27th March

After the reprise of cold weather we're back to more seasonal fare now and indeed spring is springing all around us. The birds are all marking out their territories with their song and in general the world is a better place. I heard my first singing Chiffchaff of the year down in the Trap Grounds though I've yet to see any Sand Martins or Little Ringed Plovers sadly.

On the floods (which are looking nice and full thanks to the recent rain) duck numbers are diminishing though we're starting to get an increase in wader activity. Recently we've had up to four REDSHANK and four OYSTERCATCHERS, a couple of DUNLIN and double digit counts of Golden Plover gracing us with their presence. On the wildfowl front, whilst general numbers continue to decrease we've had a peak count of seven SHELDUCK, a single female PINTAIL and the first couple of GADWALL of the spring.

The BARN OWL was seen regularly in Burgess Field for a while by Mary MacDougall from about 6:30pm ("old money") in the evening and indeed one evening (though earlier than this) Martin Gebauer and myself saw it fly across the floods from Medley Farm over towards Burgess Field so maybe it roosts there. However, it's not been reported in the last few days so I don't know if it's still around. The Jericho RED KITES have been rather vocal of late: I've seen three together at one time and there seems to be a pair which circle the skies together.

Trap Grounds Teal

I did the final WeBS count survey of the winter on Monday. For those interested in statistical details these were the counts.
Canada Goose 3    
Cormorant 4    
Great Crested Grebe 2    
Grey Heron 1    
Greylag Goose 86    
Mallard 14    
Moorhen 3    
Mute Swan 2    
Oystercatcher 4    
Pintail 1    
Redshank 4    
Shelduck 2    
Shoveler 7    
Teal 125    
Wigeon 526    
Black-headed Gull 71    
Lesser Black-backed Gull 1

On the botany front in the Trap Grounds, the Green Hellebore is still in full flower though the Winter Heliotrope has now gone over to be replaced by emerging Butterbur flowers.

Looking ahead, we've got Sand Martins and Little Ringed Plover which should arrive any time now. There's always the possibility of a Garganey on the floods as well as more passage waders. As we move into April we should start to get the bulk of the summer visitors passing through. It's an exciting time of the year just ahead!

Tuesday 13th March

The birding on the Meadow has been rather "samey" of late. Winter duck numbers are decreasing and the gull roost is offering very meagre pickings. Still there has been a noticeable pick-up in wader activity with a recent BLACK-TAILED GODWIT, several REDSHANK and a few DUNLIN all having been seen. The highlight though was today when an AVOCET was found, initially swimming out in the middle of the floods before exploring the shore as the light started to fade. You may recall that we had an Avocet earlier in the year but that bird had been ringed and was presumed to be an escape from some collection, partly because of the strange time of year that it had been found. On the other hand an Avocet in March is much more likely to be a wild bird and indeed we've had them on the Meadow in this month in the past. This bird was also fortunately not ringed so I have no problems with adding it to the year list.

The Avocet swimming on the floods

In other news, after my mentioning the BARN OWL in my last post, Martin Gebauer had great views of it this evening hunting in Burgess Field. It appears to have been around for several weeks now so a trip there at dusk may well pay off. Talking of Owls, Steve Goddard reports that he's had a TAWNY OWL up in Wolvercote so that's now two Owls on the year list!

With the first Sand Martin and the first Wheatear of the year now both reported at Farmoor it's time to start looking out for the first migrants on the Meadow.

Thursday 8th March

So it's been a couple of weeks since the last post and we've had the "Beast from the East" come and go. I didn't bother going out that much during it but Martin Gebauer (a hardy Canadian who laughs in the face of cold!) did and reported lots of Fieldfares around as well as another sighting of the over-wintering STONECHAT in the allotment hedge. 

After the thaw I was out again and it's pretty much the usual birds that one might expect. Duck numbers are noticeably starting to dwindle now and we're starting to get out spring accumulation of SHELDUCK with a peak count of 8 birds this week. We also have the first couple of DUNLIN for the year and we still have excellent numbers of Lapwing though just modest Golden Plover counts. The highlight of the week though was our first MEDITERRANEAN GULL of the year, found in the roost this evening by Thomas Miller. March is the classic month for the Oxon spring passage for this species which is pretty much annually recorded here. However, we rarely get more than one record a year so I'm very pleased to have it on the list.

The Med Gull asleep in the roost, courtesy of Thomas Miller

One interesting thing that I need to mention is that a couple of people have mentioned a possible Barn Own sighting in Burgess Field over the last few weeks. Nothing definite as yet but do keep a look out if you're there around dusk as we've not had one on the list for a few years now.

So what can we expect over the next few weeks? Well, depending on the weather we might start to get some early spring migrants coming through with Sand Martins the first thing to expect along with singing Chiffchaffs and possibly Little Ringed and Ringed Plovers. It's still very early and it doesn't really all kick off until next month but you never know.