Monday 29th April: Little Stint

The weather still has the nasty chilly wind but despite this somehow a decent bird has managed to get through in the form of a LITTLE STINT. It was found by Steve Lavington in the morning and stayed around all day so that a number of people could come and see it. It was hanging out with a few LITTLE RINGED PLOVERS, initially just one though their count grew to four by the end of the day. Apart from that the single BLACK-TAILED GODWIT was still about as were the two SHELDUCK. Burgess Field is still proving rather unrewarding in the wind though I'm hoping that once it abates we should see a return of the good warbler action.

A rather blurry digiscoped  shot, though the wind and strong sun made conditions rather difficult.

Later on Alex Martin managed this great footage using his iPhone (c) Alex Martin

Little Stints are pretty much annual on the Meadow though normally its only one or two sightings per year. This particular birds was in an interesting transitional plumage. You can see nice rufous tones to the flight feathers though the head and scapulars are still very grey. Let's hope that it's a prelude to a lot more top wader action over the coming weeks on the Patch.

Sunday 29th April

It's all gone very quiet again, hence the lack of posts over the last few days. The chilling northerly winds are back and the temperatures have dropped noticeably: fortunately not to the Siberian levels of our extended winter but certainly for it to feel most un-spring-like. The strong winds have kept the floods rather empty though of course at this time of year there's not much around anyway apart from drop-in passage waders. Over the last few days there have been several COMMON SANDPIPERS, a flock of 4 DUNLIN, a single BLACK-TAILED GODWIT and a few Common Terns. The SHELDUCK are still lingering around and there is a smattering of Teal still left as well as quite a few Mallards.

Away from the floods a HOBBY (the first of the year) was seen by Liam Langley over the Trap Ground allotments, there was a singing Reed Warbler in the Trap Grounds, a single Swift over the Meadow, a few Sand Martins nipping through and the usual smattering of YELLOW WAGTAILS. I'm expecting Garden Warbler any day now in Burgess Field as they're about in the county now. We just need for the wind to drop to encourage some singing. Fortunately the forecast is for improving weather with much reduced wind as the week progresses. There's been no sign of the spring purple patch yet, fingers crossed that it all kicks off shortly.

This Common Sandpiper was quite close in though I was shooting 
right into the sun so it's rather bleached out

Thursday 26th April

Things are starting to pick up a little on the Patch though at present in dribs and drabs and it very much depends on what time of day you visit as to what you get to see. First thing this morning Ewan Urquhart found an adult LITTLE GULL on the floods as well as five LITTLE EGRETS. Later in the morning an adult Little Gull was reported at Farmoor and there was no further sign on the floods so it probably hopped over the hill. Late afternoon when I went to visit, 14 BLACK-TAILED GODWITS dropped in and a COMMON SANDPIPER was working its way around the shoreline. Steve Lavington made a late evening visit at 8pm when he managed to find a WHIMBREL as well as a LITTLE RINGED PLOVER. Birds are certainly on the move though not really staying for long.

In Burgess Field the usual warblers were reported, including one or two LESSER WHITETHROATS as well as a few SEDGE WARBLERS and REED WARBLERS, the latter presumably just passing through. Ewan also had a RAVEN fly-over and there were three SWIFTS flying around over the Trap Grounds late afternoon as well.

So three new Patch year ticks in the form of the Little Gull, Whimbrel and Swift. We really are having a great season so far and are even managing to keep pace with the Otmoor year list total so far which is a real achievement though I'm not expecting this to last. I'm now cautiously starting to think of a quite big end of year total (for Port Meadow) of at least 140.

Moth news: I managed to get a Streamer in my trap overnight as well as a hard to identify micro which I'm still working on. Both these may be first for the year in the recording area (depending on whether anyone else has caught any since the last update).

The Streamer is a lovely looking moth

Wednesday 24th April

Still rather quiet on the Patch. I went for a late afternoon walk covering all the areas but couldn't muster very much. Along the Castle Mill Stream I came across the first Mallard duckling of the year which was lovely to see. On the floods themselves were about 8 YELLOW WAGTAILS, 1 WHITE WAGTAIL, a couple of LITTLE RINGED PLOVER and a single COMMON TERN which was resting on the floods for a while before flying off. In Burgess Field I heard a LESSER WHITETHROAT call briefly once and found plenty of singing Common Whitethroats. I bumped into Ben Sandford-Smith who reported that the two WHINCHAT were still about by the southern entrance gate - it's nice to have them around still.

