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!

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