Thursday, April 28, 2016

Diary Update #40

A bit of a fragmented week birding wise, with not as much time as normal spent out in the field. On Tuesday an early visit to Napton Reservoir produced my first local Whinchat of the year, along with Common Sandpiper, Yellow Wagtail, (3) Sedge Warbler, at least (3) Lesser Whitethroat, White Wagtail and single Snipe.

Sedge Warbler - Napton Reservoir
Later on in the morning a visit to Brandon Marsh, mostly searching around the peripheral of the reserve. Nothing new of note but the little time I spent in the hides produced: (2) Common Terns, (2) Common Sandpiper, (3) Little-ringed Plover, White Wagtail, (4) Oystercatcher and (3) Redshank.

Blackcap - Napton Reservoir
Today at Brandon Marsh my first Hobby of the year flew through the 'Tip' area while a few of us were bashing some invasive birch! A couple of Cuckoo calling and a Mistle Thrush singing for most of the morning produced the quintessential British countryside, a sound to behold. All we needed was some summer sunshine, not a freezing cold northerly!!

Brandon Marsh 2015 Report Available NOW!
I can finally reveal that the Brandon Marsh Report 2015 is out from the printers and something that Jim Rushforth and I can be proud of as editors. Available from the Brandon Volunteers or at the Nature Centre, priced at £6 this year, which is in fact cost price!

Monday, April 25, 2016

Diary Update #39

A quick diary update after my trip to Summer Leys this morning.

A couple of Yellow Wagtails at Napton Reservoir this afternoon!
Stopped off at Napton Reservoir on route home for a brief visit in between the showers. Here a couple of Yellow Wagtails, Common Sandpiper and Lesser Whitethroat. The first singing Lesser Whitethroat at the marina this morning as I set off!

Summer Leys NR

I decided to begin the new birding week with a visit to summer Leys NR in Northamptonshire. Strangely enough only a 35 mile drive from the marina but a reserve I've never visited before!

Summer Leys NR, Northamptonshire
I arrived shortly after 9 O'clock and having just missed a heavy downpour I decided to begin my visit in the comfort of the Pioneer Hide. On approach the noise from the Black-headed Gull population told me straight away that this was a nesting colony and so it turned out! Swallow, House Martin and Sand Martin low over the pools but it wasn't long before I picked up a Wood Sandpiper over on the wader scrape. A couple of Whimbrel next, which were across on the grassland over towards the disused railway line. Two year ticks already, followed almost immediately by a third, when a Greenshank was noted asleep, once again on the far side. At least a half dozen Common Tern, single Oystercatcher, two Redshank and three Little-ringed Plover before moving on. My fourth year first happened almost immediately upon leaving the hide, when four Swift flew overhead, a great start to my visit.

Sedge Warbler - Very few photos opportunities during my visit!
Moving on I took an anticlockwise route heading off towards the Paul Britten Hide. The thick hedgerow along the paths provide good habitat and by the time I'd arrived at the hide for a coffee, which offers an elevated view of the reserve, Willow Warbler, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Goldcrest and Greenfinch had all been noted in song. From the hide a better view of the Wood Sandpiper but before I could get the customary record shot it took flight, almost a display flight actually, calling and dipping as it flew off! In fact I noted it several times more during the morning.

After leaving the hide I was extremely lucky as I emerged almost adjacent to a field which, according to a new report, had a Whinchat showing. Scanning the field in question, which I believe was on Mary's Lane, it wasn't long before I had decent scope views of the bird. Which was flying from posts onto higher fencing which overlooked a further pool, a fifth year tick! While here a ploughed area of the field held three stunning Yellowhammer, almost like canaries in the stark contrast of the dark soil. A little further on I paused for a time at the feeders and while here scoped the pools, recording a couple of late stayers, with both Wigeon and drake Goldeneye.

The remainder of the 2 mile circuit yielded of note: Red Kite, Sparrowhawk, (2) Buzzard, (2) Green Woodpecker, (3) Sedge Warbler, (2) Cetti's Warbler and several more Swift and Common Tern. An excellent reserve and one which I will certainly visit more often!

Friday, April 22, 2016

Diary Update #38

A story of Wagtails a Napton Reservoir this morning with Grey Wagtail, Pied Wagtail and Yellow Wagtail all recorded. Lots of Hirundines over the water with at least 30+ House Martins among the many Swallow and Sand Martins. Lesser Whitethroat singing from the sheep field hawthorn and a brace of Sedge Warbler in the reed bed.

