Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Diary Update #15

☔  Wednesday March 22nd 2017 ~ With rain in the forecast for this morning and spring migration starting to hot up a few hours in the hide at Brandon Marsh was as good a place as any! In fact it was an enjoyable few hours and produced a couple of Little-ringed Plover, which unlike yesterdays brief visit by a single bird hung around for most of the morning. An increase in Great Crested Grebes, now three and a single Ringed Plover, which was in fact a Brandon year first for me! The injured Goosander appears to be spending most of its time on Swallow Pool but thankfully seems to be feeding well.

Green Sandpiper on Teal Pool at Brandon today!
I've posted the notable sightings for the day on Jeff's site BrandonBirding which can be found HERE

Wheatear at Wolston
After leaving Brandon I stopped at Wolston to check out the gravel extraction, where earlier today Dave Cox and Paul Cashmore had found two Wheatear and two Little-ringed Plover. After arriving an immediate search recorded a commendable six Little-ringed Plover (obviously an overnight influx) but initially no sign of Wheatear! However, with perseverance I did eventually locate two birds but not on the flooded areas, they were in fact on the mud heaps on the opposite side to the footpath!

Wheatear ~ Another record shot from Wolston
By coincidence my first Wheatear sighting of the year comes on the exact same day as 2016 👀

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Diary Update #14

Monday March 13th 2017 ~ A visit to Brandon Marsh produced my first Sand Martins of the year with a single bird over East Marsh Pool mid morning, three more sightings followed! To add to my Brandon year firsts two Redshanks were also noted on the pool, fast asleep along Wigeon Bank. Of interest the visit also produced; (2) Green Sandpipers, (4) Oystercatcher, (6) Snipe, (2) Little Egret, (3) Pochard (3) Goldeneye, (3) Shelduck, (2) Great Crested Grebes, (2) Wigeon, drake Goosander, Peregrine, Water Rail, and singing Chiffchaff! A Brimstone butterfly was also on the wing!

A brace of Grey Partridge at Wolston, Warwickshire!
Thursday March 16th 2017 ~ Worked with the conservation team at Brandon Marsh on the chainsaw and managed to complete my Farm Reedbed Project (clearance of invasive willow from reedbed) in time for the arrival of our summer visitors! On route home stopped at Wolston, finally connecting with a brace of Grey Partridge, recently reported by Paul Cashmore.

Grey Wagtail at Wenchford
☔🌈  Monday March 20th 2017 ~ A Brandon team Away-Day! A thoroughly wet one too in the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire! We began at Wenchford picnic area in search of Dipper, which we managed without much effort during last years visit but forgive the pun, dipped on today! The only birds of note while searching were at least four Grey Wagtail.

Hawfinch at Park End by John Osbourne
By the time we arrived at Park End Green for Hawfinch the rain had subsided a little but with the conditions the only birds noted were two high in the canopy, a male a female!

Mandarin Ducks tree climbing at Canop Ponds
With the rain now back to it's heaviest and spirits waning we arrived at Canop Ponds, where only the hardy souls ventured from the minibus. Those that did, myself included enjoyed some classic views of Mandarin Duck tree climbing, remarkably even a pair of Gadwall joining in. Other species of note here: Marsh Tit and Little Grebe.

Drake Mandarin ~ Canop Ponds
Our next adventure was New Fancy Viewpoint and as you can imagine the conditions here were abysmal. After a short stay we abandoned our efforts for Goshawk and decided on a drive out to Ashleworth Ham for reported Green-winged Teal and Garganey. Ashleworth Ham, Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust for those who are unfamiliar lies west of the River Severn, on the Ham Road between the villages of Ashleworth and Tirley. This is part of the floodplain and attracts, as you would imagine, lots of wildfowl in the winter. An excellent visit here and can you believe, in glorious sunshine. Sadly another dip with no sign of Garganey but after a short while the Green-winged Teal did show, with most of the team enjoying at least a brief view. Other species included Circa 20 Black-tailed Godwit, Curlew, (5) Snipe and a good selection of winter wildfowl, including Pintail.

