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.

16th November

I've been checking out the gull roost most evenings when I can manage it, usually in the company of Thomas Miller. Our lovely MEDITERRANEAN GULL has been there three days in a row now which is rather unusual - it clearly likes it here! Apart from that we had our first DUNLIN of the season with a single bird that didn't linger this evening. Also present today were 5 Golden Plover, 30+ Lapwings, only a modest Wigeon flock and a reasonably sized gull roost. Yesterday three of the usual feral WHITE-FRONTED GEESE dropped in, calling noisly, for about five minutes before heading off again, .

I mentioned last time looking out for the errant drake American Wigeon in amongst our Wigeon flock. Well, another bird to look out for is a splendid adult Rose-coloured Starling which has been seen in Botley recently. The only reason why I mention it is that each evening large flocks of Starlings fly over the Meadow heading towards the huge roost in the Otmoor reedbed. Well, a straight line between Botley and Otmoor goes straight over the southern half of the Meadow so there's a chance that it might fly over our air space. Worth keeping an eye out for perhaps though we'd need brighter conditions than the intense gloom that we've had over the last couple of days in order to be able to see anything at all.

Some video footage of our Med. Gull in amongst the throng

14th November

In my excitement at the news that the floods were back in my last post I forgot to mention a couple of snippets of other news. Firstly the GREAT WHITE EGRET was seen again up at Wolvercote Lakes by Steve Goddard a day or two later. It wouldn't surprise me if it become a regular visitor there. Secondly Mary MacDougall reported a BARN OWL sighting in Burgess Field last week so it might be worth keeping an eye out there in the days and weeks ahead.  I did go and have a look for it the next day but all I saw was a small flock of FIELDFARES - my first of the season (and I've still personally yet to see any Redwings).

As a point of interest a couple of days ago a Glossy Ibis was seen at 3pm at Farmoor and then some fifteen minutes later was spotted flying over Otmoor. Now a straight line between the two locations does pass over Port Meadow so it looks like we missed a nice sighting there. As a matter of interest, this distance is some 9 miles so at 36 mph this bird was going at quite a pace! One other item: a drake American Wigeon was spotted in the west of the county at a private location a day or two ago though apparently had gone the next day so it's worth checking out the Meadow Wigeon flock carefully in case it's come our way.

This evening I went to check out the floods for the gull roost to find the whole area almost completely empty of birds. Having been out earlier in the day on a run and seen plenty of Wigeon and Teal I can only assume that some dogs must have run amuck just before my arrival. Just about the only birds present were some gulls though in the pleasant weather conditions the roost was typically small and the birds were typically skittish, with great chunks of the flock periodically being scared off by something and heading off to Farmoor. As a general rule, the better the weather the worse the gulling. Anyway, unusually there were hardly any small gulls around at all but just at last light Thomas Miller managed to spot a first winter MEDITERRANEAN GULL in amongst the few dozen Black-headed Gulls - a great find! This species is pretty much annual on the Meadow though with just one or two records a year it's always something to get excited about and it marks the first noteable gull of the season. Let's hope for plenty of others to follow!

A dodgy video grab taken at last light of the Med Gull

12th November

The floods are back! The recent rain has produced the usual two pools though they're not properly joined up yet. However, the larger northern pool is now big enough to attract a reasonable gull roost so over the last few days I've been taking a look. In amongst the hoards of Black-headed Gulls there have been plenty of larger gulls to look through there's not been anything of particular note so far. On the duck front this evening there were about 230 Wigeon and 30+ Teal and waders have been represented by 30+ Lapwing and 3 Golden Plover. With the feral Greylags also enjoying the damper conditions and plenty of Linnets, Meadow Pipits and Pied Wagtails it's suddenly looking really "birdy" again! So all good stuff! The only fly in the ointment is that there is no rain forecast for the next week and even we don't get some decent follow-up rain fairly soon we're going to lose these floods again.

