This is no Farmoor, Otmoor or Port Meadow. This is Grimsbury. It's Grim up north!

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Monday, 6 April 2015

06th Apr 2015: Otter and House Martin

A very special day for me at Grimsbury. I have never seen an Otter in England before today so to see one here and to see one so well is just amazing!

I had walked up the river side path around the reservoir, and although there were lots of birds migrating over there was actually nothing grounded. Through the morning c.200 Meadow Pipits had gone over, generally in groups of 2 to 10 but there was a group of c.20. A few small groups of Wood Pigeons totalling c.60 birds and a few Skylarks were moving too.

In the wood I spotted the Willow Tit in the messy vegetation over the river near the fallen willow tree. I was trying to get a photo of two Grey Wagtails feeding on the edge of the river when something disturbed the water by the fallen tree and made some big ripples. I froze.... Knowing that Otters are frequenting the area, but also knowing there has been a mink around too I wasn't sure what it was going to be. Scanning up and down the river I couldn't see anything until the unmistakable shape of an Otter appeared under the railway bridge! (I didn't get a picture of the Grey Wagtails...).

I found out that Otters can swim rather fast under water, but managed to track it all the way up river to the M40 bridge and the flood alleviation scheme, seeing it at close range in the small river channel several times. It fished in the area between the M40 bridge and flood alleviation scheme for a few minutes as I watched and then amazingly it turned around and swam back towards me. It came closer and closer and eventually climbed out of the river onto the bank about 2.5 m away from me!!

I think it is a young individual, it seemed small and obviously not that shy! It slipped back into the water and downstream and I departed into the valley to leave it alone.

In the Upper Cherwell Valley I met Colin Wilkinson and we watched a Barn Owl hunting for a few minutes. Walking back we discussed the Otter sightings we'd now both had and Colin got the impression that the two Otters he'd seen in January were two cubs or immatures, so it's possible these are the animals hanging around in the area. Colin also kindly showed me the Long-tailed Tit nest that he'd located in the brambles between the reservoir and the wood. 

I decided to head back into the wood as I hadn't really covered it before the Otter showed up. A Blackcap was singing right in the middle of the wood and seems to be the first one holding territory. Walking back to the car park, all of a sudden a mist dropped over the reservoir. It made some of the passing Meadow Pipits drop lower and a House Martin and Swallow flew through north together. A Mistle Thrush was singing near to the water treatment works and another Blackcap was singing in the scrub by the river.

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