One of the two Little Ringed Plovers

It's now getting to the time of year which in the past has been the pinnacle of the spring passage. Given what a funny spring we've had so far I've no idea if this will occur at the usual time or indeed if at all but it's certainly worth keeping the floods under close observation just in case.

Tuesday 23rd April

Another day of glorious weather today which of course makes for harder birding. The floods were virtually empty though Alex Martin did manage to find a couple of DUNLIN in the morning. I went for a late morning jog around Burgess Field where it too was very quiet with only the occasional Whitethroat song to be heard. Therefore I wasn't expecting much but somehow I managed to stumble upon a splendid couple of WHINCHAT in the West Field. This species is just about annual though scarce enough for me to get excited about finding one. Alex Martin and Liam Langley managed to twitch them and Alex even added a cracking LESSER WHITETHROAT sighting to the day's tally, another reasonably scarce bird for the Patch as somehow they never seem to stick around. I did manage to find a COMMON SANDPIPER along the Castle Mill Stream on my way home but little else. 

Tom Evans is doing a splendid job keeping the Trap Grounds well watched and he reported a couple of REED WARBLER sightings from that area from the last few days, another Patch year tick. We've now only Garden Warbler to get and we'll have got all the warblers that one might reasonably expect from the Patch (unless we manage to luck in on a Cetti's again like we did a few years back).

I only had my point and shoot camera with me so it's a very record-shot 
quality image today of one of the two lovely Whinchat

Monday 22nd April: Red-legged Partridge

It was another quiet day on the Patch with a chilly breeze and grey conditions making altogether rather bleak. The floods were deserted apart from a single OYSTERCATCHER, a LITTLE RINGED PLOVER, the two SHELDUCK still and eight or so YELLOW WAGTAILS with a couple of WHITE WAGTAILS in amongst the Pied Wagtails as well. Along the Castle Mill Stream I managed to hear my first SEDGE WARBLER of the year scratching away but there was little else of note. The highlight of the day was a RED-LEGGED PARTRIDGE found by Tom Evans down by the Trap Grounds. We often manage to get this bird on the Year List though only through occasional encounters such as this and it's by no means a certainty.

Sunday 21st April

Well, inevitably it had to come to an end. Saturday's weather was just so perfect that all the migrants are passing straight through without bothering to stop and all the ones that were currently enjoying the delights of the Patch have decided to take advantage of it and move on. There's been precious little to report and even the floods are now almost deserted. 14 BLACK-TAILD GODWITS dropped in briefly around midday on Saturday and a single LITTLE RINGED PLOVER was also seen but apart from that there's just a few Teal, the two SHELDUCKS still and a steady movement of YELLOW WAGTAILS moving through (on Sunday I counted 14). Liam Langley did manage to find a male REDSTART in the south east corner on Saturday morning though none were to be seen on Sunday. The Whitethroats and Willow Warblers are now starting to sort out their territories in Burgess Field and the Sedge and Garden Warblers should be with us fairly soon now as well as Reed Warblers in the Trap Grounds. We're fast approaching the peak time of the spring passage, being the end of April through to the start of May where we can look forward to Wood Sandpipers and with any luck something a bit rarer.

On the moth front I'm plugging away though in my garden I do tend to struggle with variety as well as numbers. At present I'm just getting Early Greys with the odd Clouded Drab and Hebrew Character. Steve Goddard has been faring better up in Wolvercote and recently had this lovely Oak Beauty in his trap.

Oak Beauty (c) Steve Goddard

Friday 19th April: Tree Pipit

It was another exciting day of migrant action today on the Patch. The floods have been somewhat low key over the last few days and today was no exception: the Godwit flock, comprising 20 odd BLACK-TAILED GODWIT and the single BAR-TAILED GODWIT were still about, there was a single COMMON SANDPIPER,  a couple of LITTLE RINGED PLOVER and a few YELLOW WAGTAILS but I rather feel that now we're waiting for something a little bit special to put in an appearance there to take things up a gear. 

