Monday 30th April

At last a rain free day! In fact it was sunny with just a modest breeze so I chose to go on the first run around the patch for some time. First stop was the Trap Grounds which were extremely flooded though I failed to find any reed warblers there yet. Next stop was Burgess Field where the first WHITETHROAT of the year was found though still no grasshopper or garden warblers yet. Finally to the floods which were now absolutely huge, extending half way up Burgess Field and the river had burst its banks by the boats so that I had to wade through knee-high water to get all the way round. Finally things do seem to be picking up on the migrant front and along the narrow strip of grass between the river and the floods I found 4 WHEATEAR (with at least one looking like a possible Greenland sub-species), 1 COMMON SANDPIPER and 1 WHIMBREL (presumably Sydney Penner's bird from yesterday). To add to this welcome increase in Meadow bird sightings Phil Chapman had a couple of summer plumage adult LITTLE GULLS (a Patch Year Tick) this afternoon, hawking over the floods. Finally this evening I found 8 SWIFTS (the first of the year on the Patch) soaring over my house which were a most welcome sight.

All in all, returning migrants have been remarkably late this year: whilst last year the first swifts were on the 26th April (so not much difference there), the first whitethroat was on the 8th April - a huge difference. In fact last year the Patch Year List was on 118 on this date so despite getting three ticks today we're still some 16 species behind.

There are quite a few goslings about now

Sunday 29th April

Sydney Penner  managed to find some good waders today:

1 WHIMBREL (a Patch Year Tick)

Saturday 28th April

Finally some wader action on Port Meadow. Steve Goddard reported the following birds:


Friday 27th April

Yet more rain on my afternoon visit to the Meadow but at least there was no wind. There was a good passage of birds at Farmoor today so I had high hopes that something might have dropped in at the Meadow but once again I was disappointed. I'm starting to wonder whether the floods might be so large and lake-like that they are perhaps putting off the waders - there certainly is a dearth of them at present. Three SHELDUCK, 2 LITTLE EGRETS, 2 common terns, 22 mute swans and the usual lingering ducks the only thing to report on the floods. I realise that I'd not visited Burgess Field for some time so today I walked a circuit through there and for my efforts I did manage to find my first SEDGE WARBLER of the season, singing fitfully in the rain from deep within a bramble clump. I really must check out the Trap Grounds as the reed warblers should be back now as well.

On the way back home I got a bonus treecreeper working its way along the pollarded willows by the end of Walton Well Road.

A white wagtail, taken about a week ago.

Thursday 26th April

At least it wasn't raining on this afternoon's visit though it was very windy instead. The floods are still looking very empty. Today the two SHELDUCK were about, there were 3 LITTLE EGRETS and the smattering of lingering ducks. Two common terns were flying about noisily over the floods. As we approach May I hope that things should start to pick up soon.

Wednesday 25th April

Another wet and dreary visit to the Meadow with not much to report. At least the persistent rain has ensured that the floods are very nicely topped up and in fact large damp areas are now forming in the Hinterland which many of the few remaining ducks are enjoying. In general the floods are remarkably empty at the moment with just a few teal, the odd wigeon, the usual mallards and a handful of gadwall about. The usual spring build up of no-breeding mute swans has begun and recently I counted at least 20 birds. Today the two SHELDUCK were back again, there was a WHEATEAR just to the North of Stint Corner and a rather bedraggled skylark feeding along the North Shore. The LITTLE EGRET is still around, feeding down at the southern end and there were plenty of hirundines hawking low over the river including a few sand martins. The highlight of yesterday was a report of two probable ARCTIC TERNS by Sydney Penner. Quite a few of these birds are passing through the country at present with at least a dozen at Farmoor today.

Monday 23rd April

Cold and rainy when I visited with not a lot to report: 1 LITTLE EGRET, 1 OYSTERCATCHER and 1 YELLOW WAGTAIL the only birds of note.

