31st March

Spring passage really kicked into gear today with a whole host of exciting discoveries. However, before I tell you about that let me fill you in on the sightings since the last post. To be honest, prior to today it's been rather quiet. There's been a massive clear-out of wintering ducks during the last week to the extent that the floods are now looking remarkably bare on the bird front. There have been various REDSHANK passing through. Usually there have been between two and four birds though not always the same ones as one one occasion we had three in summer plumage which looked very smart compared to their more usual winter appearance. The two or three OYSTERCATCHERS have been a regular daily sighting whereas SHELDUCK numbers have been much more variable: some days there have been up to four whereas on other days there have been none at all. On the warmer days Chiffchaff and Blackcap have been singing away in a variety of places and everywhere the trees and hedgerows have a wonderful fresh green wash of newly sprouting leaves and flowers.

So, on to today. It all started bright and early when Ian Elkins discovered a splendid drake GARGANEY on the floods. I put the word out and with not much else about in the county a whole heap of the county's finest birders came to pay homage. This meant that the Meadow had much more coverage than usual which resulted in many more birds being found on what turned out to be a key passage day.

Drake Garganey courtesy of Ewan Urquhart

Garganey video footage courtesy of Badger

The highlight of these bonus finds has to be an OSPREY which Steve Goddard spotted flying north shortly after midday. This species is less than annual on the Meadow and is usually seen in early spring heading over the floods with my theory being that migrating birds follow the river as they head north which is why we see them. Interestingly, they are often reported late morning or early afternoon. I wonder if as a larger bird of prey they need to wait until things warm up a little before taking to the wing which is why they are often seen during this time window.

The next year tick was a female WHEATEAR which Ewan Urquhart spotted passing through. Whilst this species is pretty much annual, they are by no means a certainty. There are usually only one or two records each year and as they never linger it very much depends on whether someone manages to spot one as they pass quickly through the Meadow. So it's nice to get one safely in the bag.

SAND MARTINS finally put in an appearance this weekend. They were first found yesterday evening by Mary MacDougall and today were around in the morning before departing. Steve Goddard also spotted a flock of 30+ which moved through quite rapidly at around midday. As an added bonus Adrian Grey spotted the first pair of SWALLOWS of the year passing north over Wolvercote.

Up to five LITTLE RINGED PLOVER were seen in the morning as well - it was good to get a decent count again of this delightful wader as numbers were rather low last year. At last light we had a report of another year tick in the form of their larger cousin RINGED PLOVER when Mary MacDougall and Steve Jennings spotted six of this species.

Little Ringed Plover courtesy of Ewan Urquhart

I personally managed to miss all the action as I had house guests visiting today. However I did persuade some of them to come on a late afternoon walk where the floods were devoid of all these exciting birds. By way of some consolation I did manage to turn up the first GADWALL of the year with a pair sleeping on the floods in amongst the Teal. This species tends to be a spring visitor to the Meadow and I've been looking out for them for the last few weeks.

So lots of exciting stuff with no less than seven year ticks over the weekend, almost all of them today! Now that we're into April it's the peak month for spring passage though just how good it is rather depends on the weather and how long the flood waters stay. We should get the first warblers passing through fairly soon now as well as a variety of passage waders. It's time to get out there and start looking!


  1. "The next year tick was a female WHEATEAR which Ewan Urquhart spotted passing through. Whilst this species is pretty much annual, we didn't managed to get one last year."

    I would like to mention that I reported a Wheatear in Port Meadow last year in September 2018! I was not a regular user of the Oxfordshire birding blogs at this time but the list is on eBird: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S48689250

  2. I stand corrected Tim. I've just checked last year's year list and Wheatear is indeed on it. I'll correct the above text