Monday, 27 April 2015

Saturday and Sunday 25th and 26th April

Drake Garganey (c) JR
Despite the cooler conditions this weekend, when compared with the week just past, change continues apace. Arriving in the carpark early on Saturday morning one was struck by just how many birds were singing full pelt. Blackcaps were most noticeable, but there were also several Willow Warblers giving their distinctive downwards song. Whitethroats gave their scratchy calls from the top of larger bushes and from the wires overhead and a Lesser Whitethroat gave its distinctive finch-like trill from the hedge on the southern edge of the Closes. Although a Garden Warbler was reported from nearby Stanton St. John on Saturday I have not heard one or indeed heard of one, so far on the moor.

Whitethroat and Sedge Warbler (c) JR

Reed Warbler (c) Nick Truby

Willow Warbler (c) Pat Galka
Waders are continuing to move through. Several Whimbrel have been reported and three very smart summer plumaged Black tailed Godwits have been around for almost a week. Three Ruff have alternated between Big Otmoor and Noke Sides where a number of non breeding Lapwing have been feeding still accompanied by four beautiful summer plumaged Golden Plover. On Big Otmoor on Sunday there were two Little Ringed Plovers and five Dunlin showing the smart black bellies of summer. Our breeding waders are busy mating and protecting eggs and chicks. On both days despite indifferent weather Snipe were drumming over Greenaways and the Closes. Squadrons of Lapwings went up to challenge and mob raptors including Kites and Buzzards over Big Otmoor.
Blackwits (c) Nick Truby

Mating Redshanks female unmoved! (c) JR
Whimbrel (c) Pat Galka
Marsh Harriers are still hunting over the Greenaways with three birds present for a while on Saturday morning. Although Hobby was seen last weekend it took until Sunday for me see one. There was a very smart individual sitting on one of the posts on the southern side of Ashgrave.
Marsh Harrier (c) JR
We finally found our first drake Garganey on Saturday and the same bird was still present on Sunday morning giving stunning close views in front of the first screen, a really superb bird. There had already been two females seen earlier in the week.

Pochard and Mallard (c) The Early Birder

G.C.G. (c) JR
Pochard are still courting avidly on the southern reedbed and there are still a small number of Wigeon that have yet to head north.
Cuckoos are loudly and obviously making their presence felt and I have heard both male and females calling. There were at least three individuals present on Sunday morning. We are still waiting for our first report of what is probably our rarest regular breeding bird. Turtle Doves do tend to arrive later than some of our other migrants and so we still hope that they will return. With problems on their overwintering grounds and rapacious, ignorant hunters on their migration routes it is a wonder that they still make it through.
Three Wheatears were near the farm at Noke on one of the sheep fields and four Whinchat were out at the Pill on Saturday. Wheatears have been fewer and further between than on previous years but we often see many more and for longer during the late summer early autumn period when they return.
There are still two Common Cranes in the vicinity and there may indeed be four. They are roving over the whole of Otmoor both Reserve, MOD and private farmland. There is no regular pattern to their feeding preferences and so their presence is unpredictable. They are more likely to be seen when commuting between areas and are probably better not being pursued as if undisturbed they might stay around a bit longer.
Cranes in transit (c) Nick Truby
Finally late stayers on the moor and early morning visitors are frequently seeing a Barn Owl hunting in the Carpark Field. This can often prove to be the icing on the cake to a visit, to what at the moment is a very exciting and “birdy” place.

Hunting Owl and Sunset (c) Tom Nicholson-Lailey

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