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One of the hides                 

Otmoor update

Planning to visit?

If you intend to visit, please use the reserve car park at the end of Otmoor Lane, Beckley (Grid ref. SP570126). Please note that facilities are limited and there are no toilets on site or in the nearby villages.

Access along the visitor route can be difficult in wet conditions. Wellingtons are essential after heavy rain. For further details contact: RSPB,  Tel: 01865 848385

Otmoor from the Hide 18 Jan 04


Bewick's Swans over Otmoor 25th January 2003


American monster in town!

A "revolutionary " machine called a rotary ditcher has been in action on the reserve this autumn. The six-tonne monster from Ohio has been munching it's way through thousands of tonnes of soil, creating 15 kilometres of shallow ditches on the reserve. Designed to help drain arable land in the USA, it has been adapted to help with the management and restoration of our wetlands, especially to increase populations of breeding wading birds such as lapwing, redshank and snipe.

 A massive tractor provides the power to run the ditcher. As the ditcher is pulled along by the tractor, its two bulldozer blades carve out the ditch. A spinning wheel, two and a half metres in diameter, pulverises the soil and throws it up to 30 metres through the air, spreading it thinly across the field. The ditcher can create three‑metre wide, 30 cm deep ditches at a rate of over 200 metres per hour-ten times faster than traditional excavators.

These shallow ditches will provide wet, muddy conditions supporting large populations of invertebrates and therefore more food for the wading birds. More birds will be able to find enough food, increasing the chances of chicks fledging.

 Since arriving in the UK, the ditcher has created 35 kilometres of ditches on three RSPB nature reserves. It will be in action on many sites across the country cutting over 170km of ditches in the next two years-the same distance as London to Birmingham. The purchase of the ditcher has been generously supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund and Alice Mary Lakin.

 Farewell and welcome!

After three years dedicated service Assistant Warden, Paul Eele, has migrated to the RSPB's Titchwell Marsh nature reserve in Norfolk. Paul established himself as invaluable and much-liked member of the team and we wish him every success in the future. Nick Droy has swooped in as the new man. Nick joins us from the Berkshire, Buckingham and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust. His responsibilities include organising the reserve management especially the establishment of the reedbed, bird monitoring and health and safety issues. He is also responsible for the Church Wood nature reserve in Buckinghamshire.

Not just for birds

Local volunteer, Ellen Lee, has been busy collating all the records collected on the reserve over the last five years. From beetles to worms, over 3,000 records have been computerized. Ellen is now looking for volunteers to survey invertebrates on the reserve. Please contact Ellen on 01865 848385 or email if you can help.

Rare plants

Several new species have been found on the reserve this year. In April, Nick Stewart from Plantlife spent two days looking for Tassel Stonewort, one of the UK's rarest plants. Found at only 19 sites across the country, Nick found three small colonies on the reserve with a total of 40 plants. Measuring just a few centimetres, Tassel Stonewort grows in temporary, shallow pools where the mud is regularly disturbed by cattle or machinery.

Water violet, another nationally scarce plant, was also seen for the first time this year as was adders tongue fern. This fern is associated with ancient hay meadows. Forty plants were found in the meadows where soil disturbance trials were carried out last autumn (see Putting back the flowers).

Ratty moves in to new home

Water voles are quite a rarity on the reserve and the first sighting by Nick Droy of one on the reedbed is cause for celebration. With more wetland habitat being restored on the reserve, this species has a real chance of increasing on Otmoor despite an 80% national decline.

Otmoor from the Oddington Track 25 January 2003

Bird News

Breeding wading birds

The national "birds of wet meadows survey" was our first opportunity to survey the breeding wading birds on Otmoor since establishing the reserve in September 1997. That year, only 41 pairs of four species lapwing, redshank, snipe and curlew - bred on the moor.

Curlews and Snipe mostly breed on the eastern side of Otmoor, where lighter soils provide good feeding habitat. The curlew population has risen to 16 pairs and 43 curlews was the biggest flock recorded in the county. Disappointingly, the large numbers of snipe present in early April only led to five pairs staying to breed - the lowest number for several years - possibly due to the mini-drought we had in the second- half of April.