Tuesday March 21st 2017 ~ A few hours at Brandon Marsh and my first Little-ringed Plover of the year. Plus Caspian Gull and a Small Tortoiseshell butterfly on the wing!

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Diary Update #13

Sunday March 12th 2017 ~ A completely different day weather-wise compared to yesterday, with the rain just about subsiding as we parked up at Normandy Marsh, Hampshire. We've not visited this side of the Lymington Keyhaven Nature Reserve before, in fact oddly enough this is only our third ever visit to the reserve full stop!

Mediterranean Gulls ~ plenty in the area!
We began by heading north towards the Yacht Marina, pausing to begin with at Normandy Lagoon. A similar selection of waterfowl to yesterday's were on view here and included four more Mediterranean Gulls, which appeared to be displaying, perhaps suggesting that that these birds are regular nesters here?

Spotted Redshank ~ One of three today!
Just prior to the marina one of the smaller pools held Dunlin, several Redshank and single Ringed Plover but feeding reasonably close in one of three Spotted Redshank on offer today.

Mediterranean Gulls seemed to be in display!
For the remainder of our visit we decided on a reverse route which took us inside the seawall along a series of shallow, brackish lagoons connected to the sea through a system of sluices and tidal flaps. After walking Salterns and Oxey Marshes we decided to call it a day on the weekends birding. The only other addition to yesterdays listings were the aforementioned Spotted Redshank, plus a White Wagtail on the pontoons as we left!

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Diary Update #12

Saturday March 11th 2017 ~ A birthday celebration for one of Dee's friends down in Lymington, Hampshire this weekend gave us the opportunity to visit Keyhaven Salt Marsh today.

One of a brace of Dartford Warbler at Keyhaven!
Parking at Lower Pennington Lane we took an anti-clockwise route in the hope that by the time we reached the lagoons the morning mist would have cleared. Singing Chiffchaff as we headed along the footpath with lots of gorse to search along the route. In fact after only fifteen minutes the first call of Dartford Warbler and almost immediately two birds were located, one perching briefly for the all important photo!

Common Adder ~ Likely just recently emerged!
Dee noticed some movement along the track while here and to our amazement an Adder was slowly making its way across the path. A passing dog walker was not amused 😁

Rock Pipit ~ One of three today!
Moving on the first of two adult Mediterranean Gulls across towards the lagoons and while checking the pools at the Efford Landfill Site two Marsh Harriers at distance. With the tide in by the time we reached the sea wall most waders were at distance but a flock of circa 100 Black-tailed Godwit were notable. Pausing at Iley Point to look out across the sea, where birds of note included Red-breasted Merganser and several flocks of Brent Geese. A Spoonbill was fast asleep on the Keyhaven Lagoon and as we tracked back to the car, passing Fishtail and Butts Lagoons, a Ruff, heading into summer plumage took us by surprise as he swam past!

Ruff ~ Interesting to find one swim by!
Several Little Egrets and plenty of Curlew, plus the usual selection of waterfowl today, including many Pintail. Other notables included: Stonechat, (5) Roe Deer, (4) Cetti's Warbler heard and a trio of pipits: Meadow Pipit, Rock Pipit and Water Pipit!

Monday, March 06, 2017

Diary Update #11

Despite the lack of updates last month, mainly due to other projects I have in fact managed to venture out on several occasions over the past three weeks, mostly to Brandon Marsh. I've worked with the conservation team each Thursday on the chainsaw, trying desperately to complete my project of willow bashing on the top reedbeds before the nesting season begins in earnest, two more sessions will see it through.

🌀☔  Thursday February 23rd 2017 ~ Storm 'Doris' caused a number of issues at Brandon Marsh today with several trees coming down in the gales. One in particular that succumbed was the wonderful ancient Field Maple located at Carlton Hide. Reputedly one of the oldest in Warwickshire I had the task, along with others members of the team of clearing the path on Thursday afternoon, when half of the tree split and collapsed. Horsetail Glade was also badly hit, with several trees downed!

