Monday 30th December

My final visit of the year to the Meadow found it back in full-on Lake Mode after all the recent rain. The waters were about in line with the north end of Burgess Field and there wasn't really any dry strip along the river shore at all. The ducks seemed happy enough out in the middle and there was a good count of PINTAIL (about 20), quite a few Gadwall and a couple of Red-head GOOSANDER to add some variety to the usual species. The gang of four REDSHANK were hanging out by their favourite tree stump opposite the poplars as they usual do when the floods are this large. At least the Meadow is going to start the New Year with plenty of water!

Saturday 21st December

I hadn't realised quite how long it had been since my last posting until I came to do a write-up today. Sadly this has been because there's not been much of particular note to report though I've been dutifully visiting most weekday evenings to check things out. Now that it's the Winter Solstice, winter is officially here though it has been unseasonably mild and rainy of late. At least the rain has has topped the floods up which are now back to a healthy size.

On the bird front the DUNLIN have been a regular feature with five present more or less constantly since my last posting and a RUFF sometimes about as well. The gull roost has been moderate in size with nothing of particular note apart from a few YELLOW-LEGGED GULLS this week. Today Tom Wickens reported a couple of SHELDUCK which are new in.

In the last few weeks I've also had reports of three REDSHANK, a female GOOSANDER coming in to roost and a JACK SNIPE that was lurking along the west shoreline until Matthew Foster disturbed it. Adrian Gray also reports three GOOSANDER up in Wolvercote in the Gullet as well as a couple of Blackcaps in his garden. I too have had a couple of these charming warblers briefly in my garden of late.

Monday 9th December - Iceland Gull!

The Meadow gull purple patch continues! This evening there was a very smart 1w/juvenile ICELAND GULL in the roost. It looks like the same bird that Ian Lewington found yesterday afternoon at Didcot though Roger Wyatt found a second bird today, again at Didcot. There was also an adult YELLOW-LEGGED GULL - the first that we've had for a little while now.

The Iceland Gull was a real cutie!

Some video footage

On the wader front there were a couple of hundred Golden Plover though some over-zealous photographers managed to flush most of them. I did notice a rather interesting very pale, plain bird in amongst them though structurally it was identical to the other birds and so it certainly no more than an aberrant European Golden Plover. There were also four DUNLIN knocking about tonight.

The aberrant Golden Plover

Friday 6th December - Caspian Gull

I'd not been able to get to the Meadow the two previous evenings so I was keen to see what might have changed since my last visit. The answer was not a lot though there were now 6 or so DUNLIN and Mary Gregory reported a couple of REDSHANK and a LITTLE EGRET about earlier before one of several rampant dogs chased them off. The gull roost was once again a relatively modest affair though a smart first winter CASPIAN GULL was nice to see. That's now the third Caspian in eight days that we've had - a real purple patch! It's interesting though that Yellow-legged Gulls have dropped right off - I've not seen one for a while now.

A grab of the 1w Caspian Gull...

... and some video footage of the same bird

Another interesting gull in the roost was a large first winter bird with rather pale frosted primaries. Ian Lewington reckons that it's probably just a rather pale argentatus though there is also the possibility of a Viking (Glaucous x Herring hybrid) back cross.

The Herring Gull with a possible Glaucous influence in there somewhere

Tuesday 3rd December - Mediterranean Gull

The gull roost was disappointingly small this evening with remarkably few large gulls and no sign of the Caspian from yesterday. There were quite a few Black-headed Gulls about with a nice first winter MEDITERRANEAN GULL in amongst them. Apart from that there were four DUNLIN, a REDSHANK (reported by Mark Ribbon) and a smattering of Golden Plover. The floods are starting to recede a little now as it's been a few weeks since the last serious rainfall. A little top-up wouldn't go amiss.

This evening's Med Gull

Monday 2nd December - Caspian Gull

It's still rather quiet on the Meadow. Over the weekend there was a RUFF on Sunday and the DUNLIN count has gone up to six birds today but it's generally the same birds doing the same thing. Of late the only variation comes in the lucky dip that is the evening gull roost. Today came up trumps when in amongst a rather small gathering was a beautiful adult CASPIAN GULL. Unlike the slightly dodgy eastern one last week this one really looked the part and because of the small numbers in the roost I was able to enjoy wonderful unobscured views of this handsome gull.

