Friday 23 December 2022

Running up to Christmas

Water Rail (c) Bark

The extreme cold has yielded after a ten-day freeze that produced night-time temperatures as low as minus eight degrees and several days when the day-time temperatures failed to get above zero.

The next few weeks will determine what effect this has had on the bird life across Otmoor. It will be very interesting to see how birds like our Cetti’s Warblers have managed.
Frosty Robin (c) Bark

There was one winter over ten years ago when we lost our entire population, the birds returned, but it took well over a year before we heard them back on the reserve again, and several years before the population recovered fully.
Frosted plants can be stunning (c) Bark

Goldies just before they left

We were seeing large flocks of Golden Plover just before the cold snap and as usually happens the birds departed once the ground became too frozen for feeding.
A few Snipe clung on (c) Bark

Large flocks of Lapwings also left and will undoubtedly return as the weather recovers. Fieldfares and Redwings are still scavenging the last of the berries from the hedgerows.
Redwing (c) Bark

Chilly Wildfowl (c) Bark

The lagoons did not freeze over completely and a number of Mallard, Teal,  Shoveller    and Wigeon could be seen standing disconsonantly on the ice around the open leads of water.
Bittern (c) Trefor Knight

Bitterns could be seen from time to time either moving between feeding areas or taking advantage of the wintery sunshine.

Bittern (c) Darrell Woods

The Starling roost often collapses when the reedbeds freeze over, but this does not seem to have happened yet this winter.

The large numbers of Starlings continue to attract raptors, Peregrines and a single Ring-tailed Hen Harrier are often being seen along with the resident Marsh Harriers and Sparrowhawks. Red Kites patrol the edges of the reedbed every morning on the lookout for overnight casualties.

Yellowhammers (c) Bark

We have started the winter seed feeding programme alongside the hide. It has surprised us just how rapidly the birds have found this food supply and how rapidly their numbers have increased.

Linnets can be stunning when seen well. (c) Bark

Good numbers of Reed Buntings, Linnets and Chaffinches are predominant. However, there were at least seven Yellowhammers amongst them this weekend and the first male Brambling we have recorded this winter.
A Green Woodpecker has also been around the feeding station (c) Bark

Otters are still being seen regularly including one individual out of the water and walking around on the ice.

Water Rail (c) Oz

Cold weather often coaxes secretive birds out of cover and this cold snap has been no different. A Water Rail has been feeding out in open under the feeders in the Carpark Field. It has been interesting to see it beside the larger, plumper Moorhens and to appreciate just how slim and delicate it looks in comparison.

It has also been possible to see just how subtle are its colours, with beautiful slate blue flanks and its red dagger beak.

Goldfinch on Teasels (c) Darrell Woods

The Otmoor yearlist stands at one hundred and fifty-five species, and seems unlikely to grow any more his year, although species such as Little Owl, Ring-necked Parakeet, Grey Plover and Grey Partridge have not been recorded this year…..there is still time!
Moonrise over the reedbed (c) Tom N.L.

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