This wonderful Field Maple a casualty of storm Doris!
Friday February 24th 2017 ~ Sadly the remaining half of the Field Maple at Carlton Hide came down overnight and I spent an hour mid morning clearing more debris off the path, along with Alan Boddington.

Monday February 27th 2017 ~ A visit to Brandon Marsh today for a few hours was mainly spent in Carlton Hide. Having considered recent Bittern sightings it appeared that the Brandon bird was a creature of habit, with most sightings between midday and 1pm. This proved to be amazingly accurate, with the bird rising from the reeds at 12.40pm for a short repositioning flight and again a half hour later. It was my first Brandon sighting of the year and so too Willow Tit! With three birds during my visit, two at Carlton Ditch and a third near the River Pool path a short while later.

A brace of Purple Sandpiper at Marine Lake, New Brighton
☀☔  Wednesday March 1st 2017 ~ My fortnightly visit to Liverpool for lunch with my dear old mum, 97 years young and still going strong! A few years back and just across the water I'd visited New Brighton Marine Lake to see a long staying Laughing Gull and had remembered it was also a great place to see Purple Sandpiper. Leaving a little earlier than normal I arrived at Marine Lake prior to meeting mum around mid morning. I wasn't disappointed, with at least seven Purple Sandpipers in among the roosting Turnstone and Redshank. Mainly asleep, there were brief moments of activity allowing for the odd photograph.

Saturday March 4th 2017 ~ A morning visit to Brandon Marsh where I bumped into Paul Cashmore. The highlight had to be three Otters, which Paul spotted initially to the rear of the pool at Carlton Hide. Knowing their usual route we managed to track them past the East Marsh Hide (above video), eventually ending up at the Baldwin Hide, where we managed terrific views of the family (probably mother and two kits) feeding directly below the boardwalk.

Monday March 6th 2017 ~ A glorious spring-like morning with Skylarks singing when I left the marina around 7.45am. Brandon Marsh had the usual selection of waterfowl: (2) Goldeneye, (4) Pochard, single Shelduck, Great Crested Grebe and the long staying male Goosander, which is believed to be slightly injured. Another Bittern sighting over Newlands reedbed at 09:40 and other highlights included: (8) Soaring Buzzards, (5) Snipe, (5) Oystercatcher, Siskin/Redpoll flock and Grey Wagtail on Goose Pool.

Nuthatch busy once again for the coming season!
The above Nuthatch was also busy preparing his nesting site. This will be his 5th consecutive year at this particular site according to my records!

Monday, February 13, 2017

Diary Update #10

🌅  Monday February 13th 2017 ~ Another Monday excursion, this time to Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire, once again in the company of Alan Boddington. On leaving the marina while still dark the weather didn't look very promising, with overcast misty conditions and a bitterly cold easterly wind. By the time we met up for breakfast at Rothwell McDonalds around 7am I'd been lucky enough to have a Barn Owl fly across the road while coming through Long Buckby on route, a good omen for the day perhaps!

Stunning Barn Owl at the roadside!
Our first port of call was Willow Tree Fen Nature Reserve in Lincolnshire to catch up with a reported Bluethroat. By the time we arrived shortly before 9am five Red Kites and a stunning Barn Owl next to the roadside were already logged. Even more good news was the weather, which had now cleared completely to produce a brilliantly sunny, if not somewhat chilly day!

1st winter Bluethroat ~ Quite happy only meters away!
Having parked up at Willow Tree Fen we made our way a short distance along the entrance track to the designated 'Bluethroat' spot, marked by a dozen or so birders. In fact it seemed almost immediately on arrival that the target bird dropped down onto the track only yards away! Brilliant views, the bird performing outrageously during our half hour stay! As we were leaving at least twenty White-fronted Geese flew across the reserve, landing way off to the west.

There's a Long-eared Owl in there 👀  
Next stop Deeping Lakes, predominantly for Alan to catch up with Long-eared Owl, I'd personally visited a few weeks earlier. Two Owls today, which as usual were well camouflaged. Good variety of wintering wildfowl on the pools, which included double figure Goldeneye.

