Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Saturday and Sunday 2nd and 3rd April

Drake Gadwall (c) JR
April is one of the very best months for birding and it has certainly started off well on the moor. The weather both days was excellent, mostly sunny, with a gentle southerly breeze helping to  bring in a steady flow of migrants, providing fresh additions for the year list.

Two chiffies top (c) JR bottom (c) Derek Lane
Getting out of the car on Saturday morning I was greeted by a Blackcap singing loudly from the top of one of the willows. a couple of Willow Warblers were calling from the Roman road area and Chiffchaffs seemed to be everywhere both vocal and silent. In addition Cetti’s would seem to have survived the winter successfully, we heard at least five individuals calling along the length of the bridleway, out at the screens and one individual from the reedbed. It really is really amazing how quickly they have come back from their very local extinction, just three years ago.

Near drowning Shovellers(c) JR
Tufties after a female (c) JR
Frantic courting, nest building and mating is going on everywhere. Some of the duck species are particularly rough in their mating behaviours and it is a wonder that more females are not drowned in the procreative process. Single females are often pursued by noisy bachelor parties of potential suitors.
Bachelor party in hot pursuit (c) Derek Lane
In contrast a pair of mute swans mating in front of the second screen on Sunday were perfectly graceful and sinuous, their post coital neck entwining was positively balletic. Perfect inspiration for Swan Lake choreographers.
Out on Big Otmoor, the Closes and Greenaways the first Lapwing nests have been found. Numbers at this stage are looking very positive. Redshanks are almost everywhere, calling chasing and displaying, when they land raising their wings like white banners to proclaim their arrival.
Redshank (c) JR
Some interesting birds were seen last week. A fly through male Hen Harrier was very notable and a Tree sparrow on the feeders midweek was a very welcome find. We are very hopeful that our feeding programme and the sowing of both grain and wildflowers along the southern edges of the Closes will help to entice this one time resident back.
Marsh Harrier (c) JR
Marsh Harriers are ever present with four seen on both days this weekend. A couple of Peregrines are showing up frequently one of which spends quite some time sitting out on a post on Greenaways. It is a large juvenile female by the look of it, the other is clearly much smaller and almost certainly male. There is still one Short Eared Owl on the moor it was seen on Sunday being harassed by a Carrion Crow, as usual it flew higher and higher until the corvid lost interest, it then descended onto the far side of the moor. There is also a Barn Owl showing both morning and evening in the car park field and along the bridleway.
Heron under pressure from Harrier (c) Tezzer
and Kites (c) Tezzer
Snipe are drumming and are venturing over The Closes as well as their regular flight path above Greenaways. On Sunday we had one flying and “chipping” at the same time as it descended, something we hadn’t observed before. We had thought that it was a sound that they only made from the ground. A Greenshank seen flying from the Closes onto Greenaways was another new bird for the year as were a number of Swallows, we have still to record House Martins on Otmoor this year. Two fine male Wheatears were seen on Saturday one out on Noke sides the other on Big Otmoor. A Yellow Wagtail was seen later on Sunday coinciding with their arrival at other sites in the county. We have noticed Tree Creepers in a couple of places around the reserve. They are probably under recorded as they are so secretive and quiet they often go unnoticed.

Tree Creepers (c) JR
Hares too are getting amorous and with one particular thing in mind they can lose their inhibitions about how near to people they will go!
Haring hare (c) Francis Josephs
On both days this weekend Grass Snakes could be found lying out in the sun on the flattened reed stems beside the bridle way. It is perfectly sheltered there and allows them to get their metabolism up and running.
Grass Snake (c) JR
Over the next week more new migrants will arrive and the dawn chorus will get louder and gain new voices.
Dunnock bringing Flowers! (c) JR

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