Sunday, 10 April 2016

Chimney Meadows: early spring beside the Thames

With spring starting to unfold, I took the opportunity to walk the trails around the extensive Chimney Meadows BBOWT nature reserve near Witney, hoping to find a few summer visitors. This is a big site and to do it justice you need to pull on a pair of walking boots and allocate a few hours.
The nature reserve is a work in progress, the Trust started looking after it in 2003 and have already carried out a lot work to re-establish formerly common habitats.  For example, numerous cowslips were just starting to bloom in the meadows being recreated on the higher ground that was formerly under arable cultivation.
Down beside the river, extensive wet meadows (that are designated a National Nature Reserve) were full of sedges and the first few flowers of lady's smock.  There are some shallow pools but surprisingly few birds apart from mallard ducks. A single sedge warbler was singing; swallows and sand martins drifted overhead.  
National Nature Reserve beside the Thames
Blackthorn coming into full bloom
A trail leads to a couple of hides overlooking small pools, but most interest is along the trail itself where there were lots of chiffchaffs singing, likewise a couple of blackcaps.  A marsh tit called and a pair of bullfinches moved more quietly through the overgrown hedgerow.
In places you feel transported back in time to an Oxfordshire countryside before the arrival of modern agriculture and urban development.  Small fields, characterful ash trees, yaffling green woodpecker, grazing Dexter cattle.
Plenty of birds of prey were on the wing, especially red kites and buzzards but also kestrel, sparrowhawk and a marsh harrier.  Apart from a single curlew there were no waders using the nature reserve, so it was a mild surprise to find a group of sixteen lapwings on territory just the other side of the river, using a strip of fallow arable land clearly prone to flooding so not sown with cereal like the rest of the field.  

No comments:

Post a Comment