On the other hand Burgess Field, which for much of the year is frankly rather boring, is currently where all the action is. Thankfully the wind had dropped today so it was much easier to pick stuff up in the hedges and once again there were plenty of Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs moving through and several Whitethroats dotted about the place now. I couldn't find my Redstart over in the West Field but this was more than compensated for where in the Triangle Field in just one 50 yards of hawthorn hedge, Tom Wickens, Liam Langley and myself managed to find two REDSTARTS, a GRASSHOPPER WARBLER that actually showed itself and to cap it all a wonderful TREE PIPIT that allowed quite close approach. Tree Pipit is certainly less than annual on the Patch and in fact I've only once before seen one as a calling fly-over so this was a wonderful find. An added bonus was that Andrew Clark reported a WHINCHAT over in the south east corner though a subsequent search failed to find it.

The Tree Pipit

Thursday 18th April

It was incredibly windy today, and coming from the west it meant that there was no shelter at all for viewing the floods. I braved the conditions briefly late afternoon and managed to find the 20 odd BLACK-TAILED GODWITS still, with their BAR-TAILED GODWIT companion still hanging about. Later on Liam Langley added a couple of COMMON SANDPIPERS and 9 YELLOW WAGTAILS to today's tally.

In Burgess Field I managed to find my REDSTART still in the same place in a small clump of scrub and small trees on the west side of the West Field half way between the West Copse and the North West Gate. There was also quite a noticeable passage of Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs working their way through the Reserve.

In the evening Tom Wickens found a Pied Flycatcher working its way along the Thames behind the Ice Rink which is no more than 2km south of the Meadow along the river. The river seems often to be used by migrants on passage so there's every possibility that it will work it's way through the Meadow at some point. Not Patch tickable of course but an enticing thought.

The Godwit flock (c) Roger Wyatt

Wednesday 18th April: Avocets & Redstarts

It was a very windy day today making birding rather difficult both on the floods and in Burgess Field. Nevertheless, the Patch was visited by a good number of birders today who between them managed to turn up plenty of good stuff. On the floods the Godwit pack was back with 24 BLACK-TAILED GODWITS and the lone BAR-TAILED GODWIT still about. 4 COMMON SANDPIPERS were new ticks for the year, the 2 OYSTERCATCHERS popped in and there were 3 DUNLIN and 2 REDSHANK also hanging around. The highlight for the floods though was yet another pair of AVOCETS, miraculously making 10 individual birds that we've now had this spring.

In Burgess Field the wind made it rather hard to find many birds though Tom Wickens did manage to hear a GRASSHOPPER WARBLER reeling for a few seconds (another year tick) as well as 3 Whitethroats. Late afternoon Ewan Urquhart was back and managed to find two remaining REDSTARTS which were sheltering very elusively in the hawthorn hedgerows at the north end of the reserve that border the Triangle Field. I tried and failed to see these but did find one over on the west side of the North West Field mid way between the West Copse and the North West Gate (see the Google Map on the Maps Page for location definitions). I don't know if that makes it three birds still present or two but the west side bird has been in the same place for the last couple of days. 

Roger Wyatt (c) was on hand today to provide some stunning photography

Mothing news: the best night so far this year in my rather moth-deficient garden with 7 moths of 6 species. The highlight was the first Common Quaker for the garden (even though it's a common species). Steve Goddard has been faring better than me in Wolvercote and he reports 9 different species including Brindled Beauty and Pale Pinion, both year ticks for the Upper Thames Region.
My thanks to Alex Martin, Tom Wickens, Peter Law and Ewan Urquhart who contributed birding sightings today.

Tuesday 16th April: Redstarts & Warblers

It was another exciting day of spring migration today with more movement on all fronts. The highlight was a whole bevy of COMMON REDSTARTS in Burgess Field. Two were originally found by Dave Doherty this morning and another couple by Ewan Urquhart in the afternoon. This is quite a rare passage migrant for the Patch, certainly less than annual though they are more common elsewhere in the county. In windy conditions this morning the two of them were flitting around the various hawthorn hedges and bushes at the north end of the Nature Reserve. Whilst en route to find them I had the added bonus of hearing and then seeing the first LESSER WHITETHROAT of the year (for the whole county as well as for the Patch). When Liam Langley visited a bit later he managed to find a COMMON WHITETHROAT as well and by late afternoon the total for this warbler had gone up to five thanks to Ewan who also reported 30+ Willow Warblers/Chiffchaffs dotted about the place.