Friday 20th April

Another pleasant afternoon's birding on the Meadow today. The birds to report were pretty similar to yesterday though with at least one new Patch year tick. To start with the LITTLE GREBE was still along the Castle Mill Stream. At the southern end of the floods there were a couple of LITTLE EGRETS. Half way along the west shore the OYSTERCATCHER was still about. The two RINGED PLOVERS were still about at Stint Corner though they had lost their dunlin friends. The two WHEATEARS, both rather colourful birds so perhaps the Greenland sub-species, were still hanging around in the vicinity as well. On the floods themselves the two SHELDUCK were back and I saw one of them chasing of the ROSY-BILLED POCHARD. As I said when I first reported this exotic plastic duck, it does look like it's got a shelduck's beak stuck on the front of it and clearly the actual shelduck felt it was an intruder and chased it off to the Hinterland. Speaking of which, there were plenty of wagtail to sift through with three WHITE WAGTAILS and one YELLOW WAGTAIL the result. Lots of hirundines again with a few sand martins in amongst them, the first time that they've been hanging around this year as opposed to just passing through. Finally along the river shoreline I came across the first COMMON SANDPIPER of the year. It's interesting how often this species prefers to hang out here rather than on the floods.

One of the two wheatears

Thursday 19th April

I was lucky to catch an extended dry spell when I went out to the Meadow late afternoon and it turned out to be quite a productive session. To start with there were a couple of RINGED PLOVER and a couple of DUNLIN, marking the start of the Meadow spring passage for these two species which often seem to travel together. The two SHELDUCK and one of the OYSTERCATCHERS were still about and there was a single COMMON TERN in with the black-headed gulls though it didn't linger. But the most interest was generated on the surrounding grass, with four very smart WHITE WAGTAILS and two WHEATEARS adding some interest to the visit. In fact these are the first wheatears of the year for the Meadow: we always end up getting this species but there are usually only a few sightings over the course of the year so it's always when one actually sees them. There were loads of hirundines around hawking low over the river and the grass.

One of the two ringed plover

18th April

I managed to find a window of relative dryness in the rain that dogged much of today. In fact the birding turned out to be rather good as all the (non-flood) birds were taking advantage of the respite from the rain to undertake a feeding frenzy. I've been checking out the Castle Mill Stream regularly this year hoping to find a redstart in the bushes there as one was seen there last year. So once more I gave it a try but again no luck with just the willow warbler still there. The much-extended floods were almost deserted as the few remaining ducks were enjoying the nicely wetted fresh grass of the Hinterland. After some searching around I eventually managed to find a couple of YELLOW WAGTAILS, a single LITTLE RINGED PLOVER and a very smart WHITE WAGTAIL in amongst the pieds. There were lots of hirundines around today with at least a dozen swallows hawking low over the grass with at least 3 house martins in amongst them.

One of two yellow wagtails that brightened up what was a very gloomy day

Tuesday 17th April

Very little to report with one LITTLE EGRET on the floods, a singing willow warbler on the Castle Mill stream and a few swallows going over. The highlight was a couple of COMMON TERNS (a patch year tick) which flew over North calling and carrying a fish.

Monday 16th April

Today on a late morning run around the patch it was very much the usual suspects in the usual places. The floods held a LITTLE EGRET, the usual smattering of ducks and today there were three rather than just the usual two OYSTERCATCHERS. A few swallows and a single house martin flew through whilst I was there. I tried the Trap Grounds to look for early sedge and reed warblers but had no luck and Burgess Field similarly had just the usual chiffchaffs, willow warblers and blackcaps. I haven't mentioned butterflies yet but there were quite a few orange-tips about and a few days ago I saw my first speckled wood and small white.

Friday 13th April

After the excitement of a county mega yesterday in the form of a black-winged stilt at Pit 60 (see Gnome's Birding Diary), it was back to the reality of patch birding today. It was in fact quite a nice sunny spring morning when I went for a morning run to see what was about. I say "run", though I found that I didn't have much energy this morning so there was a lot of walking instead. Anyway, it was all the usual stuff about today though with one new arrival and it's little things like that which keep one going when patch birding.

