Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Beardies and Fieldfares

Sunrise from the 1st screen.
Arriving very early am, in the hope of avoiding the showers and finding the Bearded tits, that had been reported in the reed bed. And maybe even the Bittern if it is still around. I wasn't holding out too much hope for the Beardies as a strong westerly wind was blowing. i was accompanied by a beautiful yellow and golden sunrise as i trudged briskly around Greenaways and reached the first screen. Stopping only briefly to view a fantastic little Stonechat, perched atop a Willow tree near to the hide and a Jay that was scurrying around on the grass in the sw corner close to the gate. Nearing the corner of the path to the 1st screen a flock of six fieldfare flew overhead. Chuck chucking noisily as they flew along the tree line. 

Sunrise over Greenaways.

Stonechat near hide

 Creeping into the  the 1st screen, so as not to disturb anything that might be on the island like a Bittern or something equally as good. Or any Bearded tits that might be on the reeds just outside the screen. (Very early mornings can play havoc with your sense of reality at times) Alas only a smattering of Mallard, a couple of Teal and a couple of Fish guzzlers (Cormorants) were present on the island. Sixty plus Teal were asleep at the end of the right hand channel. As feared the Reeds were being buffeted by the strengthening wind. scanning the reeds a female Reed Bunting sent the pulses racing for a split second as it flew low over the reeds.
Cormorant on the island in front of the 1st screen
After forty five Bearded Titless minutes or so and slightly disheartened i decided to make my way down to the 2nd screen. Having found just a few Wigeon some Gadwall and the ever present Coots. I was just weighing up my options. Should i go to the hide and then Noke or sit it out back at the 1st screen. When i heard the familiar and fantastic Ping Ping Ping call of Bearded tits. One was calling very close and just to the right of the screen. It sounded as if it was somewhere near the waters edge. as i scanned the reeds i was lucky enough to see one flying over the reed bed and dropping down some thirty to forty yards away into the reeds. The one i heard originally was still calling and another replied from the left hand side of the screen in the corner again very close. Then as quickly as the calls started,they stopped. try as i might, i couldn't find the birds again. Meeting up with some of the Otmoor regulars, they informed me they had just seen six out from the 1st screen. Also when i got home i heard that the Bittern had also been seen AARRGGHHH !!! Musn't grumble though. I had my brief view of one of the Beardies and the excitement of hearing them close by. They have been reported now for the last three days. So here's keeping everything crossed, that they decide to stay a while longer. A fantastic little bird to have on our reserve.
Other sightings....
Lots of Greylag and Canadas on Ashgrave accompanied by a large flock of Bh Gulls. Five Little Egrets also on Ashgrave and several seen flying at different locations. Three Goldcrests were again tagging along with a flock of LT Tits. Two more Stonechats were on the fence posts between Ashgrave and Closes field. On the way back to the carpark, a flock of twenty plus Redwing flew over the far side of Greenaways.

Greylag over Greenaways.
 There are still a few Migrant Hawker and Common darters on the wing.
The Hornets are still attacking the Ash tree saplings. A second Ash is receiving the same treatment, just around the corner after the 1st screen.

Hornets bark stripping.
 The beautiful White poplar trees look absolutely stunning when the sun catches them as the wind blows their leaves revealing exactly how they get their name.
White poplar tree
Crest country. There's gold in them thar bushes. Goldcrests that is.
Today's sightings....

Mute Swan,Greylag, Canada, Mallard, Teal, Wigeon, Gadwall, Cormorant, Grey Heron, Little Egret, Coot, Moorhen, BH Gull, LBB Gull, Lapwing, Buzzard, Red Kite, Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, Crow, Rook, Jackdaw, Jay, Magpie, Pheasant, Red Legged Partridge, Woodpigeon, Fieldfare, Redwing, Starling, Reed Bunting, Robin, Wren, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Great tit, Blue tit, Long Tailed tit, BEARDED TIT, Goldcrest, Stonechat.
Other species...
Hare, Migrant Hawker, Common Darter, Hornet.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Come on you Reds


Redpolls, Redwings and Red Legged Partridge, were among a good variety of birds seen today.
Eight Redpolls were in and around the Oak trees along the bridleway (Greenaways). Four Siskin, three Goldcrests, a Treecreeper, Goldfinches, Blue Tits, Great Tits and lots of Long tailed Tits also in the same area. A solitary Redwing was perched on the top of one of the dead Elms. Along with one of the two Great spotted woodpeckers seen today. The second Woodpecker was busy bullying the Greenfinches, Chaffinches and Tits on the feeders. Small flocks of Meadow Pipits were again seen in various places around the reserve. Two Skylarks singing in close proximity to the path near the 1st screen.

Four more Redwing were seen flying over near the hide. Two jays were squawking noisily and mobbing a Grey Squirrel in the large Oak tree nearby. Three single Yellow Wagtails were seen flying over at different locations on the reserve and one Pied Wagtail. More Goldcrests and a Chiffchaff were in the bushes from the first screen to the corner leading to the second screen. Just one Stonechat on a fence post behind the hide. Four were reported on the same fence earlier in the day.

