Sunday, January 15, 2017

Diary Update #2 ~ 2017

Leading on from my last post I had a very lazy Wednesday and spent Thursday 12th with the volunteers at Brandon Marsh. We decided to go with the full team and complete the required works at West Marsh (Steetley Hide), hopefully before the rain set in! This included replacing the Kingfisher perch and taking out invasive willow and birch throughout the reedbed, at the same time clearing the small island directly in front of the hide! The weather was dreadful but a nice fire kept spirits high. I also ringbarked or Girdled several trees at the top end. Brandon has lost far too many of it's iconic dead trees in recent times and it's worth preparing a few more of the larger trees for the future.

More willow bashing ~ This time on West Marsh!
After work Thursday and tea in the nature centre Alan Boddington and I decided to track back to the Steetley Hide and spend an hour. It was also a good opportunity to check out our handy work too. While here a very prompt tweet from Paul Cashmore alerted us to a couple of Waxwings, literally a ten minute drive at Wolston village and so off we went. We weren't disappointed, with two birds dropping down occasionally from the treetops to feed on whats left of a Sorbus Trees berries. Sadly too dark and dank for any decent photos.

Friday 13th... I had a late start, stopping briefly at Wolston for another look at the Waxwings before ending up at Brandon Marsh in the company of Bob Lee. The birding was pretty dire to be honest, a count of ten Pochard the best on offer but was brightened considerably by the sight of two, possibly three Otters, which swam past directly in front of East Marsh Hide. A cracking sighting and one which I managed a very short video of (above).

One of the many Bewick Swans wintering at Slimbridge!
Saturday 14th... Dee and I made our annual January visit to WWT Slimbridge. Not everyones cup of tea but a place we very much enjoy. Its a perfect opportunity to see species you may never see in the wild and also an excellent chance to study the species which we do often encounter, but at close range.  It also has several good hides to visit which can boost the year list without too much effort. Today mine was extended by Bittern, Crane, Barnacle Goose (110+),  pair of Peregrine,  Ruff, Snipe and the sites speciality, Bewick Swans.

Wild Crane's ~ These likely released in the Somerset Levels from the 'Great Crane Project' 

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Diary Update #1 ~ 2017

Little Owl ~ Nice bird to have on the patch!
Sunday 8th... Dee and I decided to take a walk around the local patch in the afternoon in need of some fresh air after a very lazy Saturday! Our first port of call was to take a look at a local Little Owl. Sadly these birds like many others are declining in numbers but the particular area we visit seems to have sustained at least one bird over the years. In fact I'm certain that this particular individual visits the marina on odd occasions too!

From here a towpath walk took us up to Calcott Locks and then around the perimeter of Napton Reservoir. Lots of Redwing and Fieldfare now ground feeding and a huge flock of some 300+ Lapwings flew high from the west across towards Napton-on-the-Hill. The water had the usual selection of wildfowl which included on note: (5) Wigeon, (5) Gadwall, (30+) Tufted Duck but strangely not a single Great Crested Grebe! A Raven, my first of 2017 was also noted in flight!

Crossbill ~ Female of a pair seen at Lynford Arboretum!
Monday 9th... A day in Norfolk with Alan Boddington began at Lynford Arboretum shortly after 9am. Our target bird was Hawfinch with the favoured observation point the 'Paddocks', a well known spot to search the hornbeam for these notably illusive birds, Brambling, Siskin, Mistle Thrush and Marsh Tit on route! Our first attempt proved fruitless so we decided to try Lynford Pools on the opposite side of the car park and return a short while later. At the pools Little Egret, (3) Goosander and a brace of Egyptian Geese. We'd arranged to meet up with Jim, Pete, Fred and Trevor from the Brandon team who were spending a few days in Norfolk but the guys were delayed having diverted across to Newmarket in search of the now infamous Orphean Warbler! They actually dipped during their short stay but later found out that the bird is now thought to be a Lesser Whitethroat! After meeting up it was back to the 'Paddocks' for another vigil and while here more Marsh Tit, probably five in total today, plus a bonus find with a gorgeous pair of Crossbill. I'm happy to report that a single Hawfinch finally appeared in the Hornbeam and while heading back to the car park eight more Brambling.

