Friday 30th March

All the beautiful spring weather seems to have vanished overnight and it was overcast and distinctly chilly when I visited the Meadow at around midday today. The combination of the rather large size of the floods and the continuing departure of the wintering ducks makes for a rather empty feel to the place though when you look closely there's still plenty of interest. The highlight of the visit was three LITTLE RINGED PLOVER on the area immediately to the north of the Burgess Field gate - this seems to be the location of choice for this species this year with all the sightings occurring here. There were also three REDSHANK about and a flock of over 100 golden plover was circling and calling. On the duck front there were the two SHELDUCK still about, a couple of lingering PINTAIL and three gadwall. Whilst I was there the Jericho RED KITE flew over and picked up a black-headed gull carcass from the floods. It then proceeded to circle over Medley farm scattering feathers as it picked over it in mid air. The NUTHATCH was still busily piping away in the same general area so it's clearly taken up residence there - let's hope it can attract a mate.

The willow warbler reported a couple of days ago was the first for the county this year as well as the Meadow. I did have a brief walk around Burgess Field this morning to see if I could find one for myself but could only hear chiffchaffs singing.

I forgot to mention that one OYSTERCATCHER is still around. Also Tom Wickens & Richard Foster both reported a fourth LITTLE RING PLOVER this evening. Adrian Gray up at Wolvercote reported a HOUSE MARTIN (the first for the county this year) and a SWALLOW in the last couple of days.

One of the little ringed plovers

Wednesday 28th March

I'm away for a few days but here are some Meadow sightings from Ewan Urquhart & Sydney Penner:

Little Ringed Plover 2
Ruff 2
Common Redshank 3
Common Shelduck 3
Northern Pintail 2
ChiffChaff 2 singing males
Willow Warbler

The gull season is basically over now so I thought that I'd clear out some of my gull photos that I'd taken recently. This is a 1st winter yellow-legged gull that I took last week some time when it dropped in on the flood briefly.

Monday 26th March

I didn't get the chance to visit the Meadow over the weekend though fortunately Sydney Penner did and reported a couple of LITTLE RINGED PLOVERS for his troubles.

Today I only managed a very brief visit first thing this morning where I found 2 LITTLE EGRETS, 1 REDSHANK, 2 SHELDUCK and a single distant 1st winter YELLOW-LEGGED GULL. This great weather is not that conducive to pulling in good migrating birds though it is good soaring weather for larger species. In fact I had a possible osprey over the house during the weekend but I didn't see it for long enough or with my bins so it's going to have to remain a "possible". Talking of soaring birds, three cranes flew north from Farmoor on Sunday and then turned up at Otmoor so it's possible they may have flown over Port Meadow airspace though this is of course pure speculation. Still it's worth keeping an eye on the skies since, as previously discussed, Port Meadow is on a good migration route along the river.

Friday 23rd March: Little Ringed Plover

An absolutely gorgeous spring day today, in fact I was far too hot in my winter coat when I went for a lunch-time visit to the floods. I was rewarded for my efforts with the second LITTLE RINGED PLOVER of the year which once again was on the patch of short grass to the North West of the Burgess Field gate. Apart from this the 2 OYSTERCATCHERS and 4 REDSHANK were still about as were about 4 PINTAIL. It's all getting very quiet on the floods now as the wintering ducks drift away and the fair weather means that migrants keep on going rather than dropping in though I hope that we manage to entice some decent birds to drop in as the floods are looking pretty good at present. Chiffchaffs are singing in quite a few locations now and I heard them in the Trap Grounds, the Spinney and Burgess Field this morning. I forgot to mention that I spotted a kingfisher by the moored boats earlier on in the week - always a nice bird to see.

I was lucky enough to be treated to crippling views of a couple of treecreepers that were feeding in trees right next to the pavement by the Spinney today.

Wednesday 21st March

A late afternoon visit to the Meadow today on what had been a lovely spring day. The floods are starting to look increasingly empty though there is still a good contingent of wigeon and teal around as well as a few lingering PINTAIL. Tonight there was one SHELDUCK, the OYSTERCATCHER and 7 REDSHANK which were worthy of note as well as quite a good golden plover flock of at least 300 birds. The gull roost was basically non-existent this evening and I can only think that someone must have scared all the birds off before I arrived.

