June and July at Otmoor have been really busy months so apologies for the delay in updating the blog. We’re now into our tractor season so we get to see the reserve from the comfort of an air conditioned cab, which gives us some welcome relief from the relentless horseflies that are out in force this summer on the moor. Bring insect repellent if you are popping down for a visit! One of the tasks for our shiny tractor was to fix the track to the reedbed which had taken a battering of late but is now filled with a substantial amount of crushed limestone.
Our smart little tractor primed and ready for some stone moving path fixing action. Image by Ian Hayward
Since the last update we have had a rather special visitor, in the last week of July we were overjoyed and somewhat surprised to have a white stork fly low overhead whilst we were out in Ashgrave field. Not a bad bird to spot from the tractor cab!
White stork. Image by Fergus Mosey
It turns out that this individual has a really interesting story behind it. Ringed in Poland it was one of a number of birds that got into trouble with pylons on migration and was taken to sunny Norfolk for rehabilitation. It then proceeded to recover well and took flight making appearances across the UK. You can read more about it on the link below from our friends at WWT Slimbridge. Where will it turn up next?
The moor has been delivering some other great birding opportunities of late with our turtle doves showing very well and purring right next to the visitor trail. We’ve also been hearing the reel of the ‘gropper’ (grasshopper warbler) in the car park field beyond the feeding area. The reedbed has been a hive of activity with reed warblers, tufted ducks, great crested grebes and pochard, all with chicks at the moment. Marsh harrier bred for the second year running and we have been observing an increase in bittern movements to and from the reedbed. Out on the scrapes we are seeing large groups of lapwing including many fledged juveniles, it looks to have been a successful nesting season. Drumming snipe have been heard over parts of the reserve throughout July.
We have completed our wildflower surveys on the Closes and Malt Pit fields thanks to a dedicated team of volunteers. We spent a considerable amount of time debating the identity of many wetland and grassland species, usually deciding that our gut feeling was right in the first place. In between the very tricky small species like the willowherbs and forget-me-nots we had some more obvious plants like the celery leaved buttercup, fleabane in full flower and the lovely pink to purple blooms of the knapweed.
Fleabane. Image by Ian Hayward
The site is full of life underfoot at the moment with toadlets, cool spiders like the labyrinth spider and butterflies everywhere including marbled whites and the pictured Essex skipper.
Essex skipper. Image by Ian Hayward
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