Sunday, 31 May 2020

RSPB Otmoor :: 31 May 2020

The RSPB Otmoor reserve has been authorised to open on a limited basis from 28 May 2020, Garden warblerbut the paths to the screens, the screens themselves, and the hide are all still closed. The standard two metre social distancing rules are obviously in place and signs are displayed at various points.

I still try to avoid unnecessary contact and so again set off at 4.30am, arriving at 5.00am in the car park. It was clear that there were more cars in the car park today compared with the 28th - even at this early hour there were a couple of bays already occupied.

As soon as I turned onto the bridleway I could hear garden warbler in the trees to my left. Pausing I found one singing it's heart out in the red sunrise light. Cetti's warbler were also numerous and quite vocal. BitternI heard distant cuckoos and some common snipe were drumming over Greenaways.

I made my way along the bridleway picking up the usual warbler and other species expected for this time of year. When I reached the crossroads for the screens and hides I watched several cuckoos and Cetti's warblers but just couldn't get a decent photo - good views considering the general skulking nature of Cetti's. I also had a couple of bullfinch pairs pass by.

I spent some time around this area and noticed, out the corner of my eye, a heron coming my way, Bitternquite high in the sky. As it got closer I sudden realised it was in fact a bittern at an unusually high altitude. I quickly raised my camera and shot off a few photos as it circled me and flew off across Greenaways, where it dropped down.

I walked back and stopped to talk to a birder, photographing in the reeds in the channel beside the bridleway. As we talked, a cuckoo flew behind me and back where I'd come from. I saw that it landed in a tree and so we both strolled down, taking occasional photos as we went. By this time the light had stopped being quite so red and my photo showed the normal grey plumage. Bittern

The cuckoo soon departed and I talked with a mother and young daughter who were looking for the bittern. I explained that I'd seen it but that it had dropped into Greenaways and probably into one of the patches of reeds. I saw a few people ahead with cameras and scopes and suggested the go there as they were all probably waiting for the bittern. When I reached the area myself I found that they were waiting as I'd thought and found Dan and Trish Miller were there again. We waited for almost an hour and picked up several species, including curlew.

Eventually the bittern raised it's Cuckoolong neck and head high enough to be seen through the reeds. This only lasted for a few tens of seconds before it took off and flew away from us. The photos weren't as good as those from my earlier flyby.

It was time to head home but I promised to phone Dan and Trish if I came across the turtle dove on my journey back to the car. I reached the cattle pens and to my delight, the turtle dove was feeding on the track leading away from the pens. I phoned Dan and after a few minutes Trish arrived - fortunately the turtle dove stayed long enough for her to see it - her previous views had been in poor light. In actual fact, Turtle dovephotographing across this track is a little tricky and haze is a bit of an issue.

After a couple of minutes a woodpigeon came in to land, too close of the dove's liking and it left and down the trees along the bridleway. I said my goodbyes to Trish and followed the dove, stopping on several occasions to listen to and watch Cetti's warblers as they flitted about. When I turned the corner I could see the dove in the treetop ahead and got some better photos than when it was feeding on the ground.

I spotted a couple of willow warbler along this stretch as I made for the car. Another good visit and great to bag the turtle dove.

Sightings (46) included: bittern, black-headed gull, blackbird, blackcap, blue tit, bullfinch, buzzard, canada goose, carrion crow, cetti's warbler, chiffchaff, coot, cuckoo, curlew, garden warbler, goldfinch, great tit, grey heron, greylag goose, lapwing, little egret, long-tailed tit, magpie, mallard, marsh harrier, moorhen, mute swan, pheasant, raven, red kite, red-legged partridge, redshank, reed bunting, reed warbler, robin, sedge warbler, skylark, snipe, stock dove, swallow, swift, tufted duck, turtle dove, willow warbler, woodpigeon and wren.

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