Thursday 31st December

I went down to the Meadow for "last orders" today and was rewarded with a vast array of birds. The floods have increased in size since my last visit and the river is now threatening to breach the banks with long fingers of flood water already stretching out along the lower lying areas towards the floods themselves. Sadly the weather didn't co-operate and it started pouring with rain and it soon got too dark to see. I reckon that I only got to view less than 50% of the birds there during my visit which just shows how many there were. 

On to specifics: there were two RUFF visible along the shore though the other seven may have been hiding somewhere. 5 SHELDUCK were on show and there was an excellent count of 17 GOOSANDER today, equally the large count that we had a few weeks ago. In amongst the vast gull roost were at least 5 adult YELLOW-LEGGED GULLS though as I said I wasn't really able to do the roost full justice. 

A Shelduck, taken in sunnier conditions by Roger Wyatt (c)

Tuesday 29th December

You can tell that the Meadow is going through a bit of a purple patch at present by the fact that this is the third blog posting in three nights! I went down for the evening gull roost again and was rewarded with a reasonably sized roost though sadly there was no sign of yesterday's Caspian. The 9 RUFF were back again - had I simply missed them yesterday or had they gone somewhere else to roost? 10 GOOSANDER came in to roost (9 males and 1 female) which was a good count. The most interesting sighting was a 1w drake GOLDENEYE which I found in amongst the Teal. This is a real Patch mega and quite possibly the first record for the floods as well as a very welcome Patch year tick.

1w drake Goldeneye

Also this evening Steve Goodard managed to find a BARN OWL in Burgess Field at dusk - another Patch year tick no less! Talking of which, I met Meadow veteran Matthew Foster today for the first time in quite a while. He quietly works away at his birding but is very much "off-grid" so I only get to hear about what he's seen when I bump into him. He reported a female STONECHAT in Burgess Field about a month or so ago - this is yet another Patch year tick for what has sadly become all too rare a species on the Meadow. So that's three year ticks to add to the total today - it's quite a last-gasp renaissance!

Monday 28th December: Caspian Gull

The Meadow is actually producing some interesting birding at the moment. After the long monotonous spell with very little happening there's been a good bit of variety over the last few days. Partly this is due to the gull roost which has improved with reasonable numbers of large gulls coming in to roost and also now that the floods are quite large there's not so much chance of them all being scared off too easily by a dog or over-zealous walker.

Sadly there was no sign of the Ruff this afternoon but this was more than made up for by finding a splendid 2nd winter CASPIAN GULL in amongst the throng - the first of this autmn/winter though not a year tick as we had a few at the start of the year. Always a treat to find, this individual really jumped out at me as I was scanning the flock at last light.

Apart from that there were just 5 GOOSANDER today (4 males and one red-head). There are good numbers of Wigeon and Teal about and I keep forgetting to mention that the SHOVELER are now back on the floods as well, albeit in modest numbers at present. The only winter species which I would expect at this time but which I'm not seeing in numbers is Golden Plover: there was just a single individual on the floods when I arrived and two more came in to land whilst I was there.

2nd Winter Caspian Gull

Some video of the bird - be warned you may wish to turn down the volume as it's rather windy

Sunday 27th December

I hope that everyone's Christmas was all that you were hoping for. In order to clear my head I made it out today in the insanely mild weather to the Meadow. Pick of the birds was a very welcome flock of 9 RUFF. This is no less than a year tick for the Patch list - the fact that we haven't seen a Ruff until December sadly indicative of the poor season that we've had for waders. Also of note were amongst the large number of birds were a couple of EGYPTIAN GEESE and three SHELDUCK. The gull roost was relatively modest in size though there were reasonable numbers of big gulls with one adult YELLOW-LEGGED GULL as a reward for my efforts. By the time I left there were 3 GOOSANDER on the floods though I suspect that more would have come in as it got darker.

The Ruff flock

Wednesday 23rd December

I must confess that I'd not been down to the Meadow for quite a few days so today I forced myself to pay a visit at dusk to see what was going on. The flood waters had increased a bit again and there were still plenty of birds about though once more there wasn't a great deal of variety. Good numbers of Wigeon and Teal and a reasonable gull roost today with a couple of adult YELLOW-LEGGED GULLS the highlight. There were just five GOOSANDER today (four males and one red-head) though Mary MacDougall reported a stonking 17 the previous day at last light. Disappointingly there weren't any Golden Plover to be seen and all the Geese were right up at the top end of the Meadow so I couldn't really look through them. Sadly the recent Barnacle Geese were just one day wonders.