Crossbill ~ Bonus find at Lynford!
The forecasted rain had now arrived so it was off to RSPB Titchwell for year-ticks with a stop at Cholsey Drying Barns, where (20+) Red-legged Partridge and (3) Grey Partridge were recorded, plus a fly over 150+ Pink-footed Geese. Titchwell was wet and windy but we managed a single Brambling on the feeders before heading onto the reserve. At least two Marsh Harrier to begin and a scan of the drained Thornham pool produced a single Water Pipit feeding along the right hand channel. The tidal, brackish and freshwater marsh produced an array of wader year-ticks and included Grey, Golden and Ringed Plover, Bar-tailed Godwit, Black-tailed Godwit, Redshank, (3) Spotted Redshank, Knot and Avocet.

At the beach the rain had paused sufficiently for a sea-watch, although the conditions were a little challenging in the stiff breeze and the light was dreadful! At sea: Long-tailed Duck, 300+ Common Scoter, Red-breasted Merganser but despite a valiant attempt no definite claims of Velvet Scoter. More waders included Turnstone, Oystercatcher and Sanderling. A final bonus bird for Alan and I back at the car park, unfortunately while the other guys were in the toilet, was a fly over Woodcock! A great end to an exceptional day!

Saturday, January 07, 2017

Weekly Update 7/1/2017

Leading on from my first visit of the year to Brandon Marsh on Tuesday a reasonably quiet week followed, with the exception of a great find at Brandon on Wednesday!

Another Caspian Gull at Brandon Marsh ~ Photo by Alan Boddington
Wednesday 4th... I just happened to be approaching the Wolston roundabout along the A45, only a few miles from Brandon Marsh, on route to Liverpool when I received a phone call from Jim Timms, handsfree I hasten to add! A very excited Jim had found a Yellow-browed Warbler at Brandon along the central marsh path. Although I was running late it was too good to miss. I arrived in due course to find Jim and a few other lucky observers watching the bird in question. When first discovered Jim had actually been only a few yards away from it, feeding it would seem in what remains of the small area of hops that grow alongside this stretch of path each year. A great find for Brandon and in fact a reserve first, so well done Jim.

Disappointingly for me, the bird didn't hang around for too long and I personally only managed the briefest of views high in the alder, thanks to Denis Woodward. So I guess that without being able to distinguish any features like wing bars or prominent supercilium while observing the bird I can't really add this little gem to my personal Brandon list 😒

Another excellent find on the day well worth a mention was Alan Boddingtons Caspian Gull on East marsh pool, photographed above!

Goldcrest ~ Always require further scrutiny! 
Thursday 5th... pre-dawn was spent with a few of the Brandon team trying to relocate the Yellow-browed Warbler in -5/6C but despite no sign of the target bird the many Lesser Redpoll and Siskin, plus the odd Goldcrest offered plenty of entertainment! From here it was chainsaw in hand and onto farm pool reedbed for more willow clearing, completing an excellent 5 hour session alongside a dozen other volunteers. After tea in the nature centre a few of us drove to Paget's Lane, Bubbenhall for a go at the reported juvenile Glaucous Gull. Thousands of gulls here on this newly acquired Warwickshire Wildlife Trust site, already controversial it would seem, but once again no sign of the target bird.

Friday 6th... late morning and early afternoon was spent with Bob Lee at Brandon Marsh and although a quiet visit birding wise highlights included Yellow-legged Gull and lots more Lesser Redpoll and Siskin to trawl through!

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Brandon Marsh ~ 2017

My first visit of the year to Brandon Marsh today with 51 species noted! These included Grey Wagtail and Green Sandpiper, which both flew over Ted Jury hide and from the comfort of East Marsh hide: Shelduck, (3) Pochard and Little Egret. After completing walks throughout the whole reserve other species of note included: Treecreeper, (2) Nuthatch, (30+) Siskin, (5) Lesser Redpoll! A Marsh Tit was calling around the nature centre, occasionally dropping onto the feeders!

