29th December

Since my last post we've had a snowy cold snap and then a mild wet period of weather. During the cold period there wasn't much to report except for a displaced WATER RAIL along the ditch next to the Trap Ground allotments - a welcome view of what is normally such a secretive bird. I was also getting regular visits from a couple of over-wintering BLACKCAPS in my garden - always nice to see.

Female garden Blackcap
The legacy from the snow was to double the size of the floods and the decent rain since then has been enough to get the river to breach its banks. With the return of the water so too have the winter ducks come back to us. Indeed today there were more than one thousand birds, mostly Wigeon but also Teal, Mallard and Shoveller all dotted about the place. PINTAIL are back too with 16 birds counted today (mostly drakes). Yesterday we have a couple of dozen BARNACLE GEESE with us and now that we have the waters back I would expect to see the Home Counties flock pay us a visit some time soon. There was also the leucistic EGYPTIAN GOOSE a couple of days ago which was even a much-needed year tick.

Talking of geese, in my last post I mentioned the possible Pink-footed Geese sighting. Since then about a week ago I saw the feral White-fronts again on the floods (with a Bar-headed Goose in tow) and having listened to them calling as they flew in I now think that my mystery birds were probable these White-fronts rather than Pink-foots (which is much more likely anyway).

We've been getting a decent gull roost again though the best I've managed in amongst them so far has been a few YELLOW-LEGGED GULLS. With the extensive floods we might now attract a white-winger to the Patch - after all there's an Iceland Gull that's visiting Farmoor regularly.

So all in all it's great finally to have the Patch back in full working order ready for the start of the new year list.

There haven't been many photo opportunities of late but I did manage to spot this Kingfisher by the Trap Ground allotments the other day

10th December

Another couple of weeks have gone by and there's not been much change on the Meadow. The "floods" are still just about hanging on though we've still had precious little rain. In fact I'm rather hoping that all this snow will finally make a difference to the water levels once it melts.

Since I last posted the BARNACLE GEESE have been seen in the fields between Wytham and the Thames on one day. Talking of geese, I forgot to mention an interesting sighting that I had a while back: I'd just got up and had popped my head out the window to see what the weather was like when a flock of size geese caught my attention as they flew low over the neighbouring roof tops. This is nothing unusual: as we live so close to the Meadow we're always getting Greylag and Canada geese fly over the house but these looked a bit different somehow though I couldn't quite place them. I could only see them in silhouette and they just called once which made me think of Pink-footed Geese. Had they called again then I would have known for sure but as they stand they'll just have to be "possibles".

The Wytham Barnacle Geese courtesy of Gordon Gray
On the floods there has been a REDSHANK one day and we had our first proper flock of Teal with fifty birds there one day. Lapwing are the main residents there at present with numbers varying between 20 and 30 odd and there was a small flock of about ten Golden Plover in the grass just north of the boats one morning. Adrian Grey reported a few Wigeon finally up in Wolvercote so at least we can tick this species off for this winter (who thought that I would be saying that in December?). In my garden I've still been getting regular visits from my female Blackcap and talking of over over-wintering warblers, I did see a Chiffchaff in the Trap Grounds one morning.

The Kingfisher can still be seen regularly down by the river

So, all in all, still desperately quiet and we really need some prolonged rain to revive the birding at what is normally a very productive time of year.

Tuesday 28th November

The embryonic floods are still with us - we've had just enough rain to keep them alive though not to extend them to any degree. Lapwing and Black-headed Gull have making use of them with numbers of the former gradually increasing over the last couple of weeks to a count of 29 today. The highlight as far as the floods have been concerned was the arrival of a single BLACK-TAILED GODWIT today, hanging out with the Lapwing. This bird is relatively common over the winter period, being one of the four waders (alongside Dunlin, Redshank and occasionally Ruff) that often pop in during the season.

The Black-tailed Godwit was feeding very actively whilst I was there
Apart from that there has been precious little to report. Apart from the birds already mentioned the Meadow area itself is still playing host to Linnets, Starlings and Meadow Pipits. A Kestrel has taken up residence in the southern half of the Meadow, regularly being spotted on the Railway Field or near the Castle Mill Strea/Willow Walk area. One bird of note was the re-emergence of what looks like last month's STONECHAT, still hanging out near the Aristotle Lane footpath exit area.

