Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Saturday and Sunday 7th and 8th May

Cetti's Warbler (c) Pat Galka

The temperature contrast between this and last weekend could not have been greater. Birds across the moor are singing and establishing territories making up for the cold start to spring. On an early morning survey last week, the dawn chorus was exceptional. We were surveying hedgerows on the Oddington side and were staggered by the sheer numbers of Sedge Warblers. It must be optimal habitat for them, during our circuit of the Flood Field alone we counted a minimum of twenty-four singing males.
Sedgie (c) JR
Reedy (c) JR
We also heard and saw two Grasshopper Warblers in places that we had not found them before. One individual was so close I could almost have touched it; it was of course one of those occasions when I was not carrying my camera!
We have experienced a really good passage of waders over the last couple of weeks. A Wood Sandpiper was out on Big Otmoor and stayed around for at least two days. A Whimbrel was seen last weekend and at least twice during the week, another or the same bird was heard calling on Sunday morning. On Saturday we saw a group of large and small waders flying and then settling out in the middle of Big Otmoor. The larger waders were male Ruff in breeding plumage. One of them looked at first like a summer plumaged male Spotted Redshank it was so black. It was only when it moved out from amongst the sedges and we could scope it that we could clearly identify it. One of the others was dark but not as black and the third was a buffy cream colour. The small waders turned out to be eight Ringed Plovers and three Dunlin. There are now little groups of Lapwing chicks all over the field, shepherded and guarded by their anxious parents. We also managed to pick out some Redshank chicks.
Gosling ahhhh! (c) JR
There are many families of geese mostly Canadas and Greylags but there are also some weird hybrids out there the Barnacle goose has a Canada goose in tow and the Ross’s Geese seem intent on producing even more strange hybrids. It may be that the high density of geese and goslings takes some of the pressure off the Lapwings and the Redshanks, offering predators more choice and also distracting them.

Cuckoos   top (c) Derek Lane   lower (c) JR
Cuckoos are ever present and we we have one individual that looks to have had a close run in with a predator, it has no tail at all! This does not seem to have prevented it from calling and displaying alongside other fully feathered cuckoos.
We were able to confirm that there are at least two Turtle Doves present and we hope that others will join them and later on we will be able to confirm breeding this year, something we were unable to do in 2015. It was galling to hear the facile and pathetic arguments and justifications put forth by a representative of the Maltese hunting fraternity on BBC Countryside last night. They flout the EU directive banning spring migrant hunting and yet were given a platform to attempt to state that their sporting activity did not harm the Turtle Dove population. I feel they should not have been given the oxygen of publicity or indeed the oxygen of oxygen! At least while here our birds will have a good chance to breed and build up for the challenges of autumn migration.
Back on its perch (c) Derek Lane
The Common Terns are already eying up the tern raft and we thought that there were two pairs present on Saturday morning. They are very aggressive and were quite prepared to take on any overflying gulls or harriers.
An overflying Osprey was seen in the week, an annual bird but seldom one that sticks around. Five Hobbies were over the moor on Thursday evening and we are getting to the time of year when we host our highest concentration of these falcons.

Common Terns (c) JR

Two different Spotted Flycatchers were seen on Saturday. One was in the hedge beside the track to Noke and the other in the Roman Road area. I hope they will breed nearby this year as they seem to have done last year.
Spot Fly (c) Pete Roby
We have now recorded one hundred and thirty-five species for the year and now adding to that list becomes much more difficult. I expect that Quail will be the next assuming of course that they have not all been blasted out of the sky en route!
Goldfinch (c) Derek Lane

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