Friday 27th May

I wasn't able to make it down to the Meadow today but Richard Foster had: 7 DUNLIN, 3 OYSTERCATCHERS, a distant calling CUCKOO to the west of the Meadow and there was a LESSER WHITETHROAT in Burgess Field so if it's the same one as before then perhaps they actually bred there this year. When I last visited Burgess Field there were quite a number of fledglings around which was very entertaining and I'm now getting a recently fledged great tit on my garden feeders.

Once more I am having to go away for a while so as usual please submit any sightings to Going Birding and I will update the blog on my return.

I'll leave you with some video of some ringed plovers which I took a few nights ago (c) Adam Hartley

Friday 26th May: Mediterranean Gull

Wednesday and Thursday were very quiet with just the odd RINGED PLOVER and LITTLE RINGED PLOVER to be found on the fast diminishing floods. Today there was some decent rain at last which topped things up and there was a bit more to look at in the form of a total of 7 DUNLIN and one RINGED PLOVER. However the highlight was a MEDITERRANEAN GULL in amongst the black-headed gulls which, judging by the amount of black in its wings, is moulting into first summer plumage. At this time of year with the June doldrums basically already upon us this was a most welcome find.

A videograb of tonight's Med. gull. It really stood out from the black-headed gulls, partly through it's longer and brighter-coloured legs (c) Adam Hartley

A brief snippet of video before it flew off to the other end of the floods (c) Adam Hartley

Monday 23rd May

A very windy day though it had dropped by the evening when I paid a visit to the Meadow. However the strong wind and sunshine had taken its toll on the flood levels and the water was noticeably lower than yesterday. Of late any passing waders have been along the west shore and I've not had any in the North Channel for some time. Today was no exception with three different groups: near the southern end were four RINGED PLOVER, three quarters of the way along were eight DUNLIN and on the spit were one RINGED PLOVER and a rather late LITTLE RINGED PLOVER. Still no sign of any stints in amongst them but I'll keep trying. There were three YELLOW WAGTAILS still kicking around and I've been meaning to mention a delightful family of juvenile pied wagtails, newly hatched and frolicking around near the boats. There are good numbers of hirundines and swifts around in the evening and I even spotted a couple of sand martins this evening.

A row of eight dunlin (c) Adam Hartley

Sunday 22nd May: Sanderling

An evening visit to the Meadow turned up trumps in the form of a SANDERLING in the company of four DUNLIN. There had been three reported at Farmoor today so there was clearly a small passage going on but it was great to have one turn up on the Meadow as they are comparatively rare birds for the Meadow: less than annual and certainly rarer that wood sandpipers as far as the Meadow is concerned. Apart from that there was a single YELLOW WAGTAIL and one OYSTERCATCHER which was today down by the river. There has been a gradual increase in large gulls, mostly lesser black-backed over the last week with a few dozen birds this evening.

A pretty crappy record shot of the sanderling with a couple of dunlin but I only had my bins and my point & shoot camera with me and it was dusk by the time I turned up. (c) Adam Hartley

Friday 20th & Saturday 21st May

We're really getting to the "fag end" of the spring wader passage now with everything having a distinct June feel to it already. Still at least the floods have survived surprisingly well given that it was the driest April on record though there is a nasty green algal scum covering much of the water now. The last couple of days have seen a few RINGED PLOVER (4 yesterday and 2 today) and DUNLIN (1 yesterday and 2 today) passing through. There's been the odd YELLOW WAGTAIL still about and yesterday I managed to hear a distant calling CUCKOO. Today the NUTHATCH was heared calling from its usual location. The 2 OYSTERCATCHERS were still around this evening and there are always plenty of black-headed gulls picking their way over the mud. A nice Temminck's stint would round things off wonderfully but I suspect that we're not going to get it now.

I keep meaning to post some photos but have been rather busy this week. I'll try to catch up in the next day or two.

