7th March

You can tell that things are getting better by the fact that I am ready to do a new post after just one week! I mentioned last week about how wader movement was picking up and this week this trend has accelerated. There were more Redshank seen passing through with 14 (a huge count!) seen on Tuesday afternoon.  A pair of Oystercatcers have been around for much of the week along with a Black-tailed Godwit that spent a few days on the floods and a single Curlew (a surprisingly uncommon bird on the Meadow) that spent one day with us. Golden Plover numbers were sporadic though reasonable this week but there were no Lapwing to be seen - they presumably have already moved on to breeding grounds elsehwere. The highlight of the week however was on Sunday when Paul Jepson found a flock of five Avocets on the floods. They hung around for much of the day though were flushed several times including by some overenthusiastic photographers with zero fieldcraft. At one point they flew over the hill to Farmoor before heading off, not to be seen again. Early spring records for this charismatic wader are not that uncommon but nevertheless a most welcome patch year tick.


The Five Avocets

Apart from the Avocet, the highlight of the week was the appearance of the first Sand Martins. Four were seen on Thursday and between two and five have been seen in subsequent days. This is pretty early for the Meadow with usually Farmoor getting the first county records of the year. It was a most heartwarming sight to see these little brown bullets zipping low over the water again.

On the duck front, the undoubted highlight was a huge count of 32 Pintail in the second half of the week. Clearly, some end of winter movement is underway and these birds are dispersing to their breeding grounds but I don't recall such a big count previously on the Meadow. Apart from that, Shelduck numbers varied between two and seven birds. There are a few spring Gadwall about but Teal and Wigeon numbers are already dwindling.

The gull roost seems to have fizzled out but this didn't stop us having yet another Mediterranean Gull record with another adult seen on Sunday along with the Avocets. This is now the fifth record of the year (though some of the three first winter birds may be the same returning bird). Apart from that there have been very few large gulls about at all.

Looking ahead, with two of my March predicitions having already happened (Med Gull and Sand Martin) that only leaves Garganey as a likely candidate though we could also get an early Little Ringed Plover as well. The only damper on what has been a good start to the year is that the floods, whilst looking great at the moment, won't last very long unless they get a good topping up. We do have some more showery weather forecast for later on in the week but a good deluge now wouldn't go amiss.

How not to do it!
These two photographers managed to flush the Avocets at least twice

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