Sunday, April 20, 2014

Contrasting Visits

Some very contrasting visits over the Easter period with a glorious Good Friday morning at Brandon Marsh, followed by low cloud and a bitterly cold north-easterly to contend with today. Then to end the day today, a rainy but rewarding walk at Draycote Water.

Sedge Warbler -now in song around the reserve.
Firstly an early morning Good Friday visit to Brandon and unfortunately both Wheatears discovered by Martin on Thursday morning across on the farm field had moved on. However, I'd managed Cuckoo, (3) Whitetroat and a couple of Sedge Warbler on the reed beds before heading off for the pools.

Little Egret - Teal Pool
On Teal Pool a Little Egret was showing well before heading off east and shortly after a Green Sandpiper made an appearance. East Marsh Pool had a good deal of activity with (4) Little-ringed Plover, Ringed Plover, Common Sandpiper, (2) Oystercatcher and (3) Redshank. Good numbers of House Martin over the pools mixed in with the Sand Martins and Swallows, seven my best count. A real surprise came as I was making my way out along the Central Marsh path, when a Marsh Harrier came up from the reeds not yards in front of me!

A very early visit today (Easter Sunday) but the low cloud and biting north-easterly wind seemed to dampen the usual dawn chorus and keep most birds well under cover. A couple of Cuckoo heard from different areas of the reserve while I was on the top reedbed can only enhance the fact that Brandon is one of the top sites for these iconic birds within Warwickshire.

Green Sandpiper - three on the reserve Sunday
My first Reed Warbler of the year when one was very vocal near the River Pool Hide and most of us missed an unprecedented flypast of (5) Little Egrets, which Fred observed from the East Marsh Hide while the Sunday boys were all down at Carlton. Grasshopper Warblers and Common Terns have been recorded by most of the team over the last few day, although I seem to be dipping on these presently. Other highlights for me today: Ruff, (4) Little-ringed Plover, Ringed Plover, (3) Green Sandpiper, (3) Redshank, (2) Oystercatcher, (3) Sedge Warbler and Yellow Wagtail.

Yellow Wagtail - I cannot recommend the Canon SX 50HS Bridge Camera enough. Taken in rainy dull conditions! What a cracking little camera.
Finally, Draycote Water and Dee and I took a stroll in the rain along Farborough Bank as far as the hide and back. At Toft Bank several Arctic Terns were enjoying the blustery conditions and as we approached the hide two Red-legged Partridge flew out from the wood opposite. At last Dee caught up with the now infamous Albino Squirrel and a count of seven Yellow Wagtails on the way back to the car park ended a very rewarding walk.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Well Timed!

I picked a really good day to catch up with Bob and Richard for a leisurely stroll around Draycote Water this morning. It was also a good opportunity for a little lay in after a sequence of early morning visits to Brandon.

Yellow Wagtail
I arrived at Draycote just after 8 o'clock to an absolutely gorgeous morning, with clear blue sky and a very light breeze. My first birds of note were a single Oystercatcher, a couple of Yellow Wagtail along Farborough Bank and way off towards Draycote Bank an adult Little Gull over the water.

Record shot of one of today's Wheatear
I met up with Bob and Richard on their regular walk and as we continued along Farborough Bank a couple of Wheatear dropped in along the shoreline. Two Swallows over the water before Bob announced a couple of almost summer plumage Black-necked Grebes over towards Lin Croft Point (Draycote Map HERE). Sadly way too far for even a record shot but brilliantly found.

A Common Whitethroat in the bramble while heading up towards the hide was Bob's first on site this year and as we stood chatting with John, who'd arrived for a look at the Grebes a Common Sandpiper dropped in. Richard had decided to head back so Bob and I continued on to complete the circuit.

Bee-Fly - Here's one I took earlier!
Bob, who's always good company, provided me with several hilarious moments, especially while trying to photograph a couple of Bee-Flies. It always seems that when I'm with Bob his equipment malfunctions, proved a little later in the morning when a Speckled Wood butterfly took flight just as he prepared to pull the trigger, priceless!!

Other birds of note while completing the circuit were a single Yellow Wagtail along Drayocte Bank (3 for the day) and our first Lesser Whitethroat of the year, when Bob and I heard one singing towards the back of the Inlet. A thoroughly enjoyable and well timed visit!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Hotting Up!

Another early start to Tuesday and greeted by a stunning full moon setting to the east, Yellowhammer already in song and a Fox watching me watching him as I walked to the car!

