The official opening of a new hide marks the completion of a major £1.3m phase of the restoration of land into habitats for birds and wildlife at the Otmoor reserve created by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds from about 1,000 acres of Oxfordshire’s fenland.

Bird and wildlife watchers will be able to study and photograph the wading birds, dragonflies, butterflies and brown hares and perhaps an otter in the relative comfort of the £50,000 hide.

Regular visitors to reserves with hides will find the hide on Otmoor has been designed with their amenities in mind.

Hides are often dark and gloomy places with narrow slits through which to observe birds.

And they can be fairly cold in winter and hot in the summer sun.

Not any more, at least at Otmoor.

“When we were considering the design of the hide we took into account the feedback from visitors on their experiences of hides elsewhere. Narrow slits in the walls was one of the topics mentioned,” said David Wilding, Otmoor reserve manager.

So the new hide has two large picture windows glazed on either side and the observation slits are larger than usual.

“The large windows will be easy for families to look out of and the glass will cut down the wind that blows through hides.

“The building has been insulated so it will not be so cold in winter and hot in the summer. There is also a wheelchair access ramp,” said David.

It has been clad in cedar boarding and the roof has cedar shingle tiles with all the timber from sustainable sources.

The hide is the first on the Otmoor reserve and has been positioned so watchers can view two large areas that have just been created.

In the past, birdwatchers had to hide behind willow screens and look over the fronds.

The Otmoor reserve is the result of long-term planning by the RSPB and it was opened to the public about ten years ago.

The location was chosen as the RSPB wanted a reserve in Oxfordshire in the central region of England and at the same time to restore Otmoor more or less back to what it was in the past before it was largely drained for agriculture.

Initially, farmers and landowners were approached by the RSPB to sell fields to make the reserve. Over the years the process has reversed with landowners offering fields for sale, consequently enlarging the reserve to its present size of about 1,000 acres.

In addition to the hide, recent restoration has led to two new areas being restored for birds and wildlife, Ashgrave Field and Closes Field.

Engineering work was done by laser-controlled bulldozers to move earth and shape the land.

Ashgrave Field has become a wetland with 31 islands and 200 scrapes or shallow muddy edges to water for wading birds to feed from.

“It has been a fantastic success already with lapwings nesting on the islands and little egrets feeding in the pools of water. We have also attracted little ringed plovers, redshanks and snipe.

“Butterflies and dragonflies have been recorded as well,” said David.

Higher and drier land at Ashgrave Field is grazed by cattle owned by local farmers, enabling wildflowers to thrive.

The Closes Field was sown last year and, by next year, the grass will have grown sufficiently to attract birds and wildlife.

A little distance away there is Malt Pit Field which is now part of the reserve.

Next year, similar work will be undertaken at Floral Field.

The £1.3m came from several sources, including the Heritage Lottery Fund, which helped with land purchases.

Other money came from various trusts and landfill tax credit schemes from Wren, Sita, Biffa and Viridor.

Some grants were made for specific works, such as the installation of gravity sluices to replace power-driven sluices.

“We now have greener sluices,” said David.

The reserve has a system of water courses and sluice gates to control flows and levels.

David explained: “The reserve is not on the flood plain of the river Ray so we have to rely on rainwater.

“The genius of the planning of the reserve is that we have a large reservoir. But instead of the reservoir being just a supply of water it was made into a reedbed as part of the reserve.”

The location of the reserve means it is a stepping stone for birds travelling across country.

There are also advantages for birds in being close to two reserves owned by Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) at Chimney Meadows in west Oxfordshire and Gallows Bridge in east Oxfordshire on the county boundary with Buckinghamshire.

David added: “The reserve has been a big succees.

“To see thoudands of starlings coming into roost is a magnificent sight.

“We attract a lot of wading and waterfowl birds such as teal, widgeon, shovellers and pintails.

“Peregrines and merlins are among the raptors that we see in the skies too.”

Among the mammals spotted are brown hares and otters.

“Pairs of hares boxing in March is quite a memorable sight,” said David.

John Howell MP, whose Henley constituency takes in Otmoor, performed the opening ceremony last month.

And commendation for the reserve came from Dr Mike Clarke, RSPB chief executive.

He said: “RSPB Otmoor is a flagship for conservation and hearing its purring turtle doves and seeing its lapwings raising chicks recharges my spirits to be an even stronger voice for nature.

“The RSPB’s vision to bring birds and wildlife back across entire landscapes and connect people with that nature has taken a huge step forward at Otmoor thanks to our funding partners’ support and the reserve’s truly amazing army of volunteers.”