Tuesday 27th May: Grey Plover

At last we have a decent bird to blog about! I braved the consistently miserable weather this afternoon and in the wind and rain managed to find a lone GREY PLOVER along the North Shore feeding away quietly along the shoreline. This species is just about annual on the Meadow, usually in May though I'd thought that we'd missed our chance this year.

Grey Plover

Monday 26th May

It's been a very quiet couple of weeks hence the lack of posts here. The brief spell of hot weather a while back meant that suddenly the flood waters became covered in a green algae which certainly detracts from the look of them - I don't know whether it puts off the birds as well. After our star Avocet left there's been practically nothing of note to report at all. Last week there were a couple of LITTLE RINGED PLOVERS and RINGED PLOVERS and today there was a HOBBY chasing the hirundines in the rainy weather - presumably there aren't enough dragonflies on the wing in the rain. Even most of the loafing gulls have now left, it's all getting rather quiet as the June doldrums approach.

I have been trying to keep up my interest via the mothing but of course the weather is putting a damper on that. The highlight of the last couple of weeks was a Toadflax Brocade that I caught in my garden on the 16th. This species in the rarest category of resident moths in the UK, being present in fewer than 15 10km squares in the entire country. However it's spreading rapidly from the south and east so will probably lose this status next time they're updated. Still it's a rare moth to find in Oxon and apparently it's the first record in the VC23 recording area that my garden lies in.

Toadflax Brocade

Thursday 15th May: Avocet Still

At last (from a non-birding point of view) we are having some proper May weather. In the sunshine the floods are looking great - it's just a shame that they're not full of passage waders popping in for a rest. At least we have the AVOCET with us still to look at, still looking very much at home. Apart from the hoards of gulls, a few Mallard and a couple of Shoveler today, there's not a lot of interest to report.

The Avocet, looking very much at home still

Wednesday 14th May: Avocet

There was a welcome surprise waiting for me on my early morning visit to the Meadow today in the form of a lovely AVOCET looking very much at home on the floods and feeding away actively. This species is less than annual on the patch so it's always nice to see one and it makes for a most welcome year tick in what has so far been a very poor spring for waders. Fortunately the Avocet seemed to like the floods and stayed all day, still being there at last light for my second visit.

The last BLACK-TAILED GODWIT was still around in the morning though by the evening it seemed to have moved on. There is one LITTLE EGRET and several Grey Herons all fishing away on the floods at present - perhaps the trapped fish fry have now grown large enough to be worth catching. There are also lots of gulls around at the moment, all looking rather scruffy and strange. They spend a lot of time hawking over the river catching the hapless Mayflies as they hatch.

My second visit was to listen out for Grasshopper Warblers in Burgess Field, this being the last of the common warbler species that we still need. It seems like it's a rather poor year for them in the county but I thought that I'd make an effort to find one. Sadly I can no longer hear them unless they're very close so I'd like to put out a request to anyone with good hearing to see if they can locate one. The weather conditions should be perfect over the next few days and an evening visit to Burgess Field should find one singing away (they sound like a free-wheeling bike) from the undergrowth if they're about at all.

Monday 12th May

Sadly the Glossy Ibis wasn't seen again after Saturday though it could still be in the area so it's worth keeping an eye out in case it returns. In fact it was seen briefly over the hill at Farmoor over the weekend so it's still kicking around. This has just left us with the two BLACK-TAILED GODWITS, a single OYSTERCATCHER and a LITTLE EGRET worthy of note on the floods over the last couple of days.

However, the beauty of patch birding is that one can rejoice in minor triumphs and today I was pleased finally to find a SEDGE WARBLER on the patch. I'd more or less given up on this common warbler which seems to be getting less common by the year on the Meadow at least but this morning I found one singing away in the hedge along the southern boundary of the Trap Ground allotments just by the footpath exit gate. It doesn't exactly look to be an ideal spot for it to linger but we shall see.

In addition, Liam Langley managed to find a CUCKOO singing away in Burgess Field for a while today before it flew across the river.

The Jericho Red Kite is still around most days

Saturday 10th May: Glossy Ibis

Up until today it's been very quiet on the Meadow with just the two BLACK-TAILED GODWITS still to keep my company on my daily visits. On one day one of the OYSTERCATCHERS was back but apart from that it's just the non-breeding Gadwall who seem to have made the floods their home now and the two COMMON TERNS that were noteworthy.

However, there was a dramatic turn of events today when Cherry Robertson and Leon Kinlen found a splendid GLOSSY IBIS on the floods just north of the Burgess Field Gate at 10am this morning. It had a habit of disappearing and then returning to the floods so I managed to miss it the first time round but fortunately saw it mid afternoon when it moved to the Hinterland a couple of hundred yards north of the flood water. The habitat looks absolutely perfect for it so it may well stay around for a while - let's hope so. 

The Glossy Ibis (c) Pete Roby
In fact I've been half expecting this species for a while now on the Meadow now that they're no longer as rare as they once were. Still, this is the first record for the site and in fact there have only been four or so previous records in the county. I suspect that we may well get more sightings in the next few years, after all Spoonbills are now virtually annual on the Meadow.

Tuesday 7th May: Bar-tailed Godwit

It's still pretty quiet on the floods and the hoped-for purple patch of spring wader passage has so far failed to materialise.  That's not to say that there aren't any waders about, there are currently two BLACK-TAILED GODWITS (the original bird and a new bird) and this evening it was joined by a lovely BAR-TAILED GODWIT. This latter species is much rarer in the county than its commoner black-tailed cousin and it's a good bird to get on the Meadow. Apart from that the drake GARGANEY is till around, evidently enjoying the conditions there and last night there were three SHELDUCK.

The Bar-tailed Godwit

Friday 2nd May

The showery weather is continuing which is ensuring that the floods are well topped up though I get the feeling that this is making it less attractive for the smaller waders such as Little Ringed Plover which like a nice well-defined shoreline. As far as recent bird sightings are concerned the BLACK-TAILED GODWIT continues to look very much at home on the floods and the two SHELDUCK are still about though I haven't seen any Oystercatchers for a few days now. A LITTLE EGRET has been fishing on the floods over the last few days as well as a Grey Heron. Today there were four COMMON SANDPIPERS along the North Shore and a very late pair of PINTAIL. Two or three COMMON TERN have been seen regular on the floods though despite looking very much at home, they won't breed here as there's no where suitable for them - they may end up over the hill at Farmoor instead. 

The highlight of the last couple of days on the floods has been a very smart drake GARGANEY that has been dabbling away happily along the West Shore - the flooded grass looks perfect for this species at present. 

Drake Garganey are such smart looking ducks!
Gareth Blockely visited Port Meadow today in the morning and managed to hear a CUCKOO in Burgess Field - a very welcome year tick which I was fearing we wouldn't get as this species has been in steep decline nationally in recent years. Talking of missing year ticks I've still not managed either Grasshopper or Sedge Warbler and we're still yet to record some common waders such as Ruff, Green Sandpiper and Greenshank. In fact it's been a remarkably poor spring passage for waders so far - let's hope that it improves over the next couple of weeks.