Tuesday 27th February

I've been away for a few days. Below is a summary of sightings on the Meadow since my last posting:

23rd (myself, Jason Coppock & Alex Martin)
No sign of the adult Glaucous Gull late afternoon
Yellow-legged Gull
Redshank 2
Shelduck 4

26th (Jarrod Hadfield)
Glaucous Gull
8 Barnacle Goose (presumably the local flock of about this number)

27th (Liam Langley)
Adult Glaucous Gull again in the roost.
4 Dunlin
6 Redshank
3 Shelduck,
8 Goosander

 Meadow ducks

Friday 22nd February: Glaucous Gull Still

The floods have retreated back to their usual shape by now so viewing the evening gull roost is much easier than when it's in "lake mode". This evening there was a reasonably sized roost with the adult GLAUCOUS GULL dropping in once again. Apart from this there were several YELLOW-LEGGED GULLS of various ages to admire. As far as ducks were concerned, PINTAIL numbers have reduced but the four SHELDUCK were still about and about 10 or so GOOSANDER came in to roost. On the wader front Mary Gregory reported the 5 REDSHANK still about along the river and there were four DUNLIN in amongst the Golden Plover flock.

The adult Glaucous Gull really is a gorgeous bird

Looking at a close-up of the bill it appears to have a dark smudge on the upper mandible above the gonys spot. Unlike Herring Gulls, Glaucous Gulls only have three immature years before adult plumage but with no dark markings in the wings at all, perhaps this is something like a fourth winter bird.

Thursday 21st February: Glaucous Gull Again

It's been rather quiet on the Patch over the previous few days with not much to report. Various bits and bobs have included up to 6 SHELDUCK earlier in the week, a female TUFTED DUCK on the Castle Mill Stream (a Patch Year Tick) , a couple of RAVENS flying over (per Jarrod Hadfield) and a PEREGRINE (per Paul Cooper). Apart from that it's been the usual ducks, including plenty of PINTAIL still and some GOOSANDER coming in to roost.

However, today things stepped up a gear when Liam Langley and Alex Martin visited the Meadow. Firstly a STONECHAT was spotted working its way along the river. This has suddenly become quite a county rarity due to the recent harsh winters and hasn't been seen on the Meadow for a couple of years now so it's a great Year Tick. Liam also found a JACK SNIPE in Burgess Field and to cap it all the adult GLAUCOUS GULL was back in the roost again this evening.

Phone 'scoped shot of the adult Glaucous Gull (c) Liam Langley/Alex Martin

Friday 15th February

It's been a relatively quiet couple of days after the recent gull excitement. The reason for this is largely due to the improved weather which, whilst being nice for us, tends to mean fewer gulls to watch and those that do turn up tend to do so at a later time as well.

There are still a few waders about with 5 REDSHANK, 5 DUNLIN and 1 OYSTERCATCHER (the latter found by Liam Langley and Alex Martin) of note in the last couple of days as well as plenty of Golden Plover. On the duck front it's the usual suspects in the usual numbers with 30+ PINTAIL  and up to 5 GOOSANDER being the most noteworthy.

Due to the nice weather, instead of gulling today I went for a run around Burgess Field to see what was about. I had my first Skylark of the year fly over, a single Meadow Pipit, 1 Snipe and 1 JACK SNIPE, a Sparrowhawk and a Kestrel to report for my troubles.

Tuesday 12th February: Yet Another Caspian Gull!

It was less windy this evening for my visit up to the Meadow though still very cold. The floods are still in "lake mode" so once more it was a slog up to the Poplar Trees for the best viewing spot, today in the company of Liam Langley. This effort was well rewarded though with yet another 1w CASPIAN GULL, a different individual from the other three. That's now the fourth different bird that's turned up in five days - truly remarkable when in the past I feel lucky to find one or two birds in the whole winter gulling season. If you add that to the four birds that we had at the end of last year then the Meadow is now amassing quite a reasonable Caspian tally for this season.

