Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Otmoor and the Chilterns

The weekend's birding started straight after work on Friday with a visit to Brandon Marsh. I had hoped to see some greenshanks, after admiring several friends' photos of these waders, especially as it is a bird I've not had any decent close views of, to date.

And... that's still the case! The only one around was on the far side of the River Pool, though it later relocated to the far side of the Teal Pool, where the light is terrible from lunchtime onwards.

Having spent much of the previous weekend camped in the Hen Pool Hide at Upton Warren, I was not that keen to go again, afterall, there's only so many pictures of a reed warbler you can process, without starting to go a little mad! So I browsed the net and opted to head south down the M40, to Oxfordshire first, to the RSPB Otmoor reserve.

If you're planning to go here, a word of warning. There's only one road to it and it really is dreadful. I managed to bottom out the car and clunk worryingly down into a huge pothole. Good job I was only crawling along.

The reserve though is well worth the trip. Reminded me of Exminster Marshes (Devon) to be honest, and the birds within were similar too. I heard Cetti's, reed and sedge warblers, watched several herons squark their way noisily between pools, and towards the centre of the conservation area, at least 4 hobbies hawked along the reedbeds, skillfully catching dragonflies with mid-air acrobatics.

The walk around the reserve ought to be circular - always bug me when they're not (like this one), as you have to trudge back the way you came... However, for the insect-lovers out there, this ought to be heaven. Masses of different butterflies and moths, and dragonflies - I've never seen so many!!

At the end of the walk is a pool with a viewing screen, and that held 2 black-tailed godwits, several lapwings, a flock of Canada geese, a lone common sandpiper and a common snipe. The other pools had the usual moorhens and coots, plus a few shovelers too.

Behind the reserve, 3 or 4 red kites circled the fields, and in the field / building site nearby, a kestrel hovered. In fact there were 3 around, in different parts of the reserve.

Arriving back at the start of the walk, I was just in time to see the marsh harrier, a juvenile, making a brief appearance. Bit of a distance, but great to watch nonetheless. One that had flown off, it was left to the hobbies to entertain, though with the conservation area being so large, they rarely came close.

I was actually about to head back to the car when something else caught my attention, and not a bird for once. Nope, it looked at first like a rabbit but the black tips on the ears gave it away - a brown hare. Just hopped out not far in front of me, to nibble at some small flowers. For the Withnail fans out there, I ought to quote "Here hare here" for the image below, though this one didn't end up in my pot!

Leaving the reserve, and bouncing / crashing up that road again, I thought it would be rude not to drive a bit further down the M40 to a favourite spot of mine, for red kites. Within moments of reaching the footpath, I was delighted to see a pair of red kites soar over head, calling out as they went. The light was good too (unlike Gigrin recently).

Such awesome birds - oh how I wish they would populate the Midlands more. Still, the drive down the M40 to see them isn't that bad, I suppose.


Max Silverman said...

Blimey Pete the approach road to Otmoor sounds worse than the
road to the two reserves at Holme in Norfolk.
It's a shame you cannot click on your pics for a larger version.Most of the other blogs I visit you can.

Unknown said...

A pair of Red kites...I would be more than happy to see one.

Steve Seal said...

Hi Pete, long time mate. Cracking Kite images. Catch up with you again soon, Beers on me.
Regards Steve S.