Monday, 20 March 2017

Saturday and Sunday 18th and 19th March.

Bark is otherwise indisposed this week and has asked us to look after the blog, however we fully expect him back in his own well-known roosting spot by next weekend.

Spring is such an exciting time for birders and hopes are naturally raised as winter passes in favour of longer days and warmer weather, promising summer visitors and passage migrants. 
However weather conditions often determine expectation levels and these can be rather changeable in mid-March, so while we experienced beautiful sunny days earlier in the week,
these gave way to cooler, greyer and much windier conditions by the weekend. 
The over-wintering Short-eared Owl was on show on Monday but had disappeared by the weekend and it remains to be seen whether it has moved on or is just taking another break from its well-known roosting spot. 

Stirring from their slumbers...Grass Snake have starting to be spotted on the warmer days
along the edges of the dykes and ditches on the reserve, thirty seven were counted recently.
Photo courtesy of John Workman.  

There is such a different atmosphere when the sun shines, not only was the wonderful sound of Skylark song cascading down from all over the reserve on Monday, but the first Brimstones, Commas and Small Tortoiseshells were on the wing and Grass Snakes could be found basking in favoured spots. These had returned to winter quarters by the weekend and were nowhere to be seen in the chillier conditions. 

One of the highlights of the week was the number of Peregrine hunts we were lucky enough to witness. We still have substantial numbers of birds on the reserve and Pere­­grines very often cause large mixed flocks to rise, wheeling into the air, creating a spectacular sight and a clue to what may be going on.

Peregrine Falcon courtesy of Eddie Mclaughlin

One of these attacks involved both male and female Peregrine zeroing-in on a seemingly doomed Snipe. While one raptor chased it down the other tried to cut-off avenues of escape, but the resilient little wader was able to perform a number of evasive manoeuvres, constantly losing height before finally dropping out of the sky into cover in the nick of time. Buzzards, Red Kites and the male Marsh Harrier were also harassed by Peregrine over the favoured hunting area of Big Otmoor where the majority of wildfowl and waders can be found.

Although thousands of Golden Plover have already moved on a substantial number are still on the reserve, many of which are moving into their lovely summer plumage. This can be appreciated either when they pass by in flight or better still as they gather together on the ground. It will not be long before these too are gone.  

Curlew courtesy of Andy Last.
A small flock of Black-tailed Godwits has been present since late February and both Dunlin and Ruff may be seen with luck and a good set of optics. Redshanks seem to be everywhere while Oystercatcher and Curlew occasionally draw attention to themselves with their distinctive calls and flight silhouettes. Two pairs of Shelduck may be found usually on Ashgrave or Big Otmoor.

Amorous Shoveler courtesy of Derek Latham. 

Down at the southern lagoon male Pochard could be seen swimming with their heads pressed directly forward, partially submerged in their slightly comical looking display and we felt sorry for one female Shoveller as she was accompanied everywhere by a group of fifteen amorous males. When she took off all would rise immediately behind her, fly around in a tight flock only to land a short while later completely surrounding her on the water.

Bittern can be quite difficult to see at this time of year so it was a bonus when one was spotted gliding over the reeds on Wednesday afternoon. Alternatively it would be difficult to imagine visiting Otmoor without seeing Marsh Harrier and the male bird especially was in evidence on many occasions hunting over the fields. The wintering ringtail Hen Harrier was seen during the week and photographed well on both days over the weekend.

The wintering ringtail Hen Harrier courtesy of Badger.

Clearly we are at that point where both winter and summer birds are present, as well as the birds already mentioned it is still possible to find the odd Redwing and Fieldfare but spring is marching on, further heralded by the first three Sand Martins on Tuesday, at least half a dozen Chiffchaffs and very smart male Wheatears at Lower Farm on Saturday and Noke Sides on Sunday. Long-tailed tit and Dunnock could both be seen collecting nesting material and we remain in high spirits looking forward to the clocks going forward next weekend and even more time in the field.

Steve and Pete Roby

Wheatear Lower Farm courtesy of Badger.

No comments:

Post a Comment