Wood
 Autumn is really kicking in now with hips, haws and blackberries in the hedgerows and the grey and damp weather. Passage migrants are still on the reserve with both Whinchats and Wheatears to be found. Notable today was a party of eleven Black tailed Godwits that circled the reedbed and when they could not find anywhere to land went out onto big Otmoor. There are still warblers feeding up in the hedgerows but not as many as last week. Most noticeable today were the very large numbers of hirundines feeding over the fields, they were mostly Swallows and House Martins with just a scattering of Sand Martins amongst them.
The resident flock of Canada Geese and Greylags has been swollen by a major influx of birds. I counted at least four hundred individuals out on Big Otmoor and when a kind of mass panic overcomes them and they take to the air the noise is extraordinary. Hopefully having such an extensive feral flock will encourage their wilder congeners to overwinter with us. Peregrine was seen both days and a Sparrowhawk seems to have taken up territory around the reedbed.
I have just received a report that a Bittern was seen this afternoon flying between the southern and northern reedbeds. This is early but given the breeding successes that this species has had this year it is not surprising.

Monday, 9 September 2013

Saturday and Sunday 7th and 8th September

The default bird this weekend. Juvenile Reed Bunting

One of the newly fledged Reed Warblers

Wheatear at Noke

Confiding Moorhen

Feeding Goldfinches

Lesser Whitethroat

One of the Kingfishers

Signs of Autumn

Migrant Hawker       All pics this week (c) Bark
 Another sparkling weekend on the moor with plenty of passage passerines to be seen. The weather whilst a little cooler, was bright with clear bright sunshine early in the day.
There are still significant numbers of Whinchats present. Scattered in small parties both on and off the reserve. Some at Noke, others on the MOD land and six more on the path leading up to Beckley that goes past the hide and beyond July’s Meadow. Most easy to see however, were three individuals that were feeding beside the ditch alongside the visitor trail to the first screen. They were hunting from the wooden posts and also from the blue plastic stakes that carry the electric fence. On Sunday morning there was also a Wheatear with them. Juvenile Wheatears were also feeding from the fence at the western end of big Otmoor close to the cattle. Redstarts and Spotted Flycatchers were also found south of the hide on the same fence as the six Whinchats.
There are good numbers of warblers to be seen and a Reed Warbler was feeding a late brood of at least five noisy juveniles in the ditch alongside the bridleway. There are a pair of great Crested Grebes out on the northern lagoon with two young chicks and we presumed that these too were a later second brood.
Kingfishers are very much in evidence with at three individuals present. One frequenting the northern reedbed, another in the ditch near the pumphouse and yet another on the balancing pond beside the turning to Noke.
There was a small flock of fifteen to twenty Linnets out at the Pill on Sunday and several other small groups of Goldfinches feeding on seed heads beside the paths. The most numerous and the most noticeable seed eaters are Reed Buntings. There are large numbers of juveniles to be seen alongside the moulting adults, which implies that they have had a successful breeding year.
I was informed that most evenings there are still over fifty Yellow Wagtails going into the reedbed to roost.
On the raptor front: a Marsh Harrier is still present and Peregrine, Sparrowhawk and several Hobbies were recorded. There are still at least five juvenile Kestrels spread over the main fields. They are spending most of their time hunting from fence posts and seem to be feeding on the abundant grasshoppers. Ravens were seen flying over and cronking on both days.
There was a ridiculously confiding juvenile Moorhen feeding on the bridleway on Sunday morning. It allowed approaches up about two metres and good photo opportunities.
Sadly the Wryneck found and seen by some lucky people on Tuesday was not seen again. On a brighter note three Grey Partridges were found in the carpark field on Sunday morning and flew over onto the Closes. They became the one hundred and forty-ninth species to be recorded on the moor this year only one species short of last years total. There are still some relatively common birds that have not yet been seen and I am hopeful that our total this year will be higher than last.
Perhaps we might be lucky and have a visit from one of the rarer heron species.......Little Bittern or Great White Egret perhaps.....I can dream.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Otmoor Wryneck or "My double dip depression"

Cryptic Coloration (c) Graham Lenton

Wryneck (c) Graham Lenton

Having missed the Wryneck on the Downs due to a prior engagement and having been unable to relocate it on Sunday morning I wrote an optimistic last line on my regular weekend blog along the lines of : "perhaps we will have our own Wryneck on the moor ,which I will get to see"
Well part of it came true. Graham Lenton found the first Wryneck to be on the reserve, at least as far as I know. There had been a probable bird in Long Meadow seven or so years ago, but that is off the reserve proper. The latest bird was found along the visitor trail at noon yesterday. it was seen by a number of people before flying up into the poplars along the visitor trail and then disappearing.
Need I say it disappeared about half an hour before I got there! There may be another one one day.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Saturday and Sunday 31st August and 1st September

Whinchat (c) Ewan Urquart

...and from the other side (c) Ewan Urquart

Spot Fly (c) Bark

Linnet (c) Bark

Lesser Whitethroat (c) Bark

Rather battered Brown Hawker (c) Bark
A beautiful weekend and the formal meteorological start of Autumn. The excellent weather reflected the season, there was a subtle change in the quality of the light and a muted more ochre tone in the vegetation.
Passage migration is well under way. It is a much more relaxed and leisurely affair in Autumn when compared with Spring, when birds are driven by their breeding imperatives. Now they are feeding up, completing their moult and putting on fat for their journeys. Often they can be found in mixed flocks and at other times in family parties. This weekend we have had a fall of Whinchats on the moor and the ones and twos of last weekend had been replaced by a loose flock of about nine or ten birds in July’s Meadow and at least eleven or twelve out at the Pill. They were feeding and flycatching from the hedge that borders the Hundred Acre field, they were very active and lively, their fresh plumage epitomising the colours of the season.
In Long Meadow and in the Car Park Field there were still up to three Redstarts and two Spotted Flycatchers. There were plenty of warblers to be seen with large numbers of Lesser Whitethroats very noticeable in their very smart grey and white plumage. In one bush alone on Sunday morning there were at least fourteen. They always seem to be much easier to see at this time of year. There are several parties of Linnets to seen around the reserve with one very active group along the path to the second screen. There have only been a handful of Wheatears recorded on the moor over the last couple of weeks and it is likely that they are moving later this year due to the good weather now or perhaps even in response to the late spring.
Hobbies are taking advantage of the abundance of dragonflies and there have been up to six hunting over Greenaways and the reedbed. The adult female Marsh Harrier was seen over the Flood Field and the reedbed and there are still three juvenile Kestrels in residence. There are larger numbers of eclipse ducks to be seen out on the lagoons with Gadwall, Pochard, Shoveller and at least ten Wigeon amongst them. There are about twenty Teal on the rapidly diminishing pool in front of the hide. Waders are scarce on the reserve at present due to the lack of muddy feeding areas for them, but Green Sandpipers and Snipe were seen on both days.
The week ahead looks as though it will be warm and calm and we can hope for even more in the way of passage migrants, perhaps even our own Wryneck, which would be so much better than the one that I failed to see on the Downs!