Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Spring Bank Holiday Weekend

Hepatic Cuckoo (c) Bark

Saturday and Sunday were in marked contrast to each other and separated by a night of torrential thunderstorms. Saturday had been damp and rainy with a nagging chilly north easterly wind blowing. Foolishly I had believed the forecasters and unprepared had ended the morning cold and damp. On Sunday morning after the overnight rain it was warm and humid and for once I was dressed correctly for the conditions! Over the last few weeks the combination of warmth and regular rain has led to an almost tropical lushness across the moor, the fields show shades of emerald green sprinkled with spatters of yellow buttercups.

Dog Rose and Iris (c) Bark
In the hedgerows on Sunday the first dog roses were flowering, and in the ditches, the first Flag Irises are waving their yellow banners. A green tide line is advancing upwards on the reed bed as the new growth pushes up through the drab dead stems of last year’s reeds. In the southern reedbed this is not such a smooth process. In the areas favoured for roosting by the Starlings in the winter the dead reeds are flattened and matted, and the progress of fresh growth is not quite so uniform.

Reed Warbler and Chiffy (c) Bark

Once again it was possible to hear nine of our ten warbler species within a short time of arriving. Sedge Warblers were especially vociferous in the carpark field and before I reached the bridleway I had counted five different competing males. The Turtle doves are still present and are still using the cattle pen area to feed but are less confiding than they were in other years. On Sunday morning a Bittern was booming from two different parts of the reedbed….at least that was how it sounded. The sound is very difficult to place exactly and if the bird turns its head it can sound as if it’s coming from a completely different direction. Every three or four minutes for the hour and a half that we were listening, the bird gave up to five booms, at times it was possible to hear the bird draw breath between the louder exhalations. On Saturday evening there were three individuals seen together flying over the reedbed but it is impossible to say if they were males or females.
Bittern on Closes (c) Tezzer

The best sighting on Sunday was a high-speed display by five Cuckoos at the second screen, all the while accompanied by a medley of cuckoos calls and bubbling laughing sounds. There were three males and two females one of which was the red hepatic bird. The chasing and the displaying went on for at least twenty minutes and at times the birds were just above our heads but moving so fast that it was difficult to get any reasonable pictures except by pure chance.
When I reviewed the pictures I did manage to take, I realised that the females had their tail feathers spread, presumably as part of the display, the pattern of white spots and the edging is very clear and perhaps a signal to the males. There was no time at the weekend when one could not hear a Cuckoo calling somewhere on or around the reserve. I met a keen birder from Yorkshire, an older gentleman, and he said that he had never seen more than three cuckoos together in his life. He was delighted to have seen the five birds together and so close.

All cuckoo Pics (c) Bark
I think that I am hearing more Lesser Whitethroats than Common Whitethroats this year, this is just a subjective judgement and I would be interested to hear if anyone else agrees. There are at least three calling males starting at the first screen and going on round to the second. The one nearest to the first screen was quite obliging singing out in the open but sadly only as a silhouette against a bright sky.
Lesser Whitethroat (c) Bark

When I arrived on Sunday morning I was aware of a racket of coarse grunts and croaks coming from the Roman Road. I saw two Carrion Crows flying round and calling over one of the larger Oaks, while other noises were coming from the treetop. Then a family of Ravens emerged and flew off across Greenways pursued half-heartedly by the crows. There were two adults and what must have been their juvenile offspring. There have been two adults seen frequently over the reserve and these must be the birds that we have seen flying off to the north and back again.

Treecreeper (c) Bark

After watching Springwatch last night and seeing the fate of the Treecreeper nest at the beak of the Great Spotted Woodpecker I am a little nervous about the chances of a Treecreeper nest that I have noticed. The adults are superbly camouflaged against the background but if I can spot it surely a sharp-eyed woodpecker could too.
A black Tailed Godwit is still out on Big Otmoor but as the vegetation grows is increasingly difficult to locate. A couple of Turnstones found by the RSPB on Ashgrave on Thursday are a welcome addition to the Yearlist, which has slowed up, we do not seem to have had the variety of waders visiting that some of the other sites have had, still there is always next week!

Some productivity (c) Bark

1 comment:

  1. Regarding the Whitethroat question I have to agree that on my local patch at Garsington all my familiar places where I could guarantee calls and sightings seems completely quiet. No scratchy songs from hedgerow top and no churring as I linger