Thursday 26th February

March is a funny old month: spring is in the air and the first birds start arriving but it can bring about a premature sense of expectation which can often lead to disappointment. This last week has been a case in point: I've been mostly focused on finding spring migrants but it has been rather hard work. I have managed to find some singing Chiffchaffs finally: one was in the Trap Grounds on Tuesday and one has been singing in the Spinney most days. In addition Ian Curtis reported a couple of Chiffies along the canal last Friday. Sand Martins, usually the first to arrive, have been notable by their absence so far. I finally managed to catch up with one of my favourite spring birds when Steve Lavington found a LITTLE RINGED PLOVER on the floods today. Fortunately it was still there late afternoon when I visited. That's about it on the spring migrant front sadly.

I was determined to take a record shot of the Little Ringed Plover today though the scope shaking wind and the extreme distance made is very hard indeed. In fact I'm amazed that this has come out as well as it has!

Apart from that it's been the usual suspects: SHELDUCK have been around in numbers varying between about six and twelve most days; the REDSHANK are still with us and have now grown to five in number and the two OYSTERCATCHERS are still about though a third bird did drop in on Wednesday. There are still plenty of Wigeon and Teal about and some Shoveler though the Pintail seemed to have moved on now.

The gull roost has been frankly pathetic the last few evenings though there were five COMMON GULLS in amongst the paltry gathering today, marking their spring passage. The first Med Gulls have now been seen in the Farmoor roost so their spring passage has now officially started as well. Let's hope for one of these on the Meadow some time soon.

It's still early days on the spring front and it will all really get going when April arrives.

Tuesday 17th March

The recent rain has topped the floods up nicely and they're looking really good now. On the bird front things have definitely stepped up a gear as spring starts to kick off. We finally had the first SAND MARTIN in the county which Steve Lavington spotted over the floods early afternoon today. Even better than that though was the pair of RED-CRESTED POCHARD which he also found. This species is less than annual on the Meadow - not surprising really as it's the wrong sort of habitat for them. Still, it's surprising how many years we do manage to have one or two pop in briefly. Sadly there was no sign of them by the time I visited late afternoon today.

There were finally some reasonable wader counts to report with 9 REDSHANK, 3 OYSTERCATCHERS and 2 DUNLIN on the floods today. SHELDUCK numbers are increasing gradually and Dave Doherty had an impressive 12 of them yesterday on the floods. The PINTAIL are still about with 7 of them today and there were four or so GADWALL about as well - the first for a while. The gull roost has been unproductive over the last few days with a COMMON GULL the only bird of note though Dave Doherty also had 2 YELLOW-LEGGED GULLS on Monday morning as well as 5 GOOSANDER. He also had a RAVEN which is always a nice bird to get on the Patch.

Up north in Wolvercote, Adrian Gray reported a Chiffchaff in his garden today. I've yet to hear one singing on the Patch but surely that will come any day now. So all in all, it's all kicking off nicely. It's such an exciting time of year!

In the absence of any decent bird photos here's a Common Quaker - the first moth of the year trapped in my garden

Saturday 14th March

It's all kicking off at last! Over the last few days there have been a number of spring migrant sightings to signal the end of the winter period. To start with Dave Doherty had a heard-only RINGED PLOVER on the Meadow on Thursday as well as spotting a couple of DUNLIN. On Friday Erik Sandvig found an AVOCET on the floods late afternoon. This is a great record as this species is certainly less than annual though we were lucky to have on about this time of year last year.

Erik's Avocet
To cap it all, early afternoon today James Evry has the first LITTLE RINGED PLOVER of the year, along with 5 REDSHANK, 2 OYSTERCATCHERS, 8 SHELDUCK and 3 PINTAIL. I visited late afternoon but the LRP had gone and I could only add about 25 Golden Plover to the tally.

The first Wheatears have also now hit the county though strangely enough we've yet to have any Sand Martins. This time of year is always very exciting as we welcome back our summer visitors.

Tuesday 11th March

For some time now the bird activity around my garden has stepped up a gear and all the males are now busy marking their territories with their singing - always such a joy to hear. Even the Jericho Red Kite has been very vocal of late, calling away as it wheels about over my house.

