Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Saturday and Sunday 12th and13th August

Juvenile Stonechat (c) Tezzer

This weekend there was a return to drier more summery weather, but the birds we saw reflected the beginning of the turn in the seasons, from full summer towards early autumn.
Usually on the moor I manage to see most of what is about, there are other days though where I seem to contrive to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and miss almost everything! Saturday was one such morning.
I did manage to see two swans arrive (c) Tom N-L
I missed the three Black–tailed Godwits that arrived in front of the first screen, while I was at Noke failing to find any Yellow Wagtails or Whinchats in the sheep fields. Had I chosen to go a few hundred metres further along the bridle way I would have seen a Wheatear feeding out on the cropped grass, but instead chose to head back towards the Roman Road. I was in the hide when there were several Bittern movements at the screens and so missed them.

Swallows feeding young. (c) JR
The only really pleasing thing about my going along to Noke, apart of course from the company, was being able to watch Swallows feeding newly fledged youngsters on the wires beside the farm. The adults were sweeping low and fast over the grass hoovering up flying insects to bring to their young. Not only were they feeding them whilst the young birds perched unsteadily on the wire, but also at times in mid-air. Seeing the young Swallows fluttering and flapping to keep their balance confirmed my recent observations of other newly fledged juveniles. Namely that young birds get good at flying quite quickly, but landing without crashing takes longer to master.

Cuckoo on the bridleway (c) Tezzer
I also failed to find the young Cuckoo seen on Friday along the Bridleway. The bird had probably moved on as when seen on the previous day it was no longer being fed by its foster parents.
Waders are starting to come through steadily now and the low water levels in front of the first screen offer extensive mud and feeding opportunities for migrating birds. On Monday (yesterday) there were nine Greenshanks through as well as Common Sandpiper and Green Sandpiper.

Greenshank in front of the first screen courtesy of Badger.

On Sunday, my birding was much more successful and I did manage to see most of what was on offer. I heard one Greenshank and a Common Sand at the first screen.

Common cranes over Greenaways (c) Tom N-L
I also spotted the Common Cranes flying back into Greenaways from the MOD land to the east. The grass is still long out there but with careful scoping they could be picked out to the edge of a clump of reeds. They have favoured this, most distant, area of the field for the last six or seven weeks. We do not expect them to stay around much longer. Last year they left on the fifteenth of August and as far as we know wintered with the big flock of Cranes on the Somerset levels. I spoke on Sunday to a friend who had been out on the moor much nearer to dawn than I was. Just as the sun rose he and his partner had been treated to the sight and sound of them as they flew low over Greenaways, where a shallow mist was catching the first rays of the sun. They were delighted to have seen them. It is a real privilege to have such charismatic and beautiful birds on the reserve.
Turtle Dove drinking, also soon to be on its way. (c) JR
Juvenile Stonechat (c) Bark
Out at the Pill mid-morning, we found a family of Stonechats, probably the same birds that were seen last weekend. There were four very scruffy juveniles and two adults. There was a single Whinchat loosely associated with them and several Common Whitethroats also seemed to be flocking together with them. The Chats as always stood out, perching and flycatching from the top of twigs and bushes, the warblers were more elusive diving in and out of the hedgerows.

Carpark field Willow Warbler (c) Bark
I had to leave the moor earlier than I normally do this Sunday, had I stayed for another twenty minutes I might very well have seen the Osprey that circled over the Oddington side of the reserve. I missed it of course Saturday’s jinx still had one last sting in its tail!
The pumphouse Grass Snakes are sloughing their skins (c) Derek Lane

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