Tonight's Caspian Gull

The roost was relatively modest and apart from our star bird there was little else of note on the gull front. The usual ducks were about including 30+ PINTAIL, 6 GOOSANDER and a few GADWALL. Waders were well represented with the BLACK-TAILED GODWIT still, a heard-only REDSHANK, 2 RUFF (courtesy of Liam), a single DUNLIN and a reasonable flock of 400 or so Golden Plover. At dusk we were treated to not one but two LITTLE OWLS calling to each other. I also forgot to mention another KINGFISHER sighting from yesterday.

Monday 11th February: Caspian Gull & Little Owl

The recent trend of good gulls is starting to draw some regular extra visitors to the Meadow gull roost which is really great: it's often a lonely vigil that I undertake each evening so having some company is wonderful. Tonight I had the pleasure of the company of Liam Langley, Badger & Peter Law though we had to slog through the mud all the way up to past the Poplar Trees this evening as the floods have gone back into "lake mode" with the overnight rain. Nevertheless we were rewarded for our efforts by a fine 1w CASPIAN GULL which doesn't look like one of the Friday birds and according to Jason it was also present on Saturday when he visited. Try as we might though we couldn't pull out any white-wingers.

We're enjoying a real glut of Caspian Gulls at present

Also present this evening was a BLACK-TAILED GODWIT (the first of the year), 3 DUNLIN, a good flock of Golden Plover as well as a few GOOSANDER. The highlight of the day for me though was to hear a LITTLE OWL calling at close quarters in the field behind us - it's great to get this species on the Patch Year List again.

Sunday 11th February, Another Caspian Gull

Not even I was stupid enough to go out and check out the roost in the horrible rainy weather today so there has been no news from today. However, I have a belated ID of a second CASPIAN GULL from Friday's session so there were now two birds present. Below is a grab of the second bird.

Also, Steve Goddard reports hearing a TAWNY OWL up in Wolvercote so that's another for the year list. Mary Gregory reports the Cormorant is back in the northern most Poplar tree along the river.

Saturday 9th February: Iceland Gull & Caspian Gull

The Meadow continues to be on absolutely top form as far as gulls are concerned. Several local birders were present for this evening's session and whilst they couldn't turn up the adult Glaucous Gull again they did manage a 1w ICELAND GULL by way of compensation. What a great run of white-wingers we've had: that's now three different birds in three days. Of course the increased coverage certainly partly explains all the good birds turning up but it's an impressive run nonetheless.

1w Iceland Gull (c) Badger

To add to this great tally I've also got a belated CASPIAN GULL to report from yesterday. This time of year it's really hard to ID them correctly and according to Ian Lewington there are always loads of false claims around this time. Yesterday there was a bird which looked like the real deal but the record shot footage I posted wasn't quite good enough to convince either Ian or myself. However, today I managed to squeeze out some better resolution footage and the ID has now been confirmed to everyone's satisfaction.

1w Caspian Gull. Apparently the small row of dark feathers in the upper scapulars
 are a classic Cachinnans sign and it ticks all the right boxes.

Other birds reported today (from Badger, Dave Lowe, Terry Sherlock and Andy Last) were 4 GOOSANDER, 1 DUNLIN, 2 RUFF, 34 PINTAIL and about 400 Golden Plover. In addition 7 WHITE-FRONTED GEESE were seen though it was getting very dark then so they may well be the mongrel brood that was around recently - let's hope they stick around so that they can be checked out in better light.

Friday 8th February: Glaucous Gull Still

It was rather a sociable visit to the Meadow today with six birders (myself, Tom Wickens, Liam Langley, Steve Goddard, Alex Martin and one other) all viewing the gull roost from the west bank of the river tonight. Fortunately the adult GLAUCOUS GULL obliged by turning up though as the weather was reasonably good it wasn't until quite late it appeared. Glaucous Gulls of this age are very rare in the county which is partly why it's attracting so much interest - usually it's 1st or 2nd winter ones that we get.

Other birds noted this evening were 1 RUFF in amongst the Lapwings, 3 DUNLIN with 300+ Golden Plover, at least 30 PINTAIL, several GOOSANDER and a KINGFISHER seen briefly.

Thursday 7th February: Two Glaucous Gulls!

