Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Back in Port

Leucistic Jackdaw (Library Picture)
Just arrived back at the home mooring for water and diesel after dodging the heavy showers but I'll be back out on Friday. More Corn Bunting near Flecknoe Fields Farm and two young Yellow Wagtail on route.

Yesterday I'd parked the car strategically near a canal bridge and therefore able to spend a few hours down at Brandon Marsh. While walking the 10 minutes to the car from my mooring at around 6am there was a lot of Butterfly on the wing even at that time, mostly Gatekeeper. On route I managed to disturb a Fox who appeared to be digging for something in one of the newly cut fields on the opposite bank, several Yellowhammer were singing along with Skylark and Linnet, a really pleasant short walk. The best though was when I arrived at the car and was greeted by around 400 Jackdaws in a nearby field which included one Leucistic, quite stark to see a white Jackdaw in the melee of a large flock!

Brandon produced a similar collection to Sundays visit, the exception being only one Little Egret and two Green Sandpiper on this occasion, although better views of the lone Black-tailed Godwit, which after showing well on the main Island flew off to the West. The rain dampened any attempt to go looking for Butterflies but one correction to make on a earlier post. The Purple Hairstreak I reported seeing recently was in fact a White-letter Hairstreak, after a discussion with the other guys who saw it we all agreed on the error! One sighting on the way back to my mooring worth reporting was a family of four tiny Red-legged Partridge on the roadside at Grandborough which I just managed to avoid.

Last night after dinner it turned out to be quite a pleasant evening and so we sat out on the tow path, probably drinking too much wine, until around 11pm. Tawny Owl, Kestrel, Buzzard and a flock of around 50 Linnet entertained us, but just as the light was fading the unwelcome sight of a Mink suddenly appeared on the opposite bank. We watched him for around 20-minutes before he finally disappeared into the undergrowth. Despite the obvious problems with these animals there still a real pleasure to see.

A further sighting of the Leusistic Jackdaw again this morning while having breakfast, in fact I spent around 90-minutes trying to photograph him, but having walked probably a mile down the disused LNWR railway line (The line ran from Marton Junction to Weedon and closed to passenger traffic in 1963), I finally gave up tracking him!

Monday, July 26, 2010

An enjoyable Walk

Yesterday evening we took a leisurely cruise along the Grand Union/Oxford Canal to one of our usual mooring spots for a few days on 'The Cut', that's a boaty word for the canal!

Prior to departure I had a few hours down at Brandon Marsh with the Sunday regulars and ended up with a reasonable haul. Three Little Egrets on East Marsh Pool wasn't too bad, along with Common Sandpiper, Water Rail and two Little Ringed Plover. I didn't attend last Thursday's works team but have to say what a great job they did in managing to get lots of water back onto the recently bone-dry Teal Pool. The four Green Sandpipers feeding on it and another shy Water Rail within the reed bed certainly appreciated it! I also managed a Black-tailed Godwit, eventually, as just prior to leaving one emerged from one of Islands undergrowth, looking quite nice in summer plumage. Also worth a mention were several juveniles I'd spotted on my walk around New Hare Covert, Nuthatch, Willow Tit and Treecreeper, plus the five young Gadwall picked up on last week also seemed to be doing well on East Marsh Pool.

This morning the weatherman said it would be dry and so naturally it rained until around midday! Fortunately it brightened up sufficiently to produce lots of Butterfly on the wing and so I set off for an afternoon walk, taking the towpath to Braunston and back from my mooring at Flecknoe. Amazing how diverse the towpath can be with lots of Willow, Bramble, Elder, small Oak and Hawthorn to name a few, this even though the outlook remains the same, with open fields throughout my walk, most of which have already been harvested.

Firstly lots of Gatekeepers, but I as progressed and the path became warmer and dryer species such as Red Admiral, Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell and Comma all appeared basking on the warm ground and within the nearby nettle. In areas along the path where wild flowers and grasses were growing I had good numbers of Common Blue, and the various Whites, plus one single Brimstone. As you approach Braunston small Oak copse appear and within were good numbers of Speckled Wood too. A really enjoyable walk and on the birding front I managed more Corn Bunting, lots of Yellow Hammer and Linnet, which seem prolific on this stretch and you can never moor around this area without the usual Raven, Buzzard, Sparrowhawk and Kestrel.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

There she Glows!

A few things to report on since my last post, starting with a visit to Brandon Marsh last Friday evening in search of Glow Worms (pictured)!

Dee and I joined Anne and Paul Norman at Brandon around 8.30pm, a little early for Glow Worms, but allowing us a couple of hours birding beforehand. Anne and Paul have a good track record in finding these amazing little creatures. However, It was pointed out that we were right on the peripheral of seeing them, as June and very early July appears to be the best time for viewing, notwithstanding we had high hopes and good company.

A visit to the hides produced a quartering Barn Owl at Carlton, along with a single Hobby first seen across Sheepfield, and then later as an eerie silhouette perched in the large dead tree. Two Green Sandpipers and Kingfisher were the other highlights of the evening. Around 11.30pm the light was sufficiently gone to begin our search for Glow Worm and I'm delighted to say that we managed 4 of these incredible creatures, mainly along Bee-Bank, which for information is the bank that runs along near the golf course, a first for us at Brandon and something high on our list for next year, our thanks to Anne and Paul.