It was nice to see the Stonechat again

In my garden there have been increasing numbers of Redwing feeding on my holly berries, a Coal Tit occasionally visiting my feeders and I've had several Blackcaps visiting (both male and female) taking advantage of some small purple berries. 

So all in all, as far as the Meadow is concerned, there is just enough to keep me occupied though we really need some decent rain to reform the floods and attract back the winter ducks (as well as the gulls of course!).

Saturday 18th November

At last we've got some water on the Meadow! Whilst at this stage they are very embryonic floods, still it's enough to attract some birds back to the area again. It was about a couple of weeks ago that some rain finally tipped the balance in the water table and a thin sliver of water was formed at the northern end as well as a small pool by the Aristotle Lane entrance. I decided to pay a visit to see whether any birds had been attracted to the area and I was rewarded with a good haul. To start with there was a mixed flock of several hundred Greylags and Canada Geese all looking very much at home. Add to the mix a large number of Starlings, lots of Pied Wagtails and a dozen or so Lapwings and it was all looking great! I was just admiring the assembled throng when a dog walker decided to walk right through the centre of them putting every last bird up! This did at least flush ten or so Wigeon which I'd not spotted (only having my bins with me) who flew around making their distinctive calls before heading off elsewhere. Finally a flock of 25 Golden Plover made a low pass over the area, the first I'd seen in a while.

Young Lapwing on the floods
I've been visiting regularly since though there's not been much else of note apart from a brief brace of Teal and some loafing gulls (mostly Black-headed with one or two Lesser Black-backed). We did get our first waders in a long while in the form of a Dunlin and a also a Redshank (found by Ton Yeh) - it's nice to have these Meadow specialities back on the patch again. There was a brief flurry of interest when Martin Gebauer found four WHITE-FRONTED GEESE, though these turned out to be the usual, somewhat dodgy feral birds that have been knocking around for a number of years. They are somewhat darker than you'd expect and on some of them the white on their faces extends further up the forehead than normal so I think that there is some mixed parentage in there somewhere along the line.

The Dunlin
The "dodgy" White-fronted Geese
Other bits and bobs to report include the Little Grebe still about on the Castle Mill Stream, a Little Egret hanging out by the river as well as regular sightings of the Kingfisher. Finally a small flock of BRAMBLING, a real patch rarity, were seen by Nick Boyd along the river on Friday. Another Patch year tick no less!

Little Egret in a tree

What we really need is a lot more rain to take the floods to the next stage because as it stands they will soon dry out again. Sadly though it's been an unusually dry autumn so far and as yet there's no substantial rain on the horizon.

6th November - Great White Egret

At last a noteworthy bird to report! Nick Boyd spotted a GREAT WHITE EGRET that was loitering briefly in the north east corner of the Meadow near Wolvercote railway bridge just after 3 pm this afternoon. Apparently it flew south over Godstow Road onto the Meadow, spent a few minutes foraging on the grass and then flew off south west.

Whilst Great White Egrets aren't the rarity that they once were and indeed look set to be colonising the country in the same way that Little Egrets did, they are still a good bird to see, certainly on the Meadow which is not really ideally suited for this species. Given our current lack of water and the consequent dearth of good birds, there's a real possibility that this could end up being our Patch bird of the year.

No photos from Nick so here's a photo of a Great White Egret that I saw recently down in Dorset

3rd November

It's been exactly a month since my last update which sadly says it all really. It's been an unusually dry October which means that there's no sign of the floods at all. Still, there have been a few bits and pieces that are worthy of note and there's a general trend of increasing winter birds about.

I've been hearing SISKINS about the place of late, a sure sign of the changing season. There was also the first Golden Plover of the autumn which I flushed from the rank vegetation at the southern end of the Meadow and a short while later I put up the first SNIPE of autumn as well. Seven Lapwing were also about today though whether they'll stay given the lack of water remains to be seen. Apart from that there are increasing Meadow Pipits about and regular Skylarks flying over though I've not really seen the Linnet flock for a while now. Whilst other locations have plenty of Redwings about, I've personally yet to see or even hear any about the Meadow though it shouldn't be long though before they're back. Incidentally, it's worth keeping an eye out for Hawfinches in amongst flying Redwing flocks as there's been a major irruption of continental birds this year with loads of sightings within the county - most unusual! The NUTHATCH is still about near Medley Farm - I heard it piping away the other day.

