16th May

With little rain to speak of there's been no last minute reprieve as far as the floods are concerned and this has left rather slim pickings on the bird front with little to report. The first SWIFTS arrived shortly after my last post and I was lucky enough to hear a male LESSER WHITETHROAT singing away along the Thames about 150 yards south of Weir Cottage. In addition a couple of COMMON SANDPIPERS were reported by Matthew Lloyd along the river shoreline north of the Perch. They can often be found along there at the right time of year when there are no flood waters left. Apart from that it's very much the usual suspects in the usual places. Burgess Field is bursting with Whitethroats, there are lots of Blackcaps about everywhere and the Trap Grounds reed bed is full of Reed Warblers but it's amazing how quickly one gets a bit blazĂ© about these summer visitors. 

Reed Warbler
There have been no reports of any Grasshopper or Sedge Warblers on the patch area so far. It's very sad that just within the last ten years or so we've lost two species which used to be guaranteed sighting each year. We've also yet to have any records of Cuckoo or Hobby though there's still time, especially for the latter which can occasionally be spotted flying over our air space at any time during the summer.

Now that we are moving towards summer it's time to turn our attention to insects and flowers. The first HAIRY HAWKERS have been seen in the Trap Grounds and we've also had the first LARGE RED DAMSELFLIES there as well. The Cow Parsley and May Flower are both out now and the hedgerows are full of their heady scent. It's a beautiful time of year!

Hairy Hawker courtesy of Nicola Devine
Trap Grounds Brown Argus

3rd May, Grey-headed Wagtail

In my last post I was enthusing about what birds we might expect over the coming weeks. In the event the weather rather spoilt our plans with the spell of unusually hot weather effectively drying up the floods completely. It's a shame as things were shaping up nicely with waders of various species dropping in on the ever decreasing pools and there were plenty of RINGED PLOVERS, LITTLE RINGED PLOVERS, REDSHANK and the omnipresent OYSTERCATCHERS to be seen. A few SHELDUCK stayed on as the waters dried up, picking their way over the mud for things to eat.

With the waters having disappeared right at the peak time for the spring passage of late April/early May I was thinking that that was that and gave up on the flood area, instead turning my attention to Warblers in Burgess Field. However, Thomas Miller persevered and was rewarded for his efforts when on May Day afternoon he turned up a smart male GREY-HEADED WAGTAIL picking its way over the dried up flood area in the company of a few YELLOW WAGTAILS.



Video and grab courtesy of Jason Coppock

For those of you who aren't familiar with the Yellow Wagtail complex, Yellow Wagtails have a number of subspecies across the continent with Grey-headed being the variation that is found in Scandinavia. Just a few records turn up each year in this country so it's quite a rarity on our shores. If you're interested I wrote up on this subject in more detail here. Sadly the bird wasn't seen the next day though it may still turn up again. 

There were a couple of other snippets of news to report. Firstly an OSPREY was seen flying up the river at 2 pm the next day by Nick Boyd. He described it as "briefly hovering over the river then circling over the drying floodplain before drifting off eastwards" - that must have been a great sight to have seen.

Secondly and much rarer, Dave from Kennington saw and heard a male WOOD WARBLER for several minutes in the copse at the far north east end of Burgess Field (so to the north of the Snipe Field). There are usually one or two Wood Warblers records each year in the spring in Oxon, usually seen very briefly and by a single observer as in this case and usually therefore not twitchable. To my knowledge this is the first record for Port Meadow though I'm sure they must have passed through unnoticed on a number of occasions over the years - we were just lucky that this time someone happened to see it.


