Saturday, May 30, 2009

Normality Returns

After my exploits in Canada over the previous 3 weeks life returned to some normality this week with a couple of visits to Brandon Marsh. I arrived on Tuesday to a depleted 'Tuesday Crew' with only myself and TJ in attendance, colds and holidays the main reason for lack of bodies.
Amazing how things have moved on in such a short time with the beautiful bluebells of New Hare Covert now completely spent and the tree canopies now fully in bloom. Nice to see our nesting Lapwings, Little Ringed Plover and Oystercatcher on East Marsh had all hatched successfully and so too had the Great Spotted Woodpecker in New Hare Covert, which were drawing a great deal of attention as both male and female were constantly attending their young.
All the other usual suspects were on view including a pair of Great Crested Grebe, which I was delighted to observe carrying a lone chick on the females back. My birds of the day during my short visit were Hobby and a single Red Kite over Carlton Pool at around 8.45am.
While spending the day aboard Quidditch on Friday, news came through in the late afternoon of a Woodchat Shrike which had been located on Newlands from the Carlton Hide, so I ventured down for a look on Saturday morning.
Arriving around 8.30am I intended to go directly to the the Carlton Hide in search of our rare visitor and it was no surprise that the public car park was almost full! I thought I'd pop my head into the Main Hide as I passed by and found TJ and PB, accompanied by the his lovely wife, scanning the pool. I knew immediately that with these guys sitting here there was no sign of our visitor at Carlton. Sure enough it appeared that our visitor had apparently moved on, as not a single report was forthcoming. Not to be put off I decided to see for myself and spent a good 45 minutes up at Carlton in search and you guessed it, without any joy! Good views of a pair of Cuckoo in the big dead tree though.
Notwithstanding I had a good visit with some outstanding weather and was unfortunate to miss a Spotted Flycatcher at Carlton, which arrived about 15 minutes after I'd left, another one that will go down in the 'Oh Bugger' list. I did however manage a Hobby a short time later and another interesting aspect of my visit was the extraordinary amount of Painted Lady butterflies (pictured) coming through in a breezy easterly wind. Just prior to leaving I also picked up on a Holly Blue, a beautiful tiny little butterfly which immediately caught the eye.
As this is my first summer at Brandon everything Damselfly & Dragonfly is new to me and my first attempt at identification was that of a Banded demoiselle duly helped by the able bodied TJ.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Canada Dream

We arrived back into the UK yesterday after a gruelling 9 hour flight with some very fond memories of our Canada trip and are already planning our return trip for next year. Primarily, our reasons for visiting Canada this time around was to get married but you simply can't help being overwhelmed by the beauty of this amazing country. Both Dee and I have fallen in love and both agree that the Canadian Rockies has some of the most stunning scenery on earth and incredible wildlife to boot!

During my travels I have visited the Masai Mara, Gora Gora Crater and Serengeti Kenya and stood under a cloudless sky at the base of Kilimanjaro, Tanzania, but I'm left in no doubt as to which I have fallen in love with the most!
On our last day in Calgary we took the opportunity to visit the local bird sanctuary, Inglewood, which is located just on the outskirts, next to the Bow River. What an amazing last day we spent at this remarkable reserve.

Upon arrival our first observation of the day was an Osprey circling high above. As we continued our walk, choosing a path which led around the lagoon towards the Bow River, it wasn't long before our bird-log had registered Tree Swallow, Chickadee, American Wigeon and Blue Winged Teal. Dee, who is fast becoming the mammal expert of the team, was delighted to have picked up on the ever present Gopher and shortly before arriving at the river a pair of Mule Deer.
What greeted us at the Bow River was a major delight to me in the form of 30+ Franklin Gull (pictured), which it turns out are a regular here and a bird I'd never seen before! Continuing on we came across a single Spotted Sandpiper and several California and Ringed Bill Gull.

Our path took us away from the river and around to a few very peaceful lagoons, surrounded by a good selection of tree cover, where we came across Gray Jay, Northern Flicker, a very noisy and colourful member of the Woodpecker family, and Western Wood Pewee, which was confirmed to me by a couple of the volunteer wardens we'd met, Marnie and Mick.

At the end of our amazing visit and as it happened the end to our amazing holiday, we'd had an incredible wildlife count which also included, Hooded Merganser, several American Pelican, which arrived during our visit, Merlin and fantastic views of Swainson's Hawk. Dee and I were also delighted to see a lone Beaver swimming back to his lodge and were told, although didn't actually see, a Coyote was on the reserve.

Our list for Canada 2009 can be found Here.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Emerald Lake 19/05/09

We managed to escape from our hotel at Lake Louise this afternoon, having been snowed in for most of the morning. We crossed back into British Colombia from Alberta to visit Emerald Lake, a stunning emerald green natural lake, which unlike Lake Louise is currently unfrozen.

We arrived inbetween the snow showers to a lovely sunny spell and took the 3 mile circular walk around the lake. Shortly after starting out we came upon a pair of Barrows Goldeneye quite close to the shoreline, our second pair since arriving in Canada. The shoreline is covered in Pine, Spruce and Fir trees and the Rockies rise high, up to 10,000ft all around, an inspiring location.

Continuing on, always on the lookout for Grizzly, we soon spotted an American Tree Sparrow, foraging in the undergrowth. No sooner had we noted this little chap our attention was taked by a small Raptor in pursuit of a small bird which burst from the tree ahead. We later identified the small hawk as a Sharp Shinned Hawk, another first for Canada.