The under-appreciated Meadow Pipit

On the wildfowl front, the lack of water has meant that there's precious little to report. The regular Home Counties BARNACLE GEESE, which in past years have visited the Meadow each winter, have been frequenting Farmoor instead though on one occasion I did see what was almost certainly them flying over the north end before landing in one of the fields north of the A34. I spotted the LITTLE GREBE back in its usual corner of the Castle Mill Stream yesterday, so it's nice to have it around. I also saw a COOT down by the boat moorings - this is a surprisingly rare bird on the Meadow, where it's usually Moorhen that I see.

Very little to report on the gull front though there was a single COMMON GULL in amongst the Black-headed Gulls down by the river this morning.

The Common Gull
The highlight of the month, however was yesterday when I spotted a STONECHAT being harrassed by a Dunnock down at the end of the new Aristotle Lane footbridge. This species hasn't become very rare on the Meadow, ever since the very harsh winters a few years ago decimated the population and it's a real Patch rarity these days. So at last another year list tick to celebrate.

A Grey Heron skulking along the banks of the Castle Mill Stream

3rd October

So that's September finished and now that we've passed the equinox we're officially into Autumn and the nights are drawing in. There's still no flood water on the Meadow though after the recent rain there were at least a few small puddles for a few days. On the birding front there's been little of note and the most exciting event was on the 18th when I came across a very large flock of YELLOW WAGTAILS - there were at least 35 of them and it could well have been as high as 50. They were all in amongst the cattle which, unusually, were right down at the southern end. Despite carefully sifting through them all I couldn't find anything unusual in amongst them but this is definitely a record count for the Meadow at least for as long as I've been birding it. 

Just one of the big flock of Yellow Wagtails
Apart from that the most interest as far as birding is concerned is finding the roving mixed tit flocks. It's always exciting trying to pick out the different species from these fast moving groups and there are usually Goldcrests, Treecreepers and Chiffchaffs to be found in amongst them. I do live in hope of a rarer Phyllosc (that's birder talk for Phylloscopus, the leaf warbler group) one of these days. You never know!

The Long-tailed Tits usually seem to form the core of any roving tit flock
On the insect front we're at the end of the dragonfly season now though there have been plenty of Migrant Hawkers around and there are still some red Darters to be seen. 

A recent Migrant Hawker

Steve Goddard has been mothing away up in Wolvercote and in the last couple of weeks he caught the much sought after (and wonderfully named) Merveille du Jour which I went to pay homage to.

The aptly named Merveille du Jour moth

There's not much to report on the flower front either but I've been doing some more rummaging around and have managed to find some more Creeping Marshwort tucked away in various places.

13th September

Now that autumn is upon us I've been making a bit more of an effort with the patch. I've been walking over to the cattle, which are very often a fair way into the Hinterland area, to check out the YELLOW WAGTAIL. There have been up to 20 of these birds all feeding away at the feet of the livestock looking for flies that have been disturbed. The main thing that I look out for in amongst the Yellows is the possibility of a Blue-headed Wagtail. This is the continental form of this species and the past few autumns I've managed to find one. Fortunately this time around I managed to find yet another BLUE-HEADED WAGTAIL, yet again a female - the very white throat and upper breast are diagnostic for this sub-species.

Female Blue-heded Wagtail

There was a juvenile HOBBY kicking around the southern end of the Meadow for a few days last week, hunting Swallows and Martins I guess. It was nice to see this bird hanging around for a while. Lapwing numbers are still in single figures - we really need to have some more rain so that the floods reform. Meadow Pipits are back on the Meadow now and Linnet numbers are building up.

A Kingfisher down by the boat moorings

Along the Castle Mill stream there have been plenty of dragonflies with Southern Hawker, Brown Hawker and Migrant Hawker all seen as well as both red Darter species.

Southern Hawker

31st August

I can't quite believe that it's been so long since my last post, my apologies for that. The truth is that there hasn't been a great deal to post about though of course the usual insects and plants are about in the usual places and they're always nice to see.

