Sunday, June 28, 2009

Real Tern Up!

Three visits to Brandon Marsh in the past week threw up all the usual species and included a couple of sightings of Muntjac Deer, both female.

On the Tuesday 23rd visit I was also delighted to have stumbled across a Water Rail family, consisting of one adult and four chicks. I can't recall ever seeing Rail chicks before and was amazed at how black they are at this age.
Thursday as usual was the BMVCT work party day and today this also involved my participation in a guided walk of the reserve for the local rotary club. I'm now becoming more involved in these guided walks and as my knowledge of the reserves history expands with every tour I'm becoming quite an expert on Brandon!

My Saturday 27th morning visit began at a very foggy & muggy Brandon but I was rewarded with some excellent birding and on this occasion, after the sun arrived, a good selection of Butterfly, Damselfly & Dragonfly. Today's bird count consisted of Cuckoo, still calling, plus Hobby, Sparrowhawk, three Green Sandpiper and an overfly of East Marsh Pool by a lone Curlew, who decided to pass us by! A walk through Horsetail Glade had Coal & Willow Tit, plus Nuthatch, who I know have successfully nested here. I also came across a Narrow Leaved Hellborine which is a very rare Orchid for the reserve and one which will have to be carefully monitored.

Some good Odanata (Dragon/Damselflies) views of Banded Demoiselle, Black-Tailed Skimmer, Emperor & Four Spotted Chaser and on the butterfly front I picked up on Ringlet, Small White and Comma.

To end this post I must mention the extraordinary 'Tern' of events which resulted in a pleasant surprise, and made our official recorder at Brandon a very happy man! On one day last week I had an excellent opportunity to take a good photograph of a Common Tern, which has decided, along with two others, to use my home at Wigram's Turn Marina as a fishing area. The bird in question is shown above perched on my mooring post! When I sent the photograph out to a few birding colleagues I was amazed to here that JR, our recorder & ringer, had identified the bird by the rings showing on the feet as one which was ringed, (as a chick), at Brandon Marsh in 2007!! An incredible coincidence.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Brandon - 21/06/09

Mid-Summer's day and an early visit to Brandon I arrived at around 6.45am and immediately met up with AW in the carpark. Its amazing to think that this is the longest day and from here on the nights start to draw in, it doesn't seem that long ago I was observing the Siskin and Redpoll in the bare tree canopies!

Back to today and the first notable was a Lesser Whitethroat heard singing in the hawthorn close to the Sheepfield gate, a brief glimpse as it emerged from deep within. A good tour of all the hides ended up with the usual species and the various young, now getting close to adulthood. On the path away from the Wright-Hide we got excellent views of a female Muntjac, which looked as startled as we did when we came across her, AW getting some good photo's.

I could here a Cuckoo calling from over on the West Marsh for most of the morning which I savoured in the knowledge that he will be departing south imminently. Thus far there have been no signs of Cuckoo young on the reserve and indeed no records of the bubbling chuckle of the female.

At Carlton hide I got a good view of Little Grebe young (2) and then later over on the West Marsh more evidence of another brood, difficult to know the numbers as they were well tucked into the vegetation. Another plus during the visit were a couple of Kingfisher, which in an earlier post I had mentioned lack of numbers, good to see more reports and also several reports of young being seen around the reserve.

After the other troops departed myself and Derek, another team member, took the opportunity to have a good look at River Meadow and the Farmfield. On River Meadow we had excellent numbers of Meadow Brown butterfly plus Ringlet, Speckled Wood, Small Tortoiseshell and male and female Banded demoiselle damselfly.

With the lowish cloud dozens of Swift had come down onto the meadow, feeding on the varous bugs and several times we were buzzed by these amazing birds, silent as they wizzed past your ear! At one stage we accidentally spooked a Grey Partridge, my first on the reserve and the first record this year according to JR the official site recorder! Farmfield produced no additions to the species list, with the exception of 6 Goldfinch feeding on the nettles and a Latte in the Nature Centre with Derek ended a really enjoyable visit.

Pictured : Male Banded Demoiselle

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

French Weekend

We arrived back from France last night after a visit to the wife’s parents on what was supposed to be a non-birding break. Their house, situated a short distance from Chauvigny, lies in a small rural village surrounded by fruit orchards and rolling fields of corn and grassland, an Ideal location for some superb wildlife. My first taster of the said wildlife was the Black Redstart which I awoke to each morning singing from atop the telegraph pole opposite.

