As the air warmed up and thermals began to form the raptors began to soar into the sky. By midday there were twelve Buzzards circling and then two Red Kites soared over the site. There were also two Sparrowhawks, a Kestrel, and two Peregrines and a Rough-legged Buzzard that drifted off towards Gedling pit top. Eight Chiffchaffs were singing as well as a Blackcap and several Sand Martins passed through. PS.
Sunday 11th March was an exceptionally warm still day, perfect for coaxing raptors into the air. Several Buzzards were seen in the same thermal and an amazing sight was a ‘kettle’ of eight Common Buzzards that were joined by two Rough-legged Buzzards. Several Sparrowhawks and Kestrels and a Peregrine were also seen. The bird counts are a monthly event and are a good way of collecting data on the welfare and abundance of birds on the reserve. They are held on the second Sunday of every month. People meet at the end of Teal Close in time to set off at 07.45 and normally finish at about 11.00. If you would like to attend just turn up and join in.
Otmoor and Bernwood 2010
After picking up Brian, Norman and Steve we set off on the first of our two Wildlife Seeker trips. As there was nothing exceptional around, I set off down the motorway to Oxfordshire and to the first of two new sites for the NWG trips.
The first site was RSPB Otmoor. We arrived with the sun shinning and within minutes Steve heard a Turtle Dove. As we walked up the track towards the feeding station we noticed that the path verges were full of butterflies – Common Blue, Small and Green-veined Whites, Meadow Brown and Gatekeeper. The bird list was growing slowly with the commoner birds.
There were dragonflies all round but unfortunately we were unable to identify them except for Ruddy Darter. We continue along the nature trail calling into the new hide then up to the viewing screens. Along the way two Kestrel were seen sitting on the fence posts. After about five minutes at the viewing screen we added Green and Wood Sandpiper to the growing bird list. Two eclipsed Garganey were also seen.
Between the two viewing screens we were amazed at the numbers of Common Blue butterflies on the Thistles. There were in excess of 1500 – every flower head had a butterfly on it. I had never seen anything like it. It was a photographer’s dream – if they would sit still.
On the way back towards the car park Brian commented that I had promised him Hobby. At the screen one and possibly two were seen but very distantly. A little later Turtle Dove was heard again and we all had good views thanks to Steve who found it sitting in a dead tree. We also had one on the path in front of us on the way back to the car. Red Kite was numerous with eight seen on the site but the best but most unexpected bird of the day was yet to come. As we approached the feeding station a small flock of birds rose into the air calling. Steve and Norman identified them immediately as Common Crossbill – 27 of them. There had been an irruption of them nationally in the past week with sightings from Northern Scotland to Kent but nobody had expected to see them in Oxfordshire.
As we had lunch in the car park we had a Hobby fly over the cars to every ones delight.
With the daily bird tally standing at 53 and the butterflies at 9, we set off to the second site of the day – Bernwood Forest and Meadow – another new site for us.
Having told the others that this was a good butterfly site, I was a little apprehensive as the sun had gone in although it was still quite warm. It was then that Marsh Tit was heard, being the only bird at this site that was added to the daily list.
As the sun broke through and the others were watching a Silver-washed Fritillary I saw a Weasel run across the path. We turning out of the wood and into the meadow and were greeted to three of four Marbled White butterflies. A little further on we saw a small group of Small Skippers but try as we did we couldn’t turn them into Essex Skippers!
We left the meadow returning to the wood. The sun was shinning through onto a path of bramble were we did manage to see one Essex Skipper – the black tips of the antennae showing very clearly. We meet a couple who told us were we could see Purple Emperor and White Admiral so we set of in search of them. Stopping at a crossroads, Brian spotted two Fallow Deer on the path in front of us about 200 yards away. Crossing the path was an army of Wood Ants making their way from their huge mound of a nest to their feeding areas. Brian pointed out how lucky we were as, if this had been Africa or South America we would have to have waited for them to pass as you would not have dared to have tried to pass them. As we continued we were seeing Silver-washed Fritillary, Specked Wood and the common butterflies but not the ones we wanted. We were almost at the point of giving up when a Red Admiral was spotted, the only one of the day. Soon after a White Admiral was seen but there was no sign of Purple Emperor. Ringlets were seen taking the daily butterfly tally to 17 of which 13 were new to the yearly list.
As we sat in the car park having a cuppa, a Silver-washed Fritillary gave Brian a good opportunity to get a photo.
The daily bird tally was 54.
The yearly trip totals are (with 2009 in brackets): Birds – 166 (141): Butterflies – 22 (14):
Mammals – 11 (5): Dragonflies – 6 (1): Others – 7 (0).
This afternoon a Barn Owl was seen along the Ouse Dyke. JMD.
The fishing spot is getting even more popular, with seven Little Egrets, four Herons and two Kingfishers trying their luck. Water Rail and Snipe were also seen.
Whilst looking over the ‘Mitigation’ field two Little Egrets flew past, then a Kestrel, then a male Sparrowhawk, which flew into a sunlit tree and fluffed out its white under-tail coverts like a pom-pom, then a female Sparrowhawk started quartering the field like a Harrier, landing on the ground twice as she formed her next plan of attack. Shortly afterwards a Curlew flew along the power lines and straight overhead. PS.
This evening a juvenile Ruff flew onto the Slurry Lagoon, there was also a Green Sandpiper and two Water Rail. Two Common Terns flew through and a Hobby was catching dragonflies before joining in some aerial capers with a Sparrowhawk and two Kestrels.
This afternoon there were twelve Common Terns on the tern rafts. A flock of around fifty Swifts drifted high over the reserve and a Hobby alarmed the Swallows by the railway bridge, other raptors were two Buzzards, two Kestrels and two Sparrowhawks. There were several butterflies about, including Brimstone and Orange Tip and a Stoat was running up the Deep Pit bank, following a trail, its tail held high. PS.