Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Saturday and Sunday 29th and 30th November

Redwing (c) John Reynolds
Dawn Saturday (c) Pat Galka
Hard to readjust to being back in winter after ten days in the southern hemisphere. Saturday dawn was beautiful and the sun shone most of the day. In contrast on Sunday fog and low cloud shrouded the moor  but mid morning the sun burnt through and just as though a curtain had been drawn the day went from monochrome to colour.
Fieldfare (c) John Reynolds
Most noticeable on both days were the large numbers of Redwings and Fieldfares in the hedgerows and across the bushes in the carpark field and I assume they will stay until the berry crop is exhausted. The second screen is an excellent place to see them, as the haws are consumed elsewhere along the hedge they will get closer to the screen in order to eat those that are adjacent to it.
It was quite a surprise to realise just how much it has rained during the time I was away. Scrapes and ditches have filled and once again there are muddy areas and pools for birds to feed around. Duck numbers have risen dramatically and the birds are well spread out over the whole reserve. One of the most popular areas is at the western end of Big Otmoor where large numbers of Wigeon are accompanied by at least five hundred Lapwings and a similar number of Golden Plover. The numbers can only really be appreciated when they are all flushed by a raptor.
Teal (c) Pat Galka
On the reedbed the same principle applies. This time however the birds were flushed by the first volley of shots from the rifle range. There were at least six hundred ducks that flew, largely Teal with Shoveller and Gadwall amongst them. A smaller number of Pochard are present but seemed reluctant to fly. Amongst the Pochard is a slightly odd, different looking bird, perhaps some kind of hybrid or one with aberrant feather colouration, it is very pale around the face and with a lighter area under its head. We looked at it carefully on Sunday but could not come to any conclusions about it. 

Gadwall and Shoveller (c) John Reynolds
From the second screen there were twenty four Gadwall, already paired up the drakes were looking especially smart in their crisp grey and black plumage. A couple of flocks of at least twenty five Snipe were active over the reedbed and there were odd parties of two or three birds lurking around the margins.
The Bittern or perhaps one of the Bitterns made a brief appearance on Saturday morning flying over the southern reedbed. There seems to be reports of one bird in the northern sector and others from the southern. Until we see two in the air at the same time, as we did back in October we can not be sure. Marsh Harrier and Peregrine were also recorded this weekend. The Cetti’s warbler was heard on Saturday up by the second screen and on Sunday made a brief appearance in a bush by the first screen.
Lapwings (c) John Reynolds
Amongst the Lapwings and Goldies on Saturday morning were at  least three Dunlin, a Redshank that flew away calling and four medium sized waders that were probably Ruff. Further indication that the scrapes are functioning well.
Crayfish (c) Darrell Woods
At Noke the track up to the farm is flooded again and in the flood Darrell saw a fearsome Signal Crayfish ready to take on the world. I assume that they are preyed on by Herons and I know that they are a popular snack for Otters.
Most welcome news was the sighting on Sunday of a female Bearded Tit in the reedbed close to the first screen. There has been a bird seen intermittently over the summer and it may well have been the same individual still lonely and looking for love. It is probably still not too late for another bird to join it from elsewhere.
Long Tailed Tit (c) John Reynolds
The Starling roost is undeniably large but is totally unpredictable in terms of display and activity. If anyone is planning to go down to see it I would strongly recommend a weekday evening as the parking at the weekend is difficult.
Green Woodpecker from the screen (c) John Reynolds

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