9th April

I said it was an exciting time of year but the last couple of days it has really stepped up a gear. On Wednesday someone reported a RING OUZEL on the Cripley Meadow Allotments "green" (the large communal space in the middle). It was reported at 8:30 but word didn't filter out until mid morning. Matters weren't helped by the fact that there's no public access but Steve Goddard managed to find a vantage point by climbing up a tree along the Thames path and unsurprisingly reported that there was no sign of it. To my knowledge this is the first record for the Port Meadow area and a great addition to the year list. It's just such a shame that it wasn't twitchable.

Another "not twitchable" record was a fly-over TREE PIPIT that was seen and heard by Isaac West later the same morning. This species is less than annual on the patch but it's a scarce county bird anyway and something of a speciality of ours with several twitchable birds in Burgess Field over recent years. Thanks to a lot of lockdown vis migging going on in various county gardens there's been a real glut of flyover Oxon records this spring already - it just shows what's being missed normally.

The next day I was out checking the floods first thing in the morning. There was a LITTLE EGRET fishing away near the Aristotle Lane entrance in it's regular spot but over in the north end was a monster egret that turned out to be a fantastic GREAT WHITE EGRET. Just on its size alone it couldn't be anything else and it was in full breeding plumage with reddish upper legs and an all dark bill compared to the usual non-breeding yellow colour. All in all a stunning bird! Not the first for the patch as we had one up at Wolvercote Lakes a couple of years ago but certainly the first that I've seen on the floods themselves. Sadly it didn't linger and was gone shortly after I saw it.

Great White Egret - looking stunning in full breeding colours
I was just heading back towards the southern end of the floods when Hugh Petter messaged to say that there was an AVOCET on the floods. It must have just that minute dropped in because I swear it wasn't there when I walked passed 10 minutes earlier! The Avocet obliged by staying around all day so people could see it.

More of a record shot of the Avocet this morning.
To round up other new year ticks: the first HOUSE MARTINS turned up over my garden on Tuesday evening and have been seen in small numbers over the floods now. Isaac West also had a couple of SWALLOWS over the floods as well on Wednesday. In Burgess Field Steve Jennings had the first WHITETHROAT of the year - they'll soon be here in numbers. This morning Dave Lowe had a couple of COMMON TERNS fly through. Farmoor breeding birds often pop over the hill to visit the Meadow so they will become regular visitors over the next month or two. Ollie Padget has had a couple of WHITE WAGTAILS on the floods this week as well. This is not a year tick as they're the continental subspecies of our Pied Wagtails but they are always a very smart addition to the spring bird life on the Meadow

We're being helped by the fact that both Farmoor and Otmoor are presently closed so Port Meadow (which normally has the number three spot by year list totals) has become the top county site at the moment and lots more people are birding it than usually do. This increased coverage should mean more sightings and more year ticks! Looking ahead we're right in the middle of the passage season now and lots of stuff should be turning up. Look out for the rest of the Warblers, more waders, chats, Cuckoo's etc. Also, just a reminder that late morning is peak Osprey time if anyone happens to be around then. It's everything to play for out there!

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