Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Saturday and Sunday 11th and 12th November

Shoveller (c) Bark
I received a text from an Otmoor regular last Saturday that simply said, “It’s raining so it must be the weekend” and so it was once again this weekend. I awoke to dolorous skies and a steady drizzle, but mindful of the superb views of Bittern that JR had last weekend in the rain, I headed down to the moor.
Rainy Sloes (c) Bark
Although I failed to get such point-blank views of Bittern there were lots of flight views to be had. We had no doubt that there were three Bitterns present but there may very well have been four. They are very difficult to distinguish one from another and our numbers are based on where they flew from and to and when. There is however one individual that looks darker than the others.
At the first screen there were many more ducks than of late and it seems to be a regular thing that around eight o clock there are significant numbers flying in as if they are being regularly flushed from a night time roost. Wigeon numbers have increased steadily and this week there were four Pintail present, a drake and three ducks. Most noticeable are the Shovellers, I counted well over sixty on Sunday morning often circling in pairs filtering out their food from the vortex that their spinning creates. The drakes are now looking at their very smartest and cleanest having moulted out their eclipse feathers.
Circling Shovellers (c) Tom N-L
Three juvenile Goosanders had called in during the week and the juvenile Whooper Swan had also been seen again from the second screen, sadly none of them were to be found this weekend.
The resident Marsh Harriers seemed to have the reedbed to themselves this weekend. There was no sign of the extra bird that had bothered them last week. Although we failed to see the Hen Harrier ourselves, we were assured that it had been present on at least one evening This week when the Starlings came in to roost. There are extensive flocks of Golden Plover and Lapwings around but they are currently favouring the fields to the west of the reserve. They can only be seen when they flush en masse if a raptor sets them up.
Goldies over (c) Tom N-L
The year list did gain an extra species this week when nine Pink-footed Geese dropped into Big Otmoor for an hour on Wednesday morning, sadly only four or five people were lucky enough to see them. It does show that if there is a large flock of feral geese present, they will encourage wilder geese to come in. This was certainly the case on Wednesday when the Pink-feet landed in amongst the resident flock of Canadas.

Pink Feet (c) Tezzer
On Sunday when we walked up along the edge of Sling Copse to the top of Ashgrave we could appreciate just how extensive the numbers of both Grey-lags and Canada Geese are, as they were scattered over the whole field sometimes obscured amongst the sheep other times hidden in dips.
Linnets, Reed Buntings and Chaffinches made up the bulk of the finch flock feeding beside the hide.

Linnet and Yellowhammer (c) JR
There were one or two Yellowhammers if one looked carefully and sometimes a sprinkling of Goldfinches. In the Carpark Field there were a number of Redwings and a few Fieldfares feeding on what remains of the haw crop. There do not seem to be so many berries in the hedgerows as I remember seeing at this time last year.
Goldfinch (c) Bark

As part of our ongoing quest to find a Hawfinch on the moor we walked up beside Ashgrave on Sunday. We followed the path through Noke wood that leads up to Beckley and further up the hill found an excellent vantage point from which to scan the southern edge of the trees. Needless to say, we drew a blank once again but did find that if we walked just a little further, through the field with the striking, panda like Belted Galloway cattle, that we could connect with the public footpath that runs straight down the hill towards the hide. This made for a very pleasant circular route that offered further viewpoints from which to scan the tops of the trees in Sling Copse. It also offered some woodland and farmland birding which is slightly different from what we are most familiar with. The views across the treetops are promising and we will keep on trying to track down one of these scarce and secretive finches.
Misty moor from the top of the hill (c) Tom N-L

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