23rd November

So we're getting near to the end of November already and closing in on the end of the year. The floods are still about but looking rather stunted - we really need some decent rain to expand them so that the two pools join up. This would encourage some decent gulls to the roost which is currently still rather anaemic.

Despite the lack of water there have been some modest Wigeon and Teal around as well as a few Lapwing and an increasing flock of Golden Plover with numbers creeping up to four hundred or more. Still no sign of any vagrant plovers in amongst them but we'll keep looking! Geese numbers are reasonable though the Barnacle Geese haven't really been about much of late.

This pair of Egyptian Geese have been around on and off on the Meadow for a while now

With the lack of water, the main birding action has been in Burgess Field. Indeed we have managed to get two new year ticks from here. Firstly a Woodcock was seen in flight at dusk there and secondly a Barn Owl has been seen (again at dusk) on at least two occasions. The second time there were also a couple of calling Tawny Owls about as well.

Apart from that it's been the usual species with a few Siskins, winter thrushes etc that one would expect at this time of year. There have been a few over-wintering Chiffchaffs about recently.

This addition of two birds to the year list has left us tantalisingly matching last year's record year list count of 135. A concerted effort over the last few weeks of the year (or alternatively just some good luck!) could see us break this record. Indeed Nick Boyd came close today with a possible Hawfinch over the St Edward's area but he wasn't able to confirm it. Other good candidates to take us over the line would be Little Owl, Red-crested Pochard, Red-legged Partridge, Whooper or Bewicks Swan. Of course we could get an out and out rare. It's all to play for!

Despite the late floods this spring (which tends to kill things off) there is plenty of Creeping Marshwort around at the moment (if you know where to look). I took this photo when I noticed a clump right next to my tripod when the Pectoral Sandpiper was first found.


6th November

Our star Pectoral Sandpiper ended up staying for exactly a week. It was nice to go down to the Meadow each day and to find it still picking its way along the shoreline. It remained faithful to its small pool for the entire time apart from on one occasion when a dog must have scared it as it moved away into the grass. Various out of county birders came to pay homage though numbers were never that large and everyone was well behaved.

The Pectoral Sandpiper courtesy of Steve Burch

The flood levels have held their own but we haven't really had enough rain to increase them in size so far and they are still a bit too small to hold any large counts of birds. Still, the winter duck numbers are starting to increase and this morning there were probably about 100 Wigeon there along with a smattering of Teal. There has been a noticeable increase in Canada Geese numbers with the flock now numbering serveral hundred though I haven't seen the Barnacle Geese for a few days now.

There has been noticeably large counts of Pied Wagtails on the floods in the evening. I think that lots of them come to the Meadow before heading off to roost in the city somehwere. Golden Plover numbers have increased noticeably with several hundred to be found hunkered down on the grass between the two pools most days along with a dozen or so Lapwing. It's the time of year for searching through them carefully for one of their American cousins though no luck so far.

Golden Plover courtesy of Steve Liptrot

One of the highlights since my last post was a Little Grebe that was seen up at Wolvercote Lake by Nick Boyd - a Patch year tick no less! A red-headed Goosander was seen on the river and then on the Castle Mill stream recently. Ollie Padget had a Great White Egret on the floods briefly though there is not enough cover there really and it didn't linger.

The Great White Egret courtesy of Ollie Padget

This morning Ollie and Thomas Miller saw a Brambling (another year tick!) in Burgess Field though sadly it didn't linger. Winter thrushes have started to appear in numbers in Burgess Field with lots of Redwing about and one flock of Fieldfare as well this morning. Siskin are often to be seen flying over and there have been one or two Redpoll as well. 
With all these winter birds, the change of the clocks and the nights drawing in, there is no doubting the change of the season. It's very much back to winter birding now.