Stonechat near hide.
A myriad of Teal are inhabiting the moor. On the pool in front of the first screen. I counted sixty three on the water and many more flying back and forth to Big Otmoor and Ashgrave. A Gadwall and lots of Mallard also there.
Teal from the 1st screen.
Large noisy flocks of Greylag and Canadas are on Ashgrave and Big Otmoor. Along with even larger flocks of Lapwing. Five Little Egrets were also present on Ashgrave with one more seen on closes field.
Photos from Monday...

This very smart Pheasant was along the track close to the feeders.

Mondays sightings...
Mute Swan,Greylag, Canada, Mallard, Gadwall, Teal, Coot, Moorhen, Grey Heron, Little Egret, Cormorant, Lapwing, LBB Gull, BH Gull, Red Kite, Kestrel, Pheasant, Red Legged Partridge, Crow, Rook, Magpie, Jackdaw, Jay, Green Woodpecker, GS Woodpecker, Treecreeper, Blackbird, Redwing, Woodpigeon, Stock Dove, Yellow Wagtail, Pied Wagtail, Skylark, Meadow Pipit, Dunnock, Robin, Stonechat, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Siskin, Redpoll, Wren, Great Tit, Blue Tit, LT Tit, Goldcrest, Chiffchaff, Reed Bunting.
Total... 49

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Time for a Chat and Crestfallen.

                                                Time for a Chat

Tuesday...... Grey and murky early am. giving way to bright sunshine and scattered cloud. Fresh easterly wind.

Noke pond bathed in sunshine
First Thrushes of the autumn seen in the distance. (From the path between the screens) Twenty five Redwing heading towards Noke.
Wildfowl dominate the moor at this time of year. Early morning saw a  flock of one hundred plus Greylag Geese float over the trees and land on big Otmoor. Large flocks of Mallard also travelling between big Otmoor and Ashgrave. A flight of seventy plus Teal darted across Ashgrave, landing on the Lagoon on the far side. being joined by several other smaller groups.
Six Little Egrets out from the hide on Ashgrave. Flocks of Snipe were seen on two occasions. The first a Wisp of twenty birds, coming in to land on Big Otmoor. Later in the morning a larger flock of around forty birds were seen flying from Big Otmoor and landing in the reed beds. A Redpoll was on the wire near Noke farm. Four Stonechat and lots of Meadow Pipits also there. Four Chiffchaff seen along the bridleway. Newts are still to be seen crossing the paths. Please take extra care, as they are very small and not easy to see against the gravel.
Tuesday photos...

                                                    Noke Stonechats

                    Still some colour to be found in the hedgerows. (Spindleberry)
         (Thanks Paul for the id and the fascinating history of the plant and its uses)



There has been a fall of Goldcrests today. Their thin high pitched calls could be heard at several locations on the moor. At least four were seen along the path to the first screen. Three more were in bushes, just past the first screen. Two more in bushes near the hide. Lots of calls and one or two seen all along the bridleway towards Noke.

Goldcrest in the shadows.
A flock of 150 plus Teal and Mallard, (mostly Teal) rose from the reed bed, when disturbed from the first shots that rang out from the rifle range. An even larger flock of  between two and three hundred Lapwing were wheeling around the sky over Ashgrave.
                             Part of the Lapwing flock over Ashgrave.

Lapwing swirling over Ashgrave

Apart from the Goldcrests and Goldfinches, smaller birds were few and far between. Two Siskin flying over by the bridge at Noke. Just one Stonechat near the farm. A Stonechat and a Whinchat were reported on bushes along the path to the first screen. Only two Swallows seen today. One Chiffchaff was along the bridleway towards Noke. Three skylarks and twelve Meadow Pipits also seen today.
The metallic ticking of the Robins can be heard coming from the hedgerows. Along with the high pitched tseep of Dunnock.

Altogether ten Snipe were seen flying in various locations on the reserve. A Raven was flying over Greenaways carrying something, that appeared to have legs dangling from it, in its bill. (A Mouse or Vole perhaps). A Kingfisher added a welcome splash of colour, as it zipped across Ashgrave, heading towards Big Otmoor. 
Two photos from Thursday of last week...
The first one, is of two Redpoll that were perched on a bush by Noke pond. The second sent to me by Derek Woodard of a Blackcap. (Thanks Derek)

Complete list of birds. Wednesday and Thursday....

Mute Swan, Greylag goose, Canada Goose, Mallard, Gadwall, Wigeon, Teal, Shoveler, Tufted, Coot, Moorhen, Grey Heron, Little Egret, Lapwing, Snipe, Cormorant, B-H Gull, L-B-B Gull, Kingfisher, Buzzard, Red Kite, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Pheasant, Raven, Crow, Rook, Jackdaw, Magpie, Jay, Green Woodpecker, G-S Woodpecker, Stock Dove, Woodpigeon, Blackbird, Redwing, Starling, Skylark, Meadow Pipit, Reed Bunting, Stonechat, Robin, Dunnock, Wren, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Redpoll, Siskin, Linnet, Bullfinch, Yellowhammer, Swallow, House Martin, Chiffchaff, Goldcrest, Great Tit, Blue tit, Long Tailed Tit,

Total... 58

Mammals, Reptiles, Insects......Of note.

