Tuesday 28th May

Thank heavens for this rain. I know that it's very trying to have such inclement weather but the Meadow floods had in fact completely dried up by Monday. However, this prolonged period of heavy rain has managed to re-flood them quite effectively though the churned up muddy borders does still mean that it all looks rather unappealing. There's been precious little to report since my last posting, though the 26 RINGED PLOVERS did stay for one more full day before moving on. In theory it should by now be far too late for anything of interest to be passing through but given how late everything is this spring who knows what's happening. I'm still checking out the floods just in case.

With all the rain, Burgess Field is looking very green and at last the May Flower is out so in theory we can start "casting clouts" though I'm certainly keeping all my clouts on in the current chilly conditions. I've still not seen any butterflies in Burgess Field - they're several weeks late elsewhere in the county but with any luck they should start appearing some time soon.

I caught this lovely Poplar Hawk Moth in my garden a couple of days ago,
they really are huge beasts

Steve Lavington (c) took this nice photo of a Grasshopper a while back 
which I've been meaning to post for some time

Thursday 23rd May

It's been all too depressingly samey on the Patch since I last posted. The weather has been a mixed bag but never lovely and warm (which would please me) or torrential rain (which would at least top up the floods). Instead the floods have been reduced to a central pool by Burgess Channel and a subsidiary pool right down by the Southern Tail. The only birds which it now seems to be attracting are RINGED PLOVER. Indeed there have been some good counts this week with 11 (plus one DUNLIN) on Wednesday and then a stonking count of 26 today which to my knowledge is a Patch Record. The two SHELDUCK have been around on and off, there's been the odd Gadwall still lurking and the two COMMON TERNS come and sit on their little wooden platform by the pool but that's been about it. I'm still hoping that we might get a Stint or a Wood Sandpiper by the end of the month but that's based more optimism rather than any realistic expectation. 

I did check out Burgess Field to see if any of the butterflies were on the wing yet but there's no sign of them - the strange spring has put their emergence times all back several weeks. Fledglings are continuing to appear in the garden periodically: our cat brought in a juvenile Robin yesterday (sadly dead) and there was a juvenile Chaffinch on the feeders today.

A Ringed Plover Bonanza

Sunday 19th May

Unfortunately my prediction of the start of something really good after the mini fall on Wednesday has not come to fruition. Wednesday's birds left on Thursday though there were still quite a few RINGED PLOVER and DUNLIN around first thing. The dry conditions has meant that the floods have been steadily receding again and it's been hard work finding any birds there at all. On Saturday there was a single REDSHANK and four RINGED PLOVER and today there were 5 RINGED PLOVER, 2 LITTLE RINGED PLOVER and a single DUNLIN but that's been about it. 

The CUCKOO has been around in Burgess Field until Saturday at least so it looks like it may well be having a go at attracting a female to the territory though there have been no reports of the bubbling female call at all so far. Alex Martin reported a couple of reeling male GRASSHOPPER WARBLERS on Saturday evening as well - it's nice to have a couple of these secretive warblers back again.

It's been pretty tough going on the moth front as well though Saturday night was good with quite a few new species for the year. You can follow my garden mothing efforts (and those of Steve Goddard as well) on the Garden Moth Challenge web-site.

 Muslin Moth
Waved Umber

Wednesday 15th May

The weather has continued with it's unsettled and quite frankly cold theme over the last few days. I've still been dutifully checking out the floods once per day but with no reward at all worth speaking of and apart from the two SHELDUCK that seem to have taken up residence here there's been nothing of note. However, suddenly this afternoon the weather seemed to lift and we had glorious sunshine and no wind for the rest of the day. It was therefore with a certain feeling of optimism that I went for an evening visit to the Meadow where I was delighted to find a decent fall of waders: two GREENSHANK and a BAR-TAILED GODWIT were the most obvious birds present but closer inspection found a whole army of small waders: 25(!) RINGED PLOVER no less, 8 DUNLIN and to top it all a single SANDERLING (a Patch year tick). This last species is just about annual on the Meadow but by no means a certainty so I always get excited when I manage to find one. Unfortunately the flock was disturbed and flew up and circled for a while. The Plover and Dunlin duly returned but the Sanderling decided to move on.

Videograb of one of the Greenshanks and a Ringed Plover

In other news Adrian Gray reported a couple of TREE SPARROWS coming to his feeder at Wolvercote - a nice Patch year tick. In talking to veteran Meadow watcher Matthew Foster (who's been visiting regularly for literally decades), he told me how in days gone by Tree Sparrows used to nest all around the Meadow in the various willow trees. He also said that when the Medley Farm was in full swing there used to be loads of Yellowhammers and Corn Buntings everywhere. How sad that things have changed in this way.

With a total of 37 waders that's a great improvement over recent weeks and I've got my fingers crossed that this might be the start of the overdue May purple patch. During this time, large numbers of waders come and go in quick succession so it's all eyes to the floods!