On a pre-dinner walk through the garden on Sunday evening, picking cherries and as ever binoculars at the ready, my second notable of the trip suddenly appeared and turned out to be a Little Owl, which flew down from a tree and perched on the log pile opposite. Satisfied with my find I returned to the house for our barbecue and certainly wasn’t prepared for my next birding delight!

During dinner we were enjoying good wine, food and conversation and listening to the incredible mating calls of the many Common Green Frogs which grace the area, and of course the incessant noise of Crickets, when out of the blue at the rear of the garden came the unmistakable calls of a Nightjar! My wife’s parents commenting, oh we’ve heard that before, you can imagine my delight on this incredible find.

My unscheduled birding adventure continued the followed day when a 10-minute drive took nearly an hour to complete, having now got the bug. Amazing what you can discover when you stop every time you see a bird perched on the telephone wires, Red Backed Shrike (pictured), Pied Flycatcher and Corn Bunting all within the first half hour, of course by now I'm really going for it!

Over the remainder of our stay Dee and I discovered two excellent nature reserves within a 25-mile radius of her parents house where we spent most of our day, returning back to the house for dinner each evening and the superb gastronomic delights of her dad. The first was Pinail Nature Reserve, which is a mosaic of 3,000 small ponds surrounded by moor and heathland rich in rare flora and fauna. Here we saw more Stonechat and Linnet you can shake a stick at, but the highlight of the visit was a lone Montague’s Harrier which we watched several times gliding gracefully over the heath. Just prior to arriving back to her parents we watched another Harrier, this time a Hen, foraging over fields close to the house.

Our final day (Tuesday) was the discovery of Reserve Naturalle Cherine, which lies within the Brenne National Park, here we managed to visit two of the three hides on offer. We came across a large and extremely noisy colony on Black Headed Gulls and were delighted to see a whole host of other species, which included Black and Whiskered Tern, Black Necked Grebe, Bar-tailed Godwit, Black Winged Stilt, Cirl Bunting and Purple Heron, however the highlight for me was a Great White Egret which drifted like a ghost across the reserve. The drive back to the house yielded Hoopoe, Turtle Dove and Nightingale. Also worth a mention are the other non bird species seen over the course of our break which included Coypu, Fox, Red Squirrel and an extraordinary amount of butterfly activity with Marbled White, Comma, Meadow Brown and Red Admiral in there hundreds!

I dedicate this post to my wife Dee for her unlimited patience!!

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Bradon - 09/06/09

My first full day at Brandon since returning from Canada began at 6.45am with my usual walk through New Hare Covert and the 1st coffee of the day at Wright Hide.
The morning was dank and overcast and so it was really no surprise that by the time the coffee met my lips nothing out of the ordinary had occurred, in fact it was extremely quiet apart from a Cuckoo calling on Sheep Field! Things did brighten up however by the time I arrived at the Main-Hide with a Little Egret on River Pool and Green Sandpiper on Teal.
Although this is my first summer at Brandon it's plain to see that the breeding birds success rate for this year appears to be the best for sometime. In fact having discussed this with other long standing team members over coffee, that fact was confirmed. As we went through the successful breeders the numbers sounded even more impressive with Oystercatcher, Redshank, Little Ringed Plover, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Lapwing, Coot, Common Tern and Sand Martin to name just a few. In fact the Sand Martin is probably the real bonus for us this year as it's the first time we've had nesting birds within the artificial structure, first installed over 3 years ago. I reported in an earlier post the predation of one of our Great Crested Grebe nests but was happy to see that another pair have succeeded in raising a single chick, which being carried on the mothers back this time last week, was actually sitting proudly in the original nest.
A slight concern this year for me, although not to put a dampener on things, is the lack of Kingfisher sightings, as yet unexplained. That said I did see my first at the reserve for several weeks as one came shooting past the River Pool Hide earlier.
After lunch with PB at West Marsh and a visit to the Nature Centre to update my whiteboard I took a walk alone up onto Farm Field in the usual hope of seeing something different. I'm delighted to say that it came, not in the form of a good birding spot but just as pleasurable. As I rounded the path from the Tip area my attention was drawn to what I first though was a Muntjac Deer crashing through the reedbed, only to be surprised by an adult Fox and 2 cubs who were happily playing, oblivious to my presence, just on the peripheral. I watched them with delight as they played for a good 10 minutes before disapperaing from view, a great finale to my day.
It's off to France this coming weekend for a family visit so lets hope I can find time to get some birding in!