Tuesday, 7 September 2021

Rest of August and into September


Success at last! Early days.  (c) Fergus Mosey

August is often a quiet birding month but this year it has been quite the opposite on Otmoor. Autumn passage has started somewhat earlier than we usually expect. There has been a steady stream of waders coming through the scrapes and lagoons.

Black-tailed Godwit (c) Bark

As the water levels have drawn down at the first screen reed stubble and mud has been exposed, offering excellent feeding conditions for waders.
Snipe (c) Bark

The water has been receding slowly, which steadily allows access to new feeding areas as it does so. Snipe have been taking advantage of this and there have been up to fifty present, although they are difficult to count, their cryptic plumage blending perfectly with the reed stubble.
Snipe (c) Bark

Greenshanks have been regular, delicately picking their way around the margins, as have Green and Common Sandpipers.

Greenshanks (c) Bark

Lapwings have been using the muddy banks not for feeding but as safe daytime roosts, where they can preen and rest.

Early returning Golden Plover (c) Bark

Three weeks ago, there was a very early returning Golden Plover still in remnants of its summer plumage.

Greenshank (above) and Little Stint (c) Bark

An exciting find just this weekend was the second Little Stint to be seen on the moor this year, the other was a spring passage bird seen in a more remote part of the reserve. It was good to have the chance to appreciate just how small this diminutive wader is, as it was towered over and sometimes chased about by Snipe.
A chance to see how small when next to a Snipe (c) Bark

Ducks too are loafing on the banks as they moult their feathers. There are still several Garganey amongst them and there are three eclipse plumage Pintail out at the far end of the lagoon The scattering of white and grey feathers can sometimes make it look as if there has been a light dusting of snow.

Mandarins on the Tern raft (c) Bark

At the second screen up to seven Mandarin ducks have been seen, often perching on the low branches of the willows on the right-hand side or sitting on the now deserted tern raft.

All three Egret species have been very much in evidence across the reserve.

Great White Egret (c) Tom N-L

Cattle Egrets have gone from being rare vagrants to regular residents in just a few months. They feed out among the grazing animals and return to the  islands in the lagoons to rest and preen.
Cattle Egrets flying in (c) Bark

There have been up to four juvenile birds amongst them probably the youngsters that were raised at Blenheim this summer.
Tow adults and a juvenile (c) Bark

As we have become more familiar with all three Egrets, it has become possible to recognise their very different flight patterns and wing profiles, they each display a very distinctive jizz.

Whinchats have appeared in all the regular places that we expect them every Autumn as have Redstarts and Spotted Flycatchers.

Male Redstart (c) Tezzer

Sightings have been reported from The Pill, Long Meadow and Lower Farm at Noke. There were at least four Whinchats together out at the Pill last weekend.
Long Meadow Spot Fly (c) Bark

The biggest news this month however has been confirmation of the first successful fledging of a Common Crane on Otmoor. Certainly not the first ever but probably the first for over five hundred years! I have reported the comings and goings of “our” Cranes over the last six years and their trials and tribulations in attempting to breed.

Juvenile and Adult Common Crane (c) Fergus Mosey

Whenever chicks have been successfully hatched, they have inevitably succumbed to predation at different times before they mastered flight. Ground nesting birds such as Cranes are vulnerable to predation at all stages of their breeding cycle. The Cranes that did finally succeed were not our original pair, but a second pair that first arrived on the moor in 2020 and manged to hatch a chick that unfortunately did not survive as long as a week. This year however “Ted” and “Excalibird” the parents, took advantage of the rapid grass growth that hid their nest and once hatching had occurred also concealed their chick.
The whole Crane family just appearing over the grass (c) Fergus Mosey

Otmoor had remained wet for much longer than recent summers which helped to ensure an abundant source of food for the developing youngster.

Swallows at Noke (c) JR

Swallows and Martins are gathering in small flocks and feeding over the reedbed and will soon depart to be replaced in a months’ time by a different suite of birds. In that transitional time something rare and interesting might well appear.

Oddington Wryneck (c) Mark Stanley-Price

Already there has been a Wryneck feeding on a lawn in a private garden in Oddington, which by my criteria qualifies it for the Otmoor list and makes it the one hundred and sixty-third species for the year.

The colours of autumn are starting to appear (c) Bark

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