Sadly, my present work situation requires me to be away in London during the working week and at the weekend I'm running around like mad trying to fit everything else in. This has meant that I now have very little time for birding or blogging which is why everything is so late. I'm going to endeavour to keep things running here and thanks to a dedicated team of Port Meadow observers there should still be news coming in from the Patch. Just don't expect very frequent updates for a while.
So it's time for the end of year review. In general it was rather a low key year, reflecting a poor year list tally across the entire county. Our listing very much depends on the state of the floods and these dried up in April so we missed a lot of the spring wader passage and didn't participate in any of the autumn passage. Still there were some interesting birds to keep us going. Below is a summary of what we had
Winter is all about gulling and it was a remarkably good season in this respect. Thanks in no small part to the enthusiasm and also sharp eyes of Thomas Miller we managed a tally of 7 different Caspian Gulls (some of which became quite regular) and 3 Mediterranean Gulls as well as countless Yellow-legged Gulls during this period.
We did manage a Curlew in their usual month of February as well as a smattering of the usual winter waders but there was nothing of particular note. We also had the unusual record of a grounded Knot, seen up near the allotments at Wolvercote during a snowy period.
Away from waders and gulls the highlight of the period was a Merlin that was seen well zipping through the north end of the Meadow one day. We periodically have possible sightings so to have a definite record was really good.
The usual spring migrants started to arrived and we had our first Little Ringed Plovers along the shoreline - always a heart-warming event each year. One particular highlight was a drake Garganey that was seen on a key passage day. A lot of other county birders came to pay homage which resulted in lots of other birds being found including an Osprey and a Wheatear. It just goes to show how much might be passing over the Meadow unnoticed during key passage times.
|The drake Garganey|
During April there were more of the regular spring migrants but nothing else of particular note. In May however, which is traditionally the best month for rarer birds in the first half of the year, we had our bird of the year in the form of a fantastic male Grey-headed Wagtail. Whilst this is technically a subspecies of Yellow Wagtail, it's only the third ever record for the county and was a most striking bird to see.
|The Grey-headed Wagtail|
Also of note in May was another Osprey sighting and a Wood Warbler that was seen well by a single observer for about 10 minutes. This is the first and only record for the Meadow of what used to be a really difficult county bird to catch up with though a few twitchable birds in the county in the last few years have meant that it's somewhat lost its rarity value.
Other noteables include a fly-over Common Crane and somehow we still managed to get Cuckoo on our year list in spite of the increasing scarcity of this species. A heard-only Ring-necked Parakeet was also added though now that this species is breeding in the University Parks we might expect more of them from time to time.
The summer months are all about insects and flowers and this year was no exception. Thanks to some sterling work by Nicola Devine in the Trap Grounds there have been some good things spotted including some new species for the area. Top of the list was a Small Red-eyed Damselfly which is usually confined just to a couple of spots in the county but Nicola managed to turn one up in the Trap Grounds. Sadly it didn't hang around for others to see it.
|Small Red-eyed Damselfly|
Once again Nicola managed to find both Silver Washed Fritillary and also the usual Brown Hairstreaks.
We also had a large number of Bee Orchids in the Trap Grounds this year. Let's hope that this continues going forward.
Unusually we had quite a few good passage migrants to report this year. This was due in no small measure to some keen patch watching of areas like Burgess Field where Thomas Miller managed to turn up a Whinchat, Common Redstart, Grasshopper Warbler (sadly now rather rare) and several Spotted Flycatchers. In fact we had loads of sightings of the latter species which is usually only just about annual on the patch. Indeed it was a bumper year across the whole county for this species.
A late season Avocet was a good find on the floods though sadly it only stayed a few hours. There was also a Black Redstart on the Radcliffe Observatory in Jericho which we could just about claim as still being part of the patch.
With the floods now returned to full size there was only the Goldeneye and a drake Pochard to report in a quiet end of the year
The final year list total was 125, a few below the 130 level which I generally regard as a good year list total. As I mentioned above, the bird of the year was the Grey-headed Wagtail though with a good supporting cast of Wood Warbler and Merlin which are both very good patch birds. As usual it's always interesting to think about what the new year might bring. Sadly many species are becoming harder to see on the Meadow and even in the 12 years that I've been birding it, I've noticed the drop-off. Still, it will always be a wonderful place to have on our doorstep and let's hope that this coming year brings us some very special birds.