Monday, 17 August 2009

Summer on Otmoor

On one of our recent outings we went to Otmoor which is a Nature Reserve managed by the RSPB. The AA (Automobile Association) describe it thus:

'A stone's throw to the north of Oxford lies Otmoor, a canvas of fields and hedgerows that seems to have been bypassed by the rest of the county. A curious ghostly stillness pervades this wilderness, inspiring various writers over the years to describe it romantically as 'the forgotten land', 'bewitched Otmoor' and 'sleeping Otmoor cast under a spell of ancient magic.

With its flat fields, ditches and dykes, it is, in places, reminiscent of East Anglia. On a cold winter's day, and even occasionally in high summer, you can sense Otmoor's sinister, sometimes unsettling, atmosphere. At times it is dark and mysterious, at times it exudes an air of calm and tranquillity. Cross Otmoor as a light mist drifts over the meadows and you'll find the image will linger long in the memory.

If time allows, journey to the village of Beckley, perched 400ft (122m) over the southern edge of Otmoor, and you'll see why Lewis Carroll was supposedly inspired by the view of this primitive 4,000-acre (1,620ha) landscape to write about the giant chessboard in Alice Through the Looking Glass. John Buchan, who lived at nearby Elsfield, described Otmoor in great detail in his novel The Blanket of the Dark.'

'For some minutes Alice stood without speaking,
looking out in all directions over the country....
I declare that it is marked out like a large chessboard!'

(Charles Dodson alias Lewis Carroll whose home overlooked Otmoor)

As I said at the beginning it is an RSPB managed Nature Reserve and unfortunately the birds were just that, reserved! However it is a beautiful place, well worth a visit and we will definitely go there again. The photo at the top of the post of Canada Geese was taken near the end of our visit, you can see the sky was preparing for 'shepherds delight' and the promise of another good day to come.

'Red sky at night; shepherds delight,
Red sky in the morning; sailors warning.'

While the birds were shy the butterflies were more noticeable, it was a beautiful warm and sunny day although a little windy. The Painted Ladies which we have all been so privileged to see in good numbers this year were in evidence.

'Butterflies go fluttering by
On colored wings that catch the eye.
On wings of orange, and silvery blue,
On wings of golden yellow, too.
Butterflies float in the air,
Making their homes most anywhere.'

(Author Unknown)

I think this is a

Green Veined White Butterfly on Vetch

This butterfly was looking spic-and-span, and like us, enjoying the sunshine

Gatekeeper Butterfly

On a wooden rail leading to a hide I saw another sunbather

'A Peacock Butterfly one day
Across a garden took its way,
Unto a spot where roses grew
Of noble form and lovely hue;
And seeing one of goodly size,
To sip its sweets she quickly flies;
And lighting on its crimson leaves,
Her breast with exultation heaves.'

(William Heaton)

Peacock Butterfly

This beautiful blue butterfly refused to open its wings for me but after considering whether it might be a Silver-Studded Blue I have opted for the

Common Blue Butterfly

I may not have been lucky with bird sightings but there was quite a plethora of insects, this one is usually not seen on its own and has the rather indelicate name of Bonking Beetle for obvious reasons!

Rhagonycha fulva

I don't think I have ever seen this particular beauty before

Ruddy Darter (male)

and the female

Ruddy Darter

We had taken a look from the hides as we encountered them on our walk around but there wasn't much to see. Towards the end of our visit, with evening approaching, we felt we deserved a rest so sat in one of the hides and just enjoyed the peace and beauty of the closing day and watched the reed beds.

'Swiftly walk o'er the western wave,
Spirit of Night!
Out of the misty eastern cave,
Where, all the long and lone daylight,
Thou wovest dreams of joy and fear,
Which make thee terrible and dear--
Swift be thy flight!

Wrap thy form in a mantle gray,
Blind with thine hair the eyes of day;
Kiss her until she be wearied out,
Then wander o'er city, and sea, and land,
Touching all with thine opiate wand--
Come, long-sought!'