Fortunately yesterday's strong winds had completely gone for my last hour of daylight visit to the Meadow this evening and it was remarkably calm as well as feeling warmer. Despite having a bit of a cold I was keen to visit the roost as I wanted to see if yesterday's star white-winged gull was still around. Not only was it still about (though not picked out until quite late on) but a cracking adult GLAUCOUS GULL was also in the roost. Found by Liam Langley (who also re-found the juvenile bird tonight), it was the star of what was a relatively modest roost though numbers started to build as the light finally faded. Apart from that, there were several hundred Golden Plover this evening and Liam also reported a RUFF. In addition there were seven GOOSANDER which came in to roost in amongst the usual ducks.

The adult Glaucous Gull this evening

To add to the bonanza of good birds today, I had the pleasure of spotting three WAXWINGS from my study window today, sitting in a tree in a neighbour's garden. Unfortunately they didn't stay long but flew off to the North. It's nice to know that they're still in the area and it might be worth checking out any remaining berry bushes.

Some video footage of the adult bird

Wednesday 6th February: Glaucous Gull

The floods have receded and are now at around the optimal size. With this in mind I decided to brave the arctic northerly winds to check out the gull roost for the first time in quite a while. My efforts were duly rewarded with an arctic gull in the form of a juvenile GLAUCOUS GULL. It was there on the floods reasonably early and gave nice close views as seen from the river towpath on the west bank. There were several Common Gulls and at least one YELLOW-LEGGED GULL also in amongst the throng though numbers weren't particularly large.

It was nice to see the Golden Plover back, about fifty in number with a tag-along DUNLIN in amongst them. I didn't check the duck today but yesterday there were at least 17 PINTAIL and 6 GADWALL in amongst the usual Wigeon and Teal.

The Glaucous Gull on the floods this evening

Sunday 3rd February

I've not been able to get out myself but here are a few reports from other people:

Steve Goddard saw a couple of RAVENS fly over on Friday - it's nice to know that they're still around. He also remembers seeing a couple of Sky Larks early last month so they too can be added to the Year List.

Mary Gregory saw a flock of about 200 Golden Plover at the north end of the floods. 

Alex Martin reports at least 10 PINTAIL, and a similar number of Shoveler in amongst the duck. He also mentions that someone else reported a possible Merlin sighting though this remains unconfirmed.

Friday 1st February

Not much to report today: went for a run around Burgess Field where a Reed Bunting, a Green Woodpecker and a Goldcrest were the only birds of note. The lake is as huge as ever and all the ducks are consequently rather distant still.

Ian Curtis and Adrian Grey have recently reported several GOOSANDER in the Gullet in Wolvercote. Adrian also spotted a LITTLE EGRET there, the first of the year.

Thursday 31st January

Well, that's the end of January and it's been a rather strange one. First it was huge floods, then it was snow everywhere and now we're back to huge floods. It's always really hard to bird the Meadow when the floods are as big as they are at present (the waters are well past the north end of Burgess Field): you either have to peer through the trees or squint through your scope from the river tow path. Yesterday I chose the latter option where at least I could get a decent idea of what ducks were around: as well as the usual Teal, Wigeon and a few Shoveler there were a couple of Red-head GOOSANDER, at least 21 PINTAIL and a couple of GADWALL which were Patch Year Ticks. There have been five REDSHANK roosting on the logs opposite the Poplar Trees the last couple of times I've visited - it's nice to have some waders about. The gull roost has been rather paltry the last couple of evenings though I've only made a half-hearted attempt with it and not really stayed until dusk.

Apart from that I've visited the Trap Grounds a couple of times where a couple of REDPOLLS and a TREE CREEPER have been the best that I could turn up. I also had a STOCK DOVER fly over the river this week. The BARNACLE GOOSE flock is still about, hanging out at King's Lock for the last few days.

We've ended the first month with the Year List on 85. The obvious things that we're still missing include Black-tailed Godwit and Syklark though with the floods as they are at present we may well also be able to find Tufted Duck and Pochard. Once the floods start returning to normal the grilling of the gull roost can get underway where white-wingers are a possibility as well as the regal Caspian gull. Plenty to look for for next month!

My aggressive Blackcap is still about, keeping all the other small birds out of the garden.