What a cracker!

The light was just about good enough for an actual photo rather than a grab. 
Fortunately it was standing rather still as the shutter speed was only 1/20 sec.

Thursday 28th November - Caspian Gull

As you will have noticed, I've not posted anything for several days. It's not been for want of trying but there hasn't been that much to report with basically slight variations of the same birds all week. The highlight on the wader front was a second RUFF which appeared on Monday though by Wednesday we were back down to a single bird again and this evening it too had gone. By way of compensation though the DUNLIN count has gone up to five birds. The Golden Plover seemed to be around less, though I don't know whether it's because they've been disturbed prior to my last-light visits or perhaps they've just found somewhere else for now. Duck numbers continue to be solid though the Pintail seem to have moved on. Even the gulling has been somewhat disappointing up until today with rather small numbers in the roost. I presume that this is because of the relatively settled weather which has meant that the gulls could linger for longer in the fields or tips during the day before going off to roost. There have been a few YELLOW-LEGGED GULLS each evening but little else of note.

Tonight finally I did find a noteworthy bird in the roost in the form of an adult CASPIAN GULL. It certainly wasn't a classic "Pontic" (western) bird and had a lot of black in the primaries but according to Ian Lewington it more or less falls within the acceptable range for the darker winged eastern European birds. As Ian points out, there's a lot of interbreeding in amongst eastern birds with crosses between Caspians, Yellow-legged, Herring and even Lesser Black-backed and these hybrids often then going on to breed themselves. So, not a classic bird and perhaps there's a bit of a hybrid in there somewhere but it's nice to have such an interesting bird in the roost.

Some video of the bird preening, revealing the primary underwing pattern

...and a grab

Sunday 24th November

Family commitments meant that I wasn't able to visit the gull roost on either day over the weekend but I did manage a Sunday morning walk around the Patch. At the Trap Grounds I met up with Mary Gregory who was explaining about all the work that is going on there to turn the place into a better habitat. It all sounds very interesting and I look forward to seeing how it will all turn out. One noticeable improvements already from this year has been the addition of the wild Thyme and Marjoram in the open area which was an absolute magnet for the butterflies and bees this summer.

Burgess Field, which I haven't visited in a long while, was as birdless as ever though there was a nice flock of about 30 Redwings in the north east corner. On the floods themselves it was a case of the usual suspects in the usual places though today there was more of interest on the wader front with the discovery of one REDSHANK, the 3 DUNLIN still and a now RUFF as well hanging out near the Golden Plover flock (the latter now numbering about a thousand). The floods are looking pretty good now so with any luck they might all stay a while and might even attract some more waders in. Other birds of note this morning were a single drake PINTAIL and an adult YELLOW-LEGGED GULL amongst the loafers.

The cheery Wigeon, often overlooked but they are lovely birds with a 
wonderful "surprised" call.

Friday 22nd November

I've been laid up with a nasty cold for the last few days so haven't had a chance to visit the Meadow. Today I felt a bit better and so braved the cold weather in the company of Liam Langley to see what was about. The answer was pretty much the same birds as usual. The Golden Plover flock is currently half the size that it was at its recent peak, numbering about 750 birds and today there were 3 DUNLIN keeping them company. The usual ducks are there in their usual numbers with two pairs of PINTAIL being noteworthy. The gull roost was reasonable this evening with a very high percentage of large gulls - I don't know where all the Black-headed Gulls had gone. There were at least 8 YELLOW-LEGGED GULLS in amongst them, mostly adults though with several third winters as well.

This rather petite Yellow-legged Gull is probably a female

Sunday 17th November

It's been a rather quiet few days. I've been diligently checking out the Meadow each evening though it's basically been the same birds in the same numbers since my last posting. Each evening there have been a few YELLOW-LEGGED GULLS in the roost and I'm pleased to report that large gull numbers are continuing to increase and that we're now basically up to full strength in terms of numbers. The Golden Plover flock still numbers well in excess of one thousand birds and a very impressive sight they make when they all take to the air at once.