Moon-set - Not my best effort but you get the picture!
With the recent clear nights, ideal for migration, it seems that finally things are hotting up. Brandon Marsh this morning was once more a cacophony of birdsong when I arrived just after sunrise. A couple of Common Whitethroat and a half dozen Linnet on the farm pool reedbed before meeting up with Alban and Mike and the the usual walk through to the Wright Hide.

Garden Warbler
Near the sheep-field gate a Garden Warbler was in song, first picked out by Alban among the array of singing Blackcaps and finally showing for me before heading off. Almost immediately a Grasshopper Warbler began reeling not yards from our position, but unfortunately the vegetation prevented eye contact.

Three large broods of Mallards around Brandon today!
A first look at East Marsh Pool from Wright Hide gave up of note (3) Little-ringed Plover, (2) Redshank, (2) Oystercatcher, (2) Snipe, Grey Wagtail and a White Wagtail was briefly on Willow Island. A Cuckoo was heard calling as we passed by central marsh, which Alban had actually claimed earlier (on fire this morning that guy) and appeared to move through towards the west of the reserve.

A reported Greenshank on River Pool was picked up a little later in the morning by Peter and I who spotted it flying through Newlands and down towards phase three. A look at the screen area failed to locate the bird and a short stop at Carlton Hide had (2) Water Rail and (2) Little Grebe.

Monday, April 14, 2014

1st Cruise and Busy Brandon!

Our first outing for 2014 and a cruise and overnight stop on the Grand Union Canal, meeting up with our old neighbors NB-Enigma near bridge 101.

Corn Bunting  - A good local find

The cruise down on Saturday afternoon was a chilly one, with a biting north-westerly, the birding highlights were several Yellowhammer along the tow-path and good numbers of Linnet on and around the fields. However, the star turn was snapped by Dee as we cruised by bridge 103 and our first patch Corn Bunting for a few years. A better day on the cruise back Sunday with lots of Orange-tip butterfly on the wing in the warm sunshine and several Swallows perched on the phone wires at Flecknoe were nice to see.

Chiffchaff - In the process of displaying!
A visit to Brandon Marsh (Monday) before the predicted hoards arrived after lunch and a quick tour away from the pools found a few more Common Whitethroats and Willow Warblers around, plus a half dozen Linnet and the usual Chiffchaff and Blackcaps, but no surprises.

Speckled Wood - My year first looking quite pristine!
East Marsh Pool had a single Avocet once more, (2) House Martin, Snipe, (3) Little-Ringed Plover, joined later in the morning by a single Ringed Plover. A Stoat made a brief appearance while in East Marsh Hide and my first Speckled Wood butterfly near the Carlton Hide, along with several Orange-tip, Peacock and Comma.

Lesser-spotted Woodpecker - Illusive but still around!
Just prior to leaving around noon a walk down to river meadow had a Lesser-spotted Woodpecker across on the peripheral of Willow Wood, ( thanks to the gent who tipped me off), which I connected with briefly before it flew east.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Saturday Update!

A look around the marina grounds for anything new before heading off to Brandon this morning had a single Raven over and the Pied Wagtail roost is now down to only a handful of birds, no surprises though!

Sunrise this morning from the window using the Canon SX50 'Vivid Colour' setting!
A brief post regarding this mornings visit to Brandon Marsh as I'm just about to set off on a cruise down to Braunston and an overnight stay.

One of last years - Common Whitethroat
Strangely Brandon was remarkably quiet away from the pools compared to that of late but did produce my first Common Whitethroat of the year, when one was showing well by the large oak tree near the River Pool path. A brief appearance of a Yellow Wagtail on Willow Island mid-morning and a single House Martin was located in with the now established Sand Martins. Also of note a large fall of Swallows overnight with 20/30 feeding over East Marsh Pool. An albeit brief look for Lesser-spotted Woodpecker in Horsetail Glade prior to heading off drew a blank.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Blackcaps Galore!

A slightly frosty and crystal clear start when leaving the marina today, with Venus now a morning planet and a Curlew calling way off in the distance. Could this be the bird I heard flying through on Monday night perhaps?

Blackcaps - Unprecedented numbers at Brandon this year!
Martin had caught up with me by the time I reached the farm at Brandon Marsh and with at least six Blackcaps recorded singing by the time I reached the top reed bed, this has to be an unprecedented year for this species! Peter had already gone straight to East Marsh Pool upon his arrival and had called to inform us of our first Common Sandpiper of the year. Crossing the top reeds a Sedge Warbler was the only other bird of note and as we approached the locked gate the call of Lesser-spotted Woodpecker came through the morning air from over in Horsetail Glade.