So a most welcome year tick thanks to the Wood Warbler. In terms of what we might still expect now that the flood waters have gone, we still have Swift to get and on the Warbler front there is Lesser Whitethroat, Grasshopper Warbler and Sedge Warbler still that we might expect (and perhaps another Cetti's Warbler). Cuckoo is still a possibility as is Hobby and Spotted Flycatcher. So still plenty to look out for despite the lack of flood waters. I'll leave you with a collage of Grey-headed Wagtail photos from the original finder.

courtesy of Thomas Miller

17th April

I've been meaning to do a post since I came back from a week away in Cornwall at the weekend. However, each day is bringing new things to report and if I don't write something down right now it's going to run away from me again! Indeed, at the outset I should point out that now is probably going to be the best birding of the year on the Meadow, certainly in terms of new year ticks and in the variety and speed of change of sightings. The spring passage is in full flow and we've still got some flood waters to tempt birds in. The floods were looking rather sickly until the spot of rain topped them up. But with some rather hot weather forecast over the next few days they could soon disappear again. So, unless we are lucky enough to have some flood waters in the autumn passage, this is basically going to be peak Meadow birding action. 

Anyway, down to actual sightings. Last week we added quite a few new species to the year list. The star bird was a SANDERLING seen by Pete Roby. This species is just about annual though we rarely get more than one record a year. There was also a report of a PEREGRINE flying low over the rooftops of Walton Street. Usually this species is seen over the winter period harrying the wintering birds on the floods but this is actually the first record of the year in the catchment area. More standard fare was seen in the form of the first YELLOW WAGTAILS of the year, the first COMMON TERNS, the first WILLOW WARBLERS and the first HOUSE MARTINS. Also just today Pete Roby reported the first COMMON SANDPIPER of the year.

Birds are dropping in and moving on regularly throughout the day and so I typically try to visit twice a day. Just yesterday for example a couple of CURLEW (an uncommon bird for the Meadow) were seen by Ian Lewington to drop in for a quick wash and brush-up before heading on again. When I visited yesterday evening a couple of new Redshank had joined the three that were there this morning so it can change by the hour.  

In terms of more regular sightings, Oystercatchers are seen every day with up to six birds on show at any given time. Little Ringed Plover are dropping in and moving on and are usually seen most days. There are just a few dozen winter duck left now and numbers are dropping each day. Swallows are now being seen on a more daily basis and are probably "in" now. Blackcaps, Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs are all singing in the hedgerows - it really warms the cockles to hear them once again.

Golden Plover, looking very smart in full summer pluage, courtesy of Ian Lewington
So what can we look forward to over the next few weeks? The warblers should start arriving very soon now so it will be time to start scouring the hedgerows of Burgess Field for the usual suspects. There is also the increasingly elusive Cuckoo to listen out for and in May we should start to get the first Swifts. On the wader front, provided the waters hold up we might expect Whimbrel, Greenshank and Green Sandpiper. As far as rarer waders are concerned there could be Knot, Bar-tailed Godwit and Grey Plover to look out for. What we should really hope for though is a sudden spell of bad weather to ground the migrating birds. This is when Port Meadow birding is really at it's best: there's nothing quite like seeing fifty or more waders of all sorts of different species all paddling around in the flood waters - it really makes my birding year!

5th April

After the heady excitement of last weekend it's been back to more modest fare. On Monday we had a nice record of 4 RUFF (the first of the year) which sadly only hung around for the morning. During that time a SWALLOW also went through north as well but that's been the only hirundine sighting this week. 

Four Ruff and a Redshank


...and some video footage of the same birds


The same morning which was remarkably warm and calm, I did a spot of raptor watching from the Meadow, looking out over Wytham Hill. As well as several Kites and Buzzards there were a pair of Sparrowhark and a RAVEN (a year tick).
 
Apart from that it's been a fairly steady week with more or less the same birds around each day. OYSTERCATCHERS have been present every day with up to four birds around at the moment. It's a similar situation with SHELDUCK as well with a peak count of 6 birds this week. REDSHANK numbers have also been a fairly constant 3 or 4. There have also been between 1 and 3 LITTLE RINGED PLOVER about all week.

On Friday we have a couple of WHITE WAGTAILS in amongst the Pieds, part of a light passage through the county of this striking continental cousin to our familiar Wagtails.


