|Goldcrest behind first screen (c) Pat Galka|
|Kingfisher (c) Kevin Henshaw|
|Blackwits (c) Peter Coombes|
|Lesser Whitethroat (c) Peter Coombes|
|Stonechat at last (c) Badger|
|Jay (c) Darrell Wood|
|Migrant Hawker (thanks Wayne) (c) Darrell Wood|
|Kestrel take off (c) Bark|
The autumn equinox marks a significant point between summer and winter and the weekend weather illustrated and amplified the change. A bright sunny warm and calm Saturday gave way to a chilly grey and eventually stormy Sunday.
There was plenty to see on Saturday and I was delighted to see our first Stonechat since this time last year (a species that I have been going on about in these postings recently). It seems appropriate that it was found by Ewan. As the man who wrote “Stonechats of the World” I did wonder if he carried a tame one around with him in the back of the black Audi! It was in the company of two Whinchats of which there were others on Ashgrave and Big Otmoor. Sadly we did find it again on Sunday although Whinchats were still hunting from the blue plastic posts along the ditch to the first screen.
Other small passerines were to be seen in the hedgerows including Goldcrests behind the first screen and a beautiful crisp clean Lesser Whitethroat behind the second screen. There was also a family of Blackcaps in the same area and several Chiffchaffs.
Two Black-tailed Godwits have taken up temporary residence on the reedbed and gave excellent close views at the first screen to the photographers, who were there hoping to get good shots of the Kingfishers. The kingfishers did not disappoint with frequent visits from two birds.
A Sparrowhawk is hunting regularly in and around the reedbed and has been spending some time, between hunts, perched at the back of the right hand channel. Kestrels, Buzzards and Kites were frequently seen but I have not heard about any fresh sightings of the Marsh Harrier.
Duck numbers are creeping up with the first fifty or so Wigeon moving between Ashgrave and the second Lagoon. Ducks are beginning to moult out of their eclipse plumage and male Gadwall are looking particularly dapper in their smart new suits. A juvenile Water Rail moving about in the vegetation on the edge of the first lagoon, gave us a few exciting moments until it finally emerged into the open. The shorter black bill and the pale marking on its face were a bit disconcerting for a while.
Jays continued to be very noticeable all over the reserve with a couple of individuals on Sunday, flying backwards and forwards between the oaks along the bridleway and the southern edge of the closes
Dragonflies were abundant in the sunshine on Saturday with Migrant and Southern Hawkers very prominent.
The heavy rain over next few days will doubtless refresh some of the scrapes but unfortunately will hamper some of the management work that still remains to be carried out on Ashgrave. As birders we can only speculate on what birds these early Autumn gales will blow in and hope for something exciting.