Monday, 16 January 2017

Saturday 14th January

Reed Bunting (c) Bark
Yet another very disappointing weekend weather wise. Cold and sleety on Saturday and on Sunday it didn’t stop raining all day! Consequently, I only managed one visit to the moor. The rain, annoying as it is to be out in, is welcome. Most of our fields are still below the optimal water levels for this time of the year.
So wet even the Robin tried to get under cover (c) Bark

As the water levels rise I expect to see an increase in the number of Shovellers out on the scrapes and flooded areas. About three years ago when water levels were exceptionally high I remember counting over six hundred of them out on Greenaways filtering their food from the floodwater. There are at least fifty on the southern lagoon at the moment. They are frequently seen in pairs circling nose to tail, I had thought that this was some part of their courtship behaviour. Recently we have come around to thinking that the circling action sets up a vortex that draws water and food up from lower down in the water.
Shovelers (c) JR

Yet again all the expected raptor species were seen this weekend and there have been several reports of Merlin over the previous week, although none this weekend. Two Peregrines have clearly taken up winter quarters on the moor, the sheer abundance of Starlings must make life easy for all our raptor species. Lapwing numbers too are swelling noticeably although both they and the Golden Plover are much more mobile and erratic than in previous years. Large numbers of Golden Plover have been seen out on the arable fields on the western edge of the moor beyond the black sheep fields. For the first time in over ten visits I failed to see a Bittern today, which used to be normal and has now become worthy of note itself!
Framed Sheep on the way to the second screen (c) Bark

A Shelduck was swimming about on the huge, distant and difficult to see lagoon, that we have taken to referring to as Shangri-La. A distant unreachable promised land! This hard to watch scrape attracts a lot of birds largely because it is so remote and consequently undisturbed.
On Saturday morning, we walked up the path beside the hide to July’s Meadow and on up the path that goes round the southern edge of Ashgrave. The top of the field is starting to scrub up nicely now with isolated low bushes and briars. It might attract Grasshopper Warblers this spring but probably needs another year’s growth. From the path we were able to check out the huge mixed goose flock that was grazing at the top of the field. We were able to pick out the four White-fronted Geese and the lone Barnacle Goose that appears to consider itself a Canada Goose! We were also able to see the huge flock of Wigeon that were feeding on the far side of Ashgrave next to the water. Every once in a while, when a real or imagined threat was perceived they would flee back to the water from the grass with much splashing and whistled alarm calls.
Marsh Tit (c) JR

In the car park itself a Marsh Tit, the first recorded this year, was hopping about very boldly feeding on some spilt bird food. As the rain started to fall on Saturday morning the hide was the only comfortable place to be. The finch flock is still growing as wild food supplies in the wider countryside get exhausted or frozen in.

Reed Bunting above (c) Bark     Yellowhammer (c) JR
There is always plenty to see there and lots to search for among the more regular species. Tree Sparrow, Brambling or perhaps a Corn Bunting are three real possibilities, before dreaming about any of the rarer buntings. With so many birds present something special could just slip in under the radar.
Just 200 metres from my home but not on the moor yet (c) Bark

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