Tuesday 30th October

The Meadow continues to play host to a good variety of winter birds. The duck are still around in about the same number and there is at least the drake PINTAIL about still though I haven't seen the female for this last couple of days. The huge golden plover flock is still there together with its hangers-on DUNLIN (12 yesterday still though only 6 today) and there are still plenty of SNIPE about too. The REDSHANK is still present and now there are two RUFF though no sign of the godwit. Unfortunately there have been no further reports of the short-eared owl so it may well have moved on. The gull roost continues to grow in number with the odd YELLOW-LEGGED GULL the pick of the bunch. Along the Castle Mill stream this morning there were several redwing enjoying the large berry crop.

Jarrod Hadfield reported a 3rd winter YELLOW-LEGGED GULL, 2 grey wagtail and both PINTAILS on the floods this morning.

Sunday 28th October

I had a mid-morning visit to the Meadow today to see if any of yesterday's waders were still around. The Meadow is on top form at present with conditions ideal for both ducks and waders and loads of birds to be seen. It's great to have a good bunch of waders around again after quite an absence: there was a single BLACK-TAILED GODWIT, 1 RUFF, 1 REDSHANK, 12 DUNLIN, plenty of SNIPE and the huge golden plover flock. In amongst the usual ducks were the first two PINTAIL of the season and three gadwall. All in all a great selection of winter birds

Shoveler at sunset
This poor Goldfinch was looking very poorly in my garden today. I took it inside and put it somewhere dark and warm to see if it would recover but sadly it died a few hours later 

After my recent posting about birds that we still needed for the year list Steve Goddard e-mailed to say that he remembered seeing a TAWNY OWL back in May in his garden and that he hears them calling regularly throughout the year. So that's another one for the list.

Saturday 27th October

I wasn't able to get out until last light today. There was a decent sized gull roost though without my scope I wasn't able to give them the grilling they deserved. However I did hear the piping calls of a REDSHANK. In Burgess Field there was no sign of the owl tonight thought I wasn't able to stay quite as late as I would ideally have liked.

Jodie & Joe from Wolvercote reported (via a comment on this blog - thanks very much!) a handful of BARNACLE GEESE on the floods at around midday today as well as a pair of GODWITS and a RUFF. They also reported the leucistic EGYPTIAN GOOSE which has been in amongst the greylags down at the southern end of the Meadow for several days now.

Friday 26th October

I ended up paying a couple of visits to the Meadow today as I've done something to my back which requires lots of walking to try and loosen it. Making the best of the circumstances I thought that I'd check for the Barnacle Geese this morning though at 9 a.m. there was no sign of them. By way of compensation though I did spot a splendid adult YELLOW-LEGGED GULL loafing on the North Shore with some Lesser Black-backed's. The golden plover flock seems to have grown even more in numbers and the 6 attendant DUNLIN are still there. SNIPE numbers continue to remain much smaller in the absence of any mist. There were a few flocks of fieldfares going over as well as some light skylark passage. No news on the SE Owl so far though if anyone sees it this evening I'll update this entry accordingly.

This morning's adult Yellow-legged gull - the first of the season here.

Thursday 25th October: Short-eared Owl & Barnacle Geese

The weather has started to change today: it's still cloudy but the wind has picked up and blown away the mist. This made the visibility better than of late for my afternoon visit to the Meadow where I met up with Tom Wickens. On the wader front there were still the 6 DUNLIN on the far shore with the 1000+ golden plover and the CURLEW was still around. Without the cover of the fog there were noticeably fewer SNIPE though a few dozen still lingered along the soggy North Shore. The gull roost was average with nothing of note. Tom and I ventured into Burgess Field where we had some good albeit brief views of the SHORT-EARED OWL hunting actively over the fields. As it got dark I had to leave but Tom stayed a bit long and managed to see a flock of 20 BARNACLE GEESE come in to roost at last light. It's always hard to know the provenance of such birds but they are most likely from one of the feral flocks in the surrounding counties. Apparently some of these flocks are deigned by the BOU to be self-sustaining and therefore Category C birds (i.e. tickable) though quite how one tells when they're away from their usual haunts is anyone's guess. Anyway, I've got no qualms about ticking them for the year list as at least with that flock size they're unlikely to be escapees and with the Port Meadow total so low this year I need all the ticks I can get!

I tried to take some video footage of the hunting owl but the combination of the poor light and the fast moving bird meant that I got no where with it. Instead, here are some much more static fungi to contemplate. I've not idea what species they are but of course at this time of year there are loads of interesting ones springing up all over Burgess Field.

Wednesday 24th October

The weather has been the same for several days now: a blanket of white cloud and misty with very little wind. This afternoon once more there were loads of birds to sift through with even more golden plover (1200?), now with 6 DUNLIN in attendance, at least 100 SNIPE (probably a lot more but they're so well hidden and hard to pick out in the mist at a distance) and hundreds of wigeon, teal and shoveler. A reasonable gull roost once more held a few COMMON GULLS and greater black-backed gulls in amongst the usual throng. I did a quick tour of Burgess Field as the light started to fade but there was no sign of the owl though a fly-through PEREGRINE was some compensation.

