RSPB Otmoor 21 April 2022

Nine members made the long journey to the stunning reserve at Otmoor near Oxford on a bright day cooled by an easterly breeze. The car park was alive with song from a variety of competitors such as chiffchaffs, blackcaps, willow warblers, assertive wrens and a dominant song thrush. Cetti’s warblers shouted from hedgerows along the the access path and gave the odd fleeting glimpse while a whitethroat sang on top of a thicket. Lapwings were swooping and calling over the wet meadows as they defended territories. Curlews burbled occasionally but not one showed itself during the day. The feeders attracted many chaffinches and the odd tit as pheasants foraged beneath. A showy sedge warbler, the first of many, made display flights and posed openly. A passer-by pointed out the distant and barely audible reel of a grasshopper warbler. A short way along the dyke a bittern had been sighted; it was well concealed in rushes and it took numerous efforts before everyone had a glimpse of its head. A swallow flew over, the first of only two seen, and the sole hirundine species of the day. A male marsh harrier glided over the distant reeds while numerous red kites were sighted. Later kestrels and buzzards appeared but sadly no hobby. The hedges by the hide held a few passerines, reed buntings, goldfinches, a single yellowhammer and later linnets. The hide itself gave access to distant views of a pair of common cranes feeding in reeds but regularly raising their heads. Further along the causeway two oystercatchers could be seen to add to a couple of redshanks seen earlier. A barnacle goose was observed with a scattering of ducks, shovelers, teal, wigeon, shelduck, gadwall, mallard and tufted ducks. For about half the group a pair of garganey represented a stellar sighting before they characteristically disappeared from view. From the viewpoints over the reedbeds many more ducks were seen but pochard were the only new species. Two common terns were also sighted and the sound of a bittern booming was heard. On the return walk some further time spent at the feeders was rewarded by views of a greater spotted woodpecker and the continuous rattle of a lesser whitethroat that declined to reveal itself to most. Mammal sightings included some roe deer and a muntjac. An enjoyable day’s walk produced a species list of 57 birds identified.

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