31st May

So here we are at the end of the month. In the event, the second week of May (which in the past has been OK) was unusually quiet and the second half of the month rather limped its way to the close.

Starting with waders, the highlight was another Grey Plover on the floods (our second of the year). Arriving on the 15th it stayed for a while, occasionally popping over the hill to Farmoor. 

Grey Plover, courtesy of Thomas Miller

We also had a couple of Greenshank that stayed with us until the end of the month, joined by another two birds on one day. This spring has been noticeable for the low counts of small waders, not only here but also across the county. We did have a smattering of Dunlin, Ringed Plover and Little Ringed Plover but never more than a couple at a time. The only other waders of note were a Common Sandpiper or two.

What we lacked in waders we more than made up for with Egrets. Now that the floods are getting to the end of their life the great fish eating bonanza has begun. This has drawn in good numbers of Little Egrets (up to 19), Grey Herons and even a Great White Egret on a number of occasions. All have been feasting on the trapped fish in the floods. 

The Great White Egret on the floods

In terms of passerines we've had a few late Yellow Wagtail records and we also had our first Spotted Flycatcher of the year thanks to a bird seen up along the river towpath towards Godstow Lock. There is also a record of a Nightingale, heard by the Trap Grounds over a few evenings by Mary MacDougall and her son. This species seems to like commuting up the canal as there have been occasional records in previous years, all at various locations along the canal.

A Little Egret enjoying the feast

As far as ducks are concerned, we've had up to 5 Shelduck sill hanging around and two broods of Egyptian Geese. At this rate this latter species will soon become well established on the Meadow. A drake Garganey (perhaps a failed breeder) has been seen on and off on the floods over the period.

Rounding things off we've had a few Hobby sightings and what was probably the rarest record of the period with a fly-through Arctic Tern that was seen briefly on the 22nd.

The Odonata season has kicked off and there is now good activity in the Trap Grounds. The highlight has been a couple of Downy Emerald once again, cementing this site's position as a premier location for this species. We've also had Hairy Hawker and a Four-spotted Chaser along with large numbers of Azure Damselflies and a few Large Red Damselflies. Along the Castle Mill Stream there are plenty of Red-eyed Damselflies and Banded Demoiselles to be seen as well as a few Hairy Hawkers. I did also see a Broad-bodied Chaser near the allotment hedge on the Meadow itself.

Azure Damselfly

Large Red Damselfly

Looking ahead, we are now into the summer doldrums as far as birding is concerned. Whilst the floods have lasted well this year, their days are certainly numbered now. Still, there is plenty of other stuff to look at with summer flowers and insects to enjoy for the next couple of months..