Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Saturday and Sunday 11th and 12th February

Redwing (c) Tom N-L
It is often said that to truly appreciate a place one should see it all its different moods, if that is the case this week Otmoor was deeply depressed and dolorous. It was unremittingly grey and colourless with sleet and drizzle. I had the feeling that it couldn’t even be bothered to snow or rain with any conviction or effort.
                                         There is a leuchistic Reed Bunting by the hide.

The birds were keeping their heads down, except along the path by the hide where the winter feeding is being carried out. The lack of seeds and food for finches is approaching the most critical part of the year and there were very large numbers of the usual seed eating species feeding on the ground and occasionally flushing up into the hedgerow beside the track. It was good to see at least ten Yellowhammers amongst them and very pleasing to see twelve Stock Doves on the ground, although they are wary of venturing too close to the hide. They are overlooked beauties with the subtlest range of greys and purples in their plumage, which I have to say looks very much better in sunshine, which this weekend was totally absent.
Stock dove (c) Bark
Fieldfare (c) Tom N-L
As we arrived in Saturday morning the sky across Ashgrave and big Otmoor was filled with birds clearly flushed by a major predator like a Peregrine. Ducks, Lapwings and Golden Plover made up the bulk of them but there were several hundred starlings scattered amongst them. We walked half way along the bridleway towards Noke, Big Otmoor was thronged with birds and we estimated several thousands of both Lapwing and Goldies. There were also closely packed parties of Wigeon moving grazing on the grass, but close enough to get into the water if they felt threatened. I spoke to Fergus the Assistant Warden who had just arrived and told him of these huge numbers of birds. I met him again an hour later and he said that the highest count he had had was about forty Wigeon. It was the same on Sunday morning in the same places that I had seen huge numbers of birds on Saturday there was just a smattering. I have just heard from the Reserve staff that when they did the WEBS count this morning the numbers were right back up again close to the winter maxima. The duck count included nearly one hundred Pintail.
Throng of Lapwings on Monday (c) Tom N-L
As is usual on a large reserve like Otmoor with a range of different habitats, the “hotspots” change with the seasons. Despite the fluctuation in numbers Big Otmoor is definitely the place to watch at the moment. It is looking great for both ducks and waders. On Sunday we heard a Grey Plover calling from the northern edge of the field or perhaps even Noke Sides. We were unable locate it on the ground but nonetheless it is the ninetieth species to be recorded this year on the moor.
hare last weekend when it wasn't so wet (c) Bark
Up in the scrubby area on the higher part of Ashgrave there are two pairs of Stonechats. They are taking advantage of the rough scrub that is growing up and the shelter of Sling Copse.

Peregrine and Marsh Harriers as well as the ubiquitous Kites were the most obvious raptors this weekend. Sadly the Short-eared Owl has abandoned its regular perch in the car park field. I hope it has gone through choice and not because it was disturbed by anyone. The warmer weather forecast this week should start to bring in the first of our breeding Redshanks and for the next four months every visit will be accompanied by their calls.
Shovellers (c) Bark

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