Thursday 19th May

Definitely a bit of a "June doldrums" feel to the Meadow now though there are still some passage waders going through: the 16 RINGED PLOVER and 4 DUNLIN were still about on my morning run though by the evening the counts were down to 4 and 1 respectively so either the original flock split up or this was a new batch in. The GREENSHANK was still around as was the usual OYSTERCATCHER and there was a single male YELLOW WAGTAIL also around.

The Hinterland is look very pretty at the moment with a whole sea of buttercups all the way up to Wolvercote (c) Adam Hartley

Tuesday 17th May

Another end of day visit to the Meadow which was somewhat spoilt by a dog owner allowing their dog to run amuck all over the floods. Despite this there were still some passage waders to look at: the GREENSHANK was still there for the third day and fresh in today were 16 RINGED PLOVER, 5 DUNLIN and 1 COMMON SANDPIPER. The EGYPTIAN GOOSE was still around and there was one YELLOW WAGTAIL. To round things off the usual OYSTERCATCHER was in it's usual spot. A COMMON TERN was also about.

Monday 16th May

The wood sandpiper didn't stay long but on my evening visit I found the GREENSHANK still present and 3 DUNLIN dropped in whilst I was there. There were 3 OYSTERCATCHERS at the North end though one of them (perhaps the "resident" bird) seemed to take exception to the presence of the other two and kept chasing them agressively. Richard Foster reported a golden plover as well. The EGYPTIAN GOOSE was still around and there were a few larger gulls in amongst the black-headed gulls. Apart from that it was rather quiet.

Sunday 15th May: Wood Sandpiper

A rather quiet day in the county and on the Meadow was enlivened this evening when I went out for "last orders" on the Meadow and discovered a nice WOOD SANDPIPER together with a GREENSHANK and five DUNLIN. This is the third wood sandpiper for the Meadow this spring already which is excellent going. There was also a (non-leucistic) EGYPTIAN GOOSE around as well as a couple of YELLOW WAGTAILS. The mute swan count this evening was an impressive 28 birds.

The wood sandpiper this evening (c) Adam Hartley

Sunday 8th May to Saturday 14th May

I returned to the patch to find the floods waters still reassuringly full so there must have been some decent rain here while I was away. However, looking at the bird reports on Going Birding there's been nothing unusual to grip me off during my absence. On the wader front we had one more BAR-TAILED GODWIT on Sunday 8th and then a steady passage of DUNLIN (peak count 4) and GREENSHANK (3) and one RINGED PLOVER. The OYSTERCATCHERS have still been around (though there were 4 yesterday so a couple must have dropped in) and there was a surprise brief visit by a CURLEW yesterday evening. Apart from that there have been a few YELLOW WAGTAILS still with at least one female BLUE-HEADED in amongst them. On the duck front there have been one or two SHELDUCK and a few gadwall still about. The NUTHATCH still seems to be about by the river and one COMMON TERN was reported.

There's still a couple of weeks of May left in which we could get something good, a Temminck's stint at least I would hope! My thanks go to Richard Foster for his sterling work in keeping up his visits to the Meadow and also to James Grundy.

Saturday 7th May

At last we had a decent amount of rain overnight which managed to freshen thing up a little though we really need a few more days like that to make a proper difference. A mid afternoon visit to the floods found not much of note: the tailless BAR-TAILED GODWIT was still about, the 2 OYSTERCATCHERS were still around and there was a SHELDUCK on the floods. In addition Richard Foster reported one RINGED and one LITTLE RINGED PLOVER. I did get a report of a NIGHTINGALE singing in the Wolvercote area. It was recorded four days ago by a Rumi Mohideen and in all probability heard again yesterday evening by Steve Goddard. This is a great year tick for the patch.