Christmas Wigeon courtesy of Jason Coppock

Finally I'd like to wish all readers of this blog a very Happy Christmas. I'll be posting the end of year review in a few days.

Tuesday 15th December

I'm pleased to report that there's finally been a bit of a change to the bird life on the floods. Firstly the floods have grown again in size thanks to the continued wet weather and the number of birds has increased A LOT. There must be several thousand birds on the floods now, with getting on for a thousand Wigeon alone, several hundred Teal and at least one hundred Mallards. Lapwings are now about 50 in number and there have been more regular sightings of Golden Plover though no large flocks as yet. GOOSANDER are now coming in to roost regularly each evening though as yet the counts are still in single figures. We even had some waders recently with a single REDSHANK a couple of days ago and five of this species yesterday though there was no sign of them today. Starling numbers are noticeably up though the Linnets seem to have reduced in numbers - it may be too wet for them now. The gull roost has sadly been rather patchy so far with no really large counts. A few nights ago I had an adult YELLOW-LEGGED GULL and a possible 2nd winter Caspian - it was either that or another Yellow-legged though sadly it took off before I could get a good look at it or any photos. 

The highlight of the last few days was today when a flock of 50+ BARNACLE GEESE were discovered in amongst the vast number (far more than usual) of Geese that are currently enjoying the soggy grass in the Hinterland area. These are almost certainly the usual feral Home Counties birds that we have visit us periodically though as official BOU Category C birds they're county-list tickable

Tuesday 8th December

The bird life on the Meadow has been remarkably unchanging over the last few weeks, no doubt due chiefly to the relatively stable mild weather. Wigeon and Teal numbers have been fairly constant, Lapwing counts haven't really changed and there still have been only very occasional sightings of the Golden Plover. On the grassy area near the floods it's just been the usual Pied Wagtails, Meadow Pipits and Linnets with the occasional SKY LARK to spice things up. I did spot a PEREGRINE making a fruitless pass over the various assembled birds on the floods a couple of weeks back and the RED KITES have been seen most days. SISKINS are seen (or at least heard) down near the canal regularly though I've not heard any Redpoll for a while. One of the current highlights is the regular sightings of a KINGFISHER down by the moored boats or along the Castle Mill Stream. As the river becomes more flooded they find it harder to fish and so have to move to the relative sheltered backwaters in amongst the boats.

It turns out that my Migrant Hawker dragonfly sighting last month was one of the latest records ever in the county. It's not altogether surprising, given how mild it is. Sadly I can only approximately remember the date which is rather frustrating but still its a nice record.

Friday 27th November

Whilst there are now plenty of birds on the Meadow floods again, sadly there's not been much to report by way of variety. There are good numbers of Wigeon, Teal and Mallards and this week we had the first PINTAIL of the season with a fine drake along the North Channel. Our Egyptian Geese have moved on though I did see our old fried the leucistic ("ghost") EGYPTIAN GOOSE one day this week. There have been good numbers of Lapwings though their cousins the Golden Plover have been rather fickle. I did find a flock of a few dozen on the floods one evening with the gull roost though something spooked them and they all left. Linnets, Meadow Pipits and Pied Wagtails are all frequenting the grassy areas near the floods in good numbers. I keep hoping to find a Water Pipit in amongst them one of these days - I've personally never seen this species on the Meadow though they have been recorded. There are modest numbers of Siskins around, particularly around the Spinney area and the canal and I'm also getting the odd Redpoll flying over from time to time. Winter thrush numbers are starting to build with Redwing in the hedges along the Castle Mills Stream and Fieldfares flying over regularly. I did manage to hear the Medley Farm Nuthatch again this week so it's nice to know that it's still around. The gull roost has been rather hit and miss with some evenings very few birds which haven't lingered and other evenings producing reasonable numbers though sadly without anything of particular note as yet.

I keep forgetting to report that a couple of weeks ago I had a very late Migrant Hawker dragonfly along the Castle Mill Stream - not bad for mid November!

