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