Otmoor 20 April 2023

The party of fifteen assembled at RSBP Otmoor found themselves in bright and sunny conditions tempered by a brisk north-easterly. As usual the car park was awash with the song of warblers. Willow Warblers set the musical tone with the accompaniment of Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs and a couple of scratchy Whitethroats. On the nearby entrance track the first of numerous Cetti’s Warblers shouted loudly while a Green Woodpecker browsed the grass in a meadow. By the feeders noisy Pheasants were gathered while Chaffinches, Great and Blue Tits, Dunnocks and Great Spotted Woodpecker feasted on the seeds. Curlews were ubiquitous usually displaying in pairs and uttering their haunting cries. Over the marsh a speedy Sparrowhawk was marauding while Red Kites drifted overhead and a Common Tern passed through. A handsome male Marsh Harrier coursing close by was much admired while close attention was given to a Muntjac browsing in the reeds; sadly it had obviously suffered a serious leg injury. A few Reed Warblers sang intermittently in the ditches and finally the first of a handful of Barn Swallows passed over. The wetland past the crossroads held limited numbers of waterfowl, chiefly Shovelers, Teal and Gadwall, while a Barnacle Goose and a juvenile Shelduck as well as an Oystercatcher were noted. Then three Common Cranes flew in along the tree line and put on a fine display until it was interrupted by the arrival of a Hobby that proceeded to practice its agile evasive manoeuvres through a squadron of unappreciative Lapwings. Meanwhile a Raven passed over, almost unnoticed amid the entertainment. Then it was on to the hide for lunch and views of the Reed Buntings and Linnets putting on their usual show. The Cranes landed and allowed further admiration while a Fallow Deer was noticed in their vicinity. Back at the crossroads a Sedge Warbler was intent on establishing a territory, singing vigorously and making numerous display flights. From the first viewpoint a few Common Pochards and a Great Crested Grebe further increased the sighting list. The second viewpoint offered the oddity of a leucistic male Pochard, mainly white in colour with a faintly orange head. In the adjacent field a pair of Brown Hares was stretched out on the grass. The return to the car park proved uneventful as the chill wind strengthened and forced the birds to hunker down.

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.

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.