Otmoor – Turtle doves, Cranes and Hobbies

Recently, I went up to RSPB Otmoor, mostly in the hope of seeing some Cranes there, but also hopefully some other birds. Within not too long of arriving, I saw a Grass Snake, bathing in the sunlight along the edge of the bank of a small stream. I stepped very quietly and mostly remained very silent and still because they are reptiles which can easily be disturbed by the slightest movement, or even footsteps just passing by along the nearby path. Unfortunately, I appeared to have disturbed it a little, so it slunk off, but only into a small, patchy bit of vegetation, so, by the time I had got by camera out, I was only able to take a photo of it under some leaves.

Not a very good photo of a Grass Snake

Not long after this, I noticed a beautiful Whitethroat, sitting up on a wire and singing its heart out. Also along the wire were a few Lesser Whitethroats – the much less common cousin of the Whitethroat, with around 74,000 breeding pairs in the UK.


DSC_0654 (1)

Up ahead, I noticed a group of about four others, all with their scopes scanning over the marshland, and so I knew that there was probably something quite interesting out there. They showed me that there were two Cranes out there, and so I fixed up my own spotting scope on it and there they were. They were very hard to see because they were right on the far side and most of the time, they kept their long necks and heads right down in the grasses as they were foraging. I was very pleased to see two of them, as this was only the second time that I had seen these birds (the other time being at WWT Slimbridge), but also because less than 100 of them are present in the UK. Unfortunately though, as they were so far away, I was not able to take a picture. By the time I stopped watching them, nearly 20 people had gathered to watch.

Reed Bunting

Otmoor is probably best known for the Turtle Dove, with people travelling from all around the country to come and see them here. Unfortunately, in recent years, the population has declined massively, with a 91% drop in the UK since 1995, with only around 14,000 breeding pairs annually now. This is because of shooting in the Mediterranean as they pass over in migration from Africa. They are most well known for their amazing ‘purring’ sound. I was lucky enough to see a couple of these whilst I was here.


Turtle Dove

Another highlight at Otmoor at this time of year are Cuckoos and Hobbies. Although very different birds, they both can appear very similar in flight, with the same shape. I managed to see a few of both of these, especially Cuckoos, because they are not at all that hard to find, as you simply have to walk towards the noise they make. The Hobby is one of my favourite birds because of its beautiful red underpart around its legs, and also because of its amazing high speed aerial manouvres whilst catching dragonflies.

There are also incredibly high numbers of warblers there, with Grasshopper, Reed, Sedge and Chiffchaff all regularly being seen at this time of year. The air is full of the sound that they make, with all sorts of different songs.

A Reed Warbler

Near to the end, I suddenly saw a group of about four of five Great Spotted Woodpeckers, clearly this was a pair with some new fledglings. One of them was very tame and allowed me to stand not too far from him and take photos, not at all bothered by my presence in the slightest.


Great Spotted Woodpecker fledgling
At the same time a Wren was also happily singing next to the Woodpecker

Back at home, one recent school morning, I woke up to discover a Fox trotting around the garden, happily investigating everything. I managed to take a photo through the window, hence the reason why the photo is a bit fuzzy.

School morning Fox



Author: Isaac the Ornithologist

Hi, I'm Isaac West, I'm 15 years old and I live in Oxford. I have a huge passion for wildlife, especially birds and I always enjoy being out and about in the wild. I am currently training to be a bird ringer. I also love wildlife photography and I greatly enjoy taking photos of nature. When I am older, I would love to be involved with nature.

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