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