(Percy Bysshe Shelley)

I saw these


and this


To the side of the hide these Canada Geese were gathered

As we left the hide I heard and saw flocks of Canada Geese which made quite an impressive sight in the evening sky.

'Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.'

(Mary Oliver)

The only small birds I saw were this

Blue Tit

and as we left the Reserve perched on a rather ugly power line support this


As we walked back towards the car park I saw the teeniest tiniest froglet or maybe a toadlet, it was so small I thought it was a spider at first and not even a large spider! I would say it was no bigger than the size of a finger nail.

Finally (are those sighs of relief I hear? ! I do hope you have made it to the end! I am aware that this has been rather long but I do have to make up for not posting as frequently as some other bloggers :)) after getting back to the car and making our way along a slightly rickety track we were brought to a sudden halt by my cry of Hare! It's a good job there was no one behind us but I just had to get a photo, luckily it froze briefly when it saw me

'Each outcry of the hunted Hare
A fibre from the Brain does tear.'

(William Blake)

before continuing on its way

and we did the same.


  1. The description of Otmoor sounded like the opening to a horror movie.
    Lovely photographs enhanced by the poetical offerings.

  2. I think I'd like to visit there after seeing your results from your day out.
    Lovely shots of the Painted Ladies and Gatekeeper. And the Yellowhammer; not seen one for some time.

  3. Another stunning post Shysongbird. Some amazing pictures, and lovely poetry.Sounds like a beautiful place to visit x Love the little frog!!x

  4. Great post starting with setting the scene. I really liked both shots of the hare, and of course they were all lovely.


  5. Hi again Jan, it’s always great to share in your visits. A beautifully written posting with stunning pics to match… loved all the butterflies. That’s a beauty that swan pic though with the full reflection in the water.

    Yes, after gaps between postings at the moment my postings get on the long side too. I completely understand how it is! I’ll always make it to the end of your postings :-D

  6. Otmoor sounds like an interesting place to visit. The photos are wonderful. The froglet or toadlet is so cute.

  7. Hi Jan,

    I have heard so much about Otmoor, sounds a like a special quiet place to be.

    Love the way you incorparate poems into your posts. The Common Blue Butterfly is one of my favourites. I have only seen 6 this Summer so far.

    Lovely post.


  8. Lovely photos Jan, so many lovely butterflies and insects!

    I'm sure the birds will come out for you next time... It's that time of year where they all disappear and moult into fresh feathers before the seeds/nuts ripen :)

  9. The Watcher, holdingmoments and Karen: Thank you.

    The Watcher,

    Welcome and thank you so much for visiting and for your very kind comments. Yes, I'm quite glad I read the description of Otmoor after we went there rather than before as it might have made me a little apprehensive, as it was we found it a serene and lovely place although I can see that in the Winter and without the sunshine it could have a different atmosphere.


    Thank you very much for the kind comments. I think Otmoor would definitely be your sort of place and I shouldn't think it would be too far from where you are.
    After not seeing a Yellowhammer for some years I have seen several in the last few weeks in different locations!


    Thank you very much for your very kind comments. Yes it was a lovely place to go and we shall definitely visit again, probably at different times of the year to see the effect of the different seasons on the landscape.
    I wish I had put something beside the frog/toadlet for size comparison, it was incredibly tiny, the photo really doesn't convey that.

  10. It looks like a great place to visit. The photo of the Yellowhammer is great, it's a bird I have never seen.


  11. Wilma, shirl and oldcrow61: Thank you.


    Thank you very much for your kind comments. I was thrilled to see the Hare, it's not unusual to see rabbits but a Hare is definitely more of a rare sight here.


    Thanks so much for your very kind comments. The swan really did 'reflect' ;) the serenity of the place at that time of day.
    I'm glad you managed to get to the end of the post without losing the will to live :) I think if I posted more frequently I probably would hurry too much and then be dissatisfied with the result, I am very self critical and usually find there is something that needs a final tweak or two!
    Have a great week, I hope the sun shines for you.


