Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Saturday and Sunday 22nd and 23rd October

Juvenile Stonechat (c) Bark
On Saturday morning the moor was foggy, the dullness rendered the light grey and any colour washed out and flat. The mist finally lifted to low cloud just as I was leaving at midday. Sunday was much better. As the slight mist lifted into low cloud and the sun came through the autumn colours glowed out from the hedgerows. Yellows, reds and ochres emerging in the vegetation as the chlorophyll in the leaves recedes, allowing the true colours of the leaves to appear.

Autumn colour (c) Bark

The birdlife reflected the season too with substantial numbers of both Fieldfares and Redwings present, both feeding in the hedgerows and passing overhead. The “chacking” chuckling call of the Fieldfares will very soon become a familiar component of the winter soundscape.
Moulting Shoveller (c) JR

Out at the reedbed winter wildfowl numbers are steadily rising. Teal especially are up on last week and more of them are showing signs of fresh breeding plumage as they come out of eclipse. A few Shoveller are now out of eclipse too and starting to show brighter colours. Amongst the most obvious things at the the first screen are the unprecedented number of Cormorants. On Sunday morning I counted seventeen. They were both in the water and also loafing about, some with their wings spread in a heraldic pose on the long muddy spit at the back of the southern lagoon. There seemed to be a regular, steady transit of these birds coming and going all morning, which suggests that they were not there to feed but more to rest and roost in some safety. It seems unlikely that the reedbed lagoons would hold enough fish stock to sustain and satisfy such a large resident population.

Cormorants        Above (c) Mark Chivers      Below (c) JR

On Sunday morning the Marsh Harriers were very much in evidence. There were three together two adults and a juvenile, it seems reasonable to deduce that they were the resident birds with the chick from this summer. The juvenile was distinctive not just in its colouration but because it was missing primary ten and possibly nine from its left wing. This looked more like damage rather than a regular moult. By the afternoon the juvenile was no longer around.
Juvenile Marsh Harrier with feather detaching. (c) Bark
The two adult Marsh Harriers had been joined by a ring-tailed Hen Harrier. The Starling roost yesterday was hugely enlivened by both this bird, a Merlin, a Sparrowhawk and two Buzzards. To get the full flavour of the experience I have reprinted below the e-mail I received yesterday from Steve Roby, who was there with his brother Pete:

“It really turned out to be a great evening on the moor, a Hen Harrier put in numerous appearances over the reed bed, riding the wind and diving in and out of the reeds after whatever it was hunting. At one time it was there together with both male and female Marsh Harriers. We had first noticed it from the second screen being relentlessly harassed by a female Sparrowhawk, flying up and down by the flood field. It absolutely made our day to see this wonderful species on the moor once again and we were buzzing.

The roost didn't start until around 17.15 but once it got going thousands of birds turned up very quickly and put on a very good display. The Sparrowhawk came through more than once and a Marsh Harrier turned up to chase out all the Starlings after they had dropped into the reeds for the first time. In fact it shortly came reasonably close to the first screen where we could see it had caught something, most likely a starling. However a Buzzard had also been keeping watch, waiting for its chance, and it now proceeded to dramatically harass the harrier until it dropped the prize, which was smartly caught, low over the water by its persecutor. This buzzard was then attacked by another trying to pull the same trick and they were last seen grappling together towards Greenaways. The poor old harrier went on to try again which kept things interesting for quite some time.
Both Harrier pics (c) Pete Roby
There were about 50 each of Pied Wagtail and Fieldfare and a single Kingfisher shot past the screen. Although there had been many thousands of starlings in the main murmuration at least the same amount came in from the north-east to pour into the roost in two huge flocks, Pete estimated around 20,000 birds in total and I wouldn't disagree. Finally a small powerful falcon was looking for a late dinner and we were absolutely delighted to see a Merlin twice fly above the roost.  

No sign of a Barn Owl on the way back but we weren't worried, and anyway a couple of Tawny's serenaded us as we packed up the car. What a brilliant place.”
Steve Roby.

Linnets  Above (c) JR  below (c) Bark
There were much larger numbers of Linnets in the vicinity of the hide on Saturday morning. We estimated at least one hundred and twenty, there were also Chaffinches, Reed Buntings and one Yellowhammer among the mixed flock. There were a very obliging pair of Stonechats along the path to the second screen, so intent on picking up insects that they allowed a very close approach. Other Stonechats were recorded out at the Pill and at Noke. Kingfishers were seen from the hide and at both screens.

Bitterns     Above (c) JR   below (c) Bark
Bitterns were seen on both days. They appear to be feeding in the ditches around Greenaways and are often spotted when flying back towards the reedbed. I heard three different Cetti’s Warblers calling from the reedbed on Saturday morning but sadly I failed to hear the “pinging” that I was hoping for. A flock of erupting Bearded Tits really would be the cherry on the top of the Otmoor cake.
Wilding Apples and Stonechat (c) Bark

1 comment:

  1. On Friday around 1pm a bittern flew out of the reeds in front of the first screen and 50-60 snipe were there too.