Monday, 31 March 2014

When less is more. Otmoor March 2014.

Less being in the form of a fantastic male Lesser spotted Woodpecker seen and photographed by Steve Lockey (mid month) Steve's pics below.

The Golden Plover flocks have whittled down from 1500 birds at the start of the month to a mere 50 seen today 31st march on Big Otmoor. They are looking resplendent in their spangly gold, black and white summer plumage. Small numbers of Dunlin, Ruff and Snipe were seen whirling among the Plovers when they took to the air. A mystery wader was also seen, that has been put down as a probable / possible unseasonal Curlew Sandpiper. Black Tailed Godwits were also seen in their summer finery. With seven birds being the most i saw together on Big Otmoor. Oystercatchers have also appeared towards the end of the month. With two birds present on the 31st.

Golden Plovers..

The lone Bearded tit is ranging far and wide over the reserve. Being seen anywhere from the 2nd screen to all along the bridleway from the RSPB wardens hut to as far as Noke.

An immature male Marsh Harrier has arrived and the Ring tailed Harrier is still present (31stMarch)

Duck botherer.. (Marsh Harrier)

Other birds of prey..
Short Eared Owl, Barn Owl, Merlin, sparrowhawk, Buzzard, Redkite and Peregrine all seen during March.
Although a very sad tale of one of our magnificent Barn Owls cast a shadow over all who have had the pleasure of seeing this fantastic creature hunting over the reserve. For a full account of the tragic events please read Ewan Urquart's poignant report on his Black Audi Birding blog.

More Otmoor photos..


Little Egrets..



Long tailed tit..







Peacock butterfly..

My Sightings. March 2014 list Otmoor

Mute Swan, Canada, Greylag, Shelduck, Mallard, Wigeon, Teal, Pintail, Gadwall, Tufted, Shoveller, Pochard, G, C, Grebe, Little Grebe, Moorhen, Water Rail, Coot, Grey Heron, Little Egret, Cormorant,
B, H, Gull, G,B,B, Gull, L,B,B, Gull, Herring Gull, Curlew, Black Tailed Godwit, Redshank, Ruff, Dunlin,  (Possible Curlew Sandpiper,) Snipe, Lapwing, Golden Plover, Oystercatcher.
 Hen Harrier, Marsh Harrier, Buzzard, Red Kite, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Peregrine, Merlin, Barn Owl, Pheasant, Crow, Rook, Jackdaw, Magpie, Jay, Wood Pigeon, Stock Dove, Collared Dove,
Great spotted Woodpecker, Green Woodpecker, Treecreeper, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Fieldfare, Redwing, Starling, Wheatear, Robin, Wren, Dunnock,
Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Bullfinch, Linnet, Reed Bunting,
Great tit, Blue Tit, Long Tailed Tit, Bearded Tit , Marsh Tit,
Pied Wagtail, Skylark, Meadow Pipit, (78)

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Mist opportunities

The week so far has consisted of very grey or very misty mornings. It started so well with the forecast for the week promising a virtual heatwave. Monday morning sure enough was warm and sunny until about 10:00 am when it clouded over and turned decidedly cold. The following mornings were equally as cold with a thick mist appearing on Wednesday.
Wednesday morning, Sitting in the newly opened 1st screen was quite an experience. Thick fog enveloped the reed bed. The haunting evocative calls of Wigeon, Teal, Redshank and Curlew could be heard echoing from the mist. A sudden disturbance of heavy wing beats heralded the arrival of a dozen Mute swans. Appearing from the blanket of haze like phantoms. A few minutes passed when the dramatic sound of the rush of air from a thousand wing beats cut through the miasma, as a host of Golden Plover raced above my head and disappeared into the gloom. The pinging of a Bearded Tit was barely audible coming from the reed bed to the left. I watched as it flew across the water and landed deep in amongst the reeds. The visibility was so poor,  i thought any chance of seeing my objective bird for the month (Bittern) flying over the reed bed was all but impossible. so i headed off towards Noke in the hope of an early Wheatear perhaps. I had been warned that the path up to the farm was flooded. but i thought i would give it a go anyway. The path was indeed flooded. But with careful steps and hugging the fence where the water was shallowest where it only came half way up my boots, i eventually made it. A nice surprise was finding seventy or so Fieldfare feeding in the field opposite the farmhouse along with fifteen Redwing and an equal number of Starlings. I have not seen Fieldfare on the reserve lately, so assumed that they had all left. Alas there were no sign of any Wheatears, so back home then.
Photo opportunities were few and far between due to the fog. So imagine my frustration on my return journey along said flooded path. Carefully watching and concentrating on my every step i proceeded gingerly through the flood. Several times i stopped to scan the reeds on Ashgrave to my right. As first a Grey Heron loomed out of the mist and then a Little Egret followed it into the reeds. My final stop to have a last look back over Ashgrave saw me level with the Willow tree near to  the corner of the pond. As i went to move again i stumbled slightly, causing a bit of a splash. I was startled by a sudden and explosive thrash of wings coming from the direction of the Willow to my left. Departing from an exposed branch, not much more then a couple of arms length away from me, was a magnificent Peregrine Falcon. It must have watched me as i walked through the flood. It was so close, I swear if i was wearing my old platform shoes from the seventies i could have jumped up and caught it in mid flight. If only i had looked to my left. The bird was obviously not bothered by my presence. Only my clumsy step seemed to have spooked it. How often do you get the chance to be that close to a wild Peregrine ? And what a photo i could have had. But never mind, even without the photo it was still a marvellous sighting and an experience i shall not forget in a hurry.
Other sightings..  I had good views of the Hen Harrier on Monday by the 2nd screen. Dunlin were still present every day mixed in with the Golden Plovers on Big Otmoor. A Raven was flying over the reed bed.
Chiffchaffs are singing. The latest being heard and seen on the corner after the first screen. There were still five Pintail present on Big Otmoor on Wednesday.

Curlew in the sunshine. Monday morning...

Pintail. Monday..

Pintail and Wigeon on a grey day...


Hen Harrier at the 2nd screen..

Two hundred plus Black Headed Gull flypast..

B, H, Gulls..

Pochard mating..

Curlew silhouettes..

Song Thrush..

  A splash of colour on a grey day..



Misty reed bed..

Gadwall in the mist..

A foggy Greenaways..

The new first screen open for business..