It was a pretty good day, 52 bird species including my first swallow and chiffchaff of the year and my second short-eared owl (the first was on 4 June 2004 in the Goyt Valley, Peak District). I wandered around Otmoor for nearly six hours on Good Friday, and for once forgot about time.
I heard, then saw, the chiffchaff as I walked along the path to the main hide. At this time of year it is easy to see birds in the trees. However, as I approached the first hide there was a cacophany in the bushes and I couldn’t see anything.
It was coming from a mix of birds which were flying down to where RSPB has put out seed for them. They make a colourful display—linnets, reed buntings, goldfinches, yellowhammers and chaffinches. Once again I failed to see a brambling but it was good to see stock doves.
At the first and second screens I had wonderful views of two marsh harriers. I sat in each for some time; the activity of ducks is mesmerising. There I saw my first swallow of the year, it seemed far too early. I heard a water rail but didn’t see one, so annoying!
I walked round to Big Otmoor where there were Canada and greylag geese and lapwings. A sparrowhawk shot out of the bush beside me and across the marsh, disappearing amid a shower of feathers as some poor creature bought it.
I passed a tree which had a large number of linnets in it.
As I walked back, flocks of golden plover came shooting over, twisting in the sun.
I returned to the bird feeders and found a group of people waiting with telescopes for the appearance of owls.
There is a meadow called Moorleys which is perfect for owls (and later in the year for grasshopper warblers). After a while, at about 5.15 pm, a long-eared owl appeared and sat for a long time in a tree before flying around. With its streaky body it blended into the browns of the meadow. I also saw a barn owl.
As I walked back a Cetti’s warbler shouted at me from the bushes. When I return in a month or so there will be reed and sedge warblers and, I hope, turtle doves and hobbies. Plenty to look forward to.
Do look at the video for the 19-20 March entry on the Otmoor birding blog, it says it all.