Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Otmoor and Notmoor early to mid May

Back for the Summer (c) JR
 I think that sometimes we take our wildlife and our wildlife reserves a bit too much for granted. Too often I meet people on Otmoor and when I ask what they have seen they reply.... “not much”. Reading the Bird Log regularly while I have been away has highlighted how lucky we are in Oxfordshire and the UK when compared with some parts of Europe and certainly some of the Mediterranean Islands. They can be great holiday destinations stacked full of history, with great food, warm seas and dramatic landscapes but they can be difficult places to find birds. 
There are of course exceptions Lesvos is superb and the birding in Majorca is good. Sicily however where I have just been is not such a destination. The birds that are there, apart of course from the ubiquitous Sparrows and Pigeons are very wary, hard to see and photograph. They are also spread very thinly throughout the landscape. Birding every morning from dawn for two or three hours failed to turn up much variety in the number of species or indeed actual numbers of birds.
Sardinian Warbler (c) Bark

A visit to the moor can produce sight or sound of ten warbler species in a morning. Most days I saw Sardinian Warblers, Zitting Cisticola, Reed Warbler and heard Cetti's. Interestingly calling almost the same as ours but not quite.
Sicilian House Martin (c) Bark

Swallow and Sand Martin Otmoor (c) Mark Chivers

Hirundines resting on the moor (c) JR

There were indeed large numbers of Swifts both Common and Pallid and plenty of Swallows and House Martins. However I only saw three raptors altogether, one Kestrel, one Marsh Harrier and one fleeting flyover Eleanora’s falcon.
There have been regular reports of at least three Cuckoos on the reserve, but in Sicily I heard just one calling in the distance while up in the hills.
Cuckoo (c) JR
A single Woodchat Shrike was nice bird to find as was a single European Bee eater. I was visiting an extensive wetland reserve every morning and not just local farmland, so I had hoped to find more. Highlight of my birding was a Little Bittern that allowed a reasonably close approach and didn’t fly off the moment it saw me. Holidays are not just about birding and there was loads to compensate for the paucity of birds.
Little Bittern (c) Bark

On the moor there has been lots to catch up with. I am delighted to hear of at least three Turtle Doves calling from their regular spots. I did hear several calling in Sicily but Collared Dove was the commonest dove I saw.

Marsh Harrier interaction
The two female Marsh Harriers have continued to show really well from the first screen and there are still a smattering of passage waders to be found. Early indications are that the breeding waders, Snipe, Redshank and Lapwings are having a good season. Snipe are drumming in larger numbers than recent years and there are very many more pairs of Redshank present.

Over the next few weeks birds will be busy feeding young and then starting on second broods. Dragonflies and Butterflies will abound and wildflowers will bloom. There is never “not much” to see on Otmoor.
Amourous Tufties (c) Tom Nicholson-Lailey

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