Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Brandon - 31/03/09

Last day of the month and a nice settled spell will see March go out like a lamb!
When I arrived at the reserve today, just prior to sunrise, a lovely mist had descended, giving it that real eerie fresh feeling. No JR to start with today but I did locate him a little later busy ringing in his usual spots.
A visit to the Wright Hide prior to meeting up had the usual numbers, a couple of Lesser Black Back Gulls, almost pure white from the front, suddenly appearing through the mist as the sun rose higher. After a quick scan I joined JR and his lovely assistant and helped with the weighing and ringing, before he finally decided to call it a day. It was good to see PB again back on the reserve, boy I've missed him, and it wasn't long before he came up with the goods! Flying high in an easterly direction he picked up, what we can only register as a Tern Species, possibly a Sandwich Tern, but far too high for recognition. We also picked up no less than 4 Sparrowhawks flying above, almost at the zenith.
During the course of our work today, various repairs around the reserve, we were lucky enough to pick up 2 Tawny Owls and a Mistle Thrush, two species which are firsts for me at Brandon this year.
After work we had lunch in the Main Hide and picked up with Monica & Tony, two well known photographers of the reserve, who showed us photographs of the Marsh Harrier seen on Sunday/Monday. The galling thing for me was that I learnt I'd literally just left the hide on Sunday when it appeared, bummer!
During lunch JR picked up on a single House Martin flying low over East Marsh Pool, which we all got site of, the first arrival this year. Strangely enough I only registered around 5 Sand Martin today, and no Swallows, despite good numbers from the last few visits. Finally today, the first Willow Warbler (pictured) was heard singing near New Hare Covert by a fellow birder. On the way back to the car park myself and PB had a walk down, JR had left a little earlier and had heard it, so it wasn't long before we picked it up. It was singing well, and we did get a brief glimpse as it flew from tree to tree, a nice end to a good day. We also observed a Muntjac Deer over near the Sand Martin Bank during lunch.
Back onto the canal system later as we set off for the Welford Arm on the Grand Union Canal, our three yearly bottom blacking is due. Always great to be back out, so lets see what we pick up.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Brandon - 29/03/09

There are many stories about forgetting to put your clocks forward that I won't bore you with! I cleverly put my Iphone an hour ahead before going to bed last night, and set the alarm call for 5am! It wasn't until I'd got up and put the coffee on that I suddenly realised, the damn thing does it automatically at 2am anyway, you work it out!!!

Suffice to say, I was down the reserve before first light, which wasn't a bad thing as I already intended to make use of the darker mornings for an Owl search anyway. The disappointing thing was, I drew a complete blank. I knew I was in trouble when a Stock Dove emerged from the Sheepfield Owl-Box, and the resulting hour I spent on the ridge only yielded 3 Common Buzzard, now the search begins to locate where the 2 Barn Owls have gone.

The East Marsh Pool didn't have anything unusual to offer either, although Sand Martin were once again entering the artificial structure erected by the team. As it was a quiet morning five of the Sunday crew took the opportunity to make a detailed search for the roosting Long Eared Owl reported on Friday, this also drew a blank. As we have no other details on the original siting, it's difficult to establish whether this is a genuine report or not, none of the regulars have seen or heard it.
We took another walk across The Tip and Farm Field in the hope of Stonechat and Northern Wheatear but had to settle for Fieldfare, Kestrel and a Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly out in the morning sun.

After the guys had departed I decided to have my lunch in Horsetail Glade, rather than Main Hide, as it had developed into a lovely spring day. After about 20 minutes of scanning and eating I picked up exactly what I was here for, a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, funny enough in the same tree I'd had it a few weeks ago. With the sun at a bad angle for viewing I was unable to decipher whether it was male or female, nevertheless a LSW it was, thus giving me a trio on the day of Green, Great Spotted and the Lesser, and so I'm off for a nap now a happy and content bear.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Brandon - 28/03/09