Tuesday 23rd October: Short-eared Owl

Suddenly the Meadow has got "birdy" again. It's almost like a switch has been flipped: the dull, damp conditions and the rain has softened up the surrounding grass and the patch is now alive with birds. There are of course the usual winter ducks: the wigeon are widely spread out along the North Shore and the Hinterland with the teal and shoveler dabbling along the margins. The golden plover flock is still about one thousand strong with the striking grey-toned bird still in amongst them. Suddenly we've got waders again: there have been two or three DUNLIN in amongst the plover flock, yesterday there was a REDSHANK with them as well and today there was a CURLEW on the Hinterland. It's also SNIPE city out there at present with the boggy conditions attracting at least 100 birds along the North Shore.

There was a good gull roost tonight with 8 COMMON GULLS in amongst them (all adults apart from one first winter), 1 greater black-backed gull and a couple of herring gulls in amongst the lesser black-backed contingent.

The pride of place however goes to a SHORT-EARED OWL sighting in Burgess Field, seen independently by myself a couple of days ago and Alexander Martin today.

A couple of action snaps of the Golden Plover in flight - these shots belie just 
how gloomy it actually was out there this evening.

Sunday 21st October

It's been a very quiet week on the Meadow. The floods continue to extend with the rainy weather but are still attracting just the same birds albeit in increasing numbers. So good numbers of shoveler, teal and wigeon, golden plover, lapwing and plenty of geese about. On the passerine front pied wagtails, linnets and meadow pipits are still around in reasonable numbers.
Mid-week I went for a run and managed to spot a rather interesting plover in amongst the large (1000+) golden plover flock. It looked remarkably grey-ish (though clearly not a grey plover) and appeared to have a rather attenuated look to it though I only had my bins and my point & shoot camera with me at the time.

Here's my P&S record shot: it's the right-hand most bird in this photo.

Given that we have had American Golden Plover on the Meadow a few years ago I gave it as good a grilling as I was able to with my bins but decided in the end that it was just a rather oddly coloured standard Golden Plover - for one thing structurally it looked identical to the surrounding birds. A couple of days later I re-found it when I had my scope and bins and managed to get some footage. I also saw it in flight where it clearly had white underwing coverts which confirmed it as not a "lesser golden plover" of any description. Still it at least gave me something to think about.

youTube have done some post-processing to the video to brighten it up a bit which is why the colours are all rather strange. You can see that the bird stands out in being remarkably un-golden though it's not an American Golden Plover. 

Today, due to family commitments I wasn't able to get out until it was nearly dusk so I thought that I'd have a wander around Burgess Field to see if I could find the barn owl that had been reported there recently. I had no luck with the owls though I did find 5 SNIPE whilst tramping around and spotted my first flock of REDWING flying around. It was also great to see the geese flying in at last light. The gull roost is still rather modest though it's early days yet.

Monday 15th October

After my week away I was keen to get back to the patch to see how it was faring. Remarkably, there'd been no reports from the Meadow whilst I was away and I wondered whether this was because no one had bothered to visit or whether there was nothing to see. After my visit today I realise that it was more likely to be the latter unfortunately. The floods themselves are nice and large and looking good but at present they are rather birdless. The usual winter ducks of wigeon, teal and shoveler are all present, there were a few groups of gulls loafing around, mostly black-headed though with a few lesser black-backed in amongst them. The golden plover flock was looking very healthy with about 750 birds I estimated, and there were a few lapwing scattered around. There are plenty of linnets, the odd meadow pipit is still about as are the pied wagtails. So all the usual "default" birds but little else. Still, soon the clocks will go back and then the gulling season begins - perhaps that will turn up something of note.

Friday 5th October

All quiet on the western front still: Jarrod Hadfield checked out the Meadow this morning and apart from the usual golden plover, lapwings and ducks the only bird of note was a WHEATEAR with even the dunlin and the godwit having moved on.

I will be away for a week from tomorrow Saturday off birding down in Cornwall. This will give you all the chance to grip me off so please do take this opportunity to check out the Meadow and Burgess Field. If you're particularly keen then obvious patch year ticks that we still need include Stonechat, Knot, Spotted Redshank, Tawny Owl, Rock, Water & Tree Pipit and Redstart.

I'll still post updates to the blog remotely so please either e-mail me your sightings or post them on Going Birding or add them as a comment to this message. If you feel so inclined you can follow my Cornish exploits on my Cornish blog: Pendeen Birding.

I leave you with this lovely Chestnut moth which I caught in my trap in my garden this week.

Thursday 4th October

I haven't been able to get out to the Meadow for a couple of days now as I've been fighting off (unsuccessfully) a cold that the rest of the family has kindly passed on to me. However, after a couple of days of taking it easy I was getting a severe case of cabin fever so this morning went for a brief visit to the Patch in the autumn sunshine. The floods are looking very healthy now with all the recent rain having done its trick and are starting to push out from their narrow channel again back towards the river area. This all looks great for waders and as well as the ever-increasing golden plover flock (now about 300 birds) there was a single DUNLIN and a juvenile BLACK-TAILED GODWIT to show for my efforts. The usual winter ducks are looking nicely settled in though I expect numbers to increase steadily over the next month or two.

Lapwing are often neglected but they're lovely birds. I did have a picture of an Avocet, taken from the OOS Bulletin which had been reported as being at Port Meadow. Unfortunately, this actually turned out to have been at Radley so I've had to remove the retrospective tick.