Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Saturday and Sunday 22nd and 23rd April

Singing Wren (c) Bark
As I was standing by the feeders on Sunday morning trying to spot one of the two Grasshopper Warblers that were reeling in the car park field I was chatting to a couple who were coming back from their early morning walk. They had arrived just before dawn at about 5.25 a.m. One of them said that when they got out of their car they were “…. hit by a wall of sound……so loud it was difficult at first to separate one song or call from another…… only gradually it became possible to distinguish individual songs” Although I had arrived over an hour later than them I had had a similar experience but probably not quite as dramatic as they did hearing all that sound in a deserted car park in the pre-dawn light.
Early morning Bullfinch (c) Bark
Grasshopper Warblers were very much in evidence all weekend and not just in the carpark field. There were four different birds heard out at the Pill on Saturday and two different birds along the bridleway one near the bench and another on the way to Noke.

Gropper on the way to the screen (c) Bark
There was also a bird, as there seems to be every year, that clearly hasn’t read the guide to Gropper behaviour. It was reeling along the trail about half way to the first screen and instead of skulking away was sitting out in the open perched in sapling willows and very low brambles. It certainly drew a good number of admirers on Sunday morning. In defence of my not very good pictures, I must stress that it was easy to see but difficult to photograph with lots of distracting clutter in the way! Across the path from it there was an extremely obliging, photogenic, noisy and testosterone pumped Sedge Warbler, that demanded attention. It may well have been stimulated by the closeness of another singing Sedgie a few metres away.
Sedgie (c) Tom N-L
Close to the feeders was a Lesser Whitethroat that was doing a small circuit whilst belting out its song. There are now at least five calling in different parts of the reserve. The Roman Road area is, as usual, a good place to hear all the warblers calling and singing. Garden Warblers are now in and several could be picked out from the similar sounding Blackcaps
Lesser Whitethroat (c) Bark
The large presumably female Peregrine was again seen sitting on its favourite post out on Greenaways. It was seen on Sunday morning carrying prey across The Closes that looked to be a chick or fledgling. We must hope that it doesn’t develop a taste for easy takeaways from amongst our breeding waders. The Hen Harrier is still being seen occasionally and we are guessing that perhaps it may not be heading north, but instead might remain here over the summer. The Marsh Harriers have continued to be very active and visible over and around the reedbed, they are also hunting extensively over Greenaways. Red Kites are cruising over Big Otmoor looking for easy pickings, they are always challenged by Lapwings and Redshank and one must assume that once the Black Headed gulls hatch they too will take on the aerial guard duty.
Lapwing chick through the wire around Big Otmoor (c) Bark
The Lapwings and we presume the Redshank, have hatched their first chicks and we watched a parent Lapwing standing close to its young as they fed among the tussocks close to the edge of Big Otmoor. At one point the adult bird gathered the chick up under its wing.
Hobbies have been seen on both days but not yet in the numbers that we expect at this time of year when they are first arrived. It was significant too that the first Hairy Dragonfly was seen and photographed at the Noke end of the Big Otmoor ring-ditch. These larger dragonflies can form a substantial part of the Hobbies diet in early May. They also feed on the smaller dangling legged St Marks or Hawthorn Flies.

Hobby and supper, A Hairy Dragonfly (c) Pete Roby
Two male Cuckoos were calling and flying back and forth along the ditch beside the bridleway and along the southern side of The Closes. At one point on Sunday morning they had a significant skirmish at the top of an oak tree. We have not seen or heard any females yet and once they arrive the calling and the chasing will go up another level still.
Male Reed Buntings are very showy right now (c) Tom N-L
A booming Bittern was heard on both days this weekend and on Friday three were seen in flight at the same time. Snipe have started their roller-coaster drumming displays and could also be seen doing a slow motion fluttering parachute display as they came in to land on the eastern edge of Big Otmoor close to the visitor trail.
A few waders are dropping in with thirteen Ruff being spotted last week as well as a pair of Little Ringed Plovers, a Black-tailed Godwit, a Greenshank and A Common Sandpiper on Sunday. I have also just been told that a Whimbrel was seen on Greenaways this morning (Monday)
Late female Stonechat (c) Paul Greenaway
Unusually a female Stonechat was still present last Thursday, they have normally moved on by now. Wheatear numbers at the Noke end near the farm and in the black sheep fields have continued to rise. There were a total of ten there on Sunday three near the farm in the donkey field and the others out amongst the sheep in the close cropped grass.

Wheatears in the sheepfield (c) Bark
An Otter or Otters are continuing to be seen regularly but in no one particular location. On Sunday one was seen to catch a Moorhen in the ditch that borders the diagonal track across Greenaways, exciting for the watchers less so for the moorhen!
Lizards are out basking by the first screen whenever it is sunny enough to warm them up, for many visitors seeing them or a grass snake can make their visit special.
Common Lizard by the screen (c) Bark

We will be running a Dawn Chorus Walk between 5a.m. and 7a.m. on 13th May. If anyone is interested in joining us could you please get in touch with the RSPB Otmoor office on 01865 352033 to book a place. It will be useful to know how many visitors to expect.
Long Meadow Hare (c) Bark

1 comment:

  1. It looks that you have well spent your weekend with nature. The pictures you have taken are simply outstanding. Lots of birds enjoying summer sun.