A brief report for today at a blustery Brandon as not much has changed since my Thursday visit. Myself and Jim were joined today by Alan, another team member, who I didn't think was capable of getting up that early!! I jest Alan!
More Swallows are starting to appear after the first arrivals on Thursday, we had 2 however, a report for yesterday in the hide book had 10, which seemed a little excessive to me. Also noted in the book was a Bar Headed Goose from a very reliable source, and we were also asked by a couple of other birders if we'd seen a Long Eared Owl! When I asked why, they mentioned that a friend of theirs had a sighting yesterday, we did have a brief sortie in the area mentioned for a roosting bird but came up blank.
Worth mentioning today was an excellent count of 20+ Common Gull on East Marsh Pool, the strong wind possibly a factor, probably the best count for Common this year though, 3 Lesser Black Back were also present for a good part of the morning.
Despite regular attempts to pick up the illusive Lesser Spotted Woodpecker in Horsetail Glade, I still keep drawing a blank, only 1 sighting for me this year and it's just not good enough!! As my school report used to say, Can Do Better!
Our wading trio of Redshank, Ringed Plover and Oystercatcher are still present, and a couple of Grey Wagtails today after my single count on Thursday. We're also still picking up Redwing, Redpoll & Siskin on the reserve. I'm hopeful that our next summer arrival is imminent and I await the first song of a Willow Warbler with baited breath.
**Note to self : Put the clocks forward tonight!!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Brandon Week 27-03-09

Monday 23/03/09 - A triple entry today as I just haven't found the time to update on a daily basis. I spent the whole morning at a very windy Brandon, leaving at around 1pm just prior to the rain setting in. As usual I had a good count of Snipe, around 40+, still amazing for this time of year. I also had a wander onto Sheepfield, being very careful to stay well away from one of our Owl boxes. I spend approximately 20 minutes on the ridge in the hope of Stonechat, or even more optimistically, Northern Wheater, I got neither but I was certain I heard the calls of Meadow Pipit which used to be a regular nesting bird here.
Although the wind isn't great for scouting the wooded and open areas of the reserve, theres always the possibility of it bringing in more unusual visitors, especially on the pools and in particular viewed from the comfort of the hides. On this occasion 5 Pochard dropped in, 2 striking males and 3 female, a not so regular visitor for this time of year and shortly after a couple of female Ruddy Duck. Also on the day, as well as the regular visitors I picked up 2 Ringed Plover and 4 Oystercatcher, ending up with a total species count of 58.

Tuesday 24/03/09 - My usual all day stint and I have to say that despite the forecast the weather was excellent. Meeting up with Jim around 6.45am we had a much more in depth look at Sheepfield and hit on Snipe, plus 3 Meadow Pipit, which confirmed my suspicion having heard them calling yesterday. Moving on to the Wright Hide our first good scan revealed nothing unusual. Jim left the hide around 8am for a short while to meet a friend during which time I picked up on a Little Ringed Plover flying in low onto Willow Island. Unfortunately, by the time we'd met up again at the Main Hide 20 minutes later the little fellow had departed. I can tell you that I took a good ribbing for the remainder of the day from other team members about my imaginary Plover! Shame the latin name for Little Ringed Plover is Charadrius dubius!
Later in the day we had a not so regular visitor to the reserve, a sudden uplift of Gulls and Lapwing from Willow Island usual means a glance upward and this time it produced a Curlew, which after a quick tour of East Marsh Pool soon settled. Today produced good numbers of Sand Martin, whom I'm forever scanning in search of the first Swallow or House Martin of the year. At one time we also had 5 Common Buzzard in view from the Carlton Hide, a bird which less than a decade ago would have been a great spot at Brandon. The usual Cettis Warbler, Water Rails and Little Grebes were also evident, as were Chiffchaff, which you can now hear singing all over the reserve.

Thursday 24/03/09 - Thursday as ever is work party day at Brandon and as usual I arrived early in anticipation of picking up something different. Our early tour of the reserve drew a blank with the exception of Derek, who for the second Thursday in a row had picked up on the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker in Horstail Glade. Note to self! Follow Derek everywhere!! Over lunch in the Main Hide we picked up on 2 Ringed Plover and the first early Barn Swallow swooping low over Willow Island.
After work had finished myself and 2 other members of the team, including Derek, had a final tour of the reserve and picked up 2 additional Barn Swallows and a Grey Wagtail, which was bobbing around on the south raft, no Lesser Spotted Woodpecker though!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Various - 21/03/09

