Mrs Caley and I did so much birding over the Easter break that there is just too much to write up here so I'm going to recount the highs, and lows, from the four days in two parts. In fact this review starts back on the Wednesday before, when we made an evening visit to Otmoor in fine sunny weather primarily to see if any Spring migrants had turned up. In particular we were keen to get a look at one of the recently arrived Grasshopper Warblers but also to see if there were any other additions to the year list.
We had good views of a Bittern that flew up from the ditch that runs alongside the bridleway and then landed next to one of the reedbeds on Greenaways. It stood in full view for maybe 15 seconds and then disappeared into the reeds. Speaking to Otmoor regulars it appears that this Bittern, plus another, has taken to spending a lot of time out on Greenaways where it can show well at length if a little distantly. Apart from the Bittern it was fairly quiet on the moor, we couldn't locate any reeling Groppers, but we'd actually come out this evening to see a specific bird, in fact two specific birds, that had been showing well in the evenings of late. We waited by the bench halfway along the bridleway looking for anything stirring. Nothing much was happening so I went for a wander to see if the Bittern had reappeared at the other end of the reedbed leaving Mrs Caley chatting to our friend Lee who was also hoping to see the same birds that we'd come for. As I neared the far end of the reeds, our quarry emerged from the grasses and began to hunt. The Short-eared Owl flew low along the back of the reedbed and I hollered at Mrs Caley that "the Owl was out!" but she couldn't hear me. I legged it back and suggested that she, and Lee, looked out over the field and they turned in time to see the Owl pass fairly close by.
The Owls were joined by one of the resident male Marsh Harriers which actually, for a change, came close enough for a recognisable photo or two. Despite always being seen whenever we go out onto Otmoor it's difficult to get anything but scope views of any of the Marsh Harriers since they resolutely refuse to come close enough for a really good photo opportunity. This bird though teases us by flying just out of reach and always seems to fly directly over areas that you've just vacated and never when you're there! They do of course have excellent vision and know exactly where everything is at any time on the moor.
|male Marsh Harrier|
As we walked along the path to the 1st screen a Jay flew out of the single Oak giving me a chance to grab some flight shots of probably our most beautiful corvid species. Numbers of Jays are definitely increasing and sightings are becoming much more frequent of a bird that was never showy until the autumn in years past.
|drake Garganey with Teal|
|1st summer Little Gull|
And lucky that I did since just a few moments later a couple of fisherman in their boat passed close to the Gulls and they all took flight. The Little Gull was the last to take off but to my immense gratitude then flew almost directly overhead. The camera was put into overdrive and whirred continually as the Little Gull traversed the causeway and over onto F1. At last I had some decent photos of a Little Gull, next time hopefully I'll get an adult version to capture. When editing the photos later at least half weren't focussed but the action had been quick and I'm just pleased that I managed the ones that I got.
The Little Gull had flown right to the opposite side of F1 so we proceeded along the causeway, pausing briefly to watch some Coots fly around. Cormorants were flying between the two basins, the morning light making even them look handsome and a Great Crested Grebe floated idly past before diving under. The water was so clear that we could see the Grebe under the water but my efforts at photographing it failed completely!
|Great Crested Grebe|
We headed down towards the river listening to the songs of several Warbler species but the one that we'd most like to hear, the Grasshopper Warbler, was silent. A Cuckoo was very audible in trees on the opposite side of the river and it took me a while to pin him down, eventually finding him perched proudly at the top of one of the trees. From the lofty perch he issued his song repetitively.
|male Common Redstart|
|male Ring Ouzel|