Sunday 26th January

The floods are still very much with us at present. They had been starting to recede nicely by the middle of the week but the heavy rain over the last few days has probably reversed that. I've been checking out the gull roost most evenings, often in the company of Liam Langley though viewing is currently rather difficult as the birds are rather distant. I think that I've been rather spoilt on the gulling front having rather got used to relatively close views on the Meadow - currently they are much more Farmoor-esque. The highlight of recent days was a fine adult MEDITERRANEAN GULL found by Liam and there have been a few adult YELLOW-LEGGED GULLS about as well but no white-wingers so far apart from an aberrant Herring gull with white primaries on one side (probably the bird that was about towards the end of last year).

As part of the Meadow team effort Steve Goddard in Wolvercote has reported Siskin, Green Woodpecker and TAWNY OWL from his garden in Wolvercote. The year list is ticking along nicely though we still need Goldcrest, Kingfisher, Pheasant (perhaps along the canal), Tufted Duck & Pochard (the Gullet in Wolvercote?) and Buzzard if anyone can add these.

Meadow Scene taken by Duncan Eames (c)

Wednesday 21st January

The floods are still very full and this is continuing to make for rather difficult birding conditions on the Patch. They have started to recede just enough for a few "islands" of grass to start appearing though the gull roost is still rather small - the abundance of attractive flooded fields across the county means that gulls are presently rather spoilt for choice. The only bird of note of late has been a 1st winter YELLOW-LEGGED GULL.

There not much action on the wader front though the five overwintering REDSHANK are still about. The usual ducks are still spread out over the "lake" with a count of 26 PINTAIL last night and a smattering of Gadwall to add some interest to the mix. There are usually a few GOOSANDER about with a peak count of 11 last week. The LITTLE GREBE is still hanging out along the Castle Mill Stream though in the flooded conditions it seems to prefer skulking in the reeds to being out in the open. Along the same stream the Great Crested Grebes have started their elegant courtship dancing.

Additions to the year list since my last posting have included a MARSH TIT along the Castle Mill Stream and the Medley Farm NUTHATCH which was coming to the bird table by the Sea Scout Hut. The resident Kestrel near the Perch Inn is still about and a Red Kite is hanging about there as well. In addition Liam Langley has managed to add Reed Bunting, Skylark, Bullfinch and PEREGRINE to the list. With a tally of 71 birds we are now fast approaching the target that I set of 75 birds by the end of the winter.

Three of the five Redshank on one of the grass islands

Monday 13th January

There's not been a lot to report over the last week or so. The huge flood waters are still with us though they have finally started to recede a little. The usual ducks are still bobbing about in the middle though they are very distant. There are plenty of gulls about taking advantage of the floods up at the very north end by Wolvercote. The gull roost in the evenings is rather hard to view and to be honest I have more or less given up trying for now - once the waters start to recede again it will be a lot easier to check out. If we should get a sudden freeze whilst the waters are like this then we can often get displaced diving ducks such as Tufted Duck and Pochard, coming onto the Meadow - this is often the best way to get these normally scarce Meadow birds on the year list.

In the absence of the evening gull roost I've been checking out the Trap Grounds and Burgess Field a little more, especially at this time of year when I'm chasing around trying to get stuff on the year list. The list is ticking over with Mistle Thrush, Jay and Greater Spotted Woodpecker all added in the last few days and Liam Langley also reported a LITTLE GREBE on the Castle Mill stream. There are lots of Redwings about at the moment, often to be heard murmuring away in trees, sounding a bit like Goldfinches.

The floods looking north from the Burgess Field gate towards Wolvercote

Sunday 5th January

Happy New Year! So another year has kicked off. It's always interesting in January to have to seek out once again various relatively common species for the year list - it's the only time that many of them get much attention. So far I've managed 51 from a target of about 75 that I would normally expect at this time of year. The highlights so far was a JACK SNIPE and I've also had a few Lesser Redpolls flying over and calling. 