Over the past few days I've stayed local, plus my usual Thursday and Saturday visits to Brandon. Thursday is the conservation team's work party day and as always I arrived early for some birding. Unfortunately, the weather played it's part and the reserve was literally fogged in until around 10am when the fog lifted to produced a beautiful spring day. Chiffchaff, constantly singing from New Hare Covert, a White Fronted Goose, which flew over Swallow Pool while we were attacking the usual Willow invasion were the birds of the day, plus Sand Martin, which have now arrived in numbers. After the team's debrief I had a final scout around the reserve with Alan picking up a couple of Kingfishers at Carlton Hide.
Wigram's Turn - I'm delighted to see that the 2 Tree Sparrows at the marina have now grown to 12 and we now have a nice little colony flying around. I'm also convinced that I have a Long Eared Owl on my home patch, having heard it's booming hoot twice before dawn on consecutive mornings. Time will tell as I go on a mission to locate him, or her! Reed Buntings are now quite common within the marina grounds, as are Pied Wagtail which are always knocking around, Yellowhammer singing from the tree tops are also an occasional treat. Our Buzzard population stands at 4 definite's and are both possibly breeding pairs, I'm just waiting now for our first Willow Warbler to arrive on site.
Napton Reservior - I paid a quick visit on Friday evening but as usual I was somewhat disappointed. The highlights being a single Chiffchaff, pair of GC Grebe and a couple of Little Grebe calling from the reed bed, perhaps one day Napton will surprise me.
Despite promising much today Brandon produced nothing out of the ordinary however, I did pick up a couple of Linnet on Sheepfield, which are a year-list first. One extreme positive though was the site of several Sand Martins paying particular attention to our artificial nesting bank, 2 birds actually flew in to investigate which is extremely encouraging.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Brandon - 17/03/09

Having picked up Sand Martin and Chiffchaff over the last few days I was hoping that the spring arrivals would continue today at Brandon. Redshank is one particular species that should definitely be on site by now, but we still have no records for this year. Meeting up with Jim at around 6.45am it wasn't long before we picked up a singing Chiffchaff in New Hare Covert, as for Redshank we needn't worry any longer as a single bird had arrived and was feeding on Willow Island.
A further scan of East Marsh Pool revealed a huge count of 55 Snipe, plus 3 Shelduck and among the other usual suspects of Shoveler, Tufted and Canada we noted a couple of Lesser Black Back Gulls, which could possibly be a mating pair. A single female Pochard was also present with a few Gadwall and Greylag adding to the count. We also picked up 6 Great Crested Grebes at various spots within the reserve and the regular 2 Oystercatcher flew in around mid-morning.
At Brandon you can always hear Little Grebes and Water Rail calling from within the reed beds but toaday I was lucky enough to site 1 Water Rail and 4 Little Grebe, now looking dapper as they come into summer plumage. It's also good to see evidence that Nuthatch and Tree Creeper are once again nesting within the reserve.
Having split with Jim at lunch myself and Alan, another member of the conservation team, decided to take in the Carlton Hide, Horstail Glade, The Tip and Farm Field. At Carlton we got off to a good start with good views of Kingfisher but we drew a blank in Horstail for Lesser Spotted Woodpecker. The Tip threw up the usual regulars with Green and GS Woodpecker, Goldfinch, always feeding on the Teezle, Reed Bunting and the usual Finches and Tits. At farm field we had Kestrel and a quick scan of the fence posts came up with a lone female Stonechat, my first at Brandon this year. I also came across a dead Water Shrew, which had obviously fallen foul of a local Raptor and my bird species count for today was 59 which included Sand Martin, which I'd failed to detect on my previous visit.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Brandon - 16/03/09

I know I said I was having a few days birding break but when I saw the weather forecast for today I just couldn't resist.

When I arrived at Brandon at dawn the sky was clear and a mist had descended across
Sheepfield, my first stop. I'd actually come early to try and pick up on a Short-Eared Owl, which had been seen on numerous occasions in mid February but not since. I know that Short-Eared also hunt in the day but I also wanted to check out the Barn Owls which are regular here. After an hour's search, no sign of the Short-Eared but I got good views of the Barn Owl and a wonderful sunrise.

My next project of the day was going to be a search for Chiffchaff and Redshank, both of which should be on the reserve by now. I had information that a Chiffchaff had been heard but not seen yesterday, so my search was on in earnest. By 10am I'd completed my usual walk through New Hare Covert and had visited the Wright Hide, unfortunately not picking up anything unusual, although there were excellent numbers of Snipe, 43 in total. I had my morning coffee in the Main Hide and got chatting with a chap called Richard who lives just by Spaghetti Junction (M6), he'd picked up a dozen Waxwing literally outside his bedroom window earlier and was on a high! Chatting for a while longer he also told me that he'd heard a Chiffchaff down by Grebe Pool just after arriving, typical I thought.

