Friday 26 May 2017

Otmoor - a great choice!

We recently had our first walk at Otmoor RSPB reserve in Oxfordshire.

It was well worth the wait!

This is an area of lowland moor that has survived, its now in the control of the the RSPB being managed for breeding and wintering waterbirds and waders, with a few surprises thrown in.

We started off with a bit of warbler ID, namely garden warbler, blackcap, whitethroat, chiffchaff and willow warbler. As we were listening to the garden warbler the unmistakable sound of a turtle dove purring drifted across our conscience. An all too rare sounds now, a joy wherever we are lucky enough to hear it. The bird decided it was only fair to give us a flyby view - brilliant!

We reached the wetland area to be greeted by a drumming snipe! This is the male's display flying were he spreads his tail to reveal two special, small, outer tail feathers that vibrate as he does a run of undulating flight - another special sound, especially in Southern England.

We next heard and then saw what was the first of many sightings of cuckoo. We reckon there were at least three males and a female present.

male cuckoo, well, cuckooing.
The warbler ID continued as we compared sedge and reed warbler. Here's one of the male reeds.

male reed warbler
We soon picked up a pair of crane feeding on the marsh as well as a number of hobby and marsh harrier busily chasing around.

Good numbers of duck were present, hopefully breeding with shoveler, teal, pochard, tufted duck, mallard and gadwall all seen well.

I think the highlight for me was the shear number of waders breeding, we saw many, many pairs of lapwing and redshank, as well as the aforementioned snipe, and a few curlew and oystercatcher. The RSPB have spent a lot of time and money making great habitat and protecting these special areas from predators and fingers crossed it will be a bumper year!

Pair of redshank
What a great place! Roll on the next visit!! (NA)

Monday 15 May 2017

Orchids and nightingales at CWP

We started our walk at Lower Moor Wiltshire Wildlife Trust (WWT) reserve and were soon listening to garden warbler, blackcap, chaffinch and chiffchaff singing. 

After a brief stop in the hide we carried on around the walkway to see mute swan, greylag goose Canada goose and great crested grebe.

Further along the walkway we saw a damselfly exuviae on a sedge stem. As the season progresses the stems of many lakeside plants will be heaving with these, a stunning sight!

We started to find more warbler species, as well hear more of the ones we had picked up earlier. with, cetti’s warbler whitethroat and willow warbler all being heard but not always seen. Other birds singing included dunnock, wren, robin, and song thrush.

After some more damselfly watching we found a showy whitethroat and a skulking reed warbler by the roundhouse-shaped cowshed.

Male reed warbler doing his best to hide.

Next, we arrived at Clattinger farm – what a special place!

Amongst the plants we saw were cowslip, adder’s-tongue fern, green-winged orchid, early marsh-orchid, marsh valerian and common spotted-orchid. Then the ones sniffed were sweet vernal-grass, pepper saxifrage and salad burnet.  We even managed to track down a very late snake’s-head Fritillary!

Green-winged orchid

We finished with a quick visit to a site to listen to more warblers. We picked up a sedge warbler here as were as more garden warblers than you can shake a stick at. Finally, we were graced with a sustained burst of song from a nightingale – fantastic!

A sedge warbler giving it his all. 

Monday 1 May 2017

Cotswold Water Park morning walk

Today saw us again at the Cotswold Water Park for a morning walk.

Checking out our first lake we found a fine pair of Great Crested Grebes along with a pair of Mute Swan.

Moving down the pathway we could hear a Lesser Whitethroat calling and soon found it perched at the top of a bush on the other side of the road giving a fantastic view of this shy bird.

On our next lake we saw Tufted Duck along with more Great Crested Grebes.

Further along the path Blue, Great and Long Tailed Tits were seen along with Crow, Jackdaw, Robin. Wren, and both House and Sand Martins.

A single Pied Wagtail flew overhead and landed on one of the house roofs.

Following the Thames path down we had a very brief view of a kingfisher as it flew downstream also a Chiffchaff could be heard at the top of a tall tree.

On our next lake two Common Tern were perched on the fence giving a very close view of these elegant birds also on the water were Mallard and Coot.

Moving on we found Little Egret, Gadwall,Grey Heron, Cormorants and a couple of Oystercatchers feeding on the grass bank.

Heading towards our next lake we picked up both Song and Mistle Thrush calling from the tree tops with several more Chiffchaffs also a fly past Cuckoo giving a good view as it went by.

Further down the path we saw a pair of Bullfinch along with a pair of Chaffinch.

At our last stop we could hear a Nightingale in the distant with a Willow Warbler calling from a low bush which we soon found, further on we found Whitethroat, Sedge Warbler, Reed Bunting but our best find was 5 Hobbies above us catching the tiny insects that were out on the wing today, higher up above the hobbies we could also see two Buzzards riding the thermals.

A very pleasant walk at CWP and the weather stayed good for us.DT.

Darren. Thank you for an excellent morning guiding us at the Cotswold Water Park. Your knowledge of the birds and their calls – and how they use the local habitats – made it easy to get the best out of the all-too-short time we had available. As one who had extensive research and administrative roles in conservation I certainly appreciated the skill and passion with which you guided us. My only wish is that we had done this at the beginning of our stay in the Cotswold!