Nuthatch ~ Few photo opportunities during today's visit!

A glorious sunset greeted me when I arrived back at the marina!

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Diary Update #57~2016

A stop off at Eldernell, Cambridgeshire on route to Norfolk for a few days really paid off today! According to the weather forecast we should have encountered dense fog on route but what transpired was glorious wall to wall sunshine. Even when we arrived at RSPB Titchwell in the late afternoon, not a sign of any fog!

One of four Short-eared Owl today!
Almost immediately on arrival at Eldernell a Short-eared Owl was quartering the area directly in front of the car park. Within minutes the count was up to four, all showing brilliantly. We spent ages watching, the birds occasionally fighting with each other for territory and indeed seeing off a Marsh Harrier and Buzzard on one occasion.

Short-eared Owl
Across in the distance nine Crane in flight and after dropping down among others, an amazing count of at least twenty birds. Several Fieldfare were ground feeding, a single Stonechat and at least three Kestrel! Out among the many sheep a bird I first thought to be a Little Egret turned out to be a Cattle Egret once in the scope, a bird which I think has been hanging about now for a while!

Record shot: Cattle Egret, Eldernell!
RSPB Titchwell next, arriving about an hour before sunset and setting off straight away for the beach. With the sun setting and the tide turning we managed a half hour sea watching. This produced Goldeneye, several large rafts of Common Scoter, two Velvet Scoter within but little else! On route back to the car a stop for the Marsh Harrier roost, with over twenty during our stay and just prior to leaving the footpath a Woodcock.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Merry Christmas!

To my reader a very Merry Christmas! 

I promise to re-ignite my passion for blogging in 2017!!

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Diary Update #56/2016

It seems that over the past few weeks personal highlights have come nearer to home and have included a rare and unexpected Bittern sighting at Napton Reservoir on November 29th. A bird which only appeared to have hung around for one day, with no reports since, at least to my knowledge!

Better views of Bearded Tits, once again at Napton Reservoir and some truly amazing Starling Murmurations at the the marina, finally captured on my Iphone after several attempts.

Speaking of the marina, an encounter of the blurred kind this evening with a stunning Merlin perched on one of the pylons just before sunset. A bonus perhaps of having so many Starlings roosting nearby!

A nice encounter with this Merlin at the marina this evening!
Brandon Marsh still remains a little disappointing with the best for me more recently a couple of excellent Peregrine passes, plus a brace of Woodcock, which I've inadvertently flushed while completing conservation works.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Norfolk Dawn till Dusk!

On a whim I decided to head off to the Norfolk coast on Wednesday! The weather looked good after recent storms and judging by recent reports the sea watching, one of my favourite birding pass times, was throwing up some excellent results.

Stonechat ~ Always one posing for a photo at Salthouse!
I began at Salthouse and arrived after a three hour drive at the Beach Road car park (or whats left of it after the 2013 flood) shortly after sunrise. Despite passing through some serious fog on route I was amazed to find an almost clear sky and good visibility! Early dog walkers were out in force, mostly controlled but I was aggrieved to see a Spaniel bounding across the marsh flushing everything in sight, it's idiotic owner blowing frantically on her dog whistle, the dog paying absolutely no notice! I won't publish my comments!

Snow Bunting ~ always brightens the day when these are around!
Notwithstanding my first thought was to check offshore and here at least four Red-throated Divers were found, impossible to miss almost glowing in the low sunlight. Good numbers of Gannet, both adult and juvenile passing through during my initial scans and a single Guillemot and Great Crested Grebe on the water. I walked west across the shingle towards whats known as 'Little Eye' and caught site of at least thirty or so Snow Bunting feeding on the shingle. On the fences close by Linnet, Meadow PipitReed Bunting and a pair of Stonechat, plus over towards the edge of the pools an excellent count of five Shore Larks, a great start to the day.