On the bird front, without the flood water we're left looking around for scraps. By far the most interesting news was the find by Tom Bedford of a male REDSTART (a patch year tick no less) up near Godstow lock. I did go to look for it the next day but sadly there was no sign of it. Apart from that the most noticeable thing has been the shift to "Autumn Mode" in the bird world: tits are now moving around in large feeding flocks, the Swifts have left Jericho already (indeed they were gone by the start of the month) and House Martins are gathering in large flocks overhead as well. In the hedgerows there is a steady trickle southwards of juvenile warblers, mostly Chiffchaffs though I did have a Blackcap in the garden today. I've been keeping an eye out for Yellow Wagtails in amongst the livestock though I've not personally seen any so far this half of the year. On the Meadow itself the Linnet flock is already impressively large and the first Lapwings are now starting to gather in their post-breeding flock.

The first of the post-breeding Lapwings are back on the Meadow

Insects are still around in good numbers with a regular Souther Hawker dragonfly visiting my garden and in the Trap Grounds and along the Castle Mill Stream there are plenty of Common and Ruddy Darters and Brown Hawkers. I've not personally seen any Migrant Hawkers yet but I expect that they are around if one cares to look.

Male Ruddy Darter
On the plant front, the Hawthorn trees are starting to change colour already and many of the plants have gone over though there is still some Chicory and Purple Loosestrife along the river. I did have a little look for Creeping Marshwort on the Meadow itself and though it's quite hard to pick out I did manage to find a few clumps.

Creeping Marshwort - still hanging on though as the floods ended early this year there's been more competition from other plants
Looking ahead, this transition to autumn mode is going to carry on apace over the coming weeks. The next big change will be if/when the floods return: then we can expect the winter duck back as well as some lovely gulls.

Thursday 13th July

In a fit of enthusiasm I went for a run up to Godstow last weekend. I didn't take my camera so only had my phone (hence the poor picture quality) but there were a few interesting things to see along the way which I thought that I'd share. They were mostly of a botanical nature but it is July after all so there's not much else about at present.

Chicory always adds a bit of colour at this time of year

A Comma butterlfy showing the white underwing mark that gives it its name.

Good King Henry, growing by the nunnery ruins at Godstow

I hadn't realised that Himalayan Balsam grew along the riverside here. It's a bit of a pest once it gets established but I've not seen it here before

Marbled White on Black Horehound

Birthwort (nationally a rare plant) growing behind the nunnery

Monday 3rd July

I can't believe that it's been more than a month since my last posting so to all expectant readers I'm sorry about that. There's been plenty of stuff to report albeit nothing out of the ordinary. In view of the long interval since my last post I'll endeavour to do a fairly comprehensive summary of what's going on presently.

This is probably the section with least to report. With no flood waters it's really just a case of enjoying the summer visitors and following the progress of the breeding birds as they try to bring up their offspring. In fact the most noteworthy report this month was a couple of LITTLE EGRETS feeding down by the boat moorings recently. Common Tern have been feeding along the river and the usual hirundines and Swifts have been about. I've kept a look out for Hobbies but so far haven't seen any.

The two Little Egrets were catching lots of fish fry

With help from Will Langdon, we've managed to find a total of six BEE ORCHIDS within Burgess Field though the council's policy of mowing the paths at this time of year doesn't exactly help the cause. Still it's good to see this species holding its own in the reserve. It's a shame that we no longer have the Pyramidal Orchids in the Trap Grounds - there used to be quite a few of them a few years back but I've not seen any for quite a while.

Bee Orchid

One of my pet botanical obsessions is looking at weeds growing in unlikely places and the recent works down by the Aristotle footbridge, whilst being highly distruptive and leaving what is quite frankly a bit of an eye-sore in its wake, have had an effect in this respect. The imported soil that they used to construct the bank opposite Phil & Jim's school must have been full of seeds as all sorts of interesting weeds have sprung up along the bank there. I'll report more on this in another post.

The Tubular Water Dropwort is out in good numbers and I managed to find the Wild Clary down at the southern end of the flood area once again this year.