31st March

Spring passage really kicked into gear today with a whole host of exciting discoveries. However, before I tell you about that let me fill you in on the sightings since the last post. To be honest, prior to today it's been rather quiet. There's been a massive clear-out of wintering ducks during the last week to the extent that the floods are now looking remarkably bare on the bird front. There have been various REDSHANK passing through. Usually there have been between two and four birds though not always the same ones as one one occasion we had three in summer plumage which looked very smart compared to their more usual winter appearance. The two or three OYSTERCATCHERS have been a regular daily sighting whereas SHELDUCK numbers have been much more variable: some days there have been up to four whereas on other days there have been none at all. On the warmer days Chiffchaff and Blackcap have been singing away in a variety of places and everywhere the trees and hedgerows have a wonderful fresh green wash of newly sprouting leaves and flowers.

So, on to today. It all started bright and early when Ian Elkins discovered a splendid drake GARGANEY on the floods. I put the word out and with not much else about in the county a whole heap of the county's finest birders came to pay homage. This meant that the Meadow had much more coverage than usual which resulted in many more birds being found on what turned out to be a key passage day.

Drake Garganey courtesy of Ewan Urquhart


Garganey video footage courtesy of Badger


The highlight of these bonus finds has to be an OSPREY which Steve Goddard spotted flying north shortly after midday. This species is less than annual on the Meadow and is usually seen in early spring heading over the floods with my theory being that migrating birds follow the river as they head north which is why we see them. Interestingly, they are often reported late morning or early afternoon. I wonder if as a larger bird of prey they need to wait until things warm up a little before taking to the wing which is why they are often seen during this time window.

The next year tick was a female WHEATEAR which Ewan Urquhart spotted passing through. Whilst this species is pretty much annual, they are by no means a certainty. There are usually only one or two records each year and as they never linger it very much depends on whether someone manages to spot one as they pass quickly through the Meadow. So it's nice to get one safely in the bag.

SAND MARTINS finally put in an appearance this weekend. They were first found yesterday evening by Mary MacDougall and today were around in the morning before departing. Steve Goddard also spotted a flock of 30+ which moved through quite rapidly at around midday. As an added bonus Adrian Grey spotted the first pair of SWALLOWS of the year passing north over Wolvercote.

Up to five LITTLE RINGED PLOVER were seen in the morning as well - it was good to get a decent count again of this delightful wader as numbers were rather low last year. At last light we had a report of another year tick in the form of their larger cousin RINGED PLOVER when Mary MacDougall and Steve Jennings spotted six of this species.

Little Ringed Plover courtesy of Ewan Urquhart

I personally managed to miss all the action as I had house guests visiting today. However I did persuade some of them to come on a late afternoon walk where the floods were devoid of all these exciting birds. By way of some consolation I did manage to turn up the first GADWALL of the year with a pair sleeping on the floods in amongst the Teal. This species tends to be a spring visitor to the Meadow and I've been looking out for them for the last few weeks.

So lots of exciting stuff with no less than seven year ticks over the weekend, almost all of them today! Now that we're into April it's the peak month for spring passage though just how good it is rather depends on the weather and how long the flood waters stay. We should get the first warblers passing through fairly soon now as well as a variety of passage waders. It's time to get out there and start looking!

20th March

It's now officially spring and we've had the first spring migrant to prove it! Today I went for a run on the Meadow and managed to flush a LITTLE RINGED PLOVER along the East Shore. It didn't fly very far but as I didn't have my bins with me I couldn't relocate it. Later on in the day I came back for a more detailed look but it was nowhere to be seen.

There have been a couple of other year ticks to report as well. The first was the surprisingly late addition of Great Crested Grebe to the list. Normally these are about on the river pretty much all year but yesterday on the river just by the sailing club was the first that I've seen this year. The second tick was two separate sightings of BLACK-TAILED GODWIT. The first was a singleton seen by Ben Sandford-Smith a couple of days ago and the second record was a party of five birds that Andrew Siantonas found yesterday. Usually I'd expect to get this species on the list over the winter period so they're a bit late this year.