The two new species are little ringed plover and Oystercatcher. Little ringed plovers have bred on the reserve every year since 1998, whilst a pair of Oystercatchers made two breeding attempts on the reedbed - the first time they are known to have nested on the moor.

Other breeding bird highlights

During surveys, a number of other species were recorded on the reserve. Water rails bred for the first time and we were hopeful that Cetti's warbler would also breed, but after singing on the reserve for several weeks, the Cetti s warbler moved into a scrubby hedgerow just off the reserve. Hobbies performed their aerial acrobatics throughout the summer and at least one pair bred locally.

This year, thanks to the co‑operation of local landowners and tenants, RSPB staff resurveyed large parts of the moor outside the reserve. The picture is much brighter now. In 2002, 130 pairs of six species were seen.

Lapwing numbers have shot up to 85 pairs (55 pairs on the reserve) and redshank to 26 pairs (21 pairs on the reserve).

Record breakers and visitors

The wet weather has seen record numbers of duck pour onto Otmoor. The 3,900 Wigeon and 3,600 Teal are both new Oxfordshire records.

Four Glossy Ibis were the biggest rarity of the summer. Believed to be part of a flock of eight birds that arrived in the UK from the continent, they spent a morning feeding on the reedbed before flying off - they were seen flying along the Norfolk coast just a few hours later! The only previous record in Oxfordshire was a single bird shot in 1916.

Passage wading bird numbers were lower than previous years, though there was still plenty of excitement. A Temminck's Stint in the spring was the highlight followed by a Pectoral Sandpiper.

Peregrines, Merlins and Hen Harriers have all returned to the moor for the winter. A record eight Short-eared Owls have been seen over the reserve.

Bitterns and reeds

The first Bittern is on the reserve this winter and is a fantastic reward for all the hard work that is taking place to create a reedbed where we hope they will eventually breed. Reed warblers bred in the reedbed for the first time this summer, a sure sign that the reed really is beginning to get established

Over 200 volunteers and staff helped plant 25,000 reeds during the summer twice as many as any previous year. This is the equivalent of over six kilometres of reeds! We may even have found a record for the youngest reed planter ever in Harry Drewitt from Beckley ‑ aged just two!! Volunteer groups from the RSPB in Banbury and our headquarters in Bedfordshire joined regular volunteers and BTCV volunteers with this mammoth task.

Putting back the flowers - update

In this edition of Otmoor Update we catch up with the progress on the restoration from hay meadows to flower rich meadows.

The most degraded meadow, Sally's Field, has now been "inoculated" with hay full of flower seeds, taken from a meadow on the Otmoor Site of Special Scientific Interest. Sally's Field was cut and hayed to remove as much of the existing vegetation as possible. This created bare patches of soil and to give the new flower seeds a greater chance of germinating.

Then, with permission from English Nature, DEFRA, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and the tenant farmer, Terry Moore, RSPB volunteers cut small areas of the flower rich meadow between late June and early August. The cut material was raked up and then spread across Sally's Field.

As the cuttings dried, the seed will have ripened and dropped into the meadow. Cattle were then allowed onto the meadow to graze any growing grass and to push any seeds into contact with the soil so they can germinate and grow. The meadow will be surveyed next year to assess the success of this approach.

Small areas were rotovated in two other meadows to discover if disturbing the soil would allow buried flower seeds to germinate. Unfortunately, there appear to have been virtually no seeds left in the seed bank, so we will be investigating the possibility of introducing flower rich hay from a local donor site here too.

Dragonfly news

A single downy emerald dragonfly was reported along one of the shady ditches on the reserve in June. It was only seen briefly and is likely to have been blown to the reserve from nearby sites to the south by strong winds during the previous days. A reserve regular, hairy dragonfly, was seen for the fifth year in a row since its discovery by Neil Lambert in 1998.

Hairstreak Update 2002

Butterflies were under the spot light again with black, brown and whiteletter hairstreaks all being recorded. Ellen Lee, our biodiversity volunteer, surveyed both black and white-letter hairstreaks, finding singletons of both. A site visit by the Upper Thames

Family fun

Children from the age of two to eleven led their parents on a voyage of discovery during the reserves first family fun day in early July.