Tubular Water Dropwort

Wild Clary
As you'd expect at this time of year there is plenty of insect action. The Common Clubtail only ended up staying a couple of days but the Hairy Hawker stayed around for longer. It was great to see this latter species in the Trap Grounds as this is, to my knowledge, the first year that this species has been recorded here. In the Trap Grounds I saw my first Brown Hawker of the year today and also spotted a newly emerged Four Spotted Chaser in Tim's Pond. Ruddy and Common Darters are now also about - it's nice to have them back again.

Hair Hawker

Down by the river there has been a fair bit of Odonata action with a Black-tailed Skimmer, a couple of Emperors and a pair of Four Spots all seen. There have also of course been all the usual damselflies with Common, Azure, Blue-tailed and Red-eyed all to be found along the Castle Mill Stream along with the ever-exotic Banded Demoiselles.

Black-tailed Skimmer

On the butterfly front the Marbled Whites and Ringlets are out now, especially the latter in the Trap Grounds. I've not looked for the Small and Essex Skippers in Burgess Field yet but they should be out now too.

So all in all it's an exciting time of year with lots happening. I'll endeavour to post more frequently going forward.

Friday 26th May - Common Clubtail

There's been precious little to report on the bird front on the Meadow this week and in fact to be honest I've not actually spent much time there. I did have a PEREGRINE fly low and fast over my house one evening this week but that's been about it. On the odd occasions when I've visited the floods it's only loafing gulls that I've seen.

Today I went down to have a wander around the Trap Grounds and with this nice sunny weather it was a perfect opportunity to start looking at dragonflies and damselflies once again. In fact even as I left my house and started walking down the street a male Banded Demoiselle zoomed by, looking most incongruous in this urban setting. On the main Trap Ground's pond a male Emperor was hawking about imperiously and there were a few Azure Damselflies along the shoreline. Over at the end of the boardwalk I met Trap Grounds regular Nicola Devine who was photographing a pair of mating Large Red Damselflies. She showed me a photo on the back of her camera of a dragonfly which she wasn't able to identify. It turned out to be a Common Clubtail - quite an amazing find for the Trap Grounds! 

One of Nicola's photos of the Common Clubtail
This species is very localised throughout the country though there is a population on the Thames at Goring and each year at around this time local odonata fans make a pilgrimage there in order to try and see this elusive creature. The trouble is that whilst they emerge from the river where they spend their life as a nymph they then fly off some distance away where they pass their time hunting, often in woodland areas. It's therefore very hard to come across them after they've initially moved away from the river so to find one like this was amazing, especially as this was a long way from their traditional stronghold. In fact I only know of one other record of this species in this area, when one was found on one of the side streams near Wytham a few years back.

Nicola told me that in fact she'd seen the Clubtail in the same place yesterday as well so it seemed to have taken a liking to this spot. She took me over to where she'd seen it and sure enough, within about twenty minutes we initially got a brief view of it flying by before it settled quite close to the screen where I was able to get some reasonable photos of it myself. While we waited there was loads of bird activity in the tree in front of us with Reed Buntings, Reed Warblers, a Blackcap and a mixed Tit flock, all to be seen.

It's a shame that the angle wasn't quite right but it was a nice close view.
Whilst we were watching, a Hawker species flew by which at this time of year could only really be a Hairy Dragonfly. What's more a short while later we saw an ovipositing dragonfly on the far side of the pond which turned out to be a female Hairy. I'd not personally seen this species on the Trap Grounds before with Otmoor normally being the top site in the county to see this spring dragonfly. If you add in loads of mating Azure Damselflies and a few Blue-tailed it was a real feast of odonata action today.

Record shot of the ovipositing Hairy Hawker

For those wanting to look for the Clubtail you need to park in Aristotle Lane and then walk north along the canal a couple of hundred yards to just before the next canal bridge where you turn left (away from the canal) to enter the Trap Grounds. Head past the main pond and then turn left onto the boardwalk. Go to the end of this and then bear right a few yards to the wooden screen in front of what's known as Tim's Pond. With a bit of patience then you should get good views if it's still around.

Sunday 21st May

Thanks to the recent spell of heavy rain we've actually got some flood waters back. They are reasonably extensive though if truth be told they don't look that great, with great big lumps of mud sticking out everywhere and no proper shoreline to speak of. Still I've been checking them out this week once per day more or less and today I was rewarded with a GREENSHANK which settled on them briefly. It didn't really find them to its liking and soon left but at least that's another year tick for the patch. Sadly, with the forecast for prolonged hot weather the flood waters should soon disappear again.