Today was my usual Tuesday visit to Brandon and on my normal route to the hides I'd picked up a single Oystercatcher flying across the golf course, closely followed by five Shoveler in flight, plus in the gloom across Newlands I could make out the figure of a Hobby perched in the large dead tree on Carton. After recent rain it was good to see at least some water on Teal Pool and In fact Teal Pool produced the best Wader count with three Little Ringed Plover and two Green Sandpiper. A Common Sandpiper was also seen on East Marsh Pool flitting across from island to Island and around 12.15pm, while having lunch in Big Hide, a Little Egret dropped in for around a half hour before being dislodged by the bombing Terns.

A few of us decided to go in search of yesterdays reported Purple Hairstreak Butterfly (first thought to be White-Letter Hairstreak) and after a good search of the reported area we managed to find a single specimen (Purple Hairstreak) perched on top of the Thistle, another Butterfly first for me at Brandon. Good numbers of other species today too with counts of Red Admiral, Comma, Brimstone, plentiful Gatekeeper, Peacock, Large Skipper, Small Copper, Large and Small White and Green-Veined White. Almost another first as we reached the lower carpark with Jeff Rankin reporting a White Admiral which we missed by minutes!

Other recordings of interest today were, young Grass Snake, three Linnet, Coal Tit,
Sparrowhawk carrying prey and 5 young Gadwall, the first brood I've seen on site this year.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Varied Weekend

An Oxford Canal Water Vole
A varied weekend with a cruise to Braunston on Saturday with guests, and a morning spent on Sunday at Brandon Marsh getting slaughtered by the Horse Flies!
Saturdays cruise was with the 'retired' Chairman of the Brandon Marsh Conservation Team and his lovely wife. We moored just short of bridge 101 on the Grand Union Canal, sheltered under a lovely Willow Tree, and the afternoon was spent barbecuing and me waiting hand and foot on the so-called crew! The 'food' and birding was excellent with no less than three new species for my cruising list (Napton-to-Braunston).

Firstly, two young Yellow Wagtails shortly followed by my first Corn Bunting on the patch, seen on the opposite bank whilst we were moored up, but the best was left to our cruise home when a Marsh Harrier was spotted by Alban, (I was navigating), just prior to bridge 104 near Lower Shuckburgh, the bird was heading east towards Napton. Also a pleasure to see, and somewhat of a surprise, was a Water Vole (pictured) which decided to pay us a visit before swimming back under cover on the opposite bank.

Sundays visit to Brandon Marsh was my first for 10-days and an unusual early start for a summer (6am), was to primarily meet up with Richard Harvey, who'd contacted me through Jeff Wesson's website requesting a tour of the reserve. Always happy to help regular visitors to the site with some first hand knowledge.

With the Autumn migration not yet in swing, and most of the birds finished singing, the reserve didn't yield anything unusual, with the exception of the large population of Horse Flies, which I don't recall being such a problem last year! Three Green Sandpipers were on view at the Carlton Hide and a first for me at Brandon with three Black Headed Gull chicks in amongst the Flag Iris on East Marsh pool. Jim Rushforth also tells me a Peregrine was seen over the pool on Saturday. Having not toured the reserve for a while it's plain to see that Brandon is in desperate need of a few days rain, the Avon is extremely low and thus Teal Pool is currently suffering the worst and is completely dry.

As a footnote, whilst putting the covers on in preparation for the overnight rain, and after watching Spain get the S*** kicked out of them, my attention was drawn to a calling Barn Owl, something I can't actually recall hearing before despite seeing hundreds over the years. After watching and waiting the calls got closer until eventually said bird came flying over the marina, just barely visible in the gloom, quite eerie really!!

Friday, July 09, 2010

Cruising Weather

Nothing too exciting happening on the birding front at present, mainly the reason for the lack of posts more recently. Lots of young around the marina though with our six Mute Swan Cygnets now venturing farther afield. I spotted them almost at Braunston the other day while out on the canal, by the time I arrived back at the marina later in the evening they were already basking on the bank! The wife is also having problems with the very territorial male who keeps attacking the dingy each time Dee pops out for a row. However, she seems to have now compromised with him by taking out several rounds of bread each time and keeping him occupied with food.

Reed Bunting, Reed Warbler and Sedge Warbler can also be seen within the surrounding reed beds, but my favourites are the young Little Owls which can frequently be seen and heard in the nearby Oak Tree. Buzzards have also had a good year locally with several seen daily riding the thermals. A Barn Owl has recently appeared too and I've spotted him quartering the adjacent fields on three occasions.

One particular bird which seems to have done very well this year is the Yellowhammer (pictured), on a recent cruise to my usual mooring spot near Flecknoe I counted no less than fourteen birds on route. While moored at Flecknoe last Tuesday morning having breakfast on the towpath a young Raven came circling over before heading off to the East, which was a pleasant surprise.

More cruising this weekend and on the agenda is a good look at the local Butterfly population. Last year the highlights were Marbled White, found in a local meadow and White Admiral found in a small copse, the first time I've had one of these locally.