Wednesday, 5 December 2012

A Winters Tale

After waking up to a find a thin layer of snow had fallen overnight. I began to contemplate over a hot mug of tea. Whether my planned trip to Otmoor was still to go ahead. Examining the road outside my house for ice. It didn't seem that bad. So I decided to give it a go. . After i felt the car slide for the third time, I did begin to question my sanity. The icy slope of Otmoor lane was particularly fun.
Arriving at the car park. I was heartened to find, not surprisingly i was the only one there. I don't know what it is, but it allways seems like an added bonus when you have the place to yourself. Even if it is just for a little while.

Snow covered Car park.

Nobody here but us birds.
And me
The Car park field was unusually quiet. With just one fieldfare and a robin seen from the kissing gate to the new path. Two Reed Buntings were feeding on the snowy path leading to Greenaways. Lots of birds around the feeders. With the usual Chaffinches, Greenfinches, Blue and Great Tits, feeding avidly on the nuts. (Still haven't seen anything feeding on the new Niger feeder) A Redpoll was in the bushes opposite the feeders near to the bridge. A gaggle of Greylag were noisily making their presence known on closes field.

Reed Buntings in the snow.
Male Reed Bunting.
Greylags on Closes.
Snowy Greenaways.

On reaching Greenaways, a bitterly cold northerly wind greeted me. Scanning the field i found the first Golden Plover of the day, huddled up close to a Lapwing.
Later i saw a small flock of seven drop into the Barn field, A larger flock of fifty or so fly onto the Flood field. Three more were on closes (Seen from the hide). And three more in the same place as i had seen the first one on Greenaways, among a flock of seven snipe.

Distant golden Plovers with Snipe Greenaways.
As the sun broke through the breaking clouds it made for some spectacular skies.

Early morning Greenaways
Sun hitting the far side of a Watery Greenaways

Big Otmoor Bridleway.

Snow on path to 1st screen.

A peaceful walk
 And now for an Otmoor mystery. Reaching the bridge to the hide. I noticed on the pool immediately to the left of the bridge, were three sets of footprints on the ice. Appearing out of nowhere. They lead to a hole in the ice. One set of footprints then lead to a smaller hole to the right and another single set of footprints lead to the left and another hole in the ice.

Icy footprint mystery.
Who fell through the ice ?
A Red Kite and a Hen Harrier were quartering over Big Otmoor. Later on over the far side of big Otmoor, i saw the Red Kite being harrangued by a pair of Peregrines. A juvenile Buzzard was also perched on the top of a nearby tree, close to the action.
Two Stonechats were around the hide area. With one flitting back and forth, at the top of the screens path. A second bird was feeding in front of the hide.
Distant Hen Harrier over Big Otmoor.

This lovely Stonechat was by the path to the screens.

Stonechat in flight.
Stonechat in front of hide.
Lots of birds around the hide area. Fieldfare, Redwing, Bullfinch, Chaffinch, Long tailed tit, Goldfinches, Robin, Dunnock, Goldcrest, Grey Heron, Mute Swans, Snipe, Golden Plover all seen here.
Large flocks of Greylag and Canada Geese out on Ashgrave. Just the one Little Egret there this morning.

Male Bullfinch.
A charm of Goldfinches.
A lamentation of Swans.
A Whisp of Snipe.
 Snipe seen just about everywhere on the reserve. Several were feeding close to the path (To 1st screen) Greenaways. The largest group comprised of around forty birds seen flying towards the flood field, from the 2nd screen. Another flock of twenty also seen from the 2nd screen along with smaller parties and individuals.

Twenty Snipe.

Another whisp following the same path.
The first screen was again very quiet. Not surprising really as it was almost frozen over. A flock of Starlings were perched on a nearby Oak tree. By far the most common bird on the reserve at the moment. A foxes footprints were in the snow, just past the first screen. They trailed off, all the way past the 2nd screen.

A Fox Footprint.
A set of Fox prints
By this time the sun was up. Although still cold, it turned into another glorious day.
The wind had thankfully lost some of its bite. And the walk down to the 2nd screen was very scenic. The ice in the fields was begining to melt and Black Headed Gulls were taking advantage of the gaps in the ice.

Ice, Snow, reflections and Golden sunshine.
Breaks in the ice.
Starlings near the 1st screen.
B-H Gull in melted channel
Flooded ice fields
The 2nd screen area was very productive. Lots of wildfowl. Including a lovely male Pintail swimming amongst a large flotilla of Gadwall. B-H gulls, Snipe, Lapwing, Meadow Pipit, Fieldfare and the occasional Redwing there also. The wildfowl consisted of Pintail, Gadwall, Teal, Wigeon, Pochard, Tufted, Mallard and Shoveler.

Gadwall against a powder blue sky.
Gadwall, Tufted and Pochard.
Male Pintail.

Meadow Pipit.

Fieldfare eating hip.
Fieldfare eating sloe.
Grey Squirrels Feeding on hips.

Walking back in the sunshine. It struck me as to what a great day it had been. Lots to see and in wonderful peaceful surroundings. Although i was glad of the warm clothing. with slightly numb fingers i ambled back to the car. but not without first taking the time to get some quick shots of a grey Heron on the Bridleway and a Kestrel that was carrying its prey.

The walk back.

Grey Heron.

Kestrel carrying prey.

What difference a few hours make. The last two photos show the path to Greenaways. The first early morning, Cold, grey and forbidding. The second blue skies, melted snow and glorious sunshine.

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