    Thank you very much for your kind comments. Yes it was a nice place to visit and one visit really didn't do it justice!
    I should have known you would like the frog/toadlet ;) It was unbelievably tiny, unfortunately my photo doesn't show that accurately.

  12. The bird photo's are coming along well songbird. That yellowhammer is still stunning even on a manmade object.

  13. Wonderful photos as always. Otmoor looks like a great place to visit. I'd probably love going there and getting pictures too.
    What a nice variety - a bit of everything!

  14. I thought it sounded strange to describe a nature reserve as 'curious ghostly stillness pervades'. Usually in nature areas the sound of hundreds of birds, sometimes frogs, crickets, etc is all around. I wonder why the silence.

    In any case it's a beautiful place. I really enjoyed the butterflies. You have some lovely ones. We are seeing more butterflies here too altho not nearly as many as in previous years.

  15. What a nice array of wildlife you saw and Photographed!! The Butterfly shots are excellent---What a wonderful place for a day out in Nature!! Thanks for sharing this awesome spot with us--

  16. Oh my goodness...the Peacock butterfly is so gorgeous--such a rich color! I've never seen one. The poem is lovely. I loved the photo of the bunny hoping down the grassy lane--so cute (and of course, the Blake poem, exquisite). Oh yeah....we do the sailor's poem too, but we don't use shepherd in it...."Red skies at night, sailor's delight. Red skies at morning, sailor's warning!" I guess somewhere across the ocean, the poor shepherd lost his standing! :-)

  17. The flutters made up for the lack of birds. Lovely photos all round. I have only seen a Yellowhammer once fleetingly and never managed to see a hare.
    A lovely read both prose and the well chosen verses.

  18. John,

    Thank you for your very kind and generous comments, It really was an interesting place, well worth a visit and we will definitely go again. Yes the Common Blues are lovely, we don't see many round here so I was pleased to get the photo when we went there.

  19. What a fab posting shy songbird. Like many bloggers at the moment you've got some super butterfly shots in there, and great to have the poetry mixed in.... but the hare has to be the best photo, what a fabulous encounter

  20. Thank you Songbird for this most interesting post.
    I love seeing all the butterflies and bugs.....just love each of them. Your photographs made them come alive for me. Thank you.
    I do want to come to the UK someday...
    I also love seeing the birds. Sitting in the hide was an excellent idea. The Swan is so beautiful...
    Thank you for taking us on your hike and for all the wonderful quotes.

  21. Liz, Pam and Re: Thank you.


    Thank you very much for your kind comments. The birds have been very shy and quiet lately but as you rightly say things will be different when they have had their seasonal moult. Having said that I was sat in my friend's garden today and there were quite a few Blue Tits and a lovely Robin showing themselves.


    Thank you very much, yes I would certainly recommend a visit if you ever get the opportunity.
    I used to see Yellowhammers regularly in the hedgerow adjoining a disused railway line close to us but in the last few years they seem to have disappeared, something to do with farming practices I suspect. Therefore it was lovely to see them in two different locations in the last few weeks, it is sad though that they are on the red list of endangered species.


    Thank you very much.

  22. Warren Baker, RainGardener and Roses and Lilacs: Thank you.


    Thank you very much for your kind comments and continued support, it is much appreciated. I was thrilled to get Yellowhammer photos in two different places in just a few weeks but would of course have preferred the latest one to have had a nicer background!


    Thank you very much for the kind comments. We had never been to Otmoor before but we shall definitely go again, it will be interesting to see it at different times of the year. Obviously I would like to have seen more birds but the other wildlife more than made up for that.


    Thank you very much. I'm really rather glad I didn't read that description before we went as I think it might have spooked me somewhat! I forgot to mention on the post that we encountered a man on the way round who was conducting a grasshopper survey which involved recording their different 'calls' so what with that and the distinctive sounds of the Canada Geese it was certainly not silent when we were there.
    There do seem to be more butterflies here this year than last which is pleasing as they have previously suffered from two poor Summers in succession.

