Monday, 11 April 2016

Saturday and Sunday 9th and 10th April

Fireflirt (c) Tezzer

Spring is really underway and despite a stiff breeze at times and occasional showers the weekend was often sunny and it felt warm once the nightime chill had worn off.
There have been some unexpected visitors over the past few days. Most unexpected was a stunning, summer plumaged Black-necked Grebe that swam into sight at the first screen on Friday morning and stayed around for most of the day. The last record of this species on Otmoor was a winter plumage bird that turned up in October 1999 and stayed for several days.

Black necked Grebe Upper(c) JR lower (c) Derek Lane
The next unexpected visitors, although not so uncommon as the Grebe, were a pair of Avocets, brilliantly picked out on the far reaches of Big Otmoor by Pete Roby. They stayed all day and into the evening, they seemed very settled and were indulging in some courtship behaviour. Sadly, by Sunday morning they had disappeared, it might well be that they have decamped to one of the quieter and less populous parts of the reserve such as the Flood Field or Maltpit. Big Otmoor is busy, holding large numbers of nesting geese and also several pairs of Black Headed Gulls that seem to be preparing to breed.
Distant Avocets (c) JR

As we predicted last week both Sedge Warbler and Reed Warbler returned. Sedge warbler on Wednesday and on Saturday a singing Reed Warbler calling from the depths of the reedbed at the second screen. Elsewhere Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers were ubiquitous. In the vicinity of the carpark there were several competing Blackcaps. One visitor thought that he had heard Grasshopper Warbler in the Carpark Field but sadly it was not possible to corroborate the record. Cetti’s are being heard all the way to Noke and out at the reedbed.

Redstarts Upper (c) JR lower (c) Tezzer

On Sunday we found three male Redstarts in Long Meadow brilliant in their best summer plumage, but by Monday morning they appeared to have moved on. They are one of the most spectacular and exotic looking British birds that are fairly easy to see. There were several Wheatears seen. A couple of females feeding among the sheep at Noke and other single birds on Greenways and Noke Sides. On Saturday at least fifteen Yellow Wagtails were out on Big Otmoor and a smaller number of them were seen going to roost in the reedbed at dusk.

Oystercatchers (c) JR

Noke Sides is still a good place to find waders. On Sunday there were two Little Ringed Plovers scuttling about in the grass, a Dunlin was also there and we found a Common Sandpiper as well. In recent years this has not been an easy bird to find on Otmoor. There are still lots of Redshanks feeding alongside the wet features in the field and a number of what seem to be unmated Lapwings.
Redshank (c) JR
The Bittern put in several appearances this weekend, both when relocating within the reedbed and also when flushed by one or other of the Marsh Harriers. The Harriers were ever present and it was not clear whether there were three or four individuals. A pair of Common Buzzards were seen frequently one individual appearing particularly pale. As last week the female Peregrine spent some time sitting out on one of the posts at the far side of Greenaways and from time to time this bird or its mate would send the remaining ducks into panic. All but a handful of Wigeon have now gone but the Garganey are still with us although very elusive, they obliged by putting in an appearance when the Grebe was holding centre stage on Friday. Two Shelduck have also been present on Ashgrave and occasionally out on Noke Sides
Shelduck (c) JR
The Grey Herons that are nesting in the reedbed are putting on a great show in front of the first screen, but I am not sure whether the nests out from the hide in the old gnarled oak tree are still being occupied.
Grass Snake (c) JR
Both Grass Snakes and Common Lizards could be seen taking advantage of the sunshine at the weekend. The Snakes basking on the flattened reeds beside the bridleway and the Lizards on the logs and tiles by the first screen.
Finally, there have been a couple of Rabbits spotted by the first screen and I saw one myself in the carpark a week or so ago. They are very unusual to find so far down the hill and on the wetter ground. If you live in a burrow a floodplain is not a very safe place to set up home!

Vociferous wren (c) JR

Avocets on Big Otmoor courtesy of Badger please view at 720p.

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