One of the joys of patch birding is getting excited by common stuff such as this Great Crested Grebe here

Apart from that there have been two or three Oystercatchers about, as well as three Redshank, 1 Dunlin and up to 12 Shelduck. For the first time today in a while we had a decent 100+ flock of Golden Plover. They're all moulting into their summer finery and are looking a bit tatty at the moment as they transition.

One of the regular Oystercatchers


12th March

There's a definite "end of season" feel to the gulling on the Meadow now. For one thing it's got really hard with a lot of the birds all looking frustratingly similar now and a lot of mongrel birds starting to put in an appearance. What's more, with the longer days it means that I'm no longer able to visit right at the peak pre-dusk time so it's no longer so productive. We've still managed to have one more good new gull in the form of a different adult MEDITERRANEAN GULL that eagled-eyed Thomas Miller picked out from the roost and one of the "usual" Caspian Gulls did pop in on one occasion.

The new Med Gull courtesy of Thomass Miller



Some video of the same bird


We've had good numbers of SHELDUCK hanging around still, with 12 there yesterday. We've also had a couple of OYSTERCATCHERS about most days as well as up to four REDSHANK. On occasions we've had some reasonable Golden Plover and one evening I counted several hundred along the shoreline, reminiscent of the good old days for this species.

The recent spell of ridiculously hot weather had been looking very promising for early spring migrants though the change to this very windy and indeed stormy period has rather put the kibosh on all that. Nevertheless with the first spring migrants starting to be seen in the county now (one flock of Sand Martins and a Little Ringed Plover) it's getting time to turn our thoughts in that direction. Who knows, we might well snaffle an early spring migrant (probably one of those two species) ourselves sometime soon.

26th February

What amazing weather - it's more like summer than late winter! I keep expecting to see Swallows and Sand Martins about as I look through the gull roost each evening.Despite the hot weather the gulling hasn't been too bad though rather tellingly numbers have started to decline dramatically over the last couple of days. What's more, the floods are starting to shrink rather alarmingly in this hot weather so we really need some good prolonged rain to top them up again.

Still we've had another couple of good gulls to add to the tally of what has been a remarkably good couple of months on that front. Firstly there was a huge adult CASPIAN GULL and secondly a lovely adult MEDITERRANEAN GULL. The latter species traditionally has a spring passage through the county in March so it looks like that has come early this year. In fact we've now had 7 different Caspian Gulls and two Mediterranean Gulls as well as countless Yellow-legged Gulls just since the start of the year - it's been a remarkable gulling season.




Adult Caspian Gull courtesy of Thomas Miller
Adult Mediterranean Gull

We've finally started to get some wader action now with up to 8 REDSHANK around the floods, and this evening the OYSTERCATCHER tally had gone up to 3. A single DUNLIN (a year tick) has been around the last couple of days and to top all that we had a brief visit by a CURLEW (a less than annual visitor to the Meadow) though it didn't linger. 

Curlew courtesy of Thomas Miller
In other news Mary MacDougall reported a couple of GREY PARTRIDGE on the Patch as well. As this species actually bred here last year I'm deliberately being vague about the exact location but it's great to have them back again.

18th February

The much milder weather has brought on the first signs of spring in the bird world. Whilst it's still too early for any actual summer migrants we've had a couple of species on the floods which I typically associated with very early spring, namely OYSTERCATCHERS and SHELDUCK. There was one of the former on Friday with the number going up to two over the weekend along with three of the latter species. Whilst we already have Shelduck on the year list, it's around this time of year that they start to be seen on the floods.

The first Oystercatcher of the year

There was also a report of a STONECHAT on the scrub north of the Perch this week from Sam Watson. Since the two extremely cold winters that we had a while back this species has gone from a guaranteed record each year to something much harder to get so it's nice to have one seen on the Patch so early on in the year.

On the gulling front, it's been much quieter this week. I visited each evening from Monday through to Thursday with precious little reward for my efforts apart from a couple of YELLOW-LEGGED GULLS. Then Thomas Miller took over for the weekend and his keen eyes managed to pick out a couple of CASPIAN GULLS, both birds that we've seen earlier on in the month here.

