Tuesday 31st January

What a contrast between yesterday and today weatherwise! Without yesterday's glorious sunshine, the overcast conditions and rather chilling wind meant that it wasn't that pleasant being out on the Meadow today. Accordingly I didn't stay until absolutely last light but the gull roost was rather small anyway. Plenty of waders today: 2 RUFF, 2 REDSHANK and 3 DUNLIN as well as the usual lapwings and golden plover. The SHELDUCK was still around, the RED KITE was seen again and there were still about a dozen PINTAIL all told. The only point of interest in the gull roost was the 2nd winter YELLOW-LEGGED GULL once more.

The 2nd winter yellow-legged gull, filmed yesterday

Monday 30th January

Back to cold weather again though fortunately not cold enough to freeze the floods. My usual late afternoon visit found some lovely sunshine and the birds were looking wonderful bathed in the late afternoon glow. Still the usual suspects with 2 REDSHANK and 1 RUFF as well as a single SHELDUCK and a reasonable number of PINTAIL. The RED KITE was about again - he's now being seen quite regularly over the Kingston Road area.

I was just settling down to look through the gulls when a microlight flew low over the floods putting up absolutely every single bird! He then flew back over to make sure that he'd got rid of all of them before flying off over the city. Fortunately some of the gulls gradually returned and I was able to find a 2nd winter YELLOW-LEGGED GULL in amongst them though still no white-wingers.

The microlight chasing off all the birds...
...and some of the golden plover after they were put up

Saturday 28th January

My apologies for the lack of posts for the last couple of days but I've been bed-ridden with a nasty little cold. Today was the first day that I felt well enough to be up and about again so naturally I headed over to the Meadow though I decided not to bring my scope (standing still in all the cold weather would obviously not be good for my recuperation). Instead I took the Canon super-zoom out for a walk and as there was some nice late afternoon sunshine there were plenty of the usual birds to take photos of. In terms of actual sightings I spotted a couple of REDSHANK though I couldn't see the ruff (though I could have missed them without my scope). The golden plover flock was still a good size and duck numbers seemed improved on recent visits. All in all, nothing out of the ordinary though it was good to be back again.

Here's one of the ruff, taken a few days ago - let's hope they're still around

Wednesday 25th January

Pretty much the same birds as usual tonight: the 2 RUFF and a DUNLIN were about though there was no sign of the redshank (they were probably along the river shoreline). A decent flock of golden plover which were initially flying very high up but gradually worked their way lower until they were performing aerial acrobats á lá starlings before coming in to roost. The gull roost was once again a relatively modest affair with one probably YELLOW-LEGGED GULL though in the throng I couldn't see very much of it.

I thought that I would share this 2nd winter yellow-legged gull videograb that I took the previous day.

Tuesday 24th January

There was not a breath of wind this afternoon on my visit to the Meadow. The overnight rain had topped things up a little which was nice to see. On the bird front it was pretty much the same as yesterday with the 2 RUFF and 3 REDSHANK still about and though there was no sign of the dunlin there was a single SNIPE by way of compensation. The PINTAIL count was twelve today. The dark-eyed YELLOW-LEGGED GULL from yesterday was still about to start with though it didn't linger today and the gull roost was dominated by black-headed gulls with not many larger gulls to ogle.

Reflective plovers

Monday 23rd January

I made my usual later afternoon visit to the Meadow today. Unusually, there were quite a few other birders and photographers around today though of course they didn't stay until dusk to grill the gulls - bunch of lightweights! The highlight of the trip was a lovely kingfisher buzzing around the boat mooring area, another patch year tick. Waders were well represented with the two RUFF, 3 REDSHANK and two bonus DUNLIN as well as the golden plover flock which must be getting on for 1500 birds now. Duck numbers still seem somewhat down on previous counts, could the mild weather mean that they're starting to head off already, surely not? Back to the gull grilling where a rather dark-eyed bird had me initially thinking of Caspian though it turned out to be a YELLOW-LEGGED GULL. Still no white-wingers though there was a 2nd winter Iceland at Appleford recently so they are at least in the area now.

The dark-eyed yellow-legged gull

Sunday 22nd January

It was overcast, mild but surprisingly windy when I when for a late morning run around the patch. The wind meant that most of the bird life was hunkered well down and I didn't see very much in either Burgess Field (a single SNIPE and 8 meadow pipits) or in the Trap Grounds. The floods themselves held the two RUFF, the usual large golden plover flock, a single SHELDUCK and though I couldn't see any redshank they may very well still be about along the river shoreline. I'm pleased to report that the PINTAIL are back with about ten birds present in total. The RED KITE was about again quartering over the Meadow and is becoming a pretty regular sighting. On the way home I found the LITTLE GREBE back in the Spinney stream.

