31st December

There's not been anything of particular note for the rest of  December to push me to doing another blog post and somehow things have drifted until the end of the year. The star Dotterel was belatedly reported once again on the 16th by a photographer and subsequently turned up at Otmoor so it's still very much around though not staying faithful to any one spot. The Golden Plover flock seems to have disappeared now so we're less likely to see it again on the Meadow for the time being.

The floods just about held together until finally we got a decent amount of rain which pushed them up to a larger size. We ideally need the river to flood at some point to ensure that they are nice and full for the spring passage. We finally started to get a bit of a gull roost towards the middle of the month with a few Yellow-legged Gulls and a 4w Caspian Gull (the latter courtesy of Thomas Miller). Towards the end of the year, the increased number of people on the Meadow meant that any roost was highly likely to be disturbed and the gulling was difficult.

The 4w Caspian Gull courtesy of Thomas Miller

Regarding water fowl, apart from the usual species there was a Pintail one day that Mary MacDougall reported. At the end of the month the Otmoor Red-breasted Geese decided to change location and started to hang out with the Barnacle Geese on the Meadow. They make a most colourful addition to the goose population on the Meadow even if they are in all probability escapes. 

The Red-breasted Geese courtesy of Joe Tobias

In terms of waders, there was a female Ruff on a couple of occasions and a single Redshank was seen for a few days. Regarding other species, a heard-only Brambling flew over Wolvercote at dusk (per Nick Boyd) and a few Redpoll have been heard going over Burgess Field by Ollie Padget.

So that's the end of another birding year on the Meadow. My next post will the customary annual review but now it's time to scrub out the year list and start all over again!.

12th December

December had been rather quiet up until a few days ago. Indeed, when thinking about what to post for the next blog update the most exciting thing that I could think of was the fact that the winter gull roost had finally kicked off. We've had up to 500 large gulls at the evening roost though so far the best that has turned up has been a few Yellow-legged Gulls.

Apart from the gulls it's been the usal birds: a flock of several hundred Golden Plover, a dozen or so Lapwing, a few hundred Wigeon and a smaller number of Teal and good counts of Canada Geese and Greylags with a moderate flock of forty or so Barnacle Geese thrown in for good measure. Winter duck numbers have been steadily increasing throughout the month though we really need more rain to take things to the next level.

A few of us have been dutifully scouring through the various flocks each visit, with American vagrants the main object of our searches. So for the Wigeon it would be American Wigeon, for the Teal it would be Green-winged Teal and the Golden Plover have been searched for American Golden Plover. Of course it's a long shot for each of these but that is how these things are found. This diligent searching suddenly paid off big time this week when on Tuesday Ollie Padget turned up an overwinterting Dotterel in amongst the Golen Plover flock. Completely left field this it not something you'd expect to find at all at this time of year and indeed is the first ever record for the Meadow. The bird was found early afternoon and hung around until about 4pm when it flew off in a northerly direction.

Dotterel, courtesy of the finder, Ollie Padget

Once news was released this prompted a photograph from a less experienced birder who it turns out has seen it on Saturday in amongst the Goldies though didn't know what it was. 

On Saturday, courtesy of Paul Torevell

The next morning it was seen again in the morning before a bastard photographer flushed it by trying to get too close. That was the last time that it was seen.

This bird nicely trumps the Pectoral Sandpiper in taking the Bird of the Year slot. Whilst nationally a Dotterel is a summer breeder whereas Pectoral Sandpiper is a scarce vagrant, in terms of Oxon records Dotterel has only been seen three times since 2001, far fewer than Pec Sand:
a) May 2004, one day bird near White Horse Hill
b) Apr-May 2012: long stayer near Balscote Quarry, Banbury area
c) May 2016: single observer record near Barford St John

So a cracking new Meadow record and a wonderful bird to see.

To add icing to the cake, a non birder reported via Twitter a Whooper Swan on the river the previous weekend and even backed it up with a (rather blurry) photograph. So that is a second year tick and pushes the tally further ahead to a new record breaking total of 138 (including Snow Goose). Could we possibly squeeze one more tick out this year? It's not impossible!