My next stop was Carlton Hide, which was very quiet, no sign either of our Bittern, which I'm certain has now departed for the Summer back to Northern Europe, I personally have not had a sighting in over 2 weeks.

Shortly after leaving Carlton I was delighted to pick up my first Chiffchaff (pictured) of the year, who was happily singing away in trees just outside the hide, another Brandon tick for my year-list! By the end of my visit I finished with 3 Chiffchaff in all but still no Redshank. I met up with Richard once again during my visit and we both spent a good while in Horstail Glade searching for the Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers which I'd picked up on Thursday, today without success.
There are also a good few bees around now, one particular Bee I got a good look at in Horsetail was a Pratorum male, a common small species which emerges in early spring. I also picked up an early Peacock butterfly which was enjoying the spring sunshine. Some highlights of my bird count today were:- Great Spotted Woodpecker (3) - Willow Tit (2) - Treecreeper (4) - Nuthatch (3) - Oystercatcher (2) - Great Crested Grebe (4) - Sparrowhawk (2)
The 3 pair of Goldeneye that were here recently appear to have gone, plus no Sand Martin for me today after the 4 I picked up on Saturday. Plenty of Cettis Warbler heard plus Little Grebe and Water Rail but no sightings.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Brandon - 14/03/09

Back to my favourite place this morning with another 6.30 am start.
A quick post today as I'm going to have a couple of days birding rest and a definate sleep in tomorrow!

I met up with JR, (our official Brandon recorder), at the gate entrance and once parked we made our way to the Wright Hide through New Hare Covert, where a Great Spotted Woodpecker was happily drumming away. The usual stuff was showing and calling but as we approached the hide we heard the distinct call of a Curlew, a not so regular visitor to Brandon. Making a quick phone call to a fellow birder, who we knew to be already in the hide, we quickly confirmed a Curlew on Willow Island. As we tentatively approached the hide, scanning but trying not to spook our Curlew a Sand Martin flashed past my field of view, which JR immediately verified, thus confirming the first Martin arrival at Brandon for this year. Spring has officially begun! Remarkably though, as we reached the hide and opened the flap, the Curlew had flown, unusually quietly for a Curlew, which was a bummer as I was hoping for a second quick tick of the day for my Brandon year-list.

By the time I left the reserve after lunch at the cafe and a final scout around Horstail Glade for the Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers I'd picked up a further 3 Sand Martin. Also of note today were :- Snipe (44), Kingfisher, Green Sandpiper, Oystercatcher (2), Tree Creeper (2), Nuthatch, Siskin, Redpoll, Fieldfare, Water Rail, Sparrowhawk (2), Green Woodpecker and at least 4 Buzzard.
On arrival back at the marina I was also delighted to see that the 2 Tree Sparrows I'd spotted on March 9th were still visiting the bird feeder.
(Picture of Sand Martin from RSPB data)

Friday, March 13, 2009

Draycote - 13/03/09

Once again myself and Alun, another Brandon Team Member, took time out to visit the nearby Draycote Water. Since our last visit on March 4th nothing seems to have changed on the web listings other than the addition of 2 Sand Martins. That didn't make us feel good as we are still awaiting our first Martin at Brandon. We also failed miserably to locate the Red Necked Grebe on our previous visit, which we knew beyond doubt was here somewhere, so that was obviously one of our tasks for today!!
Shortly after arrival and with a feeling of de' sha vue, we again bumped into Bob Hazell, Bob obviously spends as much time at Draycote as I do at Brandon, we immediately got the lowdown of what and where. Whilst chatting away Bob received more intelligence via a telephone call from Lee Johnson, in relation to a Merlin which he'd just seen flying across from Toft Bay, Lee runs the blog for Shustoke Reservoir, we met up with him a little later in the day.
After having coffee in the hide our list had already grown with the usual hits, including Green and Great Spotted Woodpecker, 30+ Wigeon, good numbers of Great Crested Grebe and a few Fieldfare, Redwing and Siskin still hanging around.
Walking along Toft Bank and still scanning for Merlin we picked up 4 male Goosander, always a pleasure to see. As we approached Farborough Spit, which is where Bob had earlier seen the Red Necked Grebe, we began our, what can only be described as, very determined search! Suffice to say that after much debate and several mirages we finally got a tick on the Red Necked Grebe, WooHoo!!
Shortly before lunch at Rainbow Corner we'd sighted several Meadow Pipit and a single Great Northern Diver (pictured), ending on up on the day with 3 in total. By the time we reached Lin Croft Point we'd had several more Goosander and for the second visit in succession a single Rock Pipit. The wind had picked up quite sharply by this time and so we completed the 5-mile round trip earlier than expected with the addition of Blackcap, Treecreeper and Reed Bunting. Our final species count for the day was 52, no Merlin or Sand Martin were on the list!
Napton Reservoir - On my way home I dropped in at Napton for a brief local sortie. The usual stuff was present but with only 1 Great Crested Grebe in sight. A walk down to the bottom reed bed came up with 2 Little Grebe calling, Sparrowhawk and I flushed what I'm listing as a Common Sandpiper, because it flew off so damn fast I had little chance of any further recognition! What was even more disappointing though is that a rather grand Oak, which normaly holds several Finches or Tits, had been brutally reduced to stumps by the ever thoughtful Environment Agency, who in my opinion continue to ruin this poorly managed site.
Still I'm cheered up by the call of our resident Tawny Owl who I can here through the boat hatch window as I write this post.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Brandon - 12/03/09