Fox, Common Newt, Migrant Hawker, Common Darter, Hornet.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Chiffs, Chats, Wisps and Skeins.

It has been a lovely week on the moor. Picking the days to visit between showers. Monday , Tuesday and Thursday. Thursday morning being the best, with glorious sunshine and a refreshing wind, perfect for walking and birding of course. It was evident there had been some heavy rain overnight as every blade of grass, leaf and Spiders web glistened with water in the morning sun.

Watery Webs.
(See previous blog (Gold and precious stones) for Monday Sightings.)
Tuesday again saw a large movement of hirundines. With all three species gathering on the telephone wires near noke farm. mostly Swallows but a good mixture of House and Sand martins were in attendance.

Swallow on wire Noke. "Bit chilly first thing, glad i wore my scarf".

House Martins
Sand Martin with Swallows
Lots of Finches around, predominantly Goldfinches and a good smattering of Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Bullfinch and Linnet. Keep an eye out for Siskin as i was lucky enough to see two on Monday. Redpoll and Brambling could also put in an appearance.
There are plenty of Meadow Pipits to be seen, flying in small flocks just about everywhere on the reserve. Early morning is a good time to see mixed flocks near the Cattle pens and RSPB hut. Both on Tuesday and Thursday there were lots of finches, several Dunnocks, Meadow Pipits, Tits and one or two Warblers. Comprising of Two Chiffchaffs a Willow Warbler and a Blackcap. All of which were present on Thursday.

Meadow Pipit near Cattle pens Tuesday.
Thursday's Chiffchaff.
Chiffchaffs are scattered in various places all around the reserve. I counted nine separate places where they were either seen or heard.
Chiffchaff just past the first screen.
Stonechats numbers are rising rapidly with seven reported on the M.O,D land on Thursday and i saw a further three together near Noke Farm.
Three Noke Stonechats

Stonechat near Noke Farm.
One of the highlights from Tuesday was a wisp of some forty Snipe wheeling over Big Otmoor circling below an even larger flock of  Mallard. Before dropping down and disappearing in the long grass.
Perhaps the only disappointment of the week has been the lack of diversity Wader species wise. Apart from Snipe and a lovely flock of Golden Plover on Monday just Lapwing and a solitary Ringed Plover to make up the numbers. Unfortunately the water level at the first screen has risen again to a point where any waders have been pushed away from virtually all of the viewable areas.
Mallard over Big Otmoor
Large flocks of Mallard are to be seen flying on the reserve especially between big Otmoor and the Reed beds. Teal are also very visible. Shoveler, Wigeon and Gadwall can be seen from both screen areas. I found a female Pintail on Thursday, on the lagoon (Ashgrave). As i had seen a Female Pintail on Tuesday flying over the bridleway (Greenaways) heading for Ashgrave. It is possibly the same bird.
Spectacular skeins of Geese are a regular feature now and like the Mallard, Big Otmoor is a good place to see and hear them.

Greylag coming in to land on Big Otmoor
A nice surprise on Thursday was a Wheatear i came across near noke Farm. It was scurrying around on the grass, doing a very good Sanderling (Clockwork toy impression). Occasionally flying onto the fence giving superb views.

Wheatear on the lawn. Noke.

Sparrowhawks were seen on three occasions on Thursday. The first making a spectacular failed attempt to catch a Meadow Pipit right over my head near the RSPB hut on Greenaways. Seeing the hawk twist upside down with outstretched talons the Pipit made a desperate last ditch manoeuvre, avoiding the razor sharp talons by a hairs breadth.
Other birds of prey... The usual Buzzards, Red Kites and Kestrels were seen on each day and on Thursday a tantalising and all too brief view of a small brown falcon. Which was perched on the fence next to the bridge leading to the hide. As i walked along the bridleway and the fence came into view. I saw it take off and disappear behind the screen, heading in the direction of the hide. Reaching the bridge and peering around the screen. hoping to see it flying. It had completely vanished. I have seen a female Merlin on two occasions recently. So it was possibly a Merlin. but not enough of a sighting to be sure.
Sparrowhawk near reed bed
 Such a pleasure to be on Otmoor on mornings like this. Powder blue skies, plenty of birds and great company. (Cheers Derek).

Mallard against a powder blue sky.
A view of Ashgrave
White Poplar.
The White Poplar trees of Otmoor.. The leaves of the Poplars have fine hairs on the underside and when the wind catches them they appear to turn white.
Show off. Your not the only thing that can hover here at Otmoor matey.
Here are two of Otmoors finest..
Hover Fly. (Helophilus Pendulus)