Sunday, 9 October 2016

Otmoor: Hornets and White-fronts

A relaxing and absorbing day spent wandering around Otmoor RSPB reserve with friends.  This really was the "day of the Hornets" at Otmoor.  Walking along the bridleway I first spotted three together crawling around on a fence post.
Seeing three together is not a common sight, so I look a few photos.  Then we realised there were many more the appreared to be feeding on the sap oozing from wounds in an adjoining Ash tree - several groups of two or three gathered around a good feeding area.  Realising we didn't really know too much about Hornets we quickly searched Google for the basics.  Apparently at this time of year they are busy mating.  There is a nice account of their life cycle here, which describes how on warm autumn days the sexuals (males and queens) swarm out to mate, collecting in trees near to the nest.  Presumably this is what was happening today, though we didn't actually observe any mating.

There was plenty of other wildlife of interest, including a small flock of  Redwings (about 40 birds) and Golden Plover (150).
Wildfowl are starting to arrive for the winter.  From the first reedbed screen we could see good numbers of Teal, Wigeon and Mallard, plus a few Shoveler and a single Gadwall.  A few dozen Snipe were also roosting or feeding on the edge of the muddy reed-fringe.
Large numbers of geese were grazing out on the wet grasslands, especially in front of the Wetland Watch Hide.  A small juvenile grey goose had me stumped for a while.  Is was noticeably smaller than the groups of Greylag Geese nearby.  Then, while scanning across the flock again I spotted the unmistakeable white forehead of a White-fronted Goose, with another slightly less well marked individual next to it.  Black belly stripes on both these birds were also distinctive.  They then joined together with the small juvenile goose and the penny dropped - this was a group of European White-fronted Geese, likely to be a family party, and freshly arrived from somewhere far to the north and east.
European White-fronted Geese, juvenile front left (without black bands on the belly)

Earlier in the week I made another visit to Boddington Reservoir to see the evening gull roost, just in time to catch the last rays of evening sunlight, creating a stunning scene with the reflections of the Canada Geese in the calm water.
Boddington Reservoir at dusk
Canada Geese (slr camera shot)
Canada Geese (phone-scoped)

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