Thursday at Brandon is work party day and as always I arrived around 6 am to get some early birding in. Nothing unusual on arrival at Wright Hide, although I got some good views of a Kingfisher perched at Swallow Pool. The Cettis Warblers were calling well from Newlands, as they often do and I'm sure I caught a few brief notes of a Skylark in the distance.

Taking my normal route I arrived at the Carton Hide and picked up a couple of Little Grebes, now beginning to show their summer plumage and could clearly hear Water Rails deep within the reed bed to my right.

As mentioned in previous posts we still await the imminent arrival of Sand Martin and the first singing Chiffchaff, Redshank are also late to arrive this year with no sightings thus far!

En route to the work party meeting place several of the team members decided to take in Horsetail Glade in search of Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, which from several reports, we knew to be around. Having almost passed through the glade, picking up Treecreeper and Nuthatch on the way, we were suddenly aware of drumming from close by. Usually located by its call, and its drumming, which is somewhat faster than the Great Spotted, we knew immediately that we were in with a shout! After a frantic scan we were presented with some fantastic views of a pair, which were at tree top level. The male is distinguished from the female by his bright red crown and on this occasion it was clear to see that we'd located a pair. A quick phone call to another member of the team, who had been searching earlier alone, sent him scurrying to our location, the sighting was certainly the highlight of the day.
Having completed our tasks and had our de-brief over tea, myself and two other members of the team had another tour of the reserve in search of the imminent arrivals, but still no joy. We did however pick up a large flock, probably 100+, of Golden Plover a way off in the distance from the Main Hide plus several Buzzard, but having had the Lesser Spotted we left fully content with our days work, Dracote Water for me tomorrow!!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Brandon - 10/03/09

A wet and early start to the day for my usual Tuesday stint at Brandon Marsh, along with other members of the conservation team, Tuesday is our main birding day.
Comparing the recorded sitings from recent years we had a good feeling about today. The same week last year produced the first arrivals of Sand Martin and Chiffchaff and so today all ears were awaiting the melodious chiff, chaff, chiff, chaff of the first bird. As well as recording the usual suspects and listening for our Chiffchaff from the shelter of the main hide, all eyes were also scanning in anticipation of a Sand Martin arrival, one has already been seen at the nearby Draycote Water.
Excellent numbers of Snipe on Willow Island today with a count of 42. A single Pochard is still on site with no Wigeon sitings for a good 10 days and I only managed a count of 4 Gadwall, which were over on Teal Pool. However, there are still good numbers of Shoveler, Teal and Tufted, the later of which will remain all year round. Our regular wintering Bittern hasn't been recorded for several days and I'm beginning to wonder if that's the last we'll see until next winter. Before moving on to the Carlton hide we picked up a pair of Kingfisher, White Fronted Goose, Sparrowhawk, Buzzard, Goldeneye, Shelduck, Water Rail and as well as the usual hoard of Black Headed Gulls, also logged Lesser Black Back, Common and Herring.
Arriving at the Carlton Hide we were greeted by a Green Sandpiper, probably the same one I picked up last Saturday, 2 Little Grebe and yet another Sparrowhawk.
There have been reports over the previous two Sundays of Lesser Spotted Woodpecker activity over on the West Marsh and so moving across for a brief vigil in the designated area, which ended in a blank, we took lunch in the West Marsh Hide. Here we were treated to some excellent views of a 50+ flock of mixed Redpoll/Siskin foraging in the Alder. At one stage one tree contained Long Tailed Tit, Tree Creeper, Redpoll and Siskin! We also had 2 more Buzzard and yet another Sparrowhawk. A really good day for raptors!
We also had an amazing count of no less than 10 Great Crested Grebe across the reserve, they have an elaborate courtship display in which they rise out of the water and shake their heads, we were lucky enough to witness this on several occasions. My final birds of note, apart from the usual Tits and Finches, also included Willow Tit, Goldcrest, Cettis Warbler, Fieldfare, Redwing, Green Woodpecker, Great Spotted Woodpecker and a single Muntjac Deer was seen over on the Farm Field. Oh! You guessed it, no Sand Martins or Chiffchaff were located but all in all a really good days birding.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Ufton - 09/03/09

