Monday 29th February: Caspian Gull

Another good visit to Port Meadow this evening. Still plenty of waders about with now 4 RUFF, the 3 OYSTERCATCHERS, the2 RINGED PLOVER and at least 3 REDSHANK, as well as about 150 Golden Plover all present. On the duck front there were 7 PINTAIL and 2 SHELDUCK in amongst the usual Wigeon and Teal.

The highlight of the visit though were a couple of very educational gulls. The first was a tricky trap for the unwary. To my credit I wasn't convinced that it was a Caspian Gull and this turned out to be correct as it's actually a dark-eyed 3w Herring Gull (video here).

Herring Gull (probably argenteus) impersonating a Caspian

The second was a distinctive, long-winged 2w gull which I thought was probably a rather strange looking Yellow-legged Gull though it actually turned out to be a comparatively scruffy and dark-mantled CASPIAN GULL after all (video here).

...and a Caspian Gull impersonating a Yellow-legged Gull
Thanks to Ian Lewington for the ID confirmations/corrections.

Also to report, Steve Goddard heard a TAWNY OWL calling outside his home in Wolvercote this evening - another year tick.

Sunday 28th February

It's been a good week on the Meadow. The floods are incredibly birdy at present - there must be several thousand birds about at the moment which is really great. As far as species go, after a long period of rather sameyness there's been a subtle but definite change over the last week with at last some real movement occurring. This has been most noticeable as far as waders have been concerned when suddenly a few started to appear. We've had a single DUNLIN, a RUFF, up to seven REDSHANK, 3 OYSTERCATCHERS and two early RINGED PLOVER all make an appearance this week. Add to this several hundred Lapwing and up to 70 or so Golden Plover and it's been pretty good.


On the duck front it's mostly been the usual suspect. At the start of the week we had about 15 PINTAIL though this has quickly dropped to about 5 birds. There were a couple of SHELDUCK on Sunday and we've been getting a few GOOSANDER in the evening roost. I did notice a single Gadwall in amongst the usual duck species this week and there are a few Shoveler about as well. 

I've not been doing the gull roost as rigorously this week. There have been large numbers of Black-headed Gulls picking over the recently flooded grass. There were reasonable numbers of large gulls already about mid afternoon on Sunday though nothing out of the ordinary. Indeed it's been rather quiet on the Caspian and white-winger front throughout the whole county recently.

A couple of other snippets: on a quick early morning walk on Monday morning along the canal I saw my first Patch Sparrowhawk of the year and also heard a Blackcap singing for the first time this year. With the Daffodils now out and birds starting to claim their territories you can really sense that spring is just around the corner now.

Sunday 21st February

My apologies for the radio silence over the last couple of weeks. I was away last week and meant to do a post before I left but things rather caught up with me and I ran out of time. There's not been much of particular note to report since my last update and there are no new year ticks to record.

I do have the latest Webs Count results from Anthony Cheke from today to offer you
Greylag Goose  245
Canada Goose  11
Barnacle Goose (f)
Shelduck  2
Wigeon  1600
Gadwall  4
Pintail 2
Shoveler 3+ (only males seen)
Mallard 121
Teal 130+
Gt Crested Grebe  4
Cormorant  3
Moorhen 1
Lapwing 330
Black-headed Gull  2200
Herring Gull (agg.) 10
Lesser B-b Gull  210
Great B-b Gull  14

Anthony also checks out the Wolvercote Lakes (I presume that this is the Gullet area)

Mute Swan 2
Shoveler 1
Mallard 10
Tufted Duck 8
Moorhen 1
Coot 5
Black-headed Gull 24

Now that I'm back, normal service should be resumed.

Sunday 7th February

I had a productive visit to the Trap Grounds on Friday morning. Firstly the CETTI'S WARBLER was singing away periodically from deep within the main reed bed - let's hope that it stays and perhaps even breeds. Also heard from within the same reed bed was the WATER RAIL which has been with us for some time now. To round things off I found a male BLACKCAP near the boardwalk - the first for the year on the Patch. Usually I'd have had this species in my garden by now but as it's been such a mild winter they've not needed to come in to look for food. Also seen or at least heard were Goldcrests and Treecreepers.

There are a few Winter Heliotrope flowers showing in the Trap Grounds near the pond screen
though many of the leaves look somewhat frost-damaged.

Given the windy conditions there have been no reports over the weekend and with Storm Imogen raging as I write I'll probably not go out today though with any luck I'll be able to get out later on in the week. I'm itching to get back to grilling the gulls!

Wednesday 3rd February

Good birding is still to be hard on the Meadow floods though there hasn't been much variety of late. The Dunlin seemed to have moved on as I haven't seen them for the last couple of days now but there are varying numbers of SHELDUCK (up to 8 or so), PINTAIL (up to 6) and GOOSANDER (up to 8) each evening to keep one occupied. The gull roost has been reasonable though the prevailing south westerly wind and the size of the floods means that viewing conditions are rather difficult at present and I haven't found anything noteworthy of late. The highlight over the last few days on the floods was the appearance of the first OYSTERCATCHER of the year - it's good to have this lovely wader back again.

Elsewhere, we're now able to add LESSER REDPOLL to our year list thanks to a report and great photo taken in the Trap Grounds on the 15th January - thanks to Nicola Devine for that. I can also add SNIPE and LITTLE GREBE to the list thanks to some sightings recorded on the excellent Trap Grounds sightings web-site.

Trap Grounds Lesser Redpoll (c) Nicola Devine

Sunday 31st January

It's been a reasonable few days on the Meadow on the birding front. The floods are still a good size and there are so many birds about when I come for the evening gull roost that it's hard to do them all justice in the time that I have. SHELDUCK numbers have been gradually increasing with up to 8 having been around over the last few days. PINTAIL numbers too are on the increase with several birds now about. In contrast, there have been fewer GOOSANDER roosting over the last few days with just five birds there today. Our DUNLIN have still been hanging out with the Lapwings with six birds now with us. On the other hand Golden Plover are only noticeable by their absence - I've not seen any over the last few days.

Three of the Dunlin
I've not managed to turn up anything really interesting on the gull front though I did see really interesting bird this week that at the time I couldn't ID and dismissed as some kind of hybrid without photographing it. Having subsequently seen some photos on the internet I'm now starting to wonder if I've just passed over something mega like a Slaty-backed Gull or something. I'm really kicking myself for not photographing it - I'll know better in future.

Tom Wickens managed to find the first CHIFFCHAFF of the year, flycatcher along by the Thames last weekend. Mary MacDougall turned up another Coal Tit (surprisingly rare on the patch), this one was in Burgess Field. Adrian Grey reported half a dozen Goosander in the Gullet in Wolvercote along with a few Tufted Duck. The highlight of the week though was when Tom Evans heard a singing CETTI'S WARBLER in the Trap Grounds. Whilst we've had the odd record on the Patch, this is the first one within the Trap Grounds that I know of.