Sunday 12th May

I've not posted for almost a week on here, sadly this is because there's been precious little to report. The floods had been perilously close to drying up but fortunately the rather unsettled weather has perked them up a bit. At one stage we were down to a narrow pool running from the Aristotle Lane entrance up to the Burgess Field gate but now at least part of the North Channel and some of the South Channel have been restored. In terms of birds, the highlight has been a couple of BLACK-TAILED GODWITS which arrived on Friday and have stayed until this morning at least. There have been the odd LITTLE RINGED PLOVER and RINGED PLOVER about as well, indeed today there were three of the latter accompanied by a flock of four DUNLIN looking very smart with their black bellies in their full summer plumage. Along the Castle Mill stream there have been a couple of COMMON SANDPIPER sightings and I had the fortune to come across a MARSH TIT there as well. This species is rare on the Patch, usually only seen in Wolvercote in the winter and I've only ever once before seen one on the Patch myself. There have been a few reports of a calling male CUCKOO over the last week from Adrian Gray and Cherry Robinson and this morning I was fortunately enough to hear it calling away repeatedly from both sides of Burgess Field as well as within it. It's possible that it might stick around which would be great news - there have only been passage reports of this species since I've been working the Patch. The warblers seem much more settled in Burgess Field now with several Garden Warbler territories and countless Whitethroats. There seems to be remarkably few Sedge Warblers though: in fact this morning I didn't hear a single one and I remember that last year was poor for this species as well. I know that it's not ideal habitat for them but I recall in past years, good numbers of them staking out the bramble patches territory from which they would perform their excitable songs. Other snippets from this morning included a Kingfisher by the boats and an unusual sighting of Roe Deer out in the open by the boats first thing this morning.

Whilst the unsettled weather has rather stopped my garden mothing efforts in their tracks I did notice a couple of Common Heath moths out in Burgess Field. I've not seen any butterflies of note there yet apart from the usual Peacocks and Whites etc.

With the unsettled weather set to continue for much of this week the flood levels should be safe for a while at least. It shouldn't be too long now before the Wood Sandpipers start going through and I'm still hoping for something like a Temminck's Stint or a Spoonbill despite the rather shabby looking state of the floods.

It shoulds how poor things are that a couple of Godwits should be the highlight of the week -
in May no less! Nevertheless, I'm thankful that we've still got some floods to attract some 
waders in at all.

Monday 7th May

The lovely spring weather has brought with it a real problem for the floods which are now receding rapidly and looking decidedly ropey. The whole of the Southern Tail has dried up and there are large areas of churned up mud surrounding what is now a relatively narrow area of flood water. Altogether it's looking decidedly unattractive. This coupled with the nice weather means that not much is bothering to stop off and linger on the floods at present. It seems that at present the best tactics are to visit at last light where birds are tending to drop in to roost en route to their migration destinations. Using this approach over the last few days has turned up a few RINGED PLOVER, LITTLE RINGED PLOVER and DUNLIN which have been hanging out around the fringes in the evening. Monday evening a couple of WHIMBREL dropped in whilst I was there which was nice to see - whilst this species has been recorded already this year on the patch they are hard to see as they seldom linger long. The two SHELDUCK are still around as well as the usual Mallards and the odd Teal. In Burgess Field I'm now able to report that we have one reeling male GRASSHOPPER WARBLER on territory which is great after last year's absence.

Record shot of one of the Whimbrel taken at a distance and in the dark with ISO 1600.

Friday 3rd May

A slight pick-up in activity today. It started out with gloriously sunny weather and once more an early morning visit turned up a drake GARGANEY though once again it left shortly after I arrived. The two SHELDUCK were still about but little else of note. Burgess Field was more active with noticeably more singing warblers than recently, including at least 3 male GARDEN WARBLERS and a lovely rattling male LESSER WHITETHROAT.

By the evening the weather had clouded over a bit and this brought in some more birds. Alex Martin and Steve Lavington between them found 3 LITTLE RINGED PLOVER, 1 OYSTERCATCHER, 2 CURLEW, 1 RINGED PLOVER and 1 DUNLIN. We really could do with a nice period of rain and unsettled weather now to perk up the floods and also bring in more migrants.

The sunny weather brought out a Holly Blue butterfly in my garden, the first I've seen this year.

Burgess Field Whitethroat

Thursday 2nd May

Another very quiet day. I didn't go down until last light where three LITTLE RINGED PLOVERS and the two SHELDUCK were all I could find. I did meet up with Steve Lavington who informed me of some recent sightings: one REDSHANK on the floods (the first we've had for a while) and a CUCKOO (I presume heard-only). We used to get the latter on the Patch year list regularly but it's been getting increasingly hard over the last couple of years so it's nice to have one this year.

Wednesday 1st May

Well, here we are in May already and with the new month has also come some lovely weather. The chilling wind has finally dropped and instead it was lovely spring sunshine all day. I was woken up far too early by May Day revellers so decided to get up to check out the Patch at 6am. I stopped briefly at the Anchor Pub where there were some Morris Dancers doing their thing though as the pub itself is now permanently closed it was a rather sober affair. 

On the floods themselves there was a lovely pair of drake GARAGANEY dabbling away on the water but little else of note apart from the two resident SHELDUCK. I went for a walk in Burgess Field where I finally managed to hear a GARDEN WARBLER babbling away in the undergrowth though I was rather surprised at how few birds were actually singing at this time given the lovely weather. Either they'd already done their stuff an hour earlier or perhaps not all of them have actually arrived yet. Back on the floods the Garganey had moved on - it just goes to show how quickly birds are moving through and does rather make one wonder how much is being missed. The floods aren't exactly looking their best at present with lots of dried mud all around the borders so we could do with a nice bit of rain to freshen it up.

I also visited at the last hour of daylight but there was nothing of note apart from seeing a Swift en route and a couple of hundred large gulls, mostly Lesser Black-backed Gulls roosting on the floods. Talking of gulls, I forgot to mention a nice 2nd summer YELLOW-LEGGED GULL on the floods yesterday morning.

The light was perfect for photography so these digiscoped shots 
haven't come out too badly despite the distance.

Tuesday 30th April

It's all gone rather quiet again after the Little Stint interlude. There was no sign of it this morning with just a COMMON SANDPIPER reported by Alex Martin. At last light there were 5 LITTLE RINGED PLOVER but that was about it. The chilly wind is still with us though it's forecast to drop over the coming days now.

There was a lovely sunset last night so I messed around with some silhouette shots of this Heron