Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Look before you book. /Otmoor sightings 28th aug

As the summer holidays are nearly over. Just one piece of advice for next year.

Look before you book

After spending nearly two weeks away in sunny Devon and Dorset with the Mother in law. (I still managed to do some clandestine birding). Notching up Nightjar, Dartford Warbler, Tree Pipit and Woodlark.  I was itching to get back to Otmoor. Even though the Mother in law's garden produced Raven, Buzzard, Willow Warbler and i think a Southern Hawker Dragonfly. The caravan is not in my mother in law's garden. Or anything to do with her. (Had to point that out otherwise she would kill me.)

Devon willow Warbler

Southern Hawker ?
Even before i had left home for Devon, i got this shot of a sparrowhawk in my back garden.

Arriving at Otmoor at 7:00 am. I had only reached the first corner, after leaving the car park. When i was treated to three very smart Lesser Whitethroats in the bush behind and to the right of the telegraph pole. (Try as i might, just couldn't get a photo of them) They were flitting about with two Whitethroats, a Garden Warbler and several Blue Tits. Bullfinch also seen nearby. A Great spotted Woodpecker was on the telephone wire just a little way along the track.

On reaching Greenaways. Two Wheatears were on the wires, close to the RSPB hut.

They flew onto Greenaways where i counted a total of three by the sticks.
A juvenile Marsh Harrier drifted over from the m.o.d. land and landed in the long grass close to the first wooden fence posts along diagonal track (Greenaways). An all dark brown bird, with no cream on crown or wings at all. Seconds later a second bird appeared from the pill direction. Although this bird had a cream crown there was no sign of colour on the leading edge of the wings. (I believe this was the bird Later photographed by myself and Dave Cuddon from the 1st screen). I believe the lack of cream colour on the fore wing indicates this is also a juvenile bird. (Please correct me if this is wrong).

My pic of Marsh Harrier.

Dave Cuddon's pic 1

Dave's pic 2

(Thanks Dave for your pics)

A Raven flew across the path from Greenaways over to closes field.  A Snipe also flying close to path.
A slow walk towards 1st screen and studying the bushes, (where the hedge is cut lower than the rest) produced two grass snakes, in the same place i had seen them, two weeks previously.
Unfortunately i spooked the first one. But an even more cautious approach allowed me to get close enough to take these shots. the lighter picture was taken 3/4 of an hour later, on the way back from 1st screen. It hadn't moved an inch. The sun was now higher and notice how much larger it's pupils are.

Three Gargany and a Green sandpiper seen from 1st screen and also a Common Blue butterfly and this Dragonfly (ID please).

One of the distant Gargany. apologies for the poor quality.

Green Sandpiper

Common Blue butterfly 

Full list of species:

Mute swan, Greylag, Grey heron, Little Egret, Mallard, Gargany, Tufted, Gadwall, Cormorant, Common Tern, Black headed Gull, Coot, moorhen, Little Grebe, Lapwing, Green Sandpiper, Snipe, Pheasant, Red Legged Partridge, Green Woodpecker, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Raven, Crow, Rook, Jackdaw, Magpie, Jay, Buzzard, Marsh Harrier, Red Kite, Hobby, Kestrel, Blackbird, Wheatear, Starling, Swallow, Bullfinch, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Robin, Dunnock, Reed Bunting, Lesser Whitethroat, Whitethroat, Garden Warbler, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Reed Warbler, Great Tit, Blue Tit.

Total 52

Thursday, 9 August 2012

The Otmoor Oasis

Today was the quietest walk i have had this year on Otmoor. Apart from a pair of Yellowhammers and a Willow Warbler serenading me from the car park. There was hardly a peep until the feeders. Where a Green Woodpecker took off from the bridge yaffling loudly as it flew.
Walking along the bridleway beside Greenaways. It is noticeable that the bushes, that only a few short weeks ago, were alive with bird activity and song, are now deathly quiet. Save the odd timorous squeak. The fields that bristled with activity. With the ever present piping Redshanks flitting around the moor and squadrons of alert Lapwing rising in unison to meet the aerial threat from the stuka dive bombing Red kites. seem a long time ago. Many of the birds still present are now in full moult like the Whitethroat below. A Kingfisher was seen from the 1st screen.again in full moult.

Moulting Whitethroat

A noisy family of four Green Woodpeckers accompanied me along the bridleway. I think the two together are juveniles. They were sticking close and even flying together.
While the other two stayed in close attendance.

The Family of Green Woodpeckers.
Good news from the young Cuckoo that suffered the ordeal by lens. It has been seen again and looks fit and healthy. With long tail and wing primaries it looks pretty much fully fledged. Birds of prey also quite thin on the ground. With just one buzzard, one Hobby, one Kestrel and Two red kites seen on my visit today.

