This morning the Jack Snipe was bobbing in its usual spot on the Wader Scrape. There were six Chiffchaffs, four of them singing, seven singing Cetti’s Warblers and five Water Rail were also heard. A Weasel was seen at the bottom of the bank in front of the Wader Scrape, climbing in the hedge as well as running up and down. On the Ouse Dyke a mixed flock of songbirds was mobbing a roosting Tawny Owl. PS.
This morning the Bittern was seen in the Deep Pit, flying into a reed bed. There were also four Little Egrets on the Ouse Dyke and good numbers of winter thrushes, Blackbirds, Redwings and Fieldfares. A Weasel was also seen on the bank of the Deep Pit, crossing to and fro. PS.
Despite the hard frost and cold wind there were still signs of spring at the lagoons this morning. On the Deep Pit a Common Tern dive bombed the Cormorants on the breeding platforms. Along the river bank a Willow Warbler was singing and several butterflies, including a Speckled Wood, were seen. PS. AE.
On the Causeway two Weasels were seen. JG.
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).
The Barn Owl was back over the grassland around the two gravel pits again this evening. It did not stay for as long this time though. There were approaching 200 Gadwall on the Large Fishing Pit and a Yellowhammer mobbed a Weasel in the grass in front of us as we watched the owl. The Willow Tit was heard again along the Lower Path. PS. DM.
It was very cold this morning and the Little Egrets and Herons were back at the Ouse Dyke. There were eight Little Egrets seen eventually. On the river there was a splendid male Goosander with two equally splendid male Goldeneyes, and a Redshank was feeding in the cattle wade. On the inside bank of the Deep Pit a male Weasel was watched for about ten minutes, as it scampered up and down the slope trying to pick up a scent. PS.