Thursday 28th April

It's been a steady couple of days: nothing too exciting but still enough of interest to stave off the boredom. Our two GARGANEY continue to grace us with their presence, which is great. On Wednesday we had another flock of plover going through with 9 RINGED PLOVER and one bonus DUNLIN in the flock. The OYSTERCATCHERS are still around as well though numbers seem to vary from day to day. On Thursday there were three COMMON SANDPIPERS knocking about - the first that I've personally seen on the patch this year though others have reported them already. A male LESSER WHITETHROAT has been about for the last two days as well, singing first in the hedge by the allotments just before the gate before relocating to the hedges surrounding field 1E in Burgess Field (see map for details). 

The drake Garganey
On Wednesday I met another birder whilst I was scoping the shoreline who enquired about one of the Terns that he'd seen which he thought looked like an Arctic. I was rather dismissive to be honest but on my way back I spotted the Tern again and took a closer look as it flew around. Now I (like most birders) do find it tricky to separate the two species, especially in flight, but this one did look to have a shorter bill and neck, it's flight jizz looked distinctly different from the usual COMMON TERNS that are around every day and most important of all, the primary feathers were translucent all the way to the tips so, with reasonable numbers just over the hill at Farmoor presently, I'm happy to put ARCTIC TERN on the patch year list.

Tuesday 26th April

It's been another reasonable couple of days on the Meadow. The star bird of the period was a wonderful BAR-TAILED GODWIT, found by Barry Batchelor on Monday though unfortunately in the incredibly windy conditions it didn't stay long enough for me to catch up with it. We've been getting a lot of Plovers moving through as well. On Monday there was a mixed flock of 9 and by today this total had risen to 14 with a dozen RINGED PLOVER and a couple of LITTLE RINGED PLOVER with two bonus DUNLIN thrown in for good measure. Apart from that we've had the lovely pair of GARGANEY still gracing the floods - I'm guessing that they're failed breeders already who, rather than have another go, have decided to give up and have a leisurely spring enjoying the delights of the floods. The 6 OYSTERCATCHERS are still around as well, I'm guessing that some of them will be breeding nearby in some of the various gravel pits. Other birds still about on the floods are: the two COMMON TERNS and a few Teal, Gadwall and Shoveler. On the Wagtail front there has been a single YELLOW WAGTAIL and another WHITE WAGTAIL to report.

Here's a Bar-tailed Godwit from a couple of years ago on the Meadow

Late April and early May is generally the peak period for spring wader passage on the Meadow and so far, with the floods in reasonable shape, we're getting some good birds. Things to be looking out for over the coming days as well as the usual waders might include Whimbrel and even Spoonbill and one can always hope for a genuine rarity of some kind to pop in - it's been a good year in the country for Kentish Plover for example so fingers crossed!

Sunday 24th April

I wasn't around over the weekend but fortunately there was still some coverage of the Meadow from other people. There were no reports on Saturday of the Grey Plover which to be honest was only to be expected as they don't generally hang around. Still the two GARGANEY were back again - they seem to have somewhere else that they go to from time to time as there aren't always about. The six OYSTERCATCHERS are still about and are as noisy as ever. On Saturday Steve Goddard recorded 2 LITTLE RINGED PLOVER and 4 RINGED PLOVER as well as the usual pair of COMMON TERNS and on Sunday Ewan Urquhart found a couple of COMMON SANDPIPERS

So there's still stuff trickling through and the recent rain will have benefited the state of the floods. Any day now we should be expecting Reed, Grasshopper and Garden Warblers and it's well worth listening out for a Cuckoo though sadly they seem to be rather scarce so far in the county this year.

The pair of Garganey courtesy of Ewan Urquhart

Friday 22nd April - Grey Plover

It was a wonderfully overcast and rainy afternoon when I visited the floods today. I love days like this: there's a real sense that something good might have been grounded. This feeling turned out to be justified today when I found a GREY PLOVER, still in winter plumage, working its way along the North Shore. This species is just about annual though it's a good bird for the county let alone the Patch. Apart from that there was a mini fall of LITTLE RINGED PLOVER with six of them dotted about the place, the six OYSTERCATCHERS were still around and there were loads of all three Hirundine species hawking low over the floods. Sadly the Garganey seem to have moved on though.

