RSPB Otmoor 22 April 2021

Ten members in two separately led groups visited this stunning wet meadow and reedbed reserve near Oxford in sunny conditions with an easterly breeze in exposed parts. The car park was typically resounding with birdsong with chiffchaffs, blackcaps and willow warblers all in fine voice with a supporting choir of chaffinches and dunnocks while Cetti’s warblers regularly intervened with their discordant notes. A green woodpecker yaffled nearby while early arrivals heard a distant cuckoo. Early sightings on the walk included a whitethroat, numerous lapwings that were clearly in the early stages of breeding and a few redshanks. Curlew cries were heard though they offered only distant views. In the hedgerows most were able to enjoy the rare treat of brief glimpses of Cettis. Once we reached the main dyke reed warblers were scratching out their song in large numbers and eventually three of them came up on brief display flights. A single sedge warbler perched cooperatively for good views. By now raptors were appearing, red kites in good numbers, a kestrel and a few common buzzards. Then three marsh harriers paraded in the middle distance to delight us. A single swallow, the only one of the day, slipped by us and then a hobby appeared over the meadow and perched to allow distant views. As we approached the main junction a bittern rose from the reeds and offered a distant view. As we progressed a pair appeared much closer to us providing a rare view of them flying clear against the sky. As we approached the hide we found a sizeable mixed flock of reed bunting and linnets with a single yellowhammer feeding on the path ahead.

As we lunched close to the hide we were able to see a distant group of brown hares lounging on the meadow while closer the bitterns took to the air again and two hobbies were seen together. There were family groups of mallards with ducklings and coots with juveniles. We also saw two oystercatchers. Refreshed we headed for the reedbeds with a brief diversion to scan Big Otmoor where a barnacle goose was the reward. At one point a grasshopper warbler seemed to reel briefly but stubbornly stayed out of sight and otherwise remained quiet. From the first viewpoint over the reeds we picked up numerous ducks, many shovelers and gadwall, some tufted ducks and a few teal and pochard. There was also a one great crested grebe. In the blackthorn hedgerow a garden warbler sang though there was much discussion about its identification before agreement on it. At the second viewpoint a single male pintail was one of the few birds on the water but the appearance of two marsh harriers over the reeds was excellent recompense. As we retraced our steps we kept up regular scans but nothing new was noted until by the reserve feeders a great spotted woodpecker posed briefly for us and a willow warbler came briefly into view. As we looked over the final meadow an eagle-eye spotted a large dark bird and kept it in view to allow the others to see a glossy ibis albeit at a great distance. It was a real treat that rounded off an excellent day in which we identified 59 species.

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