End of Year Review

As usual I am late with my end of year review. Still with not much happening in January apart from reticking the usual suspects it gives me time to reflect on the last year. In terms of the final year total it was another record breaking year. The previous record of 135 was created in 2020 and this year we have gone "at least" one better. I say "at least" because the final total depends very much on what birds you include on this list. To give an exact description of the state of affairs let me quote the figures as strict BOU + extras. So we have:

2020: 135 + Crane (r/s)
2021: 136 + Crane (r/s) + White Stork (r/s) + Snow Goose (f) + Red-breasted Goose (pf)

r/s = release scheme
f   = feral but not BOU Cat. C
pf = probably feral (though could be wild)

Exactly what to include on a list is the topic of many a long conversation in the pub. Personally I like to be fairly lenient on the ticking front and so my personal list includes multiple layers but that is another whole blog post in its own right. For now I'll leave it as above and will decide what listing authority the Meadow is going to use at some point down the line. Anyway, onto the round-up of the year.


This started off with the usual fare. Fortunately there were plenty of gulls to keep the interest up and thanks largely to Thomas Miller's efforts we had plenty of Caspian Gulls, Mediterranean Gulls and a first winter Little Gull. The latter is rather unusual for the Meadow at this time of year with only one previous winter record during my time.

"Eric" the Casian Gull became a regular on the floods, courtesy of Thomas Miller

The unusual winter Little Gull courtesy of Thomas Miller

In March we had this lovely Med Gull

The tail end of winter brough us a couple of Brambling in Burgess Field. This smart finch is less than annual on the patch so it was nice to have a record on the year list. 

Spring was early this year. In March we not only had Sand Martins but a very early House Martin as well as Little Ringed Plovers and even a Ringed Plover. The latter we wouldn't normally expect until April. We also had a lovely flock of five Avocets that spent the day on the Meadow despite the efforts of a couple of photographers to flush them. 

The highlight of March was a wonderful Black Redstart that was found up in Wolvercote. This was the first proper record for the patch, with previous birds consisting only of a boundary stretching one in Jericho a few years previously.

The Wolvercote Black Redstart courtesy of Matthew Lloyd

Also of note for March was a flurry of islandica Black-tailed Godwit records.

Islandica Black-tailed Godwitcourtesy of Thomas Miller

Things really stepped up a gear as we moved into April. Given that we don't usually have any flood waters in the autumn, this month marks the peak of passage movement on the Meadow of the year and is always an exciting month. We had an Osprey sighting and the Blenheim Little Gull dropped in for a few days on the Meadow.

Ospreycourtesy of Thomas Miller

Little Gullcourtesy of Thomas Miller

It was an excellent spring for Wagtails with very large daily counts of White Wagtails and quite a few Blue-headed and Channel Wagtails in among the Yellows.

Blue-headed Wagtailcourtesy of Thomas Miller

Some of the highlights of the spring were of "larger birds". We had a visit by a White Stork from the Knepp reintroduction project. It would occasionally be seen the Meadow but ended up spending much of its time over towards Wytham in the fields near the river.

The White Stork courtesy of Mario Garcia

One of the highlights of the spring was the appearance of three Glossy Ibis. This bird is following in the footsteps of Cattle and Great White Egrets in colonising this country though it's somewhat behind those species. So to have three of these smart birds around on the Meadow offering such good views was something special.

Two of the three Glossy Ibis

Towards the end of April we managed to get Whimbrel and Bar-tailed Godwit on the year list. Both these species are less than annual so it was good to have them there. As we moved into May things quietened down some more despite some unseasonal rain that kept the floods topped up. We added Grey Plover and Wood Sandpiper to the list as well before the spring passage ended.

The summer months are traditionally slow on the bird front. We had the pair of Otmoor Cranes commuting over our air space to Chimney Meadows and the feral flock of Snow Geese dropped into the Meadow for a visit.

Commuting Cranescourtesy of Thomas Miller

The feral Snow Goose flock

In these quieter times other aspects of nature often become the focus of our attention. There was a lovely Downy Emerald dragonfly in the Trap Grounds for a few days. This is a comparatively uncommon species in Oxfordshire.

Down Emerald courtesy of Nicola Devine

There were also orchids to look at with lots of Bee Orchids and Pyramidal Orchids to be found thanks to optimal growing conditions for flowers. Indeed Burgess Field was a riot of colour this summer with far more species and growing far taller than usual.

As we moved into autumn, our star odonata species from last year, Willow Emerald, was once again found in the Trap Grounds.

Willow Emerald

There was a slow start to Autumn with not much to report beyond a few Redstarts and Spotted Flycatchers. We did have a Great White Egret sightings when one flew down the river but there was little else. The Blenheim and then Otmoor Cattle Egrets eventually found their way to the Meadow and it was lovely to see them in amongst the cattle. They eventually moved on to the livestock fields in Wytham where they are spending the winter.

Cattle Egretscourtesy of Matthew Lloyd

Things all stepped up a gear towards the end of October. The floods returned earlier than usual which meant that we had some small pools which ended up pulling in a Pectoral Sandpiper. This neartic wader has only been recorded twice before on the Meadow and was a proper national scarcity with many people coming from far and wide to see it. It ended up staying for about a week.

Pectoral Sandpiper courtesy of Stephen Burch

Winter Again
November was predictably quiet and it looked like December was heading that way as well until a wonderful first winter Dotterel was found in amongst the Golden Plover flock. This species is rarer in the county than Pectoral Sandpiper and is certainly a first for the Meadow. It was seen sporadically over a week or two before relocating to Otmoor on the last day of the year.

Dotterel courtesy of Ollie Padget

The only other birds of note were the two Otmoor Red-breasted Geese which relocated from Otmoor to join the Meadow Barnacle Goose flock. Whilst these are more likely to be escaped birds they make a colourful addition to the Meadow geese.

Red-breasted Geese courtesy of Joe Tobias

The Bird of the Year

So its finally time for the coveted bird of the year award. With another record breaking year and some great birds, the short list is pretty strong but in the end it has to go to the first winter Dotterel. It was the rarest county bird and a first for the Meadow. Let's hope that it pops in again sometime soon to grace the pages of the new year list.