|Dozing Ferruginous Duck. Otmoors bird of the year (c) Bark|
The unusual weather patterns and odd seasons have led to some great successes and a few failures this year, but on the whole more good things have happened than bad.
We have had a record number of different species on the moor, at one hundred and fifty five it was a full five species more than last year. On the rarity front we have hosted a stunning drake Ferruginous Duck, Great White Egret, a Wryneck and the family of four (now three) Whooper Swans. In the first winter period we had between seven and eleven White Fronted Geese over-wintering and both Spoonbill and Osprey flew through. Peregrines are seen on almost every visit and in the winter we have had both male and female Hen Harriers present as well as regular Merlin sightings. Marsh Harriers are much more regular but are yet to show any signs of breeding.
Bitterns boomed for the first time on Otmoor in over a hundred and fifty years and Bearded Tits were shown to have bred. This was the first recorded breeding of this species in Oxfordshire for over two hundred years. Turtle Doves were successful breeders with certainly two and possibly three pairs present. One pair was observed to fledge three separate broods. This is a major achievement by the reserve and its staff for a species whose status is in free fall in this country. Cuckoos were present and were seen to be attempting to lay in Reed Warbler nests (their favoured host on the moor) but may not have been successful due to the late arrival of the warblers, that was probably due to the very cold spring. Snipe bred in much better numbers and we had more “drummers” than in previous years.
Sadly this was the first year since 2002 that there was no record at all of Cettis Warbler. Hopefully if this winter remains mild they will find their way back and be shouting at us from the hedgerows in the near future. We did not see as many wader species as we had in previous years in fact Common Sandpiper was not recorded at all. The cold dry spring and the long warm Late Summer and Autumn meant that there was very little mud for them to forage on. Currently there is no mud because almost everything is submerged! It really has been a year of extremes.
The warmth of the summer benefitted our invertebrate life with Butterflies being the most obvious of these. Black and Brown Hairstreaks were very much easier to find and hopefully their higher numbers will carry over into next years population.
The area next to the first screen that was created specially for Common Lizards has proved to be very successful and there is another colony of them in the car park field. Likewise the Grass Snake population would seem to have increased or else we have got a lot better at spotting them.
Hares are present in really good numbers and the Otters are seen regularly. The Fallow Deer fawn that was adopted by the cattle on Ashgrave is still confused as to its identity.
We have an excellent new screen at the northern lagoon and will soon have another at the southern end. The hide has now lost its raw newness and is blending in. There have been some great sightings in and around it. As the vegetation develops it will become even more of a part of the landscape.
On behalf of all the local birding community I would like to thank David Wilding and the permanent Otmoor RSPB staff for the work that they carry out sensitively and tirelessly for our benefit and for the greater benefit of wildlife. I would also like to thank the legion of Otmoor Volunteers who give their time as wardens, on working parties or in the office, without them there would be no reserve.
I am really looking forward to 2014. Let’s hope that the seasons return to normal and that it rains and shines at the right times. Then in turn the amazing wildlife on the moor can continue to thrive and in doing so delight us.