One of today's Red Kites
 Six little Egrets seen again over Ashgrave and Greenaways. Apart from the usual Pochard, Gadwall, Tufted and Mallard. A surprise Wigeon made an appearance from the 1st screen and two snipe flitting around the reed bed there.
Even though Otmoor seems so quiet at the moment. It still manages to throw up the odd treat. Walking back along Greenaways. On reaching one of the large oaks. movement caught my eye. Looking up, to my amazement, this one tree and the adjacent bushes were alive with birds. There were at least six Willow warblers, (A conservative estimate) two Chiffchaffs, one Garden Warbler, one Blackcap, two Chaffinches, several Goldfinches, a family of five or six Long Tailed tits mixed in with Great and Blue tits. A Whitethroat and a sorry looking moulting Reed Bunting made up the throng. The Oak tree appeared like an oasis compared to the sparceness of bird life elsewhere on the reserve.

Willow Warbler

Acrobatic Willow Warbler

Other news: There are still plenty of Dragonflies on the wing. With common Darters everywhere and the menacing Brown Hawkers putting in plenty of appearances.
A large back end of a Grass snake was seen slithering from view by the conservation area gate on the car park field.

Todays bird list....
Mute Swan, Greylag Goose, Canada Goose, Mallard, Gadwall, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Wigeon, Coot, Moorhen, Little Grebe, Grey Heron, Little Egret, Cormorant, Common Tern, Lapwing, Snipe,Pheasant, Cuckoo, Green Woodpecker, Woodpigeon, Stock Dove, Crow, Rook, Jackdaw, Magpie, Buzzard, Red Kite, Hobby, Kestrel, Blackbird, Starling, Robin, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Bullfinch, Linnet, Yellowhammer, Reed Bunting, Reed Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Garden Warbler, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Whitethroat, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Long Tailed Tit, Swallow.


Saturday, 4 August 2012

How not to do it.

I had the misfortune of witnessing some, in my opinion, disturbing behaviour at Otmoor on Friday afternoon/evening. Myself and two friends were standing at the swing gate near the hide (Greenaways) when we saw a youngish man with short cropped fair hair walking up the path from the 1st screen. He stopped approximately
where a juvenile Cuckoo was known to be in a bush. He started to poke
the long lens of his camera into the bush. He saw us and sheepishly withdrew to the
opposite side of the path. We walked up to the scrapes on Big Otmoor. On
our way back half an hour later. We noticed the said gentleman had
climbed over the gate on Big Otmoor. The gate that has a “conservation
area keep out” sign on it.
He obviously didn’t think that applied to him.
He was on the other side of the bushes from where we saw him before.
Once more he was poking his camera lens into the bush. He saw us and ran to the gate. Clambering over it he marched in double quick time back towards the car park. We could see he had a bright red face. He new exactly what he was doing was wrong, but did it anyway. This idiot had no qualms whatsoever about disturbing the bird. Or indeed the welfare of the bird. This sort of behaviour is unacceptable. Where harassing and haranguing a bird just to get a photo is justified and the photograph is more important than the welfare of the bird. An hour later I walked back to the same gate and looked down the track. Sure enough 50 or 60 yards away the Cuckoo had reappeared on the path. If only that idiot had more patience and used some common sense. He could have had all the photographs he had hoped for, without any detriment to the bird whatsoever. I watched the bird sitting on the path for 20 mins or so before it shuffled out of sight into the bush. It was continually calling for food. But there was no sign of the parent birds. I just hope for the Cuckoo's sake that his actions have not scared the parents away permanently.

Compare this with the actions of a friend of mine. (John Shepard) He had seen the report of the juvenile Cuckoo on my blog and travelled down to Otmoor to see if he could get a photo opportunity. We soon found a Cuckoo and were treated to wonderful views of it being fed on a gatepost. Where we had ample time to take our photos. Being a dedicated photographer, he stayed in the area hoping for another opportunity. He staked out the area for three hours plus waiting for it to reappear. Even though the Cuckoo didn’t reappear. He never once tried to make things happen. Or in any way affect the birds behaviour by his actions. This is how it should be done. Patience, dedication and perseverance. Without disturbance.
With his kind permission, here are three of John’s fantastic photos.
The results of doing things the right way.

(Extract from e-mail John sent me when he heard about the lads behaviour)
“What a "blxxxy" shame, I have waited for a very long time to get the shots I did on Wednesday and I hesitate to publish them in case I encourage this sort of behaviour. This young lads actions compare unfavourably with ours when you think I spent three hours waiting for him\her to come out of that bush and it never did!!!!!!”

