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
|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.