Sunday 27th April: Spoonbill

My only visit of the weekend to the Meadow was on Sunday evening when the sun finally broke out after yet another showery day. Fortunately I happened to choose just the right time to visit because as I made my way along the grass between the river and the floods I saw what turned out to be a 1st winter SPOONBILL fly in and land in the North Channel before immediately starting to feed actively. I quickly took some record shot video footage before putting the news out. No sooner had I done this then all the gulls and also the Spoonbill took to the air, I think it was a helium party balloon coming in to land that spooked them all. The Spoonbill flew off south roughly following the line of the river, sadly having spent less than five minutes on the floods. This species is basically pretty much annual on the Meadow now - I think that there's only been one year in the last six when we've not had one (counting the "possibles" last year as a sighting). Let's hope that this bird comes back to savour the delights of the Meadow for a bit longer in the next few days.

A video grab of this evening's Spoonbill - a shame it didn't stick around for longer

The only other birds of note were the BLACK-TAILED GODWIT still and the first two SWIFTS of the year in amongst the Swallows and House Martins.

Friday 25th April

The rainy conditions have rather put a damper on the Meadow birding over the last few days though it has meant that at least the flood waters are nicely topped up. Birds of note over the last couple of days have included the usual OYSTERCATCHERS, the two SHELDUCK, a sprinkling of RINGED PLOVER, LITTLE RINGED PLOVER and DUNLIN and a single BLACK-TAILED GODWIT. There have been a few YELLOW WAGTAIL about and a pair of COMMON TERN have been hanging out on the flood water, looking very much at home. Burgess Field has been very quiet with just the usual warblers in the usual places. 

Talking of warblers, the only two that we still need that we would normally expect are Grasshopper Warbler and Sedge Warbler. The former I have trouble hearing these days unless its quite close so I'm rather relying on some younger ears to find one on the Patch. As far as Sedge Warbler is concerned, I'm just hoping that I stumble across one as it passes through - they don't seem to be interested in breeding on the Patch at all.

Our visiting Black-tailed Godwit has a lovely spangly back as it undergoes its spring moult.

Wednesday 23rd April

It's been a productive few days on the Meadow. The floods have been fairly quiet still with a few RINGED PLOVER and LITTLE RINGED PLOVER, the usual OYSTERCATCHERS and SHELDUCK making up the sightings. Today however there was finally something different with the first COMMON SANDPIPER of the year bobbing away along the North Channel. Finally there have been reasonable numbers of YELLOW WAGTAIL as well with a stonking count of 20 in amongst the Cattle yesterday. In Burgess Field the first GARDEN WARBLER of the year was warbling away by the southern gate yesterday and today the first REED WARBLER of the year was singing in the Trap Grounds reed bed. To add to the year list tally four COMMON TERNS flew through today in the murk.

Perhaps the most interesting bird though was one that sadly got away. On Monday I had a brief glimpse of what looked like a dove with reddish brown upper wings. The chances are that it was a Turtle Dove though I never got a good enough view to be certain and given that it would have been the first on the Meadow since I've been birding it as well as the first in the country this year (only by one day though) I can't in all honesty tick it.

It's nice to have the Swallows back on the Meadow again

Saturday 19th April: Iceland Gull

It's been another good couple of days on the Meadow. Yesterday there was a lovely LESSER WHITETHROAT singing and working its way along the hedge that borders the Trap Ground allotments - I even managed to get a few glimpses of it as it flitted between the bushes. The floods have picked up a little as well with a few LITTLE RINGED PLOVER and RINGED PLOVER down at the Southern Tail over the last couple of days. The OYSTERCATCHERS have still been around, as have the last remaining pair of SHELDUCK. This evening I finally managed to find the first YELLOW WAGTAIL of the year in amongst the horses and cattle that are now back on the Meadow. Finally to cap it all there was a lovely 1w ICELAND GULL in amongst the straggler gull roost this evening, looking very bleached as they tend to do by this time of the year.

Iceland Gull - a strange throw-back to winter after all the spring 
migrant action over the last week or so

Thursday 17th April: Tree Pipit

It's been a good couple of days on the Patch with a couple of new year ticks. On Wednesday in Burgess Field I heard and then found the first COMMON WHITETHROAT of the year (for even the whole county I believe) warbling away quietly in the Hawthorn. By today there were at least three of them already staking out their territories. The highlight of this morning was when I stumbled across a TREE PIPIT sitting in a tree (of course) and having a bit of a quiet sing to itself. It was right into the sun but I could make out the diagnostic finer streaking down its flanks and of course the song snippet was enough to clinch the ID. Ewan Urquhart managed to find it again later in the afternoon so it was nice that it hung around for others to see. Tree Pipit is a common enough bird nationally but within the county they sadly no longer breed and it's a good bird to catch up with on spring or autumn passage. I must say that Burgess Field does look like a great bit of habitat for them so in years to come a pair may choose to breed there.

