Tuesday, 24 April 2018

21st and 22nd April

Last weekend Bark said that spring had finally arrived, and this week it felt like we had gone straight into summer. With the hottest April day recorded in the country for 70 years, and with a hot weekend forecast crowds of people came down to the moor to enjoy the birds, wildlife and countryside walks. The weather also helped the migrating birds as more of the regular summer migrants swelled the ranks of the early arrivals to fill the hedges, skies and reed beds. The Blackthorn bushes are full of blossom and the sunshine this week has really got the leaves going on the trees and bushes.

Blackthorn in bloom

Lots of different warblers can be heard from the car park, and if you listen carefully you can hear the distant reeling of a Grasshopper Warbler reeling in its usual area up by the feeders. Blackcap, Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff soon followed. The walk from the car park to the main bridleway had more warblers singing away, while some were hidden in the bushes, others decided to get on the top of the bush to blast out their song. The skulking Lesser Whitethroat kept hidden away, as did the Grasshopper Warbler, but the Sedge Warblers could be seen near the tops of the bushes with their heads back singing away. A Whitethroat perched on the wires along the track and had a quick burst of song before diving for cover. Lesser Whitethroats are calling from all over the moor but so far there aren’t as many Common Whitethroat about. I expect they will soon arrive in numbers and be spread over the moor as usual by next weekend.  Cetti’s Warblers were easily picked up around the moor as they blasted out their song, often as you have just walked past. A Grasshopper Warbler was quite showy half way along the track to the first screen in the same place as last year. Garden Warblers were new arrivals this week and could be seen along the Roman road and the main bridleway, out in the open in the same area as last year. With Reed Warblers singing in the ditch around Greenaways it doesn’t take long to notch off the ten warblers that are usually found on the moor each year. With patience all the warblers can be seen well on the moor. There’s still time to pick up a passing Wood Warbler so hopefully one will drop in this week to keep the year list ticking over.

Sedge Warbler

Garden Warbler

There have been a few sightings of Wheatear on the moor this spring and even though the number of sighting may be down on previous years there were three around the cattle pens on Friday, one on the Closes on Saturday and two on Big Otmoor on Sunday.


With clear skies some of the raptors stretched their wings and circled up high above the moor. Red Kites, Buzzards and Sparrowhawk all circled overhead. A Peregrine was seen out on its regular post on Sunday on Greenaways and the regular Marsh Harriers were seen coming and going over the reed bed area. A single Hobby was seen on Friday evening and another three were seen on Sunday which were new for the Otmoor year list.

Hares were dotted around the reserve and can be seen quite easily at this time of year. The sunshine encouraged the Grass Snakes and Common Lizards out into the open along the bridleway and at the Lizard Lounge in front of the first screen.

Common Lizard

Ravens can often be picked up by their kronking call and one was seen flying over towards Oddington and two were seen drifting up high on a thermal over Greenaways. Woodcock and Jack Snipe were both seen over the weekend and were probably passing through. Booming Bittern was heard from the reed bed and three were seen flying over in the week. Grey Herons can be seen on nests in the reed bed and around the moor hunting for food.

Grey Heron

Even though there are a good number of birds singing away on the reserve the Skylark must take the prize as the most persistent as they are all over the reserve brightening up the day with their song filling the air. Meadow pipits were heard singing out on the moor and Cuckoos were heard more often than they were seen however there are at least three flying around the area.

Cuckoo, courtesy of John Reynolds

A Curlew was seen chasing off a Red Kite that must have got too close for comfort south of the reserve and others were calling off to the east. Snipe have started drumming and are a great addition to the sounds on the moor at this time of year. There is still at least one Black Tailed Godwit on Big Otmoor and another new addition to the year list was a Whimbrel seen out on Big Otmoor. These birds are often picked up each year flying over so it was nice to see one hanging around on Saturday and Sunday.


Without doubt the bird of the weekend was a Pied Flycatcher and was seen by two of the weekend regulars. A great bird for the Otmoor year list and quite a difficult one to catch up with in Oxfordshire each year. Unfortunately it didn’t hang around and even though we searched all over for it we couldn’t find it again. It just goes to show that things are passing through and you have to be out and about to pick them up. Who knows what new birds will be added to the list over the coming week, hopefully something new for the reserve, well you have to live in hope!



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