Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Last weekend in June

Juvenile Robin (c) JR

Ignoring the seismic shocks that have rent our world, with two European exits inside a week, the natural world has begun to quieten down as it always does at this time of year. Wildlife has just had to cope with some horrendous weather events including a series of torrential downpours that have kept water levels on the moor higher than one might expect in late June. One cannot help wondering how small birds and insects survive in such heavy hailstorms. I have seen trees stripped of leaves and many birds up to the size of doves killed by huge hailstones in South Africa fortunately our storms were not quite that severe.
Sedgie (c) Derek Lane
On the moor there are warblers still singing, probably looking to have second broods. A Grasshopper Warbler was in the Carpark Field on Sunday and a very easily seen Garden Warbler was very vocal half way along the bridle path to the hide. There are also still both Sedge and Reed Warblers staking out territories.
The first juvenile Cuckoo of the year was found on Sunday morning along the bridle way. We picked it up first from its harsh begging call and eventually saw it being fed by its Reed Warbler foster parents. This weekend was the first this summer when we neither heard nor saw adult cuckoos, they will already be off on their way back to Africa.
Early morning Muntjac (c) JR
Over the past few weeks we have noticed much more activity from Bitterns. They or it, I am not sure of numbers, are flying more readily from area to area and are much more obvious. It would be helpful to know just how frequently they are being seen and whether or not they are favouring certain locations. It may just be that they are pursuing different food sources, there are large numbers of froglets and toadlets hopping about in the wet grass.
Still purring (c) JR

As more dragonflies are emerging so the Hobbies are beginning to hunt much earlier in the morning, larger numbers of the hawkers and chasers are now on the wing after a slow start to the summer. There were two Hobbies perching on posts and feeding over Greenaways on both days this weekend.
Mrs Tufty and family (c) JR
Butterflies too are getting going and last weekend I saw my first Marbled White of the year. Dry sunny days that encourage butterflies out have been in short supply so far. I have not had any reports of Black Hairstreaks being seen in the Roman Road area where we have seen them in previous summers, they should be on the wing by now.
Leveret (c) Derek Lane
There are a number of leverets out and about on the reserve. There is one individual however close to the first screen that must be one of the most photographed Hares in the country. It is feeding in a very picturesque spot that is full of wildflowers especially Yellow Rattle and Buttercups. This area was the space set aside beside the screen for people viewing the starling roost. By the time the roost finished it was a Glastonbury-like sea of mud which just shows how readily nature can renew itself.
Leveret (c) JR
Finally, the two Common Cranes that are probably Otmoor’s least well-kept secret are often being seen in flight between the MOD land and Greenaways. The grass in both areas is now so tall that they vanish as soon as they land, with just the odd view of their heads coming up like periscopes to check around before disappearing again. They are the same pair that came last year. This year they arrived earlier and from all their behaviour we are certain that they made another breeding attempt. Again from their behaviours we are sure that they were much more successful than last year. Sadly they did not fledge a chick or chicks but hatched and were out of the nest with young for approximately three weeks before something happened to their progeny. We have no way of knowing what but some predation event is likely. These birds live a long time and so failure to breed on a regular basis does not matter quite so much. Our birds were of course more mature this year but still need to learn the best way of protecting their chicks. Better luck next time.
Cranes above (c) Tezzer below (c) Derek Lane. Both pics from earlier this spring

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