|Redwing (c) JR|
Winter arrived this weekend with a vengeance. Saturday was frosty, crisp, clear and sunny, whilst early on Sunday morning it started to snow and then continued all day. It meant that I only managed to get down to the moor on Saturday.
|All over the first screen (c) Bark|
Saturday morning was beautiful on Otmoor. The air was totally fresh, clean and gin clear. The low sun emphasised the last of autumn’s colours, especially the golds and ochres of the reedbed.
There was a fringe of ice at the first screen,
but the regular ducks dabbled or dozed on the muddy margins. Careful scrutiny
revealed Snipe, perfectly camouflaged and almost totally hidden in the reeds. Two
juvenile Marsh Harriers alternated between perching at the top of the low
willows in the northern reedbed and cruising above the reeds causing surprised
Teal to flush briefly, but appearing to offer the Teal no real threat.
|Gold of the reedbed (c) Bark|
|Reflective ducks (c) Bark|
Just as last week, the feeders and the regular feeding spots beside the hide were a real magnet to birds. The game strips adjacent to the woods and the Closes also held large numbers of finches. We walked up the footpath to the east of Sling copse on yet another fruitless search for Hawfinches, reported last week from Charlton on Otmoor and from Horton cum Studley. Sadly, neither location close enough to count towards the Otmoor basin year list!
|Linnets (c) Early Birder and Goldfinch (c) Bark|
|Seasonal Thrushes (c) JR|
I am hopeful that this cold snap will be temporary as the wildlife does suffer hugely in these extreme conditions. In the last cold snap, we lost all our resident Cetti’s Warblers and saw no Stonechats for well over a year. If the reedbed freezes solid the Starling roost will collapse, as there is little security in roosting on a reed stem if predators can walk out and grab you from below. Also in the event of a big freeze wildfowl will move to larger deeper waterbodies or to the coast.
As I have been writing this I have heard that six winter swans have flown over Otmoor Reserve and from their calls have been identified as Bewick’s. This is very pleasing as the species have not been recorded on the moor for several years. Worryingly they are becoming much rarer than they once were. They later landed at Pit 60 where they were filmed (see Oxon Bird Log) looking exceptionally beautiful.
I look forward to a gentle thaw and more water building up across the reserve as we move towards the year’s end.
|Car Park Kestrel (c) Early Birder|