With twenty volunteers and eight members of staff, there was plenty of help to sweep the grasslands for all manner of insect and other creepy crawlies, delve into ditches for dragonfly larvae and water scorpions, produce artistic representations of the wealth of aquatic plant life, scan the reedbed for a variety of birds and of course, get as muddy as possible planting reeds. A great time was had by all.


Waste Recycling Environmental (WREN) is funding a variety of projects on the reserve through the Landfill Tax Credit Scheme. Partnership funding is being provided by Vauxhall Motors Ltd. The 80,000 grant will support the reedbed creation work and a range of community projects for three years. This includes the voluntary warden scheme involving 40 local volunteers providing information to visitors, guided walks, talks, a family day and the production oh Otmoor Update. WREN is supporting six other projects on RSPB reserves across the UK.

Reserve wins European support

The reedbed work at Otmoor is one of 19 reedbed projects across England that is being supported by the European Union. The RSPB and eight partner organisations have secured 4 million, including support from the European Union Life Fund, to improve and create reedbed habitats for breeding bitterns over a four‑year period. The aim is to double the number of booming bitterns in the UK to 65.

The funds will assist with a range of tasks on the reserve. Up to 100,000 reed seedlings will be grown and planted. In their first year, these will be protected from being eaten by coots and swans by erecting horticultural netting. Competitive plants, such as rushes and willows, will be controlled by mowing and digging them up. Water levels will be carefully managed to provide ideal planting conditions and fish populations monitored to ensure that there is sufficient food for bitterns to breed.

Peat-free reed

Following successful trials in 2001, all the reed seedlings at Otmoor are propagated and grown in peat‑free compost. Terra Eco Systems' high performance mufti‑purpose compost is proven to match the best available peat-based composts. We would like to thank Terra Eco Systems, a division of Thames Water, for donating all our compost requirements for reed production on the reserve.

The RSPB urges gardeners to use peat free growing media, such as the Terra Eco System range. The Terra range, which also includes a soil improver and grow bags, is endorsed by the RSPB as a green alternative to peat. With every bag of Terra you buy, you make a donation to the RSPB.

Lowland peatlands are now very rare in the UK: 94% have been lost. Today, lowland peatlands and their wildlife are still threatened through peat extraction for garden composts and other uses. Why not visit the Terra website:

Thames Water

Thames Water has awarded Otmoor a 50,000 grant under the Landfill Tax Credit Scheme. The funds will improve access to the reserve, purchase a mower and create additional water features on the reserve with the rotary ditcher.

Each year, areas of the reserve are mown to ensure the grass is the right height for breeding waders. The new flail mower will allow us to achieve this more effectively. It will also be used to manage rushes, docks and thistles.

A special thank you

We continue to receive generous donations for the reserve. Thank you to the following who have given essential support since the last Otmoor Update.

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs The Environment Agency The Heritage Lottery Fund The Cooper Charitable Trust Don f> Grace Bowley‑Booth Terra Eco Systems Thames Water Vauxhall Motors

RSPB Local Groups:

Aylesbury Coventry and Warwickshire Hemet Hempstead North Bucks Oxford Solihull Vale of White Horse in memoriam donations: Anthony Gilbert Gore Alice Mary Lakin


Otmoor update No. 8 April 2002


The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds' nature reserve in the heart of England.

Welcome to the latest Otmoor Update, the RSPBs newsletter about the development of its reserve on Otmoor in Oxfordshire:


Planning to visit?

If you intend to visit, please use the reserve car park at the end of Otmoor Lane, Beckley (Grid ref. SP570126). Please note that facilities are limited and there are no toilets on site or in the nearby villages. 

Access along the visitor route can be difficult in wet conditions. Wellingtons are essential after heavy rain.  For further details contact RSPB, c/o Lower Farm, Noke, Oxford OX3 9TX Tel: 01865 848385


Revolutionary restoration

The RSPB is progressing with the restoration of wet grassland on the 39 hectares p purchased last spring with the financial support of the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Environment Agency and The Department of Environment

Food and Rural Affairs.


We are going, to create a network of shallow ditches which will be kept wet by pumping ,hater from a pool or series of pools in the lower lying areas of the land. These shallow ditches and pools will provide excellent feeding conditions for wading birds and them chicks. Each winter, rainfall will refill the pools in time for the spring breeding season.