  23. Dixxe's Doodles, Kelly and Midmarsh John: Thank you.


    Thank you for your kind comments. I'm so glad you enjoyed sharing the visit, it certainly was an impressive place and it was great to see so many butterflies, I think the warm sunshine helped.


    Thank you very much. The Peacock Butterfly has to be one of my favourites, it really does have the most beautiful colouring. Yes, it was a thrill to see the Hare, they are nowhere near as common a sight as Rabbits here.
    The red sky at night saying is interesting as I was always brought up with the word shepherd at night and sailor in the morning but a lot of people in this country are only familiar with shepherd where you are the other way round! When I looked it up I found it has its origins in the Bible!

    Midmarsh John,

    John, thank you so much for your comments. It was lovely to see the butterflies, they were enjoying the sunshine as much as we were :)
    It seemed odd after not seeing a Yellowhammer for some years to see them twice in just a few weeks.
    When I was little there was a particular place we used to see Hares quite frequently but the one we saw as we were leaving Otmoor was the first I had seen in many years.

  24. Beautiful!! What great photos, as usual Jan!!! Great photos of the Geese and those Butterflies are awesome. I even like that toad.. I love how you ended this post!! Perfect!! You make me want to ride up in the country so bad. Ha!

  25. my goodness, this is a wonderful strand of photos. So much wonder and beauty. The peacock butterfly truly caught my attention.

  26. ShySongbird ,
    Really enjoyed the visit to Otmoor .
    Can confirm your Green Veined White , and good to see female Ruddy Darter , more often just male is found . Both ID'd by the all black legs , Common Darter has yellow stripes .
    Great shot of the Hare side on , before the usual one of the backend .

  27. Gorgeous photos as always. I love that one of the butterfly on the thistle.


  28. I came back for another peek at your Yellowhammer. Such a beautiful bird.

  29. Hi
    Just visited Trevor's blog at A & T Birding,and noticed your comment. So thought I would take a look at your Blog, and I'm glad I did beautiful Images enhanced with some wonderful descriptions. Impressed with the Yellowhammer shot have seen them many times here in Cornwall But they always escape my lens. Well Done.

  30. Too long must be joking.
    What an enchanting post.....full of all this things I love and more.

    We have all been blessed with many butterflies this is good to see many bloggers posting these beautiful creatures.

    The hare.....I love the hare, it is such a mystical creature. It brought back memories of Scotland and walking with my husband......we would revel in the joy of a hare sighting......

    I really love your additional poetry....Christina Rossetti is a particular favourite of mine and my mothers....

    Thanks for sharing the yellow hammer....gorgeous......

  31. Andrew at Quicksilverbirds, Q and Ginnymo: Thank you.


    Thanks so much for the very kind comments. It has been lovely to see the butterflies in pretty good numbers on the sunny days this year, although the Summer hasn't been wonderful it has to have been better than the previous two years!
    I was thrilled to see the Hare, it had been years since I had seen one.


    Sherry, thank you so much for your lovely comments. It was really nice after all the walking to just sit for a while in the hide and watch as evening approached, very peaceful! I'm so glad you enjoyed the quotes too.


    Ginny, thank you for the very kind comments. The geese were fun to watch and when they were flying in in flocks they made a really impressive sight. I do hope you are able to get a ride in the countryside before too long, it makes such a nice change every now and again but I know it is not easy for you. Mind you at least you have a wonderful array of wildlife literally on your own doorstep!

  32. Tammie Lee, Greenie and Ali: Thank you.

    Tammie Lee,

    Welcome and thank you for visiting and for your very kind comments. I too love the Peacock Butterfly, it has such beautiful colours.
    I'm so glad you enjoyed the post and you are most welcome to visit any time :)


    Thanks so much for visiting, it is much appreciated and for your very kind and helpful comments. Thanks also for confirming my IDs :)
    Otmoor was well worth visiting, I think you would like it too.
    I was thrilled to see the Hare so closely and that it 'posed' for me before beating a hasty retreat!


