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

Friday 10th March

It's been a productive few days on the Patch as far as the year list goes with a few ticks to add to the collection. Firstly, a RUFF and four DUNLIN dropped in on Tuesday though while the Ruff only stayed a couple of days the Dunlin were still about today. With a couple of small groups of BLACK-TAILED GODWITS also about (three on Wednesday and two today) as well as the currently resident OYSTERCATCHERS it's getting quite "wadery" these days.

The first Ruff of the year
On the duck front, winter duck numbers are dwindling noticeably. There are still four SHELDUCK about and today we had a pair of PINTAIL as well as three GADWALL, the latter being a species that drops in here just in the spring. GOOSANDER are still coming into roost but we're down to just a handful these days.

The other two ticks that we had this week were a LITTLE EGRET working its way along the ditch that runs along the west side of Burgess Field and at last a GREAT CRESTED GREBE. This latter species is normally a nailed-down certainty on the Castle Mill Stream or the Thames itself but has been most conspicuous by its absence this year. However one flew in and settled on the floods briefly this evening. Let's hope that it finds the local area to its liking and stays put.

6th March - Mediterranean Gull

As I mentioned in my previous post, early March is MEDITERRANEAN GULL passage time in the county and sure enough just two days later one was found on the Meadow. Pete Roby visited the Meadow this morning and found a splendid adult bird though it soon flew off. Later in the day Peter Law visited and managed to re-find it (or another one) though that too flew off before I could pay a visit. I was left searching through the hoards of Black-headed Gulls in the evening roost in the biting westerly wind though to no avail. 

Med Gull courtesy of Pete Roby
Other birds of note were the usual four OYSTERCATCHERS and four SHELDUCK.

4th March

Well, that's February out the way at last. It's a tricky old month: the heady excitement of the new patch year list has long faded and there are no migrants yet so there's not much to keep the interest going during this month. I've found over the last couple of weeks that most days the biggest excitement is merely the exact counts of OYSTERCATCHERS, SHELDUCK and GOOSANDER (in case you're interested it's generally 4 to 6 for the first two and anything up to 10 for the last one). 

There have actually been a couple of new year ticks since my last posting: Mary MacDougall heard a CURLEW flyover (on a day when one was also seen at Farmoor) and Tom Wickens spotted a single DUNLIN a couple of weeks ago. Apart from this a couple of BLACK-TAILED GODWITS, a flock of 160 Golden Plover and the occasional appearance of the usual REDSHANK have been the only other wader sightings of note.

The gulling has been predictably hard of late. I had one false alarm on the Caspian Gull front though Ian Lewington soon put me straight. Now that we're into March it's the Med. Gull passage season so it's time to start scanning through those Black-headed Gulls. With the first Sand Martins seen in the county today, it's also time to starting looking out for their arrival on the Meadow. It's all about to kick off!

The two recent Black-tailed Godwits