13th March

You can tell that things are picking up as I'm doing a mid month update. There has been a noticable change in bird activity with things starting to pass through after a relatively static period up until the end of February. With the first migrants now starting to appear it's getting to an exciting time of year!

Starting with gulling, we've had a really purple patch with some great roosts. We've had good numbers of Caspian Gulls of various ages pass through. Below are some photos of some of them.

1st Winter

3rd Winter

...and adult Caspian. All courtesy of Thomas Miller

We have also been blessed with some regular sightings of one or sometimes two Mediterranean Gulls in the roost. One evening there was even some attempted courting going on.

The two Mediterranean Gulls courtesy of Steve Lavington

Apart from that there have been good numbers of Yellow-legged Gulls most evenings. On recent visits, there is a definite sense that the roost is now starting to wind down as we move into the second half of the month.

As the gulling winds down so wader action is picking up. The first migrants have started to appear with a Ringed Plover and a Little Ringed Plover both having been seen. In addition we've had up to 7 Redshank and up to 4 Dunlin as well as regular visits from a pair of Oystercatchers. As we move into spring proper we can expect the wader passage to kick off properly.

There's not been much to report on the duck and geese front. It's been pretty much the same birds as usual. We were visited by a pair of White-fronted Geese on a couple of occasions. As I've said before here, due to the presence of the Blenheim hybrid birds, it's hard to tell the authenticity of bird on the Meadow though these ones appeared to look OK . We already have this species on the year list from the start of the year so it doesn't make much difference either way.

At least one of the Siberian Chiffchaff has been around in the allotment hedge still though sightings are starting to taper off now. The Stonechats were seen once more at the start of the month but have not been seen since.

One cause for concern was the state of the floods. With February having been the driest on record (yet another weather record being set as climate change continues to bite) the floods were looking decidedly thin. Thankfully the recent wetter weather has helped a bit though we do still really need some prolonged decent rain during these next few weeks for the critical spring passage period. 

Looking ahead, we can start expecting more spring wader passage and also the first Sand Martins though so far there has only been a smattering of sightings in the county so it's early days yet. It's also time to look out for Garganey - last year was really good for this charming duck. We're coming up to the most exciting birding time of the year on the Patch so it's time to get out there!

1st March

Here we are in March already and the start of the meteorological Spring (though for me it will still be the spring equinox which marks the start). Back in the day I would of course do far more posts than the one per month that I am presently doing over the winter. However, times have changed and methods of communication have shifted to WhatsApp so there is less need for regular updates on the blog. Also, to be honest, it becomes a bit of a chore to do blog updates too frequently and the heady days of youthful enthusiasm have now given way to the jaded reluctance of middle age. Also, February is usually a fairly quiet month with the same winter birds being seen each day. Still, we've had some good birds this month to keep interest ticking over.

Let's start with waders where it's been a good month. The highlight was an Avocet which dropped into the floods just for the morning where it was a much welcomed year tick addition. This species is a bit less than annual on the Meadow but is always a treat to see.

Avocet courtesy of Matthew Lloyd

Some video footage of the Avocet

We had the first Black-tailed Godwit for the year (and the county year) on the Meadow this month. We also had some returning Oystercatchers with up to 3 birds seen and a couple of Redshank. Another good bird was a Curlew which dropped in one evening. February is the typical month where we get this species but it can be suprisingly hard to connect with unless you happen to be there when one drops in.

Curlew on the floods

Next onto gulling, which is serving up the usual mix of good county gulls. We've had a number of Caspian Gulls this month of various ages and an adult Mediterranean Gull which is has been putting in a regular appearance in the roost along with a supporting cast of plenty of Yellow-legged Gulls.

3w Caspian Gull courtesy of Thomas Miller

Above and below, a couple of 1w Caspian Gulls, courtesy of Thomas Miller

On the wildfowl front where last month's heady excitment of the American Wigeon was not reprised with that star bird instead relocating to Otmoor. So we've had to be content with the usual species. There have been up to 12 Shelduck, up to 5 Egyptian Geese and up to 31 Pintail in amongst the numerous Wigeon and Teal.

