Tuesday, 9 August 2016

August 6th and 7th and Purple Heron

Purple Heron (c) Tezzer
Just when you think that the summer quiet time has arrived something special comes along to prove you wrong. Saturday and Sunday had been good days on the moor with some nice birds to be seen but certainly nothing especially out of the ordinary. This all changed about midday on Sunday.
I had shown an American relative and her husband around the moor. They are very keen birders and I had intended to write today about how, when one is taking people out who are not at all familiar with British birds you point out and take notice all of those birds that normally do not warrant a second glance. Things that we take for granted.
Bullfinch by the cattle pen (c) Derek Lane
For my cousin a Bullfinch was a lifer as was a Long Tailed Tit and a Kestrel. We had spent both Saturday and Sunday morning birding enthusiastically but had not really seen anything special and indeed had not seen several of the birds that I had hoped to show them. Saturday had been the epitome of a summers day with peerless blue skies and warm sunshine. Sunday was not quite so good starting cloudy and damp with a very strong blustery wind blowing.

Hungry Cuckoo  Top (c) JR  Lower (c) Derek Lane

The much photographed Cuckoo of last week had been joined by at least three other individuals although not all of them were visible. It certainly means that they have had a very successful breeding season this year with at least seven juvenile birds either seen or heard over the last three weeks.
Six Hobbies were seen both days hunting dragonflies over the MOD land around the Pill. There are now eight Mandarin Ducks that are spending their time either on the southern reedbed or on the Greenaways scrapes. There was some speculation that perhaps the clearance work that has been undertaken around the pools in Blenheim Park near the Coombe gate where they could often be seen, had prompted them to re-locate to the moor.

Mandarins on southern lagoon (c) JR and on Greenaways scrape (c) Pete Roby
As over the past few weeks Bitterns could occasionally be seen moving from one part of the reedbed to another. On Saturday a juvenile Little Ringed Plover was on one of the Greenaways scrapes adjacent to the bridleway, on Sunday there was an adult on the same island. The Common Cranes made their regular relocation flight both mornings flying between Big Otmoor and Greenaways. Bugling and flying quite low they passed very close to the first screen.
Cranes over flying a Kite (c) JR
The only other bird of note this weekend was a Grey Wagtail that flew along the bridleway while I was looking for the Heron. On Monday morning a Whinchat was seen long the fence line close to the cattle pens.
Just after midday on Sunday two visiting birders reported to the Volunteer Warden that they had seen a Purple Heron along the stone track that goes across Greenaways to the reedbed. He and several other people saw the bird flying with a couple of Grey Herons and a Little Egret. This loose group were quite flighty moving about on the northern side of Greenaways and disappearing for quite some time in the long grass and along the reed fringed ditches. They would often reappear some distance from where they had landed. I could only go down briefly as previously mentioned we were entertaining visitors. Whilst I was there watching a Bittern flew up from the last place that it had been seen to land and I had one of those doubting moments. Fortunately, but also annoyingly, just after I left it was relocated a long way once again from where it had last been seen to land. Since then it has been mobile on both Greenaways and Big Otmoor and as I write on Monday morning it was still present on Greenaways.
The heron (c) Tezzer

I estimate that this is probably the thirteenth record for Oxfordshire and the second for Otmoor. Interestingly the last bird recorded in the county arrived on the 11th August 2007 at Pinkhill, where it stayed for a couple of days. Just over a week later what we presume to be the same bird was later relocated on Otmoor out on Big Otmoor. Always a pleasure to see, this bird is, like the last, one a juvenile. It has distinctive rufous brown wings, a dark back and a very distinctive flight posture with a sharply keeled and angular neck. It may well stay in the vicinity for some time as there is a good supply of fish in the ditches and insects in the grass. This could become a very exciting late summer and autumn, if the last two weeks are anything to go by.
Hornets building on the eaves of the hide (c) JR

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