Firstly, a brief introduction. I'm Ian the new volunteer warden intern and i've been at Otmoor since early January. I've previously worked for the RSPB as a wildlife advisor and i'm looking forward to getting to grips with life on a reserve over coming months. It has been a baptism of fire, and chainsaws, so far and a steep learning curve but it has been great to work with a team of dedicated conservationists at what feels like a real wilderness site, despite being close to Oxford and the mayhem of the M40! I hope to share some of the experiences along the way via the blog!

(Getting to grips with a thorn stand. Image by Gary Smith.)

So the work so far has been mainly focused on habitat management jobs that need to be done before the bird nest season gets underway. I've been out with the chainsaw with our intrepid band of volunteers every week since I got through the challenging chainsaw training and assessment. Much of this has involved tackling stands of blackthorn which does not clear easily, it fights back! The rationale behind cutting some areas of blackthorn is to create a mix of habitat ages in order to benefit a range of species, avian and others. The reserve holds populations of black and brown hairstreak butterflies that rely on blackthorn as a food plant during the caterpillar stage. To maximise the attraction to these elusive species we look to provide a good range of habitat at the right growth stage. Hopefully we'll be able to spot the adults on the wing in the summer.

(Thorn coppice along the bridleway. Image by Gary Smith)

The area known as the car park field has been the focus of some of our clearing work, clearing the area of the older blackthorn will create improved grasshopper warbler habitat. These elusive little brown jobs have been quite fond of the area in previous years when the habitat was more open so the cutting back of some sectors should entice a few pairs in come the spring. This winter the area has been a good spot for woodcock and short-eared owl, making some welcome additions to my Otmoor year list which is approaching 60 so far.

Other species of note recently have been the first little egret of the spring, the impressive wildfowl numbers and my personal favourite the starling, still performing wonderful murmurations when the conditions suit in impressive numbers.

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