It's nice to see Golden Plover back on the Meadow. Over the last couple of years there haven't been the numbers that we used to get.

Whilst Wytham Woods isn't strictly part of the patch, I'm going to give it a bit of a mention as it's not too far away from the Meadow. This weekend I was up there on Sunday afternoon en famille in order to enjoy the autumn colours. Whilst up on the ridge in the Hornbeam section I'm pretty sure I heard and briefly saw a Hawfinch. They have a distinctive "tic" call which first alerted me to it though it seemed to be moving through quite rapidly so it have been just passing through.

1st November

As predicted, our embryonic flood waters didn't last. We really need a good prolonged period of rain to re-instate them again. In their absence there is precious little to report. It's still the usual Linnets, Meadow Pipits, Pied Wagtails and a few Lapwings out on the Meadow. I'm still seeing my Jay commuting back and forth past my back garden on a regular basis. Overhead as far as seasonal migration is concerned it's mainly been Skylarks and Wood Pigeons that I've seen or heard. There have been reports of quite a few Brambling in the county already and it looks like it might be a good winter for them so it's worth keeping an ear out for their wheezing call.

The highlight since my last posting was yesterday when I got a text from Jonathon Parsons saying that he was watching a GREAT WHITE EGRET on the roadside one of the two Wolvercote Lakes. I hurried up there and managed to watch it for a while in very gloomy light until it took exception to my presence and flew off low towards the rear lake. This species is currently transitioning from a rare bird to something much more common place, in a similar way that Little Egrets did as they colonised the country. However, I still get excited seeing them and this is indeed the first one that I've ever seen on the Patch though it has already been seen this year by others.

The Great White Egret in the gloom

17th October

The weather has at last turned from the settle calm of our Indian Summer to something more autumnal. With it at last we're starting to get some changes on the bird front as well with some definite autumnal movement and changes in behaviour Indeed the first Redwings are starting to be reported in the county though personally I've yet to see any. I have though noticed some movement in Blackbirds with quite a few more suddenly appearing in and around my garden as well as several flocks flying overhead. Over the last few days I've been hearing Skylarks calling as they pass over and a local Jay has been commuting backwards and forwards over my garden which I've not been seeing recently. The feeding tit flocks have become more noticeable and numerous and it's always exciting to stand and watch as these extended groups pass by. With with luck, alongside the Long-tailed, Greats and Blue Tits quite a few hangers-on can be seen such as Treecreepers, Goldcrests and the occasional Chiffchaff.

Up at the Gullet, Adrian Gray recently reported the following:

"Popped in this afternoon. The water is very low - as low as I've ever seen it - but I think that means that stuff that normaly skulks in the trees at the edge of the back half can't do so, and are in the open water. There's more Teal than I've ever seen there - at least a dozen in each half of the lake - mostly males, I think, but hard to tell in gloomy light and with them still looking quite scruffy. There's also at least eight male Shoveller though I could only see one female  - unusual as they seem quite uxorious. Plenty of the usual Black-headed Gulls, Coot, Mallard and Moorhen, plus a Heron in either half, and two cygnets still with their parents."

On the insect front of course there's not so much to report now though I did spot a single large Dragonfly flying along the treeline on the Meadow side of the Castle Mill Stream. I couldn't ID it properly as I didn't see it for very long but it didn't look like a Migrant Hawker and may have been an Emperor.

A few weeks back I found this Hornet, downed by some very cold winds and looking rather sorry for itself

The recent rain has transformed the Meadow with a large flock of Linnets (getting on for 200), plenty of Pied Wagtails as well as quite a few Meadow Pipits now. We've also got a couple of small pools in the usual locations and indeed had some loafing Black-headed Gulls, 8 Lapwings and a single Teal. It's great to have some water back though unless we get some prolonged rain I expect that we'll lose these patches again. Still at least it's a promise of better things to come in the weeks ahead should we get some more rain.