The warmer weather has brought out the first BRIMSTONE butterflies to various local gardens (including my own) and the first bees are now buzzing about as well. With all the talk being of a record breakingly hot year this year, we might well have a very mild and early spring this year.

Addendum
I forgot to mention that Dave Doherty found a male POCHARD on the floods this week. As is usually the case with diving ducks they tend not to linger too long once they discover how shallow and fishless the waters are and it was soon gone. Still as a less than anuual visitor it is a good record for the Meadow.

Lost Your Binoculars?

A heavy pair of binoculars -- in good condition apparently, except for a broken strap -- has been found on the Meadow and left on the corner house of Longworth and Southmoor Roads. If you'd like to claim them then please telephone 511474.

11th February

The windy weather, with Storm Eric, brought in a brief purple patch on the Meadow with some huge roosts towards and during the weekend with vast numbers of large gulls. The only trouble was that the wind often made for difficult viewing conditions. On Thursday in very blowy conditions there were at least 4 YELLOW-LEGGED GULLS in the throng and a flock of 200 of the BARNACLE GEESE came in to roost, one of the higher counts for this flock for quite a while. To add to this there were 100 GOLDEN PLOVER, again one of the largest counts that we've had for quite a while. On Saturday Thomas Miller struck gold with no less than 3 CASPIAN GULLS, a 1st winter, a 2nd winter and the 3rd winter from a few weeks back. On Sunday the roost again huge but he reported that it was too windy to do it much justice. This week, in much calmer conditions, the large numbers have now melted away and it's back to more modest numbers.



The three Caspian Gulls, courtesy of Thomas Miller

There are a couple more ticks to report: Kingfishers have been reported to me on a couple of occasions now along the river (it was only a matter of time) and Thomas Miller also had the first PINTAIL of the year a few evenings back.



6th February

Now that we've got through the cold snowy patch and back to milder windier weather, the gulling is back on track. Our first winter MEDITERRANEAN GULL is still being seen most evenings as well as a few YELLOW-LEGGED GULLS (1w, 3w and adult this evening) and we've had a REDSHANK pop in on a few occasions as well. However, after last month's amazing tally of four different Caspian Gulls, so far this month we've not had any.

We also had our first LITTLE EGRET of the year this evening: working its way along the ditch down by the boat moorings.Also a drake TUFTED DUCK on the floods this evening was a most unusual sight. Whilst this common diving duck can usually be found up at the Wolvercote Lakes, we only normally see it down at the south end of the Meadow when it's frozen or the floods are in Lake Mode so this was a notable record.

The most stand-out record since my last post was an amazing sighting of a KNOT up at Wolvercote Common just south of the allotments by Colm O Caomhanaigh on a very snowy 2nd February. I can only guess that it was grounded by the weather and with everything frozen had just decided to tough it out where it was until it thawed - I hope that it got through it all OK. Knot is less than annual on the Meadow so is a good record to get on the books.


I forgot to post this picture of a pair of Goosander on the Castle Mill Stream from a week or two ago

With the Snowdrops and Crocuses now coming out and the milder weather one can't help but start to turn one's thoughts towards Spring though we've still got a fair way to go yet before we can start to think about the first spring arrivals. In the meantime it will have to be gulls to keep us going through the month!

31st January

So that's the first month out of the way. Looking back it's not been too bad really. It's always fun to chase around after the usual winter birds to get them on the year list and the gulling has been excellent this month. Since my last post we've managed to notch up yet another CASPIAN GULL, this time a fine 3rd winter that Thomas Miller found last Saturday. In addition the usual (presumably) 1st winter MEDITERRANEAN GULL popped in again last Friday. However, since the recent spell of cold weather the floods have been completely frozen and I've not bothered with the roost.

3rd Winter Caspian Gull (courtesy of Thomas Miller)
For those who struggle with Caspian Gulls, it's the bird who's head is right in the centre of the picture



The 1st winter Med Gull

Apart from that there's not been anything of particular note.