Apart from that there's not been much of note. Mary MacDougall reported a male PHEASANT in Burgess Field and three singing REED WARBLERS along the ditch to the east of Burgess Field but that's about it.

Here's some video of a rather enthusiastic Reed Warbler in the Trap Grounds reed bed

Saturday 13th May

Well at least we've finally been having some rain though it is of course far too late for the completely dried-up floods. There have been a few birds of interest to keep things ticking over this last week though to be honest they are pretty slim pickings.

Top of the list is a report of a couple of CUCKOOS in the Trap Grounds last Saturday that two independent observers saw (or at least heard). It's great to have this declining species on the year list - I thought that we'd missed our chance this year to be honest. 

Another point of interest was a male YELLOW WAGTAIL that spent several days singing in amongst the patch of Docks down near the boats. It clearly had taken a liking to the spot and was trying to establish a territory but I'm sure that no self-respecting female was going to try to set up a home in such a public area and so he must have given up and moved on.

The singing male Yellow Wagtail, trying to establish a territory
I've taken to wandering along the river this week. As the river level gradually falls from the lack of rain it is leaving quite a nice shoreline and I did find a nice COMMON SANDPIPER there for my troubles. It's funny but this is usually the only species that one gets along the river shoreline - it just doesn't seem to appeal to other waders. There was also a COMMON TERN fishing on my first trip but to be honest I haven't seen many of those recently either. It is of course Mayfly season now and there are a few Black-headed Gulls and Hirundines working their way up and down the river though I've not seen many emerging flies so far. Perhaps the weather has been a bit too unsettled.

This week's Common Sandpiper

5th March

Despite the lack of floods it's been quite an interesting week. It started off quietly enough: I did a tour on Monday around Burgess Field with only a singing male Lesser Whitethroat worthy of reporting. Then on Tuesday we had a report of an OSPREY flying south from the Wytham University Field Centre. Now, just how strictly this is within the Patch catchment area is a matter of debate but in the current floodless circumstances I'm going to stretch the rules a little - we need all the ticks we can get!

Thursday was very interesting when a possible Red-footed Falcon was reported as seen sitting on the wires along the A34 as someone drove by. Unfortunately the view wasn't good enough to confirm the identification but this would be a very rare county bird indeed if it were to be firmed up.

Today (Friday) I did in fact go down to the Wytham and spent half an hour in a lay-by on the Wytham approach road scanning the hillside for raptors. I turned up a few Red Kites, Buzzards, a Kestrel and best of all a RAVEN (a Patch year tick) but nothing rarer. The Red-foot may still be around of course (if it was one) so it's worth keep a look out. From the north end of Wolvercote I did also spot a BLACK-TAILED GODWIT flying rapidly up the river.

We did get a report by Martin Frend of a Falcon this afternoon in the area though it was a HOBBY (another year tick) that flew over Godstow Abbey. He also found a COMMON SANDPIPER working its way northwards along the river shoreline.

A Common Sandpiper from the archives
Forgot to mention that I had my first SWIFTS of the year over my house today as well.

29th April

Well, thanks to what's been an unusually dry month the floods are completely gone now with just a couple of muddy puddles left. It's a great shame because now that the winds have finally shifted away from a northerly direction suddenly the waders are starting to come through the county. The absence of any attractive floods means that we can basically write-off a good dozen or so waders that we might otherwise expect on the year list. The one exception to this is COMMON SANDPIPER which, more than any other species, seems to have a penchant for the river shoreline and indeed Mary MacDougall did find one along there this week so it's good at least to bag that one. We also had a YELLOW WAGTAIL reported by Martin Frend - it's nice to get a definite sighting in addition to my heard-only record from the previous week.

