Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Saturday 30th September and sunday1st October

Ubiquitous Chiffchaff (c) Bark

The Autumn Equinox has come and gone, and right now the moor feels quiet, as if it is holding its breath before taking the next the steep plunge towards winter. Many of the summer birds have gone and the bulk of the winter visitors are still to arrive. The regular suite of resident birds remains and they are busy feeding up for the leaner months to come.
There were small parties of Hirundines moving through over the whole weekend, but not in the numbers we were seeing last week. There are still significant numbers of small passerines often in mixed feeding flocks, picking up plentiful insects and spiders, they frequently favour the lea side of the larger hedgerows.
Long Tailed Tit (c) JR
Alongside the Blue, Great and Lon-tailed Tits, there are mostly Chiffchaffs, but we found a couple of Willow Warblers on Sunday and a Whitethroat was seen out at the Pill on Saturday. Chiffchaffs are very variable in colour and tone some having much clearer eye stripes than others and markedly different degrees of yellowness. It is very difficult get sustained, clear views them as they are restless and dynamic as they glean their insect prey from under leaves and branches or fly out to pluck an insect from the air. This can sometimes lead to confusions and occasional misidentifications, but is part of the fun and fascination of birding at this time of year.

Chiffies (c) Bark
I ventured down to Noke for an hour on Friday afternoon and thought that I heard a Yellow-browed Warbler call from the sallows beside the balancing pond, I also thought that I had caught a brief glimpse of it up in the weeping willow tree. There were at least six Chiffchaffs flitting about and I was not confident enough to say definitively it was there. I did however alert one or two Otmoor regulars to the possibility and they agreed to have a look and a listen next time they were down there. However, a couple of visitors reported that they had seen and photographed one there on Saturday. Sadly, it was a second-hand report and I don’t know who the people were or where they came from. We would really like to see the pictures and hear from them, if you know them or if it was you and you are reading this, please get in touch with me or with the office. It is important as it would be the first ever confirmed record of this species for the reserve.
Yet another Chiff (c) JR

Our resident Marsh Harriers are still being seen over the reedbeds and over Greenaways. The male Hen Harrier is also still on the moor but is as ever, elusive and irregular.

Very agressive Moorhens (c) Bark
From the first screen numbers of snipe are steadily building as are the numbers of Wigeon. I counted thirty of the latter, out on the water or loafing on the furthest spit. The Kingfishers are taking advantage of the new perches out in front of the first screen. They are still very nervous, a combination of being quiet, still and keeping limbs and optics inside the viewing holes seems to be the best way of not alarming them. I am sure that in time they will get used to the sound of shutters clicking away!

Snipe(c) Bark and flying (c) JR

Kingfisher (c) Bark
The Greylag flock is already getting back up towards the large numbers that we saw last year. In amongst them are the whiter and smaller progeny of “our” Ross’s Gooses’ liaisons with Greylags, the large number of them suggest that Francis (Rossi) as we call him is a potent father. There is also a Barnacle Goose still present, that appeared to pair up with a Greylag this spring, but as yet we have not noticed any Greylag Barnacle crosses.

Barnacle Goose and friend (c) Derek Latham
There are still plenty of Butterflies and Dragonflies to be seen along the hedgerows especially when the sun comes out and can warm them up. Red Admirals and Commas present a bright splash of colour when they are feeding on blackberries.

Red admiral and Hawker (c) Bark
After last weekends attempted theft in the carpark it is sad to say that this was not the last piece of antisocial behaviour to have gone on there. Some people have taken to racing their cars about in there and spinning them around. At some point last week they lost control of their car and collided with the information board smashing it completely. It was a substantial oak structure and I can only hope that it did considerable damage to their vehicle and perhaps to them! Once again it is the society that will have to pick up the tab to have it replaced. Money that should be going to conservation!

The broken info board (c) DW  and our Kingfishers view of the idiots who broke it. (c) JR


  1. I met the chap who had the photograph when I was volunteering on Sunday 24th so may be responsible for the rumour of the warbler! The photographer came to 1st screen and asked if anyone could ID a bird he'd photographed that he'd never seen before. He used my RSPB book and the only bird that matched the photo was the YBW. The man came from Northamptonshire, I think, and said he was really at Otmoor to photograph hairstreak butterflies. He said he would contact the RSPB office to report his sighting and get a more reliable ID. The photo he showed was very clear so if he had shown it to a more experienced birder it could have been identified easily. I told Paul Harris when he took over, but the chap with the camera had gone by then. The photographer had said the bird was along the bridleway and from his description of the place we deduced he was talking about the hedges near the Noke turn. I wish I had had the sense to ask the guy to leave a contact number. My apologies. Suzanne

  2. Oh dear. First fly tipping, then dope smoking and now adrenalin junkies hand brake turning in the car park. The vehicle that did the damage might very well have been stolen. If the Royal Society for Populist Birdwatching, of which I am no longer a member, insists on attracting all and sundry to its reserves then indeed it must pick up the tab. I agree that the money should be going towards conservation. The Society should get back to what it is so brilliant at: creating and maintaining habitat for the benefit of wildlife, and for the appreciation of dare I suggest it genuine and knowledgeable natural history enthusiasts. Get the general public out of the equation. No apologies for the rant.