Tuesday, 3 May 2016

May Bank Holiday

Whinchat (c) JR

As I got out of my car on Sunday morning I heard the sound that I had anxiously been hoping for, a Turtle Dove purring out his soft summer song. Some of my friends had already gone ahead of me and I called them up and called them back. The bird had been up in the big willows by the gate but transferred into the Roman Road while I was waiting for the others to get back to see it. It called a couple of times and then flew into the MOD land. I was worried that perhaps with wishful thinking I had imagined it, but once the others joined me we walked along the lane and looked over the gate to the rifle range. We finally picked it out at the top of one of the large oaks. It was preening and calling occasionally. I had assumed that it would be reported again later in the day but I have not heard that it has been seen again. Is it one of our resident birds returning or just a passage wanderer? Only the next few weeks will tell, but at least one of these much persecuted beautiful icons of summer has made it here.
Garden Warbler (c) Pete Roby
As well as being thrilled to find the Turtle Dove there was very much more to be found and enjoyed. Ten species of Warbler were seen and heard this weekend with the arrival of Garden Warbler completing the suite of warblers that we expect on Otmoor each summer. We found two singing in competition with each other along the bridle way towards Noke. They showed well in the open appearing somewhat stout, more like rather plain chats than delicate warblers.
Reed warbler (c) JR
From the reeds beside the bridle way Reed Warblers kept up their steady rhythmic chorus, while Sedge warblers belted out their frantic and chaotic songs building to a crescendo until their passion drives them to fly straight up into the air and then parachute down still singing lustily. Cetti’s Warblers are present across the moor in really good numbers, the mild winter has helped them back to the kind of population that we had before their numbers crashed to zero in the harsh winter several years ago. Although they essentially have the same volume and structure to their calls we commented this weekend that individuals have subtly different songs which you could almost describe as different accents. The Grasshopper Warbler that has taken up residence along the path to the first screen continued to show well at close range whilst reeling away, however it was attracting many more photographers than potential mates.

Gropper and Sedgie (c) Derek lane

As we walked along the bridleway on Sunday Snipe drummed overhead and Skylarks could be heard continuously. At Noke there are still Wheatears passing through, favouring the short grass sheep fields as they have done all spring. There was a White Wagtail out amongst the sheep on Sunday the first that I have seen this spring on Otmoor.
There have been more waders coming through on passage. This weekend we found a Greenshank, a Ruff and a Common Sandpiper on Big Otmoor. During a survey that I was doing on Thursday we found eight Dunlin on the Flood Field along with a single Ringed Plover.
Oystercatcher (c) JR
The lone female juvenile Peregrine attracted a lot of attention as it sat on one of the posts on the far side of Greenaways. It is a very pale bird and is very large. Marsh Harriers continue to patrol the reed beds and the Red Kites are often high over Big Otmoor with an eye out for a meal. They are mobbed in large numbers by Lapwings that now have small vulnerable chicks on the ground. There are also many geese with small goslings although the parent geese are not easily intimidated by potential predators. A single Hobby sat out on one of the Greenaways posts on Sunday and will undoubtedly be joined by others in the next couple of weeks.

Defensive Lapwings and a Chick (c) Tom N-L

We saw a good variety of mammals this weekend with Roe Deer and a limping Muntjac, boxing Hares and a Fox that helped itself to the contents of a Lapwings nest on the Closes, while being dive bombed by the frantic birds. Provided the eggs had not hatched the Lapwings will try again, hopefully next time within the anti-predator fence on Big Otmoor.

Cuckoo and limping Muntjac (c) JR

1 comment:

  1. Wow, beautiful photographs. I was looking for Bank holiday site but just found it: www.bankholidayslist.com