My visit to Otmoor started with me heading to Marsh Lane, after seeing some reports from there of a pair of hobbies being seen hunting over the causeway. However, as I was trundling along the M42 motorway I saw the signs for the M40 and decided that Otmoor might also have some hobbies, and that there would probably be a fair bit more of interest there too. Decision made, I continued my drive south, and thought the omens might be good when a brown hare crossed the road in front of my car, just before reaching the car park.
The skies were a mix of blue and dark, menacing clouds, so I chose to don my Paramo jacket, just in case. The air was filled with the song of linnets, whitethroats, sedge warblers and wrens as I strolled down the entrance path, checking the ditch for any grass snakes along the way. And, just as I reached the bridge, my decision for the jacket was proved wise, when the heavens opened and it poured down! Thankfully it soon passed away in the breeze, and I set off along the path.
Great to see and somewhat of a relief after the gauntlet they may have to take if their flight path goes via Malta...
Another distinctive call is that of the cuckoo, and I could make out a pair calling from two different areas. As I walked along, one flew right past me, chasing another, before heading out across the marshes into the distance. They weren't the first I had seen of the year, as they were in Norfolk, but I did spot my first swift; several of them in fact and whilst watching them, I clocked a hobby in the distance. Fab.
Deep in the shadows beside the path was a pair of garden warblers, busy collecting nesting material, and on the other side by the main marsh area, a pair of shovelers hurried out of the water; the male staring at me before flying off with his partner in tow.
He was right. Difficult to count as they move around so much, but maybe 10+ in the air. A fantastic sight, and one I was soon hooked on trying to photograph. Not that easy with these birds as they change direction so quickly and without much warning, but the expanded focus points on the 7Dmk2 helped immensely with tracking them in flight.
I had decided by now that I would stay here as long as I could, to enjoy the sight of the hobbies and perhaps see the cranes again. A birder who had been by the screen earlier strolled back and stopped for a chat. He had to leave but was gutted he'd not connected with the cranes, and joked that they'd probably appear as soon as he'd left. I told him not to worry and that I'd give him a shout if they did before he was out of my sight.
Literally seconds after he walked away, both the cranes burst up from the reeds. I shouted to the birder, who later admitted he thought I was doing a prank on him, and we both enjoyed views as the pair circled briefly, before heading off across the marsh.
And trying not to be too distracted by the antics of the marsh harriers (yes, a second female had appeared by now) was also challenging. One seemed to have caught something and strayed into the range of the other female, who chased her off angrily.