Grey Wagtail at Napton Reservoir
Brandon Marsh next and here yesterdays Wood Warbler was still on site, singing and showing occasionally in Horsetail Glade. The pools were generally quiet with (4) Oystercatcher, (4) Redshank, (2) Little-ringed Plover and (2) Common Terns the best of note. Brief visits to Ted Jury and Carlton Hide produced Cuckoo & Willow Tit, with the remainder of the reserve yielding the usual Warblers, this time with the addition of (2) Common Whitethroats and (2) Reed Warblers, which are now arriving but it would seem not in any great numbers.

Yellow Wagtail at Napton Reservoir
An attempt at connecting with a reported ♀Redstart on the 'Tip' area in the afternoon proved fruitless, but did throw up a rather interesting warbler, watched for a short period and which brought up visions of a Dusky Warbler, but I'm not for one minute suggesting it was!!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Purple Patch

A real contrast to my birding day! Firstly, with a rather quiet visit to Napton Reservoir, best here a Lesser Whitethroat and at least three Sedge Warbler in the reed bed, then all hell breaks loose over lunch at Brandon Marsh!

Record shot of Wood Warbler at Brandon Marsh - Courtesy of Dave Mount
After my usual circular route of the top reed beds at Brandon, Common Whitethroat best on offer here, I thought I'd have my picnic lunch in the relative quiet of Horsetail Glade. Here I met up with Martin Durkin for a while and it was as Martin was leaving we both thought we heard Wood Warbler. It wasn't long before we located a stunning bird flitting around near the bench, the gorgeous bright yellow upper and white underparts the giveaway. We needn't have worried to much about ID as the bird soon began singing.

My record shot of Firecrest at Brandon Marsh today!
A few phone calls later we were joined by Alan Boddington, who amazingly (or jamily) dropped right onto a Firecrest while trying to relocate the Wood Warbler, which had gone AWOL for a short while. Cracking purple patch and indeed find by Alan, both birds thankfully enjoyed by most, although the Firecrest didn't hang around for too long!

**As I type this blog entry three Oystercatcher just flew through the marina, coincidentally just tweeted by Draycote birding, who is obviously visiting the nearby Napton Reservoir at this time!

Wood Warbler - Courtesy of Martin Durkin

Firecrest - Courtesy of Martin Durkin

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Diary Update #37

A pretty quiet day at the usual haunts by comparison! I began at Napton Reservoir but no sign of the recent Redstarts during my visit. A Sedge Warbler was singing in the reedbeds and a Lesser Whitethroat over on the sheep field but they were the only species of note other than the now established Warblers.

One of the many Jays at Brandon Marsh
Next Brandon Marsh and despite trolling most of the reserve over a few hours the only new addition to my Brandon list was a Common Tern. Cuckoo heard and a Lesser Whitethroat was singing near the Sheepfield gate, the lack of Common Whitethroat on the reserve, normally well established by now, is a worry! What did save the day were the butterflies, with several on the wing in the relatively warm conditions. However, you had to find the sheltered areas, with the persistent easterlies dropping the temperature and blowing directly into East Marsh Hide.

Large White in Horsetail Glade
Species recorded: (2) Orange Tip, (1) Large White, (6) Small Tortoiseshell, (4) Brimstone and (5) Peacock.

A stop at Stockton Cutting on route home in search of more butterflies was a little disappointing, with the cold easterly whistling right through the cutting. Best I managed were a couple of Brimstone.

Monday, April 18, 2016


Took fourteen of the Brandon Marsh Team on another away-day to the Lincolnshire coast in the Wildlife Trusts minibus today, with stops at Gibraltar Point NNR and RSPB Frampton Marsh.

The day didn't start well as when we arrived at Peterborough services for the now traditional McDonalds breakfast, we were horrified to find that the unit was closed for refurbishment! Notwithstanding the breakfast bar close by did serve a very tasty egg, sausage and bacon bap!

Little Egret - Only a few photo opportunities today!
To be honest Gibraltar Point was equally as disappointing with little on offer and the highlights here while sea watching at Mill Hill were a small group of Common Scoter, (2) Gannets offshore, Curlew, Brent Geese and (2) Tern Sp. which were too far out for positive ID. The shoreline was also strangely devoid and here Little-ringed Plover, Oystercatcher and lots of Seals on a distant sandbank. The lagoons and freshwater marsh areas were quiet with only a single Sedge Warbler heard but a Peregrine over and a Weasel at the Mere Hide brightened things.

♂Wheatear at Frampton Marsh
Most of the activity was on the Croftmarsh with two groups of Avocet, at least six distant Pink-footed Geese, Little Egret and several Curlew. Heading back to the centre a stop at the Plantation produced, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Siskin, Mistle Thrush and a single Brambling.

