|Car park bud munching Bullfinch (c) Bark|
Yet again we were treated to a carbon copy of the previous weekend with a sour, soggy Saturday followed by a contrasting sunny, sparkling Sunday.
|Redwing (c) Bark|
Water levels across the moor have risen still further and after reed cutting during the week the water level on the southern lagoon has risen to match that on the northern one. This will mean a stable depth can be established, so that reedbed breeders will not have nests flooded or suddenly be left high dry and vulnerable to predation.
|Flushed by the Marsh Harrier (c) Bark|
There were substantial numbers of wildfowl on both lagoons this weekend. At least thirty Pochard were courting and displaying in front of the southern screen, amongst them was the leuchistic drake who seems to be spending time with one of the females, his lack of colour does not appear to be a disadvantage in the mating game.
|"Luke" with a friend ! (c) Bark|
Yet again the Hawfinch was seen, this time twice on Sunday morning. We wondered what it might be finding in the carpark field to feed on. When we looked closely at the blackthorn it was possible to find shrivelled up sloes still clinging to the branches and when the dry outer skin is removed inside there is a small very hard stone. We speculated that they were forming part of the Hawfinch diet, assuming they were not too small and hard for its bill. There will of course be more sloe and damson stones on the ground under the bushes.
|Bullfinches are much more approachable now in the carpark (c) Bark|
A Nuthatch is now using the feeders in the carpark field. They have usually not been reported closer to the reserve than Sling Copse and the Spinney, it may be that they are now colonising the oaks in the Roman Road and coming in to feed from there. Whatever the case it is good to see them more frequently.
|Redwing on the bridleway (c) Bark|
Sunday was particularly noisy across the whole reserve but especially Ashgrave and Big Otmoor. There are now hundreds of Canada Geese on the moor and they were being especially vociferous as they start to court and mate. The aggressive encounters of their pairings and territorial disputes result in much trumpeting and honking. Out on Big Otmoor amongst the thousand or so Wigeon and another thousand or so other mixed ducks were a pair of Egyptian Geese. Although they are increasingly common elsewhere in the county they are unusual down on Otmoor and especially so at this time of year.
|Noisy Canada Goose (c) Bark|
The starling roost has declined steadily and is currently less than a third of what it was at its peak. The flocks are still coming, but their displays are much more fragmented and spread across the whole area. The reeds that they roost on are much weaker, often flattened and damaged. People returning from the roost have noted woodcock flying out from the Closes and the Car Park Field to feed on Greenaways at dusk.
|Sunbathing Blackbird (c) Bark|
|Long Tailed Tits (c) Bark|
On Sunday morning there were three skylarks up singing high over Greenways and I heard my first tentative chaffinch songs of the year. A Great Spotted Woodpecker was drumming in the Roman Road and frog or toad was croaking from the ditch beside the hide. Small signs of change I know, but at this time in the winter it is these small events that anticipate spring and lift the spirits.