Monday, 4 January 2021

Farmoor Reservoir & RSPB Otmoor :: 02/03 January 2020

Two outings that were quite different this weekend, mainly due to the number of people attending each site.

On Saturday I opted for a trip to Farmoor Reservoir and for a longer walk - we planned on at least a circuit of F2 plus a section along the river. We crossed the causeway in pleasant sunshine having found a large number of coot in the harbour - in the end we had counted 441 for the circuit.

Other than pied wagtail, there was nothing of interest on the causeway but as we approached the opposite bank, we could see that the scaup were just to the right of F1. We stopped for a couple of photos before dropping down to the river at the Pinkhill hide.


We passed through the gate and onto the path - to the south we found the path was under water and so thought that we would try heading northwards. We reached the turn onto the river bank to find that the path was flooded there too - the plan had to change, just after we waded through a shallow pool of water.

Back on the reservoir we walked around F2, coming up against an increasing number of people coming the other way - usually at this time of year there would be just a few people around, but with the shops shut it appears people have nothing else to do and have decided to decend on open spaces.

Little grebe

We reached the car park to find it was full. Queues were starting to form as people tried to enter, blocking those trying to exit. Thank goodness we had started early and were leaving ourselves - most of the wildlife on site was human! Our largest counts of birds were coot at 441, tufted duck on 222 and cormorant on 71.

The following day I decided to visit RSPB Otmoor, this time leaving earlier to see if I could avoid any crowds. I arrived just after sunrise and made my way passed the feeders. I stopped and soon saw a marsh tit, a good start to the visit.

Marsh tit

I moved on to the bridleway and met Ewan Urquhart peering through his scope, searching for a hen harrier - he reported that he'd seen three marsh harriers but not much else. I forged on, coming upon a small mixed flock of goldfinch and chaffinch - no brambling amongst them. I turned towards the Wetland Hide and watched numbers of reed bunting, linnet and chaffinch on the path, feeding on seed that had been scattered - still no brambling. Eventually a birder came the other way and the birds scattered. I made for the First Screen 1.

I reached the gate and saw Dan and Trish Miller coming my way. As we chatted, we scanned the far side of Ashgrave picking out flocks of geese - too far to see detail but the flock presumably held numbers of white-fronted geese. Some of the golden plover and lapwing took to the wing and we observed a peregrine heading away from us at the far end of Big Otmoor. We proceeded to the First Screen, spotting winter thrushes as we went. The Millers only stayed at Screen 1 for a short time as they wanted to see the peregrine being reported at the Second Screen. I watched the numbers of gadwall - a single female marsh harrier passed at a distance from left to right and out over Greenaways (and back).

Marsh harrier

Cetti's warbler continued calling but remained out of sight - at least four heard during the visit. Nothing else showed and so I headed back. I took some photos of golden plover on terra firma, and a rather approacable song thrust (numbers of song thrush seem to be stronger this year?).

golden plover
Song thrush

I reached the entrance to the Wetlands Hide and bumped into Ewan again - we chatted and I looked through his scope at the white-fronted and barnacle geese on Ashgrave. The Millers (and others) returned from the Second Screen and we all decided to call it a day. On the path, by an area undergoing some tree management, Dan and I stopped to view some redwing - two birds flew along the channel behind and I immediately thought the colour and size indicated water rail; unfortunately I hadn't been expecting it and couldn't convince myself that I was certain they were water rails, so decided not to tick them.

That was it for the day so I headed home before it had a chance to rain.

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