Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Saturday and Sunday 24th and 25th June

Little Egret (c) Bark

The very high temperatures of the previous week had cooled to more normal summer weather and the moor was looking wonderful. When I arrived on Saturday morning I heard a cuckoo distantly and had one fly past me along the bridleway but by Sunday I did not hear any at all. They will be heading back to Africa even as I write, leaving their progeny to be raised by our Reed Warblers.
It will not be long before we are seeing young cuckoos that have outgrown the nest being fed out in the open. I had seen our rare hepatic cuckoo last weekend and once again been impressed by its stunning rich chestnut colour. It made me speculate about the frequency of this unusual morph appearing. The genetics are outside my expertise, but I wondered if any of the eggs from this individual would result in a similar looking offspring.
Reed Warbler with food...for a cuckoo? (c) Derek Lane
On both days this weekend, there were more individual birds singing again, presumably prior to embarking on second broods. I was serenaded by a very confiding Song Thrush near to the junction of the Car Park Field and the bridleway and once again we are hearing Willow and Grasshopper Warblers after several weeks’ silence.
Singing Song Thrush (c) Bark
At the reedbed there were regular but erratic Bittern movements seen. I have had several reports of and have also witnessed myself, Bitterns flying between the larger areas of reeds out on Greenaways. It might be that there are better feeding opportunities out there if there is now more competition within the reedbed itself.

Sedge and Chiffchaff (c) JR
On Sunday morning the Hen Harrier was seen again, flying across the northern lagoon and out towards the MOD land. It was noticed to be acquiring black tips to its wings and had much paler underwing feathers starting to appear. These factors suggest, that as we suspected, this is a sub adult male now beginning a moult into more adult plumage. The Marsh Harriers were also very much in evidence and on Monday this week four birds were reported in the air at the same time. If there are newly fledged young they will sit about in the stunted willows for several weeks and wait for the parent birds to bring them food. At this time they are very easily identified being a fairly uniform chocolate colour and having a very clear custard coloured head.
Digiscoped Tern chicks (c) Stoneshank
Out at the second screen on Sunday morning we watched the Common Terns chasing away potential predators from the area around and above the raft. They harassed several Red Kites, a Common Buzzard, a Marsh Harrier, a Hobby and a Lesser Black backed Gull. It was possible to pick out at least six dumpy chicks tottering about and begging the adults for food. There was a family party of Tufted Ducks in front of the screen and we were intrigued as to how the small fluffy ducklings managed to drive themselves down into the water when they were clearly so buoyant. When they surfaced from a dive they almost popped out of the water they surfaced so quickly.
Tufted Duck family (c) JR
The invertebrate life down on the moor drew our attention this weekend. We saw at least ten different species of butterfly between the first and second screens alone. The hedge beside the path has great swathes of brambles and this year they are all flowering profusely.

Nectaring Butterflies (c) Bark
This abundant supply of nectar and pollen attracts all kinds of insects. Because of its orientation this hedge is both sheltered from most winds and faces the rising sun. Dragonflies that need to warm up before hunting can be seen hanging on to twigs and branches, later on Darters take up regular perches from which to hunt the insects that are feeding on the brambles. A whole range of bees and flies also exploit this resource and ladybirds and their larvae prey on the Aphids that feed on the blackthorn leaves.

Darter and ladybird (c) Derek Lane
It was on the aphids “honey dew” that we spotted a couple of freshly emerged Purple Hairstreaks feeding, very intricately marked on the underwing and not seeming very purple on the upperwing until the sun refracts off them at the perfect angle and then their real colour glows out.

Purple Hairstreak (c) Bark
On Sunday morning I met an RSPB members group that was visiting from Dursley in Gloucestershire. They especially wanted to see Turtle doves and within ten minutes or so of them asking me about their whereabouts one of the regular males flew in, sat up in the oak and purred. The visitors told me that the species had gone extinct as a breeder in Gloucestershire five years ago, when the last regular colony disappeared. We hope that this will not be the fate of our birds and would really appreciate any records and photographs of juvenile birds seen down on the reserve. They are easily distinguished from the adults having no neck markings and being much duller. We too will be looking out for them and if we spot them I will be very happy to report it here.
Turtle Dove arriving on time for the visitors ! (c) Bark

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