Apart from that it's been all about winkling out the remaining warbler species and keeping an ear open for a Cuckoo. No luck with the latter yet but with the former we're getting there. Whitethroats are well and truly back in Burgess Field and can be heard singing from all areas. REED WARBLERS are back in the Trap Grounds with several singing males in the reed bed. In addition GARDEN WARBLERS have now returned to Burgess Field doing their "Blackcap on acid" songs from deep within the hedgerows. The record that I'm most pleased about though is GRASSHOPPER WARBLER. We didn't record this last year though I suspect that it was still present. The problem is that I can no longer hear their subtle reeling song which makes locating them really difficult. However this evening I did head out with my ten year old son for an evening walk around BF. I played him a recording of it and asked him to listen out for it. For most of the way round there was no luck but finally in the north west corner he said that he could hear it clearly. In fact he was amazed that I couldn't hear it at all, so loud was it to him. Anyway, by virtue of this proxy hearing it's going down on the list. However, if any younger birders who can still hear them want to head out one nice calm evening to Burgess Field to confirm this then it would be much appreciated.

The House Martins are back en masse now and were seen gathering mud for their nests. No sign of the Swifts yet over Jericho though it shouldn't be too much longer now. As I mentioned earlier, there are a few birds still to look out for so here's a list of what we might reasonably expect:

Redpoll, Lesser
Spotted Flycatcher
Tree Pipit
Sedge Warbler - it's amazing how hard it is to get this species on the Meadow
Egyptian Goose
Cetti's Warbler

It's getting a bit late for fly-over Osprey sightings and Lesser Redpoll is more of a winter species but there's a chance with the rest of them.

There are quite a few Common Tern to be seen, mostly along the river now that the floods have dried up

18th April

Well I'm back from my hols and sadly I didn't receive any Meadow bird reports whilst I was away. Today I went to take a look at the Patch and the very sorry state of the floods goes a long way to explaining the lack of any news. The waters are on their last legs now with the floods split into two small sorry-looking pools. The only birds that were around today were 7 OYSTERCATCHERS, a smattering of Black-headed Gulls and a few Mallards. It's all very sad and this means that we're going to have to expect a much more modest year list total this year.

Talking of year lists, I did manage to add a few things to the tally today. Firstly I found a singing male COMMON WHITETHROAT in Burgess Field. This is quite early for this species and they've not yet really arrived en masse in the county yet. Along the river there was a COMMON TERN patrolling the area - these have arrived back at Farmoor now so I was pretty much expecting one to turn up here. Finally I had a pair of HOUSE MARTINS flying over the Meadow so that's all three Hirundine species now seen.

Swallows are back on the Meadow now albeit still in modest numbers

There are still plenty of birds to look out for though we can probably more or less write off many more wader ticks. Yellow Wagtail should be any day now as well as the rest of the warblers. Let's see how the rest of the month unfolds.

8th April 2017

It's been a quiet week here on the Meadow. I usually find that when the weather is really good in spring then we tend not to get much wader migrant action here on the Patch as the birds take advantage of the good conditions just to keep on going northwards. What's more the very dry conditions have meant that the floods have been dwindling fast and there are large areas of unattractive dried mud surrounding some very "stale" water in the middle. In fact the only waders that we've had all week apart from the usual OYSTERCATCHERS have been a single LITTLE RINGED PLOVER and a couple of REDSHANK.

I wasn't able to get a decent photo of our one interesting wader this week so here's one from the archives

There's not been much about on the migrant front either if truth be told. Willow Warblers, Blackcaps and Chiffchaff have been singing away at the Trap Grounds but we've yet to have any Reed or Sedge Warblers. I did manage to hear a LESSER WHITETHROAT singing briefly as it worked its way along the Thames by Weir Cottage today. They often seem to use the river to navigate their way northwards around here and listening out in the general area of the river is a good way to find this species in spring. In fact there was a general movement through the county today for Lesser Whitethroats with ones seen at both Farmoor and Otmoor as well.

On the duck front apart from a couple of SHELDUCK there is just a very modest sprinkling of ducks still about on the floods, all dabbling away in the middle of the water now, perhaps eating the algae which is starting to build up now. The water is now getting shallow enough for the Grey Herons and LITTLE EGRETS to start assembling to pick of the fish - I've seen both species this week.

The settled calm conditions have been ideal for raptors and a pair of RED KITES have been souring regularly over the area. I wonder if they might breed this year.

Things should really be kicking off now in the county: the first Cuckoo was heard on Otmoor and the warblers will be coming back en masse now. I'm actually going to be away for a week so I'm going to rely on keen local eyes to see if they can spot the new arrivals. Good luck!

