23rd September

Since my last post the good autumn passage has continued. For a couple of weeks Burgess Field was on fire with two more Redstarts and five more Spotted Flycatchers. That makes four Redstarts in total and eight Spotted Flycatchers which are pretty amazing totals by Port Meadow standards. 

One of Three Spotted Flycatchers that turned up one lunchtime.
At one point they are all in the same tree

The fourth Redstart to grace Burgess Field this autumn

It does rather seem that this passage has passed as Burgess Field has been decidedly quiet for the last week and a bit. Yellow Wagtail numbers have taken a nosedive as well. We peaked somewhere in the mid twenties in terms of numbers but the last week or so there have been just three birds at most. We've had a few Lapwing and Golden Plover starting to assemble on the Meadow so far. In addition there was a Sedge Warbler along the river (sadly this species is pretty rare on the Meadow these days) and a single Tufted Duck on the river for one afternoon.

Ever since the large number of Cattle Egrets starting congregating at Otmoor in the late summer, I have been hoping that some would disperse to Port Meadow as they did last year. Sadly this doesn't seem to have happened. There was a single bird briefly in amongst the livestock on the 7th but that's been it. At least we've managed to get a genuine on-the-patch tick for this - up until now our year tick was done by extreme-scoping all the way to the Wytham cattle fields with only the observer actually being on the patch. A regular flock is now being seen over at Wytham so it looks like they have all moved over there for the winter now. 

Our one brief Cattle Egret

Talking of Egrets, we've had a couple more Great White Egret sightings. These are presumably the Cassington GP birds popping over to the Meadow for a visit. One spent a couple of hours at Wolvercote Lake one morning and another was seen on the river again. We've had a few more Wheatear sightings with one at the north end of the Meadow and then two more which have lingered at the southern end on the dried up flood area.


Despite my fretting about the state of the year list we have managed to rack up quite a few more ticks. Firstly a Marsh Tit was seen by Phil Barnett in a Hawthorn near the Aristotle Lane entrance briefly before moving off. Presumably this is a bird dispersing from Wytham Wood where they breed. Secondly, Steve Lavington has a brief Stonechat sighting as one flew into the allotments. I often wonder what gems get missed within the allotment area! Finally, Phil Barnett found another goody in the form of a juvenile Grey Plover that spent the afternoon on the Meadow. There's  been a flurry of sightings nearby at Farmoor so it was good that we managed to get this just about annual species on the list. With the early demise of the floods I was sure that we'd missed it this year.

The Grey Plover, courtesy of Ben Sheldon

Looking ahead, with the continued drought there's no sign of the floods returning any time soon. So I would continue to expect slim pickings on the Meadow. However, we've managed to do OK so far this autumn without any water so it's worth staying optimistic.

September 3rd

It's been a pretty reasonable start to autumn on the Meadow. Given that there are no flood waters at all we've had to make do with migrating passerines but fortunately we've been well served on this front. We've had at least two Redstarts in Burgess Field, a male and a female. I say "at least", this is because after no reports of the female for about a week, one was caught in the ringing nets there. It could be the same one or it could be a new bird. 

Female Redstart in the hand courtesy of Thomas Miller

We've also had a couple more Spotted Flycatchers: one in the north east corner of Burgess Field and one in the Trap Grounds. Sadly both were single observer sightings. That does bring the tally for this species to three birds already this autumn, which is pretty good!

We had our first Great White Egret record of the year with a couple of birds seen flying south along the river before heading back north again. Since then there have been several more sightings so they seem to be migrating regularly to the area, probably from Cassington GPs though they may well be finding the Meadow a bit too noisy for them to linger. Vidya Menon did capture a nice photo of one on the river early one morning which would tend to support this thesis.

Early morning Great White Egret courtesy of Vidya Menon

Yellow Wagtail numbers have increased dramatically since my last post and we are now getting over 20 birds in amongst the cattle. 

There have been quite a few sightings of Hobby around the general area, including over Kingston Road and one over the Trap Grounds. 

Hobby courtesy of Nicola Devine

Geese numbers are starting to climb again despite the lack of water on the Meadow. In amongst them have been 3 Egyptian Geese recently which seem to have taken a liking to the Meadow.

On the insect front there have been more sightings of Willow Emeralds on the Trap Grounds with up to 10 seen at a peak count. They are also discovered up at Wolvercote Lakes as well as other new sites throughout the county so they have definitely colonised Oxfordshire now. Apart from that, records of other Odonata species are starting to decline now as we head into autumn. There is one interesting record to report, that of a Southern Migrant Hawker on the Castle Mill Stream opposite Worcester College. Whilst this is strictly off-patch it is certainly possible that this species, another recent colonist of the county, will become more regular in years to come.

Migrant Hawker courtesy of Nicola Devine

Willow Emerald courtesy of Nicola Devine

Southern Hawker courtesy of Nicola Devine

Looking ahead, until we can get some flood waters back, it's going to be more of the same. We still need Whinchat, Stonechat & Marsh Tit which are reasonable possibilities but beyond that it will have to be something rather unexpected.