Spotted Redshank - One of three at Frampton Marsh
RSPB Frampton Marsh never disappoints and here we spent the remainder of the day in overcast but pleasant conditions. Although the water was extremely high good numbers of waders could be found and some of the highlights were undoubtedly birds heading into breeding plumage, with 3 Spotted Redshank in various colours, one almost entirely black. Ruff looked resplendent, males almost in their breeding plumage and even many of the 1000s of Black-headed Gulls looked pristine. Highlights for me other than previously mentioned included ♂Wheatear, ♂Marsh Harrier, Garganey and Arctic Tern, with several heading through. A full personal list of sighting are below.

Species Seen:

Mute Swan, Pink-footed Goose, Greylag Goose, Canada Goose, Brent Goose, Shelduck, Mallard, Gadwall, Shoveler, Wigeon, Teal, Garganey, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Common Scoter, Pheasant, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Cormorant, Little Egret, Marsh Harrier, Common Buzzard, Kestrel, Moorhen, Coot, Oystercatcher, Avocet, Little-ringed Plover, Ringed Plover, Lapwing, Dunlin, Redshank, Spotted Redshank, Black-tailed Godwit Curlew, Ruff, Black-headed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Common Tern, Arctic Tern, Wood Pigeon, Stock Dove, Collared Dove, Skylark, Barn Swallow, Meadow Pipit, Pied/White Wagtail, Yellow Wagtail, Robin, Wheatear, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Blackbird, Lesser Whitethroat, Sedge Warbler (H), Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Goldcrest, Wren, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Magpie, Jackdaw, Rook, Carrion Crow,
Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Brambling, Linnet, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Siskin, Reed Bunting

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Diary Update #36

A nice stroll with Dee around Napton Reservoir and the locks this afternoon in lovely sunshine.

White Wagtail at Napton Reservoir
Managed to connect with the stunning ♂Common Redstart, found by Richard Mays this morning, which was very flighty near the small open barn as you go through the first gate on the sheep field. No sign of the female Redstart, also seen this morning but to be honest we didn't really do it justice! Also while there a single White Wagtail and Lesser Whitethroat.

Just as we were heading back to the marina news came through of another ♂Common Redstart, this time on the 'Tip' area at Brandon Marsh and found by Paul Cashmore! Now how did I miss that one this morning!

Diary Update #35

An absolutely glorious, crisp and frosty start to the day with -3 showing on the dashboard as I left for Brandon Marsh.

Hide and seek with a Common Whitethroat
On arrival I took a circular walk over Farm Pool and Top Reedbed, recording my first Common Whitethroat of the year on the 'Tip' area. I paused for a while trying to photo the little fella, only managing a record shot but while here a Cuckoo began calling close by. It turned out to be a bird, according to my records, that has visited over the previous three years and has a distinct call. It has a Cuck but little ooo!

Short-eared Owl over Sheepfield this morning!
Around at the Sheepfield gate I paused for a little while to listen for Warblers when a Short-eared Owl, being mobbed by several Corvids, dropped down. The bird offered excellent views, quartering briefly before moving higher and heading off over East Marsh Pool. A Lesser Whitethroat too while here, with three in total during my visit.

Short-eared Owl
As I approached the Baldwin Hide a call alerted me to a Curlew, which I was convinced had dropped onto East Marsh Pool! No sign from the hide but when I moved around to East Marsh Hide the word was I'd missed four birds, which didn't drop in but continued over heading east. An enjoyable visit with other species of note: Black-tailed Godwit, (4) Redshank, (2) Common Sandpiper, (4) Oystercatcher and a Muntjac Deer on Wigeon Bank. The usual Warblers in song, including at least (3) Cetti's Warbler.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Diary Update #34

A later start at Brandon Marsh, once again in the rain but my timing was perfect. As I approached East Marsh Hide a Cuckoo flew through and a Red Kite was circling overhead the pools in among a group of mixed Gulls. Managed a few record shots of the Kite before the bird drifted off towards Coventry airport.

Record shot of Red Kite over East Marsh Pool
A single drake Wigeon on East Marsh Pool was a late record and the Black-tailed Godwit was in his usual position, asleep on Willow Island. A walk along to the Ted Jury Hide produced two Raven and a Common Sandpiper, which immediately departed after I managed a few snaps, a Cuckoo was calling off towards the golf course during my stay.

Common Sandpiper at Ted Jury Hide
A stop off at Carlton hide on route back produced two Common Sandpipers, likely the one at Ted Jury Hide plus an addition.

The briefest glimpse of Lesser Whitethroat near 'Olive Bench'
Tracking back to the centre I decided to walk back past Wright Hide and 'Olive Bench' as the sun was breaking through and here managed to locate a reported Lesser Whitethroat, which was singing well and offered the smallest opportunity of a record shot! Also of note the now established Warblers, Waders and Hirundines including (2) Little-ringed Plover and a Little Egret on Teal Pool