The first Pintail of the season

Sunday 22nd November

Mary MacDougall writes:

"I was out there between 2.30 and 4.30pm.  A large flock,of about 70 Golden Plover flew in at 2.45 and settled on the floods at the south end.  They were there about an hour then something spooked all the birds (Teal about 30, same amount of Lapwings, and the Golden Plover.) There were no dogs at that point, but I had seen a Sparrowhawk on the Meadow earlier.  The Golden Plover flew up and off into the distance, but the Lapwing and Teal resettled.  A short while later a smaller flock of Goldies returned, and looked set to stay the night. When I left as dusk was coming down, there were only three Black headed Gulls heading up the gull roost! Where had the other 3,997 gone, I wonder? Farmoor!

As well as the usual Linnets, Pied Wagtails and the usual Great Crested Grebe on the river there was a Kingfisher on the meadow bank of river, where there are no perches, hovering motionless in the air, fishing."

Monday 17th November

Since my last visit on Friday suddenly the Meadow has become extremely "birdy". The heavy rain over the weekend had done its job and the floods are now much bigger and indeed the two pools have now joined to make a single large one. They're still rather thin by past Meadow standards though the birds are certainly liking them. The Wigeon are back with a vengeance now with at least 350 of them on the floods along with about half that number of Teal. There were loads of Mallards today as well, probably several hundred in number. All the feral Greylags were right down in the flood area with two EGYPTIAN GEESE and six of the feral Blenheim WHITE-FRONTED GEESE in amongst them today as well. 

The two Egyptian Geese today

It was so windy this afternoon that it was hard to do the gull roost much justice. In any event they were extremely skittish and kept taking off en masse for no reason. There weren't that many large gulls about though there must have been a couple of thousand Black-headed Gulls there and more gulls of all sizes were coming in all the time at dusk as I left. Plenty of Pied Wagtails about in the area between the floods and the river - there must have been at least fifty of them and the large Linnet flock was still buzzing about the place. Counting all species there must have been at least four thousand birds on the Meadow this afternoon - it truly was a wonderful sight.

So all in all, it's looking pretty good now. The Meadow really does come into its own in the winter time and is one of the premier birding sites in the county at this time of year. We just need some more unusual birds now as a finishing touch to its revival.

Monday 16th November

Now that we've got water back on the Meadow I'm intending to post updates more frequently. However, circumstances have combined to mean that I've not been able to post anything until today. I did pay a couple of visits on Friday when the 9 EGYPTIAN GEESE were back on the floods and the gull roost contained 4 adult YELLOW-LEGGED GULLS but that was about it. 

Over the weekend I was otherwise engaged though Adrian Gray dropped in at the Gullet and reported one Tufted Duck and 6 pairs of Shoveler but no sign of any Teal or Wigeon. I'm guessing that they're finding the Meadow itself more to their liking now.

Thursday 12th November

I've been dutifully checking out the Meadow twice a day over the last few days, chiefly because I need to walk a lot to loosen up from a recent bad back episode. Still my increasing coverage has lead to some more birds to report. The gull roost isn't too bad considering the relatively small amount of water that we have and today I found the first YELLOW-LEGGED GULL of the season in amongst the throng. The only other gull of note was a single Common Gull during the day. 

About as rubbishy a record shot as they come of the adult Yellow-legged Gull
Whilst the Teal are nicely settled in, albeit in modest numbers, the Wigeon seem to be a bit finnicky at present - I found a small flock at first light this morning but they've not been around the rest of the time. The Lapwing are regular and a flock of 7 Golden Plover flew low over today though they didn't land. Perhaps the most interesting sighting was yesterday at last light as I was leaving from grilling the gull roost when I spotted a flock of 9 EGYPTIAN GEESE by the Aristotle Lane pool. This is a really good count for the Meadow, certainly the largest number since I've been birding it. Sadly though there was no sign of them the next day.

Tuesday 10th November

The gradual pick-up in birdiness on the Meadow is continuing as the flood waters increase. Yesterday there was a flock of about 250 Wigeon back on the Meadow though there was no sign of them today. The Teal at least seem more settled with about 80 of them currently on the floods. Lapwings, Mallards, Pied Wagtails, Linnets and Meadow Pipits are all still about as well.