It's been quiet on the raptor front though a regular 1w Peregrine has been hunting over the floods.

Onto passerines where last month's 3 allotment hedge Chiffchaffs have swollen in number considerably and now include no less than two Siberian Chiffchaffs. Could one be last year's Sibe chiffy returning - who knows? There are at least 10 Siberian Chiffchaffs in the county at the moment which is pretty good! Maybe they are going the way of Yellow-browed Warblers in starting to view the UK as an over-wintering location rather than just heading south. 

Siberian Chiffchaff: above Ben Sheldon & below Matthew Lloyd

The two Stonechats have been seen occasionally on the Meadow this month though they can often be surprisingly elusive and I suspect that they spend time in the allotments where they won't be seen.

The female Stonechat

There is one more passerine record to report, a totally left-field record of a Willow Tit seen briefly in Warnborough road. This is such an unlikely location for this species which is now unfortunately no longer resident in this county that, had it not been myself who saw and heard it, I wouldn't have believed it. Truly a "bonkers" record, but part of what makes birding such a fascinating pastime.

28th January

As usual, the first blog post on the new year is not until towards the end of the month. Normally, January consists of little more than catching up with the usual species that are around at this time of year for the purposes of the year list. However, this time we've had a proper top draw rarity on the Meadow, almost certainly a shoe-in for the Port Meadow Bird of the Year no less. I am of course referring to the drake American Wigeon that was found by Thomas Miller on the evening of the 12th. 


A couple of record shots of the American Wigeon courtesy of Thomas Miller

This species has been a long anticipated find on the Meadow in amongst the large number of Eurasion Wigeon that we have each winter but it's to Thomas' credit that he found it at all given that we were in proper "lake mode" at the time and the birds were about half a mile away from where he was viewing. Sadly it was only found untwitchably late at dusk and was not seen again the next day (much to the chagrin of the other patch birders - myself included!).

Apart from this star bird, there has been a good supporting cast, mostly of water fowl, as you would expect at this time of year. The best of the rest was a pair of White-fronted Geese that was found whilst the Meadow was in "lake mode". WF Geese are always a headache on the Meadow due to the regular visits of the mongrel Blenheim birds but they normally travel together in a flock of 6 or more birds. This pair seemingly relocated to Standlake at Pit 60 where they appeared to be genuine and so are going to go on the year list.

Other worthy mentions on the waterfowl front are: a Little Grebe at Wolvercote Lake; a Great-crested Grebe that enjoyed fishing on the "lake" for quite a period of time; four Egyptian Geese; up to 10 Pintail; up to 5 Shelduck and up to 8 Goosander

As you would expect at this time of year, there has been some good gulling with a couple of Caspian Gulls (3w & 2w), several Yellow-legged Gulls and an adult Mediterranean Gull all already on the year list.

3w Caspian Gull courtesy of Thomas Miller

We've not had any waders so far apart from two resident Redshank on the river, one flock of 15 Dunlin and a singleton Dunlin. We might well still get a Black-tailed Godwit before spring arrives.

Other birds of note include the return of the pair of Stonechat that graced the thistle scrub between the Aristotle Lane and Walton Well Road entrances for some time in December. It's nice to have them back again. This does beg the question as to where they have been in the meantime - I wonder if they've been spending time in the Trap Ground allotments which is not generally accessible.

The female Stonechat

There have also been some Cetti's Warbler reports up at Wolvercote Lake. Talking of Warblers, we've had up to 3 delightful Chiffchaff, showing very nicely in the allotment hedgerow and coming down to the ice to pick off insects. They've been a pleasure to watch! I've had a male Blackcap in my garden over the winter which has jealously been guarding the feeders from all comers - he has been most agressive! It's a shame as it means that I am no longer seeing the large flocks of Goldfinch and Greenfinch that I normally get in my garden.
One of the three Chiffchaff
Looking ahead, February is generally a pretty quiet month before the spring passage begins. There will still be the Wigeon and Teal flock to look through in case our star bird happens to return and you never know what else might turn up.

