Tuesday, 26 July 2016

July 23rd - 25th

White Stork (c) Tezzer

We are still expecting to enter the midsummer “doldrums” but events on the moor keep happening to keep us interested and excited.
There are Common Cranes, Hobbies lots of Little Egrets and very frequent Bitterns. Unfortunately, the Turtle Doves are not so easily seen and heard at the moment and we have yet to see any evidence of juveniles, which is a bit worrying.
Juvenile Blue Tit (c) Derek Lane
There are lots of young birds in the hedgerows in mixed flocks. Elsewhere it is possible to find adult birds feeding youngsters, like the reed warblers that were being kept busy provisioning their just fledged chicks in the reeds beside the bridleway. The young birds were keeping up a persistent clamour to attract the attention of their parents.
Reed Warblers clamouring to be fed. (c) JR
There is plenty of food for the adult birds to find for their young. There are insects everywhere and mostly in profusion. There are certainly very large numbers of the biting horsefly types! The weather has not been so good for butterflies though; my purely subjective view is that there are not as many to be seen as we expect at this time of year. The first Brown Hairstreaks were seen at the weekend in their regular haunts and over the next few weeks they will be attracting good numbers of butterfly aficionados to the reserve. Dragonflies however, after a slow start, are really getting going and most open water has resident hawkers and chasers, while darters hunt from the hedgerows. The Hobbies are getting going earlier in the morning to take advantage of this more abundant food source. On Saturday morning there were two birds swooping low and fast along the ditches on the eastern side of Greenaways, jinking rapidly and then suddenly flying up with a dragonfly in the talons, eating it whilst on the wing and then resuming the hunt. When they come so close it is possible to really appreciate their speed and agility.
Common Tern with food (c) Derek Lane
Even though we have nearly reached the end of July there are still Snipe drumming over the reserve and it is possible to hear birds “chipping” on the ground. This suggests a long breeding season for our resident birds and more than one brood.
On Monday afternoon a White Stork was seen circling over and then landing on Ashgrave. It later moved to the sheep fields at Noke. Its tale is a fascinating one and can be read in full on the Oxon Birding Blog. It did not stay long but may very well be back as it seems to have been wandering around Oxfordshire for the last few weeks. Whether we will be able to retain a Polish Stork after Brexit is yet one more thorny issue thrown up by the referendum result!!
White Stork over the reserve (c) Tezzer
There are at least twenty Little Egrets on the reserve at the moment. They spend their time loafing on the leafless willows on the southern reedbed but fly out over the whole area to feed.
Loafing Egrets (c) Derek Lane
There are fish in the main lagoons, I saw one of the Great Crested Grebes catch two small pike at the weekend, but the deeper ring diches are extremely well stocked with fish both large and small. I am very surprised that they have not yet joined our list of breeding species, although I did notice an individual rearranging sticks on the far willow. They have also been spending time close to the Herons nest in the dead oaks on Ashgrave.
Great Crested Grebe with small pike (c) JR
We are still monitoring the increase in Bittern activity on and around the reedbeds. As yet we are unable to draw any firm conclusions from it but in time we may. Reedbeds are very difficult secret places to watch and deductions and conjectures are based on behaviour patterns and supposition rather than empirical evidence. If and when we do come to any conclusions they will be reported here.
Bittern in transit. (c) JR
The Great White Egret at Pit 60 is probably a wanderer from the established breeding population on the Somerset Levels. We have hosted several over the last few years and were this bird or some of the other dispersing individuals to realise just how well stocked with food our ditches are, then I am sure they will be back.
Male Redstart (c) Pete Roby
Long Meadow is once again hosting Redstarts, as it always seems to do at this time of year and also a Spotted Flycatcher yesterday. Sadly, they do not appear to have bred so close to the reserve as they did last year. The Bearded Tits from last week have very annoyingly gone quiet again, hopefully next week we can re-find them.
Sedgie (c) JR

Teazel (c) Derek Lane

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