31st January: The Year So Far

As is usual for January, I've ended up not posting anything right up until the end of the month so I thought I'd do a full month update. January is of course when the year list resets and it's always pleasant to go around ticking things off again. Unlike many people who rush out on the first day of the year I tend to have a more leisurely approach to things and am still ticking easy things off even now. Things like a flock of 10 Skylarks flying over during a wintery walk during the weekend of the snowfall, a Fieldfare in the hedgerow and a Kingfisher right next to the bank peering into the murky flood waters are all welcome sightings during what is a quiet birding time of year.

Apart from year listing, in terms of sightings  it's been pretty much the usual stuff. For myself and fellow Larid enthusiast Thomas Miller that means gulls. Thomas has found lots of different Caspian Gulls over the month on Port Meadow which you can read about in his excellent blog here


"Eric" the 2w Caspian has been a regular visitor to the floods over the last week or so,
courtesy of Thomas Miller

The floods have expanded throughout the month and are presently in full-on Lake Mode which makes them very hard to bird. At the start of the month Thomas found what is certainly the Port Meadow bird of the month with a first winter Little Gull. This species was relatively common during the spring passage a few years back but we've not had them the last few years. There have been as far as I recall only two previous winter sightings since I've been birding here. 

1w Little Gull courtesy of Thomas Miller

Bookmarking the month at the other end was a nice 1st winter Mediterranean Gull that was seen (at great distance) last week - it's great to get this species on the list so early on in the year.

As far as wildfowl are concerned, the usual birds have been about in their usual numbers. Wigeon and Teal are plentiful with a couple of dozen Shoveler and a handful of Pintail. We've had a few Shelduck gracing the floods and even some Egyptian Geese that were seen at the start of the month. Talking of geese, the Barnacle Goose flock has been present for most of the month in good numbers (about 180) and we even had a visit from the "mongrel" Blenheim White-fronted Geese. This winter has been an excellent one for wild versions of this species with very good numbers overwintering at Otmoor and I've been hoping that some would stray over to the Meadow but no luck so far.

We have had precious little on the wader front so far apart from a Black-tailed Godwit that graced the floods one evening. The truth is that the floods have been a bit too extended for much of the month for waders to get much out of them.

Away from the floods there have been a couple of overwintering Chiffchaff that have been seen in Burgess Field and in the Trap Grounds and a pair of Blackcap have been regular visitors to my garden. A good Meadow record was from Steve Goddard who was pretty certain that he had a Common Crane (presumably one of the Otmoor birds) in a field south east of King's Lock near to Oxey Mead.

So in general the usual stuff in the usual places but with a few interesting sightings to keep us going. February can often be a quiet month with not many additions to the year list so we will have to work hard to winkle something like a white winger out from the gull roost.

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