Thursday, 3 August 2023

July Round-up.

Cattle Egret (c) Bark

I hasn’t felt a lot like summer! This has been the wettest coolest July that I can remember. In a normal year there would be very little standing water left across the fields and the wet scrapes of spring would by now be dry and dusty. There have of course been drier interludes, but windy showery conditions have prevailed between the much wetter times. As is normal at this time of year the pace of birding has slackened off as the birds have got quieter and all our breeders are getting on with raising young.

Foraging Sedge warbler (c) Bark

Bitterns have been making feeding flights and their offspring should be on the wing soon. although young bitterns are competent fliers their skills at landing are even worse than the adults. One of the dedicated group of volunteers who had been watching Bittern movements in the reedbed, was able to take a wonderful photograph from the monitoring hide, which shows a female Bittern with four young, almost fledged youngsters. To raise this number of chicks shows both persistence on behalf of the adult and an abundance of food across the reserve.

Female Bittern with four chicks almost fledged (c) Sue Carruthers

Some birds are actively feeding young and already there are mixed flocks of juvenile tits and warblers foraging along the hedgerows.

Chiffchaff in the Roman Road (c) Bark

Some warblers are advertising for mates and territory, perhaps to raise second broods. Grasshopper Warblers have been heard reeling again from several places across the moor. There are still Sedge Warblers singing, although not with the vigour and regularity of spring.
Sedge Warbler (c) Bark

Passage Redstarts have already been reported in some of their regular haunts and post breeding Spotted Flycatchers have been seen in the Roman Road.
Sparrow Hawk over (c) Bark

All three Egret species are present in varying numbers. There have sometimes been double figures of Cattle Egrets, but they are very difficult to count as they move with the grazing animals through the long grass.

Cattle Egrets (c) Bark

Great Egrets have been roosting in the reedbed and on one morning there were five individuals on the lagoon in front of the screen. There always seem to be one or two Little Egrets on the scrapes or in the southern lagoon in front of the screen.
Great Egret at the first screen (c) Bark

Sadly, there have been no further sightings of the Night Heron first seen in late spring. It may be the same bird that has been frequenting the southern end of Peep O Day lane south of Abingdon.
Record shot of the Night Heron from Peep O' Day Lane. (c) Bark 

It did entice me away from Otmoor on the Sunday morning that it was first seen!

As is usual at this time of year Butterflies and other invertebrates are one of the main attractions on the moor.

Painted Lady (c) Bark

It is possible to see over fifteen species of Butterfly on the wing in just a couple of hours. As in the past the Brown Hairstreaks are a real draw for butterfly enthusiasts and the Roman Road is the most reliable place to see them.

Two brown Hairstreaks and a purple Hairstreak

There are Purple Hairstreaks there and even the occasional Silver-washed Fritillary. Bumblebees, Honeybees, Wasps and Hornets are all to be seen foraging on the extensive brambles with their abundant flowers.

Hornet and Bumble Bee sp. (c) Bark

The larger dragonflies are now on the wing and amongst them the  Blue-eyed Hawker (Southern Migrant Hawker) has already been seen and photographed.

Roesel's Bush crickets are very common on the MOD land beyond the Roman Road (c) Bark

As we go through August we can hope for warmer more settled weather and can expect a few more migrants to pass through on their way south. If water levels fall on the northern lagoon, we might also hope for a few more passage waders to drop in.

Three of the four common Sandpipers resting in a willow at the first screen. (c) Bark

It will be worth scanning the edges of the scrapes and pools carefully for Spotted Crakes, the calling birds from spring may well have bred and their progeny may well be seen. They have been seen in other years as summer begins to wane.

As the longer grass is cut, so it is easier to see Hares and Fallow Deer (c) Bark

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