Monday, 20 February 2017

Saturday and Sunday 18th and 19th February

Otmoor Saturday and Sunday 18th and 19th February

Great Crested Grebe and lunch (c) Andy Harris
The weather had relented this weekend and we have had a very mild couple of days. We are promised even warmer unseasonable temperatures for the rest of the week. It was not quite warm enough not to wear gloves however, as I discovered after about half an hour having left mine in the car.
It was once again a very “birdy” weekend with the huge numbers of Lapwings and Golden Plover holding centre stage with an equally large number of wildfowl in a supporting role. Big Otmoor is once again the hotspot the water levels are perfect both for feeding and for birds to loaf about, perhaps the higher water levels enhance the birds sense of security.

Big Otmoor (c) Bark
The flocks were harassed by the regular raptors, again we identified three different Marsh Harriers and the ring-tailed Hen Harrier was also present but as usual impossible to predict. Two Peregrines were noted and at times they almost seemed to be working in tandem. A Sparrowhawk was seen a couple of times and as usual was causing pandemonium among the finch flock beside the hide and up towards July’s Meadow.
Marsh harrier (c) Andy Harris
Wildfowl numbers are peaking now with wigeon spread across all the fields with a substantial number up on Ashgrave by the hidden lagoon. There were also four Shelduck there on Sunday morning. They appeared to be two separate pairs and eventually one pair clearly drove the other pair off. The Herons are back on the nests in the battered oak tree that sticks out into Ashgrave. We are not sure whether there is one pair or two as when we have seen them they were on one or the other of the nests. I also understand from the RSPB staff that they are showing signs of nesting again in the reedbed as they did last year, the Herons that is not the staff!
Pochard from the first screen (c) Bark
A Little Egret is back on the moor and there are two adult Great Crested Grebes on the lagoons and a couple of Chiffchaffs near the second screen. These along with last week’s Oystercatcher have brought the year-list up to ninety-four species so far.

Moorhen Wars (c) Bark
I met two keen birders on Sunday morning who had come to Otmoor from two different ends of the country. They had come to see the Starlings and had been delighted by the spectacle the previous evening, not just the Starlings but also the Lapwings and Goldies thronging the sky. They asked me where to go to see the Short-eared Owl. I took them to the spot by the gate but the bird was no longer on its favourite perch in its regular bush! I had not expected it to be there as it had not been there on Saturday either. It had stayed faithful to that roost all the way through January and then abandoned it. I had hoped that it had gone off to another favoured spot spontaneously. Sadly, I now feel certain that this was not the case.
Red Kite (c) Tom N-L
After a two-week absence, I was delighted to hear that the bird was back in the same bush on the same branch. It has been a real pleasure to be able to point out this scarcer, more unusual bird to visitors and be able to set up a scope and let people see it really well. The bird was perfectly happy so long as we stayed on our side of the gate and left the requisite safe distance between it and us. A photographer friend of mine who supplies me with wonderful pictures was photographing it from the regular spot. Another photographer started to climb over into the field. He was asked not to as he would flush the Owl, but replied that he wanted to get a closer shot and went in anyway!
The owl has now gone and may not be back this winter or if it is back it may not be in such a viewable position.
SEO from the right place (c) Tom N-L
I am staggered that someone can show so little sensitivity, such selfishness and such craven ignorance. The bird has been flushed and will no longer feel secure. More importantly hundreds of people who would have been delighted to see it now will not be able to. All the photographers I know are aware of the principal that the bird must come first and should never be harassed and hustled for the sake of a closer picture. The person concerned was not someone that was familiar to my friend and so is not regular on Otmoor, however he is very recognisable from the description I have been given by another volunteer warden. He isn’t welcome on Otmoor, I hope that he doesn’t come back, we certainly don’t need numbskulls like him spoiling things for everyone else.
Just ripples (c) Bark
Spot the Otter (c) Bark

On a much happier note I caught up with the Otter on Sunday. It has been seen several times in the last few weeks. What was most interesting about it was the fact that I was where it was for over half an hour. In that time, I only saw it briefly as it stared at me from under some overhanging branches. I had seen the bubbles and the ripples I had also heard the splashing and the noise of chewing as it consumed a fish, but had just those few seconds when I could actually see it. It was a very special encounter and my first with an otter for several years. It helped to raise my spirits after feeling so annoyed on hearing about the owl disturbance. Rather sadly it made me wonder whether I should mention it at all, for fear of enticing another stupid idiot down, to blunder about mindlessly on the moor.
The odd couple (c) Bark


  1. Really sorry to hear about the Owl Pete,
    Utterly selfish.

  2. I don't even refer to the brainless, thieving underclass that now attaches itself to birding as "photographers". Out of respect for the majority of good wildlife photographers I call them "people with cameras". But unfortunately the minority is increasing and they will be back in force on Otmoor for the Black Hairstreaks before too very long.

  3. The behaviour relating to the owl makes my blood boil. I have seen the same type of behaviour at Otmoor with dimwits chasing turtle doves all over the site, just so they can 'prove' they have seen one.