Today I went to check out the gull roost for the first time this autumn. After a slow start by last light there were at least one hundred large gulls present along with a few hundred Black-headed Gulls and one or two Common Gulls. Sadly the light was very poor by the time they'd assembled so I wasn't really able to do them much justice.

Seven of the feral WHITE-FRONTED GEESE (presumably from the Blenheim flock) paid us a visit this evening and at least made a change from the usual Greylags and Canadas.

Rubbish record shot one some of the White-fronted Geese

Sunday 8th November

It's been another week of gradually improving conditions. The rain over the last few days has been enough to push the floods to the next level and suddenly they're looking more substantial. In fact I'll probably start checking out the gull roost at last light this coming week. The Lapwings and Black-headed Gulls are loitering there on a daily basis and today after an absence of a few days the Teal were back with getting on for a hundred birds there. Mallard are there in good numbers though Wigeon have yet to make a return though I did see two pairs flying around above the floods today. 

Lapwing are back in reasonable numbers now

In terms of passerines there are large numbers of Linnets with plenty of Pied Wagtails, Meadow Pipits and Starlings all feeding away on the grass surrounding the floods. There have even been one or two Skylarks about most days. Today a Sparrowhawk made a low pass over the Meadow area and came away with a Linnet in it's talons. 

There are still some flowers about on the Meadow with this Water Chickweed one of the more noticeable ones
There's been much more activity overhead over the last few weeks with Fieldfare flying over the Meadow area regularly, regular Siskins, a single Snipe this week, regular Skylark and I heard another Redpoll over this week. The highlight this week however was a calling NUTHATCH (a year tick) that was back in the Medley Farm copse. This former Meadow rarity was regularly seen in this area for the last couple of years though so far it has been notable by its absence this year. Finally, there was a calling TAWNY OWL again near my house one night this week.

Normally I would have stopped mothing by now but it's so mild still that I've been keeping it up. The upper moth is The Brick and the lower is Red-green Carpet

Friday 30th October

Since my last posting things have been gradually picking up on the Patch. Whilst the embryonic floods haven't increased in size yet at least they've held their own and it's been enough to start attracting a regular flock of 20 or 30 Lapwings and up to 50 Black-headed Gulls. Today for the first time the Teal were back with them with about 40 of them sleeping by the North Channel water. There was even a flock of a couple of dozen Golden Plover this week and Mary MacDougall had a flock of about 60 last weekend. Winter Thrushes have been at least flying over the Meadow this week if not actually feeding on it and there has been a regular light passage of Skylarks going over the last week or so, some compensation for the fact that they didn't seem to breed on the Meadow this year for the first time since I can remember.

There are finally a few year ticks to report with a couple of fly-over Lesser Redpolls during the week, a calling TAWNY OWL in the small hours this morning and best of all a Dark-bellied BRENT GOOSE that spent half an hour or so today grazing on the grass down near the boat moorings this morning before being flushed by a dog walker. A singleton Brent was seen at Farmoor about a week ago so it may be the same bird. This species is less than annual on the Meadow and is in fact not that common in the county at all so it was nice to see this morning. Let's hope that it's the prelude to more interesting sightings over the coming weeks.

The Brent Goose

Wednesday 21st October

My apologies for the lack of posts but I've been away birding down in Cornwall and to be honest there's not been a lot to report. The big news is that we're starting to get some embryonic floods now forming with a thin pool along the North Channel at present and a puddle opposite the entrance to Aristotle Lane. So far this has just attracted a few Black-headed Gulls and Lapwings but as it grows it should start to pull in some other birds and we should start to get some Wigeon and Teal back on the Meadow in due course. There's a definite wintery feel to the Meadow now: the Linnet flock is numbering about 200 birds and there are now Meadow Pipits and Pied Wagtails feeding on the flood area. Mary MacDougall reported a flock of Golden Plover flying over within the last couple of weeks and I had a flock of about 30 Fieldfare which flew over late afternoon today though I've personally yet to hear any Redwings. Up in Wolvercote here are a few Shoveller and Teal on the Gullet now though the pool on the Meadow opposite has hardly any water in it. In other snippets of news I saw a Sparrowhawk today and a Kingfisher down on the Trap Grounds pond.

