One bittern—or maybe more

At last I have seen a bittern at Otmoor, the RSPB reserve in Oxfordshire.

Bitterns have been booming here since 2013 and were found to be breeding in 2016.  I have visited many times since then but had never seen one—until yesterday, 2 November.

It was very quiet there birdwise.  I went to the first hide where the water was completely still and producing wonderful reflections.  There were a few duck, not doing much.

small 1 1st hide

Reflections on the lagoon

So I went on to the second hide and found it full of people with binoculars trained on the far bank of the lagoon.  There was a bittern around.  ‘It’s moving’ they said, but I could see nothing.  I was told it was in the reeds below a bush on which was perched a marsh harrier.  I could see the harrier all right, but no bittern.   Then suddenly it burst out and flew a short way along the bank before disappearing again.  I had never seen one fly before; it is a slow and stately flight.  For a photo look here and scroll down.

small 8 2nd hide

Where the bittern was lurking. The marsh harrier was on the red-coloured bush

After a time someone saw it, or another bittern, moving again in the reeds.  Once more I had difficulty seeing it, but then in flew out right across the lagoon.  I stayed there for some time, watching gadwall, mallard, tufted duck and a female teal.  I was rewarded with two more bittern sitings.

Starling murmuration
I walked back to the first hide in time for the starling murmuration.  They were coming in overhead as I made my way.

small 11 starlings


There was quite a gathering of watchers by the first hide.

small 12 starling watchers

Starling watchers

I arrived just in time to see a sparrowhawk fly out of the reed-bed with a starling in its talons.  The starlings kept coming in and dropping into the reeds, then they spread out across the lagoon to find new reed-beds.  There was constant movement and noise.

small 14 starlings

Starlings fly in

So what had at first seemed a quiet day at Otmoor proved to be an active and exciting one.

About campaignerkate

I am the general secretary of the Open Spaces Society and I campaign for public access, paths and open spaces in town and country.
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