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..
Kestrel
Hover Fly. (Helophilus Pendulus)