Common Buzzard - Surprise find!
By the time we'd got to the glade we'd been joined by Keven Groocock and Peter had also dropped around to meet up. It was no time at all before the bird was located and after a short while we left Kevin and headed off for a walk around to the Wright hide. I had high hopes for Common Whitethroat around Sheep-field this morning but it wasn't to be but Bullfinch, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff and a surprise when a Common Buzzard was perched beneath one of the Owl boxes.

More Blackcaps, including my first female of the year before a brief stop at Wright Hide, where a couple of Little-ringed Plover were just departing Willow Island. From East Marsh Hide (5) Snipe, (2) Shelduck and the usual Oystercatchers and Redshanks, plus we finally connected with Pete's Common Sandpiper. Just prior to the guys departing for a spot of voluntary work a rather nice looking Black-tailed Godwit dropped in. No work for me today with business and boat chores to attend to so Martin and I nipped to Carlton Hide for a look before heading off.

The approach to the hide provided a frenzy of activity with at least two more ♀Blackcaps, obviously overnight arrivals, driving at least three males balmy, great fun to watch and reminded me of me youth!

Orange-tip
A few butterflies enjoying the early warmth with Brimstone, Peacock and my first ♂Orange-tip of the year for Brandon.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Enjoyable But Frustrating day!

A very wet and dismal Brandon Marsh Monday morning, only highlight being my first Brandon Yellow Wagtail of the year, when one dropped onto Willow Island briefly mid morning. However, the highlight of the day came at bedtime, as while poking my head out of the hatch for some fresh air a Curlew flew through in the darkness calling, can't remember when my last local one was!

Bird of the day - Lesser-spotted Woodpecker
An early start to the day at Brandon this morning (Tuesday) with the anticipation of more migrants dropping in after last nights cloudless skies. A swift circuit of the tip area yielded Blackcap, Willow Warbler, Swallow and several Chiffchaff, but no additions to the now established aforementioned. The walk through to Wright Hide had (4) Lesser Redpoll near the wind pump, Bullfinch, (2) Blackcap and Goldcrest in New Hare Covert.

It wasn't until we reached the Wright Hide that the first notable of the day appeared in the form of Avocet. This time only a single bird, a fortnight ago of course we had two birds on site, which delighted us for a few days, so lets hope this one hangs around for a while too.

An hour or so at East Marsh Hide had a couple of House Martin in among the numerous Sand Martins, sweeping low over the water on occasions and other notable's included: (3) Swallow, (4) Redshank, (4) Oystercatcher, (2) Little-ringed Plover, (3) Great-crested Grebe and the likely domestic Barnacle Goose.


Lesser-spotted Woodpecker
The major highlight of the day came as Alban, Martin, Keith#2 and I entered Horsetail Glade, alerted first to the calls it wasn't long before we connected with a pair of Lesser-spotted Woodpeckers, my first on site for well over two years! The birds were performing very well for most of the morning and in fact were displaying on occasions. However, I left just after lunch feeling frustrated and bloody angry when some **** decided to use a bird call app to attract the birds down!!! In fact I thought I was remarkably well restrained.

White Wagtail - In with roost at the Marina recently!
Still annoyed a walk around Napton Reservoir to calm myself on route home produced several Swallow over the water and a couple of Meadow Pipit. Unfortunately I don't hold out much hope for any decent warblers currently as the water is so high it's only a few feet from the reed tops.

Subnote: PeterB also informed me that the Grasshopper Warbler was reeling once again (heard from the coach parking area) when he arrived at Brandon at around 6:15am!

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Norfolk Saturday

Spent the entire day around NWT Cley Marshes, Norfolk and then on to Salthouse for a look around Grambourgh Hill. This was our first visit since the devastating winter floods and I have to say that the reports I've read regarding the damage were not exaggerated. Flattened shingle, altered reed beds and whole areas of water taking on different shapes and sizes.

♂Marsh Harrier over Cley marshes today.
As with RSPB Titchwell yesterday we were greeted to some excellent aerobatics from the local Marsh Harrier population, scattering everything as they displayed. Continuing along the east bank past Arnold's Marsh and out towards the sea-shore was relatively quiet apart from the usual waders, but it was a good opportunity to take stock and see first hand the areas of flattened reed bed.

