Last of the Summer Whine

With the weather forecast offering just enough encouragement, I set the alarm for 6 on Sunday morning and made for Otmoor. With a snoozing wife still at home and Tom Waits accompanying, the roads were quiet and the sky was blue as I made my last trip of the season to my favourite reserve. Local activity and some inconsistent weather has made trips to Otmoor a little less frequent than I would have liked this year. I hoped to at least end on a high until the autumn brings in the waders. Although less noisy than my last visit, there was a lot still happening. Recent reports had plenty of passage birds making stops in the area and most of the seasonal species had already put in their appearances. I took a path through Morley’s field on arrival, finches especially were active here. This Greenfinch obligingly posing on the wires just long enough:


Onto the feeders, where all the usual suspects could be seen, including the 7.30am Great Spotted Woodpecker, hanging off the wires with it’s usual agility. Heading on to the bridleway, I was able to spot plenty of Chaffinch around the cow-pens and some noisy Reed Warblers at the end of the reeds by the pump house. By all accounts this was a very late brood of at least five juveniles and they certainly made their presence known.

Also seen at the same end of the reeds was one Willow Warbler. Not bad for my first 10 minutes back at Otmoor. As I made my way down the bridleway I came across members of the Otmoor massive, Peter Barker, Terry Sherlock, Peter Laws and Mark the Early Birder. It’s usually a safe bet that something interesting will turn up when you are in their company so I joined up as a loose associate member once again. At the corner of the path that leads to the second screen there were at least 3 Whinchat and one Wheatear perching and hunting from the posts inside the pathway.


Slightly easier to photograph than the ropey Whinchat above was this almost tame Moorhen. It simply refused to put any distance between itself and the Massive. I remarked that it seemed to either want to be someone’s pet or someone or something’s lunch!


Reed Buntings dominated the pathway down to the first reedbed screen, although an elusive Lesser Whitethroat put in a few appearances, all of them avoiding my ham-fisted picture attempts.The first screen was fairly quiet but I couldn’t resist this Mute Swan and it’s reflection:


The second screen or the beginnings of the new hide held a little more bounty, with at least 2 Kestrels and a Kingfisher seen en-route. We paused in the foundations of the slightly constructed hide. The Terns from earlier in the year are now gone and the raft was dominated by 2 to 3 Cormorants. One single Yellow Wagtail over was however, a tick for me. A Kingfisher was seen hovering and diving on numerous occasions and offered a few photo chances by perching on a semi-submerged branch. Another ropy pic I’m afraid, but it’s really just a record shot:


Also out on the water here were 2 Great Crested Grebes with 2 tiger-striped chicks. Another late brood, a feature of the year so far with the Kestrels at Cranford also producing later than expected.   At least this Great Spotted Woodpecker allows me to up the quality stakes of my photo’s from this weekend:


The walk back down the paths was pretty eventful, a Sparrowhawk being mobbed by Crows, a few lizards outside the first screen, several Little Egret and more, or the same, Kestrels.A Buzzard swooped low across the windows of the Wetlands Hide and Grey Herons were in good number as we made our way down the bridleway on the return leg. Although I had missed the Marsh Harrier earlier in the morning the raptor count today was very healthy. Otmoor and its’ abundance of dragonflies and butterflies offering a great food source to a variety of birds.

As the Massive split to honour dinner commitments or other pursuits, I took the opportunity to visit a part of the land surrounding the reserve, known as The Pill. Cutting across a field that was sign-posted “Bull in field” and is used as an MOD firing range I followed Peter Barker out into hitherto un-chartered areas for myself. An expanse of open ground which I was told has previously been home to Short Eared Owls, the recent Whinchat and Wheatear and the odd Grey Shrike.

Frequently flooded it is also a great location for the waders when they return and I will, cows, bulls, bullets and water permitting, check it out again in the winter. Crossing it today Peter and I managed another 3 or 4 Whinchat, 2 Hobby, a flock of 15-20 Linnet and some Goldfinch. This is probably my last blog for the summer. In 10 days or so we head for Singapore and I hope some very interesting birding opportunities. Oh and some family time but mostly birding 😉

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