Now that we've got to the end of the first month I'm going to start posting a "Wanted List" of things that haven't been seen yet that I would expect to be about somewhere. So please let me know if you see any of the following:

Kingfisher
Little Grebe
Great Crested Grebe
Dunlin
Nuthatch
Little Egret
Lesser Redpoll

21st January

I did the January WeBS Count (Wetland Bird Survey) for the Meadow today. Numbers were rather low for some reason, I'm not sure quite why. Still we had our first REDSHANK of the year and I put up 3 SNIPE from the rough grass between the floods and the river. Apart from that there were no surprises. Exact count tallies are below:

Wigeon 655
Teal 53
Mallard 10
Moorhen 9
Canada Geese 138
Greylag Geese 6
Grey Heron 1
Cormorant 1
Redshank 1
Snipe 3
Black-headed Gull 60
Lesser Black-backed Gull 1

Apart from that, it's mostly been about the gulling which has continued to be excellent. The injured first winter CASPIAN GULL has been around most evenings and we've had a first winter MEDITERRANEAN GULL turn up two or three times as well. Thomas Miller has been finding many of these birds - it's great to have a fellow laridophile to keep an eye on the roost.

The 1st winter Med. Gull, courtesy of Thomas Miller
As far as other species are concerned, there have been up to three SHELDUCK on the floods this week. I also spotted my first Fieldfare of the year in the hedgerow bordering the allotments. Away from the Meadow itself, I have been wandering around the Trap Grounds seeking out the usual suspects for the year list. I managed to hear a squealing WATER RAIL in the reedbed and spotted a fine pair of Bullfinches along the side stream. I also found an over-wintering CHIFFCHAFF by the canal next to the Frenchay Road bridge. To round things off, Steve Goddard had a Grey Wagtail up at the Wolvercote end as well.

The floods could do with a bit of a top-up, this settled high pressure system is making for a rather dry spell of weather.

15th January 2019

So the first couple of weeks of the New Year have gone by and the year list is steadily accumulating. What have we had so far then? On New Year's Day the flock of 100+ BARNACLE GEESE flew in at last light (I'd already left by then but heard them come in and Steve Goddard was on site to confirm this). They subsequently have visited on a second evening as well - it's good that they are becoming so regular now. Apart from that on the water fowl front it's just been the usual Wigeon and Teal. Adrian Gray has confirmed Coot and Tufted Duck up at the Gullet and we've had Shoveller but not yet any Pintail though that should be just a matter of time.

The main action (for me at least) has been on the gull front with the reasonably sized flood hosting quite good roost sizes. We've been blessed with three different CASPIAN GULLS already so far: two first winters and a second winter, the latter being found by Thomas Miller this evening. One of them came for four or five consecutive evenings in a row but although originally fine, now appears to have a badly damaged leg so is hopping around.

2w Caspian Gull courtesy of Thomas Miller


Some video of the regular 1w Caspian Gull, which unfortunately now has only one usable leg

The highlight on the raptor front has to be a great sighting of a MERLIN zipping through up at the Wolvercote end of the Meadow. Seen well by Steve Goddard and another birder this is a great record for the Patch. There have been a few "probable's" during my time birding the area but this is the first confirmed sighting.

Apart from that I've just been going around winkling out the usual suspects for the year list from their usual haunts. A trip along the wildlife corridor stream near the Trap Grounds produced the hoped-for Reed Bunting at the start of the year and I've managed to find things like Goldcrest, Treecreeper, Siskin and Mistle Thrush and Steve Goddard up at Wolvercote has supplied Stock Dove and Tawny Owl. Nothing earth shattering but it's nice to get them on the list. In a week or two I'll posted a "wanted list" of stuff that's still yet to be seen but it seems a bit early for that as yet.

