Friday, 29 January 2010

Port Meadow Knot

I'm very lucky to have Port Meadow as my local patch and with it being a couple of minutes bike ride from my house, most days unless there's something specific that I want to see elsewhere, I'll aim to fit in a visit either on the bike or in the form of a run around the patch with my bins. I've found that the latter is an excellent way to keep fit: normally I find exercise rather boring but having the ulterior motive of birding makes all the difference and I never have any problem in getting out there to run round the patch. Yesterday was a running day (I aim to run three times a week) so I duly set off on my usual route around Burgess Field. On the way I had superb views of a sparrowhawk which glided low over my head before it headed off over the allotments to see what it could find. Burgess Field itself was remarkably quiet and the boggy pools at the north seemed to be drying out rather too quickly so there was only a single snipe in amongst them. On the way back I peered through the hedge to get a good view of the ducks that were spread out over the floods: the usual wigeon, teal and shoveler with the odd pintail in amongst them. I did notice that the west side of the floods had particularly good numbers of birds on them: when the floods are receding from high levels this can leave a narrow corridor of grass between the river and the flood water and at such times the birds tend to favour this area. What's more they can be viewed from relatively closely on the opposite side of the river. Given this situation I thought that I would run over there for a quick look.

From the west bank of the river I managed to find large numbers of lapwings (over 300) about and in amongst them were about half a dozen ruff which but I also noticed some other waders which had me puzzled at first. They were very grey in tone and rather dumpy looking at they looked too large for dunlin. I was thinking that they might be knot but despite the realtively close distance they were still about 75m away and it wasn't easy to make out with just a pair of bins. I decided that the best course of action was to run home and them come out again with my scope. I was surprised at just how quickly I could get home from there when I was motivated and it took just five minutes to get home, where I had a quick shower and came back out again with all my gear.

The lapwings had been very skittish when I was first out there and each time they flown up they'd taken the other waders with them so I was a little concerned that the mystery waders might get fed up with this and move on but I'd needn't have worried as they were still there. As soon as I got my scope on them I was able to confirm them as knot. In fact there were four of them, a single dunlin and six ruff, making a very nice winter wader ensemble. I took some photos and video the best I could thought the distance and the skittishness meant that this wasn't easy.

One of the four knot standing next to a ruff
A neat line-up of a dunlin, a knot and a ruff
A better view of the dunlin though the knot and ruff are tucked up in this one

Some video footage of two or three of the knot feeding

It's always great to turn up something interesting on one's local patch. Knot aren't particularly rare in the county but a typical year might have one or two sightings so it's a good county bird to see. Another tick or two to the year lists.

Oxon Year List 2010
084 knot 29/01/2010 Port Meadow
085 dunlin 29/01/2010 Port Meadow

National Year List 2010
092 knot 29/01/2010 Port Meadow

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