Lapwings, Black-headed Gulls and a Teal

22nd September

There have been a couple of new year ticks to report since my last post. Given the on-going lack of water, things like this are going to be thin on the ground and so should be much celebrated. The first was a WHINCHAT which was first found by Nick Boyd up in the Wolvercote allotments but was also reported a couple of days later at the same place by Derek Evans. I went up the next day to try and see it but in very windy conditions (during storm Ali) I couldn't see it. Still it's very nice to get this delightful Chat on the Meadow year list/ Although it's a no uncommon species which is seen annually at places like Otmoor, it's been a few years since the last one here on the Meadow. Incidentally, both Nick and Derek reported good numbers (30+) of YELLOW WAGTAILS in amongst the cattle up at the Wolvercote end. This is good news as this year I'd not seen more than ten down at the southern end - a worryingly low count compared to previous years.

Yellow Wagtail

The second new tick was a RING-NECKED PARAKEET which flew south calling along Kingston Road early one morning this week. This charismatic species breeds in good numbers in and around the London parks and gardens and has a toe-hold in the county over in Henley. In past years single birds have been seen in and around the Meadow but it's been a few years since the last one. Over time the population might spread further along the river from Henley but they seem to be taking their time over it. Incidentally, this is probably the same bird that was seen a couple of days earlier flying over Headington Hill.

Apart from that there's not been a great deal to report. A few Migrant Hawkers are still down by the Castle Mill Stream though this spell of more autumnal weather might soon put paid to them. On the Meadow itself there have been a few loitering Lapwings, as yet just modest Linnet numbers and the occasional Meadow Pipit

Common Darter, it's coming to the end of their season now

Not something you see everyday on the Meadow! A very hardy (as it was rather cold that day) naked rambler striding out towards the river. I don't think that he's The Naked Rambler, who famously rambles the country getting arrested periodically so there must be at least two of them.

10th September

So we're well and truly into autumn now and with the change of weather to stronger more westerly winds, the Indian Summer part seems to be over as well. Not much has changed on the bird front with YELLOW WAGTAILS the main point of interest in amongst the cattle though there have been a couple of Lapwing which have been offering close views in the livestock as well. The Tit flocks have formed now: it's always great to watch one of these mixed flocks of small birds pass along the hedgerows and you never know if there might be something of more interest tagging along with them.

Young Lapwing in amongst the cattle

One of the highlights since my last posting has been the finding of a WHEATEAR (a year tick) on the patch. This species certainly passes through the area on both the spring and autumn passage but it's just a question as to whether anyone happens to spot it. Nicola Devine, who's photos have often been gracing this blog of late, spotted the photo below by fellow photographer Tony Steele. I'd not come across Tony before but his amazing shots (especially his macro work) from Burgess Field speak for themselves and his flickr album (see here) is well worth a visit

Wheatear in Burgess Field, courtesy of Tony Steele (c)
Apart from that it's been mainly insects that have been the point of interest. There are quite a few Migrant Hawkers along the Castle Mill Stream along with a few Common and Ruddy Darters and over in the Trap Grounds, Nicola Devine reports more of the same. Thanks to Nicola, recently I finally managed to see one of the BROWN HAIRSTREAKS that have been around in this gem of a reserve. As the trees are rather low it offers a great opportunity to get good views of what is often a rather elusive species that is only seen high up in trees. As a point of interest, Nicola also spotted the RED-TIPPED CLEARWING again on the Wild Marjoram in the Trap Grounds Meadow.

Trap Grounds Brown Hairstreak

So, going forward, what can we look forward to? Until the flood waters return it's going to be slim pickings I'm afraid though we may get something like a Redstart, Wheatear, Stonechat or Whinchat passing through in somewhere like Burgess Field or along the river if we're lucky. I'm also still hoping for a Hobby on the way south as well. With the huge influx of Wrynecks across the country dare we dream of one on the Patch again? One can but hope!