Now that we've passed the spring equinox it's definitely spring how ever you define it. There have been a few brimstones passing through my garden the last couple of weeks and we've got a wood pigeon on eggs in the garden as well. The male blackcap is still around and even offers up some warbling song from time to time.

There are still a reasonable number of wigeon about

Monday 20th March

Today I popped in for a brief morning visit after dropping my five year old son off at school. The floods are looking reassuringly full at present which bodes well for the spring passage. After the excitement of the weekend, things were rather quiet with just one REDSHANK and one OYSTERCATCHER about though I did hear my first singing chiffchaff of the year on the patch down near the Spinney.

Sunday 18th March

I'm still ill though I did manage to stagger out to the floods late afternoon for a brief visit with Luke, my five year old son, in tow. Fortunately several other people reported from the patch today in what turned out to be a bumper day for patch year ticks. Jarrod Hadfield reported a BLACK-TAILED GODWIT and a singing chiffchaff (both year ticks) in the morning. Peter Law visited early afternoon where he found a CURLEW (another patch year tick), the godwit still, one OYSTERCATCHER, 4 REDSHANK and 1 DUNLIN. Finally, on my visit I saw the curlew which was still about and 3 SAND MARTINS (a fourth patch year tick) went over. It's clearly all kicking off now!

Saturday 17th March

I wasn't able to get out today as unfortunately I'm feeling ill again. However, Tom Wickens reported:
5 Redshank
4 Dunlin
1 Oystercatcher
3 Shelduck
No sign of Little Ringed Plover this morning.

Friday 16th March: Little Ringed Plover

Firstly my apologies for the lack of posts over the last couple of days but I've been off sick. Fortunately I'm on the mend now and was itching to get out today to see whether I could find any spring migrants on the patch. I wasn't disappointed in that I managed to turn up the first LITTLE RINGED PLOVER of the year for both the patch and indeed the county. It wasn't present when I first arrived so must have dropped in whilst I was there. Other waders included the 2 OYSTERCATCHERS, the 2 RUFF, 6 REDSHANK, just 1 DUNLIN, a total of 3 LITTLE EGRETS and perhaps a couple of dozen golden plover. Today's ducks consisted of 1 SHELDUCK, 4 GOOSANDER and 4 PINTAIL with reasonable amounts of wigeon, teal and shoveler still about. The gull roost was predictably small with just a single common gull worthy of mention.

Something as momentous as the first little ringed plover of the year needs to be commemorated even if it is through some rather grotty digiscoped footage (it was getting pretty dark by the time I found it and it was about 100 yards away which explains the poor quality). I think that these are amongst my most favourite Meadow birds and so to have them return each spring is extra special for me.

Tuesday 13th March

Overcast all day and consequently not as warm as previous days but with hardly a breath of wind. I feel that at present I'm just reporting the same birds each day albeit with minor variations. Today as far as waders were concerned there were 7 REDSHANK, 3 DUNLIN, 1 OYSTERCATCHER and the 2 RUFF still so we've lost 2 redshank and an oystercatcher though by way of compensation there were a couple of SNIPE and a LITTLE EGRET this evening. The golden plover flock was a little over one hundred birds tonight. On the duck front there were 4 SHELDUCK, 6 GOOSANDER and 5 PINTAIL today. Another very small gull roost with nothing of note, not even any common gulls for the second night in a row. I keep thinking that there will be sand martins any day now though it's now nearly the middle of the month and there's still been no sightings.

There was just the one oystercatcher today - this
photo was taken a couple of days ago in much better light

20 sand martins went through at Farmoor today so some have finally been seen in the county.

Monday 12th March: Shag

It was rather overcast for much of today and indeed first thing on my morning run there was a thick fog around the Meadow. However by late afternoon the sun had managed to fight off the cloud and it was another beautiful spring day. There were plenty of waders around with now a total of 9 REDSHANK which were joined by a couple of RUFF and the 3 DULIN and 2 OYSTERCATCHERS were still also about. On the duck front today there were 3 SHELDUCK and 4 GOOSANDER came in to roost. PINTAIL numbers are now down to just four birds. The gull roost was fairly pitiful with probably no more than 100 black-headed gulls and a couple of dozen larger gulls to look through. However the highlight of the day was a fly-over SHAG which sped rapidly south over the floods and kept on going. We get plenty of fly-over cormorants on the patch but this bird really stood out with its small size and it's strikingly skinny neck. Shag are pretty much an annual bird in the county though they appear almost exclusively at Farmoor and to my knowledge there's not been one on the Meadow before. This does raise the issue of fly-over birds on the Meadow: I've mentioned before how there seems to be a definite migration flight path over the patch with birds presumably following the river and wanting to avoid flying over the city itself. I often wonder what other fly-overs get missed on the Meadow - I've seen diver species go over in the past and I'm sure that all sorts of other goodies pass by unnoticed.