After a brew up I drove a little further around the A149 towards Cley, parking up at Walsey Hills NR. Crossing over I walked the East Bank passing Serpentine and Arnold's Marsh before another scan offshore. The walk down to the beach produced at least twenty or so Bearded Tit along the reed bed, the marsh and pools holding a selection of wildfowl and waders. The sea once again produced, with at least another half dozen Red-throated Divers passing through and more Gannets.

A stop for lunch at Cley beach car park in glorious sunshine and yet another sea watch. Here Red-throated Diver once again, they seemed constant today but two additions to the day list. Firstly a Velvet Scoter, which flew through with a group of Common Scoter and then a single Little Auk, which settled on the sea for a short period before heading off.

Pink-footed Geese
My final destination was RSPB Titchwell but I stopped for a look at the Pink-footed Geese at Holkham. Plenty to search through, but sadly nothing unusual among the flocks, although while scanning three Grey Partridge were a nice addition.

I spent the rest of the day enjoying Titchwell and managed to catch the high tide just before 14:30hrs. Before heading straight down to the beach a scan of the fresh marsh for Water Pipit was successful, but the bird was way to the back of the dry pool. A Greenshank was also a late bonus! The sea as hoped for offered rich pickings and an enjoyable 90 minutes with: (4) Velvet Scoter, (5) Long-tailed Duck, plus single Red-necked Grebe and Great Northern Diver plus various counts of Red-breasted Merganser, Common Scoter, Great Crested Grebe and Goldeneye, plus a fly by Little Gull.

An excellent day out ended with the Harrier roost and despite not connecting with any Hen Harriers, the sheer amount of Marsh Harriers coming in was a sight to behold!!

Species Seen:

Mute Swan, Canada Goose, Brent Goose, Pink-footed Goose, Greylag Goose, Shelduck, Mallard, Gadwall, Pintail, Shoveler, Wigeon, Teal, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Common Scoter, Velvet Scoter, Long-tailed Duck, Goldeneye, Red-breasted Merganser, Pheasant, Red-legged Partridge, Grey Partridge, Red-throated Diver, Great Northern Diver, Little Grebe, Red-necked Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Gannet, Cormorant, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Marsh Harrier, Common Buzzard, Kestrel, Peregrine, Water Rail, Moorhen, Coot, Oystercatcher, Avocet, Ringed Plover, Grey Plover, Golden Plover, Lapwing, Knot, Sanderling, Turnstone, Dunlin, Redshank, Greenshank, Black-tailed Godwit, Bar-tailed Godwit, Curlew, Snipe, Black-headed Gull, Common Gull, Herring Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Little Gull, Little Auk, Guillemot, Wood Pigeon, Kingfisher, Skylark, Shore Lark, Water Pipit, Meadow Pipit, Pied Wagtail, Robin, Stonechat, Blackbird, Redwing, Fieldfare, Goldcrest, Wren, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Bearded Tit, Magpie, Jackdaw, Rook, Carrion Crow, Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Linnet, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Reed Bunting, Snow Bunting

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Diary Update #55

Visits to Brandon Marsh Sunday and today, plus a stop off at Draycote Water on route home to catch up with Great Northern Diver.

Goldeneye ~ 2 Males and this female at Brandon on Sunday!
Sunday was the best of the two visits and yielded a good selection of wildfowl which included of note: Shelduck, (3) Goosander, (3) Goldeneye, (2) Pochard (160) Wigeon, (65) Teal and a good number of Shoveler, which went uncounted! Other notables included (2) Little Egret, Grey Wagtail and various counts of Siskin, Lesser Redpoll, Redwing and Fieldfare.

Caspian Gull ~ The perfect opportunity to improve your ID skills!
A large number of Gulls on site included (55) Lesser Blacked-backed Gull but the stars had to be Yellow-legged Gull and Caspian Gull. I'm not a gull man myself but when you have a verified Caspian Gull on site its a perfect opportunity to study a bird that I'm totally unfamiliar with! In fact most of the Brandon regulars, apart from one or two, would say the same and this is perhaps why I'm certain the species is under-recorded here.

