Monday, 30 October 2017

Saturday and Sunday 28th and 29th October

Juvenile Whooper (c) JR

There was just a slight frosting on the grass along the bridleway this Sunday and for the first time since last spring, gloves and hats were dusted down and dug out of draws and cupboards. The wind was keen and there were new birds to anticipate as autumn migration really gets underway.
We spent all weekend listening out for the scratchy, dry flight call of Hawfinches. There has been an unprecedented influx of these attractive birds into the country, due to a lack of food in Scandinavia. They seem to have been popping up all over Oxfordshire during last week and we hoped that sooner or later they might come through Otmoor. As far as I know they have never been recorded on the Reserve and if they do turn up they are likely to be in Noke Wood or Sling Copse. Sadly, the closest ones to us were seen in Worminghall this weekend.
Vis mig Fieldfares (c) Bark
Parties of both Fieldfares and Redwings were seen frequently flying through, but have not yet settled to begin stripping the berries from the hedgerows.
On Saturday morning, a Mute Swan flew into the southern Lagoon, accompanied by a juvenile Whooper Swan. The Whooper was yet to develop its distinctive lemon-yellow bill, the part that would later be yellow was still ivory coloured and the tip of the bill was pink. Unlike juvenile Mute Swans that shade through from brown into their pure white adult plumage, this juvenile showed grey that would ultimately become white.
Juvenile Whooper (c) Bark
Juvenile Mutes (c) Derek Latham
Two Peregrines were noted on Saturday and one of them landed for a while on the mud bank in front of the first screen. We usually have regular Peregrines overwintering, with the Starlings, Golden Plovers, Lapwings and wildfowl there is plenty of food to sustain a healthy population of raptors.

Kestrel above (c) Bark         below (c) JR
Three Marsh Harriers were seen on both days, two of them seem to be very much a pair, and appear intent on pushing the interloper out. Another Ring-tailed Harrier has appeared, being picked up on Sunday morning hunting along the northern side of Greenaways.
Peregrine (c) Derek Latham
There is still at least one Whinchat about on the reserve. It was frequenting the cattle pens on Saturday and on Sunday we found it, or perhaps another, in the game strip sown on the Closes. Stonechats are settling onto clear territories and we watched a pair on July’s meadow patrolling up and down the hedge.
Whinchat on closes (c) JR
Goldfinches (c) JR
There are substantial numbers of Linnets and Chaffinches feeding on the path beside the hide. There are smaller numbers of Reed Buntings and Goldfinches amongst them and there are one or two Yellowhammers as well. Bramblings were reported as were Redpolls from the same area, but they were very elusive and we failed to connect with them.
Dunnock (c) JR
Bittern flying away (c) JR
We can say with absolute certainty that there are three Bitterns in and around the Reedbed. They are being spotted flying between feeding areas and there is clearly one individual that is commuting between the reed fringe on the southern edge of Ashgrave and the strip of reeds beside the path to the first screen.
Squabbling B H G's (c) JR
The moor is stunningly beautiful at the moment showing the richest of autumn colours and a particular seasonal suite of birds. I am very grateful to Badger for putting together the short video below that shows much more clearly than I can articulate; just how lovely it is.

Please view at 1080p HD

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