    Thank you very much. Yes it did pose nicely on the Thistle, I think the butterflies always make a prettier picture if they are on a nice coloured flower rather than on the ground or just a leaf.

  33. Q, Monts and Cheryl: Thank you.


    Sherry, thank you so much for coming back for a second visit :)
    I'm so glad you liked the Yellowhammer, it is a lovely bird and sadly on the red list of endangered species here. I used to see them on a regular basis some years ago but they are a much rarer sight now.


    Welcome and thank you so much for visiting and for your very kind comments.
    We have a disused railway line near us which over the years has been reclaimed by Nature and is a nice place to walk, some years ago I used to see and hear Yellowhammers in the hedgerow along there quite frequently but for some time now they have been absent. Sadly they are on the red list.


    Thank you so much for your lovely comments. i don't think we have had as much dry weather here as you have had where you are but it has been an improvement on the last two years and on the sunny days there have been lots of butterflies about.
    I remember seeing Hares quite a lot as a child but sadly they seem a much rarer sight now.
    I'm so glad you enjoy the inclusion of the poetry and quotes, it was never my original intention to include any but it somehow just evolved :)

  34. Hi Jan. Despite the lack of avian activity you got some great pics. It certainly reminded me of East Anglia & definitely worth another visit. The Canada Geese are definitely congregating ..I counted 150+ two days ago on a small pond locally. FAB

  35. Great pics..just beautiful!That peacock butterfly is gorgeous.

  36. Hi Jan,

    Just to let you know that I have Nominated you for a Kreativ Blogger Award. Please see the following post and follow this.

    Well done.


  37. beautifully captured shots and loved your words and the beautiful quotes...nice post!

  38. Of all the beautiful things you share here the things I envy the most are the blue butterfly, the dragonflies and particularly the hare. A hare sighting is always an extra special treat. Thank you so much for the kind comment you left on my blog - I too find it hard to keep up with all the lovely blogs I like to read. I will have tome visiting here much more often.

  39. Another piece of excellent reading Jan. Otmoor sound a wonderful place to visit (despite the AA's opening description). A great variety of wildlife species you saw and how wonderful to see the Hare.

    Great captures and prose as usual. Thanks Jan.

    (Apologies for the lateness of my comment)

  40. The Early Birder, dAwN and John: Thank you.


    Thank you very much, yes the birds do seem to be hiding away at the moment but despite that there was plenty to enjoy at Otmoor. Although Canada Geese are a common sight I always think they are interesting and entertaining birds to watch.


    Thank you very much for your kind comments. I think Peacock butterflies are beautiful their colours are so rich! It seemed to take a while to see them this year but thankfully there seem to have been quite a lot around over the last few weeks.


    Thank you very much, you are very kind, I am honoured and flattered that you thought of me.

  41. flyingstars, Bird and Tricia: Thank you.


    Thank you so much for your very kind comments, I'm so glad you enjoyed the post, it is lovely to be able to share it with you.


    Thank you so much for your lovely comments and for visiting again. The blue butterflies really are lovely, they are quite small but what they lack in size they more than make up for in beauty, the shade of blue is quite stunning I think.
    Yes, it is so special to see a Hare these days! I hadn't seen one for years!
    You will be welcome here whenever you have the time, it is not easy to 'keep up' with comments in this busy 'blogland' ;)


    Thank you for your very nice comments. The AA description was rather atmospheric and I'm quite glad I didn't read it before we went! Despite the shyness of the birds it was a lovely place to visit and the weather did us proud. The Hare was a real parting treat!
    No need for apologies, I know only too well how difficult it is to keep up with comments :)

  42. Hi Jan, I LOVE your photos! The butterflies, the birds, the blooms, the insects...oh, I wouldn't want to return home! What a pleasure to read the verse, especially about the butterflies!

  43. Kanak,

    Thank you for your very kind comments and I'm so sorry to have taken so long to answer them. Yes it was a lovely outing, we have had quite a few just recently and enjoyed them all :) I'm glad you like the verse, I have fun researching it.


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