I've been rather neglecting my garden mothing of late as numbers have been so low and it's getting to the end of the season now. I did manage to trap this Red-line Quaker the other day though

One of the most interesting birding sights around at present is when one comes across a foraging mixed feeding flock. These dynamic flocks of feeding birds work their way rapidly through the trees, calling constantly to keep together. There's an advantage to all the birds in joining forces like this: with more birds in the flock they can each spend proportionally more time feeding and less time on the look-out for predatirs which is why different species will join in. As well as the usual Great, Blue and Long-tailed Tits, there are often Chaffinches, Goldcrests, Chiffchaffs and Treecreepers to be seen in these flocks and it's always great fun trying to pick out the different species as they work their way along the tree line and it's always possible that something rarer may tag along in the flock.

The main flower that's out now is of course the Michaelmas Daisy - these ones are looking rather faded now already and have lost their pinkish blush

Sunday 4th October

So September has come and gone and sadly there's still been little to report. The lovely Indian Summer weather has been great for wandering about in but it has done little bird bird movement and we're left scratching around for news. The most interesting report was of a possible HONEY BUZZARD seen by Steve Goddard over the Woodstock Road on the 17th. They are tricky birds to ID in flight so sadly it's one that got away. Talking of fly-overs Adrian Gray ("our man in the north" who's sadly moving on the pastures new) has a RAVEN fly over Wolvercote "cronking" loudly. Visitor Anne Redstone reported a few Lapwing back on the Meadow though as yet there have been no Golden Plover. There was a single YELLOW WAGTAIL in amongst the cattle last week and I've seen a Grey Wagtail a few times around the patch. On the rivers the Kingfisher has been seen on and off and a LITTLE EGRET has been fishing on the Thames of late. I've been seeing or at least hearing SISKINS fairly regularly about the Patch now. Apart from that it's been the usual stuff in the usual places.

Little Egret on the river
Given the paucity of bird action I've been spending time down at the Trap Grounds admiring the last of the summer Hawkers and Darters. There have been one or two Migrant and Southern Hawkers around still as well as a few Common Darters though sadly they won't be around for much longer.

Common Darter
Now that the settled weather has gone perhaps we'll get enough rain to re-create the floods and bring in some nice gulls! It's also time to start listening out for Redwings and Fieldfares which should start arriving this month. Finally, there's been a huge number of Yellow-browed Warblers hitting the east coast this autumn. No doubt a few will be trickling down through the county so it's worth listening out for their distinctive call - it would be great to get this fabulous county Mega on the patch two years running!

Tuesday 15th September: Spotted Flycatcher

After a very quiet period since the Wryneck discovery (there's been no further sign unfortunately) I've another good bird to report. Not in the same league as a Wryneck but I found a lovely SPOTTED FLYCATCHER in Burgess Field in the second field up from the south gate (field 2W using the new map). This one was nicely out in the open and even posed for photos. What's more it stuck around for long enough for it to be twitched by other locals so all in all a very obliging bird.

The Spotted Flycatcher

Apart from that it's been rather quiet on the bird front with just the usual warblers knocking about. The Kingfisher is been seen periodically along the Castle Mill stream and I saw one on the Trap Ground ponds as well. Talking of the Trap Grounds there have been some juvenile Reed Warblers blundering around in the reeds recently so they've had a successful breeding season. On the raptor front there's been a Kestrel back in Burgess Field and Sparrowhawk, Kite and Buzzard sightings

Plenty of dragonflies around still with Migrant and Southern Hawkers both to be found at the Trap Grounds and also in Burgess Field. There are also plenty of Darters about, mostly Common though with some Ruddy.

Common Darter
By the way, I've added a record shot of the Wryneck to the end of the previous post.

Saturday 5th September

I made a couple of visits to Burgess Field today to look for yesterday's Wryneck though I haven't yet had precise details on the location so it was a bit of a shot in the dark. In the absence of anything concrete I concentrated my search in the south east corner though there was no sign of it. I did hear one or more SISKINS calling and managed to see a couple of LESSER WHITETHROATS along with the commoner warblers whilst I was rummaging through the hedgerows.

