I know that this is a bit late but now that the floods are basically gone I thought that I would take some time to review how the first half of the year has gone on Port Meadow. By all standards it's been a pretty good first half of the year - we've basically had all the birds that one might expect during that time and some nice unexpected surprises.
Now in the middle of summer one forgets just how harsh a winter it was but back in January the floods were frozen solid. Waxwings were about at the start of the year and we managed to get yellow-legged and Caspian gull pretty early on in the year.
Caspian' gull, one of my favourite gulls
My policy this year of broadening the boundaries of the patch paid off handsomely in the form of a variety of more unusual birds driven by the harsh weather into gardens around the Meadow area. This included yellowhammer, brambling, lesser redpoll and waxwing - all nice ticks for the Meadow area.
A nice brambling!
Luckily the Meadow area didn't miss out on the national waxwing invasion - this was taken from my garden
There was even "Norbert" the Nordic jackdaw - strictly only "showing the characteristics of this race" and probably some genetic throw-back rather than a genuine vagrant. Incidentally he's still around now and I see him from time to time.
Winter seemed to drag on for ever but at last eventually we got a thaw in the ice and the birds could start congregating again on the floods. A red-breasted merganser was around for a while and it was fun to try and pick it out from the large numbers of goosanders at a distance at dusk. As well as some Mediterranean gulls we were graced by the fearsome presence of "Glauczilla" a huge glaucous gull who found the floods rather to his liking and spent a couple of weeks there on and off.
Glauczilla - the beast!
This subtle Caspian gull was a most interesting find
Finally spring started to arrive and suddenly the first sand martins and little ringed plovers were on the Meadow
One of the first signs of spring!
We had a good garganey spring passage with up to half a dozen or so different birds this year.
We even had good numbers of little gulls around for a while - it's always a joy to see these dainty gulls
This striking male ruff was around for quite a while
April had mostly the usual birds, mostly waders, until the end of the month when there was the most amazing purple patch with a great variety of interesting birds all coming through in the space of a few days.
It all kicked off with this cracking channel wagtail on the Meadow followed by a blue-headed wagtail which was around for the next couple of days
We don't always get whimbrel each year but managed several sightings this time
We had about every wader species that you might expect in the space of a couple of days including our share of the national mass bar-tailed godwit passage. We must have had several hundred godwits go through in the space of a few days. Several grey plovers also went through and we even had a black tern visit the Meadow briefly one evening.
We had quite a few wood sandpipers go through as well
The highlight of the first half of the year had to be the white stork the graced the Meadow for just a few minutes and which only half a dozen or so lucky people got to see.
We can always expect some black-tailed godwits on the Meadow each spring
As we moved into May things started to calm down. There were still wood sandpipers and other waders of various kinds to see but it got progressively quieter. A nightingale in the Wolvercote area was a nice patch tick and we even managed a sanderling at the tail end of their passage. Amazingly, despite the driest spring for many years the floods held out all the way into June.
We've had spoonbill on the Meadow for the last three years though usually in May whereas this year one didn't turn up until the start of June.
To round things off, just when the floods were about all dried up this cracking adult little stint was found on the floods.
With the floods now gone things will no doubt be rather quiet until they're re-created again, either by persistent rainfall or an actual flooding of the river. It's of course very frustrating that the patch has disappeared with the autumn passage just kicking off now but that is the nature of the place. As far as different species that have been seen is concerned, we managed 131 which would be a pretty good total ever for the whole year. The only species that we might have possibly expected but didn't get were turnstone and Temminck's stint though there were no reports of the latter this year in the county at all. With any luck we'll get some more action later on this autumn once the floods reform.