Tonight there was finally a little bit of variety when Andy Last paid a visit to the site. He managed to turn up a smart adult MEDITERRANEAN GULL in amongst the Black-headed Gulls though unfortunately a couple of people chose to take a walk right along the west shoreline and managed to put up all the gulls so it had gone by the time I'd arrived. Andy also reported four PINTAIL (two drakes) and an adult YELLOW-LEGGED GULL and there were a couple of REDSHANK knocking about as well.

The adult Mediterranean Gull (c) Andy Last

Wednesday 13th November

I wasn't able to get out for "last orders" on the Meadow so instead I opted for a post lunch visit. I must admit it was a pleasant change viewing the birds in bright sunshine as opposed to the usual twilight gloom. It was pretty much the usual fare: there were only 2 DUNLIN instead of the impressive 25 from Monday, the Golden Plover flock is still somewhere between 1 and 2 thousand birds, sadly still with no American interlopers, there are good numbers of the usual duck about and a sprinkling of Lapwings. All in all a very pleasant winter birding scene though with nothing rare to add that extra frisson.

Liam Langley managed to add an adult YELLOW-LEGGED GULL and 3 PINTAIL to the tally in an evening visit.

Walking back along the Castle Mill Stream I came across this heron. I didn't think that I'd be able to get very close before he flew ...

...but in the end he allowed me to get within five yards without flying off.

Monday 11th November

The Meadow really is getting into its stride now and is in fact now on top winter birding form. The continuing rain has increased the floods still further and it is now heaving with birds again. The Golden Plover flock is at least 1500 strong and today there were about 25 DUNLIN in amongst them - a very large count by Oxon standards. Duck numbers are very good with now about a dozen Shoveler as well several hundred Wigeon and Teal. The gull roosts are now finally pulling in reasonable numbers of large gulls. On Saturday there were three YELLOW-LEGGED GULLS though some walkers managed to put up the entire flock rather early on.

This evening, this gull caught my eye though as you can see from the above grab it was nearly completely dark by the time I found it so videoing it was not much use. I decided to try a still photo instead and with the ISO cranked up to 3200 and the exposure up 3 notches I managed to get the following shot with a shutter speed of 0.8 secs!!! Fortunately the bird was standing very still.

I'm amazed at how well it turned out. You can even see the large white mirror and the small white tip on the P10 primary underside that marks this out as an adult Yellow-legged Gull.

There are a few Caspian Gulls now knocking about the county with an adult roosting at Farmoor tonight so one could easily turn up on the Meadow. Finger's crossed!

Thursday 8th November

Much more settled weather this afternoon on the Meadow. There was a bit of interest on the wader front in the form of a REDSHANK along the North Channel - the first I've seen this autumn though Steve Lavington reported one last weekend. The Golden Plover were absent apart from a flock of about 100 circling high over head though a passing dog walker did report that the huge flock from yesterday was still about first thing this morning. The gull roost was still relatively modest, at least as far as large gulls was concerned though once again there was an adult YELLOW-LEGGED GULL in amongst them. There was also an interesting Herring Gull which had pure white primaries, at least on one side; on the other side the outer ones were white but the inner ones were black. Liam Langley also reported fly-over a TUFTED DUCK - not such a  common bird for the Patch.

Aberrant Herring Gull:  Left primaries are pure white...

 ...whereas the inner two are black on the right side

Wednesday 6th November

It was gloomy and rather breezy for my late afternoon visit to the Meadow today. When the weather is poor I always like to wonder whether some rarity has been grounded there just waiting for me to find it - though as usual I was disappointed in that respect. Whilst there was nothing rare at least the Meadow was incredibly "birdy" today. There were at least 1500 Golden Plover and it was quite a task sifting through them all especially given how poor the light was. Duck numbers were sharply up again as well with at least 500 Wigeon and a good number of Teal as well. Even the Shoveler count had gone up to about a dozen birds now. The only disappointment was the gull roost which was surprisingly moderate given the conditions though I did at least manage to find one smart adult YELLOW-LEGGED GULL, a different individual from last night's bird. The tertial white-tipped 1w Lesser Black-backed gull was back for the third night as well.

