Monday, 25 April 2016

Saturday and Sunday 23rd and 24th April

Gropper (c) JR
At the risk of sounding like some xenophobic rant from Nigel Farage, “migrants are continuing to pour in”! It was cool and breezy at the weekend, but the moor was still alive with birdsong and busily foraging new arrivals.
Bumble Bee gathering pollen (c) Norman Smith
The blackthorn is in full frothing bloom and provides an insect rich feeding ground for small passerines and highly picturesque song posts for territorial males in search of a mate.

Sedgie and Lesser Whitethroat (c) JR

Two Grasshopper Warblers were reeling in the car park field and along the track to the first screen. There were several other individuals both out at the pill and on the Oddington side. The bird along the path to the screen had clearly not read the manual and was the opposite of “skulking” (as the books insist on describing them) it reeled out its mechanical call from the top and sides of a bare willow.
Singing Sedgie (c) Derek Lane
I first heard and then saw my first Common Whitethroats of the year, while Lesser Whitethroats appear to have returned in good numbers, if judging by the number of singing males is anything to go by. Wrens were calling from almost every bramble often disputing loudly with close neighbours.
Wren (c) Derek Lane
At least two Cuckoos were present on Saturday, however at least five different individuals were about last Wednesday.
Cuckoo last week (c) Tom N-L
Over the reedbed on Saturday there was a mixed flock of all three common Hirundines. They were flying just above the reed tops and close to the water presumably feeding on an emerging hatch of flies. Amongst them were several Swifts the first I have seen this year and a little earlier than we expect to see them.
On Saturday two Common Terns were over the second lagoon feeding and shrieking.
Common Tern (c) JR
The Bar tailed Godwit from early last week has moved on but I was fortunate enough to find a lone Whimbrel on Noke sides early on Sunday morning it flew off giving its characteristic “seven whistles”. Out on the North Pill Ground and beyond seven Curlew were both seen and heard.
Greenshank Closes (c) Tom N-L
We observed some strange Redshank behaviour on Saturday morning out on Big Otmoor. Seven or eight individuals gathered around a small area and started performing a strange low hovering flight a few feet off the ground. As they did this they were joined by more and more individuals until there were twenty-five birds there taking it in turns to flutter and hover over the area. We could not hear any alarm calls but it was probably a mobbing activity, a Grass Snake perhaps or even a weasel. After five or so minutes they began to lose interest and drift away. There is always something new to see on Otmoor.
Redshank (c) Tom N-L
The large female Peregrine that has been seen regularly was there on both days this weekend. She can often be seen out on the posts on the far side of Greenaways and at other times out on the posts on Ashgrave some way up the hill.
I was unable to find a Whinchat this weekend but one had been seen earlier in the week. A search up near the farm at Noke and out out on the Pill failed to turn one up, but I did find three Wheatears feeding under and around the sheep and lambs on the short grass at Noke.
The first week in May is usually the time that Hobbies arrive en-masse and can be seen feeding on St Marks Flies as they drift across Greenaways. At least one has already arrived as can be seen in the superb pictures by Roger Wyatt of one being pursued by a Merlin in the skies above Greenaways. We have often noticed that these two species of falcon overlap by a couple of weeks in both Spring and Autumn.
We are now getting into the anxious period of waiting to see whether our Turtle Doves make it back to the moor. Let’s hope that they have wintered safely, that the weather on their migration has helped them on their way and they have avoided the barrage of shooters all the way here. Fingers crossed!

Roe Deer Swimming on Closes before being chased off by Lapwings (c) JR

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