Monday, 15 August 2016

Saturday and Sunday 13th and 14th August

Purple Heron (c) JR
The Purple Heron was still the star of the show this weekend, but like many human celebrities was becoming more and more reclusive making infrequent and unpredictable appearances. On Saturday it spent a lot of time in the northern reedbed. People coming to see it waited patiently and occasionally impatiently, in the first and second screens, only for it to appear up over Greenaways briefly before hiding away again in one of the ditches. Clearly reluctant to face its public and their cameras. I was fortunate enough to see it very well and quite close on Saturday morning when, for some unknown reason, it flushed out of the reedbed along with three Grey Herons. It attempted to perch in an oak tree adjacent to the track to the second screen before flying back over into the eastern side of the reedbed.
Attempting to land in an oak (c) JR

There was however a good supporting cast of other birds to keep everyone interested and entertained. Bitterns were still flying back and forth low in front of the first screen, particularly frequently on Saturday morning. There are several different individuals differentiated by their subtly different colouring, the degree of abrasion on their wing tips and nicks or gaps in their primaries.

There are eight Mandarin ducks still spending most of their time on the southern lagoon. They are very elegant birds even in eclipse, with delicate white eye lines. On Sunday six of them were sitting along the main trunk of the dead willow in front of the first screen looking very exotic. There was some speculation as to what the noun of aggregation is for Mandarins. Two suggestions seemed most apposite PG’s “a Mikado” or perhaps JR’s contribution “a tin”!

Mandarins (c) JR

The Common Cranes have been moving between Greenaways and Big Otmoor, always seeming to fly in unison with synchronised wing beats and making stately progress. They were also visible on the far side of the field on Saturday stalking through the grass and feeding, although the distant scope views were hazy and shimmering. All three of the resident Marsh Harriers were seen over the weekend. They are now hunting separately and the juvenile seems to be independent.
Sedgie (c) JR

More passage migrants are appearing. There were a remarkable thirteen Redstarts in Long Meadow on last Wednesday and on Sunday as we stood on the bridleway scanning for the Heron we spotted three Whinchats out in the middle of Greenaways. There had also been three at the Pill on Saturday. A Wheatear was spotted out on Greenaways on Saturday and was seen to move on towards the Noke end. At least seven Yellow Wagtails were on and around the barn and farmhouse at Noke on Sunday but the grass is just too long in the sheep field to see them really well.
Juvenile Cuckoo (c) JR

Another different juvenile Cuckoo was being fed in the hedgerow beside the bridleway giving patient photographers some excellent photo opportunities. Other mixed parties of warblers and tits could be found everywhere but particularly along the bridleway. Flocks of adult and juvenile Goldfinches are feeding on seeding thistles and on the maturing Teasels. Starlings are beginning to gather in post breeding flocks and I understand that there is already a large number coming in to the reedbed to roost. The juveniles often appear to have whitish heads and at a distance can be difficult to see as simply starlings!
Linnets are looking very smart (c) JR

I hope that the Purple Heron hangs around a bit longer but if its current pattern continues we will only realise it has gone when we haven’t seen it for a few days.

Common Cranes on Otmoor please view at 720p HD

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