Many of those visiting Otmoor RSPB reserve on Sunday 5 May were disappointed that there were no turtle doves. The doves come every year and this is the weekend they normally arrive. One was seen over a week ago, but on Sunday there was no purring. You can keep an eye on the Otmoor blog for news.
There were lots of shouting cuckoos though, and from the first screen I managed to see one far off in a hawthorn tree beyond the lake. I also saw two marsh harriers from here.
But my greatest joy was the warblers. I saw or heard nine species: garden, blackcap, chiffchaff, willow, whitethroat, lesser whitethroat, sedge and reed (seen) and Cetti’s (heard)—the same as on my visit on 8 May 2016. There were no grasshopper warblers, but I did hear them two weeks ago.
I was particularly pleased to see the lesser whitethroat, as I had not seen one since that 2016 walk. I spent some time identifying their song and then trying to see them, which was frustrating as they were always on the move and rarely exposed.
At last, towards the end of my walk, I got a fleeting glimpse of the grey body and masked face. I made some recordings and you can listen here.
I was also delighted to get a clear view of a garden warbler in a tree near the bird feeders. I don’t see garden warblers every year and this was my first for this year.
Hobbies floated overhead and were mobbed by lapwings, and there were also plenty of swifts. There was a little ringed plover and lapwing chicks on Big Otmoor.
As I walked to the second screen I looked into the reedbed in time to see a bittern flying low, which was total luck.
Just outside the first screen common lizards were basking on the pieces of wood, although it was not a warm day.
Throughout my walk I was serenaded by reed and sedge warblers. The reed warblers were largely hidden, though I did see two; the sedge warblers sang precociously from the bushes.
I spent five and a half hours at Otmoor and it was good to take the time to listen and identify the birds. I was well rewarded.