On the Meadow itself we're still firmly entrenched in Lake Mode with the waters rising if anything over the last few days and now creeping slowly towards Wolvercote. The ducks seem happy enough though they are rather hard to observe now. There are double figure counts of PINTAIL about at the moment though - they always seem to like it when the floods are extended. It's when the waters are huge like this that we can often attract rarer (for the Meadow) ducks such as Tufted Duck and Pochard. Like last year we seem to have five over wintering REDSHANK. They can regularly be found roosting on one of the logs over by the large Poplar trees to the north of the Perch Inn when the waters are like this. The gull roosts have been variable in size but they are rather far away so it's harder to pick things out though I have already managed the first YELLOW-LEGGED GULL of the year.

This Wigeon wishes you a Happy New Year!

Review of the Year on the Meadow

We've finished the year as we started with extensive flooding heading all the way up to Wolvercote. By many measures it's been a rather strange year on the Patch. We had a fantastic start to the year and managed to pick up almost all the species that we might expect in the first five months of the year. In fact by the end of May we'd managed a year list total of 133 with which one would be reasonably happy for the whole year. After that it all went a bit pear-shaped!

Of particular note in January this year was the large flock of Barnacle Geese which made the floods their home for a few days. Usually Barnacle Geese appear in small numbers in the county as escapee's etc and aren't "tickable" at all but these birds were part of the large feral flocks that live in the home counties and which are classified as official Category C birds and therefore officially tickable. They're at least as tickable as the Greylags that everyone has no problem counting in their county year list so I was rather surprised that more county listers didn't come to see them.

Tickable Barnacle Geese

Last winter was of course a great one for Waxwings and we had quite a few sightings of these lovely birds to start off the year.

A Firecrest that was found by Tom Evans in the Trap Grounds was a great record for the Patch (the first and only one on the Meadow to my knowledge).

Gary the Adult Glauc

In particular the gulling was superb at the start of the year with Caspian Gulls, Iceland Gulls and Glaucous Gulls including a splendid adult bird (a very rare age for this species in the county) which spent several weeks visiting the floods on and off.

By many counts spring was rather disappointing from a wader point of view. Sure we managed to see all the common species that we would normally expect but the floods started fading just at the critical time and there were no Wood Sandpipers this year - normally we might expect several of these rarer waders in the spring on the Meadow. We were blessed with several Avocet in March though which were nice to see.

Avocets (c) Roger Wyatt

We did have a good spring for passage passerines with several Redstarts in Burgess Field (normally a very rare bird on the Patch), plus some Whinchat and even a confiding Tree Pipit.

Burgess Field Tree Pipit

A summer plumaged adult Little Stint at the end of April was a nice bird - this age and plumage is rare in the county.

Adult Spring Little Stint

By the time we were getting to May, the floods were starting to look rather stale and in severe need of a top-up and during this month they basically more or less dried up completely. Still we managed to attract several Garganey; some Whimbrel also popped in albeit briefly.

Garganey are always lovely to see

June was basically flood-free though a couple of probable Spoonbills in the last puddle in early June added some excitement. Steve Goddard managed to turn up an Upper Thames area moth first in the form of the micro Telechrysis tripuncta.

Telechrysis tripuncta

After that it got very quiet for a while with just butterflies and moths to break the tedium of what was largely a birdless desert. I managed to find a rare micro as well with this Metalampa Italica, only the third ever record for the area. July, August and September seemed to drag on for ever with no flood water and no birds.

Metalampa Italica

Finally, in the start of October a birding miracle happened. I was just trudging back from another fruitless search of the still bone dry Meadow when I heard the unmistakable call of a Yellow-browed Warbler. It was a good autumn for this Siberian vagrant nationally and fortunately one chose to linger for a few days at the bottom of Walton Well Road by the car park.
The Yellow-browed Warbler (c) Roger Wyatt

After that it was back to birdlessness until the second half of the month when, thanks to some decent rainfall, the flood waters finally returned. These remained until the end of the year and with the water came the returning gulls which kept me happily occupied for the rest of the year. The highlights of the last two months were three Caspian Gulls (two adults and a 1st winter) and a juvenile Iceland Gull.

Caspian Gull

Iceland Gull

So that was the year on the Meadow. The final year list total was 134 with the Yellow-browed Warbler being the only addition in the second half of the year. There's no doubt that this warbler should get the title of "Bird of the Year" on the Meadow - it was a real gem. I feel really privileged to have such a wonderful patch so close to home which I can visit - it really is a joy to bird. Let's hope for an even better 2014.