Friday, 12 January 2018

Saturday and Sunday 6th and 7th January

Mistle Thrush (c) Bark
Saturday morning turned out better than had been predicted with a little watery sunshine coming through the greyness and no rain. Sunday provided a perfect crisp sunny winters morning albeit with a strong north easterly wind.
Bittern upsetting Teal (c) Derek Latham
Just as last year started with a first record for Otmoor in the form of a Cattle Egret, this year has started with another first record namely a Hawfinch. Since the autumn influx, we have been checking the woodland edge to the south and east of Ashgrave regularly and unsuccessfully. It seems we had been looking in the wrong area! On Sunday morning Andy Last saw one briefly in flight across the Long Meadow and we will look in this area again next week.

Finches by the feeders. Linnet (c) Early Birder and Yellowhammer and Reed Bunt (c) JR

As flooded areas have started to appear, so bird numbers right across the moor have gone up rapidly. This is especially true of Lapwings and Golden Plover. It is also true of Teal and especially of Wigeon. This is likely to be accurately reflected in the next WEBS count, but my rough estimate put Wigeon at approaching a thousand birds with a large flock on Big Otmoor and another substantial group on the large Ashgrave lagoon. On Sunday morning there were also twenty-five Pintail on the same pool.
Barnacle bust-up. (c) Bark
Our large flocks of Greylags and Canada Geese have not yet attracted any White-fronted Geese this winter. It is worthwhile checking through them carefully, looking particularly for small parties that are a little bit separate or on the edge of the larger flocks. The Barnacle Goose was on big Otmoor with its Canadian friend and was getting into a major dispute with other Canada Geese.
Little Grebe (c) Derek Latham
There are a lot of Goldcrests flitting busily about in the hedgerows and the brambles. They are a real challenge to photograph as they seldom seem to stay still. They have a high-octane lifestyle and must require a lot of insect food to keep moving and keep warm.
Busy Goldcrest (c) Bark
There are still Stonechats out on Greenaways, July’s Meadow and at the Pill, four were reported on Sunday. On Saturday morning a Cetti’s Warbler close to the first screen decided to get out in the open on the reeds and shout out its territorial claims. It was responding to another bird that was ensconced in the large bramble patch to the east of the screen. It showed exceptionally well for a couple of minutes, before disappearing back into the thick hedge and returning once again to being heard but rarely seen.

Cetti's Warbler (c) Bark

All our regular raptor species are still with us as we go into the New Year. Two Marsh Harriers are ever present, and the two Hen Harrier second winter males are still being seen irregularly at the Starling roost or even more unpredictably along the northern edge of Greenaways. Merlin too has been seen since the year turned but is equally as unpredictable as the Hen Harriers. A large adult female Peregrine is favouring the cluster of posts out in the middle of Greenaways where it was seen preening both on Saturday and Sunday.

Marsh Harrier and Hen Harrier (c) Tezzer

There were five Mistle Thrushes in the field directly to the south of Julys Meadow on Sunday morning. They were feeding amongst a mixed flock of Fieldfares and Redwings. The winter Thrushes have long ago exhausted the supply of berries in the hedgerows and are now looking for insect food on the ground especially out on the sheep fields at Noke.
Mistle Thrush near July's meadow (c) Bark
Two overwintering Chiffchaffs were seen near the weir on the old River Ray along the bridleway towards Oddington from Noke.

I would strongly recommend that anyone thinking of coming down to the reserve to try to see the starling roost should try to visit during the week. There is currently a great deal of congestion in the carpark on Saturday and Sunday evenings. If its at all possible car sharing is to be encouraged.

Starling roost (c) Tom N-L

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