One more thing to report, Steve Goddard saw a kestrel at the Wolvercote allotments over the weekend which is actually a patch year tick. He also reported a couple of LITTLE EGRETS up at that end. One other common bird that we still need for the patch is goldcrest which I usually see in my garden at some point over the winter but this year I've not had one. Therefore if anyone has seen one in or close to the general Meadow area then please let me know where and when so I can add it to the Patch Year List.

Shelduck, apparently know as "lady duck" in Wales or so I've been told

Saturday 10th March

I don't always get an opportunity to visit the Meadow at the weekend but today I had the chance to nip down mid afternoon for a while. The weather was absolutely gorgeous, warm and balmy with hardly a breath of wind though despite it being the arrival date last year for the first sand martins there was still no sign of any summer visitors yet. The 6 REDSHANK and 5 DUNLIN (I may have missed one) and 2 OYSTERCATCHERS were still around and there were a total of 5 SHELDUCK about today which is a good total. Despite it being rather early the nucleus of a gull roost was starting to form and there were a couple of common gulls in amongst them.

The light was so good that I had to spend some time
taking photos. Here's one of the redshank

Friday 9th March

Calm but rather overcast today for my late afternoon visit to the Meadow. The birds were pretty similar to yesterday with 6 REDSHANK, 6 DUNLIN and now 2 OYSTERCATCHERS, 4 SHELDUCK, 4 GOOSDANDER & the usual PINTAIL hangers-on. The gull roost was a better than yesterday with the overcast conditions helping to bring in the birds. Pick of the day was a 2w YELLOW-LEGGED GULL and the common gull passage continued with 2 adults this evening. There were a few other birds which I had to scrutinise carefully and think about: a very small 2w herring gull had me wondering about ring-billed gull for a while and a very clean-headed 2w herring gull had me thinking about Caspian though in both cases I managed to come to the correct conclusion eventually.

I realise that I'd not yet included a photo of any common gulls
during their spring passage so here are a couple of adults.

Thursday 8th March

No wind today and hence a much more pleasant visit. Wader numbers were up with 6 each of REDSHANK and DUNLIN and the OYSTERCATCHER still kicking about. Two SHELDUCK this evening and the few PINTAIL still. The gull roost was pitiful, certainly the smallest of the year so far and the only birds of note in it were 4 common gulls. I forgot to report yesterday a KINGFISHER (spotted by Ben Sandford-Smith) zipping down the river

The oystercatcher is still about

Wednesday 8th March

It was very windy for my Meadow visit today which always makes for difficult birding conditions, especially on the Meadow where there is no shelter. Similar birds to recently though with some small changes which is what keeps patch workers interested. On the wader front 2 REDSHANK (the rest may be by the river of course), 1 OYSTERCATCHER and today there were 4 DUNLIN. Ducks were represented by 4 SHELDUCK, a few PINTAIL and 4 GOOSANDER (1 drake) today. The gull roost was smaller than ever but there was still something of interest: the common gull passage continues with about 10 birds today and in amongst a very small number of larger gulls there were two 2nd winter YELLOW-LEGGED GULLS.

Two of the four shelduck

Tuesday 6th March

Thankfully the wind had dropped today and there was bright sunshine when I visited the Meadow today. No photographers today but the flusheur du jour was an overenthusiastic birder who insisted on going right up to the shoreline on his bike, clearing all the birds off to the far side of the floods though they are very used to being moved about and just carry on feeding elsewhere. The OYSTERCATCHER was still there, 7 of the REDSHANK were about (perhaps my theory about them being along the river yesterday was correct) and there were a couple of DUNLIN hanging out with about 50 golden plover and 7 lapwing. Four SHELDUCK today, still a handful of PINTAIL and three GOOSANDER (one drake) dropped in briefly though they didn't linger. The gull roost was depressingly tiny and the only point of interest was a total of 7 common gulls so perhaps some passage is going on with this species. Still no migrants though sand martins have now been reported in Newbury so they're not far off now.