2022 End of Year Review

Here is the traditional Port Meadow review of the year post. As I mentioned in my last post, despite the severe drought at the time of the crucial spring passage, we still ended up amassing a reasonable end of year total of 137 + 1 extra in the form of a Red-breasted Goose. Whilst there wasn't a stand-out national rare there were enough good county and patch birds to make it an exciting year with plenty to keep us interested.



Winter is usually the best time of year in terms of sheer bird numbers with lots of water fowl as well as plenty of gulls to look at. In terms of gulls we had a good season with lots of Caspian and Mediterranean Gulls found though sadly once again we failed to turn up any white-wingers. It's been far too many years since we've had one of those beauties on the Meadow (or indeed in the county).

Above two photos, Caspian Gulls, Below: Mediterranean Gull, all courtesy of Thomas Miller


We had at least one of the Red-breasted Geese stay with us for a while in January, adding a splash of colour to the large numbers of geese. Thanks to the feeding station in Burgess Field it turned out to be a great year for Bramling with well into double figures seen for this charismatic finch.

One of many Brambling

We managed to get Glossy Ibis on the year list for the third year running when one dropped in briefly at dusk. It then decamped to Otmoor where it stayed for a while.

The brief visit of the Glossy Ibis courtesy of Matthew Lloyd


Spring started off with a bang with the discovery of a Siberian Chiffchaff loitering by Burgess Field gate. This is the first record of what is currently a subspecies of Chiffchaff for Port Meadow. Fortunately it ended up lingering for quite a while and was much enjoyed.

Siberian Chiffchaff, courtesy of Joe Tobias

It was an unusually good spring for Garganey on the Meadow with quite a few records whilst the floods were still with us.

Garganey pair, courtesy of Matthew Lloyd

As mentioned above, due to the unusually dry spring, the floods were gone by the start of May which is usually the best time to get some quality species. Still we managed to get Bar-tailed Godwit and Wood Sandpiper, two of the rarer waders that we might hope to add to the year list. However we ended up missing out on quite a few waders (Sanderling, Whimbrel, Knot and Avocet) that we might reasonably hope to get in a good year.

Bar-tailed Godwit, courtesy of Thomas Miller


Wood Sandpiper


We also scored some stonking spring fly-over ticks with Little Gull and Arctic Tern both seen on the same day.


Summer is traditionally a quiet season for birding on the Meadow so the sighting of a Little Tern briefly on the the patch was a stand-out record. This was almost certainly the Farmoor bird popping over the hill for a visit but at only the second record ever on the patch it is a really great record. It's just a shame that only one observer saw it.

We were also entertained by a family of Little Owls in the summer which showed well at dusk for quite a number of days before dispersing.

Little Owl, courtesy of Joe Tobias

Of course, as the birding slows down, summer is traditionally the time for insects and we had a very good season in that respect. We started off with a Club-tailed Dragonfly photographed along the Thames. This is a rare dragonfly in this part of the river with not many records at all.

Club-tailed Dragonfly courtesy of Michael Enticott

Our new Downy Emerlad colony seems well established now with several seen in the Trap Grounds on the main pond. The same can also be said of our Willow Emerald population with plenty of sightings around the various Trap Ground ponds.

Willow Emerald

We also had a new colonist this year with a population of Small Red-eyed Damselflies seen in good numbers. Let's hope they become regulars as well.

Small Red-eyed Damselfly

Once again we managed one or two sightings of Brown Hairstreak thanks to the eagle eyes of Nicola Devine. Sadly Nicola is no longer with us, having died this year. We will all miss her wonderful photos and great enthusiasm for the Trap Grounds.

