18th April

Port Meadow is continuing to get some excellent coverage at the moment with a whole posse of birders who would otherwise usually be birding elsewhere, now forced to use the Meadow as an outlet for their birding interest. Because of this much more is being seen than usual and it's a great opportunity to see what species turn up when and how bird numbers ebb and flow throughout the day. I've been visiting rather early for several days before starting my home working at 8 a.m. and have been finding the floods virtually empty. Apart from the more or less resident 4 Shelduck and 2 Oystercatchers and a few Little Egrets there's been almost nothing to report. On the other hand people who have been visiting towards the end of the day have been reporting a good variety of birds, including a smattering of Yellow Wagtails along with some White Wagtails as well as the odd Little Ringed Plover or two.

On Friday we finally had some much-needed rain. It's been getting on for a month now since we've had any decent rain and to be honest I've been surprised at how well the floods have been holding up. I chose to head down there during the rain on the off chance that the weather would lead to a "fall" of migrants. Some of my best days birding on the Meadow have been when bad weather has grounded loads of waders. Sadly it never happened and there was remarkably little on the floods. With rain for much of Saturday as well we did get a bit more action with the first batch of Dunlin and Ringed Plover coming through - as I said recently, these two species often seem to travel together. Thanks to excellent coverage that day on the Meadow it was possible to track the build up of birds throughout the day as they arrived and then decided to linger in what was clearly a favourable site. In fact it's worth mentioning the final tallies by the end of the day in detail:

6 Dunlin
3 Ringed Plover
1 Little Ringed Plover
26 (!) Yellow Wagtail
3 White Wagtail
5 Common Tern
100's of Swallows and House Martins with a couple of Sand Martins as well.

In addition Isaac West had the first Swift of the year go over. This is quite early for this species by a couple of weeks though Farmoor often seems to get one or two records way before they arrive at Port Meadow.

A pair of Common Terns resting on a tiny island in the floods

Amazingly our star Ring Ouzel has stuck around until Saturday at least, remaining faithful to a fairly small area. It's been very hard to see - it took me over an hour today to get a definite view after several brief glimpses. Matters aren't helped by the fact that there are a pair of Song Thrushes and Blackbirds in the same small area.

Video grab courtesy of Ollie Padget

Apart from that the first Garden Warblers have been seen. Mary MacDougall got the first from a canalside garden and since then there have been one or two in Burgess Field but they're not properly "in" yet.

So what can we expect in the next week or so? With many of our summer visitors now arrived, as well as continuing to enjoy them we might hope to catch some waders as they pass through. We might expect Common Sandpiper and perhaps also Green Sandpiper (though this is much harder to get here). It's prime time for Whimbrel and we might get lucky with a Sanderling or even a Knot or Barwit. On the passerine front there are Whinchat, Wheatear, Redstart and Tree Pipit still too look out for and we've yet to see Cuckoo or Hobby this year. Everything to play for in this time of peak spring passage!

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