A quick tour this morning of the marina bird feeders before leaving to complete my weekly shop came up trumps with a pair of Tree Sparrows happily feeding away. I was amazed and delighted when on close inspection the 2 visitors were revealed! The feeders also produced the usual Tits and Finches plus a Reed Bunting feeding off the overspill. The constant call of our resident Great Spotted Woodpecker left me in no doubt that he was around somewhere too.
On route to do my weekly shop at Asda I have, for the first time, paid a visit to Ufton Fields Nature Reserve, which in fact is only around 6 miles from the marina. The 31.8 hectare reserve is owned by Warwickshire County Council whose Countryside Ranger Service ensures that it can be enjoyed by anyone. The land is leased to Warwickshire Wildlife Trust who manage the reserve for wildlife and public access.
Having completed the 2.1 km trail I found the reserve reasonably quiet, mind you early afternoon isn't the best time for birding and it was quite windy too. I found the reserve well maintained however, the disappointing thing for me was that the local dog walking population appear to have complete disregard for the rules and regulations, which clearly state that dogs must be kept on a lead at all times. In fact at one stage of my walk I was accosted by a Boxer, dog that is, not a person.
I found the walk quite pleasant but revealed nothing out of the ordinary, with decent numbers of Redwing and Fieldfare still around. I also managed to pick up a couple of Buzzards, a small flock of Goldfinch and also noted Green and GS woodpeckers. The pools revealed nothing other than several Coots.
On my return to the marina, laden with the weeks shopping I got some good views of a large flock of around 50+ Redwing which had dropped in but by now my thoughts were only of Tree Sparrows!

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Brandon - 07/03/09

After being rudely woken at 5am by several Mallard feeding off the boat hull, sounds like a woodpecker drumming on metal, I decided to pay an impromptu visit to Brandon. Once I'm awake I'm awake!

I arrived just after 6am to the usual chorus of Song Thrush and made my way to the Wright Hide, a GS Woodpecker was drumming away in New Hare Covert and I'm positive I saw a Hare dart across the golf course. If indeed it was, this would be a rare and unusual siting for Brandon.

The East Marsh Pool delivered it's usual selection which included a single White Fronted Goose, normally in among the other Greylags but today on it's lonesome. Assuming of course it was the same bird often seen here! My count of Snipe on Willow Island yielded 28 in total, 4 Shelduck were present, 3 male and a single female and 2 Oystercatchers arrived a short time later onto Lapwing Island. At this point I had no counts of Goldeneye, in the knowledge that 3 pairs are currently on site, there was also a single Barnacle Goose on view. Before leaving the hide 2 Kingfisher flashed across into the bank to my right, followed by a single bird a few minutes later. On my walk around to the Carlton Hide several Siskin were feeding in the treetops and popping into the Teal Hide briefly I picked up another pair of Shelduck, making a total of 6 for the visit.

The Carton hide count was 2 Little Grebe, Water Rail, Sparrowhawk, another Kingfisher, which seem to have suddenly reappeared from the estuaries and rivers, and a Willow Tit feeding within the bramble, in addition I also located 2 more Snipe on the Island making it 30 for the day.
Arriving at the main hide and meeting up with a couple of the other Brandon team members we picked up a Common Gull amongst the usual Black Headed and hearing a Green Sandpiper calling from behind, popped back into Teal Hide to find him on the bund, my first this year. A later scan of East Marsh Pool also located all 6 Goldeneye I'd missed earlier. How did I manage that!!
In addition, plenty more Reed Bunting are now starting to appear, a quite striking bird but with a rather bland call and I also heard 7 Cettis Warbler, 2 of which I caught site of during my visit.
On the way home I came across a decent flock of Golden Plover at Birdingbury and arriving back to the marina around 11.30am for my Full-English was greeted with a singing Skylark and our regular Buzzards calling from the distance.
Not a bad haul considering it was an unplanned visit.
(Green Sandpiper Library Picture)