Nightingale song (sound only) (c) Rumi Mohideen

Friday 6th May

Another nice little selection of passage waders in amongst today's birds : a GREY PLOVER looking very smart in it's summer plumage, a BAR-TAILED GODWIT that seemed to have no tail feathers to speak of, two COMMON SANDPIPERS, one OYSTERCATCHER, a handful of YELLOW WAGTAILS and a total of three GREENSHANKS. There were originally two before a third came in whereupon they all got rather upset and kept calling and flying around before I think they headed off somewhere else. Richard Foster also reported a LITTLE RINGED PLOVER and three WHIMBREL that flew through.

The combination of continual sun and a reasonably strong wind has meant that the floods are drying up quite rapidly now and they desperately need a good dose of rain to freshen them up a bit.

As I've been going out rather late the light has been too poor for any photography so here's a shelduck that I took a few weeks back (c) Adam Hartley

Thursday 5th May

I went for a mid morning run today around the patch and found things pretty similar to the last few days. The GREENSHANK was still frequenting the North Shore and 4 COMMON SANDPIPERS had flown in to join it. The 2 OYSTERCATCHERS were still about and a RED KITE was quartering slowly over the Meadow. Richard Foster later found a couple of DUNLIN, 2 golden plover, 6 COMMON TERNS and 5 YELLOW WAGTAILS. In Burgess Field I was pleased to find a LESSER WHITETHROAT singing half way along the western hedge and there seemed to be garden warblers everywhere or perhaps it was the same one following me about!

Wednesday 4th May: Black Tern

What was looking like a rather routine day with the GREENSHANK about all day, a single BAR-TAILED GODWIT, one OYSTERCATCHER and just the single drake GARGANEY was somewhat enlivened by the discovery by Steve Goddard of a BLACK TERN on the floods early evening. Apparently the bird was coming and going for a while (per Richard Foster) though by the time I visited it had long since departed. There was also reports of a possible ARCTIC TERN and also a distant EGRET SPECIES which just might have been a cattle egret (Richard Foster). I did manage to find at least 11 YELLOW WAGTAILS and the possible blue-headed bird from yesterday was still about though closer scrutiny today ruled out the flava sub-species.

In the absence of any photographs from today I thought that I would share with you some video footage taken by Jeff Pursey of the white stork from Monday.

The stork in flight (c) Jeff Pursey

For more stork photos and video visit Gnome's Birding Diary

Tuesday 3rd May

After the excitement of the last few days today was almost anti-climactic with a few of what would normally be good birds seeming somehow faintly disappointing! I went out twice today, once for a midday run and once for a "last orders" walk around the floods at dusk. The usual "resident" birds were there with the three GARGANEY seeming very much at home and a single OYSTERCATCHER still about. There was a large flock of twenty or thirty SWIFTS zooming about so they're definitely "in" now. In addition there were a couple of BAR-TAILED GODWITS at Stint Corner quietly minding their own business - they were there on both occasions that I went out. I managed to see or hear all the resident warblers that are about in Burgess Field as I went through today. The only new additions on my second visit was a single GREENSHANK and ten YELLOW WAGTAIL including one that looked like another female BLUE-HEADED WAGTAIL though with a bin-only view at last light I couldn't be certain.

With no particularly good photos taken today, here is some footage that I took a couple of days ago of a common and a green sandpiper

Monday 2nd May: White Stork!!!

The Meadow has been on such good form over the last few days that it was only a matter of time before something really good showed up and today it happened. I was at home in my study when I got a call from Richard Foster saying that there was a WHITE STORK at the southern end of the floods but that given how many people were around it was bound to flush pretty quickly. I've never made it down to the Meadow so quickly - literally 2 minutes from call to arrival and arrived just in time to see the bird fly up at close range and head over to the northern end of the floods where it settled about 25 yards from the North Shore. I made my way up to Burgess Field gate where in the company of half a dozen or so other local people we watched it for a couple of minutes before it flew off quite low to the east. During that time I was able to ascertain that it was unringed. Someone there managed to get some great video footage of the bird which I am hoping to be able to get a copy of in due course. Subsequently the bird was reported flying low over Otmoor and then over Bicester so unfortunately it didn't stop off elsewhere. I managed some point and shoot record shots:

The white stork just to the north of the floods..