Sunday 2nd April

It's all starting to kick off already! On the last day of March I found a WILLOW WARBLER singing away in the trees by the junction between the Castle Mill Stream and the Thames. In addition, over the weekend a couple of SWALLOWS have been seen, one by Sam Jones (who also reported a LITTLE RINGED PLOVER) and one by myself. Apart from that, duck numbers are sharply down now but there were still six OYSTERCATCHERS about over the weekend and six SHELDUCK today.

Wigeon numbers are really down now

It does seem that spring is rather early this year: certainly the Willow Warbler and Swallow sightings are a week or so earlier than I would normally expect them and this theory is also born out in the mothing world where species are being seen earlier than they would normally be. Talking of mothing, I've become very much a fair weather moth'er these days but this last week there was one very good day which prompted me to dig out the old trap and I was suitably rewarded with a nice haul for March. I will post something on that separately.

One thing that I have to flag up is the state of the Meadow floods. The recent dry spell is really taking its toll on the flood levels which have halved in just a week or two. With the forecast for more settled dry weather for at least the next week I'm starting to worry that they might dry up too early to get much in the way of the spring wader passage this year. Fingers crossed for some rain soon!

Thursday 30th March

So here we are virtually at the end of the month and I've not posted for more than ten days and that really tells you all you need to know. March is a bit of a tease of a month: you get all excited by the first few migrants and then you realise that you're not likely to see anything new until April. After the excitement of the the two Plover species last time there haven't actually been any further sightings of either species this month. Instead it's been the usual mix of REDSHANK (with our core five occasionally joined by a couple of extra birds) and the odd DUNLIN or two with a peak count of six birds. Other waders have included the usual OYSTERCATCHERS with a maximum of six birds seen.

On the duck front the usual SHELDUCK have been around all month with a peak count of nine birds. A few spring GADWALL have started arriving though not yet in the numbers that we usually expect. Meanwhile Wigeon and Teal numbers have been dwindling rapidly though there are still around in reasonable numbers. 

Apart from that there hasn't been that much to report on. After our initial SAND MARTIN record I've only had one other sighting so far this month which is a bit disappointing. There have been plenty of singing Chiffchaff coming through now and my resident garden Blackcap has decided to set up territory and is singing away regularly. Next month it all really kicks off and we get the proper excitement of the arrival of summer migrants en masse. I can't wait!

One of the Oystercatchers

Sunday 19th March

At last the first migrants have started to arrive. A couple of days ago the first Little Ringed Plovers started to be reported about the county and sure enough on Friday two RINGED PLOVER and two LITTLE RINGED PLOVER were loitering along the shoreline near the Burgess Field gate. It's great to have these lovely birds back on the Patch! There were also a total of eight BLACK-TAILED GODWITS on the floods. Apart from that it was the usual SHELDUCK and OYSTERCATCHER that were about. 

Two Plovers - Ringed on the left and Little Ringed on the right courtesy of Nicola Devine (c)
On Sunday we had the first SAND MARTINS of the year on the Meadow with a couple reported by Ian Elkins. He also reported that the Black-'wits were still there as well as a REDSHANK

Rounding things off with a few bits and bobs, Duncan Taylor reported a probable PEREGRINE over the north end of the Meadow a few days ago and I've been meaning to report that over the last week or so Chiffchaff have been singing away around the fringes of the Meadow - it's all kicking off now!

Tuesday 14th March

I did the Port Meadow WeBS survey on Monday. In amongst the dwindling number of winter duck I managed to find a resting drake Graganey tucked up fast asleep, presumably resting during his migrations northwards. 

The full list of birds was:
Black-tailed Godwit
4 Oystercatcher
5 Shelduck
5 Redshank
Wigeon 783
Teal 304
Shoveler 30
Mallard 16
Coot 1
Moorhen 5
Swan 2
Greylag Goose 12
Black-headed Gull 117
Lesser Black-backed Gull 3

Today (Tuesday), there was no sign of the Garganey though SHELDUCK numbers had climbed to an impressive 10 birds, the BLACK-TAILED GODWIT was still there and a second DUNLIN had joined the first. There were also 5 OYSTERCATCHERS today. 

The floods are looking pretty good at present and we should be seeing our first Little Ringed Plovers and Sand Martins fairly soon.

Very much just a record shot of the sleeping drake Garganey