Thursday, 16 September 2021

RSPB Otmoor :: 11 September 2021

I grabbed a roll and bacon, made a flask of coffee, and set off to arrive at RSPB Otmoor by sunrise. In the car park I met up with Kevin Heath and as we prepared to set out with scopes, bins and a camera a nice lady turned up and promptly headed out onto the reserve ahead of us. She had bins in her hand and so it was likely a birder and wasn't just unable to sleep and fancied a walk. We followed behind but she appeared to be on a mission and was soon out of view. We made our way to the bridlepath and looked out to see what was around - the answer was not much.

We pressed on and by the bench we could see three hunting kestrel hovering over Greenaways. Behind, 11 cattle egrets landed in the grass alongside the cattle - appropriate I suppose - occasionally their heads would pop up enough to see a few at a time but largely they were concealed. A single little egret fed in one of the closer pools.

Not far past the bench the woman we had seen earlier returned and reported that she'd not seen much of note and was off - a swift visit! - we'd not even made it to the gate and path to 1st screen yet; a single snipe and then another two flew over. When we did get to the gate and crossroads we opted to visit the hide and were pleased to see a single cattle egret following a cow around. A fallow deer was feeding with the cows and later we were told that it seems to think it is one of the herd.

Cattle egret
Cattle egret
Fallow deer

After a short time a herd of humans entered the hide to view the cattle egrets that had relocated over the bridleway. This group contained Peter Barker, Mark Chivers and Derek Lane. They didn't stop long and headed for 1st screen - with not much else in view we followed suit. We arrived at first screen and joined those already in residence, immediately seeing another cattle egret on the island directly ahead. After a short while it was joined by a little egret and after that another cattle egret.

Cattle egret
Cattle egret

As we waited (hoping for the flock of cattle egrets to drop in for a brush up) a kingfisher attempted to land on the branches in the water immediately in front of the hide; unfortunately it must have spotted us and made for the reeds instead, out of view and very shortly out and away. A large number of ducks circled and dropped into the pool and shortly six garganey were identified. It is great to see so many of the fledged birds survive. On the various islands dozens of snipe were resting or feeding on the water's edge.


Kevin and I decided to have a look at 2nd screen and on the way saw bullfinch, chiffchaff, goldfinch, various tits and reed warbler. At the screen we were disappointed not see more but there was a show from a rather attractive sedge warbler which gave me something to photograph. We could only take so much excitement and headed back to first screen passing the regulars coming the other way. We briefly stopped again at 1st screen, until the others had trudged back too and decided to go and have a look in Long Meadow.

Sedge warbler

Stopping at the gate by the cattle pens we looked out over Greenaways and spotted the three kestrels still hovering and hunting. After a few minutes we added a couple of hobbies hunting across the far hedge and field margin on our side. It was great to observe their interactions and then as they rose, dived and hunted low across the field.


Now on Long Meadow we searched for common redstarts, finding instead a group of at least four lesser whitethroat. They were in the left hedgerow as we headed for the walled structure and they regularly flew to a few of the bushes in the meadow itself. As they did, they landed and disappeared into the foliage (as they usually do) rarely giving an opportunity for a photo - by now the haze had started to build and it was a job to get close enough for a photo of any note.

Lesser whitethroat

In time we tired of watching them and resumed our hunt for redstart. It took 10 minutes or so but eventually we had at least three birds and two of them were confirmed males. We watched as they danced between the bushes and dropped beside feeding. At one point Kevin gestured towards a redstart on a side branch in view but I got the wrong bush and it had moved before I understood where to look - I tried again as the bird dropped to the ground but it refused to show prominently - the heat haze was now unworkable and so unless it landed in front of us, I wasn't going to get a decent shot. We just watched instead, at least until another chap joined us and then headed off further down the meadow.

Common redstart
Common redstart

Time for home said Zebedee.

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