21st December

There was a decent sized roost this evening with perhaps 2000 large gulls though surprisingly few Black-headed Gulls. The pick of the bunch were about 5 adult YELLOW-LEGGED GULLS though there were no Caspians tonight. The two REDSHANK were still about as was a single DUNLIN and about 8 or so GOOSANDER had assembled by the time that I left.

John Mittermeier managed to spot the 2w CASPIAN GULL in the roost on the 19th. It's good to know that it's still visiting regularly

20th December

Peter Law was at the Meadow at first light where he was able to confirm that the BARNACLE GEESE were still present first thing though they flew off before 8 a.m.

Today I did the WeBS survey for Port Meadow. It was actually quite interesting to make accurate counts for all the different species that were present. Here are the totals.

840 Wigeon
93 Teal
11 Shoveler
20 Mallard
7 Moorhen
1 Coot
3 Mute Swan
261 Greylag Goose (including some hybrids)
2 Cormorant
1 Grey Heron
47 Lapwing
1 Golden Plover
1 Snipe
2 Redshank
45 Black-headed Gull
2 Lesser Black-backed Gull
1 Herring Gull

There were no real surprises on the survey. Wigeon numbers were a bit down on some of the peak counts this month: numbers seem to vary with the conditions and when it's very wet it attracts a lot more of the grazing ducks.

19th December

This evening's visit to the Meadow found very still conditions though the continuing murk was all pervading. The embryonic gull roost was put up by some people walking right along the flood shoreline and given the relatively nice conditions it never really re-formed. A single red-head GOOSANDER came in but, not finding any roosting companions, soon left again. On the wader front there was a single REDSHANK and a single Golden Plover but that was it.

The highlight was when I heard a flock of calling geese and spotted 24 BARNACLE GEESE flying in and landing about 200 yards to the north of the floods in the Hinterland. A little while later a much larger flock of about 100 came in to join them. These are almost certainly the feral Home Counties birds which often pop over to visit us in the winter (and as official Category C birds they are tickable).

The Barnacle Geese, filmed at great distance in very murky conditions at last light

16th December

Firstly I need to report that I found out who reported the 2w Caspian Gull a couple of days ago - it's a new local birder who, what's more, has a keen interest in gulls - hoorah! This is good news as we used to have lots of other birders who would come and help keep a watchful eye on the Meadow though sadly most of them have now moved on and it's been a rather lonely task keeping on top of the patch.

Anyway, there was some top gulling action tonight on the Meadow. It was very atmospheric with not a breath of wind, a wonderfully flat light and a layer of thick mist hovering above the grass to the north of the floods. The two REDSHANK were still about and we had 15 GOOSANDER in the roost by the end. The gull roost was large with loads and loads of large gulls. I found 5 (!!) adult YELLOW-LEGGED GULLS and a very striking 3w CASPIAN GULL which unfortunately took off before I could get any photos. With lots of Caspians also being reported by our esteemed county recorder at the Didcot tip it's shaping up to be a really good winter for them. All we need now is a few white wingers to top things off.

There are lots of Redwing about in the hederows at present, all gorging themselves on the abundant berry crop

14th December

We're still in the grips of unseasonably mild weather, not that I'm complaining as it's much more pleasant when grilling the gull roost in the evening. Over the last few days there have been a regular pair of REDSHANK about on and off, and today there was a single DUNLIN but we're still not getting any regular Golden Plover. 

A rather grainy shot of one of the Redshank
On the duck front the first few Shoveller have arrived, we're getting one or two GOOSANDER coming into the roost each evening and today we had a SHELDUCK. There are vast numbers of Wigeon about at the moment, they're everywhere you look!

The increased size of the floods has been good for the gull roost and there have been several  YELLOW-LEGGED GULLS (mostly adults) about but no more Caspians. Mysteriously, the 2nd winter Caspian Gull was reported on RBA this evening at 3:30 but I arrived there 10 minutes after that and the only person I saw was someone with a small camera taking photos. Anyway, I didn't see any sign of it during my time there so who knows?

9th December

Thankfully we've gone from the cold frozen weather back to mild weather again. In fact it is incredibly mild for the time of year. The birds have all returned again now that the ice has gone. Firstly I need to report that Phil Barnett found an adult CASPIAN GULL last Saturday, the third of the season already. This week as well as the usual suspects there were a couple of REDSHANK on one day and a flock of about 200 Golden Plover - the first large flock we've had this season. After lamenting last week about the lack of Fieldfares, there have been quite a few about. There were about half a dozen along the Castle Mill Stream one day and several flocks have been flying over the area this week calling loudly.

The highlight of the week was this evening when there was a good sized gull roost which assembled nice and close to the shore making for excellent viewing conditions. As well as a couple of adult YELLOW-LEGGED GULLS I also managed to find a splendid 2nd winter CASPIAN GULL. Amazingly, this is now the fourth Caspian Gull in a little over three weeks. Amazing!

A rather grainy video grab...

...and the video from which it came

2nd December

Just as I was really starting to get back into the gull roost properly, the weather changed to a sudden cold snap. The sub-zero temperature meant that the floods were frozen and any gull gathering was tiny with the birds not lingering at all.

During the day there were usually some loafing gulls but the roost never seemed to linger
To find something of interest to view during this time I've been walking along the Castle Mill Stream. Some of the ducks (mostly Teal but with one or two Wigeon as well) have been hanging out there and I managed to come across a LITTLE GREBE there as well. Whilst this latter species is not technically a year tick after one was seen by someone in the Trap Grounds at the start of the year, for me it is a personal Patch year tick. There are lots of thrushes everywhere in the trees and bushes on either side of this side river at present. They are mostly Redwings but with Blackbirds, Song Thrush and Mistle Thrush all seen as well. Interestingly, there aren't any Fieldfare about at all - this species seem relatively hard to come by on the Meadow though we often get fly-over flocks at the start and end of the season.

I did also pay a visit to Burgess Field this week for the first time in quite a while. In contrast to the Castle Mill stream there were hardly any thrushes about when I visited though three soaring Buzzards and a Red Kite all enjoying the sunshine were nice to see.

One of the three Buzzards