Meanwhile on the floods there was still plenty to look at with a new drake GARGANEY being the star of the show. The BAR-TAILED GODWIT was still about along with 22 BLACK-TAILED GODWITS, 5 DUNLIN, 2 LITTLE-RINGED PLOVERS and 2 OYSTERCATCHERS. On the duck front, numbers are now dwindling fast though there were four SHELDUCK still about.

To finish things off, 6 WHEATEARS were reported up at Godstow (CWL) and Steve Goddard had a female BRAMBLING in his garden, which now seems rather out of place given the huge wave of spring migrants that's now breaking over the Patch. It's all really exciting just now!

I didn't manage any photos of the Redstarts so here's a grab of yesterday's Greenshank

Monday 15th April

Another day of excellent spring passage with a good variety of waders to admire: the BAR-TAILED GODWIT was still about but was joined by a flock of about 20 BLACK-TAILED GODWIT cousins. There were 4 REDSHANK looking very smart in their summer plumage and they had an accompanying cousin in the form of the first GREENSHANK of the year. Just to show how quickly things are changing at the moment, when I visited late afternoon there were 2 Dunlin and no Ringed Plover. About an hour later when Liam Langley dropped in there were 8 DUNLIN and 6 RINGED PLOVER.

Other sightings included all three Hirundine species in modest numbers, a single YELLOW WAGTAIL and along the Castle Mill Stream there were a couple of WILLOW WARBLERS (new for the patch year list) - in addition Tom Evans had a couple of this species in the Trap Grounds.

Some of yesterday's Black-tailed Godwits

Sunday 14th April

This weekend was one of interesting contrasts. On Saturday in rather grey and drizzly weather I went for a visit at last orders where I found not many birds at all. The waders were in a small group feeding along the west shore and comprised a BAR-TAILED GODWIT, 5 REDSHANK, and 1 DUNLIN. In the gloom I did manage to spot my first YELLOW WAGTAIL of the year hanging out with a couple of Pieds and the two every-present SHELDUCK were still about.

By Sunday however things had picked up considerably and the combined efforts of Sydney Penner, Richard Foster and Liam Langley managed to find the following birds:
2 Shelduck
2 Oystercatcher
2 Dunlin
7 Ringed Plover
2 Little Ringed Plover
1 Bar-tailed Godwit
6 Redshank
1 Common Tern
1 Sand Martin
2 House Martins
10+ Swallow
2 Chiffchaff
175 Golden Plover
1 Wheatear

The Tern, the House Martins and the Wheatears are all year ticks. It's all hotting up nicely now!

Bar-tailed Godwit (actually taken at Farmoor) (c) Roger Wyatt

Friday 12th April: Garganey

Things stepped up a gear today with more spring action. To start with there were two singing Chiffchaffs heard on the way to the floods late afternoon: one by Walton Well Rd car park and one over towards Medley Farm. There were a couple of Swallows seen, including one loitering by the boats which looked like it could be one of "our" birds that breed on the Meadow. A flock of about 20 Sand Martins went over followed later by two other birds. On the wader front many of the LITTLE RINGED PLOVER seem to have moved on as there were just two today, accompanied by 2 RINGED PLOVER, 4 DUNLIN and the five REDSHANK still. On the duck front the two SHELDUCK are still hanging around, there are plenty of Teal, some Wigeon, a few Shoveler and a few Gadwall. But the highlight of the day was a lovely pair of GARGANEY on the North Shore, feeding away quite happily in the muddy grass. We usually get a sighting of this lovely duck at some point each year though it's by no means guaranteed. Well worth getting soaked in an April shower for!

Thursday 11th April

Some more signs of spring today: a singing Chiffchaff by Walton Well Road car park, was the first that I'd heard this year and two SWALLOWS zipped over the floods in quick succession whilst I was checking out the waders. Talking of which, apart from the usual REDSHANK flock (which is gradually diminishing over the days and is now down to 5 or 6 birds), all the waders were concentrated in a small section on the inside of the flood bend. Totals were: 8 LITTLE RINGED PLOVER, 4 DUNLIN and 2 RINGED PLOVER. The two SHELDUCK were still about and a flock of 10 late-staying Fieldfare flew over "chacking" loudly. The moth trap produce another couple of Macro moths last night in the form of a Hebrew Character and another Clouded Drab.