Tuesday 5th November

The Meadow is taking on more of its winter mantle as each day progresses. Thanks to the continuing rainy weather the floods are increasing in size though they are still some way off their ideal size. The usual birds are about in increasing numbers and finally we're starting to get a proper gull roost again. There have even been some waders to report over the last week with Steve Lavington finding a REDSHANK over the weekend and today there was a single winter-plumage DUNLIN in amongst the Golden Plover, the latter numbering about 500 birds today. There now are several hundred Wigeon and Teal as well as a decent smattering of Shoveler.

Today in the gull roost I managed to find about 120 large gulls, mostly Lesser Black-backed though with a few Herring Gulls and the first YELLOW-LEGGED GULL of the season in the form of a distinctive adult with a deformed upper bill.

You can't really tell from this rather poor grab of the Yellow-legged Gull 
but the upper bill is overly long giving it a sort of hooked appearance

This distinctive 1w Lesser Black-backed Gull with unusual thick white tips to the tertials has been present for the last couple of nights in the roost. The length of its primary projection lead me to wonder whether it might be a candidate "Baltic Gull" (l. f. fuscus) but according to Ian Lewington they're almost impossible to ID in the field at this age unless they happen to be ringed.

I heard the Medley Farm NUTHATCH piping away this week as well - it's nice to know that it's still around.

Tuesday 29th October

The so-called Great Storm of 2013 (see here) proved a bit of an anti-climax, at least here in Oxford but it did at least provide a nice top-up of the flood waters which are now looking not quite so anaemic. Ideally though they still need to be much bigger so that the birds aren't so easily flushable and to start attracting a decent gull roost. Nevertheless they are getting quite "birdy" now with good numbers of Wigeon and Teal and today the first few Shovelers appeared as well. Golden Plover numbers are fluctuating on a daily basis with a peak count of about 200 recently. The only gulls roosting so far are moderate numbers of Black-headed Gulls though I hope that this will change in the next few weeks. The Jericho Red Kite has been knocking around again recently - it was over my house today and was seen from the Meadow by Steve Lavington.

The first Shoveler of the season

So we're getting back into typical winter birding on the Meadow. As always anything can turn up but realistically perhaps the most likely good bird might be another American Golden Plover - last year's bird was found at the end of October so fingers crossed. Apart from that it's probably going to be gulls that keep us occupied over the next couple of months: November and December are the easiest months for finding Caspians as other large gulls are very streaky-headed during this period.

Wednesday 23rd October

After the (relative) excitement of the start of the week it's been a bit disappointing since then. Sure we now have some flood waters but after the birdy start to the week, numbers have dropped off somewhat. Most of the Wigeon have stayed away though there have been a few birds about though at present they are outnumbered by the Teal. A dozen or so Golden Plover have been hanging around as well as modest Lapwing counts. The highlight over the last few days has been a single DUNLIN (the first proper wader for some time) that has been hanging out with the Goldies.

I also forgot to mention a PEREGRINE that was flying around on Monday buzzing the assembled birds on the floods.

Monday 21st October

The near continual rain has meant that the floods are growing on a daily basis at the moment. This was just what incoming wintering duck were looking for and on Sunday evening Steve Lavington reported about 200 Wigeon and Teal. This morning I went for a quick look and the Meadow was positively awash with birds. There were at least 200 Wigeon, a similar number of Mallard and perhaps 50 or so Teal. What with all the feral geese flocks and quite a good number of Black-headed Gulls, it was a great sight to behold after these lean times.

I went back in the evening for a proper look only to discover that the combined efforts of some dog walkers and some kids in wellies had pushed quite a few of the duck off though they were gradually coming back whilst I watched. In terms of a gull roost there were perhaps 1500 Black-headed Gulls but only two Lesser Black-backed Gulls. A small flock of about a dozen Golden Plover were flying around but didn't appear to settle. The most interesting bird was a rather strange RED-CRESTED POCHARD hybrid. Superficially looking like a female of that species I initially thought that it was the Farmoor bird popping over for a visit but whilst the head was pure RCP the body was out of proportion to its head looked much more Mallard like, including a Mallard tail. If anyone else has any thoughts on this bird then do please let me know.