Great Grey Shrike ~ Four Mile Bar Bridge...
A drive along the River Welland as far as 'Four Mile Bar Bridge' where a Great Grey Shrike was the next target. Also on offer during the drive along the river were Long-tailed Duck and Great Egret but unfortunately we didn't manage either. However, having crossed the footbridge and circled the preferred area for the Shrike we did manage reasonable views of this very mobile individual. A pair of Stonechat were also very accommodating and seemed to accompany Alan and I during our stay.

A very windswept Red Kite at Eldernell...
Our last stop of the day was at Eldernell, Cambridgeshire. An initial scan after arriving at the carpark produced (7) Crane, Marsh Harrier, (6) Fallow DeerCommon Buzzard, probably our 12th Kestrel of the day but no Short-eared Owls! However, with plenty of daylight left we decided on a walk along the east bank towards March Farmers. A very enjoyable walk with spectacular views of thousands of Golden Plover and Lapwing constantly on the wing, along with great numbers of Teal and Wigeon, plus the odd Ruff and Black-tailed Godwit all being harassed by at least (5) Marsh Harrier. More Stonechat, plus Little Egrets, a perched windswept Red Kite and around 100 Whooper Swan with several Bewick mixed in on the ploughed fields across the bank!

Eldernell Sunset ~ After a terrific days birding!
Back to the carpark in time for dusk, which turned out to be like a Warwickshire birders Away-Day, meeting up by coincidence with firstly Jim and Carol Timms, followed shortly after by Keith Barnsley and entourage, who'd been on a Norfolk jaunt.  A great end to the day, and while here Sparrowhawk, Kingfisher, (21) Cranes, (8) Marsh Harrier and a terrific sunset. Unfortunately no sign of any Short-eared Owls, my second dip at Eldernell this year!

Bluethroat ~ Room for another photo!

Monday, February 06, 2017

Diary Update #9 ~ 2017

⛅☔ Monday February 6th 2017 ~  After the flurry of activity in January the lack of updates recently reflects the amount of birding I've managed over the last few weeks.

Waxwings at Wolston on a gloomy morning!
This also compares to the lack of new arrivals in the area, with the exception of the Waxwings at Wolston, with more birds arriving and the flock now reaching a very credible 30+ birds yesterday. Two Whooper Swans over at Abbey Fields, Kenilworth have not tempted me across that way.

Black Redstart ~ Sharpness, Gloucestershire..
Today Alan Boddington and I headed down to Gloucestershire, starting off at Sharpness for Black Redstart. A couple had been reported along Dock Road and we arrived shortly before 11am, after a not too early start. One very accommodating bird, although it did disappear for long periods.

Black Redstart
The remainder of the day was spent at WWT Slimbridge, where over the weekend a very active Goshawk had been hampering the wildfowl flocks. Although a pleasant visit the weather did somewhat deteriorate during the afternoon and there was no sign of the Goshawk. All the usual highlights were recorded with some images reflected in Alan's tweet below!

Alan's Tweet from this morning!

Friday, January 27, 2017

Diary Update #8 ~ 2017

Friday 27th January... A bitterly cold start as I set off for Eldernell Cambridgeshire this morning in the hope of Short-eared Owls, arriving shortly after 10am.

Cattle Egret ~ Great closeup views!
In my experience of this site I've always found it to be hit and miss regarding Owl activity! For example when Dee and I came here on New Years Eve around midday we we're immediately into no less than four Short-eared Owls! Today, in cold and slightly murky conditions, not one to be found in a two hour stay.

Cattle Egret ~ Didn't seem too bothered by my close proximity! 
That said I think I registered everything else on offer with cracking views of Cattle Egret, along with Ringtail Harrier ♂♀Marsh Harrier, Peregrine, Crane's, Whooper Swan's, Little Egret, Snipe and Common Buzzard. A Kingfisher was also performing very well and making use of the lack of ice under the bridge and six Roe Deer were also noted!

'Redhead' Smew at Deeping Lakes!

