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!