Sunday, December 20, 2009

Full Circle

My final visit to Brandon Marsh today before Christmas and an interesting one too! As you can imagine all the pools are currently frozen so reduced numbers in the way of wildfowl species.

I arrived at dawn on a stunning but bitterly cold morning and caught up with others from the 'Sunday Crew', who I found strategically located overlooking Sheepfield. Three Barn Owls had been spotted quartering before my arrival but I did manage good views of the one that remained. I was lucky enough to see a second later in the morning from the Carlton Hide, which was out of the box in daylight at around 10am. A single Snipe in flight and an estimated 400 Lapwing, also passing by, are worth a mention.

Other sighting of note were 4 Meadow Pipit which flew across Newlands Reedbed on my way through, 2 Water Rail near the sluice and a third which shot across the front of Main-Hide. After leaving the Carlton-Hide, en route for my Full-English breakfast, a flock of circa 30 Golden Plover overflew East Marsh as I passed by the Main-Hide.

After breakfast both JR and I had a good tour of the the 'Tip' area and Farm Pool Reedbed, with some interesting results! Firstly, an extremely light coloured Buzzard, calling from a nearby tree caught our attention, but after dreaming of Rough Legged etc it turned out to be Common, warmed us both up though! Moving on around the perimeter of Farm Pool a Red Legged Partridge took flight from the reedbed, quickly followed by a single Woodcock.

A very rare visitor to Brandon is Yellowhammer (pictured) and JR had one earlier near Newlands, probably the only confirmed sighting on the reserve since 2007! You can imagine our delight when a second bird was heard and briefly seen as we passed through the area near to the farm buildings. Finally, as we made our way back to the Visitor Centre, a second small flock of Golden Plover overflew in the opposite direction from the earlier flock, around another 30 birds, maybe the same flock as earlier?

Well things have come full circle for me at Brandon! I joined the Conservation Team a year ago this week and have experienced some memorable moments over the past 12 months, covered as part of this blog. I've also met some fantastic people around Brandon and wish them and my reader a very Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Breakfast Surprise!

A bitterly cold visit to Brandon today but a nice bird count nonetheless and a breakfast surprise!

Having arrived just before first light my first notable of the day was a Barn Owl which entered the box near the Lafarge Works, just visible in the darkness. As I continued along the path towards Sheepfield, with others from the 'Sunday Club', a Woodcock flew over the top, a bird which seems to be getting more regularly seen on the reserve.

Passing Newlands Reedbed a short while later a second Barn Owl of the day flew East and dropped in near the outermost box. A visit to the Wright Hide and East Marsh Pool produced a single Barnacle Goose, 2 Wigeon, male and female Goldeneye, a half dozen Pochard and an eventual count of 10 Snipe, which were all on Wigeon Bank.

After Carlton Hide, where our earlier Barn Owl had left the outer box to quarter the reed bed for a daylight hunt, we paid a brief and fruitless visit to West Marsh before a Full-English breakfast in the Nature Centre. While tucking into said breakfast, this time accompanied by the wife and others from the Conservation Team, a breakfast surprise on the Nature Centre feeders as a lone Brambling appeared, only my second sighting at Brandon this year. This was indeed birding in comfort as further observations over a second Latte produced Great Spotted Woodpecker, Nuthatch and Coal Tit.

After breakfast a final walk across the 'Tip' area of the reserve produced Green Woodpecker, Redpoll, Bullfinch, Fieldfare and Redwing, now taken to foraging in the undergrowth for wind-fall as the berry yield has almost expired.

Thursday, December 10, 2009


A little breather from blogging over the past 10 days due to other commitments, but I'm back with a spectacular site at Brandon today!

Firstly though I can report another personal siting of Bittern from the West Marsh Hide last Sunday 6th, the first I think I've actually seen on the West side. Also of note and well worth a mention were 2 Otters seen by one of our other Conservation Team members from the same hide last Thursday 3rd, a very rare site and excellent news for the reserve.

Back to today's excitement in the form of a Peregrine Falcon (library Picture). I've seen Peregrine on many occasions but today's was only the 3rd I've recorded at Brandon. However, I'd never seen one take prey until today. As I prepared to take the track across Newlands Reedbed towards today's works location I glanced across East Marsh Pool and noticed everything up and in flight. That normally means one thing and I immediately began my search for the reason, more often than not a Sparrowhawk. Today was an exception and as I watched the 100 or so Lapwing rising ever higher and higher my attention was drawn to the Rapter circling the flock. Just as I located what I immediately recognised as a Peregrine the bird swooped with astonishing speed smashing straight into a Lapwing, feathers flying everywhere. Within seconds the bird had it's prey under control and headed East across the marsh for breakfast, one the most spectacular sites I've encountered thus far at Brandon.

After today's high I must end my post with the sad news regarding the death of one of Brandon's own, Ted Jury at the age of 70. Ted was one of the founder members of the Brandon Marsh Voluntary Conservation Team in 1985, and since 1992 was one of the editors of the Brandon Marsh annual report. I met Ted almost a year ago when first joining the team and spent many hours in the hides at Brandon enjoying his company. I will miss him greatly, god bless Ted.

Ted Jury 1939 - 2009

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Bitterns Everywhere!

A beautiful crisp start this morning at the marina but not enough to freeze over the canal. As I left for Brandon, still in darkness, an eerie moon just setting in the West, I heard several calls from the local Tawny Owls as I made my way down the frosty path. (very poetic!!)

I arrived at Brandon, fully dressed in my thermals, for the second of two Tuesday work party's just before 7am.
With phase 3 of the Newlands reed bed extension unofficially underway we're making steady progress in the cutting back of Willow and Birch in preparation. I say unofficial as the main funding for the project is still to be put in place, but the volunteers need no such encouragement to crack on!

Now that the Autumn migration is complete and the first day of Winter has arrived I guess we can expect a quieter time at Brandon until Spring. Mind you having said that, there continues to be a glut of Bittern sightings on the reserve, including a sighting of 2 birds together today on West Marsh. I personally believe that there are at least 3 birds currently on site. In addition to today's sightings two birds were also sighted together on Newlands on Sunday morning, followed closely by a third on West Marsh a short time later. Of course I missed all three, despite arriving at the crack of dawn for an hour long vigil in the West Marsh hide. Can't complain though as my Bittern sightings ratio remains healthy.

Back to this morning and the unexpected sight of a single Woodcock in flight just before dawn, a great time to see one, unmistakable in silhouette as the bird flew back and forth across Grebe Pool, obviously looking for a good day roost spot. Excellent numbers of Greylag and Canada Geese early on, plus 4 Herring Gull and 17 Lesser Black Backed in among the many Black Headed. Other notable's were 2 Little Grebe on East Marsh and 3 Goldeneye, 2 female and a stunning male (pictured) over in the deep water. Still plenty of Fieldfare and Redwing about, although the berry numbers are depleting rapidly and also several Redpoll and Siskin in flight. A couple of Treecreeper and 2 Coal Tit at the Nature Centre also boosted my numbers for the day!