Port Meadow is a common pasture just outside the Oxford city centre; it’s a completely unremarkable patch of land, covered in cow and horse and bird dung, for most of the year, but occasionally either rain or other weather conditions turn it into something quite magical. Couple of years ago, the whole meadow was flooded for weeks, turning it into a lake hundreds of acres wide, full of birds. The flooding this year hasn’t been nowhere nearly as severe, but the meadow is still doing its job, catching the overflow before it reaches the city. Thousands of birds – ducks, geese, mallards, gulls of many kind, waders – feed on the meadow when it’s flooded, making it an amazing place for wildlife watching. I have seen herons, crested grebes, cormorants, a stray pelican… there are apparently kingfishers there too, though I have never seen them. Sometimes there are empty mussel shells on the riverbank, and there are also perches, pikes and trouts in the river – not to mention the big animals, cows and horses. The time to catch the myriad of wildlife is really during the winter and spring months – once the floods recede, the meadow will turn into hot, dusty pastureland, with nothing much going on.
IMGP3191IMGP3204IMGP3220On a sunny weekend day, don’t expect to be alone. Sometimes it feels like the whole town (and half the tourists, in the their designer sneakers or high heel boots, trying very hard to not to step on the ever-present mud) is there. The local sailing club will host races on most weekend afternoons, and the meadow side will will be full of people training dogs, flying kites and playing with the radio control planes and drones. The Binsey side is more interesting (and with less cows), so that’s the way I tend to go.
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The last leftover snowdrops, and some early signs of spring.
IMGP3237IMGP3282IMGP3265I am the photographer who still can’t take a continuous focus shot to save my life. The greylag geese are not very graceful birds, and they take to flight with great noise and effort, but once they are in the air, they are powerful and rather beautiful.
IMGP3353IMGP3349IMGP3346IMGP3345So. Many. Geese.
IMGP3379IMGP3392IMGP3370IMGP3396IMGP3394The bright, sunny day faded into perfect pink dusk, a bit of mist rising from the river. I love horses, but there’s something almost feral and terrifying about these fellas, a herd of dozens of happy, muddy ponies and heavy draft horses. In that perfect, purple evening, there was something magical about how they roamed the meadow, galloping in the water.
IMGP3405IMGP3407IMGP3410The perfect sunset.

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