The design is an adaptation of the water meadow systems found along rivers such as  the Test and Itchen, in Hampshire.  The system re-circulates the water around the ditches, thereby' minimising the amount of water

required to create good conditions for birds.


 We are considering buying a specialised piece of equipment to excavate the  ditches The machine, called a rotary ditcher, will be quicker and cheaper  than using diggers. One of the  types of rotary ditchers that we are  considering buying is only currently in use in the USA. The field will then be fenced off and sown with a grass seen mix to create a hay‑meadow which will be rich in insects for the birds.


Appeal for volunteers

With so much work to do, we are looking to set up a new mid‑week volunteer workday on Thursdays. You would be involved in a wide variety of habitat and estate management projects including reed planting, ragwort pulling and fencing. Volunteering at Otmoor provides you with an opportunity to learn more about the reserve and visit parts of the reserve that are not open to the public. A lot of the work involves bending and lifting so you need to be reasonably fit.

Please contact Paul Eele on 01865 848385 if you would like to lend a hand.


Volunteers working hard

Management work has now switched from the reedbed to the hedgerows and scrub habitat around the reserve. Our volunteers have been busy working on our new block of land getting it ready for the ditching works this summer. We have been clearing scrub for a new fenceline around the field and coppicing the willows.


Work to boost the numbers of black and brown hairstreak butterflies has been carried out on the reserve and at the Ministry of Defence's Otmoor Site. Blackthorn coppicing on the Ministry of Defence's Site of Special Scientific Interest is continuing, after Foot and Mouth Disease stopped us from finishing work last year. After an increase in black hairstreak numbers last year, it is hoped that once this management is completed, these butterflies will increase further. This work is being supported by English Nature. With financial support from DEFRA, 20 volunteers from British Telecom helped plant 2,000 blackthorn saplings in new hedgerows on the RSPB reserve. This will provide additional habitat for these rare butterflies.


We have also been cutting rushes and digging up willow saplings in the reedbed. If we do not remove these invasive species, they will swamp out the young reeds. All of the islands have now been cut and will provide extra open areas for breeding waders this spring.



Wildlife News


Brown hairstreaks on the increase?

Once again, Nick Bowles, David Redhead and other volunteers from Butterfly Conservation braved a cold, frosty New Years Day to survey blackthorn bushes for brown hairstreak eggs. Having seen very few adults last summer, it was great to find 19 eggs, mainly in the field next to the car park.


Mild weather lowers bird numbers

The number of waterfowl has been lower this winter, probably due to the mild temperatures in Europe. This means the birds do not have to move as far south or west to survive, hence less birds visiting the reserve.

Maximum counts this winter have included 1,000 Wigeon, 900 Teal, 220 Pintail, 103 Shoveler, 49 Gadwall, 1,000 Lapwing and 1,000 Golden Plover. Five White‑fronted Geese visited the reserve at the end of December ‑ only the second record for this species since the reserve was established. The most exciting record was a count of over 300 Snipe; a record number for Otmoor: three Jack Snipe have also been seen.


Wintering birds of prey returned in similar numbers this winter with at least three Hen Harriers, three Merlin and two Peregrine Falcons hunting the moor along with Kestrels, Sparrowhawks and Buzzards.


Otmoor in January


Looking forward to the breeding season

Breeding wading birds began arriving in late February with over 30 pairs of Lapwing displaying by the first week of March. Also present were 43 Curlew (the highest single count ever in Oxfordshire), 10 Redshank and a pair of Oystercatchers. Another reserve "first" was a singing Cetti's Warbler; could this be our next new breeding species?


Fancy helping a Bittern?

We are still busy creating the largest reedbed in Central England. When established, it should attract rare species such as Bittern, Marsh Harrier and Bearded Tit along with other rare species including water vole and otter.


During the past three years, staff and volunteers have planted over 25,000 reeds. Our plans to plant another 30,000 to 40,000 in 2002 will only succeed if more volunteers help out. Reed planting is an easy task but does involve lots of bending. Young seedlings are planted in shallow water and then protected by putting up netting to stop coots and other birds eating them.


If you want to spend a day or more helping us bring breeding Bitterns back to Otmoor, please contact Paul Eele (01865 848385). We will be planting reeds on:

29 and 30 June; 13, 14, 27 and 28 July; 3, 4, 17 and 18 August.