Our walk took us on both the east and west side of the lake and the diversity was stunning, with snow still lying to the east and the west completely clear. Passing a small clearance a while later we came across an Osprey nest and managed to spot what I suspect was the male fishing the lake just shortly after.

By the time we'd completed our 2hour walk our bird count had increased with the following. Bufflehead, Common Merganser, Red Brested Nuthatch (library Picture), American Robin, Loon, White Crowned Sparrow, Clark's Nutcracker, Chipping Sparrow, American Coot, Yellow Rumped Warbler and a Least Chipmonk, which my new wife spotted on a log! Another unreal day in the Rockies!!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Banff To Jasper 14/05/09

Today we drove 400 miles through Banff National Park to the town of Jasper and returned to Banff in near blizzard conditions at around 10pm.

During the many stops on route to view the amazing scenery and various lakes our day ended with an excellent view of a Grizzly Bear feeding on the road side!

As you can imagine I'm totally shattered and off to bed but not before I update my blog with today's highlights, while there fresh in my mind.
The first birds of the day were a pair of Barrow's Goldeneye (pictured), a species that was high on my list for Canada and a delight to see. Later we passed close by to the Saskatewan River and to my amazement perched on a small rock mid channel was a lone Bonaparte's Gull at roost! Other birds of note today were, Clarke's Nutcracker, Blue Winged Teal, Loon and Dark-Eyed Junco. What an astonishing day!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


As you are aware I'm currently touring Canada on my holidays, well getting married is the main reason for the visit, but I'm also getting plenty of time for birding.

My 2 day Rocky Mountaineer train journey exceeded all my expectations and I lost count of the amount of Osprey and Bald Eagle I saw during my journey from Vancouver to Banff, Alberta. I'll post a full account when I arrive back into the UK.

I now have an SUV at my disposal and so over the coming week I'll be touring the Banff National Park, the second largest in Canada, so keep an eye on my Twitter located in the side-bar as I'll be updating on route and am really excited about the possibilities!!

Happy Birding from Canada. The picture above is of a Bald Eagle, as if you didn't know!

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Brandon - 3/05/09

Due to a few new commitments, meaning I'm unable to attend Brandon on my regular Tuesday, this will be my last visit to the Marsh before departing to Canada for 3-weeks .

I arrived in the rain and a chillier start than yesterday and took my usual route to the Wright Hide. I'd recently mentioned the fact that I hadn't heard any Water Rail during the past few weeks and so was delighted to hear not 1 but 2 calling from the Newlands reedbed. I also picked up the usual warblers while passing through New Hare Covert, including 2 Garden Warbler.

The highlight from the Wright hide, once I'd settled with a cup of coffee and met up with other members of the Sunday bunch, were 2 Cuckoo in the large dead tree, who then treated us to a flying tour of the East Marsh Pool. I'm not entirely sure if the pair were male and female but it did seem a distinct possibility. A count of 5 Redshank was the most I've ever picked up in one visit to the Marsh and I also ended up with 4 Oystercatcher by the end of my visit, another best record.

On the walk around to the Main Hide we discovered a dead Water Shrew on the path, the second I've encountered on the reserve over recent weeks. However, the most distressing news of the day was the predation of one of our nesting Great Crested Grebes, which I learnt later was seen by a fellow birder, the culprit being a marauding Carrion Crow.

To end today's visit on a more positive note I was delighted to see a couple more families on the reserve, 11 new Mallard ducklings (library Picture) and 4 Greylag goslings! Well that's it from Brandon for the next 21 days but stay tuned as I'm sure I'll have lots to say regarding my Canadian visit, even though it's a non birding trip. If your familiar with Twitter you can find me by typing Boatbirder into google or just keep an eye on the link in the side bar.

Happy Birding

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Brandon & Home - 2/05/09

I received a text yesterday when shopping in Leamington, a Garganey had arrived on East Marsh Pool. I was tempted to travel straight over but unfortunately other commitments prevented me from doing so. Of course as you can imagine, when I arrived on site this morning he was nowhere to be found, a shame really as it would have been a first for me at the Marsh!
With all our regular summer visitors now on site my attention now turns to the more unexpected visitor, as mentioned in my last post. I toured today on my own as JR was ringing in what is known to the regular team as 'Constant Effort', an area deep within the reserve and one that I was not equipped to venture into, deciding to discard my boots for trainers in the beautiful spring weather.
I managed to pick up all the usual species, with the exception of Lesser Whitethroat, Gropper and Hobby, our Common Tern population rose to a count of 11 at one time, joined occasionally by a lone Black Headed Gull, unusual to the reserve at this time of year. Unfortunately I picked up nothing more of note. A good number of butterfly were present with Speckled Wood, Orange Tip, Peacock and Large White. Also on view were a male and female Muntjac Deer (pictured) which casually walked at separate times across Wigeon Bank.
This evening back at the marina I spend a good 90 minutes siting on the pontoon enjoying the evening sunshine and thought I'd have a good scan of what was around from the comfort of my lounger. A Cuckoo was heard from over near Napton Reservoir and our first brood of the year, 11 Mallard ducklings, past by. The sedge Warblers were singing from the reeds and our small Tree Sparrow colony is still on site. Also of note were Common Buzzard, Swallow, Reed Bunting, Willow Warbler and a single Common Tern flew over just prior to me calling it a day.