Wednesday, 3 August 2016

30th and31st July

Juvenile Cuckoo (c) Norman Smith
Once again the “slack” time of the year failed to live up to its reputation with lots to be seen and enjoyed on the moor. We have picked up three additions to the yearlist over the week, a Yellow Legged Gull on Saturday, a brief visit from a Great White Egret in the middle of last week and two female Mandarin Ducks on Sunday afternoon, which had increased to six on Monday. These have pushed the moribund yearlist up to a more respectable hundred and forty-one species, after being stuck at one hundred and thirty-eight for what seemed like weeks.
Female Mandarins (c) Badger
Yellow Legged Gull (c) Derek Lane
Cuckoos appear to have had a successful breeding season on the reserve. I know of at least four different individuals that have been seen and heard over the last few weeks. One individual and its attendant Reed Warblers drew a crowd over the weekend. This particular Cuckoo is flying quite strongly now and will not be dependent on its surrogate parents for much longer. It was in the vicinity of the bridge to the hide and although it could often be heard it was much harder to see well, frequently being fed on the opposite side of the hedge to where we were standing. Patience paid off for some photographers as the excellent photos that I have been sent show. The discrepancy in size between the Warblers and their giant progeny is vast. In some of the pictures it looks as if the Cuckoo could swallow the warbler whole while it stokes the juveniles seemingly insatiable appetite.
Young Reed Warblers (c) JR
Although it seems hard on the warblers there are still plenty of them raising conventional broods in the ditches and of course the reedbed. The young Cuckoos will undertake their migration unaccompanied, guided solely by instinct to equatorial Africa, where I understand they will spend at least a year before coming back to breed.( more pics at the end of the blog)
Cuckoo and foster parent (c) Tom N-L
The warm dry weather of the last week has meant that many more butterflies are on the wing. The shelter of the Roman Road is a great place to see them. As well as Speckled Woods and the occasional Comma there were some very pristine Red Admirals present on Saturday and Sunday. High in the ash trees there were both Purple and Brown Hairstreaks whirling around, but unfortunately while I was there they were not coming down to nectar.
Speckled Wood (c) Andy Last

Red Admiral (c) Derek Lane
Hover Fly (c) Tom N-L
There are a smattering of waders coming through, a Greenshank on Saturday and a juvenile Little Ringed Plover in front of the hide on Sunday. Parties of Snipe can often be seen flying fast and low over the reedbed, when some mud finally appears in front of the first screen we will be able to watch them feeding along the margins in their amazingly cryptic plumage.
There are very many Little Egrets feeding across the whole reserve with large numbers scattered over Big Otmoor as the pools out there shrink it must make for easy pickings.

Little Egrets      Top (c) JR   Below (c) Tom N-L
The juvenile Marsh Harrier was seen both days across the reedbed and over Big Otmoor. The Common Cranes are still present and as usual were only really seen well as they flew, apart from those occasions it was just distant views of their heads as they fed in the long grass on the northern edge of Greenaways.
Bittern (c) Norman Smith
Bitterns are still being seen in flight over the reedbed including a third individual we had not seen before, I will be writing much more about the Bitterns in the next week or so.
Weasel on the path (c) Andy Last
There is clearly a family of weasels along the path to the first screen. We had excellent views of two young ones on Sunday morning. They moved very rapidly and in a fluid way across and along the path. Grass Snakes are currently easy to spot around the pump house at the start of the bridleway. They have even been spotted sunbathing on the top of the nestbox that is fixed above the door.
Grass Snakes on the nest box (c) Andy Last

Passage migrants will start to turn up over the next few weeks with their numbers rising during the month. In the late summer and autumn they stay much longer with us than in spring, when the urge to establish a breeding territory and find a mate drives them on quickly. They will feed up and sometimes moult into winter plumage so they are ready to undertake the return to their wintering grounds. You can be certain that we will be out looking for the first returning Wheatears next weekend.
Cuckoo Supplement.
Thanks to Andy Last, Norman Smith and Tom Nicholson Lailey


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  2. Love to see the Cuckoo! . Worried about their habitats! IS their any issue regarding reduction of habitats for pollution?