Sunday 10 March 2013

Gloom at Port Meadow March 2013

News of an Avocet on Port Meadow decided my Saturday morning birding destination. With an arrangement to meet Badger there at 9.30 I found myself first thing at Dix Landfill on a gloomy, dank and downright miserable Saturday morning. A visit to the unsalubrious delights of Dix Landfill to deposit various items of unwanted domestic trash did nothing to improve my mood. I made my way to Port Meadow and with no sign of Badger set about checking out the birdlife on the extensive floods. It took no time at all to locate the Avocet  which was fast asleep on the flood surrounded by ducks on all sides. 

There were a huge number of Teal present. I counted 1558 to be precise but despite checking every drake there was no sign of a Green winged Teal. A long shot I know but if you do not look you will not find. There were also over 500 Wigeon, the drakes whistling for all their worth as they competed amongst themselves for the attention of females. 

Twenty four Pintails, all neatly paired up were also fast asleep on the flood with a few Shoveler and Mallard to keep them company. Badger and the Wickster joined me.

Badger and The Wickster
Despite the gloom and damp there were definite signs of Spring approaching with three Ringed Plover and eight Dunlin running around on the exposed mud. An Oystercatcher seemed very out of place with them and 120 Golden Plover did a brief flypast before thinking better of it and disappearing into the murk. An immature or non breeding Grey Heron came very close to us, fishing in the shallows near to Burgess Field. 

Then as the gloom intensified it commenced raining. We called it a day and headed for Parsonage Moor to look for Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers. On arriving at Dry Sandford we had the unexpected pleasure of encountering twenty Waxwing, trilling away in a tree above us and then swooping down to a berry bush but they did not linger and soon flew off. 

The Lesser Spotted Woodpecker sortie was needless to say a total failure and we only found a couple of Tree Creepers and some Goldcrests. To make matters worse we heard that two Kittiwakes had been found at Port Meadow! We returned there later but they had long gone with only a female Goosander as a consolation. The Avocet had woken up and was now feeding up to its belly far out in the flood. We watched it for some time and then that was enough for me. Slithering through the wet mud and grass we made it back to the tow path and I remarked to Badger that I was sure if you watched Port Meadow all day you would see a lot of birds passing through. 

How right I was

I made a detour to Oxford Station and fortified myself with a hot chocolate with cinnamon sprinkles. Very nice too. Thirty minutes later a text from Badger as I drove home gave me the unwelcome news that four more Avocets had flown in to Port Meadow just after we left as well as two Black tailed Godwits! 

Sometimes it happens like that. I try to adopt a philosophical approach when such things occur and repeat the mantra that there is always the next time and another day. And we had seen twenty Waxwings after all so it was not all bad.


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