Friday, February 05, 2016

Diary Entry #13

Spent Thursday with the Brandon Marsh volunteers and worked with a small party willow bashing on the Farm Reedbed. Hopefully before this years breeding season commences most of the invasive birch and willow will have been cleared. While packing the gear away at the tool store a Brimstone butterfly was on the wing, my first species of the year!

Willow bashing on the Farm Reedbed at Brandon!
Today I spent a few hours at Brandon Marsh birding and completed a full species count with 52 seen throughout my visit! Species of note on the Pools included close up views of a ♀Goosander, Little Egret, (16) Pochard, Great Crested Grebe, (4) Shelduck, Pintail pair, Water Rail and a single Little Grebe at Carlton Pool.

♀Goosander having a bad hair day!
Other notables throughout the visit included a single Skylark over, Treecreeper, Nuthatch, (4) Siskin, (2) Redwing, Green Woodpecker, (6) Bullfinch and Kingfisher. Gulls were well represented and in among the hoard of Black-headed Gulls were: (11) Common Gull, (5) Lesser Black-backed Gull and (6) Herring Gull.

Monday, February 01, 2016

Brandon Away-day!

My first 'Away-Day' of the year with the Brandon Marsh Volunteers and my thanks to the Warwickshire Wildlife Trust one again for the use of their minibus, much appreciated. For our first outing I decided to take the guys for a 'twitch' before moving on to the Forest of Dean, where despite some challenging conditions #StormHenry we managed to have a reasonably fruitful outing.

Penduline Tit - Ably photographed by John Osbourne
After the traditional McDonalds breakfast, we are indeed a resourceful bunch, we arrived at our first stop at Horsbere Brook for the long staying Penduline Tits. Having personally visited a few weeks earlier it was a great chance to see these stunning birds for a second time. We had the whole place to ourselves and thankfully it wasn't long before the team enjoyed some excellent views, a lifer for several and getting the day off to a great start. While here several small flocks of Redwing/Fieldfare over and a Chiffchaff also recorded.

Mandarin Duck - Skulking among the debris away from the main pond - Photo by John Osbourne
Next stop the Forest of Dean starting at Cannop Ponds. These are actually a series of manmade ponds and lie, as the names suggests, along the Cannop Valley. Those who know it are aware that's its a great place to see Mandarin Ducks. Despite the apparent lack of these elegant birds on the main pond, which was a little disconcerting, several were soon located in among the debris and fallen trees in the adjacent flooded areas. The site also has an open grass area with benches where birds can be found ground feeding. Here a single Crossbill flew up into the canopy as we approached, unfortunately not relocated and after spending a good hour in the area I personally managed of note: (4) Nuthatch, Treecreeper, Marsh Tit, Song Thrush, Green Woodpecker, (2) Raven over and a distant Mistle Thrush in song.

Nuthatch by John Osborne at Cannop Ponds
Our next stop was New Fancy Viewpoint, formerly the site of the New Fancy coal mine and the old spoil heap now provides spectacular views across the Forest. It is an ideal place to watch birds of prey soaring above the woodland and in particular Goshawk. Sadly we abandoned this shortly after arrival, with #StormHenry now beginning to bite. It wasn't only pointless, it was becoming pretty dangerous too, Fred almost lost his hat for goodness sake!!

Grey Wagtail while visiting Wenchford Picnic Area - photo by John Osbourne
On for lunch at Parkend cricket pitch, where on other visits Hawfinch have been seen feeding at the base of the Yew trees. Unfortunately not today in the conditions and despite high spirits from the team and Sparrowhawk and Buzzard a somewhat despondent birding mood was beginning to descend. However, this was soon swept away, when after moving on to Parkend Church at least three Hawfinch, including a stunning male were briefly viewed before getting blown from the treetops. More Nuthatch here too, along with a stonking ♂Siskin.

A poor but welcome record shot of Dipper at Wenchford, Forest of Dean - by ME!
We abandoned a visit to Symonds Yat, pointless in the high winds and opted to move on through to Ashleworth Ham, but not before stopping off at Wenchford Picnic Site, where Dippers have been a feature. With spirits restored it wasn't long before a single bird was located and thankfully all the team managed excellent views, Fred's first this millennium! A gorgeous Grey Wagtail was also on view and photographed by John Osbourne, my official (unpaid) photographer during the visit!!

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. We spent an hour or so here recording of note (3) Egyptian Geese, (5) Pintail, (5) Snipe and various numbers of Gadwall, Wigeon, Shoveler, Teal and Greylags.

A final stop at Kempsey on route home for Short-eared Owls was uninspiring thanks to #StormHenry and the fish and chips at Alcester were equally so. However, despite the challenging weather conditions a very enjoyable and entertaining day out!