The strange Red-crested Pochard/Mallard hybrid (well at least that's what I think)

One further snippet of news, Mary Gregory reported a single SNIPE in Burgess Field.

Sunday 20th October

I'm pleased to report that the Meadow finally has some flood waters back on it again. Still only modest in size, nevertheless they are growing gradually thanks to the rather showery conditions of late. At present there are two pools:  one by the Aristotle Lane exit and a long thin one along the North Channel. The water is starting to attract the birds again with Golden Plover, Lapwing and Black-headed Gulls all hanging out in the vicinity. Indeed, the Meadow is even starting to get a bit "birdy" again. Golden Plover numbers have been building progressively but this morning there was a sudden leap from around 100 birds up to about 400. The Linnet flock is now about 100 birds and a few days ago I counted about 50 Meadow Pipits. The first few winter duck are starting to arrive with up to 5 Teal loitering along the Castle Mill Stream and this morning what looked liked 3 Wigeon did a flying circuit of the area before heading off.

In addition to the general background picture, there are some more specific sightings to report this week: the mixed mongrel goose flock of 4 BAR-HEADED GEESE and 6 WHITE-FRONTED GEESE were back in amongst the feral Greylags this week. Some of the White-fronts look rather hybridy and I wonder if they're not White-front/Bar-headed crosses. These are definitely not wild birds but still nice to see this group back again.

Some of the Bar-headed and White-front Geese

The highlight of the week must go to a lovely MARSH TIT that was hanging out along the Castle Mill Stream this morning near the north end in the Hawthorns. It was calling periodically and seemed to be feeding on the Hawthorn berries. Marsh Tit is not that common on the Patch and are generally reported less than annually though we have already had one this year. As this species is fairly sedentary, I imagine that the sightings that we get are first winter birds moving out from Wytham Wood to find territories of their own. There were quite a few other birds about in the same area including a Tree Creeper and I heard a Coal Tit calling across the river.

As it was very mobile, it was hard to get a shot of the Marsh Tit but eventually it 
stayed still for long enough for me to get this record shot.

Saturday 12th October: Yellow-browed Wrap-up

Sorry for the slow update but I've been away down in Cornwall (you can see how I got on here). I meant to do an update on the YELLOW-BROWED WARBLER before I left but in the end my preparations overtook me. The star Warbler was seen again on Friday throughout the morning though at lunch time there was a sudden torrential downpour which seemed to move it on. After that it was only seen once late in the afternoon with a roving Long-tailed Tit flock by Mark Jennings and one other birder. It wasn't seen at all the next day. Interestingly enough a second Yellow-browed was reported at the Abingdon Science Park on the Friday having been found by some visiting birders on Wednesday. The following week one was seen at Radley in the evening though didn't stick around at all. So, just like the proverbial buses you wait ten years for one (the last twitchable one was in 2003) and then three turn up at once. Anyway, this wonderful bird certainly brightened up was is otherwise a very quiet and boring autumn for the Meadow. For those who want to read up more on it, I've written a finder's account on my personal blog.

Another cracking shot of the bird (c) Roger Wyatt

Thursday 3rd October: Yellow-browed Warbler Still

Thankfully the wonderful YELLOW-BROWED WARBLER stuck around enabling quite a few county birders to twitch it this morning . Indeed eight or so (who all bar one needed it for their county life list) were there at first light and fortunately the bird duly performed, calling frequently so that it could easily be tracked. It seemed to be fairly faithful to the pollarded Willows that line the side of the road as it leads down to the car park and would generally return there, though sometimes it would go missing for a while. The last report that I heard of was at around midday but I don't know whether anybody tried to see it later on in the day - it may well still be around.

A cracking couple of shots of the bird by Roger "gun slinger" Wyatt (c)

The early birds getting the warbler worm this morning.

