Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Saturday and Sunday 16th and 17th June

Little Grebe at the first screen (c) Bark

Rather a damp, overcast and grey weekend as we head towards midsummers day later this week. There was, as normal, lots to see on the moor although nothing especially unusual or unexpected. The amazing productivity of the site was noticeable, not just the large numbers of juvenile birds being seen but also the burgeoning swathes of wildflowers and when the sun finally did come out, the rich and varied invertebrate life.

Large Skipper butterfly and Yellow Shell moth (c) Bark

I was wrong about last week being the final hurrah for the cuckoos. There were still three birds present on Saturday and Sunday. They were not so vociferous as last weekend but there were still two males pursuing a female out over Greenaways. The BTO reported last week that their radio tagged birds had already made it down into southern Europe. Perhaps late nesting by our Reed Warblers has delayed the departure of our birds. The hepatic female was one of the three and we hope that she returns next year.

Cuckoos (c) Bark

At the second screen we counted nearly thirty juvenile Shovellers all at different stages of development from small ducklings up to just shy of adult size. There was one creche of sixteen well grown youngsters with three adults in attendance.
Some of the Shoveller creche (c) Bark
There was a brood of Pochard ducklings and several small families of Tufted Ducks very much at the downy duckling stage but still able to dive down and bob back up like corks. At the first screen a pair of Mute Swans appeared from one of the channels with four cygnets. The cob then proceeded to harass and bully fifteen Canada Geese until they took flight and headed back to Big Otmoor. Only then did he feel able to lead his family out onto the water and to the shallows just in front of the screen.
Two Cygnets (c) Bark
It seems likely that Little Grebes are breeding in the southern lagoon they are making a lot of noise but we are yet to see any stripy young, one adult appeared briefly in the open calling all the time before disappearing back into the reeds.
Little Grebe (c) Bark
The highlight at the first screen this weekend was the presence of three Garganey on Saturday. A still smart male with a female and another very tatty individual that looked as though it was going into eclipse. The scruffy bird was still present on Sunday but there was no sign of the other pair.

Two smarter Garganey and below the scruffier one. (c) Bark

We are confident that we are watching two different Marsh Harrier pairs. Two different males, one in less obvious adult male plumage, are bringing food to two different females that come up for the food passes from two very different locations. One of the males appears to spend more time hunting out over Greenaways, the Flood and the MOD fields. The other favours Big Otmoor and Ashgrave it may just be preference or perhaps avoiding competition. There are frequent food passes, a testament to hunting skills and the productivity of the site.
Food Pass (c) Bark

Whenever the sun was out this weekend it was possible to spot Common Lizards beside the first screen. Two that I saw were quite large and looked to have swollen bellies, suggesting that they were females and shortly about to give birth.
Common Lizard (c) Bark
The eggs develop inside the female and they give birth to fully formed tiny lizards. On Sunday morning one had to walk very carefully along the path by the hide as there were tiny toadlets hopping about everywhere taking advantage of the wet conditions after the rain.
Tiny Toadlet (c) Bark
Once we get past the longest day then we will start to look for the first returning waders that always appear then. They are probably failed breeders, but their appearance marks another key point in the calendar.

Bee Fly (Volucella Pellucens) and Painted Lady (c) Stoneshank Hogweed (c) Bark

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