Monday 27th April

Definitely a cooler feel to the weather today. The floods are looking very empty now with just a handful of straggler ducks and gulls left on it though the three EGYPTIAN GEESE are still with us and one of yesterday's two COMMON SANDPIPERS decided to linger another day. The Reed Warbler is still singing away in the Trap Ground reed bed and Liam Langley and James Evry came up trumps this afternoon with a SEDGE WARBLER singing in a ditch near Burgess Field. It's great to get this warbler on the list finally - it should be really straight-forward but somehow we've been struggling. They also had a HOBBY in Burgess Field, another year tick. Finally, the CETTI'S WARBLER was reported again today so it's still hanging around. 

The one remaining Common Sandpiper
So two more year ticks under the belt. We just need Lesser Whitethroat on the Warbler front now whereas for the waders we might reasonably expect Greenshank, Ruff, Grey Plover and possibly Bar-tailed Godwit and Wood Sandpiper still.

With regard to the Whimbrel count, Peter Law commented that when he came to look on Thursday there were just two birds and that a flock of 18 was seen flying high over Standlake later on that same day. So it's possible that two of the 18 split off and came back whilst the main flock went on over to Standlake (though that's not exactly due north of here). Anyway, it was great to see such a large flock on the Meadow.

Sunday 26th April

Well, so far no sign of the Purple Patch that I was forecasting on Wednesday but there's been a steady trickle of new year ticks over the last few days. I heard the first REED WARBLER of the year in the reedbed of the Trap Grounds and finally managed to find a couple of singing GARDEN WARBLERS of my own in the Burgess Field as well. The GRASSHOPPER WARBLER along the canal has been hanging around and may even decide to stay, though sadly there have been no further reports of the Cetti's. As reported previously, there are loads of WHITETHROATS back in Burgess Field now.

The floods have had a reprieve thanks to the reasonable rain that we had over the weekend and with the forecast looking a little more wet over the coming week we may stave off the inevitable for a few weeks yet. The EGYPTIAN GEESE have been lingering, clearing finding the grass by the floods to their liking. On the wader front we've had a couple of LITTLE RINGED PLOVERS and one OYSTERCATCHER still hanging around and this evening the first two COMMON SANDPIPERS of the year finally turned up - I've been expecting them for a couple of weeks now. A couple of COMMON TERNS were hanging out on the floods yesterday - actually sitting on a large stone in the middle of the flood water in the evening and this evening Steve Lavington found four YELLOW WAGTAILS.

James Evry managed to find a CUCKOO up near Godstow yesterday, a most welcome find of what is sadly becoming an increasingly rare bird in this country. Finally I had the first SWIFT of the year soaring over my house this evening.

The two Common Terns yesterday evening
Sharp-eyed Adam Bassett pointed out that there are actually 20 Whimbrel in Roger Wyatt's flight photo that I posted yesterday. I can confirm that there were only 18 on the deck when I went to see them so I presume that 2 decided not to stop off.

Thursday 23rd April

Another couple of year ticks today thanks to Steve Goddard who found a GRASSHOPPER WARBLER in a field by the canal and also three EGYPTIAN GEESE on what's left of the floods (it's depressing how quickly they're receding now). I'm very pleased that we've managed to get the Warbler on the year list after missing out on it last year. I remember how only a few years ago we'd have at least four singing males in Burgess Field each summer so it's sad how they've suddenly declined. The Geese are a good find as well as normally we've had to rely on the leucistic "ghost Goose" to get this on the list. Also present were two LITTLE RINGED PLOVER and two RINGED PLOVER early afternoon (reported by Steve Lockley), and just one OYSTERCATCHER and a single COMMON TERN. There were at least six Buzzards and two Kites all soaring in a thermal over Wytham Wood late afternoon. Burgess Field is full of Whitethroats now all staking out their territories. Mary MacDougall also reported quite a few Garden Warblers there as well.

My attempts at photographing the Egyptian Geese were lamentable so instead here are some proper photographs of yesterday's Whimbrel, taken by camera god Roger Wyatt

Wednesday 22nd April

I'm back from my travels now. The only news that I heard of since my last posting was from Mary MacDougall who found the first GARDEN WARBLER of the season in Burgess Field.

Today Roger Wyatt came up trumps when he found a flock of 18 WHIMBREL which flew in whilst he was there and settled at the north end of the floods. This species is less than annual on the Meadow so I hurried down to see them as soon as Roger contacted me. Apart from that there were two LITTLE RINGED PLOVER and two RINGED PLOVER as well as two flocks of YELLOW WAGTAILS that went through, totally about a dozen birds between them. House Martins were gathering mud from the flood margins so must be nest building now.

Just some of the eighteen Whimbrel

We're fast approaching the Patch Purple Patch - the peak time for spring migration when birds come through thick and fast. It's an exciting time of year which requires multiple daily visits to the Patch as often birds don't linger. It's often during this period that we get things like Wood Sandpiper, Grey Plover and also Whimbrel. It doesn't always happen: last year it never occurred at all but I'm optimistic for this year. The floods are looking good for it though in this hot weather they're receding fast and we really need some rain to top them up. So it's time for all our Patch Watchers to be extra diligent and to get out there!

