Sunday, 2 June 2013

RSPB Otmoor

This time of year does rather spoil you for choice of where to go, and having seen a few redstarts and pied flies at Gilfach, I fancied something from the bird of prey menu. Inviting Dad along, I headed down the M40 to Oxfordshire, to an RSPB reserve called Otmoor. I've been before, and enjoyed some success with hobbies, which are now back in the UK in good numbers.

Within moments of walking over the bridge to the main part of the reserve, we could see several hobbies chasing insects over the pools near the path, so we set up and crossed our fingers, hoping to get some close views.

There were certainly a good number of hobbies around. I counted almost 20 at one point.

Seeing them was one thing, but getting shots, especially when they were hunting low down, well, that was something else.

I found that using just a centre focal point was best, as anything expanded tended to pick up the background, even when I was "on" the bird.

It was a lovely day, but while that meant we weren't freezing our nuts off for once, the shots were generally a tad soft from the heat haze around.

Didn't stop me filling 3 cards, though I did leave enough room for a whitethroat on the wires on the way back to the car, and also a bit more room for a pint at the gorgeous Abingdon Arms pub up the road.

As is often the case with me, I wanted more of the same, so returned to Otmoor about a week later. Again the forecast was good, though when I arrived with just a bodywarmer and long-sleeved t-shirt on, I wasn't best pleased to find a cold, strong breeze blowing into my face. Brrr!

Less pleasing still was a distinct lack of hobbies. Walking up and down the path to keep warm, I heard a purring sound - a turtle dove. I've heard them before, and as usual, a search of the trees was fruitless. Then, another 'tog spotted it, further along the treeline, on a stump.

First one I've seen properly, and while the view wasn't great (branches blowing around in between), it was still a good start to the day.

The remainder of the day was spent trying different spots for hobbies, and failing to get anything much. I spent quite a bit of time with my macro lens out, as the place is a hotspot for insects.

With the afternoon stretching into early evening, I thought I ought to head back, and wandered back to the bridge, stopping for a last look across the marshes. Great move, as a hobby flew over the trees behind and up over my head, hanging in the breeze, to look down at me!

Terrific, and moments later, along the path back to the car park, another one came over low down too.

Perhaps I should have stayed near the car park instead of strolling off across the reserve!

Moments like those make the hours stood shivering worthwhile, and the decision to leave even harder. Maybe next weekend...

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