Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Saturday and Sunday 27th and 28th February

Yellowhammer (c) JR

In spite of the chill from a persistent nagging easterly, this weekend felt a lot more like spring. When the sun came through it was possible to feel the warmth provided one was out of the cold wind. The birds and the other wildlife are responding to the subtle changes in temperature and in day length.
There were many signs of the seasons moving on. The Song Thrush in the carpark field was still belting out its song from the top of a willow tree but louder and more enthusiastically than last week, a male Reed Bunting was singing its scratchy nondescript song from the reeds along the path to the screen and along the bridle way is the occasional splash of yellow from the first Coltsfoot flowers.
Male Reed Bunting (c) JR
There are still large numbers of both Lapwings and Golden Plovers and on Saturday morning they were, as has become usual, wheeling and tumbling across the skies in response to threats both real or imagined. On Sunday however we felt that their numbers were somewhat diminished, it may just have meant that they had dispersed from the larger flocks and were feeding slightly further afield.
Wren (c) JR
There are now a minimum of eight Curlew feeding out on Greenaways occasionally taking to the air and calling as they move from one feeding area to another. Last week two Ruff were seen on Ashgrave and as the next few weeks pass I would expect to find more feeding out on the flooded grassland, this is the time of year when we see them most frequently. Redshanks are much easier to spot now there has been one out on Closes quite near to the trail and showing well from the fresh gaps that have been made in the hedge. On Sunday a Dunlin was seen from the same spot feeding on the edges of the Golden Plover flock and was most noticeable when they took to the air.
Mrs Bullfinch munching buds (c) JR
The carpark field has a very healthy population of Bullfinches now. They are not moving about in small flocks as they were only a few weeks ago, but are very clearly paired up and as far as I can determine are still eating Blackthorn buds. At the moment it is unusual not to see them in the carpark field.

Both Shorty Pics (c) JR

On Saturday morning as we walked towards the second screen we flushed a Short Eared Owl from the bank of the reedbed. It gave superb views as it flew ahead of us towards the screen where it settled briefly before flying on and out over the reedbed. There it strayed into the Marsh Harriers airspace and was pursued high and far by one of the pair.
Courting Harriers (c) JR
The Harriers themselves were well worth watching as they are exhibiting courtship behaviours that I have not seen before. One bird has been calling from below whilst the other has been performing virtuoso flying stunts overhead. On Saturday the higher bird was tumbling and banking steeply in the strong wind, all the time focussed down on the bird on the ground. We were first alerted to it by the calling which we identified more by a process of deduction and observation, than by familiarity or prior knowledge.

Little Grebes (c) JR

Out on the northern lagoon there were a pair of Little Grebes displaying to each other and occasionally giving their whinnying call. There are also a pair of Great Crested Grebes but they are not yet performing their coordinated courtship “dance”.
Female Brambling (c) JR
On Sunday morning we spotted a lone gull making its way over the scrapes on Noke Sides. Careful observation revealed it as a Mediterranean Gull. It veered off away from us and we didn’t relocate it. It was an adult bird approaching summer plumage. It looked very similar to the bird seen at Grimsbury last week and may even have been the same individual. It is an unusual bird for Otmoor although one was reported last spring. The last one I recall seeing on the moor was at least ten years ago.
Bittern and Harriers (c) Oz
At one point on Saturday morning the Harriers spooked a Bittern from the eastern side of the first lagoon. It flew straight up and down looking very aggressive with its crest erect. It has been suggested to me that the Bittern seen for the last few days at Farmoor is a male. This being indicated by the blueish tinge to its lores. If it continues its journey it might well alight on Otmoor and find it a suitable place to start booming !
Shoveller (c) Derek Lane
Tomorrow is the 1st of March and things will really start to speed up as we head towards spring proper, by next week we should have Lapwings starting to display and hold territory, exciting times!
Watchers watched (c) Derek Lane

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