Wednesday 10th April

It's been rather quiet over the last couple of days. After the initial excitement of finally getting a few spring migrants there's not been much new to report. Today of note we still had 7 LITTLE RINGED PLOVERS, 7 REDSHANK and a couple of SHELDUCK but that was about it.

I ran my moth trap for the first time this year over the last two nights and managed to catch a couple of macros for my efforts: an Early Grey and a Clouded Drab - two typical spring moths.

Early Grey

Monday 8th April

Today's birds were almost identical to yesterday's with a couple of minor amendments: there was an extra OYSTERCATCHER (so now two birds) and an extra LITTLE RINGED PLOVER (so now nine). The highlight of the day was the first SAND MARTIN which zipped over the floods heading northwards. It's only about three or four weeks late which give an indication of just how late spring is this year. On that theme there are still lots of SISKINS around and they're increasingly coming to my garden feeders. Also the garden Blackcap is now singing - so lovely to hear some actual warbling again.

Even when there's not much new around to look at there's always something to learn. I recently noticed the following point in my Collins field guide. Have a look at this Ringed Plover photo (taken last year) and in particular at the tertial length in comparison to the primaries. Then compare it to the Little Ringed Plovers on the previous entry.

You should notice that the Little Ringed Plovers have relatively much longer tertials that cover the primaries whereas Ringed Plovers have the black primaries projecting beyond the brown tertials. Of course the yellow eye ring is the number one diagnostic feature and after a while you can tell them apart just on jizz anyway though it always takes me a little time each year to re-acquire that skill.

Sunday 7th April

The weather continues to improve slowly and with it the spring passage steps up a gear. The was noticeable movement today with some of our birds having moved on and new ones arrived. The two Avocets, most of the Ringed Plover and the Godwits had departed but we got an additional REDSHANK (with the total now standing at nine birds) and seven new LITTLE RINGED PLOVER with eight of them now dotted around all around the shoreline. There's still one RINGED PLOVER left and the OYSTERCATCHER is still hanging about. On the duck front there's nothing to report apart from the two SHELDUCK.

Videograb of a couple of the LRP's

Saturday 6th April

I've somehow managed to coincide my first visit to the Meadow for about a week with the arrival of some decent weather at last. When I left it was depressingly cold and grey and I understand that whilst I've been away it's been very windy. Today by contrast it was sunny with only a gentle spring breeze. The floods were looking good this evening and in the company of Tom Wickens there were plenty of birds to look through. For a start there were the two AVOCETS which turned up earlier this week. It's been a great spring for this lovely wader - normally we're lucky if we get one sighting at all in a year but we've now had eight of them so far. On the plover front there was a single LITTLE RINGED PLOVER and four RINGED PLOVER and other waders included 8 REDSHANK, 1 OYSTERCATCHER, 6 DUNLIN and 5 BLACK-TAILED GODWIT. Pick of the waders tonight though was a fly-over GREEN SANDPIPER (a year tick) that Tom had before I'd arrived. On the duck front four SHELDUCK were about and there are still plenty of Teal and reasonable numbers of Wigeon and a few Shoveler to look through though all the Pintail have now departed. The gull roost was a quite frankly pathetic affair but given the nice weather I wouldn't have expected much anyway. With the spring passage now starting to get into its stride it's going to be an exciting time over the next couple of months on the Meadow.

Tonight's Little Ringed Plover - one of my favourite Meadow species

Friday 5th April

I'm back from my trip away to Cornwall. Below is a summary of the sightings whilst I was away. Thanks to the people who posted their sightings

5th April
2 Avocet
8 Ringed Plover
Little Ringed Plover
8 Redshank
2 Shelduck
Mediterranean Gull

Alex Martin & Cherry Robertson

3rd April
Yellow Wagtail (A new Patch Year Tick)
2 Ringed Plover
Little Ringed Plover
3 Redshank

Mary Gregory

Dunlin: Very brief visit to meadow, this sightings were off a quick 5 min scan.
2 Redshank
3 Shelduck

Alex Martin