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Diary Entry #12

Visiting friends this weekend in Berkshire so the birding was literally non-existent. However, my first Barn Owl of the year flew over the car yesterday evening as we headed to the M40, the bird seen as we passed the Cropredy turn on the A423, bringing my year list thus far up to 107. Also (5) Red Kites, (2) Kestrel and (2) Buzzard on route home along the A34 this afternoon!

Daniel Dönnecke took this photograph of the redwing that has been spotted in Saanich. (Daniel Dönnecke)
As a point of interest I'd be intrigued to see if any of my birding buddies over in Canada will be making the effort to connect with a Redwing, which is causing a stir over on Vancouver Island. Everything is relative I suppose but the full story can be found HERE.

Off to the Forest of Dean tomorrow for the first Brandon Marsh 'Away-Day' of the year, so looking forward to that!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Diary Entry #11

A single Tree Sparrow on the feeders among the many finches and tits was a lovely sight this morning while having coffee. And if your an aviation enthusiast like me so too the pair of US Air Force F/A 18 Hornets which did a couple of low passes over the marina!

On route to Brandon Marsh for lunch in East Marsh Hide a quick stop at a flooded field I've been monitoring just prior to entering Birdingbury yielded a single Green Sandpiper. At Brandon a Chiffchaff in Horsetail Glade as I passed through and the first Oystercatcher of the year was on East Marsh Pool, a similar arrival date to 2015. A count of (24) Pochard (6♂) was an increase of one since Sunday and others of note included: (2) Little Egret, (4) Shelduck, (2) Great-Crested Grebe, (2 pair) Goldeneye, Water Rail and a single Great Black-backed Gull among the usual hoard. The three Goosander were on site according to others but I never connected today. Fred Stokes reported a drake Mandarin Duck yesterday but no sign today!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Diary Entry #10

After a report of a Barn Owl sunning itself on one of the boxes on Farm Field I've tried a couple of early visits to Brandon Marsh to see if I could connect but to no avail. The last sighting of a Barn Owl at Brandon to my knowledge was way back in June 2015 after the population crash, so a sighting would be most welcome!

Brace of Snipe in the dull conditions at East Marsh Hide!
Not a bad visit this morning with the highlights on the pools: (2) Little Egret on Teal Pool, (3) Goosander, a male and two female on East Marsh Pool, along with (2) Great Crested Grebe , (4) Shelduck, all male and a brilliant count of (23) Pochard, which included four males. A couple of Water Rail were feeding for a long period in the channel and (2) Snipe were also showing well right in front of the East Marsh Hide. At one point a Cetti's Warbler flew from left to right across the gap. Over on Wigeon Bank a female Muntjac Deer passed through, shortly followed by a male. As we passed by the Carlton Ditch a Peregrine was on the hunt overhead and finally a sighting of Willow Tit, having only heard one last week! Lesser Redpoll and Siskin also recorded during the visit and a nice surprise was a Marsh Tit at the Café, which kept coming down for brief visits to the feeders while we were having coffee!

Brambling just above my feeders!
At the marina on Saturday morning while sitting watching my feeders I managed to snap the back end of a Brambling from the window but no sign since!

Friday, January 22, 2016

Diary Entry #9

A brief look around the marina after this mornings rain before heading off to Draycote Water produced an unusual visitor, a Great Crested Grebe. We do occasional get them wandering into the marina, most likely from Napton Reservoir, which is situated on the opposite side of the canal.

Great Crested Grebe - Occasional visitor, probably from Napton Reservoir.
A few hours at Draycote Water this evening to take a look at the gull roost. As luck would have it in the company of John Judge @draycotebirding Keith Barnsley @Peregrinkeith Bob Hazell @bobhazell and Keith Foster. Unfortunately no sign of the recent Glaucous and Iceland Gulls but thankfully John saved the visit with a 2nd winter Caspian Gull. The long staying drake Smew was also viewed offshore of the sailing club!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Diary Entry #8

A cracking pre-dawn sky and -3C before I headed off for a hospital appointment today, so the only birding I managed was late afternoon with a walk around the marina grounds with the big camera. As you would imagine with temperatures in the minus the marina is currently frozen in.

Stunning view as I pulled back the curtains this morning!
A good look at the various feeders didn't throw up anything out of the ordinary with the usual House Sparrows, Blue Tits, Goldfinch, Reed Buntings, Pied Wagtails and even a Moorhen picking up the excess. No sign at all today of any Tree Sparrows.

1st Red Kite of the year drifting northward over the mooring!
Two Ravens heading off towards Napton Hill as I completed my walk, plus a distant perched Buzzard and formations of Gulls heading to the Draycote roost. However, the best was saved until last, when just as I was about to call it a day my first Red Kite of the year drifted over. I managed a few snaps before the bird floated northward.

