Monday, 5 April 2021

RSPB Otmoor and Balscote Quarry :: 02-05 April 2021

Glossy ibis has been reported at RSPB Otmoor for some time and so it seemed rude not to visit given the lifting of some Covid-19 restrictions. I arranged to meet Kevin Health, one of the other Banbury birders, there at 6.40am to try and beat the crowds.

On the track up to the bridleway we stopped a few times to see if we could see the ibis in The Closes - this is where it has been reported most frequently. Nothing seen from this side. We walked along the bridleway seeing marsh harrier and redshank as we went. Cetti's warblers called frequently. We stopped to listen to a booming bittern - the booms were very short and we never had sight of the bird. Moving on we made it to the gate by Big Otmoor and scanned the field picking out a pair of oystercatchers and a barnacle goose. We checked with the other observers and they hadn't been able to add anything unusal to these from this vantage point - one passing mentioned that he'd seen garganey further along the bridleway and so that is where we headed.

We stopped a couple of times to scan the pools but had pintail, tufted, wigeon and teal. It was a cold wind but we persisted and soon one of the other birders located a nice male as it cruised out from behind some cover. There was still nothing significant on offer on Big Otmoor but we did hear and see a few sedge warbler that have returned nice and early. We headed back and took the path down passed the Wetland Hide and viewed The Closes from the other side. There was still no view and worryingly no one had seen it all morning.

A bittern could be heard just behind us, in the reeds, but it didn't show either. Eventually we moved on and made for the 1st Screen. Along this path I had my first pochard of the year! and a water rail called from over the bank, but we couldn't see it - disappointing as it sounded so close.

We reached the 1st Screen and there were only a few birds on the water. On the far hedge line we picked out marsh harrier - a male this time. A bird then caught my attention and swung over us - it was the glossy ibis. We watched it over Big Otmoor and decided it had stayed too high to have dropped in there and so most likely had returned to The Closes.

Glossy ibis

We decided to make our way back and onto the track beside the Wetland Hide. After a minute or two we found the ibis - a life tick for me! Photos were all for records only given the distance involved - it had decided to feed roughly halfway between the two possible viewing areas we thought. Numbers of birders grew and so we left and hoped to see the bittern on the way back - no such luck.

Glossy ibis

Turning right from the bridleway back onto the track to the car park, we stopped to see if we could see the glossy ibis in this direction - we stood near a birder with a camera and he said he hadn't found it yet. No sooner than we started looking it dropped out of a tree and onto a grassy strip. Photo quality was still limited but the light appeared marginally better.

Glossy ibis

The following day I popped up to Balscote early and bumped into Mike Prentice, stopping briefly on his way to Otmoor. There were some birds on the water but mainly it was the snipe, little ringed plover and yellow wagtail that featured.

Yellow wagtail

On the Sunday we had our usual Easter breakfast and decided just to take an afternoon walk around Souldern - near the viaduct I saw my first bee-fly of the year - I was lucky and it was a dotted bee-flay rather than the more common dark-edged.

Dotted bee-fly

Easter Monday I set out early again and arrived on site to see what might be visiting. I reported back to the site management and again the little ringed plover and yellow wagtail featured, with fewer snipe showing this time. However the lapwing were displaying and c25 golden plover dropped into the field beyond the leftmost perimeter hedge.

Lapwing
Yellow wagtail

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