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Draycote - 04/03/09

My birding week continued with a visit to Draycote Water, although quite local to me a site I haven't visited for around two years. Our main targets today, having visited the Draycote website were, Red Necked Grebe, Great Northern Diver, Glaucous Gull and Smew.
I eventually met up with Alun Lunn, another member of the Brandon Team at around 10.20am, having found his directions to the meet up point somewhat spurious, (it's a left Alun not straight on!!).

Upon arrival we began our visit at Toft Shallows, encountering a Green Woodpecker and 20+ Wigeon feeding on the bank as we made our way east towards the hide. On first impression there appeared to be a real shortage of wildfowl on view, probably due to last nights rain and strong winds, the reservoir depth looked quite high too. After a good scan of the locality we discovered a good amount of Great Crested Grebe skulking beneath the over hanging trees, plus a good count of Goldeneye, eventually coming across a striking looking male Smew, always a pleasure.

After a quick coffee we continued south towards Toft Bank noting a good few Little Grebe, Gadwall and Tufted duck. Having had a quick chat with a fellow birder we were made aware that the Red Necked Grebe had been seen earlier at Farborough Bank. Unfortunately, as we approached the bank a number of boats had set out scattering the birds in the immediate vicinity, probably taking the Red Necked with them.

Heading on passed the sailing club our numbers had increased picking up Greylag, plenty of Pied Wagtail and the ever present Robin. Our vigil for the Red Necked Grebe continued until eventually deciding to have lunch at Saddle Bank. I have to say that today's weather was beautiful despite the bitter wind. With the protection of the trees and the sun, now getting ever higher and more powerful, lunch on the bank was idyllic and also quite lucrative with Buzzard, Skylark, 12 Goosander and a Great Northern Diver. During lunch we met up with a chap called Bob Hazell who we discovered practically visits Draycote daily and picked up on his perspective of the site. He also made the comment that he'd never seen it so quiet for this time of the year.
Reluctantly, as by now I had stripped off several layers in the warm sunshine, we moved on. With Bob's input we were left with a slight dilemma of backtracking, as Bob believed the Red Necked Grebe had probably cut back across to Toft Bay, or continuing on and taking our chances. We continued on!

As we walked to the west of the reservoir towards the Valve Tower we got good views of the Goosander, 2 Great Northern Diver and also picked up ChiffChaff, Kestrel and an unexpected Rock Pipit.
By the time we'd completed our full circle, unfortunately without the illusive Red Necked Grebe, we'd had the usual Tits, Finches, Crows and Rooks plus Redwing and a nice male Blackcap.
Finally it was time to check out the Gull roost which had been growing ever larger as we progressed around. Plenty of Black Headed as you would imagine, Lesser Black Backed, Common and Herring but nothing out of the ordinary and certainly no Iceland or Glaucous. On the way back to the cars we picked up a number of House Sparrow! I'd forgotten what they look like.
A slow start to the day and hard work to begin with but extremely enjoyable and we did get 50% of our targets, a total of 45 species, including a few unexpected hits as well, plus the weather was extremely kind.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Brandon - 03/03/09

Another early start for me today arriving at Brandon at 6.25am. With the weather looking threatening for the early afternoon I though I'd start early and finish early, no point in getting soaked! No sign of the Barn Owls today but with the mornings getting lighter earlier I suppose I'm just arriving slightly too late.

My morning progressed taking my normal route with the usual Cetti's Warbler, Water Rail and Little Grebe calling from Newlands reed bed. On arrival at the Wright Hide I picked up the usual stuff plus a single Oystercatcher and 4 Shelduck. Pochard are now beginning to dwindle on the reserve and I only picked up a single on the East Marsh Pool. The 2 Goldeneye pairs which have been with us for a while are still on site but no sign of Ringed Plover and you may have expected by now the odd Redshank but again no sign.

The walk around to the Carlton Hide was uneventful apart from a single Coal Tit but a great view of no less than 5 Bullfinch in one tree, 3 female and 2 male was a site to behold and certainly brightened up the day. A couple of Buzzards were also seen across towards the River Avon and just prior to leaving a pair of Little Grebe appeared, now beginning to show distinct signs of summer plumage.

