22nd November

After a couple of weeks with some great sightings it was only to be expected that things have been a little quieter these last couple of weeks though there was still plenty to see. Things started well with four Pochard found by Ollie Padget on the floods though they didn't linger. Like their recent more exotic Red-crested cousins they are not naturally at home on such shallow wasters as the Port Meadow floods have to offer so it was only to be expected that they would soon be gone. These actually weren't a year tick but were still nice to see. Apart from that, on the duck front this week there have been a smattering of Pintail records most days and a flock of up to 9 Egyptian Geese. This latter species count is a record, certainly since I've been birding the Meadow. Goosander numbers have been creeping up slowly with now 6 red-heads either roosting on the floods or hanging out on the river.

On the wader front there have been a few Dunlin about and a few Snipe records including a mystery one that was flushed at a very close distance by Thomas Miller at dusk. Close-flushing Snipe often turn out to be Jack Snipe and they can usually be identified by their jizz with a much more fluttery, silent and low flight than their commoner counterparts. Whilst Thomas's bird was indeed silent it was too dark to asses the flight style so it will have to be one that got away. Five Black-tailed Godwits one evening were a welcome sight though, despite the floods looking really great at the moment, they decided not to linger.

The gulling is improving steadily with at last some good numbers of larger gulls to look through. This has produced quite a few Yellow-legged Gulls (all adults so far) and another Mediterranean Gull one evening, a 1w bird courtesy of Ollie Padget. The highlight on the gulling front was the discovery of the first Caspian Gulls of the season by Thomas Miller with 2w and a 3w birds seen on the same day.


3w Caspian

2w Caspian, both courtesy of Thomas Miller

Away from gulls, Nick Boyd found a pair of Stonechat in the northern wilderness between the A34 and King's Lock. Also Manoj Nair saw a pair of Ring-necked Parakeets fly over recently. This species is just about annual and with the strengthening colony in the University Parks we can probably look forward to more sightings of this colourful species.

Final, Thomas Miller did the WeBS count (the Wetland Bird Survey) for November last week and came up with the following totals.

189 Barnacle Geese
164 Greylag Geese
176 Canada Geese
424 Wigeon
8 Shoveler
6 Mallard
72 Teal
15 Pintail
8 Golden Plover
259 Black-headed Gulls
12 Lesser Black-backed Gulls
3 Cormorant
3 Black-tailed Godwit

8th November

It's been another good week with once again the weekend providing the icing on the cake. With settled high pressure dominating the weather for the whole week, my daily visits to the gull roost were proving to be decidedly unproductive. However on Tuesday things were livened up when the Glossy Ibis from last week popped in again at last light. It was first seen flying low over Otmoor at 4:25 pm before arriving at the Meadow at 4:40 pm. The distance is about 8 km so that makes a nice 32 km/h average speed. It seemed settled enough as it fed that evening though sadly it was gone the next morning. A special mention must be made of a heroic twitch to see it by Thomas Miller who managed to get from Farmoor to Botley in time to tick it in nearly total darkness.

The Glossy Ibis on the floods at dusk

Apart from that there was precious little during the week but at the weekend there was lots of action. Ollie Padget and I were in Burgess Field Saturday morning doing some vis migging whilst we were chatting away. A flock birds flew fairly low overhead and we both independently called them as Hawfinches! Thanks to the winter invasion of this species a couple of years ago everyone has become more aware of them and it's paid off with what is a patch first! Things carried on in a similar vein that afternoon when Ollie saw a Woodcock fly over Burgess Field mid afternoon. This is a less than annual species on the Meadow and is pretty hard to come by though they do occasionally roost in the long grass in Burgess Field. What's more on Sunday evening Matthew Lloyd had another (or maybe the same) Woodcock fly over near the gate to Burgess Field at dusk. Let's hope that it's roosting there and so might be seen again. Talking of nocturnal birds, a female Tawny Owl was heard again in Burgess Field on Saturday evening by Ollie. Also, during the week Andrew Siantonas managed to find a Little Grebe on the river which (amazingly) is actually the first one of the year.

Apart from these highlights it was pretty much the usual stuff. The four Goosander have continued to hang around in the vicinity, often to be seen on the river. The Barnacle Geese have not been around so much though there have been more Canada Geese by way of compensation. Talking of geese, there was an Egpyptian Goose on the floods on Saturday morning. A couple of Black-tailed Godwits dropped in and spent a couple of days with us before moving on and a Dunlin was hanging out with the Golden Plover on Saturday morning.

Thanks to Matthew Lloyd who has been educating us, we are all getting much more clued up on our local bats. Most evenings there are two species of Pipistrelles, Noctules and Daubenton bats to be seen (though you need a bat detector in order to separate the Pipistrelles). The Pipistrelles are the small ones, the Noctules are the large ones and the Daubentons hunt just above the water surface. Matthew has had other species as well though they are harder to tell apart without a detector.

So all good stuff! The Hawfinch, Woodcock and Little Grebe have now taken the year list total to 135 which is actually the record since I've been birding the Meadow. More confirmation if it were needed that this is indeed a vintage year. As far as what we might still hope for in terms of year ticks it would have to be one of the rarer waders (on which we are rather light this year), a Short-eared Owl perhaps  or something pretty unusual. Given the year so far, it might just be a monster rare!

1st November

In my last post things had been relatively quiet up until the weekend and for this last week more or less the same thing happened. There had been relatively little to report during the week: I had been checking out the gull roost each evening though it's still mostly just Black-headed Gulls with one or two Common Gulls and hardly any larger gulls. One evening there was an adult Yellow Legged Gull (the first of the season) but that was about it. Golden Plover numbers have been building gradually so that by Sunday there were about 300 of them. Part of my daily ritual on a visit to the Meadow is to scour through the Plover flock looking for American Golden Plover, somewhat of a speciality of the Meadow with the only two county records for this species both coming from Port Meadow. The Barnacle Geese are still around, numbering up to 250 or more at times. There are also increasing number of Wigeon and Teal, all enjoying the perfect flood conditions.

The hightlight of the week was on a Sunday visit during the blustery conditions of Storm Aiden with the discovery of three Red-crested Pochards on the floods. This species is less than annual on the Meadow - as a diving duck the shallow waters of the floods are not really suited to their feeding habits. There were not very settled and kept swimming about during the time I was there and it was not really surprising that they'd gone by the evening.

A video grab of the three Red-crested Pochards

To round off a good day, Ollie Padget discovered yet another Mediterranean Gull (a 2nd winter) in the roost. I particularly like his video grab as it's sums up the difficulty of picking out Med Gulls from the sea of Black-headed Gulls - see if you can spot it yourself!

Spot the Med Gull!

Looking forward to November, historically there have been a few decent records on the Meadow during this month with Great White Egret, Grey Phalarope and of course American Golden Plover all seen in past years. With so many westerly storms having passed through recently I'm still hopeful of something American, perhaps a Pectoral Sandpiper or even a Franklin's Gull. I find that I need some kind of dream like this to keep me motivated enough to check out the patch each day and you never know, one day it might just happen!