New Year Old Habits

My first opportunity for 2015 birding came with Sunday’s fair weather forecast. No rain and sunny spells from sunrise made it too hard to resist a visit to Otmoor. I set off a little before 7am, enjoying the wide open spaces of the M25 and M40 just as the first vestiges of daylight were appearing.

Otmoor was still only half lit as I pulled into the car park, the moon still dominant in the almost-light of day. Two male Bullfinches were just about visible in the branches of the car park, their vermillion breasts betraying their presence. Alas, the light was just too dark for the Bullfinches to be photographed so here’s the moon just before dawn broke.

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I made it to the cattle pens just as daylight broke and was greeted with the sounds of Otmoor, honking geese, pee-witting of Lapwing and caw-ing of corvids.

Lapwing and Canada Geese were in large numbers on the open fields. The Lapwing taking to the air in clouds of black and white motion whenever spooked by a passing raptor.

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My walk along the bridleway saw Sparrowhawk, Red Kite and Kestrel all making their presence known. The Wetland hide was abuzz with small bird activity. A lot of seed had been spread just to the left of the hide and a mixed flock of Linnet and Reed Bunting were feeding away.

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From time to time a mischievous Crow or Rook would buzz the grounded flock sending up a shower of little brown birds in front of the hide.

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The first reedbed screen saw the single female Tufted Duck, two casual Coots, a flittering of more Reed Buntings and Starlings, a scurrying Snipe and a lone Pied Wagtail.

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The middle distance saw several Cormorant, a Grey Heron and a mass of Widgeon enjoying the high water levels.

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I took the long walk down to the second reedbed hide, spooking two different Green Woodpeckers from ground feeding and earning the curious look of this female Blackbird.

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Busy Blue Tits and Great Tits were flitting out of the now almost bare foliage along the path and of course the obligatory and obliging Robin was on hand to boost the photo numbers.

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The second reedbed hide saw even more Wigeon, a solitary Great Crested Grebe, Mallards and a few more Coots. Red Kites continued to prowl over the far reaches of the reserve.

I made may way along to Noke, in hope of finding the Bearded Tits that have again been reported. There were no Beardies this time but there was a large flock of Otmoor Massive present, scanning Big Otmoor for White-fronted Geese among the Greylags. No luck this time but we did have a very smart looking pair of Pintails.

A lone Buzzard caught the attention briefly as we made our way back en-masse along the bridleway and six well camouflaged Snipe were expertly spotted on the edges of the large pools.This Rook was rummaging through cow dung and despite the choice of unsavoury food source the bright sunlight really showed off the purple-blue sheen of the plumage.

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Despite the sun a chilly breeze was cutting across Otmoor and we paused at the feeders on our way out. A brief visit by a Coal Tit and a Kestrel with a fresh kill being the last sightings of any note for the day.

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Not a spectacular day by any means but Otmoor has set some high standards over the years. However, for my first day of birding in 2015 it brought 52 species in four hours and a welcome return to my favourite reserve.

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Weather permitting, a visit to the home patch of Cranford Park this coming weekend will give cause for another blog entry.

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