Wednesday 2nd October: Yellow-browed Warbler

At last something decent to report on the Meadow! I went for my usual late afternoon walk around the Meadow, more to stretch my legs rather than in any hope of finding something decent. Still the Golden Plover numbers have gone up to 120 birds, there are also about 50 Lapwings, 75 Linnets, 10+ Meadow Pipits and at least 5 YELLOW WAGTAILS

Given the huge numbers of Yellow-browed Warblers that have been turning up along the east coast I have been scouring the trees and hedges on my walks each day, more in hope than any realistic expectation of finding one of these Siberian gems. I'd just finished my tour today and at about 5:50pm was walking up the road by the car park at the bottom of Walton Well Road when I was woken from my reverie by the unmistakable call of a YELLOW-BROWED WARBLER. I couldn't quite believe it! It flew from the trees next to the car park across the road to the Willows between the road and the Meadow. There's still lots of cover in the trees but I managed to follow it for about half an hour getting regular views as it worked its way in a circuit along these Willows, across to the trees between the car park and the Castle Mill Stream and then back into the copse of mixed trees between the car park and the road where I'd first found it. It only seemed to call when it flew from one area to the other, otherwise working silently and reasonably slowly along the trees.

I know that several keen county birders will be there tomorrow morning at first light looking for it - let's hope that it sticks around for others to enjoy.

In the fading light I had no chance of a photo so here's an absolutely fantastic shot taken by Dave Perrett (c) of one in Shetland recently. I've used photos of Dave's before (of a Pallas' Warbler) - he takes some of the best birding photos that I've seen on the internet.

Saturday 29th September

It's been another quiet and floodless week on the Meadow. We've returned to some nice warm weather which of course has done nothing for the lack of water on the Meadow. Still it's meant a bit of a reprieve for the garden mothing so there is some benefit. That's not to say that there are no birds on the Meadow. In fact there's been a steady build-up of Golden Plover, Lapwings, Meadow Pipits and Linnets all taking advantage of the plentiful supply of insects on the Meadow. There have also been up to six YELLOW WAGTAILS in amongst the cattle this week. The only water bird of note has been a single LITTLE EGRET loitering on the grass and the usual loafing Black-headed Gulls. Chiffchaffs have been moving through or joining in with the roaving Tit feeding flocks.

In my garden I was lucky enough to have a HUMMINGBIRD HAWK MOTH visit my Buddleia one day this week.

Some video of the Hummingbird Hawk Moth

Talking of moths, things have certainly quietened down of late and numbers in the trap are usually below 20 and often in single figures. Still I've managed to catch a few nice autumn species including Brown-spot Pinion, Pink-barred Sallow and the lovely gold-flecked Large Ranunculus.

Brown-spot Pinion
Large Ranunculus
Pink-barred Sallow - a classic autumn moth

In terms of what one can look forward to our best bet for a good bird lies with the possibility of another American Golden Plover in amongst the Plover flock. As far a passerines are concerned let's hope that some of the huge numbers of Yellow-browed Warblers that have hit the east coast this month will filter through to Oxfordshire. At the very least we might get a Spotted Flycatcher moving through the Patch. Fingers crossed!

Sunday 22nd September

It's been another very quiet week on the Meadow. The main point of interest have been an increase in autumn birds with Meadow Pipits numbers noticeably up and Golden Plover now up to 75 birds, often to be seen wheeling around in the sky. There were also about half a dozen YELLOW WAGTAILS in amongst the cattle today. Lapwing are also regularly hanging out on the Meadow with up to fifty on some days. The warmer weather is offering a welcome reprieve for the summer insects after the cold snap and moth numbers in the trap are up again though for me it's been the same few species of late. The highlight of the week for me was finding a CLOUDED YELLOW in Burgess Field. 

Burgess Field Clouded Yellow

Saturday 14th September

On Friday mid-afternoon I decided that I'd had enough for the week and elected to have a wander around Port Meadow to see what I could find. In contrast to my previous visit it was overcast and drizzly though with little wind to speak of. The recent rain had at least attracted a few Mallards to the area where they were rooting away in the (still dry) flood area. In amongst the feral goose flock I spotted the leucistic EGYPTIAN GOOSE - it's nice to see it again after what has been quite a while. 