Brown Hairstreak, courtesy of Nicola Devine

Once again we had some Glow Worm sightings in Burgess Field in the summer.

Burgess Field Glow Worm, courtesy of Zichen Zhou


Whereas spring was somewhat disappointing, we ended up having a very good autumn. There were unusually good numbers of Spotted Flycatchers and Redstart within Burgess Field this autumn which made for great birding.

Burgess Field Spotted Flycatcher (one of nine seen this autumn)

One of the Four Redstarts seen this autumn

This flyover Osprey in Wolvercote made for a great photo, courtesy of Joe Taylor

Despite the complete lack of flood waters the grassy plains of Port Meadow attracted some good birds this autumn. We had a Grey Plover grace the area for several days.

The Grey Plover (courtesy of Ben Sheldon) hung around for a while,

On the Pipit front it was a stand-out autumn. A Rock Pipit was found in the Hinterland area north of the dried up floods. This only the fourth record for the Meadow with the last two being back in 2010.

The Rock Pipit, courtesy of Joe Tobias

Following that we had an even rarer Pipit with a Water Pipit loitering near the returning flood waters. This was probably the Farmoor bird which seemed to navigate between that location, the Meadow and Wytham for a little while. This was only the second record, with the last being in 2007.

The Water Pipit, courtesy of Steve Lavington

We also had a Yellow-browed Warbler in the Trap Grounds for one day. This was the first of what proved to be a specacular autumn across the county for the once rare Siberian warbler. Another outstanding record was a flyover Hawfinch seen over the Meadow. The post breeding Cattle Egret colony relocated to a field north of Wytham for several weeks.

Cattle Egrets near Wytham

We also had a dark-bellied Brent Goose drop in on the floods for one day.

Brent Goose, courtesy of Ben Sheldon

Bird of the Year

Finally it's time to award the Port Meadow Bird of the Year award. This year it was rather difficult as there was no obvious stand-out bird. Below is the short list along with the number of previous records for the Meadow:

Siberian Chiffchaff (first record)
Little Tern (second record)
Arctic Tern (first record for several years)
Water Pipit (second record)
Rock Pipit (fourth record)
Yellow-browed Warbler (fourth record)
Hawfinch (second record)

Some of these contenders (e.g. Little Tern and Hawfinch) were single observer records which rather counts against them. The Sibe Chiffy is only a sub-species though still an excellent record. After due consideration I am going to give it to the Water Pipit (which was also a personal patch tick for me). I've long felt that this species should occur more often than it does on the Meadow so it's great finally to have another record.

Let's hope 2023 proves to be at least as good as this last year.

31st December

December has been unusually quiet, largely due to the Big Freeze that gripped the country over the first part of the month. It was so severe and prolonged that the Meadow became largely birdless though it did mean that my garden feeders suddenly became a much sought after source of food for the local Goldfinches and Greenfinches. They ended up in residence in the garden for the entire time - a welcome sight when everywhere else was frozen and barren. We've also had a pair of Blackcaps gracing the garden on a regular basis. This species is pretty much annual in my garden over the winter. After this frozen weather, it was back to mild and wet weather and a welcome return of the birds. Indeed the Meadow has been very "birdy" for the second half of the month with lots of the usual suspects.

Perhaps one of the highlights was a distinctly dodgy Caspian Gull which graced the roost one evening. Definitely with some mixed genes it was so marginal a call as to whether it could be classed as a Caspian or just a hybrid that even I (normally only too ready to claim a Casp when I see a candidate bird) thought it wasn't one. It was only our esteemed county recorder who said that it was "good enough" to be one. In any event it's not a year tick as we had plenty of this charismatic species at the start of the year, but it's nice to have the first of the season under our belt. There was not much else on the gull front apart from a few Yellow-legged gulls. The real gulling season kicks off properly the new year.

