Saturday, February 27, 2010

Good Timing!

You know when you wake up at 5.45am and the rain is battering down on the roof and you just simply turn over and go back to sleep!

I finally left the boat, having slackened my mooring ropes, at 8am with the rain now light and bearable. On the flooded path down to the car park I was delighted to hear a Skylark singing high up and as I reached my car a Yellowhammer was also in full song at the top of an Alder.

I arrived at Brandon Marsh this morning at around 8.30am and made my way straight down the East Marsh path, where 2 Cettis Warbler were calling, to the big hide. The River Avon is slowly progressing into flood and so as you would imagine River Pool is inaccessible and Teal Pool is on the brink of over flow. It turns out though that my timing was impeccable. About 15 minutes after my arrival a single Bittern emerged from the left reeds and walked slowly across the whole span of open ground in front of the hide, disappearing into the right hand reed bed a short time later, probably my best ever view of a Bittern!

With the Bittern sighting in the bag and the rain now history a walk around the reserve was next on the agenda. New Hare Covert produced a Goldcrest in one of the Scots Pine, my second of the year, and after a walk through Horstail Glade, where a Nuthatch was calling, we headed across the Tip area. The walk around Farm Field back to the Nature Centre produced Kestrel, Common Buzzard and around 15 Chaffinch in a small flock. After a bacon sandwich in the tearoom and a catch up on species of the day other notables on East Marsh were, 1 Water Rail in the gap, 1 Sparrowhawk which sent everything skyward, 2 Shelduck and **2 Oystercatcher, which were seen before I arrived, but I did have them myself on Tuesday.

The final string to the bow for the day was a female Stonechat (pictured) which was siting patiently on the bramble on Top Reed Bed as myself and JR returned to our cars in the main car park, only my 3rd sighting on the reserve.

**3 Oystercatchers were reported on site on Wednesday!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Wet, Wet, Snow!

As I'm compiling this post in beautiful sunshine and a crystal clear blue sky I'm briefly interrupted as I spot 12 Golden Plover over flying the boat, their lovely golden colouring sparkling in the sunshine.

A completely different story to the past week were it seemed that every time I went out into the field the heavens opened and soaked me to the bone!

I suppose the best day of the week was Tuesday when we managed to shift around 3 tons of sand across to the Sand Martin structure in preparation for the forthcoming season. Nothing really of note to report at Brandon though on the birding front.

Wednesdays planned visit to Draycote Water with other members of the Conservation Team turned out to be a complete washout. We began at 8am prompt in the early morning fog, which did eventually lift, only to be followed a short time later by torrential rain. Bird of the day turned out to be a single female Goosander, not the best day I've ever had at the water. It appears though that one of the team had a good end to the day as driving home through the village of Granborough he came across the recently showing Great Grey Shrike, just sitting in the tree he tells me as he passed the footpath gate in his car! A final note on Draycote interestingly enough is that it appears I wasn't the only individual to locate 3 Common Scoter there last Sunday according to the Draycote sightings list.

Thursday at Brandon started off with promise with one of the Bitterns showing well in front of the East Marsh Hide early on, followed quickly by a Water Rail. Also showing on East Marsh Pool were 4 Shelduck, 7 Snipe, a female Goosander and a lone Barnacle Goose. However, the arrival of the first Oystercatcher (pictured) of the year was a good sight to behold, Spring it appears is approaching fast. Unfortunately the day ended in a complete whiteout, as around another 3 inches of snow was dumped on us once again and all hopes of spring disappeared!! In fact as I rap up this post it seems more snow is forecast to hit overnight.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Quality Time!

With my chores done for the day I thought I'd have some quality time and spend a few hours alone down at Brandon Marsh. It seems that whenever I visit Brandon these days I try to cram in a couple of hours birding with the other chaps before work starts, and rarely get the time to just sit, listen and watch.

The weather wasn't the best for birding with little movement, but I ended up with a creditable 48 species. A walk through Horstail Glade to West Marsh Hide produced very little in the rain, the best I could manage was a Nuthatch calling, but when I arrived at Teal Pool things started to look up. At the very back of River Pool I could make out through the murk the distinct shape of a Bittern, who in fact ended up staying in the same place for gone 90 minutes. A short while later a second bird came out of the reeds behind and took flight towards Carlton Pool, 2 Snipe are also worth a mention.

An hours vigil in the Big Hide produced of note male and female Shelduck, 7 Wigeon, 163 Lapwing, 7 Pochard and 8 Snipe, plus during my stay I heard 2 Water Rail and a couple of Cetti's Warbler calling from within the reeds. The only Buzzard of the day flew from right to left across Newlands. Carlton hide gave up a lone Goldcrest (pictured) just prior to entering, a bird that has not been seen too often lately, and from within the hide I had a good count of Gadwall with 12.

