Tuesday, 2 June 2015

30th and 31st May

Cuckoo (c) JR
Although still cooler than expected at this time of year there is lots of activity on the moor. Saturday was sunnier and dryer than Sunday but on both days there was plenty of interest.
We are very lucky in having good numbers of Cuckoos present this year. On Sunday morning I saw four at the same time, three flying above the hedge and a fourth sitting on the wires in the carpark field. There have been as many as five seen simultaneously. They are very vocal and we are frequently hearing the more unusual bubbling or chuckling call of the female as well as the regular “cuckoo” of the male. Three birders that I have spoken to in the last week or so said that they had not heard the females call before or hadn’t recognised it. They can often be seen perched on the fence posts beside the bridleway waving their tails alluringly or looking for Reed Warbler nests and awaiting the opportunity to nip in and lay an egg.
Looking for  a nest (c) Bark
Warblers are still looking for mates and both the Whitethroats and Sedge Warblers are carrying out their aerial “parachute” displays as a finale to a burst of singing. I assume that the added height projects the sound further and the fluttering flight advertises their health and fitness. Both Blackcap and Garden Warblers can be heard in the carpark field and along the bridleway and some visiting birders from Bristol commented on how many Lesser Whitethroats they had heard.

Displaying Whitethroats and Sedge Warblers (c) JR
The two female Marsh Harriers are still present but are roaming over more of the reserve in search of prey and the individual that was missing primaries in one wing now looks to have started on a full moult as it has matching gaps on both wings. The harriers are frequently mobbed by corvids and Kites and on Saturday I watched one of the harriers in a dispute with both a Kite and a Raven. There appear to be a pair of mature Ravens around and they are accompanied by two juveniles both of which have very short tails and spend quite a lot of time hopping about on the ground whilst being dive bombed by Lapwings and Redshanks.
Raven and Lapwings (c) JR
Both the Lapwings and Redshanks have young to protect, careful scoping of Big Otmoor in particular, will reveal chicks in various stages of development accompanied by solicitous parents. There were also seven Ringed Plovers out on the same field and on Saturday a lone Black-tailed Godwit.
Alarm calling Redshank (c) JR
The amazing productivity of this field is manifest by the huge numbers of well grown goslings that can be seen out there. In one crèche of Canada Geese four adults were escorting twenty six large goslings and that was by no means the only group there were four or five other nurseries in double figures. Their large numbers may also reflect the efficacy of the anti predator fence in reducing mammalian predation.
Common Tern (c) Bark
There are a pair of Common Terns using the raft on the northern reedbed and another pair look to be displaying with a view to breeding out on Big Otmoor. It is good to get such close up views of these delicate sleek birds hunting for fish along the ditches and over the lagoons. At least twelve Little Egrets were feeding out to the west of the second screen along the river Ray and a further two were on Ashgrave. A female Shoveller was out on the southern lagoon with a clutch of nine ducklings.
Poppy (c) Bark
The cool conditions have meant that fewer dragonflies have been on the wing but on the plus side when the sun has come out it has encouraged both Grass Snakes and Common Lizards out to bask.
This weekend we started to see what we call “the springwatch effect”. It is clear to see that many people are inspired by what they see on TV to take themselves and children out in order to experience something of what they have seen at first hand. By midday the carpark was overflowing and people were parking up the lane. If it is at all possible do try to car share or if you're feeling energetic you could walk down from the village. However it is really encouraging to see so much interest and the more people who care about wildlife and wild places the more people there will be to defend them.
With the years first Quail heard up on the Downs it should not be too long before their “wet my lips” call is heard on Otmoor again. I will be out listening next week.
Busy Bluetit (c) Bark

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