End of April/Early May Update

Up until a few days ago when I was contemplating writing this post, I was thinking that I was going to have to complain about how poor the birding had been. The persistent blocking weather pattern over southern Spain has meant that everything up until now has been very muted and restrained. It feels as though the spring passage is spluttering along but not firing on all cylinders. However, with the warmer weather over the last few days have also come some decent birds and this post is now going to be more of a celebration of some top patch birds.

First up, and certainly a candidate for Port Meadow Bird of the Year was a wonderful female Grey-headed (Thunbergi) Yellow Wagtail found by Thomas Miller on Friday evening. Conditions were gloomy and the bird was very distant so it was hard work getting any photos or video but it was certainly a striking bird. This is at the same time of year as the male Grey-headed Wagtail back in 2019 so it's becoming a bit of a patch habit!

A record shot courtesy of Steve Sansom

Some video courtesy of Steve Lavington

Next on the list was a drake Garganey at last. The Meadow floods have looked ideal for this species all spring so it's great that one finally turned up. So far it has spent much of its time skulking deep in the flooded grass which comes to over head height for a duck so it's been quite hard to see. Hopefully, it will become more confiding and will stick around a while.

The drake Garganey courtesy of Steve Sansom

Video courtesy of Steve Lavington

The third good bird was a Glossy Ibis which turned up today. There has been one for a couple of days on Otmoor and again the floods have looked ideal for this species so it's good that it's found its way here and onto the patch year list. We've been lucky to host one on four of the past five years with last year being the only ommission.


The Glossy Ibis courtesy of Steve Lavington

...video courtesy of Steve Lavington

Apart from that it's been the usual mix of different spring birds. Our Great White Egrets have been a regular feature with up to 5 loitering on the floods though numbers seem to have dropped off sharply in the last few days. Today a single Cattle Egret was showing well at the southern end of the Meadow. At last we had a Wheatear record that wasn't way up by King's Lock,when a tired looking bird dropped in one evening. Cuckoo's have started to be heard in Burgess Field and across the river. The Farmoor Snow Geese have taken a liking to the lush grass of the Meadow and have been dropping in the last few days. Shelduck are still being seen regularly with up to 7 recorded. Apart from our star Wagtail we've had up to 25 Yellow Wagtails and 4 White Wagtails though at this time of year they are not lingering at all. In amongst them have been a few female type Blue-headed (flava) Wagtails. The first Swifts have arrived and are now a regular feature. As a throwback to winter, we did have a Caspian Gull record on a couple of occasions.

Four Great White Egrets courtesy of Matthew Lloyd

Finally onto waders and it's been a rather poor spring for these so far. In part this is because the floods have been so full that there has been little in the way of a shoreline for them In fact we've yet to have Little Ringed Plover at all, an amazing statistic given that it's May already. Peak counts have been 2 Dunlin, 1 Ringed Plover, 4 Greenshank, 1 Black-tailed Godwit, 2 Lapwing and 8 Oystercatcher.

Looking ahead, traditionally, the first couple of weeks of May were the best for the rarer spring waders but given how weird the passage has been so far who knows. We are still missing some pretty basic waders including all three Sandpipers (Common, Green and Wood) as well as Ruff, Little Ringed Plover and Bar-tailed Godwit. Sedge Warbler has yet to be recorded though the last few years this species has become quite difficult for the patch. Other things like Hobby and Spotted Flycatcher should be recorded at some point with any luck. There are also some passerines like Redstart, Whinchat and Tree Pipit to look out for though these are often more return passage species. Anyway, given how it feels like things are picking up, there is everything to play for in the next few weeks.