Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Saturday and Sunday 4th and 5th February

Yellowhammer (c) Derek Lane

It was an exceptionally “birdy” weekend on the moor. There were new species for the year list and also a first for Otmoor (not tickable)! Most exciting however were the sheer numbers of birds to be seen. The wet weather of last week has meant that water levels have risen and Ashgrave and especially Big Otmoor are optimal for large numbers of birds.
Golden Plovers and Lapwings are predominant with conservative estimates of over three thousands of each. It is very difficult to be accurate as both species are broken into separate large flocks and are moving from field to field. It is sometimes possible to track the progress of an over-flying Peregrine or Harrier as different flocks take flight in sequence across the whole reserve.
Snipe and Teal from the first screen (c) JR
Big Otmoor is also perfect now for ducks. There are several hundred Shoveller taking advantage of the newly flooded grasslands. There were very large flocks of Wigeon grazing across both this field and Ashgrave. Out in the middle we counted more than twenty five Pintail, both displaying to the females and also upending to feed. Teal are spread across the whole of the moor now but are concentrated on the reedbed, they too are present in significant numbers. On the northern reedbed there are pairs of Gadwall and the number of Pochard is now well over twenty five. Tufted Ducks have reappeared after being missing when the lagoons were partially iced over. As the water levels on the reedbed have risen the Snipe have been pushed closer together to roost and we counted at least fifty huddled together on the small mud bank straight across the water from the first screen.
Pied Wagtails pick their way around the margins (c) JR
Once again we saw three different Marsh Harriers present. Two of them are spending time perched up close together on bushes between the reedbed and the flood field. The Hen Harrier was also seen this weekend and again there were several Bittern sightings. It will soon be time to start listening out for booming males in the early mornings.
Shelduck over (c) JR
We heard Curlew on Sunday morning. The calls were coming from two different directions and so we knew that there were more than one. They have turned up right on cue although as yet in smaller numbers than is usual. Black Tailed Godwits were a welcome early addition to the year list. There were nine seen, out on Ashgrave, on Saturday afternoon and on Sunday morning we picked up five in flight over Big Otmoor they landed in the north eastern corner of the field and were feeding busily.
Two Egyptian Geese flew over the hide and out onto Ashgrave on Saturday and two Shelduck were on Greenaways early before relocating to Ashgrave later.

Budgie (c) Derek Latham

The first ever Budgerigar to be recorded on Otmoor was seen on Saturday afternoon near the first screen! If it can find the seed feeding site beside the hide, it might very well be able to survive (we even put millet out) however I don’t really know how readily they can survive the cold. There are three Cetti’s warblers out at the reedbed and others along the bridleway.

A pair of Stonechats are still out on Greenaways and seem to be surviving the colder weather well another pair were hunting from the fence around Big Otmoor. We have been surprised at the number of Robins that we have seen this winter. There are regularly four or five in the car park alone and others accompany us along all the paths and bridleways.
One of very maby Robins (c) Derek Lane
It was beautiful looking out over Big Otmoor on Saturday morning in the sunshine, the blue sky reflecting in the pools, ditches and scrapes. Scoping across the field from the bridleway the bright colour of the drake Wigeon and Shovellers shone out along with the iridescent green of the Lapwings. On Sunday morning a Chaffinch was singing in the oaks and two Skylarks were calling and chasing each other over Noke Sides. Hares were beginning to act “madly” chasing and boxing with each other. It is still February but spring is only just around the corner.

Otter in the ditch on Sunday. Top picture two weeks ago. (c) Derek Latham

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