Friday 17th April

It's been relatively quiet over the last couple of days by recent standards. The BLACK-TAILED GODWITS are still with us and indeed their number has now swelled to eight birds. A couple more COMMON TERNS were seen yesterday and Dave Doherty had the first WHITETHROAT of the year yesterday as well. A couple of YELLOW WAGTAILS flew over yesterday morning and Steve Lavington had another WHEATEAR as well. There have been between two LITTLE RINGED PLOVERS and 1 RINGED PLOVER with us for a couple of days, 1 to 3 OYSTERCATCHERS still and up to 5 SHELDUCK are still lingering. Mary MacDougall heard the CETTI'S WARBLER again so it's still with us.

I've been rather neglecting the fleur du jour section this year so to make amends
here's an Early Dog Violet hiding on the bank next to the allotments
I'm going to be away for a few days but do please keep sending me your sightings or post them to Going Birding. Don't find anything too good whilst I'm away though!

Wednesday 15th April

Our BLACK-TAILED GODWITS decided that they wanted to stay another day and in fact their numbers even went up to 6 today. Steve Lavington found our second WHEATEAR of the spring this morning and the CETTI'S WARBLER was reported again, this time in a slightly different location from before. Apart from that there was one LITTLE RINGED PLOVER, one RINGED PLOVER, one DUNLIN and the usual 2 OYSTERCATCHERS and 3 SHELDUCK.

In other locations Sedge Warblers have now arrived though last year we found it very difficult to get this species. Let's hope that this year is better for them.

One of the two "resident" Oystercatchers

Tuesday 14th April

It was another good day on the Patch. Pride of place goes to a CETTI'S WARBLER that Mary MacDougall found though I'm not going to be specific about its location on the off chance that it might breed. This species was last seen on the Patch several years ago when a singing male stayed for a couple of weeks so it's a very good record and indicative of the recovery of this species which was all but wiped out in the county during the harsh winters of a few years ago.

Also worthy of note was the first COMMON TERN of the year that Steve Lavington found on the river.  A flock of five BLACK-TAILED GODWITS dropped in mid morning on the floods and stayed for the rest of the day. This species is a regular visitor to the floods but it was still great to see them. Apart from that there were 2 OYSTERCATCHERS still, just a single SHELDUCK, 1 LITTLE RINGED PLOVER and 1 DUNLIN on the floods. There were lots of WILLOW WARBLERS singing away on Burgess Field today as well.

A rather distant shot of the five Black-tailed Godwits

Monday 13th April

Today was a WILLOW WARBLER day with three found in Burgess Field this morning by Mary MacDougall and there were at least two late afternoon when I went to visit. It's wonderful to hear their cascading song again in the hedgerows and bushes. In fact one bird ended up singing repeatedly from the same tree that was used as a song post last year in a spot where they bred. I don't know whether it's likely to be the same bird or just another one that finds the spot just as appealing but anyway it was lovely to see and hear.

Apart from that there was a single REDSHANK, 2 OYSTERCATCHERS, 2 SHELDUCK and two LITTLE RINGED PLOVERS to report. Mary also had four Buzzards circling over Burgess Field later afternoon and the Red Kite was about as usual.

Rupert Higgins reported three RED-CRESTED POCHARDS on the floods yesterday (two drakes and a female). Interestingly a group of the same composition was seen today at Rushy Common so it may well be the same birds moving about.

Singing Willow Warbler

Sunday 12th April

It's been another excellent couple of days on the Patch with three more year ticks to add. On Saturday morning Steve Lavington got the first YELLOW WAGTAIL of the year and three more were reported on RBA in the afternoon right up at the north end near the Trout. Today late afternoon I was very excited to find a SANDERLING in the Plover flock near Burgess Field only to discover when I got home that Phil Barnett had actually found it an hour or so earlier on. I couldn't really complain though as Phil also had a couple of fly-over adult MEDITERRANEAN GULLS - I'm really pleased that we sneaked these on to the year list right at the end of the spring passage. SANDERLING, is a less than annual vagrant on the Patch so a great year tick. We sometimes get them but usually much later on in the spring passage.

Over the weekend there's been a lovely mixed flock of LITTLE RINGED and RINGED PLOVERS feeding along the shoreline by Burgess Field gate and the allotments so a great opportunity for some close views. The exact composition of this flock varies as birds come and go but this evening there were five Little and one Ringed Plover with the Sanderling hanging out with them as well. 

Rounding off, up to three OYSTERCATCHERS are still about and up to five SHELDUCK. There was also a lovely flock of at least 10 SWALLOWS all feeding over the Meadow in the Hinterland area on Saturday - so this species is properly "in" now.

The Sanderling

Friday 10th April

Another day of nice weather though there wasn't as much action on the migrant front as yesterday. The GARGANEY was around for his third day and there's been no report of the one at Stratfield Brake so it's certainly possible that it's the same bird. There was just one REDSHANK left this morning and three SHELDUCK so some movement on with both those species though the two OYSTERCATCHERS were still about. There were two LITTLE RINGED PLOVER by Burgess Field gate this afternoon - I don't know if they're the same ones as yesterday or a new pair. In addition Steve Lavington saw a third bird land briefly and then fly off again almost immediately. There were a few SAND MARTINS, HOUSE MARTINS and Swallows heading north late afternoon. The highlight of the day was the first WILLOW WARBLER of the year, found be Pete Roby.