On the floods it's still very quiet though there have been a LITTLE EGRET, a pair of SHELDUCK, the usual OYSTERCATCHERS and three RINGED PLOVER to report. We've still yet to have Yellow Wagtail though by way of compensation there was a very nice WHITE WAGTAIL along the shoreline today. There was a flock of several House Martins and a single Sand Martin hawking low over the floods late afternoon as the weather deteriorated somewhat.

My attempts to photograph today's Tree Pipit proved lamentable 
so here's a shot of last year's very accommodating bird

I'm expecting Garden Warbler any day as they've reached the county now. We still need Sedge Warbler though and Reed Warbler should reach the Trap Grounds in due course.

Tuesday 15th April

I visited the the floods this afternoon to find that they are still bereft of birds. Even the Dunlin had moved on thought there was a single BLACK-TAILED GODWIT that was new in. Apart from that it was just the six OYSTERCATCHERS and a few straggler ducks.

This afternoon's Black-tailed Godwit

Monday 14th April

An early morning walk before work found four DUNLIN on the floods in amongst the loafing Black-headed Gulls. These are the first of this species for the year - quite amazing that it should take this long for what is one of our commonest visiting waders. I think that the extreme level of the floods was to blame, the water was just too deep for them over the winter months. Anyway, it's nice finally to have them on the list. Apart from the Dunlin, the floods were remarkably empty with just a handful of duck left and varying numbers of OYSTERCATCHERS (five today) and a three SHELDUCK.

Three of the four Dunlin. I later learnt from Nick Boyd that 
they were also present yesterday evening

With the floods now so empty this means that I am spending more time in Burgess Field which is now coming into its own as the warblers arrive though it's still just Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers at present. The best that I could do today was a distant singing (heard only) LESSER WHITETHROAT which sounded like it was working its way up the canal or along the railway line. I'm hoping to get more of them at least passing through even if they do not stay to breed. I've still not heard or seen a Sedge Warbler on the patch - it's amazing how few of these common warblers we tend to get here.

Over in North Hinksey a female REDSTART was spotted by Jeremy Blakey. It's pushing it a bit to claim that as being on the Patch so let's hope that we get one coming through in the next few days.

Sunday 13th April

I went for a run around the patch on Saturday, hoping to find some spring migrant action. In particular I was looking for Redstarts as a number of them were being reported across the country over the last few days. Sadly I found precious little though a single HOUSE MARTIN in amongst the Swallows hawking low over the floods was a nice find: the first for the year on the Patch and I think I'm right in saying the first for the county as well. Apart from that it was just the usual OYSTERCATCHERS and SHELDUCK to report.

On the moth front I managed to find an interesting micro moth outside my house on Friday evening. It looked very similar to a relatively common species but certain difference in the legs and antennae made me think that it might actually be something else and fortunately someone on Bird Forum was able to identify it as Psychoides filicivora. It turns out that this is a very rare micro in the county, in fact there have only been two previous records, both from Marston. The larvae feed on ferns and its gradually spreading through the country via cultivated ferns. We have several ferns in our garden and our house which probably explains why it's turned up here. Anyway, a great local record and another good moth for the Port Meadow area.

Psychoides filicivora - a local micro Mega

Friday 11th April: Short-eared Owl

It's been rather quiet on the floods over the last couple of days. There have been one or two LITTLE RINGED PLOVER, the OYSTERCATCHER count has gone up to six and there have been one or two pairs of SHELDUCK but that's been about it. Duck numbers are very low now with all the spring Gadwall having moved on and just a few lingering winter ducks left now. There have been remarkably few waders so far passing through on the Meadow and in fact now that I think about it the numbers haven't been that great elsewhere in the county. Let's hope things pick up shortly

The highlight of the last couple of days was a splendid record of a SHORT-EARED OWL that was spotted hunting from 19:00 to 19:40 at the north end of Burgess by John Sutton on Thursday evening. It's always great to get this species on the year list, normally they're autumn or winter reports so this spring record is rather unusual.

Wednesday 9th April: Hobby

The Meadow rather feels like it's had a bit of a clear out over the last few days. The rather breezy conditions certainly haven't helped and it's felt distinctly chilly whilst scouring the floods for birds on my late afternoon visits. The two LITTLE RINGED PLOVER are still around but OYSTERCATCHERS are now down to just two pairs and there is just a single pair of SHELDUCK left now. Swallows are now "in" as I've been seeing several every day for the last few days and there has been the occasional Sand Martin accompanying them. On the Warbler front there's nothing new to report though there are plenty of Willow Warblers about singing away. Today there were a couple of Buzzards soaring for the first time over towards Medley Farm and a Skylark was singing up in the Hinterland.

