I realise that I've not actually been birding anywhere apart from the Meadow for the last couple of weeks (apart from a quick trip to Blenheim avec enfants to buy a wooden sword from the gift shop which for some reason they were keen to have: 7 common terns and 2 shelduck spotted en passant). Instead I've been dutifully going twice a day to the patch to check things out. One reason for this is that I want to make the most of it whilst the flood waters are still there as last year they'd all but dried up by this time and so there wasn't really any proper patch birding in May. This year I was keen at the very least to see if I could find a wood sandpiper and maybe another Temminck's Stint or even something rarer. Apart from the excitement of the spoonbill it had been a rather quiet start to May but this week it suddenly hit its stride with a real purple patch.
I came down to the Meadow one morning as usual and at first glance there was nothing unusual on the floods at all. However the grass around the edges has now got rather tall and this means that birds like ringed plovers etc can often be quite well hidden so I always do a thorough scan around the edges with the scope. I'd just started this when I found a couple of snipe, well hidden in the grass.
A bit further on I found a dunlin on one of the submerged grass islands on the floods.
Not a bad haul for the morning was thinking to myself: as long as I've got something of interest to report on the Port Meadow Birding blog I'm reasonably happy. A bit further round I spotted a black-tailed godwit which I didn't bother to photograph as I've done rather a lot of godwit shots recently. The godwit flew along the shore and landed at another spot. As I watched it I noticed a small brown restless wader hunting in amongst the tall grass near where it landed. I gave it a dammed good scoping and soon realised that I'd found my May wood sandpiper. I spent some time trying to photograph it but the shots were fairly abysmal. Fortunately it was till there late afternoon when I returned and I was able to get some better shots. I noticed that the godwit had moved on only to be replaced by a greenshank which I thought it would be rude of me not to photograph as well. The wood sandpiper and the greenshank stayed for another day.
The following morning with neither the sandpiper nor the greenshank anywhere to be seen I was compensated for this in the form of three characterful oystercatchers, looking very smart in their fresh black and white plumage and which made their presence known through their loud piping calls.
Later that day I was on an afternoon jog around the floods (just bins and my P&S camera) when I managed to spot a ringed plover tucked away at the end of the floods which I call Stint Corner. This plover turned out to be rather approachable so with a bit of good old fashioned field craft (i.e. crawling around in the mud) I got close enough to get a passable shot with the x10 zoom on my point & shoot camera.
This run of good patch birds had to come to an end and it now seems to have quietened down again with just a little egret of note in the last couple of days. Still its these purple patches which keep a patch worker such as myself going through the long lean periods. I do consider myself to be very lucky to live so close to somewhere like Port Meadow so that I can just pop out when I want.
A couple of ticks to add to the lists. I did compare how I was doing this year with the same time last year when I was doing my "Big Year" and I am some twenty or thirty ticks behind. I've been very slack this year and haven't bothered to try for all sorts of things that I could easily get if I put my mind to it but I admit that I'm actually enjoying picking and choosing what to see rather than feeling obligated to go for everything.
National Year List 2010
162 greenshank 07/05/2010 Port Meadow
163 wood sandpiper 11/05/2010 Port Meadow
Oxon Year List 2010
136 greenshank 07/05/2010 Port Meadow
137 wood sandpiper 11/05/2010 Port Meadow