22nd August

Gosh! It's been a while since my last update here. That in itself is rather telling: in the absence of any flood waters it's hard work finding much to blog about. Now that we're firmly into Autumn (in the bird world at least) YELLOW WAGTAILS have started appearing on the Meadow again, often in amongst the livestock with so far up to 8 birds to be seen. There are also plenty of Pied Wagtails, both adults and juveniles about as well. 

Yellow Wagtail
The young Greylag goslings are all growing nicely and forming their own feeding flocks dotted around the Meadow. There's also been the start of a post-breeding flock of Lapwings with up to 8 birds hanging out on the grass. The Swifts are already noticeable by their absence: they're no longer to be found screaming around the Jericho area and are already on their way south though there will still be one or two around to be seen I expect. Swallows and House Martins (with the odd Sand Martin as well) are starting to gather in large numbers now as well, another sign of their departure over the coming weeks.

Mixed Hirundine Flock

On the insect front, down along the Castle Mill Stream there are one or two Migrant Hawkers to be seen and I've had a Southern Hawker visiting my garden on several occasions. Nicola Devine has been keeping her eagle eyes on the Trap Grounds as usual and has come up both BROWN HAIRSTREAK and RED-TIPPED CLEARWING sightings once again this year. These are both pretty great records for what is such a tiny reserve that is so near the city centre.

Really great views of a Brown Hairstreak - very often they are just seen
fluttering high up in the tree tops so these photos are unusually good
Both photos courtesy of Nicola Devine

Red-tipped Clearwing - a comparatively rare day flying moth
photo courtesy of Nicola Devine

14th July

As you would have guessed, shortly after my last post the floods completely dried out, with their long run finally ended by this heatwave. Since then their has been precious little in the way of news on the bird front apart from a record of a CUCKOO in Burgess Field at last - I was beginning to think that we weren't going to get this iconic species on the list this year.

A great photo of a Reed Warbler, courtesy of Nicola Devine

The hot conditions have of course been ideal for insects. Burgess Field has been hosting good numbers of the usual Ringlets and Marbled Whites and a whole variety of odonata have been seen on the Trap Grounds, especially by Nicola Devine who managed to record yet another new species for this site in the last month in the form of an Emerald Damselfly. This is a rather localised species in the county and so it's a good record to have here.

Male Emerald Damselfly, courtesy of Nicola Devine

Female Emerald Damselfly, courtesy of Nicola Devine
In the heat I haven't been venturing out nearly as much as I would normally but I've been finding that the insects at least have been coming to me with all sorts of unusual garden visitors. I've had Ringlets, Meadow Browns and even a Brown Hawker on a couple of occasions.

I've not been out botanising much but I did note that the Tubular Water Dropwort came out as usual in it's usual ditch - it's always nice to see this rather understated flower. Talking of which, it should be possible to find Creeping Marshwort out on the Meadow now - I'll go and take a look some time soon

Tubular Water Dropwort

23rd June

I can't believe that we've reached the summer solstice already, where has the time gone? It's been great that we've had flood water all the way up until this time but of course with the very dry month that we're having the flood waters are finally on the way out. There are still plenty of birds around though. We've had a party of eight SHELDUCK (adults and juveniles) with us all month so far as well as several OYSTERCATCHERS. The main story though has been the gulls: there have been hundreds of Black-headed Gulls about, including increasing numbers of juveniles, all picking their way over the flood waters and making a constant racket. As the month has progressed we've started to see some large gulls loafing by the floods as well and have even managed our first YELLOW-LEGGED GULL of the summer season. This species traditionally disperses far and wide during the summer and usually starts turning up at Farmoor in June and July so it's been nice that we've had enough water to attract one to the Meadow as well.

One of numerous juvenile Black-headed Gulls

There have been plenty of dragonflies and damselflies about and indeed over in the Trap Grounds Nicola Devine has managed to spot a Red-eyed Damselfly on the pools, a first for this site. They normally hang out along the Castle Mill Stream but they've been seen on the flood waters by Nicola and have obviously now made their way over to the Trap Grounds as well. Let's hope that they manage to start a new colony there. She's also managed to see the first Southern Hawker of the year already.