Nick Boyd (whom I met for the first time on Friday when he found the Wheatear) visited this evening when he managed to turn up an immature HOBBY (a year tick) as well as a juvenile ICELAND GULL in the roost.

A great photo of a Little Ringed Plover taken by Roger Wyatt (c)

There's been no sign of Winifred who's done the decent thing and departed, adding to her credentials as a wild bird

Monday 7th April

I wasn't able to get out to the Meadow over the weekend so after such a good visit on Friday, by today I was champing at the bit to see what about. Sadly there was no sign of the Garganey though the two LITTLE RINGED PLOVERS were still there along the north shore of the North Channel. Fresh in though was a flock of five RINGED PLOVER along the south shore of the Channel. There was also a single BLACK-TAILED GODWIT and the OYSTERCATCHER count had gone up to seven birds. As far as water flow were concerned SHELDUCK numbers had reduced to just seven though the WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE was still there. As is my custom for lingering lone ducks and geese, it is probably due a name so I shall christen it "Winifred". There were at least half a dozen Swallows about and there was even one perched on the "Swallow Tree" (the small Hawthorn at the end of the boat moorings).

Some rather shaky video of two of the five Ringed Plovers

Friday 4th April: Garganey & Wheatear

What a difference a day makes. Today was a full-on spring day with lots of different species fresh in to keep one occupied. By contrast the previous two days have been rather "samey" with the usual OYSETERCATCHERS and SHELDUCK the only birds of note. I even thought that the WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE had disappeared as I couldn't see it yesterday afternoon. However, on today's visit it was back in amongst the Greylags.

The star of today's visit was a handsome drake GARGANEY looking very much at home half way along the West Shore. The Meadow does look perfect for this species at present so I've been carefully looking out for these gorgeous ducks. I also finally managed to find a couple of LITTLE RINGED PLOVER along the North Shore. I can only think that it has been too boggy for them until now but the shoreline is starting to dry out a little now. I also finally found a PHEASANT (a very much overdue year tick) in the Hinterland. Two SWALLOWS worked their way north while I was there, a flock of 10 Golden Plover flew over and a WILLOW WARBLER was singing along the Castle Mill stream this morning as well. To cap it all a lovely WHEATEAR was working its way about the hillocks to the south of the floods. We get this species every year but only a handful of sightings so I'm always pleased to see one.

Today's splendid drake Garganey

So it's all kicking off at last. We should start getting the other warblers in over the next few weeks as well as Yellow and White Wagtails and with any luck finally get a bit more variety on the wader front. I can't wait!

Tuesday 2nd April: Spring Migrants, A Little Gull & A White-fronted Goose

At last I have some definite spring migrant news to report. This morning when I was going for a brisk walk along the canal to loosen up before a day ahead sitting at my desk I heard my first WILLOW WARBLER of the year singing, appropriately enough, in a Willow Tree. Keeping it company were a total of five LESSER REDPOLL that I've been hearing for the last week or so in the same spot.

Later on this afternoon I went to check out the floods which are being kept nicely topped up by the intermittent rain. The 13 SHELDUCK are still around and another birder also reported the CAPE SHELDUCK as still being around as well. The usual 5 OYSTERCATCHERS were the only waders present and I've still personally yet to see a Little Ringed Plover on the floods this year. At least my Hirundine blank was finally broken when I spotted two SAND MARTINS and a SWALLOW hawking over the floods. It really does warm ones cockles to see them back again.

What was probably the highlight of the visit was when in amongst the Greylag Geese I noticed a WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE. It clearly wasn't one of the usual mongrel group of five birds that hang out here from time to time and certainly seemed to be a pure White-front. It looked like a 1w/1s bird with a full white blaze around the beak but only reduced black markings on the belly. A rampaging dog that was chasing every bird on the floods (why do dog owners allow their pets to do this?) put it up along with the rest of the flock which flew to the river where I finally managed to get some video footage of it.

It's always difficult to tell the provenance of single geese but it's here at the right time of the year, it seemed wary to me and it's a young one (which are more inclined to get lost) so as long as it doesn't hang around for an indecent length of time I'm tempted to count it on the year list.

In my goosey excitement I forgot to mention the lovely LITTLE GULL that was found earlier today on the Meadow by Dave Daniels and photographed by Roger Wyatt. They are always gorgeous little things to see gracing the Meadow floods in the spring.

Photo (c) Roger Wyatt