Change is afoot at Otmoor! As the weather steadily warms signs of spring are emerging while the remnants of winter remain. Our winter flocks are still present with ducks and waders in impressive numbers but many of the golden plover are starting to show their breeding plumage and it won’t be long before they leave for their nesting grounds. Redshank, garganey, and curlew have all returned to Otmoor but the occasional brambling and short-eared owl are still around and refusing to make way for spring just yet.
While lapwings are still flocking many of the males are going it alone in preparation for breeding; they have started scraping out hollows in which they hope their female will choose as a nest.
A lapwing scrape - the predecessor of a nest. The male has scraped out a hollow and started to line it with material. Photo: Matthew Purkis
Lapwings will scrape out several hollows like this and the female will choose her favourite to line with more nest material and lay her eggs in. If you see any of the staff traipsing around the fields chances are we are out looking for nests to record the timing of laying and numbers of eggs.
We are yet to find a proper nest let alone one with eggs but lapwings aren’t the only species getting in the breeding spirit. Snipe have started their display flights that are accompanied by the unique “drumming” sound. This almost unnatural sound is produced by the two outermost tail feathers that the male holds out sideways and these feathers vibrate as the bird flies through the air.
With spring arrivals the office year list competition has accelerated and Fergus has taken the top spot with 85 and already claimed 5 species for the spring migrant award but Gary is still lagging behind with a measly 74.
The less feathered residents of the reserve are clearly in the swing of spring with frog spawn appearing in ponds. Each clump can number as many as 2000 embryos which means lots of food for other animals.
Frog Spawn Photo: Gary Smith
Rustlings in the undergrowth have been revealed to be the first activity of grass snakes and a small yellow flower, coltsfoot has sprung up to give the reserve its first splash of colour for the year. Spring is certainly pushing forth and it won’t be long until familiar warm weather species abound the reserve once more.
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