Monday, 17 August 2015

Saturday and Sunday 15th and 16th August

Lesser Whitethroat (c) Early Birder

There was a slight touch of autumn in the air on Saturday morning, a chill and a subtle change in the light. The heavy rain of last week had done little to recharge the scrapes on Big Otmoor and Greenaways and they are now little more than dusty basins. None the less they still held a couple of Green Sands on Sunday with a probable pair of Little Ringed Plovers. On Saturday morning a Dunlin had been feeding around the margins of one of the last remaining puddles on Greenaways.
Plenty for the Herons to eat (c) JR
A visitor reported a Great White Egret with three Little Egrets in front of the first screen early on Saturday morning. It may well be the individual that was around last week it was reported to have flown off in the direction of Oddington.

Warbler selection (c) Early Birder

The walk between the first and second screens took us over an hour on Saturday morning, as we spent almost half an hour watching the massive mixed party of warblers and tits in the heavily brambled corner to the left of the first screen. This is a perfect sheltered suntrap in the morning and the brambles attract lots of insect food. There were very good numbers of Lesser Whitethroats amongst them as well as Common Whitethroats, Sedge and Reed Warblers, Blackcaps and Willow/Chiffs. The party also included at least one Goldcrest, the first I have seen on the moor for a while. As well as feeding the birds were occasionally sitting out in the sunshine and preening. The whole party appeared to have at its core a large number of Long Tailed Tits. Some of them were clearly juvenile and were begging adults for food. As we made our way along the path the main flock preceded us flicking and flitting along the hedgerow.

Warblers and Long Tailed Tit (c) JR

Redstarts are being found in increasing numbers in the regular spots in Long Meadow. They usually reveal their presence with their distinctive “huweet” call and then patient waiting and watching will eventually reveal them as they fly-catch and ambush grasshoppers from low down on the isolated bushes.
The other hotspot this weekend was around the sheep fields and the farm at Noke. This area has always acted like a magnet for Chats and Wheatears and this weekend was no different. We always look around here for the first returning Wheatears in both spring and autumn.

Wheatear and distant whinchat (c) Bark
There must be something very particular about the configuration of close cropped grass, open fields with fences to hunt from and cover. This weekend we saw at least eleven Yellow Wagtails feeding on the short grass sheep field on Saturday morning and while there were not so many evident on Sunday there were over ten Wheatears in the area. There was also a pair of Whinchats that divided their time between the tall reeds on the side of Ashgrave and the barbed wire fence. In three or four weeks time we will also be finding Stonechats along here and then they will spread out across the whole of the reserve to over winter.

Painted Lady and Common Blue with Small Copper (c) Bark
Butterflies were also very much in evidence this weekend very much encouraged by the sunshine. Several Brown Hairstreaks were around the master ash in the Roman Road and three or four Painted ladies were along the main paths. There are still large numbers of Common Blues on the path to the second screen and on Saturday morning we saw a very active Clouded Yellow in Long Meadow.
Our resident Fallow Deer that thinks it's a cow (c) JR

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