..before taking off....
...and flying off low to the east.

In a further twist when I came back from my trip to the Meadow I told my eldest daughter who casually mentioned that yesterday she'd seen a "funny large bird" perched on the chimney pot of a house more or less opposite ours though it had flown away as she watched it. When I showed her my photos she immediately identified it as what she'd seen so it had apparently been around in the area undetected for at least one night. I've given her a stern lecture on telling me when she sees anything unusual in future!

Other news, last night's WOOD SANDPIPER was still around at first light (per Justin Taylor) but flew off at 05:55. The GREY PLOVER remained all day and there was a continual passage of BAR-TAILED GODWITS through with perhaps about 80 being reported during the day that I heard of. The three GARGANEY were still about and there were a couple of RINGED PLOVERS down at the southern end.

Apparently this isn't the first White Stork record for the Meadow. Richard Foster found the follow reference in British Birds vol X. (1916-17), p. 273:


On October 15th, 1916, Miss M. Price saw a White Stork (Ciconia c. ciconia) in Port Meadow, near Oxford. She first noticed it on the wing and saw it settle about a hundred yards away. It remained in view for about a quarter of an hour, during which time Miss Price and a friend who accompanied her had good opportunities of observing it, and noticing the differences between it and a Heron which was in sight at the same time. Miss Price is also familiar with the appearance of the Stork in Holland, so that there could be no possible mistake as to its identity. When last seen it was flapping slowly towards Wolvercote. F. C. R. Jourdain.'

Sunday 1st May: wood sandpipers, grey plovers and barwits

Yet another superb day birding on the Meadow. I didn't intend to wake up early for May Day morning but our cat came into the bedroom at 5:50 and once I'd put him back down in the kitchen I couldn't get back to sleep and so decided to check out the floods. It was another day for waders with many birds coming and going. First thing this morning there were 4 COMMON SANDPIPERS, 3 GREEN SANDPIPERS, 2 RINGED PLOVERS, the 2 OYSTERCATCHERS, 1 REDSHANK and 1 LITTLE RINGED PLOVER. As I was watching with a couple of other birders a flock of 17 BAR-TAILED GODWITS and a single GREY PLOVER flew in, spent just a few minutes resting on the floods before heading off again. To round things off there were up to 6 COMMON TERNS on the floods (per James Grundy) and first thing a male LESSER WHITETHROAT was singing as it worked its way along the hedge bordering the Trap Ground allotments. In addition Mari Esashi repored a PEREGRINE which made a sortie over the floods and took a duckling for its troubles.

The grey plover accompanying this morning's barwit flock

After I'd returned home I got a text from James Grundy saying that there was a WOOD SANDPIPER on the floods but it didn't stay too long before it headed on. Later in the afternoon when Richard Foster checked things out there was nothing there apart from the ringed and little ringed plovers.

At dusk I went for a quick yomp around the floods to see if anything had come in and was rewarded for my efforts with a WOOD SANDPIPER of my own, accompanied by a GREY PLOVER (in more advanced moult into summer plumage) and a single BAR-TAILED GODWIT. Given that there had not been anything about in the afternoon these birds would have been fresh in this evening.

A lovely sunset on a great birding day on the Meadow

As far as barwit numbers are concerned I received an e-mail from Sydney Penner saying that he had a different flock of 12 birds which flew over when he was visiting yesterday. In addition Tom Wickens reckons that his Friday night birds were different from the Saturday morning ones in which case the total count that has passed through so far is 118! That combined with two different wood sands and two different grey plovers on the same day is not bad going. We reported a count of nine different waders yesterday, with today's bird added to the mix we've now had 13 different species in two days. Next up should be a Temminck's stint and possibly even a spoonbill - they're becoming almost regular in May now!