Reed Bunting


Review of 2018

Happy New Year! The turn of the year is of course traditionally a time to reflect on what has been and to look forward to what we might expect so I thought I'd do the usual review of the year. Both nationally and on a county level, 2018 was a rather poor year, certainly in terms of the number of different species recorded and indeed the county only managed 205 last year compared to a more usual tally of 215 or more. On the Meadow we mustered 124 which is a bit below the usual 130 level that I consider to be a good total though our year lists are very much at the mercy of the vagaries of the flood levels each year so there is a lot of variation in this number and all things considered 124 wasn't too bad. In terms of what we missed that we might have reasonably expected for "winter birds" we never got Lesser Redpoll, Curlew, Jack Snipe or Brambling and for summer birds Sedge and Grasshopper Warblers were both missing, as was Hobby (the first time since I've been birding the Meadow that this hasn't been on the list). We also failed to get many of the rarer county waders that we often get such as Grey Plover, Knot, Bar-tailed Godwit, Little Stint or Ruff and we never got a Garganey either. 

So much for what we didn't get, what birds were actually seen last year? January started off well with a Stonechat spending a few weeks down at the southern end of the Meadow. With the floods in "Lake Mode" a Whooper Swan was a nice bonus bird at the start of the year. A brace of Woodcock in Burgess Field were an unusual find and on the gull front we were blessed with no less than three Caspian Gulls as well as an Iceland Gull.

The Whooper swan


The juvenile Iceland Gull

...and a gorgeous Caspian Gull

Once the excitement of the first month of the year has died down February can often be rather quiet but we did manage a single-observer Great White Egret that flew over the Trap Grounds as well as a second Iceland Gull on the floods. March saw an Avocet, a Mediterranean Gull and a long-staying Barn Owl as highlights.

Unfortunately the Avocet never got very close

April is always an exciting time of year with the welcome return of our summer visitors. On top of this we had a Sandwich Tern on the Meadow for the second year running. This is an annual visitor in modest numbers to the county but only the third record for the Meadow so was a really special bird. A Spotted Flycatcher and a Pink Footed Goose of unknown (and probably suspect) origin were also noteworthy.

A superb photo of the Sandwich Tern courtesy of Roger Wyatt (c)

May can often be a quiet month though it's also the top month of the first half of the year for something rarer to turn up. This indeed proved to be the case when in amongst a substantial "fall" of waders one evening a gorgeous female Red-necked Phalarope dropped in. This used to be an extremely rare county bird though a flurry of records over the last three years have somewhat taken the shine off it. Still, it's an absolute corker of a bird for the Meadow and is easily our Bird of the Year.

The gorgeous Red-necked Phalarope

We were quite well served with regards to flood waters for the first half of the year - the fact that they survived all the way until the end of May being critical for the record of the Phalarope but by June and the start of what turned out to be a very hot dry summer they were all gone. So it was to insects that Meadow watchers turned their attention.The summer months provided a Club-tailed Dragonfly by the river,  Emerald Damselflies on the Trap Grounds (a new species record), regular Brown Hairstreak sightings (also in the Trap Grounds) and the welcomed return of the Red-tipped Clearwing moth to the Trap Ground meadow area.

Club-tailed Dragonfly courtesy of Felicity Jenkins

Brown Hairstreak courtesy of Nicola Devine

As we moved into Autumn, sadly there was no sign of the floods and the birding was very quiet. In fact a fly-over Ring-necked Parakeet was the only noteworthy record. Finally, come November we started to get back some decent flood waters and the gulling could commence again. We had a long-staying Mediterranean Gull and another Caspian gull as the highlights of the roost and a Short-eared Owl on Burgess Field that I frustratingly personally never managed to get to see. Up in Wolvercote a Great White Egret spent a couple of days by the lake there, which was nice to see.


The Med Gull was seen for five consecutive evenings on the floods


Wolvercote Great White Egret
It was a quiet end to the year but at least we have some flood waters of a reasonable size to start of the New Year. It's time to throw out the old list and start all over again. I wonder what 2019 will bring.