The "ghost" Egyptian Goose back on the Meadow

Down towards the Poplar trees in amongst the horses there were about 20 YELLOW WAGTAILS and along the river shoreline I managed to find a wader (now sadly a rare commodity on the Meadow), in the form of a COMMON SANDPIPER. A Little Grebe was on the river though there was not much else of note apart from a handful of Mallards, a Little Egret and a couple of Grey Herons. A Meadow Pipit was also flying about - the first of what will no doubt be quite a few as autumn progresses. Towards the boats there were large numbers of Hirundines, mostly Swallows and House Martins though I did spot at least one Sand Martin in amongst them. In the drizzle they were congregating in large numbers on the two "Swallow Trees" by the boats before suddenly getting over excited and bursting off in an explosion of wings and chatter. By the old weir a GREY WAGTAIL flew over calling - there have not been many reports of this species on the Patch this year. Along the Castle Mill Stream there was a large mixed tit flock with at least a dozen Long-tailed and a similar number of Blue and Great Tits. These flocks are always worth checking out as you can get all sorts of other species tagging along though today the best I could manage was four Chiffchaffs and a Treecreeper.

One of the"Swallow Trees" with a mix of Swallows, House Martins and two Yellow Wagtails

Monday 9th September: Golden Plover

The Golden Plover are back! This afternoon on a quick end of day yomp around the Meadow I found 10 of these harbingers of autumn, hunkered down in the hollows with just their heads showing. This defensive posture was because a HOBBY had shot over moments earlier and landed on the ground before a Crow chased it off. Also of note was a LITTLE EGRET (which has been around for a while now), a Grey Heron and quite a few Pied Wagtails. I also heard at least one YELLOW WAGTAIL. What with the change in the weather and the return of the Golden Plover, autumn is undeniably here.

I hope that you can just make out some of the Golden Plover, hunkered down
 in the cattle foot holes from this rather poor photo

Sunday 8th September

Well, I'm back from my holidays (France if you're interested - you can read up on it here). The Meadow is still as dry as a bone of course which doesn't leave much scope for variety. I've visited a few times over the last couple of weeks and the main interest is still on the Meadow where there are now YELLOW WAGTAILS to be seen regularly in amongst the Cattle. They like it here in the autumn and often seem to linger for a while - a week ago I counted about 20 of them. Now that we're well and truly into Autumn on the birding front we should be expecting some migrants to be passing through and indeed last Saturday I found a lovely WHEATEAR feeding out on the dried up flood area (where the North Channel would be). This species seems to like the dried floods and when they turn up it's often in this area. The Hirundines are gathering in large flocks ready for the push southwards - there must have been at least 100 about last weekend hawking low over the grass. There is a small flock of Black-headed Gulls that are loafing out on the grass though I imagine that there's no proper roost to speak of.

With a bit of fieldcraft I was able to get quite close to the Wheatear

In Burgess Field the usual warblers are about though rather skulky. This area does look great for a Wryneck or a Shrike and since we've had two of the former species in the county in the last week or so it's worth looking out for one. Along the Castle Mill Stream I've seen a Kingfisher a few times and Roly Pitts reported one as well. Roly also managed to find a COMMON REDSTART along the Thames North of the Perch recently (with a possible second bird) - a great find and until this year a very hard species to see on the Patch though we were rather spoilt in the spring by several that stayed a long time in Burgess Field. Roly also reported a GREY WAGTAIL by the Trout Inn - I've hardly seen this species at all this year though I imagine sightings are commoner up in Wolvercote. One migrants species that we've yet to see is Spotted Flycatcher - they are often seen in the hedgerows working their way southwards on the the Meadow.

The Butterflies in Burgess Field have long gone though in the Trap Grounds the wild marjoram is still attracting a few. I'm also getting quite a few on my garden Buddleia enjoying the sunshine. On the moth front both Steve Goddard in Wolvercote and myself are busy trapping away with Steve closing in on an impressive year list of 400 whilst I'm trying to get close to 250. We are now very much into late summer/early autumn moths with Yellow Underwings dominating the trap and I had my first Sallow (very much an autumn species) as well as a Red Underwing buzzing around my window last night.

