16th May

We've now got to the middle of May - a time when historically the spring wader passage is winding down and this year is no exception.  Indeed the floods are basically virtually empty despite looking great thanks to all the rain we've been having. Still, since my last post we have managed one more decent wader in the form of a Grey Plover, found last Sunday morning by Thomas Miller. This is the second of the scarcer waders (along with Wood Sandpiper) that was on the wish list that we've now ticked off with only Sanderling eluding us so far.

Grey Plover courtesy of Thomas Miller

In the poor weather last weekend we also had a good surge of Dunlin and Ringed Plover going through with a mixed flock of a couple of dozen on the floods. Sadly since then it's been much more modest numbers before fizzling out to nothing by this weekend though we did have a sighting of a Common Sandpiper along the river courtesy of Manoj Nair.

Apart from waders there have been some interesting things to report. Firstly Manoj Nair had a cracking male Whinchat briefly at the southern end of the floods last weekend though sadly it moved through quickly. Also we had a record (with recording) of a Nightingale singing in the scrub near the boat moorings by St Edwards playing fields on a couple of evening this week. Sadly by mid week there was no further sound of it despite several of the Patch birders going to listen for it. This is only the second record on the Patch area since 2008 when I first started birding the area so is one of the rarest birds of the year so far.

Apart from that we have a record of a Greenland Wheatear passing through courtesy of Matthew Lloyd and a Sedge Warbler singing in bushes along the river near the sailing club as well as another Cuckoo record. The Swifts are now back in the area and can be heard screaming overhead. House Martins are now gather mud from the river bank for their nests. 

House Martins collecting mud courtesy of Andrew Siantonas

Whilst things seem completely dead on the floods at present, looking back to past years interesting bird have still been seen in the second half of the month. Indeed in 2018 we had a Red-necked Phalarope on the 30th of the month and in past years we have had Spoonbill on the floods at this time of year though they seem to have become rarer again in the county over the last few years. There is still that Sanderling to get on the list as well!



7th May

We've had the first week of May and so far the longed-for Mega has failed to materialise. However, the floods are hanging on and with the forecast rainy weekend they should get a nice top-up. As far as the flood area is concerned, there has been a noticeable change in the type of birds that we are getting - we are now firmly into the Ringed Plover and Dunlin passage with those making the bulk of any sightings, occasionally accompanied by a Little Ringed Plover. With the shoreline now much more chopped up by the hooves of lilvetstock, they can often be quite difficult to pick out as the skulk around in the mud.

Apart from that it's just been the odd Oystercatcher, one or two late Yellow Wagtails and today a couple of Golden Plover. On the duck front there are a couple of Shelduck still visiting from time to time but otherwise it's just a handful of Black-headed Gulls picking over the floods.

Ringed Plover and Dunlin

Away from the floods Nick Boyd managed to get a Burgess Field Spotted Flycatcher on the year list this week on a day when this species was recorded at a number of sites throughout the county. There has also been a male Cuckoo hanging out in Burgess Field for the last few days. One evening it was joined by a second male with lots of calling and chasing each other around before the interloper was seen off. I'm not quite sure what breeding opportunities Cuckoo might find around here: they traditionally use Reed Warblers or Meadow Pipits as hosts so perhaps the former, which breed in the Trap Grounds, might be their target.


Looking forward, we have perhaps another week or two of passage waders before things really start to fizzle out. With the various summer breeders all now in place, we will soon be hitting the birding summer doldrums though with such strange cold weather it doesn't really feel like we are heading into summer anytime soon.

3rd May: Wood Sandpiper

On the last day of April we got one of the three outstanding waders that we might reasonably hope for still in the form of a cracking Wood Sandpiper. First found late afternoon on Friday, it hung around for the weekend before departing overnight on Sunday. This species is just about annual and is indeed something of a speciality of the Meadow though this spring the entire county has excelled itself with quite a few turning up in different locations so it was good that we were part of that general movement.

Apart from that we had our first summer plumaged Dunlin. Late April and early May there is often a noticable passage of this species, often accompanied by Ringed Plover. There have still been one or two Little Ringed Plover about as well. Nick Boyd had a Common Sandpiper along the river on Saturday. One other noteworthy sighting was of 13 Snow Geese that were briefly on the floods this morning. These will be part of the feral flock of about 100 birds that often frequent Farmoor. Whilst not being officially BOU sanctioned Category C birds, to my mind they certainly seem like a sustainable feral flock and so are going on the Port Meadow year list.

We also had yet another female Blue-headed Wagtail in amongst the Yellow Wagtail flock. Now that we are into May numbers of Wagtails should tail off sharply but we can't really complain given the stellar counts we have had for April.

Female Blue-headed Wagtail, courtesy of Thomas Miller

The change to more inclement weather and some decent heavy rain has perked the floods up no end and they should now see us through to the end of the spring passage. Now that we are into May and with some floods still intact there's always a chance of us getting something genuinely rare. Fingers crossed!