Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Saturday and Sunday 2nd and 3rd September

Spot Fly (c) Bark

September is a beautiful month: leaves start to change colour, hedgerows are full of seeds and berries, the mornings are cool and the light is flat and even. In the reedbed the phragmites turn their silky purple-bronze heads and start to set seed. Both resident and passage birds are busy making the most of the abundant food available.

Signs of the season (c) Bark
There were good numbers of passage birds on show this weekend with Whinchats, Stonechats, Redstarts and Spotted Flycatchers in all their regular haunts. There seems to have been fewer Wheatears coming through so far, but it may be that the settled weather last week has meant that many have gone straight through without stopping.

Lesser Whitethroat (c) Bark
There has been what must be a family group of Spotted Flycatchers in Long Meadow where they have been for several weeks. As well as the Redstarts, there were good numbers of Lesser Whitethroats and also juvenile Blackcaps. Sometimes all these species could be seen in the same hawthorn bush. It was very similar out at the Pill with the welcome addition of four Whinchats.

Spotted Flycatchers (c) Bark
On Sunday morning we were treated to sustained views of the male Hen Harrier as it drifted back and forth over Greenaways. Its’ flight is effortless and buoyant, it appears to be able to turn instantly in response to movements in the grass. The Marsh Harriers, themselves very agile and adept fliers, seem almost clumsy and deliberate in comparison. It has been a real privilege to have the chance to become totally familiar with their different flying styles. It is now easy to recognise one from another just by the flying jizz. Having said that, there is no danger now of confusing the two species as our bird has now moulted into smart grey, black and white plumage.

Hobby and Kestrel (c) Derek Latham
There are four or five very vocal Kestrels hunting over the fields now, they may be a family group. It is almost impossible to look up and not see one or two of them hovering somewhere above Greenaways or Big Otmoor riding on the wind. Several Hobbies have been hunting along the ditches after mid-morning and occasionally chasing the Hirundines that have been moving through in steady numbers. On Saturday we spotted one late Swift feeding above the reedbed.

Snipe at and over first screen Top (c) Bark Below (c) Derek Latham
Another sign of the changing season is the steadily growing Lapwing flock that is now well over two hundred strong. They were feeding out on Noke Sides in one of the short grass fields. Most interesting however were the four Golden Plovers that were in amongst them, one of them still showing some signs of its summer black belly. They really are harbingers of autumn and winter.
Pike and lunch (c) Derek Latham
On the 31st August 1997, the RSPB finalised the acquisition of the first part of the reserve, namely Greenaways and the Car Park Field. In the subsequent twenty years the reserve has grown and prospered, going from strength to strength. This is due to the vision and application of the staff both on site and in the regional and the national offices. However, nothing would have been possible without the countless hours that have been generously donated by a huge team of willing volunteers. The reserve is now almost a thousand acres and is a rich patchwork of wetland habitats and wet grassland. Bitterns, Marsh Harriers and Bearded Tits have once again bred in Oxfordshire after well over a century of absence. We can all enjoy a place where nature thrives and we can draw breath in the midst of busy lives.
Thanks as always to David Wilding and the Otmoor Team, thanks of course to the volunteers and a big “HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO OTMOOR”
Happy Birthday!

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