Personally, one of the joys of Spring in Oxfordshire and which I always eagerly look forward to is the arrival of migrant Yellow Wagtails at Farmoor Reservoir.
Invariably the first to arrive are the males, all bright and shining buttercup yellow on heads and underparts and greenish upperparts suffused with yellow and with natty black tail, bill and legs, they are an absolute picture and surely much under rated as one of our most strikingly colourful and vivacious native birds.
They are usually to be found by the edge of the tarmac perimeter track running above the grassy bank that slopes down to the waterworks. Here there is a myriad of hatching flies and other insects to be gleaned from the track and the bank, and they will often stand in the short green grass, still and uncertain as I approach, their bright yellow heads and breasts all that is visible, confusing amongst the similarly yellow dandelion heads and swathes of purple blue ground ivy.
Their numbers are declining but still, every year, double figures can be encountered, the birds scattered in a loose knit group along the perimeter track which they often share with Pied Wagtails and the occasional migrant White Wagtail. Sometimes they will fly a short distance to wander the concrete edges by the waters of the adjacent Farmoor One reservoir or fly with a cheery high pitched call to sit on the buildings and disused filter beds of the waterworks.
|Male Yellow Wagtails|
|Male 'Channel' Wagtail|
Let's forget the taxonomy for now and just enjoy the fortuitous combination that has brought about this lovely looking bird. It retains the bright yellow underparts and yellowish green upperparts of the normal Yellow Wagtail but its head, depending on the light is an exquisite shade of pale powder blue or grey with a prominent white supercilium, markedly different to the bright yellow heads of the Yellow Wagtails.