15th February

As I mentioned at the end of my last post, February is generally not that exciting so it's been a pleasant surprise to have some reasonable birds to report. The headline bird was the brief appearing of a Glossy Ibis at 5pm a few days ago. It was there for all of a minute or two before flying off and then relocating to Otmoor the next day. This species is fast going the way of Great White and Cattle Egret in colonising this country but it is still categorised as nationally Scarce on RBA so warrants inclusion on the hall of fame on the right-hand side bar of the blog. As a point of interest I am now no longer included the two Egret species on this list as they are more or less resident breeders in the county now.

Glossy Ibis, courtesy of Matthew Lloyd

Glossy Ibis, courtesy of Zhenhuan Zhang

The other point of interest was a smart adult Mediterranean Gull today in the evening's roost. There is usually a spring passage in March so this one is a bit early but then again everything is getting earlier these days. With this find, that marks the completion of all the gulls that we might reasonably find in a year on the Meadow. Sadly white-wingers are no longer in that category but still give us something to look out for as the winter gull season draws to a close.

Apart from that we've had the usual Yellow-legged Gulls and a few Caspians to keep us busy. "Novak" the tennis ball playing first winter Caspian put in another appearance recently and we had a smart adult in the roost a few days ago. Back in the day a Caspian find was something to get exciting about but they are now no longer the rarity that they used to be. This partly down to a marked increase in observer knowledge (thanks almost entirely to Thomas "the gull whisperer" Miller) and partly because they are genuinely getting more numerous in the county.

A smart adult Caspian, courtesy of Thomas Miller

On the wader front we've had one or two Redshank and the single Black-tailed Godwit hung around for a while though has now departed. We've had some huge Golden Plover flocks in excess of a thousand birds of late though it can be very hit and miss as to how many are present. There's not been much change in duck numbers so far though our Pintail have now disappeared. Shelduck numbers fluctuate but we had four on the floods a few days ago. There have been a few Goosander on the river though they've not been coming into the floods in the evening. 

Looking ahead to the second half of the month, I guess that it will be more of the same. We will probably start to see some movement as over-wintering birds start to relocate but it will still be too early for any spring migrants. There is still the gull roost to sift through and in days gone by the end of the season was often when a relocating white winger would turn up though I don't know of any that are south of us in the country at the moment. The real jewel in the crown would be something like a Ring-billed Gull in the Common Gull passage. On a more realistic level we can hope for more Med Gulls and Caspians and we might get a spring Barn Owl in Burgess Field. Speaking personally, my thoughts are very much turning to spring now - I've had enough of this winter!


As usual I haven't done a post on the blog here until at least the end of January. As I said in my end of year review, January generally tends to be an exercise in reticking the same things as last year. Indeed I have a spreadsheet for the Meadow year list set up with all the species that I might expect to see in the winter months and, thanks to the team effort that is Port Meadow birding these days, we've managed to tick off most things on that list already.

Down to some details: as well as the usual winter ducks we've had a few Shelduck on the floods with up to 9 reported. A few Pintail have also been found in amongst the winter throng. As far as the geese are concerned, in amongst the now regular Barnacle Goose flock we've had at least one Red-breasted Goose with us all month though I'm not sure where it's partner went to. Egyptian Goose has also made it onto the list after their successful breeding last year.

Waders have been understandably thin on the ground though we've managed a Dunlin, a regular Redshank and a few Black-tailed Godwits. Sadly, gone are the days when we could expect a winter Ruff as a matter of course.

Winter is of course a classic time for gulling and we've had some reasonable large gull roosts this month to sift through. As well as a good number of Yellow-legged Gulls we've had at least three Caspians courtesy of our resident gull guru Thomas Miller. We've had no luck with Med Gulls so far though.

A fine 1st winter Caspian courtesy of Thomas Miller

In terms of other species that are harder to get, we've had Nuthatch and Little Grebe up at Wolvercote Laes as well as Tawny Owl heard by the canal. In fact the only things that I would reasonably expect on the year list which we've yet to have are Great Crested Grebe and Pheasant.

One of the more sad aspects of this month has been the large number of bird flu casualties. It's been a record breaking year for cases in the country and this has been reflected in the finding of moribund and dead geese and gulls (mostly Black-headed) on a daily basis.

A dead Barnacle Goose, courtesy of Zhenhuan Zhang

Looking ahead to February, there's not much to say really. It's generally a tough month for birding when all the usual species have already been ticked off and there are no spring migrants yet to look forward to. Still there is always gulling: we're long overdue a white winger but even finding a few more Caspians or a Med Gull will do.