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!
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.
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
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
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
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.