The lovely songs of various warblers are now ringing out all round Otmoor with more and more turning up, almost daily! This morning I was required to be on the reserve for 6am to do the first breeding bird survey of the year, this meant my alarm going off at 4.30am, not something I am used to or enjoy! Once down on the reserve though we were rewarded with a gorgeous sunrise and a fair few birds. Curlew, Lapwing, Redshank and Gadwall to name a few! AND it didn't stop there, the song coming from the hedgerows and above was incredible and apparently its only going to get better! There were the year round species, Blackbird, Wren, Robin, Skylark and Bullfinch as well as the migrant species, Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Willow Warbler, Sedge Warbler and then there was a rather special treat...the 1ST Lesser Whitethroat, and we didn't just hear it singing, it gave us great views, which is unusual!
Later on in the morning, when I was back down on the reserve, by the entrance to Greenaways, I thought hang on that sounds like a bit of an odd Sedge Warbler and I was right to think this, there were 2 Reed Warblers singing, the 1st of the year! The warblers then decided to give me one more treat for the day, Grasshopper Warblers in the Car Park Field! Such a strange song but oh so recognisable, with one close to the feeders and another over the back, I returned to the office with a large smile on my face!
So after all my complaining about the ludicrously early start, I am now happy to do it again as it was such a treat! (I may still complain though!!)
Spring on Otmoor is always an exciting time of year, not least because it’s the time when lapwing chicks can be seen running around the fields. The first of this season's nests hatched at the end of last week and lots more will follow over the coming weeks. Lapwing chicks are nidifugous meaning that they leave the nest soon after hatching and are able to wander round finding their own food. If you’re lucky you may see these balls of fluff feeding out in the fields, favouring the muddy ditch and pool edges. Four of this years chicks are shown below, the photo was taken soon after they’d hatched and just before they left the nest.
Otmoor is proving to a great place for wildlife at the moment and Friday (13th April) was no exception. After a morning in the office up-dating risk assessments and preparing maps for the annual report, I managed to escape down to the moor to continue with our lapwing monitoring work. The lapwing are concentrated inside the predator fence on Big Otmoor at the moment and good numbers are sitting on nests, more water was pumped into this field from Ashgrave last week so hopefully despite the drought we can keep conditions as desirable as possible for them. Lots of redshank are also on the moor and can be seen feeding around the edges of the new Big Otmoor scrapes and flying overhead as you walk along the bridleway. Sometimes called 'Wardens of the Marsh' their evocative alarm calls can readily be heard as they alert other birds to danger.
The frogs are stil croaking away in the ditches, spring migrants continue to arrive and butterflies are flitting around all over the place. I added house martin, swallow and sedge warbler to my Otmoor year list on Friday as well as a pair of ravens kronking to each other as they flew overhead. Driving back across Greenaways I saw a couple of snipe and as a perfect ending to the day had a short-eared owl on the merlin perch (distant photo included below.) More migrants seem to be ariving on a daily basis and with cuckoo, redstart, yellow wagtail and garganey being recently seen on the moor, who knows what tomorrow might bring...
On my walk round the predator fence this morning I came across a beautiful male Redstart. It was moving along the hedgeline occasionally hopping down to the ground to feed, I managed to follow it for quite a way. There was another bird in the hedge with it, but I couldn't tell what it was, possibly a female? Around the same area there were a few Wheatear present. There seems to be quite a few around at the moment across the majority of the reserve, in front of the hide being a good place to spot them in the grass. There are also 4 Little Ringed Plover, numerous Redshank and Lapwing, a Heron and about 10 Teal in front of the hide. The warblers are slowly returning, with Willow Warbler singing in the Car Park field, Chiffchaff all over the reserve, Blackcaps in the Car Park field and along the Roman Road and Sedge Warblers were heard at the weekend. What will be next??
In terms of the non-avians, the hares are still boxing like mad, I think there were about 10 all chasing each other on Big Otmoor! There is a lot of Frog Spawn about so mind your step in the next few months for all the little froglets moving between ditches! There is now a lovely array of butterflies around on those sunnier days, including Orange Tip, Small White, Peacock and Brimstone.
The car park will be closed on the 17th April. This is to allow the Tuesday team volunteers to resurface parts of the car park and enable improved access. We apologise for any inconvenience caused. If you have any questions regarding the work, please do not hesitate to contact Owain Hegarty, Assistant Warden 01865 352032 / 07825099386