Oxford Art Weeks

Time for a bit of shameless plugging! This weekend (7th/8th) and next (14th/15th), as well as Thursday 12th  my wife is exhibiting as part of the Oxford Art Weeks programme. I wouldn't normally mention it on here (indeed I have not in the past) except that this year the majority of her new work features local areas of interest. In particular Port Meadow, Burgess Field and the Trap Grounds are the main subjects of her work.

You can see her Art Weeks web page here and her website is here. Below are a couple of examples of her work which feature local sites. I'll be around too so do come along and say hello!

Blackthorn (Burgess Field)

Winter Pond (The Trap Grounds)

3rd May

Once again it's been far too long since my last post, especially since it's the peak time of the year for sightings. Still, my tardiness in this respect does reflect the rather quiet spring passage that we've been having, especially as far as waders are concerned. Indeed it's been very quiet across the county for waders. Still we've managed to get just enough interesting birds drop in to keep the year list ticking over nicely. 

Starting with waders, we've had a couple of good solid county scarcities. A couple of Saturday's ago we had a Bar-tailed Godwit on the floods, part of a national passage through the centre of the country. There are generally only a few records of this species a year though it's been just about annual the last few years on the Meadow. It obliged by hanging around for at least another day.

The Bar-tailed Godwit

Courtesy of Thomas Miller

The second really good wader was a Wood Sandpiper which unfortunately only hung around for an hour after it was found before being flushed by a first summer Peregrine. Again Wood Sandpiper is scarce (though annual) in the county and just about annual on Port Meadow as well.

The Wood Sandpiper

The 1s Peregrine Falcon, courtesy of Joe Tobias

Two other waders worth mentioning are a Green Sandpiper that dropped in for just five minutes on the floods - fortunately whilst there was an observer to spot it. Green Sandpiper is unusually scarce for the Meadow so it's good to get it on the list. A pair of Greenshank were more obliging, with one of them hanging around for multiple days and still present at the time of writing this. Other than these star birds, there have been the usual Little Ringed Plovers in small numbers (peak count was 8) and a few Oystercatchers

Moving on to Gulls and Terns there have been some good sightings to report, thanks largely to an increased "sky watching" efforts by some of the keenest patching regulars. We managed to get Little Gull on the year list when a flock of 9 birds was spotting flying high over the floods by Thomas Miller. This species is less than annual on the Meadow so it's a great record to have. Thomas, along with Ollie Padget, then went one better with an Arctic Tern flying over later in the week. There have only been one or two records of this species on the Meadow during my entire time birding on the Meadow so this is a fantastic record. Apart from these two stand-out records there was a 1w Mediterranean Gull on the floods in amongst the many Black-headed Gulls that are picking over the ever dwindling floods. There have also been up to 4 Common Terns regularly on the Meadow.

In terms of warblers, gradually all the usual species have been seen though we've had to rely on the "extended catchment area" up to King's Lock for Sedge Warbler and Grasshopper Warbler. The first Reed Warblers have been seen in the Trap Grounds and the Garden Warblers are back in Burgess Field. There have been quite a few sightings of Lesser Whitethroats dotted about the place as well.

There's not been much to report on the wildfowl front. Egyptian Geese numbers have been steadily climbing with up to 7 birds seen on the floods. There have also been a few Shelduck seen but that's been about it. 

The spring passage of both Yellow and White Wagtails has been rather muted this year which has been rather disappointing. There have been a few about though no great numbers on any given day. Rounding things up we have had a few more Cuckoo's being heard and a Cattle Egret flew south over the floods. On the raptor front, in addition to the Peregrine mentioned above (which was a rather pale bird) a distant Hobby was seen flying north over towards Wytham Hill.

Looking ahead, the floods are very much on their last legs though there will probably be some kind of puddle for a few more weeks. May is when the Dunlin and Ringed Plover passage starts going so we should expect a few of those and we might get lucky with a Sanderling as well. This month is traditionally the peak one for rarities in the first half of the year and whilst the lack of floods aren't doing us any favours you never know what might drop in.