Friday 10 November 2023

October and into November

The month has been a very rainy one and the moor is looking very much a wetland. The scrapes and ditches are all much fuller than they were at same time last year. The summer visitors have now almost all departed, bar a few stragglers. There are still a few Chiffchaffs around the edges of the reedbed and they may well be birds that will overwinter here.

Chiffies (c) Bark

Over the course of the month the leaves have turned colour and the winter gales coupled with the first sharp frosts will soon strip them from the branches, which does at least make it easier to pick out the smaller birds. But for now, when the sun shines the trees light up in wonderful shades of bronze, gold and ochre. 

There is never any difficulty seeing the Cranes when they are on site and at the very beginning of the month there were three regulars, one of which was our only remaining colour ringed bird, the male “Ted”. They disappeared shortly after and we had assumed that they would not return until early spring, we were wrong.
Ashgrave Crane (c) Bark

A pair were back on Ashgrave on the 6th of November. They were very vocal and behaving in a territorial manner. As we have lost colour ringed birds it has become much harder to work out who is who, amongst the six or seven cranes that have been in and around Otmoor. Cranes are very vocal birds and I wondered if their bugling calls are unique and whether they can be distinguished one from another by sonograms.
Anonymous Bugling Crane (c) Bark

With mobile phone technology becoming ever more sophisticated it is not too fanciful to imagine that we might soon be able to follow the social interactions and pair successes of our Cranes. 
Stonechat beside the bund (c) Bark

Stonechats are now regular across both the reserve and the MOD, and the last Whinchats departed late in October. There were two late additions to the year-list when a Ring Ouzel was flushed from the hedge between Saunders and Greenaway’s and a Siskin flyover last weekend. We did not record Ring Ousel this spring, the time when we are more likely to encounter them.
Would it were Purple ! (c) Bark

The year-list currently stands at 155 species. There are some regular birds that have yet to appear, we have yet to record an Osprey or Mandarin Duck, there is still the possibility of visiting winter swans or Brent Goose, and of course the holy grail of some irrupting Bearded Tits not seen on the moor since 2019. 
Young roe Buck on Big Otmoor (c) Bark

There are significant numbers of deer across the reserve and the wider moor. At least nine or ten Roe Deer are feeding out on Greenaway’s and there have been several Fallow Deer on Ashgrave. Muntjac are ubiquitous and are becoming much more confiding and almost tame.
Confiding Muntjac (c) Bark

Otters are being seen from time to time, but Hares seem to me to much scarcer than they were. The banks of the reedbed have had to be mown and bushes and other cover has been removed. This is to comply with the Reservoir Act which the reedbed comes under. It is a pity as some useful scrubby habitat has been lost…. but the regulations have to be followed when applied by a punctilious official.

There are still a fluctuating number of Cattle Egrets out with the livestock and both Little and Great Egrets are being seen around the north and south lagoons.

Wildfowl coming out of eclipse and some Wigeon displaying (c) Bark

Wigeon and Shovellers are back in small numbers but they will increase as time moves on. One of the highlights of the last few weeks was the male Hen-Harrier seen for a couple of days and evenings around the reedbed and Noke Sides. 

Male Hen Harrier courtesy of Rob Cadd.

A stunning raptor that perhaps was attracted to the site by the burgeoning Starling roost. Hopefully other raptors will also be tempted in as the Starling numbers increase as autumn slides into winter.
Distant Bittern from the second screen(c) Bark

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