The RSPB works for a healthy environment rich in birds and wildlife. It depends on the support and generosity of others to make a difference.


Otmoor Challenge

Register now for this year's event and raise money for the reserve and other local charities. The main event is a half marathon run or walk. There is also a shorter five-mile route. Reserve staff and volunteers will be at the event to answer questions about the reserve. If you want to know more, please come along. This year's event takes place on Saturday 1 June. For more details and an entry form contact Mr Ogden on (01865) 351421 between 6pm and 8pm only.


International Support

The RSPB works with bird and habitat conservation organisations in a global partnership called Birdlife International. Site manager, Neil Lambert, visited Costa Rica to record birds in the Monteverde Conservation League's cloud forest reserve and help local researchers with a bird ringing project looking at the effects of deforestation.


A special thank you

We continue to receive generous donations for the reserve. Thank you to all of the following who have given essential support since the last Otmoor Update:


The Countryside Agency

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

The Environment Agency

The Heritage Lottery Fund

Bartlett Taylor Charitable Trust

Colin and Charlotte Franklin Trust

Don & Grace Bowley‑Booth

RSPB Local Groups:

Aylesbury, Chorleywood and District, Hemel Hempstead, Mid‑Nene, Milton Keynes Phoenix, North Bucks, Solihull, Vale of White Horse, Watford, Wokingham & Bracknell, Worcester and Malvern.





October 2001

Putting back the flowers

The RSP13 is working with local farmer, Terry Moore, the Ministry of Defence (MoD), English Nature and the Upper Thames Tributaries Environmentally Sensitive Area (UTTESA) to restore flower rich hay meadows on Otmoor. Four meadows covering over 13 hectares (33 acres) are involved with three different techniques being used. The first meadow is still quite rich in flowers and is near wonderful hay meadows that have already been restored. Hay will be cut later in the year here to allow plants to finish flowering and set seed first. Seeds from the Seeds from the adjacent hay meadows will also spread naturally. The other three meadows are isolated and have few surviving flowers.  Two were known to be beautiful meadows until quite recently so there might still be seeds lying dormant in the soil. Small areas have been carefully disturbed to raise any seeds to the surface. If flowers appear next spring, the technique will be applied across both meadows. adjacent hay meadows will also spread naturally. The final field has been ploughed and reseeded in the past so it is unlikely that  any flower seeds are left in the soil. Hay from a flower rich meadow on the MoD's Otmoor rifle range will be scattered over this field. This will contain many seeds that will drop to the ground as the hay dries. Cattle grazing the meadow will then push the seeds into the soil where they can germinate.   

Black Hairstreak - first for RSPB

Site Manager, Neil Lambert, discovered the first black hairstreak butterflies on the reserve in June. This nationally rare butterfly is only found at around 35 sites in the UK in a thin belt between Oxford and Peterborough and Otmoor is the only RSPB reserve where black hairstreaks are found. This winter (with an UTTESA grant) 600 metres of new blackthorn hedges will be planted to provide more vegetation for the caterpillars to feed on. The young growth will also provide excellent habitat for brown hairstreaks and as the blackthorn trees mature we hope that black hairstreaks will be able to spread.

 Not forgetting the birds

Monitoring work was affected by foot and mouth restrictions but surveys we were able to complete show that breeding wading bird numbers were similar to 2000 with 23 pairs of Redshanks, two pairs of Curlew and one pair of Snipe. The 35 pairs of Lapwing were a significant decrease from 1999. However, the fall appears to be a due to increased habitat improvement elsewhere. The wet winter meant more arable land was entered into set-aside or sown in the spring creating suitable nesting areas away from the reserve.

 A pair of Garganey was present again during the spring and at least four pairs of great crested grebes nested. Common terns successfully raised two chicks and at least five broods of Pochards were seen.

 This autumn's passage began early and has been more exciting than the spring. Peak numbers included 20 Black-tailed Godwits 20 Little Ringed Plovers, 14 Whimbrels, 10 Greenshanks, nine Black Terns, four Wood Sandpipers, three Curlew Sandpipers and four Little Egrets. The supporting cast has included Red Kite, Montagu's Harrier, Common Sandpiper, Turnstone and Spotted Redshank.  

