|Adult Yellow-legged Gull|
Despite the impressive number of Yellow-legged gulls, we failed to find the hoped for casp or white-winger and as the sun set Adam decided to leave. I elected to stick it out for another ten minutes or so but soon the light was too poor to see any detail and, satiated, I decided to head for home. The meadow had more to offer though and as I walked back towards my bike I was privileged to experience a natural spectacle the likes of which I have rarely witnessed. I had almost reached the southern end of the floods when the flock of Golden Plover, some 750 or so birds in total, took to the air in unison. They proceeded to wheel around creating endless murmurations silhouetted against the brilliant evening sky. The rush of their wings and the occasional plaintive wail as they rushed overhead only added to the sensory overload of the spectacle. Beyond them the gulls continued to arrive, languid ranks of flapping silhouettes heading unerringly onwards to roost, unaffected by the majesty of the spectacle unfolding around them. Their haunting cries evoked memories of summer seaside holidays and was strangely juxtaposed to the calls of the Plovers, the epitome of the British uplands. As the sky began to rapidly darken the plovers decided to settle and the swirling masses of gulls provided the only visual sign of life on the meadow. Having been frozen to the spot, I suddenly came to my senses and realised that I had things to do in the real world. I left the meadow feeling both elated and profoundly moved by what I had witnessed.
This evening has reminded me about the intrinsic value of birds by illustrating how they can bring joy in a plethora of ways to a number of people. From the laridophile endlessly scrutinising the primary patterns of large gulls to the naturalist who simply enjoys the majesty of seeing large numbers of wild birds in their natural environment, they provide interest in a range of ways to a diverse group of people. As a birder I revel in the knowledge that I can gain joy from both ends of this broad spectrum of interests. The evening also affirmed my belief that Port Meadow is one of the best patches I could possibly have. Admittedly it doesn't attract hordes of incredible rarities but, on an otherwise dull November evening when twitchers are all but hanging up their bins for the autumn, it provides both birding interest and the potential to leave me rooted to the spot in awe of the majesty of nature. What more could you ask from a flooded field just outside Oxford?