31st August - Creeping Marshwort Survey Results

I'm pleased to report back that that rarest of plants, Creeping Marshwort, is still hanging on on Port Meadow. Apart from the newly established back-up location nearby, Port Meadow is the only location in the country where Apium repens can still be found. Due to the fact that the flood waters were still about into the second half of the year, plant numbers were down this year but it was still found in a number of locations on the Meadow.

We did find once plant actually in flower...
...though mostly it was just trying to pick out the leaf shape in amongst some very similar look-alikes.

This plant is a very specialised one which is very fussy about habitat which is why it struggles. It's a pioneer plant, being the first to re-colonise mud banks after floods and relying on its low profile (it's "creeping" nature) to survive grazing by livestock which therefore will eat comparatively more of its competitor plants. So, it needs a flood meadow that is reasonably heavily grazed but apparently, variations in how much flooding there is and how much grazing there is can make big differences to its survival rate. Somehow though it clings on in the Meadow. Due to it's pioneering nature, it moves around a lot and so isn't always found in the same place. Still, with Judy Webb, the species guardian, to guide us we managed to find quite a few patches dotted about various key locations on the Meadow.

The livestock took a keen interest in proceedings!

Showing its runners nicely!
Marsh Arrowgrass

Sunday 28th August - Blue-headed Wagtail

Whilst helping out on the Creeping Marshwort survey on Saturday I noticed a rather blue-headed Wagtail in amongst the flock of a dozen or so YELLOW WAGTAILS which looked good for an adult female BLUE-HEADED WAGTAIL, the continental sub-species of our Yellow Wagtail. I wasn't able to get a photo yesterday so came back today where I finally managed to get some shots. It was interesting how it's call was significantly different from our flavissima birds, being much more buzzy (almost pipit like) and bi-syllabic. Also present was a nice WHEATEAR, a couple of SKYLARKS, plenty of Linnets and a handful of Lapwing.

Blue-headed Wagtail

26th August: Creeping Marshwort Annual Survey

For those botanists amongst you, you might be interested to know that the annual Port Meadow Creeping Marshwort survey is taking place tomorrow on Saturday 27th August. If you're interested in coming along then meet on the Meadow side of Aristotle Lane bridge  at 10 a.m. Please remember that the bridge itself is currently closed so you'll have to come in from Walton Well Road.

22nd August

I didn't mean to leave it so long between posts but some how I've let things slip and it's nearly the end of August already. The floods are completely gone and the whole area is "greening up" nicely. So we're now down to scrabbling around for passing migrants in Burgess Field and waiting for the floods to return for the winter gulling. 

Talking of passage migrants Ian Elkin paid a visit to the Patch yesterday and managed to turn up some great birds. For starters he had 22 Lapwing and 7 YELLOW WAGTAIL on the Meadow itself and in Burgess Field he managed to turn up  a Garden Warbler, a Blackcap, 2 Whitethroat, 2 Green Woodpecker, one SPOTTED FLYCATCHER and a 1st winter male REDSTART. The latter is in fact a year tick for the Meadow, a rather scarce commodity these days!

There is some exciting moth news for the Meadow. Whilst I've more or less given up trapping in my garden so poor have the results been, Nicola Devine had continued to scour the Trap Grounds diligently and has spotted a RED-TIPPED CLEARWING moth visiting the Wild Marjoram in the central clearing. I went along and managed to see one too. This is a rare enough moth to get the area recorder interested so well done to Nicola for spotting it. Apparently she also saw them there last year so they're clearly nicely established in the area.

Red-tipped Clearwing moth courtesy of Nicola Devine (c)
Not only has Nicola managed to find a rare moth at the Trap Grounds but she's also turned up a couple of locally rare butterflies in the form of not one but two SILVER-WASHED FRITILLARIES. These are a woodland species which can be found at Otmoor and also just over the county border at Bernwood Forest but I would have thought that somewhere like the Trap Grounds is too small for them. It would be great though if a colony were to be established.

Migrant Hawkers are out and about now. In fact I've managed to see Brown, Southern and Migrant in my garden this year which is not bad since it's a good five minutes walk to the nearest water. Down on the Castle Mill Stream yesterday I managed to spot a couple of Brown Hawkers, a mating pair of Migrant Hawkers, a male Ruddy Darter, a male Banded Demoiselle and the usual Damselflies.

Mating Migrant Hawkers

4th August

So we're into August already. The floods have basically gone now which is a real shame as, despite the dwindling water, we were starting to get some decent wader action towards the end of last month. We had a couple of GREENSHANK, several COMMON SANDPIPERS, a few LITTLE RINGED PLOVER, a male RUFF and five BLACK-TAILED GODWITS all popping in en route back southwards. Add to this the usual OYSTERCATCHERS and it all makes for a reasonable haul of waders, especially for the time of year. Sadly, unless there is an unseasonal deluge over the next few weeks, we are destined once more to miss out on the best time of year for waders in the county.

One of the Greenshank
We've also started to get YELLOW WAGTAILS again with two or three dotted about the place along with loads of juvenile Pied Wagtails, all busily picking over the dried up floods for the hoards of flies that are everywhere. July is traditionally also the start of the YELLOW-LEGGED GULL season and despite the lack of water we managed to get a single near-adult bird for a short while in amongst the huddle of Black-headed Gulls that are still about. 

Yellow-legged Gull
Finally, some good news. Nicola Devine managed to spot a family of juvenile WATER RAILS in amongst the reeds at the Trap Grounds. It's great to know that they've bred successfully there.

One of two juvenile Water Rails courtesy of Nicola Devine (c)