Having had my mid-morning coffee in the Main Hide I was just about to leave and join up with another member of the team to complete some bird box maintenance when the Bittern suddenly appeared in the reeds in front and took flight across to Newlands. I'm not a great believer in gloating but what the hey! I've now seen the Bittern on no less than 22 out of 24 visits to the reserve this year. However, my gloating was short lived when I fell arse over tit while carrying a ladder across to one of the boxes we were maintaining a short while later!! That will teach me.

Having completed our maintenance and had lunch in the Main Hide we had a quick walk across to 'The Tip' area in search of the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker which was picked up on Sunday. No sign I'm affraid to say but we did pick up 14 Redwing and a small flock of around 12 Goldfinch.
With the rain setting in and the wind picking up we decided to venture back to the Nature Centre Cafe for a milky coffee. Over coffee and unbelievably the highlight of the day was watching at close range, through the cafe window, the site of a Sparrowhawk chomping away on a Feral Pigeon which we think had flown into the window.

At the days end I'd heard a total of 6 Cetti's Warbler and 2 more Oystercatchers had dropped in to the East Marsh Pool. Also of note but not mentioned in my post were, 2 Nuthatch, 1 Treecreeper, 10 Snipe, 1 White Fronted Goose and a brief glimpse of a Water Rail as it disappeared into the reeds in front of the Main Hide. 2 Collared Dove over the Main Hide are also worth a mention as they are very rare to the reserve.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Brandon - 02/03/09

Dropping my better half off @ Birmingham Airport this lunchtime gave me a perfect opportunity to drop into Brandon Marsh for a couple of hours birding on the way home.
Of note were 4 Shellduck, 2 Oystercatcher and 4 Goldeneye (2M + 2F) on the East Marsh Pool. Both Goldeneye pairs were displaying in front of the main hide.
Had a great view of the Bittern as it flew back across to Newlands from the reeds in front of the main hide at 15.15, much to the delight of several other visitors.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Brandon - 01/03/09

Pinch punch it's the 1st of the month! Due to attend a meeting today at Brandon Marsh I thought I'd rise early and get some more birding in beforehand.
After leaving my boat at around 6.15am I was greeted by a Tawny Owl calling from the field adjacent to my mooring, we regularly get Tawny's here at Wigram's. Walking down the path to the car park my first birds of the day were Reed Bunting and Wren foraging in the reeds and Chaffinch and Song Thrush singing from the Hawthorn.

I arrived at Brandon at around 6.50am, just slightly too late to catch a glimpse of the Barn Owls but was delighted to here and see several Song Thrush, once again singing in and around New Hare Covert. It was noticeably colder this morning and I knew straight away that I hadn't put enough layers on!
After continuing on my normal route past Newlands Reedbed I heard Cetti's Warbler, Little Grebe and a couple of Water Rail calling from deep within the reeds. Entering the Wright Hide and having my first scan of East Marsh Pool I picked up 2 Ringed Plover, 3 Oystercatcher as well as an excellent number of Lapwing, 124 were counted by another team member who was present. The usual ducks & geese were on view in addition to 4 Goldeneye (2M 2F) and a lone Barnacle Goose. A Kingfisher came flashing past at one stage but I only heard it as it went wizzing by! Also in my count were Great Crested Grebe, Grey Heron, 3 Shelduck and 9 Snipe. No sign of Wigeon today and our two recent Cape/Australian Shelduck hybrids appear to have vacated.

The Carlton Hide added to my numbers and produced Reed Bunting and a male and female Bullfinch, always a delight to see.
Once in the Main Hide I took a good scan of the many Black Headed Gulls and yielded Immature Lesser & Great Black Back, plus a single Common. On my way back to the visitor centre for my meeting I decided to take the route through Horsetail Glade in the hope of catching Lesser Spotted Woodpecker but the Glade was extremely quiet apart from a short burst of song from a Mistle Thrush. I arrived for my meeting a shivering wreck and no sign of the Bittern for me today, although other members of the team got a sighting shortly after I'd left the Main Hide! Typical!!

The highlight of the day was to come on my way back to the car around 12.20. As I was just about to drive up the main track to the gate several birders were definitely interested in something which on inspection turned out to be a Peregrine Falcon, a first for me at Brandon this year. Although I watched it for a good five minutes I never really got any good views as it remained extremely high for the duration.
Arriving back to Wigram's Marina at about 1.15 our 2 regular Buzzards were circling to the East.