Snakes On A Plain

23rd March and a jaunt to Otmoor seemed the perfect way to spend a fresh spring Sunday. With our friend Danny collected en route we arrived at our favourite Oxford reserve around 9am where our first sighting of the day was this male Bullfinch in the car park.

Although the real spring-time activity was yet to commence in earnest, Otmoor was looking resplendent and the bird noise was hinting at the prospect of a lively time ahead. Both Curlew and a drumming Snipe caught our ears as we approached the Bridleway. A confiding Reed Bunting made himself available for Mrs Sausage lens:

Lapwings were taking to the air in their typically acrobatic and noisy way – it was apparent that nest making, courtship and establishing territory were well under way. The clear blue skies were busy with Red Kites, the ubiquitous Crows and the occasional Kestrel:

It was not only the air and ground that was busy with birds – the waters at Otmoor were once again home to an array of wildfowl. From these Teal:

To a number of Shovelers, the males in particular could be seen chasing female suitors at the first screen, or sitting stoically as if posing for deliberately for our cameras:

The reedbed brought us some cracking sights, we saw at least three Marsh Harriers making sortie after sortie, a lone Barnacle Goose in the field adjacent to the path to the second screen, Great Crested and Little Grebe and the sun even brought out some Common Lizards:

Seed eaters were out in force next to the Wetlands Hide with Linnet, Reed Bunting and Yellowhammer all showing well:

Highlight of our day came on our walk back to the car park. Thanks to a tip off from Peter Barker, we were keeping our eyes peeled on the reeds next to the Bridleway for a chance of Grass Snakes. With Otmoor bathed in warm, reptilian-loving sunshine, we were hopeful of some kind of sighting. We were to be rewarded many times over. It started with a single Grass Snake by the kissing gate opposite the Wetlands Hide:

As we made our way down the Bridleway, it seemed every flattened piece of reed was home to one, two, three or more Grass Snakes:

It took some time to figure out just how many we had nestled together in some spots:

We even had one basking on a tree stump:

In all, our walk back from the Wetlands Hide to the pump house brought us 35 Grass Snakes a stunning sight to behold and certainly something we didn’t expect to experience. With the feathered life about to explode into action with the arrival of our regular migrant visitors it was our local invertebrates that stole the early spring highlight on this visit.

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