Wednesday 30th May: Red-necked Phalarope!

Even though we're now right at the end of May as we've still got water on the floods I've been dutifully visiting the Meadow every day to see what's about. There's been precious little to show for my efforts up until now though over the last few days there had been a pick-up in RINGED PLOVER numbers with 7 seen yesterday as well as 6 OYSTERCATCHERS.

Today I wasn't able to visit until the early evening but it was soon apparent that there'd been a mini fall of waders with several dozen dotted about the floods, all disinclined to continue their migration due to the relatively poor weather conditions. However, the highlight and what will almost certainly end up being the bird of the year was a wonderful adult summer plumaged RED-NECKED PHALAROPE that was swimming about and feeding energetically in the middle of the water at the north end. This species is nationally scarce with just a handful of records across the entire country each year though they do breed in small numbers in the outer Hebrides. What's more it's just the 5th or 6th record for the county and certainly the first ever record for the Meadow, so it's quite a bird! I put the word out and over a dozen people came to see it before it grew too dark. 

As conditions were decidedly gloomy and the bird was rather distant, 
this video footage was the best that I could manage

Unusually, for this species it's the male which incubates the eggs and is consequently more drab and this smart bird is therefore probably a female.

Alongside the Phalarope were numerous other waders. The full list was as follows:

2 Greenshank (a year tick)
2 Redshank
4 Sanderling
3 Dunlin
23 Ringed Plover
3 Oystercatcher
4 Shelduck

So by far the best day of wader passage in its own right, and with a wonderful rarity to boot. It's days like this that keep a patch worker going, slogging away day after day for normally scant rewards.

Monday 28th May

The recent heavy rain has given the floods a reprieve though the hot temperatures that we're now getting means that it's only going to be temporary. Still, the waters have been enough to attract a few more waders down to the patch and recently there was a single COMMON SANDPIPER on the floods. On Friday there were 10 RINGED PLOVER and a single DUNLIN skulking along the north shore but when something flushed them all I noticed a different bird which buzzed back and forth for some time before seemingly heading off. However a short while later it was back and I was able to confirm my suspicion that it was a SANDERLING. We usually get this species quite late in the spring season so it was nice to have one on the year list.

The Sanderling with a Dunlin companion

Apart from that it's mainly been Black-headed Gulls with a few OYSTERCATCHERS that have been gracing the floods. From a peak count of 15 LITTLE EGRET numbers have gone down so I'm guessing that most of the fry have now been caught. 

In the Trap Grounds a couple  more Black-tailed Skimmers have been seen along with the Hairy Hawkers still.

Black-tailed Skimmer courtesy of Nicola Devine

Saturday 19th May

It's been a quiet couple of weeks or so on the Meadow. We're still blessed with plenty of water (though the floods are now starting to shrink quite quickly) and it all looks great but the much prophesised wader passage just hasn't materialised. Indeed it's been a very poor spring in this respect so far right across the county. Apart from the usual OYSTERCATCHER or two there has been just the odd COMMON SANDPIPER or RINGED PLOVER that has been seen. On Friday we had four of the latter species though they didn't linger and were gone within ten minutes of my finding them. 

There has at least been a pick-up in general bird numbers. Whilst a couple of weeks ago the floods were almost deserted, now as they are on the wane the birds are descending to pick off the trapped invertebrates and fish fry. There are hoardes of Black-headed Gulls and up to four LITTLE EGRETS as well as a couple of Grey Herons. As everything is a couple of weeks late this year there's still time for a Wood Sandpiper, or at least a Greenshank or Sanderling, neither of which we've had so far this year.

A Little Egret wading through the Spring Rush

On the Odonata front things have at last kicked off with the first Damselflies now on the wing and Nicola Devine has spotted several species of dragonfly in the Trap Grounds with Black-Tailed Skimmer, Broad-bodied Chaser and Hairy Hawker all having been seen.

Broad-bodied Chaser courtesy of Nicola Devine

Monday 8th May

Our fledging wader passage isn't exactly firing on all cylinders so far. We've had a few more RINGED PLOVER and a couple of COMMON SANDPIPERS but so far that's been it. Whilst there's plenty of water on the floods still, they are largely empty with just the usual SHELDUCK, a few GADWALL and the odd OYSTERCATCHER dotted about the place.

Several pairs of Shelduck have been around for quite a while now.

In Burgess Field the GARDEN WARBLERS are now "in" and one has taken up territory in the usual hot spot where one is always to be found each year. With that now ticked off we're down to the harder to get warbler species for the patch: Sedge Warbler (surprisingly difficult for what is a common species), Grasshopper Warbler (we really need someone younger who still can hear them to search Burgess Field properly) and Cetti's Warbler (these can turn up in odd places at any time really).

At last the SWIFTS are back over Jericho. They're about a week later than usual but they were back screaming over my house today at last.