On the Meadow itself I found a HOBBY hunting Swallows. The Swallows were flying rather low so the Hobby flew higher and would make periodic dives on them, twisting and turning with incredible speed. When it failed to catch one it would shoot up to its higher vantage point again. From a distance this shooting up and down was almost like the mating dance of a Mayfly, so regular was the pattern. It was so fast and agile that it was only a matter of time before it caught one which it soon did, flying off to consume it at its leisure.

Chiffchaff courtesy of Robert Widdowson
I've now managed to speak to the Wryneck finder. He saw the bird well for 5 or 10 minutes and though he's not entirely sure of where it was exactly it sounds like it was in the east side of either the first or second field up from the southern end in the Hawthorn hedge. Using my new field labelling system this would be 1E or 2E - see my new map in the map section for details.

Note, this was in fact the general area that I was searching today so it's either skulking (a distinct possibility) or it's gone.

Record shot of the Wryneck from James Grant

Friday 4th September WRYNECK

At last a decent bird on the Meadow and in Burgess Field too which has hitherto been rather poor on providing proper scarce birds for the Patch. Late this afternoon Jim Grant managed to find a WRYNECK in a line of trees along one of the open fields in the south east corner of Burgess Field. In fact I've been looking out for this species in that general area for several weeks now - it does look very "Wrynecky" and with two already in the county it's clearly a good autumn for them. A great find and at last we've got a good bird to add to the "Past Port Meadow Rarities" section of this blog - I was starting to wonder if this would be the first year that we missed one since I started recording the Patch in 2007.

I'm awaiting more details from Jim about where exactly he saw it and I'll report back in due course.

Jim didn't manage a photo so here's one of the recent Otmoor bird, taken by Neil Duggan (c)

Wednesday 2nd September

Well here we are in September already. Thankfully there's been a fair bit of rain though so far there's been no sign of any returning flood water. It's strange how it suddenly appears as the ground water level rises - I can't wait for it to happen.

In order to try and find some waders I've been making periodic visits along the shore of the Thames up by the Poplar Trees where occasionally they can be found. I was rewarded recently for my efforts with a couple of COMMON SANDPIPERS, the most likely wader species in this location. There have also been one or two LITTLE EGRETS along the river of late as well as a smattering of Black-headed Gulls. YELLOW WAGTAILS are in amongst the livestock regularly and Roly Pitts managed a count of nine a day or two ago. One of the highlights since my last posting though was a flock of five SISKINS which flew over calling one morning. I posted in July about these finches and how we're getting increased sightings now but it was nice to see them for myself on the Patch this year.

The two Common Sandpipers

In Burgess Field many of the young warblers have now moved on and it's just the odd calling Chiffchaff that's to be found. I'm still holding out hope for a Redstart or even a Wryneck - after all we've had a couple already in the county this autumn.

There's been a pick-up in activity on the Odonata front. Migrant Hawkers are suddenly starting to appear in the Trap Ground area and I managed to spot three of them the other day on a morning visit. One was quartering the back of the pond and two were patrolling the main clearing area. There are also plenty of Common and Ruddy Darters around.

Migrant Hawker

On the moth front the weather has been a bit iffy of late so I've only run the trap once. Apart from lots of Large Yellow Underwings the main moth of note was a migrant Dark Sword Grass, always nice to see. I did find a Red Underwing roosting on the side of the house the other day as well.

Migrant Dark Sword Grass moth

Sunday 23rd August

Early Autumn continues on apace on the Meadow. A morning stroll through Burgess Field found lots of young warblers (mainly Whitethroats) in the hedges - it looks like it's been a good breeding year for them. With lots of Redstarts passing through the county elsewhere I've been looking out for them on BF though sadly I've yet to find one. We're also missing out on Whinchats and Wheatears which Otmoor is starting to get passing through. With any luck we might manage one or two fairly soon.

On the Meadow itself there have been four or so YELLOW WAGTAILS in amongst the livestock for the last week or so. It's always worth looking through them for something rarer though no luck so far. The Swifts have departed now and the Hirundines are gathering together in large post-breeding flocks ready for the push southwards in due course.