The Dodgy Caspian Gull

On the waterfowl front it's been the usual species in fairly good numbers. There are plenty of Wigeon and Teal about with a dozen or so Shoveler. On some days we've had a few Pintail gracing the floods as well. A couple of Shelduck for several days running were an unusual sight for this time of year. There are plenty of geese about with the Barnacle Goose flock more or less in permanent residence and plenty of Canada Geese. The Blenheim White-fronted Geese (sadly not tickable) have been popping into the roost on occasion as well. There have been up to 8 Goosander along the river, with some occasionally appearing on the floods at dusk. There was an intriguing "reported" Ring-necked Duck on RBA recently though with a couple of Tufted Duck on the river and nothing more know about it than this one mention I can't really in all good conscience claim this as a tick.

Winter Duck, courtesy of Peter Batty (www.batty.photos)

Waders have been mostly represented by Golden Plover and Lapwing in modest numbers. We have had the odd Black-tailed Godwit and Dunlin record though none that have lingered. A couple of Redshank were seen along the river in their usual place near the fallen trees towards the end of the month. During the frozen period a lot (50+) of Snipe were seen in the Hinterland where presumably the ground was less frozen.

There's not been much else to report apart from the pair of Stonechat which seemed to be wintering in the thistle area between the Aristotle Lane and Walter Well Rd exits. However, the cold spell eventually proved too much and they seem to have departed now.


Pied Wagtails, courtesy of Peter Batty (www.batty.photos)

The only other piece of news is a report (in a comment of the previous blog post) of a Whooper Swan flying low over Wolvercote on the 20th November at around 11 am. This is a welcome year tick which pushes the final total to 137 strict BOU + 1 bonus bird (Red-breasted Goose). This compares very favourable to last year which was 136 + 4 (White Stork, Crane, Red-breasted Goose, Snow Goose). So in terms of strict BOU records this is a record breaking year. In any event it's a great effort given how quickly the floods disappeared during the crucial spring passage period.

Finally it only remains for me to wish all blog readers a very Happy New Year. My thanks go out to the great team of patch birders that Port Meadow has. It's been great birding the patch with you all this year and our year list total is a real team effort. Here's to another great year for 2023! 

Kingfisher, courtesy of Peter Batty (www.batty.photos)

 PS As usual I will post the end of year review sometime next month.


3rd December

November is not normally known for great birding excitement. However there have been a few things of note to keep ones interest up. Firstly, by way of background, the floods reformed at the start of the month and have been growing steadily in size so that now they are a pretty good expanse. Indeed the Meadow is looking superb at the moment and has once more attracted a host of different bird species. 

On the duck front, alongside the usual Wigeon, Teal and a few Shoveler, we've had up to 4 Pintail and a few Goosander on the floods. The latter species has also been reported along the river quite a bit this month as were Two Tufted Duck one day. The Barnacle Geese are now a regular feature on the Meadow at this time with up to 130 present throughout the month. The highlight of the month as far as water fowl is concerned has been a dark-bellied Brent Goose, presumably the Dorchester bird, which was found on the floods this morning and which hung around all day. We've also had up to 8 White-fronted Geese coming in at dusk to roost. One of the birds looks like a hybrid but as yet we've not been able to ascertain whether the remaining 7 birds are part of the Blenheim flock or are proper wild birds. There were 6 White-fronts on Otmoor recently though that was a family part of two adults and four first winters so these are different birds. Genuine wild White-fronts are very rare on the Meadow so it would be great if they can be properly seen at some point

The Brent on the floods, courtesy of Ben Sheldon

...and in flight courtesy of Matthew Lloyd

There have been slim pickings as far as waders are concerned. A couple of Dunlin were reported mid month and over the last few days we've had up to 3 Black-tailed Godwits. Lapwing numbers have increased noticeably and we're starting to get bigger numbers of Golden Plover as well. The highlight was an unseasonable Curlew that was picked out of the foggy gloom one evening.