Friday 20th January

For a change instead of cycling to the Meadow for the last hour of the day as I usually do, today I walked over at around midday. One of the advantages of walking is that one can get to appreciate more of the local bird life en route. For example, I was able to check out the Spinney stream today where I was pleased to find a LITTLE GREBE (a patch year tick). I've heard reports of up to three on this stream but this is the first time that I've actually seen them myself. I tried to get closer for a photo but the grebe was having none of it and shot off underwater at great speed.

The Meadow floods themselves are still strangely empty compared to a couple of weeks ago. The one big increase in numbers has been with the golden plover flock which now numbers at least 1000 birds and that's probably being conservative. The two RUFF and three REDSHANK were still about and there was a SHELDUCK around today but no pintail at all. The two RAVENS were flying around in the distance over Burgess Field briefly and a RED KITE was about for most of the time that I was there. With the unseasonal influx of rare waders in the county in the form of a grey phalarope and a Temminck's stint, let's hope that we get something special turning up soon on the Meadow.

One of the three redshank (taken on Wednesday)

Wednesday 18th January

What with it still be frozen and also gloomy I didn't venture out yesterday but with today's much milder temperatures I sallied forth once more to the floods. There were plenty of birds around though nowhere near the pre-freeze numbers - presumably they'll build up again quickly enough. On the wader front there was one REDSHANK and the two RUFF as well as a large (1000+) flock of golden plover. The usual duck species were about though only a handful of PINTAIL. The gull roost was very poor today with only a few dozen large gulls to look at. A grey heron on the floods was a patch year tick as was the TUFTED DUCK(S) that Adrian Gray reported recently up in Wolvercote (presumably in the Gullet).

The two ruff, digiscoped in poor light

Monday 16th January

Another very cold but sunny day with little wind so I decided to go for a late morning run around the patch. This proved to be a most enjoyable excursion with the cold weather meaning that all birds were very actively searching for food rather than skulking away. The Trap Grounds which is normally not that productive, today came up trumps with a good handful of patch year ticks. To start with a SNIPE flew off as I approached the pond and a male reed bunting was (appropriately enough) in amongst the reeds. As I moved around to the board walk I spotted a WATER RAIL slinking away into the reeds - this is a very good bird for the patch with is certainly less than annual. Further around a posse of jays were screeching away in the distance and a greater-spotted woodpecker flew over calling. Burgess Field was still largely birdless though I did get a nice view of one of the resident green woodpeckers. Out on the Hinterland the golden plover flock were widely scattered all over the place. They were there yesterday as well though in a much more tightly packed flock then. Along the river shore there were a total of three REDSHANK though I couldn't find any displaced ducks of any kind. The Castle Mill Stream still had quite a few teal in it and there were loads of redwing in the trees. To round things off on the small stream next to the Spinney by the Waterside development there was a grey wagtail feeding away on the frozen water. All in all a very nice morning's round with quite a few patch year ticks.

Often overlooked, carrion crows are very
smart looking birds close up.

Saturday 14th & Sunday 15th January

The much colder weather has meant that the floods have been frozen over all weekend. On Saturday there was hardly any wind and the bright sunshine made conditions very pleasant indeed despite the cold. There was a small patch of water near the Burgess Field gate which was still open and the remaining birds were all crowded around this area. The four REDSHANK were still about and there were still quite a few PINTAIL in amongst the wigeon and teal.

By Sunday however, the wind picked up and it felt much colder. All the birds had departed the floods apart from a few hardy loafing gulls. A few of the teal found refuge on the Mill Stream as usual and at least two of the REDSHANK were along the river shore.

Stop Press: Tom Coyne reported the two RUFF on the ice with the gulls on Sunday

Ducks on ice on Saturday

Whilst the colder weather is good for bird displacement and might just bring something interesting our way, the floods are very prone to freezing since they are so exposed which is obviously not good for the birds. Once it warms up enough to thaw them we might just attract one of the numerous Iceland gulls that have invaded the country just now.

Friday 13th January

Another cold afternoon but with some lovely sunshine to light up the birds late afternoon. Today the golden plover were all down in the south west corner near the boat in a tightly packed flock of at least 600 birds. There was a lone DUNLIN accompanying them - the others dunlin may have been hidden within the plover flock. Over in the north east corner were the two RUFF and a total of five REDSHANK. I made a count of the PINTAIL today and came up with a total of thirty birds which is a great total. As the weather was rather good the gull roost was rather poor with not very many large gulls at all though there were plenty of black-headed gulls about. The NUTHATCH was calling away by Medley Farm still and one of the RAVENS came in to land on the Hinterland "cronking" away as it did so.