Today, as it was a gorgeously sunny spring morning, I decided to take a late morning walk around the Patch to see what I could find. There were quite a few spring flowers out in the Trap Grounds, including the first Colt's-foot, Winter Heliotrope and Lesser Celandines. A Tree Creeper was working its way up the trunks and Buff-tailed Bumblebees were on the wing. Winter Thrushes were noticeable by their absence - I found one Redwing today and that was it.

Buff-tailed Bumblebee on a Stinking Hellebore flower
Winter Heliotrope
Over on the Meadow the winter duck were dabbling about happily enough though it seemed to me that there were fewer in number than in previous weeks. There were still a couple of SHELDUCK and half a dozen or so PINTAIL about and also two REDSHANK near Burgess Field Gate - it's nice to see some waders again after what's been quite a while. With the first spring migrants now arriving in the country it shouldn't be too long now before we get our first Sand Martins and Little Ringed Plovers on the floods. Talking of the floods, whilst they're looking great at present they definitely need a bit of a top-up otherwise we will lose them all too soon so a few spring showers wouldn't go amiss.

The only news on the Year List front is a Kestrel, found by Mary MacDougall on Burgess Field a couple of days ago. Also Steve Goddard also had a fly-over CURLEW at the Trap Grounds, the day after I saw my bird last week.

Tree Creeper

Tuesday 4th March

Two posts in two days - things must be hotting up! Indeed there was a reasonably long list of "birds of note" to report today from my late afternoon visit to the Meadow. Top of the bill goes to a CURLEW that flew over calling. This species is a bit less than annual on the patch (we didn't get one last year for example) so I was very pleased to hear it's plaintive call and then to spot it flying about. It did circle once and I thought that it was going to land but sadly it didn't. Yesterday's OYSTERCATCHER was joined by a second bird which was nice to see. Also of note were the usual suspects: 6 SHELDUCK, 7 GOOSANDER and 6 PINTAIL this evening.

The gull roost was a rather modest affair with only a small number of larger gulls. It's a shame as I'm really hoping for a white-winger this month. Indeed a 2w Iceland Gull was seen at Didcot today so there's at least one in the county. Whilst there was nothing of note in the roost tonight, yesterday evening I had an intriguing gull which superficially looked like a 1w Caspian though it's scaps were so dark and coarsely barred that apparently (according to Ian Lewington) it can best be described as "having some Caspian parentage". We are very much getting to that time of year when all the good gulls get taken and we are left with the weirdo "unmateables".

Poor video grab - it's got something of a cachinnans about it but there's too much wrong with it!

Monday 3rd March

Another week has gone by and it's been pretty much the same birds in the same location thought that sadly is rather to be expected at this time of year. To be more specific, a few SHELDUCK, PINTAIL and GOOSANDER have been the main birds of note on the floods this week along with the usual Wigeon, Teal, Shoveler and Mallards. However, it's hasn't entirely been uninspiring and there are a few year ticks to report. First up Adrian Gray came up with two LITTLE EGRETS on the "Top Pond" on the 1st of the month. Secondly, also up in Wolvercote, Steve Goddard had a couple of RAVENS fly over "Wolvercote Lake" on the same day. Lastly, Liam Langley found the first OYSTERCATCHER of the year on the floods today. 

Talking of the year list, we've now nearly at the start of the spring migrant passage and we still have the following species outstanding: Kestrel, Nuthatch, Pheasant, Redpoll, Ruff, Siskin and Jack Snipe. The latter is unlikely now - it's not been wet enough for the pools to form in their usual location so we'll have to wait until autumn now.

The gull roost have been relatively modest though I must confess that I've not been visiting as often as I would like of late. Today was a bit better than usual though a couple of walkers did manage to put up half the flock this evening. Nevertheless we had the first adult YELLOW-LEGGED GULL in a long while and a few COMMON GULLS signalling the start of the spring passage for this species. As we move into March things should start picking up with a passage of Mediterranean Gulls also to be expected as well as straggler large white-wingers moving back northwards. What's more the Common Gulls might just bring with them a Ring-billed Gull - one can always hope!