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!