On my visit to Otmoor on the morning of Sunday 8 May I saw or heard nine kinds of warblers, a record for me on one visit. The only one I missed was the grasshopper warbler.
I saw chiffchaff, garden warbler, whitethroat, lesser whitethroat, reed warbler, sedge warbler and heard blackcap, willow warbler and Cetti’s warbler.
The place was alive with birdsong. As I approached down Otmoor Lane I turned off the radio and wound down the windows to let the sounds of Otmoor greet me. Two cuckoos, one with its tail missing, crossed in front of me.
As I parked I could hear the comfortable purring of the turtle dove.
I walked first down the Roman road to spot the dove perched in an oak tree above, and then went round by the feeders where I heard and saw him again flying over.
I saw my first whitethroat of the year along the Roman road, the first of many that morning.
I passed the field where I hoped to hear grasshopper warblers. It reverberated with song, but not theirs.
As I walked along the path to the hide, the reed and sedge warblers were noisy, the sedges flying across the path and sitting helpfully in trees, while the reed warblers remained largely hidden. I love the way sedge warblers show you the pink inside their beaks when they sing. The numerous reed buntings, for all their dapper suit-and-tie appearance, make a rather common, mournful sound.
Further along the bridleway towards Noke I saw my first-ever lesser whitethroat, clearly much greyer than the whitethroat. I spent ages tracking down a garden warbler which was singing clearly but remained elusive for a long time. Every so often I got a burst of Cetti’s warbler song.
I met a boy on the bridleway clutching the Collins birdbook; he was watching a sedge warbler at the top of a tree and then consulting the book. I offered help but he didn’t want it. Then I met his parents, they were over here for a year from India, and the boy knew the Indian birds and wanted to learn ours. It was such a wonderful encounter, I wish I met more children who were so enthusiastic.
The warblers were the highlight of the day for me, but it was lovely to see marsh harriers, a heron with two babies, and three hobbies dancing overhead and enjoying the thermals.