Demonstrating success

Liz Forgan, Chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) visited with Graham Wynne (RSPB Chief Executive) in September to see how the habitat restoration is progressing. They were accompanied by Tessa Hilder (HLF Regional Manager, Eastern England), Corinna Woodall (HLF Policy Research Officer), Steve Holliday (RSPB Regional Manager) and Louise Doret (RSPB Grants Development Manager).

 The flood defence managers from the Environment Agency's south‑east and south‑west regions visited us in July along with the Wise Use of Floodplains Project team (a European Union funded project working on three floodplains including the River Cherwell).

Neil Lambert returned to eastern Europe in May to discuss grassland recreation techniques with colleagues from Holland, Lithuania, the UK, Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

Otmoor Update - April 2001

Reserve extension

The RSPB has just completed the purchase of 47 hectares of land adjacent to the Otmoor Site of Special Scientific Interest. Purchase of the land and habitat creation are both supported by a significant grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Most of the land is currently sown with wheat. After the harvest this autumn, work will begin to restore it to wet grassland. The field will be reseeded with a grass seed mixture arid shallow water features will be created.

 The remaining land is already grassland and is managed within the Environmentally Sensitive Area Scheme. In the next few years, we will be improving its wildlife interest. The area may already support one of our rarest grassland plant communities, dominated by meadow foxtail and greater burnet. This grassland, known as MG4, only occurs in the UK and there are just 4000 hectares left in the whole country. Malcolm Ausden, an RSPB ecologist, will carry out a botanical survey to see if it is MG4 and decide the best way to manage it.

The RSPB has also taken on a five‑year tenancy of a small grassland field belonging to the Ministry of Defence. With support of the neighbouring farmer, Terry Moore and the ESA scheme, we are hoping to increase the botanical diversity of the grassland and provide more habitat for the rare black and brown hairstreak butterflies.

 Grants for grassland

With the completion of grass re‑seeding in early October 2000, the last portion of the reserve has been entered into the Upper Thames Tributaries Environmentally Sensitive Areas (UTTESA) scheme. This agri‑environment grant scheme supports work to enhance the conservation and landscape value of farmland. The scheme provides an invaluable contribution to the cost of managing the grassland habitats on the reserve.


The ESA is open to all farmers in the Upper Thames Tributaries and most Otmoor farmland is already in the scheme. Recently, two neighbouring farmers have returned large areas of arable land to grassland under the scheme. Grassland management and water bodies will provide more habitats for the wildlife of the moor, especially breeding  wading birds such as lapwings  and redshanks.

Wildlife News - Still breaking records

Wintering waterfowl numbers continue to increase. Overall numbers have exceeded 10,000 for the first time. Peak counts include 2277 Wigeon, 2000 Teal, 396 Pintail, 4500 Lapwing and 2500 Golden Plover. The supporting cast includes Shoveler, Gadwall, Mallard and Pochard. The Wigeon and Pintail counts along with the 70 little grebes in October are the highest numbers of these species ever recorded at a single site in Oxfordshire.

It has been another good winter to enjoy the aerial acrobatics of birds of prey. In addition to the resident kestrels and Sparrowhawks, the Peregrine Falcons, Merlins and Hen Harriers are regular performers. The field next to the car park proved a reliable location for stunning views of hunting Barn Owl during January.

Enthusiast uncovers rare beetle Peter Whitton, has completed his study of the ground beetle, Badister meridionalis. After months of fieldwork, Peter has found that it is widespread on Otmoor, prefers tall vegetation near water and is much easier to find when the area floods. We can now do more to ensure suitable conditions are provided for this special beetle.

 Volunteers from Butterfly Conservations' Upper Thames Branch joined up with RSPB volunteers in February for the annual brown hairstreak butterfly egg hunt. We searched a wider area than usual and found 13 eggs in three areas. The species appears to be spreading as this included two new sites. 

Managing the Reserve

Staff and volunteers have been busy with a myriad of projects of the winter months. We have been coppicing willows, planting blackthorns and mowing invading rushes. The wettest winter on record has kept us busy dealing with the flood waters on the reserve - even a wetland can be too wet!A new sluice has been constructed with funding from the Trust for Oxfordshire's Environment. This will improve the control of water levels and reduce the use of electrical water pumps on part of the reserve.

