Monday, 18 April 2016

Saturday and Sunday 16th and 17th April

Lesser Whitethroat (c) Tezzer

It is difficult to imagine a weekend with two such contrasting days. A cold wet snowstorm on Saturday morning, blown in on a bitter northerly wind and then the brightest finest sunny day on Sunday. Changeable is the key feature of the weather at this time of year.
What we were able to see was massively influenced by the conditions. Despite the adverse conditions on Saturday there were still birds singing and on Sunday they were even more vociferous and numerous.
Sedgie (c) Tezzer
Sedge Warblers are now well established across the moor. When I visited the Oddington side on Thursday I encountered five in a one hundred metre stretch of path. They are calling in their manic excited way and by Sunday I saw one or two making their first parachute display flights. Reed Warblers were somewhat behind Sedge in arriving, but they too are starting to take up territory along the bridleway and out on the reedbed. We heard and saw Lesser Whitethroats rattling out their Yellowhammer like calls. They are already calling from places where they were found in other years, it is interesting to speculate whether it is the same birds returning to the same spots or is it just that some places are Lesser Whitethroat’s ideal homes. Blackcaps are singing all along the Roman Road they really favour this more wooded area.
Singing Chiffy (c) Tom Nicholson-Lailey

The wind and sleet on Saturday morning had pushed down a mixed flock of Hirundines onto the reedbed. There were at least a hundred and fifty birds. They were mostly Swallows but there were both Sand and House Martins amongst them. They perched rather bedraggled on the reed stems some with their wings slightly open, possibly in an attempt to dry them out. 
Swallow (c) Derek Lane
A walk down to Noke on Sunday morning failed to turn up the Black- tailed Godwit on Big Otmoor that we had hoped to see, it must have moved on, however we did find seven Wheatears feeding out on one of the sheep fields near Lower Farm. We were fairly sure that we had just seen females but other observers found some males amongst them.
There were two Ringed Plovers feeding out around the edge of the largest pool in front of the hide on Ashgrave. The only other notable waders that we saw were two small flocks of Golden Plover. One party of twenty and another of nine. They must be passage birds as the wintering flocks have been gone for several weeks.
Little Ringed Plover (c) Derek Lane
There has been a good passage of Yellow Wagtails with birds seen out in the fields and also being noted going to roost in the reedbed, on several evenings. Bullfinches are very much in evidence too, revealing their presence more often by their quiet call rather than the male’s stunning pink colour.
Male Bullfinch (c) Norman Smith
There is still a Short-eared Owl putting appearances around the reserve. On Sunday morning it was hunting over the eastern edge of Ashgrave. Barn Owls are also being seen both mornings and evenings along the bridleway and in the Carpark Field, occasionally coming very close to people. On Saturday evening one was seen to catch a vole and then sit on a post out in the open and eat it whole.
Barn Owl along the bridleway (c) Tom Nicholson-Lailey
The warmer weather has brought commoner butterflies out of hibernation and we have seen most of the species that overwinter as adults. We have yet to notice any Orange Tips.

Tatty Peacock (c) Tezzer..... Small Tort. (c) Tom Nicholson-Lailey

On Saturday evening a couple of Otmoor regulars were treated to a good sighting of an Otter in the northern lagoon. From its size they took it to be a male. One of the viewers has been coming to Otmoor for more years than me and it was the first he had seen. It just goes to show how elusive and secretive these beautiful creatures are.
The Grass Snakes beside the bridleway are proving to be very popular with visitors. When they lay out basking on flattened down reeds they are easy to find. It is good to be able to point them out to people who have never seen them before.
Two headed Grass Snake? (c) Tezzer
On Monday morning a Whitethroat was found over on the Oddington Side and a Cuckoo has been seen and heard over Ashgrave. This brings the current yearlist up to one hundred and twenty-six species.
We spent some time on Sunday trying to turn a distant raptor on a post on the far side of Greenaways into a Hobby. We were undecided and in the end and it went down as a “possible”. By next weekend it should be definite!
The showery weather has given us some stunning sunsets (c) Tom N-L


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  2. Re butterflies, I saw a year's first Orange Tip at Noke Farm around midday on Sunday