Thursday, 4 January 2018

Winter Holiday Season end of December

Bullfinch (c) Bark
Alternately cold and wet over the holiday period we have reached the end of 2017. The good news is that we have finally got very wet fields with open water and islands where birds can rest and preen, secure from land predators. Already we are seeing much larger numbers of Lapwings and Golden Plovers out on Big Otmoor and their presence has drawn in at least one Peregrine. On the last last weekend of 2017 there were over 2000 Golden Plovers and 1000+ Lapwings, dividing their time between Noke Sides and Big Otmoor.

Lapwings (c) JR
We spotted a Peregrine on Christmas Eve on Greenaways mantling a prey item and then preening for at least a quarter of an hour. From its size we took it to be a mature female. It has been seen several times this weekend perched up on one or another of the Greenaways gates
Marsh Harrier (c) Derek Latham
We have been seeing three individual Marsh Harriers regularly. There were up to four different birds present over the past month, two look as if they are first winter birds and are very similarly marked. The Marsh Harriers have a regular route that they patrol, but they never seem to come closer than fifty metres from the screen if there is anyone in there. The second winter male Hen Harrier was seen several times over the holiday. As usual it was hunting over the northern edge of Greenaways and on either side of the double hedge at the back. There are two different birds present one in a more transitional plumage that is still flecked with some brown feathers.
Marsh Harrier (c) JR
Wigeon numbers have also finally started to grow. There are a substantial number of them out on the Big Otmoor pools. They graze on the grass and when threatened flush back into the water where they feel more secure. The water bodies on Ashgrave have rapidly filled and we can expect to see much more variety and activity now in the pools in front of the hide. On the last day of the year there were in excess of 800 Wigeon on Big Otmoor and our first major influx of Pintail, with over twenty birds present. There is lots to see along the path where the winter feeding programme is now up to its full strength.
Linnets (c) JR
The Linnet flock fluctuates in numbers as do the Reed Buntings, as they move between feeding areas. The Reed Buntings show a good deal of variation in plumage as the males moult into their breeding plumage at different speeds and over a period of several months. There have been a few Bramblings coming and going and there are always several Yellowhammers there.
Paler Reed Bunting (c) Bark
There are two or three small parties of Bullfinches on the reserve and they can be seen feeding on the desiccated blackberries that are still clinging to the brambles. It is surprising that they can obtain enough sustenance from such a tiny food source, as the winter progresses they will turn their attention to the blackthorn buds as they begin to swell inn anticipation of spring.
Blackberry munching Bullfinch (c) Bark

Late news from the moor on new Years Eve was of another Short-eared Owl, we often find that they appear more frequently in the second winter period.
Brown Hare (c) Bark

A review of 2017 will follow in a couple of days..................

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