On the floods there was a single LITTLE EGRET, the two OYSTERCATCHERS and a handful of golden plover. Ducks were reduced to a few lingering wigeon and teal, with still good numbers of gadwall and the ROSY-BILLED POCHARD adding a splash of the exotic. Overhead the local RED KITE was mobbing an interloper buzzard. Burgess Field had the usual chiffchaffs and blackcaps and I heard at least three willow warblers on my travels.

The highlight of the trip occurred in the Hinterland when I heard the distinctive call of the first YELLOW WAGTAILS of the year and then soon after found a flock of five in amongst the cattle. It was lovely to see them all in the their smart adult plumage. In the autumn of course there are a lot of juveniles going through but these spring birds all looked very smart. I came across a few more further around on my journey so the final tally was eight birds. White wagtails are coming through in numbers on Farmoor now so with any luck we should get one of these beauties soon as well.

As usual I only had my point & shoot camera with me on my run which typically means that I produce a heavily cropped and rather grotty wagtail photo. So here instead are a couple of cows with a small yellow wagtail blob next to them. At least this shows where you typically find these beautiful birds on the Meadow. I'll take my super zoom camera out at some point in the near future and will try to get some proper shots.

Wednesday 11th April

Firstly some late news from yesterday when Steve Goddard reported 14 RINGED PLOVER (a patch year tick) in with the golden plover yesterday evening.

Things are rather quiet around the county just now with the northerly wind putting a damper on migration efforts so that birds are trickling rather than flooding in at present. This is also reflected in the birds on the Meadow with not a great deal to report. In a late afternoon visit today I found 2 OYSTERCATCHERS, 2 SHELDUCK, a dozen or so gadwall, the 2 PINTAIL still around (persumably non-breeders) and a STOCK DOVE was taking a drink briefly by the flood shoreline. There were still a surprisingly large number of golden plover about with at least 600 present today. A few swallows were around including some which looked to be settling locally rather than just passing through. I also had the pleasure of my first HOUSE MARTIN of the year with one passing over the boat moorings, flashing its white rump against what was a steely grey sky. Sydney Penner also reported a DUNLIN and 3 LITTLE RINGED PLOVER earlier on today though they didn't appear to be around by the time I visited.

Swallow by the boat moorings

Tuesday 10th April

A mid morning run around the patch today found the floods nicely topped up after all the recent rain. They are looking very empty now with only a few lingering teal, wigeon, shoveler, gadwall and of course mallards now hanging about. The two OYSTERCATCHERS are still about but I didn't spot any other waders though without my scope I could well have missed the odd little ringed plover. Apart from that a LITTLE EGRET was the most noteworthy bird on the floods. Burgess Field was equally quiet with no new warbler species in though the chiffchaffs and blackcaps are now well established. I did come across a single STOCK DOVE, a kestrel was knocking about and it was nice to see the two green woodpeckers alive and well. Three swallows zipping over the Meadow itself were a welcome sight.

Fledglings are now starting to appear in the garden. There was a young song thrush fluttering about earlier and sadly our cat brought in the body of a recently fledged robin.

Saturday 7th April

Mary Gregory writes:
"I was in the Meadow this afternoon. The fancy pochard was still hanging around with other ducks near the BF main gate. There were two REDSHANK along with the familiar two LITTLE RINGED PLOVER and two OYSTERCATCHERS as well as massed ranks of golden plover. I did not see a ruff. I noticed one gadwall and a number of shovellers but did not trawl through the ducks."

Friday 6th April

It was quite a nice spring morning when I went for my run today though later it clouded over. The usual birds on the floods (2 LITTLE RINGED PLOVER, 1 RUFF & the usual ducks) were made more interesting when I spotted this chap over near the Burgess Field gate.

Thanks to an OxonBirds posting by "crossleymh52" who spotted the bird up at Wolvercote, I can tell you that it is a ROSY-BILLED POCHARD, a native South American species. I wish that I could tell you that it has somehow battled it's way over here from that continent but unfortunately it's more likely to have escaped from Mr. Branson's Kidlington wildfowl collection. Still it's a very smart looking bird, looking like a dark grey tufted duck with a shelduck's beak stuck on the front. I must confess that when I first saw it I did think that it might be some kind of hideous hybrid though it would make for a rather unlikely combination now that I think about it!

