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!!