Residents have slammed the “horrendous” congestion caused by a crowd of birdwatchers who flocked to a Oxfordshire town to snap pictures of a rare bird.

The photographers descended on Hallett Close in Wantage on Monday (September 26) after news broke that a Common Nighthawk was spotted snoozing on a garden fence.

The medium-sized, nocturnal bird weighs just 80g and measures 24cm in length, with a wing-span of 64cm.

READ MORE: Oxford Stadium boss says RSPCA bowed to animal rights ‘extremists’

Despite its name, the Common Nighthawk is a very rare spot in the UK.

Herald Series: The Common Nighthawk which landed in Wantage. Picture: Ben SheldonThe Common Nighthawk which landed in Wantage. Picture: Ben Sheldon (Image: Ben Sheldon)

This is because the species lives in North America, migrating many thousands of miles to South America in the winter months.

There have only been a handful of recorded sightings of the species in the UK in recent decades.

Once news reached twitchers that a Common Nighthawk was in the UK, dozens of them headed to Wantage to capture pictures of the bird.

Photographs taken at the scene showed a huge crowd of around 50 avid bird fans set up in front of the fence, snapping images of the sleepy creature.

All this attention inevitably caused higher traffic in the area which did not sit well with some people living in the street.  

One resident, Yvonne Andrews, took to social media to describe Springfield Road – which leads to Hallett Close –  as “completely congested by cars, people and some with cameras”.

“It was horrendous,” she said.

Herald Series: Crowds of birdwatchers in Wantage. Picture: Ben SheldonCrowds of birdwatchers in Wantage. Picture: Ben Sheldon (Image: Newsquest)

This was not the only street that was blocked by birdwatchers as Ms Andrews also noted the “crazy” scenes in Charlton Road, where a huge number of cars were parked along the length of the road.

Another resident, Alison Wren, thought that with the number of people and cameras in the street there had been murder, rather than a “sweet little bird trying to have a nap”.

However, others were more accommodating of their unexpected ornithophile guests.

“I thought it was quite sweet they were all so excited to see this bird,” Freya Haynes said.

The bird took off just before 7pm to continue its journey.

Twitchers who headed to Wantage were quick to share their snaps on social media, particularly – and perhaps ironically – on Twitter.

West Suffolk based wildlife photographer Mark Ferris posted three images of the sleepy bird, including one of it pruning its feathers.

He wrote: “Still can't quite believe it, what a bird!”

Fellow self-proclaimed ‘nature enthusiast’ Paul Chapman, from Clevedon, said he waited five hours to get pictures of the Common Nighthawk flying off.

Though his pictures did not go to plan he said he still managed to captured a “stunning aerial display”.


Read more from this author

This story was written by Sophie Perry. She joined the team in 2021 as a digital reporter.

You can get in touch with her by emailing:

Follow her on Twitter @itssophieperry

A message from our Editor

Thank you for reading this story and supporting the Oxford Mail.

If you like what we do please consider getting a subscription for the Oxford Mail and in return we’ll give you unrestricted access with less adverts across our website from the latest news, investigations, features, and sport.

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tik Tok for more. 

You can also join the conversation in our Facebook groups: stay ahead of traffic alerts here, keep up to date with the latest from court here, share your favourite memories of Oxford here, get your daily dose of celebrity news here and take some time out with news that will make you smile. 

If you’ve got a story for our reporters, send us your news here. You can also list an event for free here.