Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Saturday and Sunday 21st and 22nd October

Female Stonechat (c) Bark

There seems little doubt that if we wish to give the year-list a boost when it gets stuck, all I have to do is to go overseas! While I have been away four new species have been added to the list taking it to one hundred and fifty three. It was good to get a Whooper Swan down on the moor as we did not have a visit from either of the winter swans last year. It is interesting that at the same time on the same day there were half a dozen at Farmoor.
Brent Goose (c) Stoneshank
Just as it was with the Brent goose that appeared briefly last week. It was seen in front of the first screen at the same time as a small party of Brents were at Farmoor, so probably a straggler from that small flock. The other additions were a female Brambling, hopefully one of many more later on this winter, and finally a couple of Siskins.
There has been significant change since I was last on the moor. The autumnal yellows and golds have intensified on the leaves that are still clinging to the trees after the stormy winds of last week.

Otmoor and Harrier in the strange light (c) Tom N-L
Whilst away I missed one day when the winds had whipped up Saharan dust and the sky itself took on a strange yellow and orange hue, like dusk at mid-afternoon. The light on Saturday was pale and milky and on Sunday much brighter but both days were very windy. The wind meant that most birds preferred to keep their heads down and skulk in the bushes or the lee of hedgerows.

Mallard (c) Bark and Shovellers (c) JR
From the first screen the ducks are looking much smarter in their crisp new plumage and instead of loafing around preening, are courting and displaying especially the Mallard drakes. We do tend to take them for granted but their bright emerald green heads, conker coloured breasts and yellow bills really shine out brightly in the autumn sunshine. Shovellers spin in pairs creating a vortex to draw up food from deeper water. There is still a slow but steady increase in the numbers of both Wigeon and Teal.
Bittern (c) Bark
Bitterns are once again very much in evidence and seem to be undertaking longer flights between feeding areas. We estimate that there are at least three different individuals, based largely upon where we see them fly to or from and where they next appear. A very imprecise method but the only one at our disposal.
Hen harrier (c) Derek Latham
The second winter male Hen Harrier is still with us and has now been present for a whole year. It seems likely that as the starling roost gets established, with its ready supply of food for raptors, there will be no need for it to stray too far from the moor. A Ringtail was reported on Saturday and might just be the one that was present early last month.
Lesser Black backed Gull over screen (c) Bark

A Short-eared Owl was seen well on Saturday and again briefly on Sunday morning, hunting along the hedge on the north-eastern side of Greenaways.
I have been reliably informed that this is the optimum time for Stonechats to be on the move and we have seen really good numbers on the reserve and surrounding areas. Six were seen in one location on Saturday and at the same time we were watching a further pair just up from the hide towards July’s Meadow. On Sunday ten were counted out on Greenaways and a late Whinchat was seen on both days, associating with the Stonechats.

Stonechat (c) Bark and Whinchat (c) Pete Roby
On both days we saw small parties of both Fieldfare and Redwing passing over but as the wind finally comes out of the south westerly quarter I am sure their numbers will rise dramatically.
Kingfisher at the Pill (c) Stoneshank
Finally on Saturday we watched a young Fallow Stag make its way across Ashgrave. It is probably the offspring of our resident Fallow hind. The one that had serious identity issues as for a whole year it appeared to think it was a cow! The hind also had a fawn this year and we will enjoy watching the small herd develop.
Young Fallow Stag (c) Bark

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