Although we are the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, we are just as passionate and dedicated to protecting bugs, butterflies, bats and buttercups as we are to protecting birds. Improving habitats for a target species will undoubtable have knock on benefits for a range of other species and this is well illustrated by Otmoor, where the wet grassand restoration, reedbed construction and hedgerow management have not only helped the waders and warblers but also the green-winged orchids, great-crested newts and grasshoppers.
Whilst making sure the cows hadn't eaten any more electric fencing I saw the first common spotted orchids I'd ever seen on the reserve...
I also saw my first skipper butterfly of the year.
There are loads of insects around at the moment, I seem to be spending a lot of time fighting my way through swarms of flying beasties and crickets, beatles and snails are in abundance in the vegetation alongside the bridleway. It appears there was a plague of slugs in the area last night and one of the tractors that was out mowing was sitting in the farmyard this morning covered in thousands and thousands of them. Brown hawkers and black-tailed skimmers are on the wing and I saw three hobbies hunting them today. I also flushed two green sandpipers up off of Ashgrave and the pair of common terns on the new raft certainly seem to be making themselves comfortable. Is it too late for them to nest?
Yesterday (27th June) was a really good day for wildfowl on the reserve. A red-crested pochard was reported from the reedbed in the morning and in the afternoon I saw a group of three garganey from the first viewing screen. Six wigeon were also present, as they are a duck normally associated with winter on Otmoor it made a change seeing them on a hot summers day. Lots of little grebes were uttering their laughing calls and two families of pochard and one family of tufted ducks were out on Ashgrave.
Hobbies were out hunting for dragonflies, turtle doves were seen flying along the bridleway, a whinchat was on a fence post on greenaways and there was a report of the corncrake being heard again.
2012 has been a really good year for wading birds on the reserve, with the addition of the scrapes on Big Otmoor definitely adding to the spectacle. On Tuesday (19th June) the 23rd wader species was added to the ever growing reserve year list when a grey plover in full breeding plumage was seen on one of the scrapes. These scrapes are managed in such a way that water levels are slowly drawn down during the summer to provide more and more bare mud for waders to feed on, although management has been trickier this year considering the rainfall we've had, it's still be very successful and the following wading bird species have been seen on the reserve since January:
Sadly I don't have a photo of the grey plover but here's a picture taken by Peter Barker of one of our fabulous redshanks:
Sticking with bird news, the corncrake that was first heard last Tuesday (12th) hasn’t been heard again since Friday (15th), it may well have moved on but considering the size of the reserve and the bad weather there is a chance it has just gone unnoticed for the past week.
2012 has been a good year for wildlife on Otmoor, with one of the latest exciting finds being the reserve's first ever greater butterfly orchid.
Many of you will already have seen the new tern raft floating in the northern phase of the reedbed. Although it might be asking for too much to have expected terns to nest on the raft during this first year, they have been resting on it and will hopefully breed on the reserve next year.
The raft was created in record time with the assistance of a couple of volunteers and the whole staff team. After 2 days of construction, a few design changes, lots of laughter, some swimming in the reedbed and a 14hr work day, the raft was pushed out to the edge of the reedbed and covered in gravel to provide a tempting nesting habitat for common terns. The raft was then paddled out into the open water area and anchored to contrete blocks that we'd previously sunk. Clay pipes were put on the raft to provide shelter for any chicks and a small electric fence added to disuade any predators from clambering onto the raft.
Hopefully the raft will act as a further wildlife spectacle on the reserve. Let us know if you see any terns making use of it.