Sunday 21st September: update from the North

Adrian Gray up in Wolvercote recently reported the following:

Nothing much to report on the Thames at the moment, though I did spend  an enjoyable five minutes or so watching the LITTLE EGRET manically splashing round this morning - I think there must have been a shoal of fry about, because it was like a cat on a hot tin roof! Haven't seen any  of your Yellow Wagtails (mostly because I haven't looked...), but have seen a number of Grey Wagtails this week, especially up by Godstow Lock.

Popped into the Gullet tonight for a few minutes, and got a couple of surprises. There's at least four small ducks in there which I think are Wigeon but round the back was the unmistakeable conks of two Shoveler

The first Wigeon of the season on the Gullet, courtesy of Adrian Gray

17th September

The high pressure system has continued to dominate our weather over the last week though it's not been quite as sunny as previously. The lack of change in the weather is mirrored in the birding which is sadly still pretty minimal. Even the Lapwings and Yellow Wagtails seem to have deserted us though the latter could be hanging out at the north end with the cattle. The most exciting birding at present comes about when you manage to find a roving feeding flock, usually along the Castle Mill Stream. There then follows ten or so minutes of intense birding, following every movement to see what it is. The usual mix is Long-tailed, Blue and Great Tits with several Chiffchaffs and perhaps a Goldcrest or two - sadly I've not had any more Flycatchers so far.
I bumped into a local birder who reported a couple of WHEATEARS (the first of the Autumn) and a PEREGRINE over the last week. There's also been a single LITTLE EGRET knocking about on the river.

Castle Mills Stream Moorhen
Even the mothing has gotten rather quiet of late - the cooler and clearer nights making for smaller catchers.

This Small Ranunculus has been the pick of the moths over the last week for me
I'm still trying to get to grips with the local flowers and plants though of course it's now getting late in the season but it gives me something to look out for on my daily walks.

I'd thought that I re-introduce the occasional Flower du Jour - this is Black Nightshade,
so called because it's mature berries are black
So we're very much waiting for some decent rain and a return of the floods. Of course last year we lucked in on a Yellow-browed Warbler in the autumn despite the lack of water. It would be great to have something similar grace our Patch to keep one's interest during this lean period.

9th September

September has started with a nice period of high pressure, giving us lovely Indian Summer days. Nevertheless there are definite signs of autumn where ever you look. On the Meadow, the usual non-water autumn birds are starting to accumulate with the Linnet flock now numbering about 50 birds, quite a few Meadow Pipits and between 20 and 30 Lapwings loafing around most days though I've not seen any more Golden Plover. We've been getting good counts of YELLOW WAGTAILS of late with up to 30 of them seen in recent days. Hirundine numbers seem to be reducing as birds start to move southwards and there are still plenty of Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs in the hedgerows. There are plenty of Hawker dragonflies about at present with Southern Hawkers buzzing around in various locations including my garden. Along the Castle Mill Stream there are a couple of Migrant Hawkers  along with a single Brown Hawker though the Damselflies have now gone.

Migrant Hawker - on the far side of the Castle Mill Stream

Various exotic fungi are now starting to appear in Burgess Field, some of which have great names.

Lawyer's Wig...
...also known as Shaggy Ink-Cap
Weeping Widow (probably)
Of course there are lots of spiders around at this time of year as well with the Garden Spider the most common species in our garden present.

Garden Spider - the white cross on it's back is very distinctive
The highlight since my last posting though was a TREE SPARROW that was seen briefly by Steve Goddard in his Wolvercote garden. Whilst in days gone by this species used to breed on the Meadow in abundance now they're never normally seen there. The Tree Sparrow Project run by the Oxford Ornithological Society is making great strides in turning around the fortunes of this delightful sparrow and they are now starting to spread, often along the Thames so it's possible that we may get a colony re-appearing at some point. In the mean time this is a most welcome year tick in what are lean times on the floodless Patch.