Sunday 3rd May; Perfect!
We met Peter, the Lord of the Moor in the almost empty car park. We made our way up to our now regular walk along the bridleway that runs through the middle of the RSPB reserve. The reserve itself is still out of bounds of course and I wondered just what might be going on out there. There could be anything breeding out in the reedbeds, probably not of course, this is Oxon and not Somerset or Norfolk remember, but rather deludedly anyway, I imagined that maybe a pair of Little Bitterns or Purple Herons had settled there since the Lockdown. This morning was different from many recent ones in that it was drizzling with wispy rain and clouds shrouded the sky. I was actually glad of the respite from the almost constant sunshine of recent weeks.
A strange looking bird was perched on the wires above the car park field. I couldn't quite work out what it was at first and momentarily had a notion that I'd found something rare. In the next moment I had reminded myself, once again, that this was Oxon and I am me, so it was unlikely to be anything unusual, but it just didn't quite fit. I took a few photos and studied the back of the camera images. The streaky brown back reduced the options down to just a few likely suspects, those little brown jobs that I so adore. The bird looked weird because there were no feathers on the face, giving it an almost Rook like appearance. Because of the lack of facial feathers more of the bill was exposed than normal and subsequently that bill looked long and large for the species that after a minute or two of deliberation I had decided was a Dunnock. Or maybe a Runnock, Roonock, Funnock or Dook?
The dreary weather had brought some Swifts with it and at the bench on the bridleway I tried gamely to get some photos of them. Photographs of Swifts are pure snapshots owing to their fast and erratic flight and it's a challenge that I never tire of accepting. I reckon for every hundred frames I take of flying Swifts, at least ninety-five will end up being binned and of the five left over probably all of them will be unsatisfactory in some way. Just occasionally I'll be happy with a few of them and even more seldom will be delighted with one or two. Today was a day when none really cut the mustard.
Friday 8th May; Skulkers? Not today
Early Bank Holiday Monday had been moved to the Friday so that the country could celebrate VE Day which naturally gave me a chance to take time off. Normally we'd have headed off somewhere semi-exotic like Wales for the day but of course we were denied that chance by the travel ban so it had to be a morning on Otmoor yet again. At least Otmoor is never boring, well it used to be but these days, through necessity, it's positively great and I don't know what we'd have done without it. We were back to wall to wall sunshine again and the Warblers were giving it their all close to the car park. First on the bill this morning was the Common Whitethroat that has a territory right next to the entrance road by the ragged old Ash tree.
|male Reed Bunting|
|Lapwing & Red Kite|
With temperatures approaching furnace levels and not wishing to melt completely, we retreated to the air conditioned car and home taking a moment to admire a soaring Common Buzzard. It must be great to be a Bird of Prey so high up in the cool air watching everything below. As long as you stay away from North Yorkshire.
Sunday 10th May; Action Packed
In contrast to Friday it was much cooler and the wind had strengthened and consequently there was reduced activity amongst the small songbirds. We barely stopped to look at anything until reaching the three small scrapes on Greenaways where a couple of Little Egrets were stalking the shallows. I always check these scrapes thoroughly, they look ideal habitat to attract a wayward Red-necked Phalarope at this time of year. Of course they haven't as of yet but with birds and birding anything can turn up at any time so I live on in hope. So for now it was the Little Egrets that had our attention. I assume that Otmoor's Little Egrets are all non-breeding birds although one was sporting the pinkish lores that they only attain for a few weeks during the spring breeding season and it was being pursued by another.
Peter caught us up and asked me what I'd thought the two birds were that he'd alerted us to. Two birds? "Yes", he replied, "the Hobby and the other one". Explaining that we'd only seen the one bird and that was definitely a Hobby, Peter then related that he thought the other bird may have been a Red-footed Falcon! Unfortunately I was unable to help with that possibility and rued the fact that I'd concentrated on just the one bird.
|leucistic Magpie, July 2017|