It's been an interesting few days since the last post. Frustratingly the sharp northerly wind has kept wader passage to a minimum but now that things are warming up again we are seeing the first signs of renewed passage. Yesterday we had 4 Redshank and 5 Little Ringed Plover on the floods and the day before that we had a Common Sandpiper.
The floods are retreating at a fair pace, as you might expect at this time of year, but nevertheless are looking rather good. Indeed the freshly exposed muddy grass is proving a magnet for Pipits and Wagtail, something of a specialty for the Meadow. Indeed the main interest since my last post has been in this category with a lovely male Blue-headed Wagtail that was found by Thomas Miller being one of the highlights.
|Blue-headed Wagtail courtesy of Thomas Miller|
Another noteworthy occurrence has been the huge counts of White Wagtails. Up until a couple of years ago we were lucky if we got one or two in a spring but last year that all changed with good counts and this year it's gone off the chart. Indeed the last couple of days we've had about 20 or mote of these very smart birds dotted everywhere about the floods.
|White Wagtails, courtesy of Thomas Miller|
By contrast, Yellow Wagtail numbers have been rather modest so far this spring (as they often are). The autumn is really the time when the Meadow accumulates good counts of this colourful species.
|Yellow Wagtail, courtesy of Matthew Lloyd|
On the pipit front, in amongst the Meadow Pipits, Nick Boyd found a very striking and colourful bird. Indeed it was interesting enough for our esteemed county recorder to come and take a look though sadly it had disappeared by the time he got there. Whilst there was some talk of it being one of the two Buff-bellied subspecies, in the end the streakiness on the back and crown, combined with the leg colour (typical Meadow pipit pale) has lead to the conclusion that it is probably just a very colourful and somewhat aberrant whistleri Meadow Pipit. Whilst there are a few subspecies of Meadow Pipit, it's generally thought that they are more on a cline with the more colourful ones to the west ("Iceland" whistleri Meadow Pipits) and the plainer ones to the east. In any event it was a very interesting bird.
Some video of the mystery pipit
There's not been much to report on the duck front with just a few Wigeon and Teal left. There have been up to four Shelduck regularly and the two Egyptian Geese have still been popping in occasionally. Likewise it's all been rather quiet on the gull front though Gull guru Thomas Miller did find an unseasonably late 1w Mediterranean Gull one morning on the floods. Of course April is prime Bonaparte's Gull season so I've been checking the handful of Black-headed Gulls carefully though without success. Common Terns are now being seen regularly on the floods with their distinctive calls echoing across the floods.
|The Med Gull, on a snowy morning on the Meadow, courtesy of Thomas Miller|
On the warbler front, things have been rather quiet. Whilst we've had our first Willow Warblers singing in Burgess Field, that's been about it so far. The first few Sedge and Reed Warblers have been appearing in the county but the northerly wind has been holding them back as well and we've yet to have any sightings on the patch. We have been graced by the presence of a male Redstart which has been hanging about in Burgess Field for quite a while now. Indeed a second female was also present one day though didn't linger. We did also have a Cetti's Warbler record, much closer to the core patch up in Wolvercote near the lake. It's good to have these skulking warblers around on the patch somewhere at least.
So a good little selection for the last week or so. For the second half of April it's everything to play for - we could really benefit from getting more waders on the year list. We also need to pray for some rain to keep the floods topped up.