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.