9th April

We are now well into what is probably the most exciting month of the year in terms of year ticks with summer migrants now arriving thick and fast.  It is also the peak time for passage waders though records for them depend very much on the state of the floods. Talking of which, as mentioned in the previous post, the incredibly wet March has meant that they are if anything too full at the moment. They were all the way up to Wolvercote at the start of the month though have been dropping fast as the continuous rain finally eased off. In terms of actual sightings its been an eventful time since my last update with some top draw patch birds.

Starting with the waders: the large flock of Black-tailed Godwits lingered for a few days in the end. Ben Sheldon did spot a smaller, smarter bird with a rather up-turned bill in amongst them and there was some speculation that it might be the Asian subspecies. This would have been a first for Britain had it been confirmed but there just wasn't enough to go on given the distances involved.

The possible Asian Black-tailed Godwit, courtesy of Ben Sheldon

We have had a few Oystercatchers still knocking about as well as a single Redshank but the star wader of the month so far has been a Grey Plover which spent the day on the floods.  This species is pretty much annual on the Meadow though usually only by virtue of a single record so it's by no means certain. It also normally turns up a bit later in the month so it's rather an early record.

Moving on to ducks now and the extended floods have been drawing in some ducks (and Grebes) that we might not normally see on the Meadow that often. Four Tufted Ducks lingered for a bit, feeding on the trapped fish within the flood waters. There have also been a few Great Crested Grebes feeding on the floods. The numbers of Teal and Wigeon have dropped dramatically, with the too-deep flood waters no doubt hastening their departure. We've had the usual Shelduck still lingering as well as a few Egyptian Geese and a pair of late Pintail. Right on cue a pair of Garganey turned up - it's great to have this charismatic duck back on the year list. However the best duck sighting since the last post was a stonking flyover drake Mandarin that two lucky observers had go low over towards Burgess Field one morning. This is a pretty rare record for the Meadow with just one "possible" previous record from last year up at Wolvercote Lakes.

Gulls next, not normally a category that I have much to say on at this time of year. However, there was a huge surge in inland Kittiwake records across the midlands recently and the Meadow was lucky enough to get in on this action when a pair of birds turned up just over a week ago. This is a really rare bird for the Meadow with just a handful of records by one observer over previous years. Apart from that we've had an adult Mediterranean Gull still being seen regularly and several hundred Common Gulls seen during their spring passage.

The two Kittiwakes courtesy of Steve Lavington

In terms of spring migrants we've had a good passage of Willow Warblers moving through, particularly along the allotment hedge which seemed full of them on some days. Talking of warblers, the Siberian Chiffchaff is still with us though looking more scruffy by the day. This subspecies seems to do a spring moult unlike their more common cousins. 


The scruffy Siberian Chiffchaff courtesy of Steve Lavington

A couple of singing Cetti's Warblers have been heard up in Wolvercote. We've also had small counts of Sand Martins and Swallows passing through and the first House Martins are now starting to be seen as well. The spring Yellow Wagtail passage has been rather curtailed by the lack of grass at the southern end for them to feed on though we've still had some flyovers and the odd lingering bird in various places.

A Yellow Wagtail, courtesy of Ben Sheldon

I can finally report a Water Rail record on the year list. Normally we get this each winter in the Trap Grounds but due to the extensive reed cutting, we've not managed one this year so far. However, there was a singing male in the scrub by the start of the boat moorings along the canal near St Edward's palying fields last week so we can finally relax on that front.

Finally, a couple of more "feral" sightings have included a Crane that flew low over Leckford Road (probably one of the Otmoor release scheme birds) and a pair of Black Swans (not tickable) have been lingering on the floods recently.

Looking ahead, we've got plenty (almost too much) water for the key spring passage so hopefully we should be able to pull down some good waders. With the rest of the returning summer visitors to look out for as well, there's a lot to look forward to.

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