Tuesday, 20 July 2021

RSPB Otmoor :: 11 July 2021

We decided to target a species missing from our year list and head to RSPB Otmoor. There had been plenty of bittern sightings but none while I had been there -there also seemed to be less sightings over Greenaways than last year with the majority I'd heard of from 1st screen.

Another early arrival and we made our way down past the feeders and onto the bridleway. It was noticeably quieter than my last visit, but we still were greeted by an array of warblers, including both common and lesser whitethroat. We slowly made our way along and eventually reached the patch of reeds that had been so productive for bittern sightings previously. Within minutes Kevin Heath send up a shout that a bittern was coming in from the right. I swung round in time to see the last 30ft of flight before it dropped into the reeds - I suppose it must have been on the far right of Greenaways. Luckily, I had managed to get focus and send off a volley of photos before the bird was lost into the reeds.


We joked that we had our day's target bird and that we could get back home, but of course pushed on. After a short look over Big Otmoor we set off down to 1st screen, seeing a pair of bullfinches join warblers, juvenile sedge and several other species feeding on the track ahead. On and into the hide we noted the species on the water and over but none caught our eye, although juvenile shoveler were good to see. We left for 2nd screen passing yet more warblers enroute.

Common whitethroat

From 2nd screen we eventually added a little grebe but saw nothing remarkable; the species count continued to rise. We arrived back at 1st screen to find Mark Chivers and Peter Barker in residence, and they pointed out a garganey which we'd not seen on the way passed. We stopped to chat and soon we were joined by Nick Truby and his wife Anne. With his typical delivery he inquired as to who had invited "the Banbury boys" 😂. After a short catch-up Nick mentioned he'd seen a great white egret on Big Otmoor and so we set off to try and find it - he mentioned tht he'd been lucky as most of the time it was out of view.

We stalked up and down the bridleway but with no joy. At one point we stopped to identify a small bird hopping in the trees behind us when out burst a sparrowhawk/cuckoo/little owl sized bird - it appeared to have little or no tail as it quickly flew away through the branches, and we tried to discount sparrowhawk - also there have been no mention of little owl on this stretch and so we thought it may be a juvenile cuckoo given the colour. We will never know.

We made our way back along the bridleway to the car, stopping at the gate to the cattle pens. We watched as a male marsh harrier quartered the far edges of Greenaways putting up a curlew. Now scanning the area, we caught sight of an approaching bittern and had a long and enjoyable fly-past - I took photos but by then the heat haze was causing havoc. This was then followed by the emergence of a hobby from the far hedge line. 54 species noted and home.

The following day we joined a Banbury Ornithological Society to a dairy farm in Whatcote - run by one of the members. He gave a very interesting introduction to the works there and then led a walk around the fields around the farm. It was a great catch up with many as meetings have largely been online during the pandemic. The highlight for me was a barn owl in a barn covered with a corrugated roof. It really was an enjoyable evening and finished off with coffee/tea and cake.

Barn owl

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