28th August

Over the last few days I've been out most days visiting the Patch. There's not been much to report but I managed to find the first two GOLDEN PLOVER of the autumn. I was just watching them when suddenly they disappeared! The explanation was that when there's a predator about they tend to crouch right down and the cause of their concern turned out to be a HOBBY which unusually was on the ground nearby. As I started to walk towards it, it continually flew further away but always landing on the ground again before it finally flew off.

Apart from that over the last few days there has been a sub-song singing SEDGE WARBLER along the Castle Mill Stream recently (only the second one of the year on the Patch) and a nice family of fledged Reed Warblers in the Trap Ground reed bed.

No bird photos again so here's a female Banded Demoiselle that I took at the start of July.

Those of you with botanical leanings might be interested to know that the Oxford Rare Plant Group will be doing a survey of Creeping Marshwort on Port Meadow this Saturday 30th August. Creeping Marshwort is of course a very rare plant which is now in the entire country only found at Port Meadow and North Hinksey Meadow so it's important that it's looked after on the Meadow. If you'd like to come along to help out they're meeting at 10am by the Aristotle Lane entrance to the Meadow.

Creeping Yellow Cress - one of three Yellow Cress species to be found on the Meadow itself

21st August: Spotted Flycatcher

Over the last couple of days I've been checking out Burgess Field each afternoon to see if I can re-find the Redstarts but sadly I've had no luck. I did have a couple of YELLOW WAGTAILS fly over yesterday and today I found what looked like a family party of LESSER WHITETHROATS along the hedge so they may well have bred there.  There were also a couple of juvenile YELLOW WAGTAILS in amongst the horses on the Meadow itself today.

The highlight of today was when I went for a wander along the Castle Mill Stream on my way back home. I came across a roving mixed feeding flock which is always exciting as all sorts of species will join in such flocks at this time of year. In amongst the Warblers, and Tits were a TREE CREEPER and best of all a SPOTTED FLYCATCHER which was a real treat to see as this species is hard to come by on the Patch, being somewhat less than annual. Sadly it was on view for only about twenty seconds before it moved on.

No photos of the Spotted Flycatcher so instead here's a Rusty Dot Pearl,
an immigrant moth that I caught in my garden for the first time last night.

19th August: One Redstart

Encouraged by yesterday's success with the two Redstarts I went for a late afternoon walk around Burgess Field again. On the way out there I spotted a couple of people scouring the Port Meadow grassland carefully and I guessed that they were after the rare plant Creeping Marshwort (which is only found on Port Meadow). In Burgess Field the adult make REDSTART was still in the same hedge and I could well believe that the other one might be about too as there is a lot of cover in which it could hide. Apart from that it was the usual skulking warblers.

On the way home I met up with the two plant chaps who had indeed been looking for Creeping Marshwort though they'd had no luck. I offered to show them where I'd seen it five years previously (see here) as best as I could remember which they happily accepted. 

A reminder of Creeping Marshwort from August 2009
In passing they pointed out all sorts of other good plants that I didn't know. I've always felt that a short time with a good botanist would teach me far more than the hours of amateur bumbling around that I normally do. I left them searching with renewed vigour back on the Meadow though it's a pretty hard task to find such a small creeping plant in such a big area. Below are the plants that they showed me.

Strawberry Clover ...
...so called because the fruit looks a bit like a strawberry
Tubular Water Dropwort
Marsh Arrow-grass

19th August: Two Redstarts

Inspired by James Evry's great sightings recently I thought that I'd better get back out on the Patch to try and find something of my own. Against all odds I did actually manage to come across a couple of REDSTARTS in Burgess Field, in the field in the south east corner of the nature reserve. As is typical for late afternoon birding they were very skulking but I managed to see them well enough in the end to age them as an adult male and a first winter male. This is a hard species to get on the Meadow so I was very pleased to have seen them. Apart from that there were noticeably good numbers of young birds about with juvenile Goldfinches, Whitethroat, Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff all seen. One mixed feeding flock had well over twenty birds with a variety of Tits and Warblers all tagging along together. The hedgerows are heaving with berries in what must have been a very good summer for them so there's plenty about for the autumn and winter birds.

To round things off as I walked back a lovely HOBBY shot over the Meadow - a nice end to a pleasant afternoon's visit.

The Marbled Whites seem to have gone now in Burgess Field but I
thought that I'd share this one from a few weeks back

17th August: Whinchat & Redstart

James Evry sent me the following e-mail:

I thought I'd share some of my sightings from yesterday (17th) on Port Meadow: there was a Little Egret and a Kingfisher along the river, 2 WHINCHAT in the middle of the meadow, a big flock of Starlings amongst the cows and 1 REDSTART along the towpath.

The Whinchat and the Redstart are both year ticks - most welcome in this straightened times!

Here's a picture of some of the swallows on the boats from a few days ago

14th August

Apologies for the radio silence for a while but I've been away on holiday. Today I went for a long walk around the Meadow to see what I could find. There is of course no water at all and it's a fairly birdless desert sadly at present. Still there's always something to see if one looks hard enough. There are lots of wild flowers that I'm trying to get my head around and I'll continue to post some of them in this blog as we go along. There is a definite feel of autumn in the air as far as the birds are concerned: the Swifts have all gone and the Hirundines are all gathering in large numbers including some Sand Martins. There was a mixed flock of over a hundred round by the moored boats today including lots of juveniles so a successful breeding year for them. They were all swirling around after insects and then resting up on the boats. A juvenile Willow Warbler was working its way clumsily along the hedgerow at the southern end of the Trap Ground allotments, looking yellow enough to make one think of a Hippolais warbler though of course size and shape was all wrong. 

The juvenile Willow Warbler
When there's no flood water the only way to see waders is to walk along the river and sure enough I managed to winkle out a COMMON SANDPIPER and a LITTLE EGRET this way. Sadly, this habitat is a poor substitute for proper floods and unless we get a lot of rain soon we'll continue to have slim pickings on this front. There were only five Lapwings on the grass itself, a rather poor count from the 30+ that I was getting a couple of weeks ago. There was a very large flock of Starlings feeding in amongst the cattle at the north end of the Meadow which were spooked up into one of the Poplar trees were they continued to chatter away very noisily for quite some time.

So all quiet on the western front at present. What we really need now is a good period of prolonged rain otherwise sadly it's going to continue to be quiet for some time to come.