Its been a little while since we posted a recent sightings update and a lot has changed in that time!
The berries are ripe for picking, as the winter thrushes can testify to and the first frosts are starting to hit, prompting Gary to learn how to use the heating in the office!
But what has been gracing the reserve during the changing of the seasons?
Recent highlights include a Whooper swan that spent yesterday in front of the second screen. At times it was great to see the comparison between this large, sub-arctic species and the resident Mute swans that, while I was there, looked like they were going to have a fight. Luckily the Whooper gave a stern Baltic look at the Mutes and they swam on their merry way!
Very much in the large bird category, 4 White-fronted geese have spent the last few weeks on the reserve. These smaller cousins of the Greylags and Canadas are always together in the large geese flock taht is often present on Big Ormoor or Ashgrave and can be distinguished by their black striped belly, generally smaller stature and a distinctive white face around their beak.
Other highlights include 2 ringtail Hen harriers that have taken up residence. They can often be seen hunting over the reedbed or patrolling the hedge along the North edge of Greenaways looking for their next meal. Its great to have these on site and hopefully they spend the winter in safety on Otmoor.
Ringtail Hen harrier, Mark Thomas (rspb-images.com)
There are now a few Short-eared owls using the site, these can be seen at anytime hunting over the wet grassland. Other migrants that have recently arrived include Woodcock, these can be seen commuting from the car park field at dusk, moving onto the grassland to feed.
The aforementioned winter thrushes are putting on a show. They can be seen feeding on the ample berry supplies throughout the hedges or overhead as they fly en masse, giving their distinctive 'chacking' call of the Fieldfares and the 'tseee' call of the Redwings.
Redwing, Chris Gomersall (rspb-images.com)
Our resident Bitterns are still being seen. they can be seen flying to and from the reedbed but your best chance of seeing one is to scan the reed edge to the left of the second screen where there is some fallen reeds and reedmace that have left a great raft that the Bitterns loving using as a fishing platform!
Golden plover numbers are now starting to build up with around 200 birds using the reserve and adjacent fields. There are also around 150 Lapwing that can be quite often seen with the Plovers as they spook at a opportunistic raptor.
Raptors are really the order of the day at Otmoor. Up to 9 species can be seen across the reserve that include Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, Merlin, Peregrine, Buzzard, Marsh harrier, Hen harrier, Barn owl and Short-eared owl.
The reedbed is probably the place to spend the majority of a visit. Over 50 Snipe can often be seen probing the mud around the reed edge, with the occasional Jack snipe hiding in amongst them. Water rails can be seen in the same place skulking between the reed stems and listen out for the high 'peeping' call that often signals the arrival of that unmistakable flash of blue of the Kingfisher!
Also at the reedbed are the long distance migrants, Pintail and Wigeon, still moulting into their finery and their wildfowl cousins, Teal, Mallard, Shoveler, Gadwall and Tufted duck.
As the weather starts to cool down more and the rain hits (eventually!), we should start to see the fields wetting up and with that, the wildfowl will spread out into the fields looking for suitable dabbling areas and the Lapwing and Golden plover numbers will build up from now, with both species hopefully hitting several thousand.