I had rather been casting around for something to write about over the last few weeks. Fortunately it's all kicked off and I now have more than enough to report! It all started on Sunday 17th when Thomas Miller found a Jack Snipe around the verges of what were then little more than muddy puddles where the floods normally are. This species is now less than annual on the patch. They used to be fairly regular up in the pools in the Snipe Field in Burgess Field. However, as that field has got more overgrown the pools have disappeared and the Snipe and occasional Jack Snipe have gone with them. So this was a most welcome year tick for the Patch.
Last week we finally had enough rain to restart the floods and with it birds started coming back. The now regular Barnacle Goose flock has been joining the Canada and Greylags on the Meadow. With up to 100 Golden Plover, a handful of Lapwing and a few early Wigeon and Teal and even a red-head Goosander on the river, it was starting to feel like winter already!
However, the best was yet to come when on Saturday morning Thomas Miller, who was leading a group of student birders on a tour around Port Meadow, managed to find a Pectoral Sandpiper feeding away on the southern flood pool (the two halves are still split at the moment). This is a nationally scarce American vagrant which somehow had managed to survive the Atlantic crossing and found it's way to Oxfordshire. Whilst it is the commonest of the American vagrant waders it is still quite a rare vagrant to the county and it's only the third record on the Meadow. The first was a pair that lingered for some while in 2007 whilst the second was a one day singleton in 2011 so it has been 10 years since our last one. This discovery prompted a proper Meadow twitch as all the Meadow regulars as well as lots of county birders descended to pay their respects.
|A fantastic photo courtesy of Steve Burch
Video courtesy of Badger
|The early twitchers - mostly the Port Meadow birding gang
There was also a Green Sandpiper on the northern floods. This is quite a scarce bird for the Meadow and would normally warrant a bit of attention but of course it was totally eclipsed by it's Nearctic cousin. In any event it didn't linger and was soon gone.
The Pectoral Sandpiper is clearly liking the Meadow and has stuck around a few days now with a steady stream of out of county birders coming to pay homage. The extra coverage that this has generated means that more birds are being seen on the Meadow and a Great White Egret was found on Monday. It was standing in the Hinterland north of the floods for about fifteen minutes before being flushed by someone and heading off. Whilst we've already had this species on the Meadow this year it is not that common a bird here (the habitat isn't really right for it) so it's something that I still get excited about and at least one hard core Meadow birder still needs it for his patch list.
|Courtesy of Ewan Urquhart
From past experience the Pectoral Sandpiper could linger for a while and now that we have some floods again we should start getting some more interesting birding back on the Patch. Personally I am waiting for the gull roost to restart though I think that we need a bit more water yet and it's still rather early in the season. Still, it's something to look forward to!