 Conservation partners target rifle range

RSPB volunteers and staff are carrying out work on the Ministry of Defence's Otmoor Rifle Range. Following advice from Butterfly Conservation and the Oxford Ornithological Society, blackthorn scrub is being coppiced in the best areas for brown hairstreak and black hairstreak butterflies. The work is supported by a grant from English Nature grant and will benefit a variety of birds.

RSPB staff will be managing water levels during the spring to improve conditions for breeding waders and ducks. Excess floodwater will be released whilst maintaining areas of standing water using a system of simple water control structures provided by the Environment Agency.

If you are visiting, please keep to the public rights of way to avoid disturbing the birds. Limited parking is now available in the small car park . This is located at tile northern end of Otmoor Lane, Beckley (Grid ref. SP570126)

Danger - red flag changes

The neighbouring Territorial Army firing range may be active every day except Monday (formerly Tuesday) and Thursday. If the red flags are flying do not enter the rifle range area. This also includes entry from Ragnall's Lane, Murcott and from Oddington.  A number of people have put themselves in danger by walking or cycling through the danger area while firing is in progress.  DO NOT ATTEMPT TO ENTER  if the red flag is still flying or red light displayed over the butts.  It is normally taken down at about 1600.

 Local Reserve Office

 RSPB reserve staff, Neil Lambert and Paul Eele are now working out of a new, local office. After 18 months of commuting from the Regional Office in Banbury, they are just 300 metres from the edge of the reserve.

 Contact details: RSPB, c/o Lower Farm, Noke, Oxford OX39TX Tel: 01865 848385

Otmoor Update mailing list If you live locally and wish to receive Otmoor Update please write to the Regional office at the address below. Please note that for administrative purposes your name and address will he stoned on a computer database to produce address labels. This will be treated as confidential formation. We do not sell our mailing lists to other organisations. If you do not wish your details to be stored in this way, please write to our office at the address below. Otmoor Update is published by the RSPB Central England office Registered charity no 207076

Hairy Dragonfly

In 1998, Neil Lambert found the first hairy dragonfly on the reserve - the first record in Oxfordshire for around 25 years. Thorough searching in 1999 found six males busily defending territories suggesting this is now a resident species. The annual brown hairstreak egg hunt confirms that this butterfly is still breeding successfully on the reserve. Members of Butterfly Conservation braved the cold in November and found eggs in the same areas as previous winters.

 Underfoot and underwater!

Two hours spent digging out the Land Rover from the middle of the reserve in June is proof it is becoming a wetland again. More exciting indicators are the wildlife. A survey of aquatic beetles confirms that the ditch quality is already good. Twenty six species including two nationally rare species were found in one day.

There are already 11 species of aquatic plants and a large, healthy stickleback population in the reedbed. Gillian Gilbert (RSPB Bittern Researcher) caught her largest ever stickleback during a fish survey last Autumn. Fish populations are also building up in the wet grassland ditches. Big shoals of perch and many small pike are living in the established ditches. These are quickly spreading into the new ditches.

 Working together -  Thanks to our volunteers

Volunteers are helping Neil and Paul with an increasing variety of work. Our voluntary wardening team provide information about the reserve and monitor visitor numbers. One volunteer, John Boxall, is coordinating the team -organising rotas, resources and meetings. Reed planting, fencing, tree coppicing, path maintenance and tree planting in the car park are some of the tasks involving volunteers. A hearty thank you to everyone giving so much time, sweat and expertise. A special thank you

We continue to receive generous donations for the reserve. Thank you to all of the following who have given essential support since the last Otmoor Update:


The Environment Agency

The Doris Field Charitable Trust

The Heritage Lottery Fund

Department for Environment, Food

and Rural Affairs

Thames Water

Bartlett Taylor Charitable Trust

A S Butler Charitable Trust

The James Cadbury Trust

Douglas Heath Eves Charitable


Miss W E Lawrence 1973

Charitable Settlementhe 

Revd Canon Peter Bugg

RSPB Members Groups


Chorleywood and District

Hemel Hempstead


Vale of White Horse

Thanks for your support