Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Hornets, Hawkers and Hobbys

A fantastic morning at Otmoor (tuesday 4th sept). It will be remembered as much for the other critters that inhabit the moor as much as the birds. Although the hedgerows seem pretty quiet. There is plenty to see especially around the screens. There were at least four Little Egrets feeding in front of the first screen. Six Green Sandpipers, a Greenshank, Several small parties of snipe, Little and Great crested Grebes, Gargany, Wigeon, Gadwall, Tufted ducks and Kingfishers all seen here.

Three of the six Green Sandpipers

Birds of prey were abundant, with a juvenile Marsh Harrier seen from the second Screen. Four Hobbys, Sparrowhawk, three Buzzards, at least four Red Kites and a Kestrel all seen today.

Warblers were fairly sparse with just the odd one or two making an appearance. Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Whitethroat, Garden Warbler, Reed and sedge all seen around the corner after 1st screen.

Three Cormorants were on the Tern raft (2nd screen)

While standing on the bridge by the hide i was treated to a flypast of a dozen or so
Long tailed Tits.
Also keep your eyes open for Wheatear, Whinchat, Redstarts and Yellow Wagtails. All of which were seen today.
Hornets were on the wing today. With three individuals seen in different areas. I am slightly confused by the behaviour of two of them. The first Hornet encounter was just past the R.S.P.B hut. It flew past me and into a nearby bush. It appeared to fly straight into a spiders web. Grab the spider,take it out of its web to a nearby twig and eat it. I witnessed exactly the same behaviour from another Hornet by the second screen. However when i got home and downloaded the photos to my computer. The prey they are eating do not seem to be spiders. Although not easy to make out. One of them appears to be a beetle of some kind. You can clearly see wings and legs and it doesn't look like a fly. The second one also appears black and shiny like a beetle. Were they stealing prey already caught in a spiders web ? Or were the spiders webs nothing to do with it at all, just coincidence ?

1st Hornet near hut.

Hornet two near 2nd screen

Another life and death struggle was playing out at the first screen. A Common Darter was caught up in a spiders web. Although it only seemed to be caught by a leg it couldn't get away. Several times the spider had a go at subduing the dragonfly. But each time the dragonfly fought back. Eventually it got away.

Spider v Dragonfly.

Another interesting observation on the insect front was a Wasp, chewing the wooden fence by the first screen. It was chewing grooves in the wood. the lighter colour lines can clearly be seen in the photo. I assume they chew the wood into pulp and use the material for their nests.
Migrant Hawker Dragonflies seem to have replaced the Brown Hawkers. Only one Brown Hawker seen today. But the Migrant Hawkers appear to be everywhere. I noticed a lot of variation in colour, in some of them. From a greeny yellow to an almost electric blue. 

 An Angle Shades moth was next to the path (Car park field).

A Muntjac dear was on the bridleway near the hide.

Two Grass snakes were again in the same place. The low cut hedge on the path to the 1st screen. And Just like last week, I spooked the first one. But the second one gave fantastic views. The yellow and black collar showing particularly well.
And finally, a first for me. Whoever thought of putting the stones, pipes and logs by the first screen to attract the Common Lizards,deserves a huge pat on the back. I had my first ever sighting of one of these fantastic animals today.
All in all, what a great day.

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