31st December

December has been unusually quiet, largely due to the Big Freeze that gripped the country over the first part of the month. It was so severe and prolonged that the Meadow became largely birdless though it did mean that my garden feeders suddenly became a much sought after source of food for the local Goldfinches and Greenfinches. They ended up in residence in the garden for the entire time - a welcome sight when everywhere else was frozen and barren. We've also had a pair of Blackcaps gracing the garden on a regular basis. This species is pretty much annual in my garden over the winter. After this frozen weather, it was back to mild and wet weather and a welcome return of the birds. Indeed the Meadow has been very "birdy" for the second half of the month with lots of the usual suspects.

Perhaps one of the highlights was a distinctly dodgy Caspian Gull which graced the roost one evening. Definitely with some mixed genes it was so marginal a call as to whether it could be classed as a Caspian or just a hybrid that even I (normally only too ready to claim a Casp when I see a candidate bird) thought it wasn't one. It was only our esteemed county recorder who said that it was "good enough" to be one. In any event it's not a year tick as we had plenty of this charismatic species at the start of the year, but it's nice to have the first of the season under our belt. There was not much else on the gull front apart from a few Yellow-legged gulls. The real gulling season kicks off properly the new year.

The Dodgy Caspian Gull

On the waterfowl front it's been the usual species in fairly good numbers. There are plenty of Wigeon and Teal about with a dozen or so Shoveler. On some days we've had a few Pintail gracing the floods as well. A couple of Shelduck for several days running were an unusual sight for this time of year. There are plenty of geese about with the Barnacle Goose flock more or less in permanent residence and plenty of Canada Geese. The Blenheim White-fronted Geese (sadly not tickable) have been popping into the roost on occasion as well. There have been up to 8 Goosander along the river, with some occasionally appearing on the floods at dusk. There was an intriguing "reported" Ring-necked Duck on RBA recently though with a couple of Tufted Duck on the river and nothing more know about it than this one mention I can't really in all good conscience claim this as a tick.

Winter Duck, courtesy of Peter Batty (www.batty.photos)

Waders have been mostly represented by Golden Plover and Lapwing in modest numbers. We have had the odd Black-tailed Godwit and Dunlin record though none that have lingered. A couple of Redshank were seen along the river in their usual place near the fallen trees towards the end of the month. During the frozen period a lot (50+) of Snipe were seen in the Hinterland where presumably the ground was less frozen.

There's not been much else to report apart from the pair of Stonechat which seemed to be wintering in the thistle area between the Aristotle Lane and Walter Well Rd exits. However, the cold spell eventually proved too much and they seem to have departed now.


Pied Wagtails, courtesy of Peter Batty (www.batty.photos)

The only other piece of news is a report (in a comment of the previous blog post) of a Whooper Swan flying low over Wolvercote on the 20th November at around 11 am. This is a welcome year tick which pushes the final total to 137 strict BOU + 1 bonus bird (Red-breasted Goose). This compares very favourable to last year which was 136 + 4 (White Stork, Crane, Red-breasted Goose, Snow Goose). So in terms of strict BOU records this is a record breaking year. In any event it's a great effort given how quickly the floods disappeared during the crucial spring passage period.

Finally it only remains for me to wish all blog readers a very Happy New Year. My thanks go out to the great team of patch birders that Port Meadow has. It's been great birding the patch with you all this year and our year list total is a real team effort. Here's to another great year for 2023! 

Kingfisher, courtesy of Peter Batty (www.batty.photos)

 PS As usual I will post the end of year review sometime next month.


3rd December

November is not normally known for great birding excitement. However there have been a few things of note to keep ones interest up. Firstly, by way of background, the floods reformed at the start of the month and have been growing steadily in size so that now they are a pretty good expanse. Indeed the Meadow is looking superb at the moment and has once more attracted a host of different bird species. 

On the duck front, alongside the usual Wigeon, Teal and a few Shoveler, we've had up to 4 Pintail and a few Goosander on the floods. The latter species has also been reported along the river quite a bit this month as were Two Tufted Duck one day. The Barnacle Geese are now a regular feature on the Meadow at this time with up to 130 present throughout the month. The highlight of the month as far as water fowl is concerned has been a dark-bellied Brent Goose, presumably the Dorchester bird, which was found on the floods this morning and which hung around all day. We've also had up to 8 White-fronted Geese coming in at dusk to roost. One of the birds looks like a hybrid but as yet we've not been able to ascertain whether the remaining 7 birds are part of the Blenheim flock or are proper wild birds. There were 6 White-fronts on Otmoor recently though that was a family part of two adults and four first winters so these are different birds. Genuine wild White-fronts are very rare on the Meadow so it would be great if they can be properly seen at some point

The Brent on the floods, courtesy of Ben Sheldon

...and in flight courtesy of Matthew Lloyd

There have been slim pickings as far as waders are concerned. A couple of Dunlin were reported mid month and over the last few days we've had up to 3 Black-tailed Godwits. Lapwing numbers have increased noticeably and we're starting to get bigger numbers of Golden Plover as well. The highlight was an unseasonable Curlew that was picked out of the foggy gloom one evening.

The gull roost has got to a reasonable size now. So far just a few Yellow-legged Gulls have been found but now that we are into December it all really kicks off on the gull front.

In terms of passerines, there have been a few snippets to report. By far the best sighting was a Hawfinch which flew over south, seen by Phil Barnett. This is only the second record of this species on the Meadow after a few were seen a couple of years ago flying over Burgess Field amongst some Redwing. Both the male and female Stonechat have been seen this month. As they are generally rather elusive and covering a large area they are often hard to spot even when they are there so it's not known if they are still about or not. A singing male Cetti's Warbler has been heard a couple of times around the Wolvercote Lake complex this month as well.

In other news there have been a few Noctule bat sightings from our resident bat expert, Matthew Lloyd.

In terms of the year list, thanks to the Brent Goose we are now on 136 + 1 extra (Red-breasted Goose). Depending on how you measure it, this compares well with last year's record breaking tally of 136 + 4 extra (White Stork, Crane, Red-breasted Goose, Snow Goose): equalling it on strict BOU terms and only 3 behind on "extra" ticks. Looking ahead to the last month of the year, it's going to be water fowl and gulls mostly though something left field could turn up. Last year we had the Dotterel in December so there's still plenty to play for.