Dawn Marsh Harrier

Dawn Marsh Harrier

Sunday, 10 April 2016

Oxfordshire and Beyond

A pair of Garganey and a Black Necked Grebe were showing from the first screen at RSPB Otmoor in Oxfordshire on Friday. Within 45 mins from home this seemed like a tempting double act for Saturday morning, so myself and Sharpy met up at 06.00am for the short jaunt up the M40. Both target species had done the good old 'Friday night flit' but it was anything but a wasted journey. Four bullfinches as we drove down Otmoor Lane to the car park at first light was a nice start to the day. More Bull Finches on our arrival alongside the car park field and a Barn Owl heading home to roost and it was already worth the 05.00am alarm. The early rain soon gave way to sunshine and Otmoor is a great place just to be on a spring morning. A singing Sedge Warbler was our first of the year and was promptly joined by a 2nd bird, presumably a female, lured by his comically arrhythmic ramblings and raspberry blowing. Another year tick came in the form of a distant Little Ringed Plover on the Great Otmoor field. By now the sun was up and the air was filled with the piping of Redshank and the Peewiting of displaying Lapwings. A pair of Avocets were causing a bit of a stir amongst the locals as you'd imagine being pretty much the Midlands. Raptors were enjoying the sunshine as much as we were with Marsh Harrier, Peregrine, Red Kite, Buzzard and Kestrel all putting in an appearance.

As we were in Oxfordshire it made sense to call in at Farmoor to see what was on offer. The long staying 2 juvenile Great Northern Divers were among the first birds to greet us and they were certainly showing well.

Showing equally well was the stunning local celebrity Red Necked Grebe as it fished along the bank.

There's always a decent chance of a Yellow Wagtail at Farmoor in the spring and it didn't let us down today. On the grass bank by the treatment works was an absolute stunner, glowing like a beacon in the sunshine.

Another mouthwatering treat here was a pair of Buzzards displaying over the water. The male performed his best Hen Harrier impressions as he swooped and rose like a roller coaster ride for his clearly impressed lady friend. An amazing spectacle to behold. I almost felt compelled to applaud.

There was still plenty of hours left in the day, and as we'd dipped on the Garganey at Otmoor we thought we'd try our luck at the pair that have been hanging about on a flood pool in neighbouring Berkshire. After a bit of to-ing and fro-ing we found the pool and soon found our quarry skulking around the margins as they do.

Suitably satisfied with reasonable views and a couple of record shots, I decided to check the latest on RBA. Lo and behold, a Slavonian Grebe had turned up back at Farmoor.

Back to Farmoor it was then. I joined a queue of traffic to get back to the main road. Frustratingly the queue showed no sign of moving for some considerable time. A car travelling in  the opposite direction paused beside me and the driver started gesticulating to me. I didn't get what he meant so I wound down my window to speak to him. In what I think was an Eastern European accent, he just kept repeatedly saying "drive, drive, drive". This was the point at which I realised that none of the vehicles in front of us had anyone in them. I was in fact sitting behind a row of parked cars. All this wonderful spring birding had clearly taken it's toll on my senses. Pride duly swallowed, I managed to get us back to Farmoor. The Slav was at the far end of the reservoir and as we made our way down there the G.N Divers seemed determined to steal the show. They couldn't have got any closer without climbing up the bank.

Unfortunately the Slav was much less obliging as it slept amongst a group of Great Crested Grebes a way out from the bank. It did manage to raise it's weary head a couple of times briefly before returning to it's slumber.

Barely a record shot but possibly, maybe, better than nothing.

Thinking we were done for the day we headed back to the car. However a text from Lord Lapworth of Olde Croxley Green, brought news of 2 Little Ringed Plover on our local patch at Stockers Farm. Although we'd had one at Otmoor in the morning, these would surely offer better views and it's always nice to see something a little out of the ordinary on the patch. They did offer better views and there was just enough light left to get a few shots away so cheers for the heads up Geoff.

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