Southern Hawler courtesy of Nicola Devine
Talking of insects the Marbled Whites and Ringlets should be out in Burgess Field now as they are elsewhere in the county. In the same location Will Langdon has managed to find a nice colony of BEE ORCHIDS and indeed has counted dozens of them, so it's been a good year for them.

Bee Orchid

Club-tailed Dragonfly on Port Meadow

I got forwarded this e-mail message today about a male Club-tailed Dragonfly on Port Meadow. It's good to know that they are being reported more regularly here after the one that made it to the Trap Grounds last year. It may well be worth keeping an eye out along the river for further ones emerging at this time of year.

Dear Stephen  I attach a pic I took this morning I think it's a male clubtail? at port meadow (sp495079) opposite side of river to Thames path near binsey. Lastyr I took part in the clubtail survey at Abingdon but didn't see any. i' m not surveying this year but thought the record may be useful if it is a clubtail. I think it may have just emerged I saw it fly in from the river bank which is flat and sandy there. it settled next to vegetation where I photographed it.sadly a dog came and jumped at me and onto the insect and may have damaged one of its wings.i hope it recovered. yours sincerely Felicity Jenkins

Wednesday 30th May: Red-necked Phalarope!

Even though we're now right at the end of May as we've still got water on the floods I've been dutifully visiting the Meadow every day to see what's about. There's been precious little to show for my efforts up until now though over the last few days there had been a pick-up in RINGED PLOVER numbers with 7 seen yesterday as well as 6 OYSTERCATCHERS.

Today I wasn't able to visit until the early evening but it was soon apparent that there'd been a mini fall of waders with several dozen dotted about the floods, all disinclined to continue their migration due to the relatively poor weather conditions. However, the highlight and what will almost certainly end up being the bird of the year was a wonderful adult summer plumaged RED-NECKED PHALAROPE that was swimming about and feeding energetically in the middle of the water at the north end. This species is nationally scarce with just a handful of records across the entire country each year though they do breed in small numbers in the outer Hebrides. What's more it's just the 5th or 6th record for the county and certainly the first ever record for the Meadow, so it's quite a bird! I put the word out and over a dozen people came to see it before it grew too dark. 

As conditions were decidedly gloomy and the bird was rather distant, 
this video footage was the best that I could manage

Unusually, for this species it's the male which incubates the eggs and is consequently more drab and this smart bird is therefore probably a female.

Alongside the Phalarope were numerous other waders. The full list was as follows:

2 Greenshank (a year tick)
2 Redshank
4 Sanderling
3 Dunlin
23 Ringed Plover
3 Oystercatcher
4 Shelduck

So by far the best day of wader passage in its own right, and with a wonderful rarity to boot. It's days like this that keep a patch worker going, slogging away day after day for normally scant rewards.

Monday 28th May

The recent heavy rain has given the floods a reprieve though the hot temperatures that we're now getting means that it's only going to be temporary. Still, the waters have been enough to attract a few more waders down to the patch and recently there was a single COMMON SANDPIPER on the floods. On Friday there were 10 RINGED PLOVER and a single DUNLIN skulking along the north shore but when something flushed them all I noticed a different bird which buzzed back and forth for some time before seemingly heading off. However a short while later it was back and I was able to confirm my suspicion that it was a SANDERLING. We usually get this species quite late in the spring season so it was nice to have one on the year list.

The Sanderling with a Dunlin companion

Apart from that it's mainly been Black-headed Gulls with a few OYSTERCATCHERS that have been gracing the floods. From a peak count of 15 LITTLE EGRET numbers have gone down so I'm guessing that most of the fry have now been caught. 

In the Trap Grounds a couple  more Black-tailed Skimmers have been seen along with the Hairy Hawkers still.

Black-tailed Skimmer courtesy of Nicola Devine