Male Yellow Wagtail
At last there seems to be a bit more action on the Odonata front. I've seen at least one Brown Hawker along the Castle Mill Stream regularly and over on the Trap Grounds there was a Migrant Hawker patrolling the southern end of the pond. In addition there were at least one Ruddy Darter and one Common Darter by the smaller pond at the end of the boardwalk. It's amazing how there are no Damselflies on the Trap Grounds pond though. In past years there would be loads at the northern end but I'm not sure that I've seen any there this year. Perhaps all the dredging there over the winter is the cause. It's getting rather late for them now anyway though there are a few Blue-tailed Damsels in the small boardwalk pond and also on the Castle Mill Stream. There were also a couple of late Banded Demoiselles on the latter site recently.

Male Ruddy Darter
Butterflies are now getting to the end of their season though there are still quite a few about in the Trap Grounds. I had a Holly Blue in my garden over the weekend as well as a couple of Hornet Hoverflies - they are spectacularly huge beasts!

Hornet Hoverfly
On the mothing front I trapped for the first time in quite a while over the weekend and was rewarded with a good catch. It's always fascinating to watch the changing composition of the catch as the weeks go by. Suddenly you've got Large Yellow Underwings, Copper Underwings and Old Ladies in the trap which you weren't getting a few weeks ago.

Old Lady - a large though rather drab moth
With still no water on the Meadow we're missing out on the bonanza of Wood Sandpipers that are passing through the country and county this autumn. Until we get re-flooded it's a case on sifting through the hedges and watching the skies for something good.

Monday 10th August

I've been away on and off for a couple of weeks though by all accounts I haven't missed much. The birding highlight since my last post has been a splendid male REDSTART that Roly Pitts found in Burgess Field a few days ago. Whilst this isn't a Patch year tick it's still a great find of what is a good Patch bird. 

The first YELLOW WAGTAILS are now appearing in amongst the horses and cattle on the Meadow - it's always great to see this birds again each Autumn. I've also had a couple of sightings of a HOBBY over the last few days: one flew over my garden and another flew over Burgess Field. Apart from that it's mostly just the usual Warblers that are to be seen in and around the Patch at present.

It's been rather quiet on the Odonata front so far this year. Today I finally managed to see a female Brown Hawker ovipositing along the Castle Mill Stream.

A rather blurry shot of the Brown Hawker - in my defence it was on the far side of the river.

I've not done very much mothing of late though I did manage to find a couple of good micros in the house the other day after someone left the window open. The first was a Large Tabby - not particularly rare though it is new for my garden. The second was Metalampra italica - a rather rare micro for the county though it does seem to be on the increase. This is the second one that I've had in my garden.

Large Tabby

Metalampra italica

29th July

All quiet on the western front at present. As some rather less settled weather accompanies us into the start of August there's unfortunately not much out of the ordinary to report.

Starting with birds, the highlight since my last posting, indeed just about the only bird news that I've had reported to me, has been four SISKINS that flew over the Meadow a week or so ago when Dave Doherty visited. Readers may recall that it was a poor winter for this species, something to do with a bumper crop of their favourite food tree which was keeping them somewhere else. Anyway, the flip side of this has been that Siskins are now starting to appear in the county unseasonally early and fortunately this has meant that the Meadow has finally got another year tick.

The recent rain has done nothing to change the state of the Meadow though the flood area is looking very lush and green. Indeed all the geese were busy grazing away there today and hoards of Wood Pigeon, Jackdaw and Starling were also picking their way over the area. The RED KITE has been seen regularly in the area, though I've just seen the one bird of late so perhaps the other is attending a nest - fingers crossed. Today, in amongst the Hirundines was at least one SAND MARTIN - it's good to see this species again, they are generally seen at the start of the season when they first arrive.

Port Meadow Red Kite

Of late I've been spending a lot of time down in the Trap Grounds where the open area there is proving to be a real butterfly hotspot now that the Wild Marjoram is flowering. This spot is currently host to lots of Gatekeepers, Ringlets and Meadow Browns, as well as the commoner species and today I found my first Small Copper of the year there. There was also a Souther Hawker patrolling the area though it didn't linger.

Trap Grounds male Common Blue

The mothing has been rather hit and miss at this end of the Meadow (Steve Goddard may be faring better up in Wolvercote). I've been catching a few that are new for the garden though a lot of them are micro's which I won't bore readers with here. Instead I'll post some more crowd-pleasing moth shots.

Small Elephant Hawk Moth - always a favourite with my children

Buff Tip - you've got to admire the camouflage of this moth!