Here's yesterday's little egret bracing itself against the wind

Monday 5th March

A sunny but very breezy day today. Highlight of the day was a LITTLE EGRET (the first of the year) by the North Channel though it didn't linger too long. The redshank seemed to have moved on (unless they were down by the river) but the OYSTERCATCHER was still about as were a couple of DUNLIN. In amongst the ducks were 4 SHELDUCK, a few PINTAIL and good numbers of shoveler. The gull roost was small today with just a common gull worthy of note.

Whilst out on the Meadow I met up with a photographer who was doing a project on common land and we got chatting. He'd mentioned how exciting it was to see all the gulls go up and whilst I normally complain bitterly if anyone puts up the roost whilst I'm trying to view it, today as I was about to go anyway and there didn't seem to be much about I suggested that he might like to do so deliberately in order to get some shots. It was quite something to see the entire roost go up and whilst a portion flew off in a huff to Farmoor about half of them eventually settled down again in a different spot. I took a few snaps with the super-zoom just for fun.

This sort of behaviour is of course generally very strongly discouraged!
(as usual with all my photos, click to enlarge if you wish)

Sunday 4th March

The only visit to the Meadow that I could make this weekend was a late walk this afternoon with my five year old son in tow. This meant that it was bins only and I couldn't linger or he would start to get cross. Anyway it was remarkably cold and windy this afternoon (where has spring gone?) so even I didn't want to hang around too much. The OYSTERCATCHER was still about as were 9 REDSHANK and about 100 golden plover. There were two SHELDUCK still about as well as a handful of PINTAIL. The gull roost looked interesting but in a brief bins only scan I couldn't find any Med gulls and the most interesting bird that I could pick out was an intermedius lesser black-backed gull.

Not black or long-winged enough to be a fuscus but
still a nice intermedius (I presume).

Friday 2nd March

Another mild day thought the fog never quite left the Meadow and was still lingering when I visited late afternoon so it was quite a contrast compared to yesterday's sunny conditions. Bird numbers continue to diminish though there is still plenty to look at. As far as waders were concerned an OYSTERCATCHER was about as were the 10 REDSHANK still though I couldn't see any dunlin. A flock of a couple of hundred golden plover were knocking about and there were half a dozen or so lapwings around today. The three SHELDUCK were still present and there were still a few PINTAIL about. The gull roost was a rather small affair and I couldn't find any med. gulls despite careful looking. Indeed the best that I could come up with was a single common gull and a 2nd winter YELLOW-LEGGED GULL. Migrants are starting to be seen elsewhere in the country and I'm looking forward to the first sand martins which should be very soon now.

Misty lapwing (and a redshank)

Muddy-billed oystercatcher

Thursday 1st March

It was a lovely balmy day today once the lingering morning fog had finally burnt off. Conditions down on the Meadow this evening were gorgeous with not a breath of wind and some good birds to boot. On the way down I found the LITTLE GREBE still on the Spinney stream. At the floods on the wader front the REDSHANK count had swelled to an impressive 10 birds this evening so there is definitely some wader movement underway now. Just one DUNLIN was seen (though they can easily be overlooked) and the golden plover flock was a bit larger than of late though rather fragmented into different sub-flocks. Duck interest was maintained with 2 SHELDUCK, a similar PINTAIL count to of late and I also spotted a pair of gadwall in some video footage that I took this evening. However the greatest interest of the visit was to be found within the gull flock. There were three (yes three!) adult MEDITERRANEAN GULLS this evening, one with a full summer hood and two with nearly complete hoods which might have been a pair. There's no doubt that the spring passage of these beautiful gulls is now well and truly underway.

Mediterranean gulls

The most interesting bird of my visit was what I considered at the time to be a 3rd winter Caspian gull. However, in consultation with Ian Lewington he managed to put me straight and it turns out just to be another herring gull. In the cold light of morning I can see that of course he is correct and whilst it does have certain cachinnans characteristics such as the dark eye, the thick bill, large "jowl" and the fact that it doesn't bowl you over with its beauty all point to the fact that it's just another albeit rather strange herring gull. Clearly I still have a lot to learn!

Not a 3rd winter Caspian gull (thanks to Ian Lewington
for putting me straight)