Centre-barred Sallow - very much an autumn moth

Wednesday 14th August

I did the rounds today to check out the state of the Patch and to see if there was any sign of migrant movement. Not much has really changed: the Trap Grounds pond was disappointingly empty of damsels or dragons though it was rather breezy. In one of the clearings in the Trap Grounds there is a lovely bank of Wild Marjoram which was really buzzing with insect life. I could have spent hours watching them all such was the variety. There were a variety of White butterflies, a late Ringlet, a Meadow Brown, a Gatekeeper, two Common Blues (male and female), several Pyrausta moths (both P. aurata and P. purpuralis) and quite a few Hover Flies (Sun Fly, Eristalix pertenax & Eristalix sp.).

In contrast, Burgess Field was remarkably quiet, even on the insect front and I didn't see a single butterfly. Along the river a LITTLE EGRET was a welcome sight - it's been a while since there have been any wading-type birds on the Patch. On the migrant front I did manage to find a couple of juvenile Chiffchaffs working their way southwards along the various hedgerows.

Female Common Blue

 Eristalis sp. Hover Fly
 Sun Fly

 Little Egret
 Pyrausta aurata
 Pyrausta purpuralis

I'm off on holiday for a couple of weeks so there will be no updates. Should you find anything of interest on the patch then either e-mail me or add a comment to this post.

Wednesday 7th August

I've not posted for a while so I thought that I'd do an update though to be honest there is precious little to report. The Meadow "floods" are still as dry as a bone despite the recent rain and to be honest I think that it's going to take a serious bit of prolonged raining before we have anything like a decent pool again. The area is home to a nice post-breeding flock of about 50 Lapwings which often seem to like to shelter in various holes so that all you can see is this head sticking out. There are plenty of hirundines down by the boats including quite a few juveniles - nice to see that they've had a good breeding year. The juvenile Common Terns have still been knocking around for a while by the river and there are lots of geese taking advantage of the newly grown grass where the flood waters have been.

Juvenile Common Tern

It's been good for butterflies of late - my garden has had loads of Whites passing through. I even had a brief visit by a CLOUDED YELLOW over the weekend, a lovely rare migrant butterfly that appears in modest numbers in this country each year. The second brood of Holly Blues are now out in the garden with a couple fluttering about in our Holly Tree and the neighbours' Choisya. I've been keeping tally of the different butterfly species that I've had this year in the garden as part of the Garden Moth Challenge and I've managed an amazing tally of 15 different species in what is a rather modest urban garden. Speaking of moths, now that the heatwave has passed moth numbers are back down to more modest levels but I'm still managing to catch a few dozen each night. The most interesting catch recently has been a Metalampa Italica, a micro moth that until recently was confined (as it's name suggests) to Italy though in the last ten years or so it's started to appear in this country as well. Up until June this year none had been seen in the Upper Thames recording area though suddenly in July they started to appear, including one in my garden which apparently is only the third ever record for the area.

Metalampra Italica - just starting to colonise the area

Thursday 25th July

It's been another week of lovely summer weather and the insects are certainly enjoying it. I visited the Trap Grounds and there were hoards of butterflies on the flowers there including plenty of Gatekeepers which are now out in force as well as a lots of bees.


There weren't any Brown Hawkers by the Trap Grounds pond when I visited though a Southern Hawker was buzzing around the woodland paths and there were a few Dameselflies around.

On the Meadow itself the feral geese are all grazing away on the fresh grass that has grown out of the dried up flood area. The Black-headed Gulls are continuing to loaf around there and there was a very modest roost of Lesser Black-backed Gulls on the Meadow the other evening. There were at least two juvenile Common Terns hanging out by the river with a couple of parents, presumably successfully reared at Farmoor.

One of the parent Common Terns

My garden mothing has continued to be good but not quite the high numbers of previous weeks. The pick of the crop as far as photogenic moths is concerned was probably this gorgeous Phoenix.


 With quite a bit more rain forecast over the coming days I can't help but wonder if we might get enough to have some of the floods return. Highly unlikely I know given how dry it has been but a man can dream at least!.