Sandwich Terns moving through in three's and fours.
The shingle along the shoreline is now completely flat as you walk towards the beach car park but it still offers good views and we managed to settle for a half hours sea watch. Sandwich Terns were constantly moving through in three's and fours and a couple of Common Tern also passed us by. The sea was extremely quiet with only a single Cormorant to entertain us while tackling a rather large fish.

Black-tailed Godwit 
At the beach car park a couple of Wheatear were on the wet marsh but there was no sign of this mornings reported Black Redstart. The inner marsh held the usual excellent numbers of Avocet and some nice flocks of Black-tailed Godwit were to be found, some already showing signs of summer plumage. The walk back to the centre produced our one and only Swallow of the day.

Finally, before heading back to the hotel a coffee at Salthouse from 'the man in a van', who unfortunately has to park along the road now with the original car park under many tons of shingle! Gramborough Hill was awash with Meadow Pipit and where the edge of the hill has collapsed below, a few dozen Sand Martin were investigating. The mystery of the day was a short glimpse of a distant Pipit Sp. which I felt could well have been a Richards Pipit, strangely enough a report on birdguides a little later has a probable at Gramborough Hill. Some great views as I post of a Marsh Harrier from the hotel window out across the marsh, but sadly no Barn Owl as yet.

Friday, April 04, 2014

Birthday Weekend

A stop off at Yaxley, near Peterborough Thursday evening on route to Norfolk for the weekend gave us the opportunity this morning to have a look at the Baikal Teal currently residing at RSPB Fen Drayton Lakes.

Baikal Teal record shot - A UK lifer for me!
We arrived mid-morning in quite murky conditions and after what seemed an eternity finally reached Moor Lake. Indeed the bird was showing extremely well even from the guided bus lane, an amazing piece of technology which allows buses to zoom at god knows what speed past you with the driver sitting arms folded!! After first contact with the bird we took a walk down to the hide for a closer look. It was actually no closer but we enjoyed a half hour in which time Dee came up with one of her classics, 'Ooh! there's yellow bird on the Island', turns out our first Yellow Wagtail of the year. Well done that girl! Also present Little-ringed Plover and plenty of Redshank, singing Blackcaps seemed everywhere and a couple of Red-legged Partridge as we drove out of the reserve.

Bar-tailed Godwit  in the murk!
On to RSPB Titchwell for an afternoon session and firstly a walk down to the beach where there were literally racks of Scoter offshore. We did manage to pick out a couple of Velvet Scoter in the murk and the usual waders were to be had along the shoreline: Sanderling, Oystercatcher, Bar-tailed Godwit, Curlew, Turnstone and Dunlin.

Grey Plover - A very grey day weatherwise!
The highlights during the walk back along the footpath, with a brief stop at the Parrinder Hide included: Little Egret, Brent GeeseGrey Plover, Black-tailed Godwit, Avocet, Ruff and Little Gull on and around the pools. Marsh Harriers were quite a feature today, at one time witnessing a 'food-pass' and the Bearded Tit were pinging away but unfortunately very illusive.


Thursday, April 03, 2014

Works Thursday

Arrived at Brandon Marsh early doors for a good look around the reserve with some of the guys before joining the conservation team a little later in the morning.

New Hare Covert had the now regular singing Blackcaps and as we emerged near the golf course we were greeted to well over a hundred or so Sand Martin on what looked like a feeding frenzy. The Wright Hide had good numbers of them feeding low over the water and almost immediately my first Swallow of the year skimmed past.

No camera today - So thought I'd drop in last years favourite Willow Warbler shot!
At East Marsh Hide during coffee two more Swallow were recorded, a distant Willow Warbler singing and before long a couple of Ringed Plover dropped onto Willow Island. Also recorded: Wigeon pair, (2) Green Sandpiper, (2) Redshank and  (2) Oystercatcher along with a single Shelduck and quite a nice looking drake Pochard. Chiffchaffs were everywhere this morning and significantly lots seem already paired up.

After retrieving my camera trap, which unfortunately only recorded Mallard, Moorhen and Mute Swan I joined one of the works parties extracting invasive birch from the top reedbed. It was here during a coffee break when the real surprise of the day occurred, when suddenly a Grasshopper Warbler began reeling only 100ft or so from us, extremely early record for Brandon. During work a Meadow Pipit also flew over in the direction of the Nature Centre.

Off to Norfolk this afternoon for my weekend birthday treat so naturally Brandon should have a few good rarities around, so eyes peeled for more Sandwich Terns! Well done to the lucky few who spotted those two beauties.