Caspian Gull ~ Alternative view!
Todays visit to Brandon was pretty dire! With the torrential rain over the past few days the reserve is beginning to flood, although we got off lightly with Storm Angus and so I don't think we'll suffer too much disruption.

A Loon in gloom! ~ Great Northern Diver at Draycote today!
On route home today I stopped off at Draycote Water to see if I could catch up with at least one of the three reported Great Northern Divers. As it happens it wasn't to much of a stress as I spotted Mr Draycote, Bob Hazell on top of Farborough Bank when I arrived. Bob was photographing a couple of Dunlin and as we were catching up on the gossip one of the divers was showing nicely just off the bank.

Yellow-legged Gull ~ A chance to check out the wing structure!

Yellow-legged and Caspian Gull together!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Scotland 2016

Another excellent week in Scotland over and although the birding, particularly around the coastal areas was pretty quiet, we still managed to nail most of our target species. Leading on from Wednesday's post, by the end of the stay we'd completed a second visit to WWT Caerlaverock, a day around Luce Bay and Wigton, plus an afternoon at RSPB Loch Laven.

Great views across the Solway Firth at sunset and Barnacle Geese heading off to roost!
More Barnacle Geese heading off...
WWT Caerlaverock failed to produce any additional bird species from our previous visit but did include a couple of Roe Deer and along with the spectacular Barnacle Geese and Whooper Swans, Scaup, Green-winged Teal and male Hen Harrier were once again recorded.

Rock Pipit ~ A constant throughout our stay!
Our day around Luce Bay began at Auchenmal, where the A747 begins to run along the shoreline and offers great views across the area. Our first stop of many during our visit immediately produced a couple of Red-throated Loons and further scans revealed 50+ Common Scoter, Guillemot, Shag and (2) Red-breasted Merganser. No matter where we stopped Rock Pipits were a constant companion and with plenty of scrub in the surrounding areas a Stonechat would occasional pop up along the route. Several small groups of waders could be found and within Dunlin, Sanderling, Oystercatcher, Redshank and Curlew.

Another Waxwing encounter!
Three Ravens were also noted during the day and other species included Sparrowhawk. Tree Sparrow, Waxwing, Goldeneye, Goosander and while at Port William, where we stopped for lunch, Great Northern Loon and Merlin! Our day ended in fading light at Wigtown and despite a decent list a notable absentee was Pink-footed Goose, this area being of national importance to the species!

On Saturday we made our way across to Dunfirmline for a family celebration and stopped for a few hours at RSPB Loch Leven. Here we visited the three hides and although an enjoyable visit only managed to add Pink-footed Goose and Great Crested Grebe to our holiday list!

Species Seen:

Mute Swan, Whooper Swan, Greenland White-fronted Goose, Canada Goose, Barnacle Goose, Pink-footed Goose, Shelduck, Mallard, Gadwall, Pintail, Shoveler, Wigeon, Teal, Pochard, Scaup, Tufted Duck, Eider Duck, Common Scoter, Goldeneye, Goosander, Red-breasted Merganser, Green-winged Teal, Pheasant, Red-legged Partridge, Red-throated Loon, Great Northern Loon, Slavonian Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Gannet, Cormorant, Shag, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Red Kite, Hen Harrier, Common Buzzard, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Peregrine, Merlin, Water Rail, Moorhen, Coot, Oystercatcher, Ringed Plover, Golden Plover, Lapwing, Sanderling, Turnstone, Dunlin, Redshank, Black-tailed Godwit, Curlew, Snipe, Black-headed Gull, Common Gull, Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Black Guillemot, Guillemot, Rock Dove, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Kingfisher, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Skylark, Rock Pipit, Meadow Pipit, Pied Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, Dipper, Waxwing, Dunnock, Robin, Stonechat, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Redwing, Fieldfare, Blackbird, Chiffchaff, Goldcrest, Wren, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Willow Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Nuthatch, Treecreeper, Magpie, Jay, Jackdaw, Rook, Carrion Crow, Raven, Starling, House Sparrow, Tree Sparrow, Chaffinch, Linnet, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Siskin, Bullfinch, Reed Bunting, Yellowhammer