Tuesday, 29 March 2016

25th-28th March Easter Weekend

Who'se a pretty Boy. (c) JR

As is often the case at this time of year we seemed to have all sorts of weather over the Easter weekend. Bright sunshine on Friday, dull greyness on Saturday, sunshine and showers on Sunday and then a sunny afternoon after a ferocious storm on Monday. All accompanied by strong winds sometimes gusting to gale force.
The birds reflected this turbulence with both new arrivals and major departures. A week ago there were well over a thousand Wigeon feeding on the grass, this week we could only find about fifty out on the western edge of Big Otmoor. Golden Plover numbers have halved although that still means that there are approximately a thousand birds still there. They are split up into much smaller flocks and are more scattered about the site and the surrounding fields. They seem more restless and many more of them are moulting into summer plumage. We debated whether the birds that had already left had furthest north to go, where it might still be frozen or whether the birds that had yet to leave were waiting for a time when it might be more hospitable on their breeding grounds.
Noke sides Oystercatchers (c) JR
Last week we had our first record of Northern Wheatear. There were two Little Ringed Plovers found on The Closes on Friday and a couple of Siskins on the feeders, a bird that has not been recorded since the start of the year. The number of Oystercatchers present has risen to at least six with one pair out on Noke sides and four other individuals on The Closes and seen flying out towards The Flood.
Marsh Harrier (c) JR
Marsh Harriers have been very active and certainly three individuals and possible four were present over the whole weekend. They are ranging over the whole reserve and there were individuals hunting over the Closes and Ashgrave as well as the more familiar Greenaways and Big Otmoor. The Harriers appear to be targeting larger prey and frequently flush Teal and other wildfowl from the reedbed.
There are Redshank everywhere (c) JR
As well as a Chiffchaff calling in the carpark field there had been a “fall” of these birds on Sunday morning. We counted at least twelve along the bridleway between the pump house and the turn to the screens. They were not calling but were feeding, flycatching in the lea of the hedge taking advantage of the tiny flies that the sun had brought out. Also noticeable this weekend was the number of Cetti’s Warblers calling. Wiped out as a breeding species on Otmoor just a few years ago they have re-established themselves well and can be heard all over the reserve especially near the pump house and the first screen.
Barn Owl (c) JR

Barn Owl (c) Andy Harris

Shorty (c) JR

On Saturday morning was on the moor early and was fortunate to have some of the best views of a hunting Barn Owl that I have had for a while. It was working both the Carpark Field and the bridle way, sometimes using the strong wind to help it hover and at other times being bowled along by the wind like a white plastic bag. The regular Short Eared Owl is still being reported but will not be with us for very much longer.
Brown Hare (c) JR

Hares are particularly noticeable at the moment. Chasing around and occasionally boxing. More unusually I saw a Rabbit in the Carpark on Saturday morning, a species that seldom ventures down onto the moor where there is a likelihood of flooding.
On Saturday morning we found our first hirundines of the year with two Sand Martins beating their way across Ashgrave against the wind it will not be long before Swallows and House Martins join them on the year list, they have already appeared in the county.
This week we can expect more returning migrants perhaps our first Blackcaps, Willow Warblers or Sedge Warblers. It’s a very exciting time to be birding.

Romantic Mute Swans (c) Andy Harris

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