16 Members of the Society joined our second Winter Walk at the RSPB Otmoor reserve in Oxfordshire. We were lucky to have a dry, calm afternoon, if rather overcast.
The reserve has just celebrated its 20th anniversary as the first land was purchased here by the RSPB in 1997 and the area of reserve has been consolidated and extended considerably since then.
One of the early tasks was the planting of an extensive reed bed, a back-breaking task as testified by members of the Society who helped to complete that planting! The aim was to encourage reed bed, specialists such as the Bittern, to move in and to increase availability of managed reed beds less vulnerable to rising sea-levels and coastal flooding.
It has certainly paid off as in 2013 the first booming bittern was heard and they have subsequently bred at the reserve. In 2015, Marsh Harriers bred successfully for the first time and in the same year a pair of cranes also attempted to breed in the reed bed. They have returned subsequently and it is hoped they will return again this year.
We began our walk by inspecting Brown Hairstreak eggs in the Blackthorn hedge near the car park, before checking out the feeders where a Marsh Tit showed well among the other tits and finches.
Moving on along the main track a Cetti’s Warbler was calling as we watched Marsh Harriers and flocks of Lapwing and Golden Plover overhead along with the occasional snipe.
During the afternoon, we saw at least 4 Marsh Harriers and some of the group were lucky enough to see a wintering Hen Harrier too. A visit to the hide rewarded some with sightings of a male Brambling and several Yellowhammers amid the mixed flock of Linnets, Reed Buntings and Chaffinches taking advantage of the seed scattered on the lane beside the hide.
Others made their way direct to the first screen, past big flocks of Wigeon, Golden Plover and Lapwing on the fields next to the track, to be in position for the arrival of the starlings at dusk and to spend some time watching the variety of ducks on the areas of open water.
The starlings didn’t disappoint! Soon after 4pm the flocks were gathering from all sides and gave us an excellent display before funnelling down into the reed bed in front of the screen. A great finale to the walk!
To see a short video of the brilliant murmuration (thank you Janice Robertson) click here.
Click on any of the pictures for a larger image.
Many thanks to Linda Murphy for leading the walk and providing the trip report.