I must confess I felt a pang of guilt, when I witnessed the behaviour of the said person. Had I not, in my enthusiasm published my photos, would this idiot have been there at all. However Otmoor is a very public place and this particular Cuckoo was in clear view on the paths and gateposts. I am sure sooner or later the word would have spread. Had I not published someone else would have and you can never legislate for the tiny minority that behave in this manner. I think all we can do is act responsibly ourselves and try to promote good behaviour. It would be a shame if the experience of seeing this wonderful event and the brilliant photos, such as my friends, cannot be shared because of a few idiots. But when all is said and done the birds well being is the only thing of real importance here and we have a responsibility to ensure this is upheld.
In my defence when I first photographed the juvenile Cuckoo and reported it on my blog. I had no idea a second bird would make such a public appearance. This is definitely a different bird (see tail length)

                    Original bird 

 I would very much appreciate your thoughts on the subject.
Please reply… Disgraceful behaviour at Otmoor this evening.. post (On Oxonbirds message board)

On a lighter note i would just like to sincerely thank everybody who has been so kind in offering their support and encouragement for my new blog. You never quite know how these things will be perceived when you start something new.
And cheers Derrick for the photography lesson. Great stuff

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

De- ja cuckoo

A quieter day on the moor today as far as numbers go. But Otmoor never lets me down. There is always something different. To begin with. Turning into the lane by the pub, I noticed something huge sitting on one of the roof tops. For a moment I thought I was hallucinating. As I raised the bins, to see a Peacock. Not the most common sight on the moor.

Probably the same family of Garden Warblers I had seen two days ago. In the same bush, opposite the feeders (Car park field ), were busy feeding at least three juveniles.
Along the bridleway, by RSPB hut, (Greenaways) two Turtle doves could be heard purring. Found one sitting on a tree stump and the second erupted from the adjacent bush and flew over Closes.

Two red legged partridge strolled casually in front of me along the track.

Nearing the gate to the 1st screen. I discovered once again (Second time in two visits) a juvenile cuckoo sitting on the path. With its adopted parent Reed Warblers bringing food every few seconds. It hopped up onto the gate (To first screen), giving excellent views. Occasionally one of the Warblers would feed it from above while sitting on its back.

It then flew over the tree and alighted on the fence on Big Otmoor. Where the busy little Reed Warblers continued to feed it.

As the amount of people standing by the gate photographing it grew. The Reed Warbler parents became nervous and ushered their lumbering charge into the bushes and out of sight near the big Oak tree.
At least six Little egrets could be seen floating almost Owl-like over Ashgrave. A buzzard circling with a kestrel also there and the first Hobby of the day made its appearance. (Three seen today)

Buzzard circling with Kestrel

Moving to a different part of the reserve. I found two beautiful male Redstarts and a female. Also I think there were at least two other contact calls, I could hear at the same time. Coming from further along the field.
Whilst creeping along trying to get closer to where I saw a male Redstart fly into a bush. I stopped by another bush. Thinking it would give me that extra bit of camouflage. Suddenly right beside me, in the bush I was standing next to. I heard the familiar sound of a Redstart contact call.
Glancing down. I could see movement at the far end of the bush. A bird was edging its way towards the end of a branch. I slowly raised the camera and focused on a clear patch of branch near the edge. Checked I had it set on burst. (check). Fast shutter speed (check) Aperture ok (Check).
As good as gold. The beautiful male Redstart popped up exactly where I had predicted. Not more than six feet away. My heart was racing as I gently pressed the shutter button.
Then NOTHING. There is a horrible little click noise as the screen goes black. The Redstart takes off. I instinctively follow it with the camera. Desperately pressing the button. But to no avail. Checking the camera to see what the dickens (For want of another few words I could think of) had gone wrong.
The battery was as flat as a pancake. Argggghhhhhhh!!
Trudging back to the car. I consoled myself with the fact that just having been that close to such a fantastic bird on my own patch. Seeing them flying with their spectacular red tails was a marvel in itself.

I think i am still being followed.

Doesn't quite make up for a Redstart but these two did their best.

Full list of species today 1st AUG

Mute Swan, Canada goose, Greylag Goose, Mallard, Pochard, Gadwall, Tufted, Great crested Grebe, Coot, Cormorant, Grey heron, Little Egret, Lapwing, Buzzard, Red Kite, Hobby, Kestrel, Woodpigeon, Turtle Dove, Crow, Rook, Jackdaw, Magpie, Cuckoo, Red legged Partridge, Green Woodpecker, Great spotted Woodpecker, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Redstart, Reed Bunting, Yellowhammer, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Bullfinch, Linnet, Great Tit, Blue tit, Long tailed Tit, Reed Warbler, Garden Warbler, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Whitethroat.