Wednesday 20th April

A reasonable couple of days with just enough birdage to keep it interesting. The two GARGANEY are still about and very much at home (I suspect that I must have missed them on Monday). There are still six or so noisy and quarrelsome OYSTERCATCHERS and the two COMMON TERN are still present as well. Yesterday Mary MacDougall went for a walk along the river and found four COMMON SANDPIPER (a year tick) and a REDSHANK there - it's interesting how they were preferring the river shoreline to the floods. I went to check today but sadly there was no sign of them though for my trouble I did find a couple of YELLOW WAGTAILS and our first WHITE WAGTAIL of the year. The Swallows are back on the Meadow and look to be starting to think about nesting. There are plenty of HOUSE MARTINS around now so they're well and truly "in" - it's just the Swifts that we're now waiting for on that front.

Grasshopper Warblers are now starting to appear in the county though sadly these days I find it difficult to hear them so once again I'm relying on younger ears to try and find them. Sadly, many of our student birders seem to have moved on but I hope that someone will be able to route one out. 

A recently-photographed Sparrowhawk in Burgess Field

Monday 18th April

Things seem to have gone rather quiet at present. On Sunday the two GARGANEY hung around for another day, Dave Doherty found another (or the same) LESSER WHITETHROAT in Burgess Field and Mary MacDougall had a REDSHANK and 4 DUNLIN on the floods at the end of the day (this seems to be a good time of day for waders at present).

Today the Garganey had departed and apart from the usual OYSTERCATCHERS and a single COMMON TERN the only bird of note on the floods was what I think is a 2w YELLOW-LEGGED GULL (though I'm prepared to be corrected) all on its own. 

A rubbish grab of the Yellow-legged Gull

Saturday 16th April

There have been a steady trickle of new year ticks to keep things ticking over. Firstly Mary MacDougall found a male LESSER WHITETHROAT singing away in Burgess Field. Unfortunately, it didn't linger though I suspect that there will be others. A COMMON WHITETHROAT (no doubt the first of many) seems to have a found the nature reserve to its liking though and seems to have taken up territory there. Steve Goddard had another cracking BRAMBLING in his garden up in Wolvercote as well as having several LESSER REDPOLLS visiting his feeder. Lastly a pair of GARGANEY came in to inspect the floods late afternoon on Saturday and were last reported to be looking rather settled and hanging out with the straggler Teal. Apart from that, the floods are still very empty with just the six OYSTERCATCHERS worthy of note.

The drake Garganey - a long way away and into the sun at least you can see what it is

Thursday 14th April

It's still very quiet on the floods but appearances can be deceptive. On my usual late afternoon visit to the floods at first sight all that was present were three OYSTERCATCHERS and a pair of COMMON TERNS. However when I scanned the shoreline closely I found a nice mixed flock of wader all hidden away in the tall dock leaves that are protruding above the flood water. There were four DUNLIN, 2 RINGED PLOVER and one LITTLE RINGED PLOVER. It just shows how carefully you have to look.

My first Common Terns of the year on the Meadow

Wednesday 13th April - Little Gull

Another day, another year tick! This time it was a dainty LITTLE GULL that I found hawking for insects over in Stint Corner late afternoon. It was in a transitional plumage, moulting from 1st winter through to adult-hood so it still had the black W on its wings and the black markings on its head yet it had a lovely pink breast and there were only black markings in the outermost tail feathers. In fact this last feature meant that superficially the tail gave a rather wedge shape impression which got my heart racing as I tried to turn it into a Ross's Gull but eventually I was able to make out the actual tail shape and calmness was restored.

A truly rubbish record shot but it spent almost all its time flying and only settled long enough for me to take this one photo.

Apart from that on the floods there were just the two OYSTERCATCHERS and the two SHELDUCK as well as three Gadwall. It's very quiet on the floods now.

Tuesday 12th April

It's got rather quiet on the floods. It happens every year yet still surprises me each time. At the start of the month there were still quite a few winter duck around but they're all gone with only a few straggler Teal remaining. In some senses it makes it easier to spot passing migrant waders as there's not much else to distract you but it can be rather disheartening when a visit turns up almost nothing.

Yesterday there were a couple of LITTLE RINGED PLOVER, a single REDSHANK, a pair of SHELDUCK, a Gadwall, a few Shoveler and a few of the usual OYSTERCATCHERS to keep me entertained but today during a lunchtime visit there was nothing at all apart from a pair of Oystercatchers and the Shelduck still. Interestingly enough though, when Steve Goddard visited in the evening he turned up an additional 3 DUNLIN, 3 REDSHANK and 4 RINGED PLOVER so it just shows how quickly the birds can turn over there.

