I visited the RSPB nature reserve at Otmoor yesterday. It was great!
As we parked, we could hear lots of Whitethroats singing, some of them performing song flights over the car park, and Cuckoos singing in the distance too. This was a promising start and the promise was kept.
We were hardly out of earshot of a singing warbler for the next couple of hours – and we achieved the almost perfect ‘nine’ for this site: Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler, Sedge and Reed warblers, Blackcap and Garden Warbler, Whitethroat and Lesser Whitethroat and a single long reeling of Grasshopper Warbler too. This was Spring in central southern England.
Adding their contributions to the soundscape were Redshank, Curlew and lots and lots of Lapwing, as well as Skylarks and a range of commoner passerines.
As the birds filled the air with sound, Common Lizards and Grass Snakes silently soaked up the sunshine as they sat. Brimstones, Orange Tips and Peacocks added movement to the scene – silently too. Some of the birds were silent – a Wheatear, paused its migration and sat silently on a post. Hobbies plucked dragonflies from the sky and ate them in flight above our heads but they were too high up for us to hear the chitin being crunched.
Otmoor is a gem – at least it was yesterday. A wetland restoration project in the heart of England, close to the M40, within sight of the A34, just north of Oxford and yet peaceful (apart from those noisy birds) and lovely. It would be tempting to think that the RSPB had restored to us an experience enjoyed a while back by earlier generations, and in a way that is true, but yesterday Otmoor was providing an experience that was very much of our time.
There was always a Red Kite to be seen and occasionally one drifted over the wetland and was mobbed by angry, or at least perturbed, Lapwings. No-one has seen Red Kites, as we did yesterday, at Otmoor for at least a couple of hundred years. And the Lapwing numbers have been restored recently as the wetland has been recreated. When was the last time, aside from yesterday, the day before and in the last few years, when Otmoor has provided views of Red Kites throughout the day being mobbed by Lapwings guarding their chicks? Not for a long time. This was not an experience that our fathers might have had and that has been returned to us, nor one from our grandparents’ days. Yesterday wasn’t recapturing a lost past but living in a wonderful present.
The last day of April, with the sun shining, in central England on a nature reserve bubbling over with nature. A nature reserve which has put abundant life back into a small patch of our crowded country. And a good pint of Brakspears in the Abingdon Arms to enjoy later. Carpe diem.
Have a look at the Otmoor reseserve blog, but, if you can, have a look at Otmoor too.