Wednesday, 15 June 2016

11th and 12th June

Common Tern (c) Tom N-L.

A quiet weekend again, as we expect at this particular stage of the year. The petals have all fallen from the hawthorns and the moor is as green as can be. The phragmites reeds have now grown up through last year’s sere dead stems and in a month will start showing their soft purplish tassels.

Feeding Whitethroats (c) Derek Lane

There is still a lot of avian activity to see with busy parent birds gathering food for nestlings and some early breeders looking to get second broods under way. On Saturday morning Snipe were very much in evidence along the bridleway. Birds were drumming overhead and “chipping” from the ground. One individual on Closes was calling from a prominent post. Snipe are yet again having a successful year on Otmoor. The breeding population has been increasing steadily. They have an interesting breeding strategy. They lay four eggs and when they hatch the young, as with all waders, are precocial and feed for themselves. What makes the Snipe special is the way in which two of the chicks go off with the male bird and two with the female. They go in different directions and so effectively double their chances of fledging at least some of their brood, by not having all their chicks together in the same place.

Chipping Snipe.  above (c) Pat Galka below (c) JR

A Bittern showed very well on Saturday morning first relocating in the southern lagoon and then showing for some time as it moved steadily around the edges of the reedbed.
Curlew (c) Pat Galka
Unlike the secretive Snipe chicks the Common Terns are very exposed out in the open on the Tern raft in the middle of the northern lagoon. Their parents however are extremely fierce in their defence of the young. I have seen them take on Red Kites, Marsh Harriers, corvids and Grey Herons should they venture too near to the raft. They have, however, allowed a family of Tufted Ducks to share the “island” with them.

defensive Common Terns (c) Tom N-L.

We are getting to the point now where if the Turtle Doves have bred successfully we will start to see juveniles. They are easily distinguished from the adults, lacking neck markings and having much duller drabber backs without the bright orange brown of the adults. In the past we have spotted them coming down to feed near the cattle pens and on the wires near the pump house. If anyone does see any juveniles or manages to get a picture we would be very pleased to hear about it.
Damsels mating (c) Derek Lane

Butterflies, Dragonflies and wildflowers are about to reach their summer peaks and will be there to enjoy over the coming weeks. The RSPB are hosting an Evening Wildflower Walk on the reserve on the 23rd June from 7pm until 9pm. This will allow members of the public to get out into our increasingly flower rich grassland and learn what’s there. Booking is essential as we need to know about numbers. Please call 01865 351163 to reserve a place and get additional details. It might prove to be an excellent way to avoid the media referendum hype and babble.
I will be looking for Black Hairstreak butterflies and listening out for Quail, altogether more satisfying activities, but perhaps not so important!
Bullfinch (c) Tom N-L.

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