The gull roost has got to a reasonable size now. So far just a few Yellow-legged Gulls have been found but now that we are into December it all really kicks off on the gull front.

In terms of passerines, there have been a few snippets to report. By far the best sighting was a Hawfinch which flew over south, seen by Phil Barnett. This is only the second record of this species on the Meadow after a few were seen a couple of years ago flying over Burgess Field amongst some Redwing. Both the male and female Stonechat have been seen this month. As they are generally rather elusive and covering a large area they are often hard to spot even when they are there so it's not known if they are still about or not. A singing male Cetti's Warbler has been heard a couple of times around the Wolvercote Lake complex this month as well.

In other news there have been a few Noctule bat sightings from our resident bat expert, Matthew Lloyd.

In terms of the year list, thanks to the Brent Goose we are now on 136 + 1 extra (Red-breasted Goose). Depending on how you measure it, this compares well with last year's record breaking tally of 136 + 4 extra (White Stork, Crane, Red-breasted Goose, Snow Goose): equalling it on strict BOU terms and only 3 behind on "extra" ticks. Looking ahead to the last month of the year, it's going to be water fowl and gulls mostly though something left field could turn up. Last year we had the Dotterel in December so there's still plenty to play for.

31st October

There have been a couple of proper Patch Mega's since my last post. Nothing of national importance but enough to get locals hurrying out to the Meadow. The first was a Rock Pipit found by chance by Phil Barnett out in the Hinterland to the north of the flood area. There have only been four records of this species since 2007. There were several in the autumn of 2007, then a couple in 2010 and then this bird today. It didn't linger and (bar a possible sighting along the river shore the next day) was not seen again.

Rock Pipit, both courtesy of Joe Tobias

The next Mega was even rarer and came in the form of a Water Pipit. Again found by Phil (who is having a great autumn in terms of rare bird findings on the patch) this is only the second record since 2007. Actually, a Water Pipit had been seen on and off at Farmoor and a "buzzy" sounding Pipit was kicked up from the grass a few days earlier but wasn't found again so in all likelihood it's been the same bird loitering in the general area and commuting between various local sites. This bird has been seen on at least two subsequent occasions though is often not on the Meadow so is continuing to roam widely.

Water Pipit record shots above and below courtesy of Steve Lavington

The Cattle Egrets have been settled up at Wytham for some time now with 30 lingering in amongst the cattle to the north of the Field Station.

Just some of the 30 odd Cattle Egrets

The three Stonechats lingered for a while and another pair were found up near King's Lock. It's proving to be a good year for these charming chats.

Stonechat courtesy of Mathew Lloyd

One of the Great White Egrets has been seen a couple more times, once on Wolvercote Lake and once along the river. 

Great White Egret on Wolvercote Lake

There was another potential Patch Mega, indeed what would have been a patch first in the form of a Mandarin Duck when a "probable" was flushed from the trees up at Wolvercote Lake. Sadly it could not be refound but the habitat looks good for them so it's possible that one may turn up there again at some point in the future.

In other news, a Little Grebe was seen on the river near the Perch one day by Andrew Siantonas. 12 Ring-necked Parakeets flew over calling one morning. These are probably from the University Parks but it's a record count for the Patch with sightings up until now comprising just of one or two birds. At least one Barn Owl is continuing to be seen up past the ring road towards Kings Lock. 

Now that we are well into autumn there are noticeable changes in the bird population with regular Siskins, Redpolls and Fieldfare see or at least heard overhead. In the Meadow area it's now Skylarks, Meadow Pipits, Linnet and Redwing that are being seen. At long last we have some flood waters back again and the first winter duck sightings have been had with a few Wigeon and Teal seen. The Barnacle Geese are being seen regularly along with a couple of Egyptian Geese. We are even starting to get a bit of a gull roost with about 500 Black-headed Gulls reported recently one evening. As the flood waters extend it will soon be time to start grilling the gull roost once more. Happy days!