Regular Reed Buntings in the surrounding reed beds & feeders!

A Moorhen on the garden list!!

Monday, January 18, 2016

Diary Entry #7 Brandon Marsh

Spent quite a productive few hours at Brandon Marsh this afternoon in the company of Derek Bennett. At Grebe Pool (1♂+2♀) Goosander were asleep on the fishing pontoon and (20+) Siskin were feeding in the alder near the 'Saga' sign.

At least (8) Gadwall on Teal Pool
After a long chat with Jim Timms, who I forgot to mention Dee and I bumped into at Horsbere Brook for the Penduline Tits on Saturday, we headed off for Teal Pool Hide. No sign of yesterdays reported Bearded Tits but (8) Gadwall on the pool and a flyover brace of Little Egret, which were heading east. At the East Marsh Hide we spent an hour and had a decent count of (12) Pochard, along with (2) Great Crested Grebe and (5) Wigeon. While still in the hide a Bittern was observed flying from the Carlton Pool across Alban's Reedbed area (formerly Newlands) right to left at 14.30.

A quick visit to the Carlton Hide had a second sighting of the Bittern, which flew up from the far end of the pool before dropping down almost immediately behind the reeds. A brief stay at the Ted Jury Hide was quiet, with the exception of (2♀) Bullfinch and a single Barnacle Goose was feeding on the golf course among the Canada Geese.

Other notables on the walk back to the centre included Great Spotted Woodpecker, a Willow Tit at Carlton Ditch, unfortunately only heard and (4) Lesser Redpoll in the alder at the same spot. The Goosander seen earlier asleep on Grebe Pool were now on the move when we passed by!

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Diary Entry #6

Dee and I had already planned to visit WWT Slimbridge today but as luck would have it a couple of Penduline Tits were still showing well at Horsbere Brook, a short diversion from our route.

One of two PENDULINE TITS at Horsbere Brook today!
We arrived mid morning and weren't surprised to find a large group already there. Once parked in the layby opposite the Premier Inn we were on site within minutes. In fact it only took around 20 minutes or so before the birds appeared, pretty close in as it happens and right in front of our position. Now if all twitches were like that I'd probably be hooked. Cracking little birds, so delicate and stunning and well worth the effort! A Stonechat was also a year 'tick' during our stay.

Another shot of the gorgeous PENDULINE TITS
On to WWT Slimbridge next a place Dee and I enjoy a couple of times a year, always nice to get close up to certain species you'll probably never see in the wild. The Hogarth Hide was well frozen but we did manage a Pink-footed Goose which was mixed in with some Graylag Geese.

Distant record shot of Common Crane today!
At The Zeiss Hide four Common Cranes flew in, soon joined by a fifth but once again the pools were frozen. A Buzzard perched on a distant tree but the majority of birds were well off towards the estuary. Most birds today could be found on the Rushy, Tack Piece and Dumbles with a good selection of waders including: various numbers of Redshank, Oystercatcher, Golden Plover, Lapwing, Black-tailed Godwit, Curlew, (500+) Dunlin and (15) Ruff, a single Little Stint was probably the highlight!

Another record shot - This time White-fronted Geese
On to the Holden Tower and two more Common Crane, plus a good flock of circa 150 Barnacle Geese, along with (5) White-fronted Geese and some large distant flocks of Canada and Greylag. Bewick's Swans numbered around 100 and at one stage a Peregrine caused a few issues.

Bewick's Swans - Always a pleasure to see!
Also of note during an enjoyable visit various numbers of: Pochard, Pintail, Shoveler, Gadwall, Wigeon, Teal and a single Water Rail.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Diary Entry #5

Needed to fuel up the boat and fill the water tanks this morning so didn't get out until after 10am. I decided to stay local today and so took a stroll in the glorious sunshine from the open barn at Granborough as far as Toft Lake. The road closure at Lower Shuckburgh Road was a bit of a surprise!

Lots of Starlings, Redwing and Fieldfare in the surrounding fields and along the footpath double figure Bullfinch in the hedgerows and Goldfinch taking advantage of the teasel. At Toft Lakes a Little Egret took flight and a couple of Buzzard over. On route back to the car a single Snipe was flushed and Linnet and Yellowhammer recorded. Other raptors during the walk included both Kestrel and Sparrowhawk.

A walk this afternoon around the various marina feeders produced the usual Chaffinch and Goldfinch, plus (3) Greenfinch a more unusual visitor here. However, the highlight were (2) Tree Sparrows. Overhead during my walk were the usual Ravens, when (3) went cronking over!