Thursday 12th January

A distinctly colder feel in the weather this afternoon for my visit to the Meadow. Today there were 2 RUFF about, along with 3 DUNLIN and 3 REDSHANK and a single SHELDUCK. High overhead the golden plover flock was wheeling, numbering perhaps 500 birds, though they didn't come in to land while I was there. In the gull roost it was noticeable just how many of the herring gulls have now got their clean white heads which makes it all the harder picking out the good stuff though this evening I did manage to find the first definite Meadow YELLOW-LEGGED GULL of the year showing off its gleaming yellow legs in the evening sunlight.

The first yellow-legged gull of the year for the Meadow

Tuesday 10th January

Reports from a couple of sources today: Steve Goddard saw two RAVENS up by Wolvercote today and another birder (whose name I've unfortunately forgotten) reported 4 SHELDDUCK and 4 GOOSANDER at first light. I visited late in the day as usual where there were 4 DUNLIN, 4 REDSHANK and the 1 RUFF still. The gull roost was a rather modest affair with nothing of particular note.

Monday 9th January

My usual last hour before dark visit to the Meadow today where there were still some waders around in the form of 4 DUNLIN and now 5 REDSHANK though the ruff appears to have moved on. I actually did a rough count of the PINTAIL today and there are now over 20 of them which is a great count. The shelduck have moved on though three immature mute swans flew in to roost and 4 GOOSANDER flew over the floods whilst I was there. The gull roost was mostly black-headed gulls tonight and there was nothing of interest amongst the larger gulls. A flyover linnet and a pheasant calling from near Medley Farm added a couple of year ticks to the list.

Sunday 8th January: Raven

It was a lovely morning with bright sunshine and no wind when I went for a run around the patch. I decided to visit the Trapp Grounds as well this morning in order to find a few more of the commoner species for the year list and was pleased to add bullfinch with a lovely male near the railway line. Burgess Field gave me green woodpecker and meadow pipit though I couldn't find any snipe in the usual place. On the Hinterland I managed to find a splendid RAVEN looking huge compared to his carrion crow and rook cousins so it seems the recent reports of regular sightings of this species might be accurate. A flyover skylark was yet another year tick and I was pleased to hear the Medley Farm NUTHATCH piping away so it's good to know that he's still around.

On the floods themselves the Sunday morning dogs managed to put everything up which made seeing what waders were about easier: 3 DUNLIN, 4 REDSHANK and 1 RUFF were the highlights. The two SHELDUCK were still about as were the good numbers of PINTAIL. What with the bright sunshine and the plethora of birds it was a lovely morning to be out on the Meadow.

A rubbish point & shoot photo of the raven

Saturday 7th January

I wasn't able to make it out to the Meadow today but fortunately Tom Wickens was. His highlights were: 1 RUFF, 4 DUNLIN, 4 REDSHANK, 1 SHELDUCK

Friday 6th January

Thankfully yesterday's wind had gone and it was quite a nice day today though noticeably cooler than the very mild temperatures that we've been having of late. I made my usual late afternoon visit down to the Meadow where there were still plenty of birds about though the gull roost was much smaller than yesterday (due to the better weather). Waders were well represented by 2 REDSHANK and 2 RUFF, the latter reported by Richard Foster. On the water fowl front there were 6 GOOSANDER (all but one were male) 2 SHELDUCK, 6 gadwall and at least 10 PINTAIL. In amongst the gulls were a common gull and two probable YELLOW-LEGGED GULLS.

I've also been hearing intriguing but unconfirmed reports about at least 2 ravens in the area for the last few days - today they were reported over by the Wolvercote area.

Shelduck are such lovely birds

Thursday 5th January

Despite very strong winds that only a madman would be out birding in, I went my first visit to the Meadow for quite a while today and was pleased to see how healthy the floods look. I was also amazed at the sheer numbers of birds present. There must easily be over one thousand duck and a couple of thousand black-headed gulls alone in what was a reasonable sized roost today. There were quite a few noteworthy birds about today to get the new Year List off to a good start with COMMON SHELDUCK, a red-head GOOSANDER, two RUFF, a single DUNLIN (reported by Richard Foster) and at least a dozen PINTAIL all on the floods. The golden plover flock was a healthy size with several hundred birds present. There was nothing of particular note in the gull roost though I didn't stay long due to the scope-shakingly strong winds.

Talking of Year Lists, Steve Goddard reported sightings of treecreeper, reed bunting, STOCK DOVE, greater spotted woodpecker and song thrush all in his Wolvercote garden this week.

Meadow teal