|Kingfisher, Port Meadow|
As we're now well in to February I thought it would be worth posting an update about how my patching efforts at Port Meadow have fared so far this year. Despite the floods being in near perpetual lake mode during the first few weeks of the year, I made regular evening visits to the patch in order to filter through the gull roost in the hope of pulling out a Caspian or a white-winger. Despite my efforts, and the presence of several white-wingers and even a Baltic Gull just a few miles to the south, I drew an almost complete blank other than a couple of smart adult Yellow-legged Gulls. It seems with so many flooded fields to choose from at the moment, the gulls feeding on the tip a Didcot that would usually roost on the meadow, are saving themselves the commute and roosting in the flooded fields nearby. The one saving grace of this otherwise depressing period was finally picking out a smart adult MEDITERRANEAN GULL in flight as it cruised over the gull roost before dropping out of site. This represents the last of the expected gull species to find its way onto my patch list although I am still hopeful of a Little Gull or possibly even a Kittewake in the spring! Another patch tick came in the form of the extremely confiding KINGFISHER in the picture above which I watched desperately attempting to fish the shallow margins of the flooded river Thames on the evening of the 7th of February.
Given how unproductive the gull roost has been, on the 9th of February I decided to explore another area of the patch, the Trap Grounds, which up until this year I have sadly neglected. Upon my arrival at the site I instantly regretted my lack of visits as the mixture of scrubby damp woodland, ponds and reedbeds was screaming with potential. I also managed to hear my target bird, WATER RAIL, at least 2 of which responded eagerly to my tape after only a minute or so. This constitutes my 4th patch tick of the year and a nice bird to get on the list! After visiting the trap grounds I quickly popped into the Burgess Field to check the flooded pools for Snipe. My search was initially unsuccessful however as I was leaving, I heard a strange call and looked up to see a Common Snipe, which had presumably been flushed from another the part of the field, heading rapidly over! This surprise record took me up to 64 species for the year at Port Meadow which I consider to be a reasonable total. However with more rain forecast in the coming weeks as a result of the mental Atlantic weather systems currently in place, the state of the floods is only going to worsen and I feel that for the time being my effort might best be applied to my studies. I can only hope the floods drop by early March in time for the first waders to drop in on their way north!