The Little Ringed Plover was right by Burgess Field gate this afternoon so
I was able to get a better photo than previous efforts.

Thursday 9th April: Wheatear & Redstart

You know that things are hotting up on the Meadow when I do three blog posts in three days! One forgets just how exciting it is at this time of year as new birds start appearing on a daily basis. In fact there was a steady stream of news from the Patch all day. 

It all started with a quick visit first thing this morning where I found the drake GARGANEY still present. What's more I clearly heard a PHEASANT calling from across the river behind the farm - a long overdue year tick. The 3 REDSHANK and 5 SHELDUCK were still about and a LITTLE EGRET was hunting near Burgess Field gate.

Mid morning I got a call from Dave Doherty who'd just found a COMMON REDSTART in Burgess Field. It's always great to get this hard to come by species on the year list for Port Meadow though we've been lucky over the last two or three year with them.

At around midday I got a text from Mary MacDougall to say that there were now two Garganey on the floods with a female having joined the male.

I went out again late afternoon where I met Steve Lavington who'd seen two LITTLE RINGED PLOVER though they'd not stayed long. The three OYSTERCATCHERS were also about but there was no sign of the female Garganey with just the drake still present. I went for a wander through Burgess Field to look for the Redstart but there was no sign of it nor anything else of note apart from a few singing Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs. I ended up walking back around the west side of the floods where I managed to spot a female WHEATEAR as she landed on the shoreline and started feeding. To round things off a single SWALLOW and two SAND MARTINS flew over the floods.

So an exciting three year tick day (Pheasant, Wheatear and Restart). It's all kicking off!

The Wheatear

Wednesday 8th April: Garganey

I'd been coveting my neighbour's GARGANEY: a splendid drake had turned up at Stratfield Brake just north of the Meadow and had been showing off to all and sundry for a few days now. So when Matthew Southwell reported one on Port Meadow on the Going Birding site early afternoon today I didn't need much prompting and hurried down to see for myself. It was easy to find, hanging out at the southern end of the floods and dabbling away happily. I don't know if this is actually the same bird as the Stratfield Brake one - the latter hasn't been reported today as I write this though it may just be that no one has looked. Wherever it was from, it's always a splendid sight to see and a most welcome addition to the year list.

The drake Garganey

Other birds present today were the usual 3 REDSHANKS, 3 OYSTERCATCHERS (the usual pair and a singleton), 6 SHELDUCK, 3 SWALLOWS and my first HOUSE MARTIN of the year and another Patch year tick. There were also two Buzzards and a Red Kite soaring in the afternoon thermals whilst I was there.

Steve Lavington found a couple of LITTLE RINGED PLOVER on the floods this evening. We're starting to amass a reasonable tally for this species now.

Tuesday 7th April

Spring is really kicking off now that we've into some warmer and more settled weather. I finally managed to see some Swallows for myself today when two pairs zipped north whilst I was out on the Patch late morning. I've personally yet to see any Sand Martins and we've yet to have the large counts at Farmoor that we usually get in Spring. Perhaps with this good weather we'll get a wave of them coming over now.

There have been quite a few Osprey sightings over the last few days including one that was following the Thames north from Farmoor so no doubt it flew past Port Meadow though sadly it passed through unseen.

On the floods today were 3 REDSHANK and 3 SHELDUCK though no sign of the Oystercatchers whilst I was there. The first Mallard ducklings are now on the water and looking very cute though their parents seemed quite content to let them wander off on their own so I hope that they aren't picked off.

Spring duckling on the Castle Mill Stream

Thursday 2nd April

So here we are in April already. It's been a predictably quiet March with just the first smattering of spring migrants to keep one interested. Talking of which Adrian Gray found the first SWALLOW (for the whole of the county actually) when he saw one zipping north along the river on the 31st March and Steve Lavington added a second one yesterday. There have been a few more singing Chiffchaffs around and there was another LITTLE RINGED PLOVER on the floods today, in the same place as the last one along the "North Reach". Apart from that it's been the usual REDSHANK in numbers varying up to a peak of 7, SHELDUCK (up to 10) and OYSTERCATCHERS (usually 2 but sometimes 3). There was a nice flock of 80 odd Golden Plover this evening in transitional plumage. On the duck front numbers are definitely dwindling now though a group of Gadwall have now turned up as they do each spring, (up to 7). Two drake GOOSANDER were also still hanging around this evening.

So now that we're into April it's time to look out for the rest of the warblers as well as some spring passage waders. Let's hope that we have a better selection than last year which was very poor.

Not something that you see every day but it gave the Meadow a sort of "Lord of the Rings" feel and it was nice to listen to the music whilst scanning the floods

Mary MacDougall also saw 7 Sand Martins and 1 Swallow during an hour long stint standing by Burgess Field Gate. In addition she's seen a couple more Swallows over the last few days.