With recent weeks dominated by wind, rain, flood and a faulty camera, Team Sausage finally enjoyed an end to our birding drought this weekend. Bright sunny skies, warm temperatures and the return of our camera allowed us to venture once more in search of avian action.
We paid a short afternoon visit to Cranford Park on Saturday and found that there are still broad swathes of the parkland that are very sodden and boggy. We eventually made solid land towards the ancient woodland, spotting a Green Woodpecker and plenty of Crows en-route. Black-headed Gulls were also seen gliding overhead in some numbers.
Having picnic’d, I made a brief visit to the ancient woods. I am pleased to report that once again this year things look hopeful for at least one breeding pair of Kestrel. As reported on Wendy’s blog, a tree we hoped they would use for nesting last year was once again being guarded by a pair of our regular local raptors.
Sadly my few pics weren’t up to scratch as my camera had been re-set during the repair, but I can report that Cranford was healthily active with the regular Tits seen throughout the woods along with at least two Wren, several Blackbird and the ubiquitous Ring-necked Parakeets, noisy as ever.
Sadly, as we were making our way out of the park we spotted smoke billowing across the open parkland next to the River Crane. Upon investigation we saw a bin had been set alight, presumably by a still lit cigarette being tossed in. We emptied what was left of our flask of drink into the bin in the hope of dousing the burning contents. It had some impact and as we made our way out of the gates the smoke had all but gone.
With Sunday’s weather report suggesting a clear, warm day, we took the decision to make a long-overdue visit to Otmoor. With some signs of the recent flooding still visible, we descended early into the sun-lit bowl in which Otmoor sits. It seems most of the Oxford birding community had the same idea, the car park was almost full as we arrived.
It turned out that along with sun hungry birders, there was a hare count taking place across the reserve today as people set off in two’s and three’s across the usually restricted fields in search of Otmoor’s Lepus europaeus.
With the car-park field now closed off for the breeding season we made our way towards to the feeders, serenaded by a Mistle Thrush and a Chaffinch. The overwhelming noise today however was the almost comedic peewit calls of Lapwing. Taking to the sky in acrobatic twisting and tumbling displays, calling out and gathering in flocks, Lapwing were everywhere. This time of year will see them establishing nesting spots and attracting mates and the numbers seen today suggest Otmoor will see another healthy Lapwing spring.
Lapwing acrobatics were overshadowed today by another Otmoor winter into spring-time perennial, the Golden Plover. Cascading over the reserve in flocks of hundreds, it was, to quote Mrs Sausage, as if the sky was full of glittering, feathery confetti.
I don’t think this picture really does credit to the sight these birds made all day. Showing first as dark shapes, they would then turn and the sun would illuminate their almost shiny, white bellies. Wherever they settled they would be sent up again in large flocks (the Otmoor WeBS count on Monday had over three thousand Golden Plover). At least once we spotted a Peregrine haranguing the Plovers and the ever-present Red Kites were sending up the Lapwings as well.
Other birds seen today were, Little Egret, Pheasants, Buzzard, Redshank, Water Rail (heard only) Greylag Geese, Canada Geese, Shoveler, Teal, Great-Spotted Woodpecker, Tufted Duck, Mute Swans, Grey Herons, Coots and Moorhens. Our total species count was 34.
It was also good to see a few familiar faces at Otmoor once again, Badger, Paul Greenaway and Peter Barker from the Otmoor Massive all making the most of what we all hope will be the first day of Spring 2014.
It’s good to be back!