One of the two Shelduck

I went for a long walk all around Burgess Field and the Hinterland today and managed to get SEDGE WARBLER on the year list for my troubles. Actually it was a pair of birders whom I'd not seen before who put me on it, working its way through some blossom by the main path in Burgess Field along with a Blackap and a couple of Chiffchaffs. I also saw a Sparrowhawk and a Kestrel and heard the Wolvercote Skylark singing for myself finally. Burgess Field is presently full of singing Chiffies and Willow Warblers - it's such a lovely time of year. In the Hinterland there was just a single YELLOW WAGTAIL and a Kettle of three Buzzards soaring overhead worthy of note and I heard the NUTHATCH calling by Medley Farm again.

Sunday 10th April

A couple of snippets to report from this weekend. Firstly Bob Pomfret reported an EGYPTIAN GOOSE on Saturday, being harassed by a Greylag. Secondly on Sunday Mary MacDougall reported the first WHEATEAR of the year which was over near the Burgess Field gate before flying over to the southern end of the Meadow. It's great to have this lovely species down on the year list.

The Butterbur is in flower presently in the Trap Gronds - the flower spikes emerge from the ground before any leaves appear

Thursday 7th April

For one reason or another I've not had a chance to get out to the Meadow over the last couple of days though fortunately there have been some reports from others to keep things ticking over. Dave Doherty visited today and discovered the first COMMON TERN of the year along with 6 OYSTERCATCHERS, 4 REDSHANK and 4 WILLOW WARBLERS

Mary MacDougall added a couple of SHELDUCK and reported that there were now two Kestrels back in Burgess Field. She also mentioned that the bird song there was phenomenal with singing Willow Warblers and a Blackcap as well as all the usual common species. This is of course the best time of year for bird song as birds arrive and stake out their territories before getting down to the hard graft of breeding.

The Colt's Foot is coming out in the Trap Grounds now

5th April

Another good day with several new year ticks today. A late morning visit to the Trap Grounds turned up a singing WILLOW WARBLER in the trees near the small side ponds. There were also a couple of singing Chiffchaffs there as well.

The mothing season has kicked off now. So far in my garden it's just been a
few of the usual suspects such as this Common Quaker
Later in the day on the floods there was a BLACK-TAILED GODWIT, four OYSTERCATCHERS, five REDSHANK and a LITTLE EGRET - the first of the year complete with a handsome breeding crest. What's more Tommaso Pizzari also found a NUTHATCH in the Oaks over by Medley Farm so at last we have that on the year list too. To round things off, Mary MacDougall reported that the Kestrel is finally back in Burgess Field in its usual area.

There are a lot of these small Bittercresses around at the moment which can be confusingly similar. This is Wavy Bittercress, told from the similar Hairy Bittercress by the hairs on the stem (perversely, Hairy is smooth stemmed) and the fact that there are five or more stem leaves (four pairs and a terminal one - Hairy has four) . They flowers also has six stamen rather than the four that Hairy has.

4th April - Sandwich Tern

So March has finished and as I was writing up the monthly review on the Oxford Birding Blog along with Jason Coppock, it gave me a chance to reflect on what a good month it was on the Meadow: Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, a pair of Avocets and a Brent Goose were all great birds to have on our humble patch. Anyway, we're on to April now, arguably one of the most exciting months on the Meadow in terms of the arrival of new migrants.

The floods were briefly back in semi Lake Mode on the back of the recent rains but have now reverted to their usual shape, albeit nicely topped up at present. The rather "full" shoreline with lack of much mud has meant that they've not been quite so attractive to waders though and we've just had a few REDSHANKS and OYSETERCATCHERS over the weekend. Today however, late afternoon I found a genuine patch Mega in the form of a SANDWICH TERN washing and preening in the floods before settling down for the evening. This is an annual bird in the county but normally they are only seen briefly as they fly through, usually at Farmoor, and they are often very hard for county listers to catch up with (as I personally can testify). There's been a good inland passage of this species passing through the centre of the country already and Farmoor has already had a couple of them so it's a good spring for them. However, this is only the second ever record for the Meadow, with a pair reported along the river back in 1995 so a really top-draw patch bird.

A rather rubbish record shot taken in the gloom

Apart from that there were the usual five OYSTERCATCHERS, 2 Sand Martins, 3 Swallows and 1 HOUSE MARTIN and the single drake PINTAIL still. 

With almost all the summer migrants now up for grabs this month it's going to be an exciting few weeks - I can't wait!