In other sites in the county they are starting to get returning waders now. Sadly, unless we get a very wet August it will be some time before we see any on the Patch. Time to start doing a rain dance!

6th July

I finally had some time free to go out and tour the Patch today. At the Trap Grounds there was an Emperor Dragonfly and two Four-spotted Chasers on the pond though I couldn't see any Damselflies. The Reed Warblers are still singing away in there periodically - I hope that they're having a good breeding season. The small side pond was nearly dried up though there were several Azure Damselflies busy mating and laying eggs in the water that remained. I was amazed at just how dry it was in the central "meadow" area and it looked like I'd missed a whole lot of flowers which were going over already, having not even come up at my last visit. I must say that all the wild flower planting that has been done there looks really great and I hope that what has been planted goes on to become properly established.

On the Meadow itself the former flood area is looking lush and green now and was covered in birds with loads of Wood Pigeons, Jackdaws and Starling to be seen. The latter look like they've had a good breeding year with plenty of juveniles in amongst them. Talking of which there were a few dozen loafing Black-headed Gulls also on the Meadow with seven or eight juveniles there too.

In Burgess Field the summer butterflies are all out in force now with at least 30 Ringlets seen as well as good numbers of Meadow Browns, Marbled Whites and modest counts of Gatekeepers, Small Skippers and Essex Skippers. Another Emperor Dragonfly has set up territory near the copse and was busy hunting down some of the butterflies. It's all looking incredibly dry there too, rather bleak compared to the lush verdure we've had up until now.

Essex Skipper - taken last year

Finally I must mention my garden mothing which has finally kicked off properly thanks to the warmer weather. I've even managed to catch a couple of Hawkmoths, which aren't at all common in my garden. They're so huge they're always great to see.

Privet Hawkmoth

23rd June

Summer is truly upon us now with the summer solstice come and gone and some much more settled and warmer weather. There are plenty of fledgling birds around (which sadly our cats have been enjoying catching) and loads of insects and flowers to look at. The Jericho RED KITE has paired up with another bird - I wonder whether they will breed this summer. It would be great to having breeding Kites on the Meadow, a real testament to the success of the re-introduction programme.

In Burgess Field the first Marbled White butterfly was on the wing about a week ago as well as the first Large Skipper and the usual Small Heath and Common Blues. We should start getting the smaller Skippers, and the Ringlets out soon now.

Not a butterfly but a freshly emerged Cinnebar Moth
Damselflies are now out and about along the Castle Mill Stream with Red-eyed and Blue-tailed to be seen in moderate numbers. There was an Emperor Dragonfly hawking over Burgess Field the other day.

A female Common Blue Damselfly in the Trap Grounds recently
Of course there are also plenty of summer flowers to look at though I'm still trying to get my head around the subtleties of many of the different species.

Grass Vetchling: its leaves look just like blades of grass
I'm still busy mothing away in the garden and at last the warmer weather means that things are starting to pick up a little.

I caught this huge Poplar Hawk Moth the other night - it's about half the size of your hand
So there's plenty out there to look at even if it's very quiet on the bird front.

2nd June

So we're into June now and the summer doldrums though actually it's felt like it for quite some time now as far as the birding has been concerned. The "floods"  are now completely dry and the grass and various Meadow plants  are fast reclaiming the muddy area. Since my last posting there has been some news on the bird front with a male CUCKOO spending a day hanging around Burgess Field recently. I also forgot to report a one-off sighting (or hearing to be more precise) of this species by Mary MacDougall in the Trap Grounds a few weeks ago now. Someone also reported hearing a female bubbling away on one occasion. So it's actually been quite a good spring for Cuckoo's with quite a few passing through.
The rather changeable weather hasn't been doing us any favours as far as summer insects are concerned and in fact it's been ages since I've even got the moth trap out at all. Still I did manage to find the first few summer butterflies in Burgess Field with a Small Heath and a Common Blue both having been seen.
Angled Shades, caught a couple of weeks ago
I found this grass micro moth in Burgess Field: Dichrorampha sequana
At least the flowers are coming out in turn. The Meadow is currently carpeted in a sea of yellow Buttercups - it always looks so pretty when it's like this.

A sea of yellow Buttercups
Large Bitter-cress growing by the side of the canal