I spent some time in Burgess Field checking out the warblers and was very pleased to find my first WILLOW WARBLER of the year on the Patch (though Sydney Penner spotted the first one about a week ago). In addition there were quite a few singing blackcaps and chiffchaffs. I also heard a swallow and a martin sp. go over though I didn't see either.

I am also pleased to be able to report a goldcrest tick for the patch finally as Donald Degenhardt reported a pair in St. Peter's churchyard in Wolvercote over the weekend.

Wednesday 4th April

First thing this morning I popped in to St. Sepulchre's cemetery on Walton Street. The patch year list is still missing goldcrest and this seemed a likely spot. For those who've not visited, it's a lovely place with a wonderfully peaceful and run-down feel to it. There was evidence that someone had been at work there with a host of bird nest boxes having been installed since I last visited. Unfortunately I couldn't find any goldcrests though a party of three bullfinches was a nice consolation.

My late afternoon visit to the Meadow coincided with several showers and a brisk wind so I didn't stay too long. It was very much the same birds as of late with 3 LITTLE RINGED PLOVER, the 2 OYSTERCATCHERS, the RUFF and a huge flock of flighty golden plover (1000+). Interestingly I couldn't see the redshank anywhere and the ruff was only seen in flight so they may have all been hiding somewhere out of the wind. Gadwall numbers had increased to about a dozen and the last two PINTAIL were still about. A STOCK DOVE flew over, the nuthatch was calling in the usual place and the RED KITE was about as usual.

A grey heron has been frequenting the gardens of Walton Manor of late: I heard it this morning whilst topping up the bird feeders and a neighbour across the road said that she'd seen it on several occasions checking out the ponds on her side.

Tuesday 3rd April

I decided on a mid-morning run around the patch today before the forecast afternoon rain came. It was the usual stuff about this morning with waders represented by a couple of LITTLE RINGED PLOVER, 1 RUFF, 3 REDSHANK and 2 LITTLE EGRETS all along the North Shore. On the duck front there were a couple of lingering PINTAIL still and a handful of gadwall worthy of note. The nuthatch is still singing away down by Medley Farm. The highlight of the morning for me was my first SWALLOW of the year zipping over the Hinterland.

I took this picture of a soaring buzzard a couple of
days ago. It was rather high up so it's not a great shot.

Monday 2nd April

Another nice spring day though not as warm as it has been. There are still plenty of interesting birds around to see on the floods though as yet nothing to get too excited about. Pick of the bunch was 5 LITTLE RINGED PLOVER along the North Shore, together with a supporting cast of 1 RUFF, 1 REDSHANK, the 2 OYSTERCATCHERS still and a single LITTLE EGRET. On the duck front the 5 or so gadwall are still around and there are one or two lingering PINTAIL still about. A common buzzard was soaring overhead and the nuthatch has been calling away regularly over the last few days from around Medley Farm. On the Castle Mill Stream there was a single LITTLE GREBE still about. I keep forgetting to mention the STOCK DOVES which fly over in ones or two quite often when I visit.

The Little Egret this morning

Sunday 1st April

A composite list of sightings today from myself and Richard Foster
5 gadwall

I also had my first comma butterfly of the year in the garden.

Saturday 31st March

Mary Gregory writes:

"Quite a good show in the Meadow this afternoon. Two HOUSE MARTINS and a SWALLOW were circling high above, then moved off, but later there were five house martins. On the flood five LITTLE RINGED PLOVER, two OYSTERCATCHERS, three REDSHANK, 60-70 golden plover, two SHELDUCK still,one drake PINTAIL, two GADWALL, one LITTLE EGRET, one grey heron plus plenty wigeon, some teal and a small number of black-headed gulls and lesser black-backed gulls. And the kestrel yet again in BF. A few days ago there were a pair of green woodpeckers in BF and some yaffling. Let's hope they are planning to nest."