For the last couple of weeks at Otmoor we’ve been carrying out the five yearly Common Bird Census surveys. We have carried on doing this particular survey on Otmoor to continue adding to the data that we have built up over the years that this survey was previously done.

So, half an hour after sun rise our hardy volunteers set off to survey along their own routes and listen out for singing, calling and displaying birds in the hedgerows around Otmoor.

Last week I joined one of our regular volunteers Alan, to survey the hedgerows around Closes, Julys Meadow and Big Otmoor. The wind was occasionally picking up (making us wonder if some areas might be a bit too exposed) and some moody clouds threatened in the west, but we headed out (leaving the barn owl hunting along the roman road and the car park) eager to pick up some newly arrived migrants as well as the usual Otmoor residents.

As we crossed closes some of the louder birds were making our task more challenging and with lapwing and greylags alarming and calling over head, letting us know they were there and were watching us, but we still picked up some long tailed tits flitting about the top of the hedgerow calling out their “srih-srih-srih”. A blackbird was proudly singing in the distance and in between were the familiar songs of a robin and chaffinch.


Long tailed tit (RSPB images)

July’s Meadow provided us with a pair of dunnocks diving in an out of the scrub and as we headed towards the Wetlands Watch I started to wonder how many birds we’d see along the track where seed has been put down all winter. Because of this we’ve had great numbers of reed bunting, goldfinch, house sparrow, linnet and some elusive bramblings (which I failed to nab for my Otmoor year list) entertaining visitors all winter. We weren’t let down on this day either and although the flocks may have been a bit smaller, with the wind whipping across Ashgrave and a short April shower, we managed to get good numbers of reed bunting, chaffinch, yellowhammer and goldfinch. Still no brambling for me on Otmoor for this year but we were rewarded with a singing and briefly seen Cetti’s warbler on the corner of the bridleway.

We made our way along the bridleway with skylarks singing on both sides and highlights along the way being more Cetti’s warblers singing, a calling goldcrest and brief glimpses of nuthatch, bullfinch and tree creeper.

On the same day I stayed late on the reserve and was treated to great views of barn owl and short eared owl hunting along the visitor trail between Big Otmoor and Greenaways, as well as snipe drumming and the first arriving swallows hunting flies and gnats over the scrapes outside the hide .

Returning swallows (RSPB images) 

Whilst I’ve been out on the reserve over the last couple of weeks, I’ve chatted to a lot of the regular birders and they all have the same excited look on their faces, and with big smiles tell me how much they love this time of year on the moor. With the birds in full song and everyday seemingly bringing in more Spring migrants it’s easy to see why