20th February

Today I did the WeBS survey for Port Meadow. For those who aren't familiar with this, it's a monthly survey which is carried out across wetland areas throughout the country in order to get an idea of how wetland birds are faring. Today's totals were as follows

660 Wigeon
454 Teal
Gadwall: m. 
57 Shoveler
9 Pintail
4 Shelduck
9 Lapwing
4 Oystercatcher
Grey Heron
5 Moorhen
51 Greylag Goose
3 Hybrid Goose
5 Redshank
740 Black-headed Gull
50 Lesser Black-backed Gull
2 Herring Gull
Common Gull
Mute Swan 

There were a few snippets of interest in amongst the list: the OYSTERCATCHER count has now gone up to 4; I had a SKYLARK fly over (not listed) and we had the first GADWALL of the year - this duck doesn't overwinter on the Meadow but put's in an appearance each spring. It also confirms my suspicion that I voiced in the previous post that I felt that the numbers were now starting to go down as birds move away for their spring breeding. Most noticeable in this is the Greylag Geese: over the winter we have getting on for 300 of these but now there were only 50 odd. I don't know where exactly they breed but they disappear off in the spring-time only to return with goslings in tow at a later date.

Two of the four Oystercatchers this morning

18th February

I don't quite understand how it's been so long since my last post but somehow it's happened that half the month has slipped by. I was actually away for this last week (down in Cornwall - see my Cornish blog) which partially accounts for it. Anyway, there have been a few year ticks to record though these have only been in the last few days. February is actually often a rather quiet month on the birding front with the heady start of the year tick rush now long faded and no sign of any migrants yet, it's a lot of slogging about for not much reward.

The new birds to report are an OYSTERCATCHER that was seen by Martin Gebauer and Steve Goddard, a singing SKYLARK that Mary MacDougall reported up at Wolvercote Common and a TAWNY OWL that Steve Goddard heard calling, again up at Wolvercote.

I visited the floods for the first time in a while today to find them looking nice and healthy though there was already a sense that some birds had started to depart. There were only 3 SHELDUCK, 6 GOOSANDER and 5 PINTAIL, noticeably down on peak counts from the previous week. The gull roost was about average in size though with nothing of particular interest at all apart from a handful of Common Gulls. May MacDougall reported a flock of about 50 BLACK-TAILED GODWITS earlier in the day though there were only three when I was there. She also found 5 REDSHANK in their usual location along the river.

Bathing Linnets

2nd February

It was a really good visit to the Meadow today. I went along towards dusk as usual for the gull roost to find the flood water engorged by all the recent rain and the west shore of the floods now a relatively narrow strip of grass next to the river. The birds were certainly loving these conditions with vast numbers in all directions. The BARNACLE GEESE were back again, about 70 in number today. Apparently, this flock has been hanging out by King's Lock a lot recent where it's a relatively short hop over the road to the Meadow. There were also good numbers of Canada Geese, at least 300 or so though I didn't count them. In amongst the plethora of ducks were three SHELDUCK and four GOOSANDER. There were literally thousands of Black-headed Gulls - they were everywhere you looked and reasonable numbers of larger gulls to though the best that I could do in the gloom, strong wind and greater distance was to pick out a single adult YELLOW-LEGGED GULL. Naturally so many birds in one place was going to attract some predators and a PEREGRINE whizzed through, causing mayhem and confusion as everything scattered.

The highlight of the visit though was when I spotted a flock of 80 or so BLACK-TAILED GODWITS, which had been put up by the falcon and which eventually settled again on the Spit. Unfortunately, it was so dark by this time that I wasn't able to take a photo at all but this is certainly the largest count of this species that we've had on the Meadow in my time birding it. I can recall flocks in their fifties but never this many, it may be a county record!

Flood levels are very much in the balance at the moment as to whether we tip over into full-blown Lake Mode or if we stay as we are. It's rather hard to bird once the floods get too big but just as they are now it's putting the Meadow on top form.

In the absence of any photos from today, here's a recent photo of a Kingfisher, taken at the Trap Grounds

31st January

There was no sign of the Iceland Gull this evening in very murky conditions but by way of compensation the BARNACLE GOOSE flock flew in to the Hinterland area once again. These birds are now becoming fairly regular visitors to the Meadow and it's already the second time this year that they've been seen. Apart from that there were three SHELDUCK, 3 PINTAIL and 7 GOOSANDER.