24th December

The flood waters are now a good size with regular rain ensuring that they have been increasing steadily. The ducks are very pleased with this and are now back in good number. Indeed, I did the monthly WeBS (Wetland Bird Survey) counts at the end of the first week and the total were very encouraging:

Pintail: m.
750 Wigeon
113 Teal
82 Lapwing
Golden Plover
34 Mallard
4 Moorhen
Canada Goose
220 Greylag Goose
Little Grebe

Since then I'd say that Wigeon numbers have gone up even more. There's also been a drake Shoveller hanging around feeding in the ditch by the allotments and one day he popped over to the Trap Grounds to give that site its first record of this species.

The Shoveller was showing rather well in the allotment ditch
Apart from that there have been good numbers of Redwing and Fieldfare feeding in the Hawthorn along the Aristotle Lane footpath and along the allotment border.

One of the many Redwings in the footpath Hawthorns

It only remains for me to wish readers a very Merry Christmas. I will be doing a review of the year at some point over the next week or so.

2nd December

Thanks to some decent rain at last the floods have finally started to expand towards a more decent size. It feels rather like this rain has come about a month later in the year than usual, no doubt down to the dry autumn that we've had. Still at least the waters never actually dried up again as I feared they would before the wet spell arrived.

On the bird front for me it's mostly been about checking out the gulls. In fact there's been precious little else to look at with the small size of the waters meaning that there weren't even any winter duck about until the last few days when the rain really arrived. There's not been anything as good at the Caspian Gull that was reported in the last post though a few YELLOW-LEGGED GULLS have been worthy of note. 

One evening about 160 of the usual Home Counties BARNACLE GEESE paid us a visit. They are pretty much an annual event these days but it was still nice to see them again. As I mentioned above, it's only in the last few days that the WIGEON and TEAL have been back in numbers. On my last visit there were about 260 of the former though only a few dozen of the latter. There have also been a few dozen Lapwing about and the occasional Golden Plover though a large flock of several hundred were reported up at the Wolvercote end one evening.

So as we head into December, what can we look out for? Well, it's mainly going to be more gulls though we should get more variety on the duck front as well (Pintail and Shoveller perhaps) and perhaps a few over-wintering Redshank.

By way of a photographic offering here's a Meadow Pipit

26th November

A few bits and bobs to report since my last post. There's still been no real rain to speak of though the floods are making a reasonable hash of staying put in the circumstances. There are still no duck to speak of on the floods - there's too little water for them I think. The evening gull roost has been pretty well covered most nights, usually by Thomas Miller when I'm not there. There have been a few YELLOW-LEGGED GULLS in the modest roost sizes but the highlight was a cracking 1st winter CASPIAN GULL that Thomas found on Saturday. It's great to get this lovely species on the list for the season so quickly

A gorgeous 1w Caspian Gull courtesy of Thomas Miller
With that now under our belt already it's just the two white-wingers to get and we'll have seen all the regular noteworthy gulls this season already. Mind you these are by far the hardest species to get and we're lucky if we get one at all each winter.

In other news, the SHORT-EARED OWL was reported in Burgess Field again by an unidentified gentleman on both days over the weekend. I did have a look myself this evening but yet again drew a blank - I've still yet to see this bird. In my garden I've had a pair of male BLACKCAP and a Coal Tit on my feeders. This latter species isn't that common on the Patch so I'm always pleased to see one. I have finally started to see some Redwing about though numbers seem unusually low compared to normal. Maybe conditions aren't that bad on the continent so they're not moving so far at the moment.

18th November

The floods have managed to hold up reasonably well so far given that there's hardly been any rain all week. We've been getting modest gull roosts most days and indeed the 1w MEDITERRANEAN GULL was present again yesterday (for the 5th day in a row) but not this evening. However Thomas Miller found the first YELLOW-LEGGED GULL of the season in the roost tonight.

Yesterday Mary MacDougall saw a SHORT-EARED OWL in Burgess Field at around 4:10 pm and she saw it again this evening at roughly the same time. It doesn't appear to be lingering so I'm wondering whether it's just roosting somewhere in the area and then flying off to hunt elsewhere perhaps over the river by the fields at Medley Farm or something. Still it's a nice addition to the year list.