19th May

On an evening visit to the Meadow today I found that the floods had finally completely dried so that marks the end of the spring passage season. There have been a few more snippets of interest to report: last week I had a good run of Little Ringed Plover each evening with counts of 3, 2, 4 and 1 on consecutive visits. There were also the usual Sheduck and one evening the Ruddy Shelduck pair were there as well which was nice to see. There's been a lone, rather sick looking Wigeon who was actually still there today, who has been loitering for the last few days. Apart from that it's the usual smattering of Black-headed Gulls and Pied Wagtails.

The two Ruddy Shelduck

Away from the floods there have been quite a few more Cuckoo reports. They've also centred around the canal area ranging from St Edwards playing fields down to the Trap Grounds area. It's actually turned out to be quite a good spring for them in the end.

For those who might be interested, I've done a review of the spring season on the Meadow on my other "Gnome's Birding Diary" blog. In  it, I give a countdown of the top 7 birds of the spring passage: if you want you can read it here.

So now that the birding season is drawing to a close it's time to turn our focus on flowers and insects. I'm still busy moth trapping away though so far without anything of particular interest. Nicola Devine has been taking some great photos of the Odonata life in the Trap Grounds which you can see on the Trap Grounds Wildlife blog as well as on the new Oxon Dragonflies blog. It will soon be time to start looking for Bee Orchids in Burgess Field once more as well as the emergence of our summer butterflies. There's still plenty to see out there!

Broad Bodied Chaser, courtesy of Nicola Devine.

8th May

The fact that it's been nearly a week since my last post tells you all you need to know about the  birding so far this month. Far from being the bonanza of rarities that I'd been hoping for, instead it's a been a light run of interest, with even that drying up to no more than a trickle over the last couple of days. The truth is that the weather is just too nice: any late passage migrants are just carrying on through rather than stopping. What's more the hot conditions are starting to take their toll on the floods - we've now lost half the southern leg already and are approaching the point where the floods split into two pools. 

Our Greenshank hung around for a couple more days at the start of the week and we had a good flock of 8 Ringed Plover one evening along with one or two Dunlin and a pair of Little Ringed Plover. Mid week a late Black-tailed Godwit popped in for a couple of days and unusually we had a fly-over Lapwing one morning. But, apart from the near resident Oystercatchers that's been about it on the wader front.

The Black-tailed Godwit on the floods

There's been a late smattering of Yellow Wagtails and another Wheatear was also seen working its way north along the Meadow. On the duck front there's been the usual gathering of Shelduck of varying numbers and interestingly there have been a few Egyptian Geese hanging around as well. On the warbler front a Sedge Warbler and a Lesser Whitethroat both working their way northwards along the allotment hedge next to the floods were both nice to see this week. 

In Burgess Field the usual warblers are well established by now. I reckon that we have six warbler species on territory this year with just Lesser Whitethroat and Sedge Warbler missing from the common list of eight species that we might get.

Northwards on the Godstow to King's Lock stretch there have been a couple of Cuckoo sightings and there were also several Sedge Warblers seen there as well as several Egyptian Geese (probably the same ones which are popping in on the floods from time to time). Talking of Cuckoo's, one resident of Kingston Road heard one calling at close quarters just to the east, so very much in the residential area - a most unusual record! 

The Swifts are back in the area and are to be seen on a daily basis flying over the Meadow and surrounding areas. It's always lovely to have these "devil birds" screaming in the skies overhead.

As far as birds of prey are concerned, I had a Hobby fly low over my house one afternoon, just above roof-top height which was nice to see. My wife had a kettle of 6 Buzzards soarding over our house another afternoon as well though I didn't get to see it. Apart from that it's been the usual species though a resident Sparrowhawk has been giving good views on the Meadow of late.

Sparrowhawk with male Reed Bunting prey courtesy of Nick Boyd

Looking ahead, from what I remember of May records we're about in the last week of good possible sightings though the way things have been going I'm not holding my breath. What we really need is a good sudden downpour to bring down a fall though there's not a drop of rain forecast for the next couple of weeks. Failing that we're just going to have to hope that we get lucky somehow with something dropping in though to be honest I'm starting to get "patch fatigue" from checking out the same area for such a long time!

2nd May

And so we're into May already. The mere fact that it's May and we've got the floods still in tip top condition is indeed something to celebrate - it's been many years since this has happened. The last few days have been relatively quiet by comparison with previous ones but there's still been plenty to see. 

As far as waders are concerned, we've had a Greenshank with us for several days now. In addition there's been a reasonable count of smaller waders with up to 8 Dunlin along with a Ringed Plover and a couple of Little Ringed Plover. The usual Oystercatchers have been with us but that has more or less been it.

On the duck front apart from one or two Mallards there are none left now apart from the lingering Shelduck of various numbers. One of these seems to be rather unwell and spends lots of its time  asleep on the shore or looking miserable. We did have a single Egyptian Goose drop in one evening which  was more unusual. But perhaps the highlight on the duck front was a very brief visit by a pair of Ruddy Shelduck that Dan Miller managed to photograph. Sadly records of this smart looking species are generally considered to be feral escapes rather than genuinely wild birds.

Ruddy Shelduck courtesy of Dan Miller

Raptors haven't had a mention for quite a while now but Ollie Padget spotted a Peregrine and a Hobby (the latter being a year tick) together one evening. Dave Lowe also had a Hobby over Burgess Field the following morning. 

On the Warbler front they're all pretty much in now. I had a walk around Burgess Field early one morning in good weather and the bird song was amazing! There must be at least half a dozen Garden Warblers on territory there - it seems like a good year for them. There also seems to be a Willow Warbler breeding on the patch this year which is nice.

So what can be expect over the coming days? I've been racking my brains trying to remember what May birding is like with good floods. In general it gets quieter as many of the passage waders have already passed through. Dunlin and Ringed Plover are the staple sightings but we can look out for Knot, Sanderling and perhaps even a Turnstone (though Farmoor generally has the monopoly on this species). In general as the quantity diminishes so the quality goes up and there's more likelihood of something rarer being spotted. Possible candidates would include both Grey and Red-necked Phalaropes, Spoonbill, Glossy Ibis or Temminck's Stint. However, it's possible that we might end up with a non wader rarity: last year it was a Grey-headed Wagtail that stole the show and for some reason  I keep obsessing about a Hoopoe on the patch.

Rarities aside I strongly recommend getting out to Burgess Field early one morning as the bird song is at its peak right now. Be warned, it's all over by 9a.m. at the latest presently and it gets very quiet after that. What's  more soon it will stop much earlier as the birds get stuck into raising their young.