After departing the hides I took a leisurely stroll around towards Newlands and through New Hare Covert. The best of the rest was 1 Little Grebe, 2 Treecreeper, 3 Great Spotted Woodpecker, 4 Bullfinch, and a single Redpoll, who was accompanied by 4 Goldfinch. A very enjoyable 3 hours.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Valentines Stroll

Being the dutiful husband on Valentines Day I allowed the wife to cook me a couple of bacon sandwiches this morning before dragging her around the nearby Draycote Water, a five mile hike! To be honest this was more of a pleasant walk with the wife rather than a full blown birding trip, so I only took my binoculars and left the scope at home.
Draycote as you would imagine on a Sunday had the usual cyclists, joggers and family days out, plus the many small sailing boats were out in force and so I didn't expect much on the birding side. The usual excellent numbers of Gulls were on show but it would have been too much to stop for long to scan and pick the bones out of them, especially with only binoculars, and of course my significant other.
Good numbers of Goldeneye, Wigeon, Great Crested & Little Grebe, Pied Wagtail and around 12 Goosander would have been sufficient for me today, but as we walked along Draycote Bank we got sight of a lone Great Norther Diver. I'd seen 3 on my last visit to Draycote in the Spring, but this was my first of 2010.
Now, here's where it gets even more interesting!! As I was enjoying good views of the Great Northern 3 black images swam past in my field of view just a little further out! To my delight, and after watching these birds for a good 10 minutes, I'm positive I was viewing 3 Common Scoter. Oh for my scope!!
(Library picture above of - Common Scoter)

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Colourful Visitor

Nothing of any great significance, bar one, to report in the last week at Brandon personally, although with my trip to Rutland Water last Sunday I missed 3 drake Pintail, apparently looking stunning, and a female on East Marsh Pool.

The bar one I mentioned above came on Thursday morning when just after arriving at around daybreak a drake Mandarin Duck, (library picture), suddenly appeared with 2 Mallard as company as we walked past Grebe Pool. The bird stayed on site until around 10am when it was reported to have flown off towards the River Avon.

This mornings visit was a bitterly cold one with few highlights, although a female Muntjac Deer on Wigeon Bank was nice to see and a rare visitor to Brandon, a first year Great Black Backed Gull on East Marsh Pool, plus another great count of Bullfinch (12). With the sluices still open on East Marsh Pool the Islands are beginning to show well and so too is the Flag Iris. It's also worth mentioning to anyone visiting over the coming weeks to keep a look out for Oystercatcher and Ringed Plover which normally arrive around this time at Brandon. In fact it's a warming thought to think that in only 4 more weeks we'll be keeping an eye out too for early arrivals of Sand Martin!

Monday, February 08, 2010

Misty, Muddy Rutland

A nice drive out in the new car to Rutland Water yesterday for the wife and I on yet another misty and murky day. Just prior to arriving shortly before midday I received a text from JR informing me of 4 Pintail on Brandon's East Marsh Pool, typical really, as on Saturday morning I'd spend a good while scanning for the one reported on Thursday!
It's our first visit to Rutland Water and so a few phone calls to those in the know helped us on our way. After paying the £4 each, which I don't begrudge provided the money is ploughed back into the reserve, our first brief visit was to the feeders at the front entrance. Here we had the usual finches on offer and it was also nice to see several Tree Sparrows too.
On advice and a tip off regarding Long Eared Owls we decided to complete the south of the reserve today. A lot of work is currently in progress on site to build a new footpath and more lagoons, and so I'll put the appalling state of the current footpaths, which were deep in mud, down to this!
Ploughing on we managed visits to the Mallard Hide and Harrier Hide, where we had the usual wildfowl you'd expect in the Winter months, with good numbers of Great Crested Grebe, Wigeon, Teal, Goldeneye, Pochard and a few Gadwall. However, it was at the Fieldfare Hide, the reason for heading this way, where we had the best of the day in the form of 2 roosting Long-Eared Owls (pictured), which were deep in the hawthorn on the footpath leading to the hide. Difficult to see at first but once located an eerie and superb site to behold.
Apart from the Long-Eared Owls not a great first visit for number of species, we did observe a decent number of Lapwing, spooked by a Sparrowhawk at one time plus Oystercatcher, Redshank (spotted by the wife) and 5 Green Sandpiper later in the day but the Slavonian, Red and Blacks Necked Grebes and Great Northern Diver reported in the sightings book were a mystery to us. Although I do suspect that these sightings where from the North side of the reserve, an area we didn't visit as the rain and mist descended!

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Spring in the Air?

Nearly two weeks since my last post and to be honest not much to report over that period. The Green-Winged Teal, on site at Brandon for nearly a fortnight, appears to have moved on with no reports for a while. Bittern sightings however are still coming in almost daily, no surprise then that the hoards of photographers have moved from the Carlton Hide to the Main Hide, where the majority of sightings are reported. A few Otter sightings across the reserve are also beginning to trickle in and I myself have also been shown some Otter Spraint, but as yet have failed to see one!

This mornings misty and bitterly cold visit produced a few highlights but no sign of Thursday's reported Pintail, 2 Kingfisher, 3 Little Grebe, male and female Goldeneye, 6 Cettis heard, a lone Barnacle Goose and 7 Snipe, plus a good selection of Gulls with Herring, Common, Black Headed and Lesser Black Back on East Marsh Pool. What is also evident is that despite the weather spring appears to be in the air with species such as Song Thrush, Dunnock and Great Tits in full song. What was also a pleasure to see is the increasing amount of Bullfinch (pictured), one of my favourites, which must go down as yet another Brandon breeding success, I registered 10 birds this morning.
My local patch seems to have been more productive recently with Little Owl and Tawny Owl calling nightly, but my search for Long Eared Owl, which I heard over several mornings just before dawn has still drawn a blank. The Bittern reported in the reed bed by a fellow moorer during the cold snap remains a mystery, and once again my searches have been fruitless. The surrounding fields are producing good numbers of Redwing and Fieldfare plus I registered 15 Mute Swan in a field just off the canal at Napton.
Farewell to my trusty Land Rover, well not so trusty recently, as sadly on Friday it departed me forever!!