My next stop was Deeping Lakes SSSI, Red Kite on route, in search of more Owls, this time Long-eared. Having not visited this site before I found it a real pain to locate (or was it my sat~nav?) and even when I did find the place the signage on the reserve was dreadful. However, I did eventually find the bird hide, where recently up to five Long-eared Owls have roosted on the Island opposite. I managed three today but as is so common with roosting Long-ears they were well hidden and there was little activity, save for the odd scratch! Great to see though and although the lake was 90% frozen I also managed drake Mandarin, a year~tick, (18) Goosander, (4) Goldeneye and 'redhead' Smew.

Below is a brief handheld video of todays Cattle Egret at Eldernell!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Diary Update #7 ~ 2017

⛅  Wednesday 25th January... The marina was shrouded in fog this morning so I decided to take a little drive out in search of brighter weather and try for Corn Buntings at a known location.

Yammers everywhere during my walk.
I arrived some 30 minutes later and having cleared through the fog the area was indeed bathed in sunshine! It didn't last long though as the mist soon descended and the biting wind was a real factor! After parking I was immediately awash with birds, the adjacent fields held 30+ Fieldfare, Skylark were also calling and both Yellowhammer and Linnet were everywhere! I even managed an astonishing count of over 100+ Stock Dove. The reason? Simply put this is an area where the farmer leaves the old crops to seed and in effect the place becomes a winter feeding station.

Corn Bunting still thriving in Warwickshire!
By the time I'd completed my walk I'd been rewarded by at least 3 Corn Bunting and speaking to a local patch birder @1stbirdoftheday it appears the Corn Buntings are still thriving, with a year best count of 29!

The declining Corn Bunting!

Other species of note today included: Muntjac Deer, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Kestrel and Reed Bunting.

Helping out the Oaks and Hawthorn by thinning out the willow!

Thursday 26th January... A bitterly cold day at Brandon Marsh was spent willow bashing in the top wood. A nice fire kept the spirits high! On route home a stop at Wolston for any Waxwings produced a single bird, reported earlier by Paul Cashmore. The bird will perch up and occasionally drop down onto the two Sorbus trees, which thankfully still hold a good berry crop!

Record shot of Waxwing at Wolston in poor light!

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Diary Update #6 ~ 2017

Tuesday 25th January... A day out at Rutland Water, meeting up with Pete Worthy, Trevor Griffiths and Alan Boddington from the Brandon Team.

Yet another glorious frosty start to the day we began at the fisherman's car park, which overlooks the North Arm shortly after 9am. A flat calm water produced the usual wildfowl, a pair of Goldeneye at close range. Out towards the centre but at distance two Black-necked Grebes. While here I was certain I'd heard a Common Sandpiper fly over but unfortunately the bird was not located.

Green-winged Teal ~ Great find by Pete! 
We decided that better views of the Grebes could be obtained by driving around to Dickinson's Bay on the opposite bank. We did relocate the Black-necked Grebes at Dickinson's but still unfortunately at distance and while here a single Slavonian Grebe and a bonus Green-winged Teal, the latter superbly found by Pete fast asleep on the shoreline alongside a group of Eurasians! While here a Red Kite drifted to the west, one of three seen today.

One of a total of five Great Egrets seen today!
On to the 'cottage road' for more views across the North Arm, with (3) Great Egrets, (2) Little Egrets, (2) Barnacle Goose and (2) Common Buzzard additions to the day list.

Water Rail ~ Enjoying the pleasant sunshine!
On to the main reserve next, a pair of Stonechat viewable from inside the centre. Lagoon 3 was productive with two more Great Egrets (5 for the day) and a Water Rail, which came out for a brief sunbathe. A Bittern was located within the far reedbed and occasionally offered half decent views, before two flights, the latter of the bird disappearing deep into the reed. I did manage a very impromptu video which I've posted below!

Two final stops of the day, firstly South Arm 3: Here an amazing count of (22) Red-crested Pochard and despite the sun causing real problems (3) Smew, which included two drakes. Finally across to Lagoon 4 the best here excellent views of a pair of Peregrine Falcon's, perched up on the Osprey tower! A top birding day which also included: Sparrowhawk and Kestrel on the day list!

Peregrine pair ~ Rutland Water