28th March

The spring passage seems to be early this year. Certainly the first Sand Martin records were very early and since then things have been building up nicely to the point where it really has all kicked off already. Indeed, if it wasn't for being personally very busy on many fronts at the moment I would be doing far more updates on this blog as the birding action certainly warrants it. In fact there is so much to report since last time that I am going to have to do a brief summary, which is not really going to do justice to what has been a very exciting few weeks on the patch.

Talking of early spring passage, a quite extraordinary record was a House Martin on the 8th March. This must be vying for the earliest county record ever and is certainly about a month earlier than we might usually expect them.

On the wader front things have been building nicely. Most days there have been a couple of Redshank and quite often a pair of Oystercatchers as well. Small numbers of Dunlin have come and gone over the last few weeks. One of the highlights however has been Black-tailed Godwits with some lovely very deeply coloured birds that are the islandica subspecies. Numbers have been fluctuating but a peak count of 6 was seen. 

Islandica sub species of Black-tailed Godwit, courtesy of Thomas Miller
The Little Ringed Plover passage started rather early this year with the first seen on the 16th March. After that they have been seen regularly and indeed we have already built up to a peak of 7 birds in one go along with an early Ringed Plover - normally the latter species isn't seen until mid April on the Meadow.

Ringer and Little Ringed Plovers, courtesy of Thomas Miller

Duck numbers are dwindling rapidly as spring gets underway. We've not had much to report apart from up to four Shelduck that have often been gracing the floods. There have also been a pair of Egyptian Geese that have been seen on a few occasions but that's been about it. The gull season is also pretty much over now though we did get a couple more Mediterranean Gulls on the floods as part of what has been a stellar spring passage for this usually rather scarce gull.

The latest in a succession of Med Gulls, courtesy of Thomas Miller

One of the highlights of the period though very much a winter rather than spring bird has been a couple of Brambling that were seen sporadically in Burgess Field. We just about scrape this species onto the year list most years, mostly thanks to sightings in a garden in Wolvercote but to have one in Burgess Field itself is a real rarity. It's just a shame that it was so elusive so not many people got to see it.

Rounding things off with various miscellaneous sightings: there have been a few Peregrine sightings over the last few weeks and one day Thomas Miller was lucky enough to see a Merlin in the fields near Wytham Field station. Ravens have also been seen fairly regularly flying back and forth to Wytham Hill. A Cetti's Warbler has been heard over towards King's Lock - it's nice to know that they survived the winter.

So looking ahead we are now about to start the peak spring passage month and arguably the most exciting birding month of the year on the Meadow. Whilst it may not supply the greatest number of rarities, the fact that we often don't have any flood waters for the autumn passage means that April and May get a heavier weighting on the patch than other places. May generally gets more interesting birds but the floods have often gone by then so we'd better make the most of April. Indeed as I have been writing this up we've already been getting some good sightings being seen which I will post on in due course. Things to look out for in the coming weeks are: lots more waders to come; the first warblers arriving back - look out for Willow Warblers from now on; more hirundines to come and perhaps even a Cuckoo though it's getting increasingly hard to come by each year. It's a very exciting time of year!

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