Wednesday, 28 September 2016

September 24th and 25th

Sprawk over reedbed. (c) JR
Two weeks away from the moor and coming back it really felt like autumn. The palette of colours in the trees hedges and fields has changed. Faded greens, greys, golds and ochres are the order of the day. There are bright highlights from the haws and hips that make splashes of scarlet against the softer faded background. The weather reflected the changing season, chilly at first and then warmer as the sun emerged. It’s the time of year when it is impossible to get your clothing quite right.
Every week recently I have been expecting to hear that our long staying Purple Heron has not been seen for a while, but it is still with us. The weather has been fairly clement and perhaps it will take the first frost to persuade it to move south. It will be very interesting to see if it makes its migration and then comes back next year as an adult.
Another sign of Autumn was the sighting of my first Merlin of the season. On Saturday morning there was a male out on Greenaways sitting on a post. There are usually a couple of weeks at both ends of the year when Merlin and Hobbies overlap. Later on the Hobbies were up and about hunting the dragonflies that the sunshine had brought out. A Peregrine was seen on both days putting all the ducks to flight as it cruised over the reedbed. Most interesting raptor sighting was on Sunday in front of the first screen.
Sparrowhawks in front of the screen (c) JR
Two juveniles and one adult Sparrowhawk were sitting in the dead willows on the left side of the channel straight out from the screen. They made everything very nervous, the ducks swam over towards them to let them know that they knew they were there, a behaviour that used to be exploited in duck decoys. They flew off but one of the juveniles came back very quickly with a small prey item that it sat on the tree stump, plucked and then ate. It was difficult to work out exactly what it was but judging by colour it may have been a late Reed Warbler or one of the many Meadow Pipits that have turned up on Otmoor in the last week or so. The Merlin’s presence may also be a reflection of the number of Meadow Pipits that have arrived.
BHG (c) Bark
Snipe continue to feed and loaf around on the edges of the mud bank in front of the screen, except of course when three Sparrowhawks are sitting in the dead willow! On Saturday morning there was a small wader creeping amongst them, feeding rapidly and appearing completely dwarfed by them. We initially thought that just by its size it had to be a Little Stint. It did have two faint tramlines on its back and its behaviour was right for Little Stint. However, we thought that its bill was much too long for Little Stint. We started to speculate and struggled to get a reasonable picture of it. Eventually I took a picture of it on my phone through my scope and J.U. took a picture of the bird and then photographed the back of his camera with his phone. We sent both pictures off to the oracle, our County Recorder looked at them and pronounced it to be a Dunlin. Male Dunlins are smaller than females and without other small waders around estimating the size, which had totally misled us, is tricky. What was great was having the technology to get some sort of image, send it out and then get a clear id. Thanks to Ian for his help, perhaps next time it will be a Western Sandpiper!
Small wader (Dunlin) predtending to be something else record shot (c) Bark
The sunshine on both Saturday and Sunday had encouraged good numbers of Red admirals onto the wing. They looked very fresh and bright. Presumably they are the generation that will hibernate to appear again in the Spring.
Red admiral and blackberries (c) JR
Yellow Wagtails continue to feed around the cattle on both Greenaways and Big Otmoor, they seem to feed dangerously close to the feet and heads of these huge beasts. They will be moving on soon and we will be looking out for the first winter Thrushes that should arrive in the next couple of weeks. There is certainly a mass of food for them in the hedgerows.
Basking Common Lizards (c) Derek Lane

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