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Sunday, December 12, 2010

'Bitternfest'

Hybrid Tufted/Pochard (by Alban Wincott)
A frosty start at -5C this morning after yesterdays balmy +10C but it was good to step off the boat to a crystal clear sky with no sign of fog for a change (and the water is finally back on at the marina!!!)

Both Saturn and Venus were showing well to the east and the first bird of the day was a Skylark which called briefly as it passed overhead in the dark. As I  made my way down the path to the parking area, not for the first time in the last week I heard the unmistakable call of a Curlew in one of the nearby fields, obviously in search of some unfrozen ground.

Having checked out my Long Eared Owl, which amazingly has been in the exact same roosting spot for every visit over the previous week, I eventually arrived at a fog free Brandon Marsh around 30-minutes before sunrise. This morning I decided to take a different route from my normal one and was fortunate enough to come across a Tawny Owl which flew through Horsetail Glade as I made my way through.

The pools at Brandon still remain frozen, with the exception of East Marsh Pool which has a very small open water area close to the Wright Hide. On arrival a good number of Greylag were present and within the group I singled out lone White Fronted and Barnacle Goose. The small area also had a single female Goosander which took flight shortly after my arrival.

After watching the sunrise over Newlands Reedbed scanning for Short Eared Owl with some of the other Sunday crew, the Owl remained elusive by the way, the plan was to take a trip across to West Marsh but this was interrupted by a telephone call alerting us to a possible Lesser Scaup (pictured above) which had dropped into the open water area. A quick detour to Baldwin Hide and then back to the Wright Hide for better views ended up with yet another enjoyable debate! The outcome of which appears to be unanimous on hybrid Tufted/Pochard, still a good debate and worth mentioning too that the recent escapee New Zealand Scaup was also on the pool at the same time.

Shortly after reaching a frozen West Marsh for coffee with Paul Norman and Derek Bennett a Bittern flew out from the River Avon area across the reed bed and in the general direction of Teal Pool, probably my best view thus far this winter. Having said that, things were to get even better shortly after!

Upon leaving main hide around 11am it's always worth taking a final look across to the back of River Pool where quite often a Bittern can be found lurking. Bingo, as we quickly moved into Teal Pool hide for better views a second Bittern flew in and for around 4/5 minutes we were treated to both birds on the ice before the latter flew back out towards the Avon. Two Snipe on East Marsh, at least 4 Coal Tit and the usual Siskin, Lesser Redpoll, Fieldfare and Redwing are also worth a mention on a classic Brandon mornings birding!!