Tuesday, 1 September 2015

August Bank Holiday Weekend

Wryneck (c) Early Birder
I had intended to do a roundup of the whole bank holiday weekend. As the rain teems down steadily this morning and the weather forecaster is promising more of the same all day, I suspect there will not be much to report from the moor today.(Monday)
There have been suggestions of Autumn over the last few weeks and it seemed even more autumnal this weekend. It may be the phragmites reeds having flowered with their purplish tassels  softening and subduing the bright green of the reedbed, then again it could be the thistles that have set seed and drifted pale thistledown over the hedgerow herbage. Vegetation looks tired and ragged yet the hedgerows are still a long way from turning to the true colours of fall.
Where is it? (c) Early Birder
The birdlife this weekend also reflected the changes that are occurring with passage migrants moving through and the last of our summer visitors feeding up before going south. The most exciting and uncommon of the visitors was a Wryneck found by Mark Chivers along the path to the first screen from the bridleway. As most of my friends know, this has been a “bogey” bird for me. I had never seen one in Oxfordshire having missed through travel, bad luck and on one occasion ineptitude, all of the previous ones over the last fifteen years. Having been called as soon as it was found I made my way back down to Otmoor to try to catch up with this unusual species on my regular patch. The bird had been taking advantage of the ant colonies beside the footpath, but with it being a footpath it was being regularly flushed by visitors who needed to walk through. I arrived at one of these moments when the bird had decided to spend some time in the depths of a bush. I did eventually see it as did a number of other people several times during the afternoon sadly it was not seen again after about four o’clock and there was no sign of it on Sunday. I was especially pleased as it was the one hundred and forty fifth species for the moor this year and my two hundred and sixty first for Oxfordshire.
There are fewer warblers around (C) JR
On Saturday there was a fine male Wheatear out on Big Otmoor and at least three Whinchats on both days along the path up to July’s Meadow. There were also several at other spots, both around the reserve and out at the Pill.

The most photographed Kingfisher anywhere. top two (c) JR lower one (c) Tom N-L
The photographic stars of the weekend and last week have undoubtedly been the Kingfishers from the first screen. It was indicative of the change that is happening in birding, that when one of them, a juvenile female, landed on the perch right beside the screen and then stayed there for over five minutes, all that could be heard was the machine gun rattle of camera shutters taking ten frames a second. A bit like the start of a battle but happily without the resulting carnage! We all delight in the stunning images that result none more than myself, who illustrates a blog with the resulting pictures. At one point on Saturday there were three Kingfishers there.

Water Rail in transit. (c) JR
Sit at the first screen for any amount of time and sooner of later you should see a Water Rail making its way stealthily along the reedy margins before flying across the open water to disappear back into the reeds.
Not one to share with the chick. (c) JR
The last Great Crested Grebe chick is still trying to beg food from its parent but is increasingly being ignored and is hunting for itself. One of the Bitterns gave us a lengthy flypast on Sunday morning having been flushed from the grass beside the visitor trail. We speculated that it might have been hunting small frogs in the wet grass as we had seen several crossing the path.
At least two Marsh Harriers are still around as are several Hobbies. A Peregrine made a low and fast pass over the reeds on Saturday and a Sparrowhawk is frequently being seen from the hide.
There are still plenty of Snipe to be seen. (c) JR
Water levels have crept up a bit on the southern reedbed and we have yet to see the small island in front of the screen or the extensive muddy area to the right and behind the reeds. If the water levels do draw down a bit more over the next few weeks it will be definitely be the place to watch.
Hares are easy to see now the grass has been cut. (c) Early Birder

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