|Arctic Tern Farmoor May (c) Andy Last|
The weather remained unsettled and cold for much of May which meant that for the second year in succession the breeding birds in the county are having a tough time.
A Crane was picked up as it drifted north over Dorchester on the morning of the 6th having been seen an hour earlier over Marlow in Bucks. Intriguingly two Cranes flew over Farmoor the next day heading N/E.
This year the wader passage was slower than usual with only the one Wood Sandpiper record and an all too brief Curlew Sandpiper on Otmoor on the 14th. Farmoor saw the lions share of the county's wader action which included a party of ten Turnstones on the 12th accompanied by an equal number of Dunlin, rising to 15 Dunlin the next day. Several small groups of Sanderlings appeared throughout the month, peaking at nineteen of these little clockwork waders on the 28th. A colour ringed bird which also arrived at the reservoir at the tail end of May was found to have been ringed as a chick in 2011 in Greenland. May turned out to have been a good month for Whimbrel, with a well-watched pair finding Ashgrave on Otmoor to their liking and staying for well over a week on the reserve. Three Whimbrel were at Farmoor on 13th and the 24th with single birds present on both the 22nd and the 25th. Not to be left out amongst the county's premier birding locations, two Whimbrel also graced Port Meadow with their presence on the 6th. The Bar-tailed Godwit which arrived at Port Meadow on the 15th was trumped by two of the same at Farmoor on the same date. Ringed Plover trickled through Oxfordshire but on the 23rd & 24th a count totalling 26 birds on Port Meadow was impressive.
Marsh Terns were represented in the county on the 6th with the arrival of seventeen Black Terns at Farmoor Reservoir with smaller numbers of Arctic Terns dropping in through the month. A 1st summer Little Gull resided at Farmoor for much of May with a second Little Gull at Rushy Common on the 11th a superb find. Garganey numbers seemed down on previous years with only two birds seen on Otmoor throughout the month and two smart drakes on the floods at Port Meadow on the 1st. A drake found at Balscote Quarry (a superb little reserve to the north of the county owned and managed by the Banbury Ornithological Society) was an excellent find on the morning of the 22nd. A male Marsh Harrier flew east over Abingdon on the 1st, with the female Marsh Harrier remaining on Otmoor all month, being briefly joined by a second bird (a male) on the 12th. A probable male Montagu's Harrier was seen briefly on the 18th of May flying through Farmoor.
Hobby (c) Paranoid Birder
Hobby numbers climbed to 12 on the 19th but it was the arrival of another Otmoor speciality which was eagerly awaited: Turtle Doves again returned to Otmoor on the 1st with numbers rising to an impressive five individuals by mid month. The RSPB reserve remains one of the few remaining locations within Oxfordshire to see this beautiful Dove. The only other record was the returning Buscot bird from the 11th of May. A Nightjar, heard in Wantage late in the evening of the 8th, frustratingly didn't stick around for a second night.
Turtle Dove (c) T.S
The Channel Wagtail ( flava x flavissima) remained at Farmoor all month with some speculation that it may even be nesting nearby. Two cracking summer plumage Black necked Grebes stopped off briefly at Farmoor on the 21st but had moved on by the 22nd. Perhaps one of the most unseasonal records is attributed to the single Bearded Tit on Otmoor. Heard on the 22nd along the main bridleway on Otmoor and present at least to the 26th. Tying in with the theory that spring is several weeks late this year was the Osprey seen actively hunting over the reed beds on Otmoor on the 29th.
One of two Black necked Grebe Farmoor 21st (c) Ewan
Back in Time – Ruby, Ruby, Ruby, Ruby
by Paul Chandler
Mid afternoon on Sunday 19th October 1997 a message flashed on to the pager “Siberian Rubythroat ♂ Osmington Mills, Dorset”, the first mainland one since Durham 1975. Within moments Geoff had phoned and in another 15 minutes we were on our way. At that point in time Geoff had a Peugeot 305 Diesel Turbo that went like the proverbial off a shovel and it’s the quickest I have ever got to Dorset (in less than 2 hours).
Normally I am not the hottest navigator (but that’s another story) but we got there in record time and pulled up at the spot in Osmington to see a fair few cars already there. I noticed Martin Cade (Portland bird Observatory warden) and a few other Dorset birders leaving and they indicated that the bird was still present. We walked through a gateway in to a field that had an area of hedge and scrub and the bird was apparently in there. I am not sure how long we waited but after a time the bird was seen. It was a spanking ♂ (1st winter) and some very good views were had with the bird around 20 metres away. After satisfying ourselves with the views we'd had and the bird having disappeared in to cover, we decided to take our leave. We also noticed another SODOFF’er, Justin Taylor there and I think he was the only other Oxfordshire birder to make it on the day. The drive home was very relaxed with that satisfying feeling of seeing an “ultra-mega” and an absolute beauty of a bird.
The following day, (as we saw in the national press), there were hundreds there but the bird had apparently gone (sorry guys) much to the disappointment of the many there. A little while later we had a SODOFF meeting and I wore a T-shirt that Lew had done with a Rubythroat on it and I used a marker pen to write a few comments much to the dismay of others people at the meeting who got there on the Monday (sorry Nick). However there has been a couple of “twitchable” rubythroats since so no hard feelings eh!